Sunday, December 13, 2015

Cottage For Sale!

I am reluctantly selling my cute circa 1900s cottage in Timaru. Set in a handy location to schools, beach, parks and town; this wee gem has plenty to offer and is full of character.

Small easy-care fully fenced private section with fruit trees - apple, citrus, fig, raspberries and numerous veges dotted here and there as well as strawberries.

The cottage offers one bedroom inside with a possible option to use one living area as a third bedroom. 

There is a spacious sleep-out attached via a deck which has its own toilet and vanity with French doors opening into the back yard. 

It was fully re-wired two and a half years ago; has a solid iron roof in good condition and wooden exterior cladding that does need some TLC in places.

The kitchen has been updated and has a gas/electric stove. 

The bathroom could do with some updating but is spacious and functional.

A heat pump sees it warm and cosy in winter whilst large ranch sliders off the kitchen create a nice indoor-outdoor flow to the deck area.

Dotted with bright colours here and there, this cottage is full of potential yet perfectly liveable as it is.

 Walk to work; walk to school; polytechnic; town or the beach. Walk your dog in the park across the road!

Sit and enjoy the garden in the sunny back yard or watch the world go by from the front porch.

Friday, November 27, 2015

It’s that time of year again: Staying sane in the mad, mad world of Christmas.

Someone said to me yesterday (when I asked how they were), that they were “so busy … with Christmas and everything” and they “feel really stressed”. 


Here we are, at the start of the New Zealand summer – a time for cruising into a holiday break; relaxing with friends and family; topping up our vitamin D3 in the abundant sunshine … and people feel “stressed” because Christmas is only X amount of weeks away and “oh I have so much to do!!”


It is utter insanity that the country begins to run around in a state of panic leading up to a day where they more often than not, gorge themselves on copious amounts of food and drink that (more often than not) they do not need or cannot even afford anyway.  It blows my mind!
I feel sorry for my kids in some ways because they have both a mother and a father, neither of who are particularly “Christmassy” and they have grown up aware that this goes against the mainstream programme of spend, spend, spend because you have to!  They are now however (as young adults), well aware of the ridiculousness that Christmas is. 
Do not get me wrong – I enjoy and respect the idea of families spending time together (particularly if it is a rarity – which if your kids are older and spread out geographically, it often is), in a genuine display of family altruism.  
What I really do not dig through, is families (such as one of my neighbours), who yell at, scream at and verbally abuse their young kids all year, and then as Christmas begins to approach, they use Christmas to manipulate them even further; threaten them with cancellation of it, no Christmas presents and other things that a young child who has been programmed into believing he/she gets gifts for “being good” and would hold as a highlight to his/her year (as do most kids perhaps!).
Christmas does not need to be a large outlay of money on excessive food and gifts that serve no real purpose.  Have a picnic! Go to the beach! Leave your cell phones at home …TALK to each other! Yes … talking is still a valid form of communication apparently!  Cap spending on gifts to $10 each – MAKE gifts/food items for each other! Is not the whole point of Christmas actually to spend time with family and people important to us?
We live in a society shaped and moulded by mainstream media.  Christmas is the most intensely marketed time of the year - period.  People spend more than they can afford at this time; finance companies offer more “deals” at this time of the year to encourage spending which leaves the spender burdened with debt – often until the following Christmas, making payments, and then the cycle can start again compounding not only the interest but the issue.  
The big companies get in on the bandwagon too! Noel Leeming, Harvey Norman, The Warehouse … they are ALL guilty of roping people in to burden them with debt.  Advertising goes on steroids … “no payments till 2018 then 36 months to pay” Insanity! It lulls people into a false sense of security … then BAM! They have to start repaying all the money they owe to these various places and it all starts coming in at the same time.  “Buy new furniture, appliances, devices … buy, buy, buy, NOW!”
WHY? Because it’s Christmas (of course) – treat yourself!
We are disconnected from ourselves and so we spend, which only continues the disconnect. Madness. 
And it’s encouraged!  It is a symptom of our society – the programming – that we need to please people by spending lots of money on them; that we are “good” if we buy other people gifts, and we are “good” if we receive them.  Drop the expectation and tap into what is real. 
Christmas is a deception anyway – it should be an attitude – not a time of the year. 

Stop the insanity!
  • ·      Limit Christmas spending – there is NO need to produce elaborate meals or feed people you cannot afford to feed, or buy gifts you cannot afford to buy
  • ·      Reduce the pressure on family by capping spending on gifts for each other
  • ·      Have a picnic or a pot luck meal together
  • ·      Go to the beach – its summer!
  • ·      Spend time not money on your kids
  • ·      Spend time not money with significant people in your lives
  • ·      If you do wish to spend larger amounts of money on someone, think before you do – is it going to last? Are the materials recyclable? Could it be passed on to someone else when the novelty wears off?  Do they really need it?
  • ·      Do not buy into the marketing machine that IS Christmas
  • ·      Hand-make gifts
  • ·      Keep cell phones turned OFF on Christmas day – make it a family rule
  • ·      Talk to each other – catch up without electronic devices or social media
  • ·      Go for a walk somewhere beautiful – there are glorious walkways in New Zealand that will be all but empty on Christmas day!
  • ·      Share the job of food preparation

The list is limitless.  The point comes back to the person who exclaimed how stressed and busy they were because it’s nearly Christmas – you do not have to buy into the insanity.  It’s programming.  Break out of the programme and breathe.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Are you living … or existing?

There comes a time when we are faced with our own mortality.  When the light switches on and we realise life in the body - as we know it - is finite, there seems to be an urgent need to experience things.  Interestingly, many people go from being collectors of “stuff” (status symbols and the like), to collectors of experiences, and these manifest in the form of “bucket lists” through which people mark their final decades, or sometimes their final months.  I find it an interesting concept that people wait until the end of their lives to truly start living.  The social construction of societal norms renders it problematic to truly live in this world; rather, people often merely exist.  The cycle begins early – at around five in New Zealand – when children are sent off to school.  In Nepal where I recently spent several weeks, many children do not attend school.  You could argue this is an indication of the poverty of the country and how can they “better’ themselves if they do not have education?  However, when you take a step back and see it for what it is, the children who do not go to school, stay within the family and help develop the land with their parents and eventually taking over from the parents in order to look after them – and the cycle repeats.
They are reported to be amongst the happiest people on the planet – yet by our standards they have “nothing”.
 In an “educated” society, children are programmed from the age of five, to study hard to get a job to earn money to pay for things like houses (that they purchase with imaginary money but pay for through the mortgage system with their hard-earned real money).  And the cycle repeats until they are sixty or seventy-ish and then realise that time is running out! They exist merely to support the system.
The Nepalese child who stays within the family fold, helping to produce food to feed the family is possibly more authentic in his or her lifestyle than any person living on the treadmill within the neo-constructivist society.
The system is simply not set up to allow people to truly live.  It is set up to force people to rely on a monetary system in order to realise their dreams of “freedom” and independence, rather than teaching them that everything they need to be a happy engaged contributing individual is within them.  I am not advocating a return to a primitive society, but I am advocating less of a reliance on the current system. The main problem that stops people really thinking about this is fear; fear of doing without all the “goodies” and comforts of modern society.  Fear of doing without the devices; the status symbols (my GOD! How would anyone know how important I am if I cannot show it off through my flash car and house?!); the identity gained through work (you are NOT your job remember).  Fear of being somehow “left behind”; fear of missing out (FOMO); meanwhile we do not live … we exist. 
We hear it all the time don’t we … “work-life balance”.  We are programmed into thinking we cannot have life (or draw on our “experiencing life” account) unless we have first built up a work stockpile against which we can draw. That’s how society thinks.  Society also frowns on people who make the deliberate decision not to buy into that system.  We also label those people with names like ‘free-loader’,  ‘socially irresponsible’, ‘bludger’ (don’t get me wrong – I am not talking about the people who make a conscious decision NOT to work just so they can live off the support of the tax-payer), or sometimes we simply label them as loners, weird, alternative, “greenies”… the list goes on.  You see, we are lead to believe that anything outside of the norm of the ‘eat, work, sleep, repeat’ cycle, is socially unacceptable. 
I do believe that having a feeling of contributing somehow to society adds value to a person’s day.  I do not support notions of laziness, for example; I do not support living off others (however that’s EXACTLY what the people at the top of this system are doing); I do not support using people for one’s own ends.

I am writing this because I know that I too am trapped inside this cycle; that I am in a situation of “having to” (or do I really?) work.  Then I ask myself  “what am I really working for?” The simple answers such as “money – you idiot” can be justified with “yeah I have a mortgage and bills to pay”, but then I cannot justify much else really except that I know for me personally, living is the experiencing of the world in this body I have been given to experience it through.  When I go out of here, my mortgage, my bills, my job title, my degrees, my car, my house … none of it will matter.  
What will matter is how I lived; how I gave of myself; how I treated people around me; that I lived, not merely existed.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Power of ONE

It could be any typical Sunday spring morning here in Timaru.  The sun is shining and there is a warmth in it already; in the distance seagulls squawk loudly and a gentle breeze plays with the trees outside my bedroom window.  This Sunday morning feels quieter than Christmas morning - not a car on the road, not a person in sight ... eery in fact through lack of human presence. Where ON EARTH is everyone!?! They are in their homes, with friends and family - enjoying celebratory breakfasts and marinating in the post-win warm fuzzies.

The Rugby World Cup belongs to the mighty All Blacks once again.


I am not your most loyal rugby fan - in fact for a PE teacher it took me a really long time to fully comprehend the complexities of rugby.  I did not spend much time in front of the TV watching the pool games ... in fact I did not really care until we got to the last four ... then I started to take notice.
Sure I can appreciate the skill and good looks of the boys in black, but ... meh ... I wouldn't get up at ridiculous-o'clock to watch a game ... except for the final. Why?
Why is it that people come together; unite; cluster-think ... become ONE ... putting ALL else aside, when something like the RWC is on? The power of ONE. Together as a nation we celebrate this win (some would say we played our best rugby in years), and as I look through the myriad of Facebook comments, even the most stoic grinches I know have allowed themselves a "feeling good" post about what happened this morning NZ time.

But why does the "power of one" matter so much? Is it because we all feel in some small but tangible way that we can influence the outcome of the game by sending our positive thoughts to the boys? It may not be as silly as it sounds.

Watching the Haka always sends a shiver up my spine; my hair stands on end and I am certain my body is getting a rush of stress hormones - fight or flight - that creates the physiological responses I am experiencing.  Think about the power of the Haka as a starting point for this discussion.  The boys are more together as a unit in those few short minutes than possibly at any other time in the forty minutes to follow ... the Haka sets the scene; it HAS to ... it grounds the energy ... it gathers and harnesses the energy and forms a collective consciousness; A ONE-ness.

Science is starting to sit up and take notice - finally - of the power of a collective consciousness. Science has known for decades that the mind is incredible in it's ability to create physiological change within the body and also to create a reality seemingly out of nothing.  The placebo effect is living proof of this concept.
David Emile Durkheim ( a French sociologist) coined the term "collective consciousness" way back in the late 1800's and he proposed that it was the power of shared beliefs and attitudes as a unifying force which could shape society.  There are studies that have shown collective consciousness to be incredibly powerful at enabling events to occur.
Princeton University's school of Engineering and Applied Science, collected massive amounts of data dating from the late 1970's which assessed the effects of consciousness on random physical systems and processes.  Data was collected for decades and provided clear evidence that thought and emotion could produce measurable influences on physical reality.  This is now known as The Global Consciousness Project (GCP).
Check out too, the study by Masaru Emoto on the effect of human consciousness on the molecular structure of water.  Emoto studied the effect of human consciousness and thought on the formation and behaviour of ice crystals. His work has been replicated successfully by other scientists and proves beyond doubt that consciousness is a powerful mediator of physical outcomes. Youtube clip here:

So - whilst our boys in black did everything they needed to do in order to create the outcome they and New Zealand wanted, do not under-estimate the power of a population coming together as ONE.
And that post-win glow you feel? Thats the power of a collective consciousness at work - ALL of New Zealand feels it right now. It will last for several days, it is tangible and has the power to impact positively on all sorts of things ranging from relationships to important business decisions! Use it wisely.

And in case you just did not get enough of the spine-tingling Haka; here it is again.  This time however, when you watch it, think about how it makes you feel.

Emoto, Masaru. “Healing with Water.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Volume 10, Number 1, 2004, pp. 19-21
—The Hidden Messages in Water. Oregon: Beyond Words Publishing, 2004.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The simplicity of wellness: 5 Daily "Do's" to re-boot wellbeing.

It is easy to get locked into a cycle of negativity that can threaten to unravel us; furthermore it is damaging at a physical level to be in such a cycle - not just at an emotional or spiritual level. To moan about one's life is seen as somehow normal, acceptable and almost expected in day-to-day interaction.  It is almost as if it is a competition for who is suffering the most! This can become a defining attitude.  I like to keep an attitude of gratitude - and thank you to whoever coined that phrase! It can be simple, in reality, to stay well by keeping true to some basic tenets.  These are 5 things I try to keep in mind daily, in order to remain well:
1. Start as you mean to go on:
By this I mean, wake up each day knowing it is another chance to be your best self. Start strong - finish stronger.

2. Eat a nourishing breakfast:
Start the day with the nutrition your body deserves. Aim for some protein such as eggs and avoid highly processed breads and cereals. You will feel fuller for longer and more alert!

3. Get outside:
Try to find time to get outside during peak sunshine hours to support the process of producing vitamin D3. Numerous hormones are activated through sunshine exposure - plus - it makes you feel good!

4. Remain mindfully present and engaged:
Take each action simply as it is - for example - if doing dishes; just do dishes. It is tempting to multi-task; to rush; to have endless projects on the go and to always be somewhere in the future. Be here NOW.

5. Spread the joy and smile:
It is true that smiling is contagious. Smile at someone; look them in the eye as you do so and see if they smile back. You never know what that smile could mean to someone.

So there it is - simple, attainable ways to get some wellness in your life. Consistency is the key - you become what you do consistently. Think about that.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Water Kefir And Why It Is So Darned Good For You!

We hear a lot about digestive health these days and there is new evidence linking our ability to adequately digest and absorb nutrients, with conditions such as depression, autism, ADHD, and dementia.  To be able to get the most out of the food we eat daily, there needs to be a perfect balance of healthy gut bacteria - probiotics - which enable and support a full digestion and absorption process.
In today's busy and "McPackaged" dominated culture, people are missing out on adequate nutrients, and what little they are able to get through real whole foods (if these do get included from time to time in a diet), cannot be absorbed because the digestive system has been damaged through processed foods.  Processed foods provide no probiotic support whatsoever and there is growing evidence to suggest that these types of foods are responsible for the health issues I mentioned in the opening sentence - along with many others such as irritable bowel syndrome, yeast infections, Crohn's Disease, obesity, skin disorders ... the list goes on.  Fermented foods happen to provide an incredible probiotic feast and usually taste amazing too.
While most people will have heard of some fermented foods, such as sauerkraut or the Korean kimchi, the majority of people will associate good gut health with consuming foods such as yoghurt. Yoghurt is a fermented milk product, which through the fermentation of lactose (milk sugar), lactic acid is produced which gives yoghurt it's slightly sour taste.  Sadly commercial yoghurts are chock full of added sugar, artificial "natural" flavours and other additives such as stabilisers and do little to aid good digestive health.
Kefir is a no-fuss way to include probiotics into the diet.  There are two types of kefir; milk and water.  I prefer water kefir as it is super easy and is refreshing to drink daily. Milk kefir is more like a runny sour yoghurt - fantastic for smoothies.
Water kefir is a grain - tibicos - which is a variety of healthy bacteria strains and yeast bound together by a polysaccharide matrix, all of which together form a stable growing culture.  Feed these microbes sugar and they will produce lactic acid, ethanol (in tiny amounts) and carbon dioxide; the result being a refreshing lightly carbonated drink through this fermentation process.

Kefir is an excellent source of vitamin B12, B1 and B6 - which is good news for those who are vegan, and there has been research into the use of water kefir for cancer and heart disease treatment - it is that good!
So how do you get your hands on this stuff? It helps if you know someone who is using water kefir as they will be able to provide grains when they split their culture (the grains grow slowly over time), Look online for suppliers of cultures - there are numerous websites.
In New Zealand see

This is the recipe I use:
6 tablespoons of water kefir grains
4 tablespoons of raw sugar
one whole lemon de-skinned and cut in half
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon of ginger powder (only if you would like a ginger beer taste)
Whole peeled raw ginger to taste (not absolutely a must though)
3 cups of water
One prune, date or fig

The grains go into a large glass container. Add the water and sugar and all other ingredients.
Place a loose cloth or lid that enables airflow over the top. Leave 48 hours. Drain through a sieve into another container and then pour that into a glass storage bottle with an airtight lid - store in fridge.
Rinse the grains under water and repeat the process.
Grains can be stored in the fridge with water covering them for approx 3 weeks (handy to know if you go away somewhere).
Drink daily! I find it particularly soothing 30 minutes before food or 30 minutes after food.

Image from:

Further reading:
David Perlmutter;

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The High Intensity Interval Training Revolution

I have been in the fitness industry for decades now, and too often I see the same people doing the same workout in the gym and getting the same results - that is - no improvement in their fitness or body shape.  Wasn't it Albert Einstein who said the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? Sometimes we just have to mix things up. 
The gym scene is one area in the fitness, health and wellness genre that often sees cycles and fads in 'new' training regimes "guaranteed to bring results" however, the things that actually do work are the "old school" methods that worked but disappeared into obscurity.  Think about for example, the rise of 'Crossfit'.  The exercises seen in a typical crossfit workout are not new - in fact they have been around for decades and pulled from various disciplines, most notably gymnastics - throw them all together and we have this fitness revolution rebranded as "Crossfit".
One thing is for certain - to gain any kind of change in body weight, body shape or fitness, the body needs to undergo a form of physiological stress.  If the body is not stressed enough, no changes will occur after adaption to the stress has occurred - that is, whilst there may be initial changes for a sedentary or untrained person who commences training, the changes will be short term. This does not mean the person will regress - it means that body weight,  shape and fitness are more likely to stay static if the training regime stays the same. One could argue that if that is the aim, then there is no reason to add any changes and I agree, however for the numerous people I know who come to the gym for that very reason - to reduce weight, change their body shape and increase their fitness further; they MUST do something different to elicit those changes. 
High intensity interval training (HIIT) has been around for decades, but because it hurts and because the myth was to burn fat we needed low intensity continuous training, it was largely left to track and field athletes to play with. Numerous studies have been done (Larsen & Jenkins; Essen et al; Billat) which show the benefits of HIIT over continuous low intensity training to improve fat metabolism (or the use of the energy system that promotes fat as the preferred fuel source). Getting into the science behind this is complex, so in lay terms; higher intensity workouts will improve fat burning and fitness. 
Back in 1996 a study was done by Izumi Tabata and his associates, where they used a protocol of 20 seconds high intensity exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeating this cycle 8 times - a total of 4 minutes. The results were astounding, with significant V02 max improvements (the maximal rate at which your body can utilise oxygen - and often the measure by which we define "fitness'), AND significant improvements in anaerobic capacity - that is the ability to work maximally at a high intensity before lactic acid inhibits muscle contraction.  There are numerous physiological reasons why these changes occurred that are beyond the scope of this post, but you can access Tabata's study online and decipher the maths for yourself if you are interested in knowing why these improvements were made. They were incredible results for a 4-minute regime. This study has come to be known as the "Tabata Protocol" and has made a huge entrance into the fitness world recently even though it is 18 years ago that Tabata did his study!
So what might a typical Tabata work-out look like? It depends entirely on what you are training for, but let's just say you wish to offer your body something different to do in order to elicit the changes I wrote about earlier in this post. I recently offered my work colleagues a simple workout using the Tabata protocols that took 25 minutes, as follows:

  • 2 minute gentle jogging warm-up
  • Sprints (20/10/8x)
  • Push-ups (20/10/8x)
  • Jump squats (20/10/8x)
  • Step-ups with dumbbells (20/10/8x)
  • Burpee with star jump (20/10/8x)
  • 2 minute gentle jogging cool-down
Each set had a 30 second recovery before starting a new exercise. Such a workout is easy to do anywhere, requires minimal equipment and is completed in a short time frame. Most people would be hard-pressed to do more than 30 minutes of Tabata training, and in fact Tabata himself argued that 4 minutes a day was all that was required to elicit changes.
As a group fitness instructor, I have seen the rise of Tabata-type training enter the class format, with sections of Les Mills RPM and Body Pump classes utilising it as well as the advent of GRIT classes which capitalises on interval training techniques to gain favourable results. All in all, HIIT protocols are certainly the current trend for fitness improvement and as the studies I have mentioned here show, HIIT has been around for a long time and is likely to remain so due to the favourable results people get when including it in their training programmes.

1. Tabata I, Nishimura K, Kouzaki M, Hirai Y, Ogita F, Miyachi M, Yamamoto K. Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1996 Oct;28(10):1327-30. PMID: 8897392.
2.  Paul B. Laursen and David G. Jenkins, The Scientific Basis for High-Intensity Interval Training Optimising Training Programmes and Maximising Performance in Highly Trained Endurance Athletes, 2013.

3. Essen B, Hagenfeldt L, Kaijser L. Utilization of blood-borne and intramuscular substrates during continuous and intermittent exercise in man. J Physiol 1977; 265: 489-506 62.

4. Billat V, Renoux JC, Pinoteau J, et al. Times to exhaustion at 90, 100 and 105% of velocity at V . O2max (maximal aerobic speed) and critical speed in elite long-distance runners. Arch Physiol Biochem 1995; 103: 129-35 67