Turning Thirty-Two

It’s the end of my birthday week and wow what a celebration it’s been. Late night partying and lazy days are what it’s been all about. Ha! The latest night I had was about 11pm, but my days flew by, I hardly got any of my planned relaxing done.

My official birthday was on Thursday. I had plenty planned to fill up my week, things that needed doing around the house, a few errands to run and to exercise everyday as I’m still trying to get back into that routine. I also wanted to clean up this blog as well, since I started it it’s been a bit of a throw together as far as the organization and presentation go. I think the writing is alright though. And I wanted to relax because I don’t do enough of that these days.

Quite a change from the birthday weeks of the past. When I was in my early twenties it was about drinking as often as possible and spending most of the day in bed, and dinner with my family. Last year was a little different. I’d already started eating healthier and drinking less, but I still wanted to spend all the time relaxing. The only big difference last year was no family dinner as there weren’t many of us in the city.

This year, for my week off, I struggled to relax. I did manage a little on my birthday. Mum and I went out for a delicious lunch together and we even managed to keep it pretty healthy, aside from the caramel slice! I’ve been to the gym or gotten some form of outdoor exercise done every day. I’ve sorted out a few things around the house and spent quite a bit of time running about. I actually feel like maybe I should have taken an extra week, but I’m pretty sure that I’d have the same issue. Seems I’ve got a lot more determination to get things done in my ‘old age.’

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I don’t feel old. Zombie keeps telling me I am, but it’s in jest. Jokes on him anyway as he’s five years older than me! But in all seriousness, I feel younger and more confident now, than I have in a while. I’m also finally feeling like I’m not running out of time, which is refreshing. I remember hitting twenty-five and experiencing a ‘quarter life crisis’ which lasted for about five years. I was so paranoid that I was never going to meet the right person and settle down, go overseas or any of the other life experiences I thought I should have had by then.

It’s funny how our perspectives change over the years. Growing up, settling down and having kids, I was in a huge hurry to do it but realistically not ready for any of it. But these past couple of years I finally have started growing up, I’ve settled down quite a bit (no more weekly partying for this old lady) and while I still want kids, I know that I still have plenty of time for that.

It’s very nice to feel content with how my life is ticking along. I still have plenty of things I want to achieve and experience, but I’m happy to enjoy All the moments on the way now, instead of wishing my life away. Now I just need to relax as well as enjoy.

Smiles and Sunshine
Katie

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Cheesy Chickpea Balls

It’s my first official day off the elimination diet, but old habits die hard and I stuck at eating all unprocessed foods prepared by myself. But that’s my intention. I’ll be having the occasional treat/cheat, but sticking as best as I can to The 80/20 Rule as I’ve started learning to listen to my body. Basically, when I’ve been eating too much crap, I’ll know, either by my skin flaring up, headaches, tiredness… If I don’t feel amazing, it’ll be time to look at what I’ve been eating.

I’m on holiday at the moment. It’s my birthday week (I’m like a child) and I almost always take the entire week off to celebrate. There are no plans, It’s just a week for me to have a break, have some me time and do whatever I want. And I intend to.

Of course I’ll be spending quite a bit of time in the kitchen and today, being the first official day of my holiday, was no exception.

It’s another vegetarian dish this week, I’m still playing Meat Free Monday and absolutely loving it, part of the reason being that I love experimenting in the kitchen. My first few Mondays without meat while still being on the elimination diet were a bit boring. Roasted vegetables with a poached egg seemed to be the extent of my vegetarian knowledge. But there is so much more that you can do! So I started branching out, beginning with homemade vegetarian pizza. It was good.

This is a day before grocery day recipe, which means using whatevers available in the fridge, freezer or pantry. It’s been a while since I’ve eaten chickpeas and I found a can in the cupboard, so there was my base sorted, boom! I quite often make chickpea fritters, but I wanted something crunchy today and here is the result.

As always this recipe is gluten and refined sugar free. It’s also nut free and obviously vegetarian. I had four balls as a main with kale chips and steamed kumara (sweet potato) but it would also make an excellent side or nibbles dish.

Cheesy Chickpea Balls

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1 400g can of chickpeas
2 eggs
1 small onion, finely diced
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp turmeric
1 tsp chia seeds
1 tsp coriander flakes
1 tsp parsley flakes
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
1/2 cup grated cheese
1/4 cup gluten free flour (I used brown rice)
1/2 cup rice breadcrumbs (almond meal would also work)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 180℃

Drain and rinse the chickpeas and mash roughly with a fork

Add onion, garlic, chia seeds, coriander, parsley, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper, grated cheese and mix well

Add one egg and mix well

Using your hands roll generous desert spoon sized handfuls into balls. This made 10 balls for me

Heat the olive oil in a pan on medium heat.

In three separate bowls, place the rice flour in one, the rice breadcrumbs in another, and beat the 2nd egg into the third

Coat the balls in the rice flour first, this gives the egg something to stick to.

Then coat in the egg

Then generously coat with the rice breadcrumbs

Place the balls in the hot pan and fry for 3-4 minutes, turning often, to seal the coating

Line a baking tray or dish with baking paper

Place the balls on the tray and bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown, turning once.

These, were, yummy. And easy. Bit of prep but nothing major. Plus I have plenty left over for sides for other nights. I’m going to test out freezing them so I’ll update this post once I know how well it works.

Smiles and Sunshine
Katie

Elimination Diet Done And Dusted

I am very pleased to announce that I have completed my elimination diet. It’s taken me seven months, which possibly is longer than it would for other people, but as I was going it mostly alone I wanted to be certain about everything.

I can’t express how life changing this diet has been for me. I’m not an advocate of diets, personally, I don’t think they work for long term weight loss, but I’ll make an exception for this one, mostly because it’s more of a lifestyle change than a diet.

I have gone from being overweight, lazy, unhealthy and unhappy, to being a good weight, full of energy, healthy and happy. I have made huge advances in my mental health too which is just as important to me as being physically healthy.

Now, I don’t specifically know what caused any of my symptoms. My eczema took a really long time to clear up. A few months! There were several reasons for this, stress being a factor, but I think also because there was just so much of it. All of my other symptoms, even ones I had thought were just a fact of life, were basically gone within the first three weeks of the diet, during the detox stage. These included headaches, constant tiredness, sleepless nights and stomach cramps.

Nothing that I reintroduced into my diet affected me in a negative way. Eggs, beef, dairy, nightshades, nuts, peanuts, soy, chocolate, oats, chickpeas, not a single food type gave me any reason to think they had been causing me issues.

In July I discovered that too much chocolate, made me tired and my skin a little itchy. I also discovered that too many peanuts made my asthma play up. This was a bit of a wake up call as I had been over indulging in both of these, which was also affecting my weight.

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My skin and too much chocolate don't agree

After this I had a few processed treats. I had some bread which made my stomach cramp, and I attended a few gatherings where I ate some of the nibbles on offer, which seemed to have no affect on me. I also last week found that caffeine is way to good at keeping me awake now, so that is completely off the menu. I have no room in my life for self inflicted sleeplessness anymore.

I was beginning to think that I would never know what was causing my issues and for a little while I kinda gave up. For the most part I ate healthy, but I started letting processed treats slip in daily. And at first, nothing happened.

Then after a few days, my energy levels weren’t as high. Admittedly, I had a bad cold at the time, but it hadn’t affected my energy too much until.that point. Then, the headaches and sleeping difficulty started. Again, I thought it could be related to the cold.

When my stomach started cramping, I knew it wasn’t cold related and when my skin started flaring up I knew exactly what was going on. Too much processed food. I can’t pinpoint exactly which food it was, because I ate so much of it, but when I went back to basics for a few weeks, all my symptoms disappeared again.

I have taken to having a weekly ‘cheat day’. For all of August, I have eaten unprocessed food all week, then on Saturdays I have allowed myself a treat. My symptoms have stayed away and I’ve been able to enjoy the best of both worlds. I’m pretty excited about this. I enjoy eating healthily, meats and seafood, fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, grains, oats and some dairy (mostly butter and cheese) and feeling the most alive I ever has as a result. I enjoy having a little control over my mental health and not having to worry about what I’m eating affecting my weight.

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There’s a hash tag on Instagram, #JERF. It stands for Just Eat Real Food. It’s simple, and for me, it has solved a lot of my problems. I found out about using an elimination diet to discover food intolerances a few years ago, but didn’t have the will power to go through with it. It was too hard. But when I decided to commit, I was surprised at how simple just eating real food is. And I’m so glad I did.

Smiles and Sunshine
Katie

Anxiety And Sleepless Nights

I had another reasonably sleepless night last night. I fell asleep pretty quickly, but woke up a few hours later, unable to get back to sleep because my mind was racing. It’d been racing for a while, I was told something that set my anxiety off into the world on it’s own. I’d gone from being happy and seemingly care free to stressed and upset in a short space of time. I even cried a little.

A large portion of my anxiety seems to be reserved for the unknown. If I don’t know what’s going on, or why something happened, I am a wreck. To say it’s all I can think about is an understatement. During the day I’ll operate as a distracted but functional human. Day to day tasks will be completed, but they’ll take longer and I’ll often have to go back and fix up mistakes, because half my focus is on dissecting the issue causing my anxiety. At night my sleep is interrupted by the need to wake up and look at the unknown from a new angle. But it’s never a new angle, because I’ve explored them all a hundred times.

I had a situation a few years back where I didn’t know why something happened, and I agonized over it for months. I spent all my time thinking about it. In the shower, at work, while driving, when having fun with friends… It didn’t matter what I was doing, it would pop into my brain, pull up a chair and settle in for a few hours. I spent countless near sleepless nights having arguements in my head over what might have happened. It wasnt until I found out what actually had happened, a few months later that I stopped thinking about it. The reason? Because it was ridiculous. If only I hadn’t wasted all that time on something so ridiculous.

Another huge trigger for me is what people think of me. I know I shouldn’t care what people think, but it’s really not that easy. Especially when it’s not justified. People thinking badly of me, for something that I haven’t done, or am not, is something that really upsets me. I like to think I am a good person. I’m not perfect, I can be bitchy and make mistakes, like all of us, but I’m overall a decent, kind hearted person. And I struggle with people who have the wrong impression of me.

People think I’m weird. I am. But we all are, so it bugs me.

I am getting better at dealing with these feelings. It doesn’t bother me as much as it used to that people think I’m unusual. Because I realized it’s not as wide spread as I thought it was and also because it doesn’t actually matter. I like being a little quirky, it’s part of what makes me me. I’m also less awkward with new people. It’s not as important to me as it used to be to have everyone like me. Because I don’t like everyone. No one does. And for a while I would befriend people I wasn’t a big fan of, just because I’d managed to make them think I was worth knowing.

But when someone thinks badly of me, because they’ve misunderstood something I’ve done or haven’t done, or said, it hurts. It hurts a lot. I’ll do my best to keep my composure around that person and others, but when no ones watching, I’ll often cry when it’s fresh. My calming techniques don’t seem to work when I’m upset enough to sob but in a hidden fashion.

Usually after a few hours, once I have managed to calm myself down is when the over analyzing sets in. This can last for days. It usually does.

Night time is the worst. When I’m lying in bed, tired from the days activities and ready to sleep, that’s when I have more time to think. There’s no distractions, nothing that needs doing. I mean, I do need to sleep, but falling asleep isn’t something I actually know how to do, it’s something that just happens. I can lie motionless for hours, eyes closed, possibly drifting in and out of a light sleep, but mostly just looking at every possible reason for why the person feels this way and what I can do to fix it. I usually come up with several different ways to fix it, but none that I have the guts to actually go through with and most that would likely make things worse anyway.

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Overall, I am better than I used to be. Yoga and healthy eating have calmed me and I have learned to not take things so seriously. And on the days that I do get agitated by the unknown or someone’s opinion of me, I can usually reason myself out of it. I also have Zombie and a lovely modern day penpal in the states who I can offload to which is often all I need.

But sometimes it still causes me sleepless nights. And that just makes it worse, because anxiety and tiredness are not a good mix. I am at a point now where these events are less common, which I am okay with. I’m hoping that one day, they will be non events, because as they say, what others think of me is none of my business.

Smiles and Sunshine
Katie

Caffeine And I

I gave up coffee last year in October. I wanted to cut down my sugar consumption and the most blatantly obvious sugar overload part of my diet was my daily coffee(s).

I never liked coffee. I didn’t like the taste, although I still love the smell, which I find interesting because smell and taste are so closely related. For the longest time I didn’t drink coffee at all until one night, while driving from Christchurch to Dunedin in the wee small hours it was suggested that a coffee might help me stay awake, so we stopped at the first open servo we saw to fill the order.

Wow did it help! I was absolutely wired with energy to burn. The only thing keeping me from bouncing off the walls was the fact that I was driving a decent distance an important task to concentrate on, but I was incredibly animated for the whole trip, until the caffeine wore off after we reached our destination and I slept like a baby.

This didn’t start a coffee addiction. For the next couple of years I would only have a coffee if I was desperately tired. I was always tired, but every now and then it would reach an extreme point. Coffee ALWAYS helped, possibly too much, I would be ridiculously hyperactive afterwards. As far as I was concerned though, it was a good solution for those difficult days.

The strange thing is, I was a regular Coca Cola drinker at the time too. Maybe regular is the wrong word, I was drinking a couple of bottles of the stuff a day. I loved it and had no desire to drink anything else. But I was convinced that the caffeine in it had no effect on me due to the amazing effects that the occasional coffee had on me.

Of course the regularity increased and it wasn’t long before I was having 2-3 coffees a day. With a couple of teaspoons of sugar in each one, because I still didn’t like the taste. I knew it was too much sugar so a few years ago I decided to try and cut down how much I put in. I managed to get it down to half a teaspoon (which took a really long time) but I just couldn’t go without sugar in it at all.

When I started eating clean I knew that coffee had to go. It was the only thing I was physically adding sugar to so it was an obvious place to start. At this stage I’d been drinking the sugar free cola for years (probably even worse for me but I convinced myself it was good) so I didn’t think I needed to make any changes there. I now know that I was wrong about that, but small steps are often better than diving in head first.

I’ve digressed quite a lot from why I originally started writing this post. Last night I attended a Hens Night for a good friend of mine. It was a fabulous night, filled with silliness, laughs and embarrassing dares for all. Being a special occasion and at the point I’m in with my physical health due to my elimination diet, I decided that I would join in the drinking festivities (carefully of course, my last experience after abstaining from alcohol for so long wasn’t such a good one).

There were plenty of drinks on offer, including bourbon and coke which used to be my drink of choice, so for nostalgias sake I chose that. I paced myself, drank plenty of water, ate lots of food and as I mentioned above, had a fantastic night. I was particularly excited by the fact I got to wear a tail for the night.

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I got home after 1am, had some more water and went to bed. I had a feeling there would be a hangover but I figured any steps to head it off should be taken. Damn, when did I get so responsible?

I fell asleep almost instantly, but only for an hour. I lay awake all night. I was incredibly tired, all I wanted to do was sleep, but I just couldn’t.  I didn’t sleep anymore until after 9am and again, only for a short while. It’s now Sunday evening, I’ve done nothing all day, I’m exhausted but still not sure about how well I’ll sleep tonight. On the plus side, there was no hangover.

Life is a learning curve, I truly believe that we never stop learning. This year has been all about self discovery for me. I have experimented, with both success and failure. I have made lots of mistakes but also had lots of wins. And I have learned so much about myself in the process. What I have learned this weekend, is that I don’t need caffeine. At all. I also proved to myself that I learned from my last drinking experience. I’m happy with that.

Smiles and Sunshine
Katie

Is Happiness a Choice?

This is a question that is close to my heart.  Happiness is something I have been striving for, for a really long time, but as far as I’m concerned, this question doesn’t have a simple answer.

For me, it depends entirely on the situation.

Overall, I am happy, the majority of the time and this is a conscious choice I have made and continually worked on to sustain, but some days are harder than others. Every morning I wake up and while I am still dozing, I mentally remind myself of the things I am grateful for and why I’m excited to be alive.  For the most part, this sets me up for a good day. Some days, I get annoyed or sad about things, but can generally avoid falling into a funk by reminding myself of how lucky I am, or how miniscule the issue is in the grand scheme of things. For those of you who follow me on Instagram or Facebook you will have noticed that I post of lot of ‘inspirational quotes’.  These get me through minor setbacks and sometimes I post them just because.  Unfortunately however, there are days where no amount of gratitude, positive affirmations or cute animal videos are going to change my mood.

And that’s ok.  But try telling me that while I’m in one of those moods!

I get annoyed by silly little things.  Like someone moving my paperwork off the printer while I’m still printing more, or worse, someone telling me how to do my job!  These things I have control over how they affect me.  I can choose to let the annoyance spread and be in a foul mood for the rest of the day, or I can choose to recognise them as they are, minor ‘pet peeves’ that realistically should have no bearing over my state of mind for the day.  What’s the point in being unhappy because someone put my stapler in the wrong place?  Something I wish I had learned sooner.

As I mentioned above, I have days where I just can’t seem to be happy.  These days are a bit of a catch 22, as I get annoyed at myself for being annoyed (or upset), which puts me in a worse mood, which kicks off a vicious cycle that only seems to be cured by going to bed and usually miraculously waking up in a great mood. We all have days like that, it’s just one of those things and you know what?  It’s okay. On these days, I dislike the Katie who is positive and happy.  What does she know about choosing happiness over anger or sadness?  Obviously she is wrong, why else would this bad mood be clouding over me so heavily right now? I’m glad these mood swings are now few and far between, but they did used to be the norm for me.

When I was depressed, I was rarely happy and I had absolutely no control over my emotions.  If I managed to laugh it would usually be quickly replaced by tears, but when asked why, I couldn’t explain it. Glimmers of hope and happiness would often peek up into my head only to be shot down by negative thoughts telling me how ridiculous I was being.  I was jealous of anyone who appeared happy and I’m pretty sure I would have come across as very bitter towards most people.

I don’t know why. That is just how I was. And for the longest time when I first started feeling this way, I didn’t think it was a problem. I assumed it was how I was wired.  I had been a pretty angry child who cried a lot, clearly, that was who I was supposed to be and nothing anyone said could convince me otherwise. Depression was allegedly uncommon back then and I’m not even sure I had heard of it until not long before I was diagnosed.  And when I was diagnosed, I wasn’t offered a lot of solutions (I also didn’t think to ask), so I was medicated and sent on my way.

I was told to ‘get over it’ so many times.  I lost friends because I was so negative and always complaining. For a while I used my depression as an excuse. I didn’t know enough about it, or how to take steps to become mentally well, so I hid behind it.  I remember asking an ex if the medication helped me, years after we broke up.  He responded that personally, he hadn’t noticed a difference.  The only difference I noticed was that I physically couldn’t cry anymore.  I’m not sure why and it’s not something I’ve experienced since. Looking back, I think the medication took the edge off, but I should have been seeking other forms of help too, like I am now.

Last year, after The Day That Changed My Life, I decided that I wanted to be happy.  So I took steps towards it.  But I had to hit my rock bottom to make that decision.  I wasn’t capable of choosing to be happy before that and honestly, I didn’t want to be.  Happiness wasn’t easy.  It was so much easier to be angry at the world and spend my days crying.  Happiness took work, which I wasn’t willing to do.  Lazing around and feeling sorry for myself took much less effort and for any of my readers who have experienced depression themselves, they will know that energy to do anything other than the bare minimum required to survive can be non existent during a depressive state.

Ultimately, I feel that happiness became a choice for me after a long road of battling negative emotions.  I want to be happy now and for the most part, I am.  I will continue to share inspirational quotes and positive affirmations, because they help me maintain my happiness and I like to think that they brighten other peoples days too. I take steps everyday, even on my negative days, to try and see the silver linings and good in life and this is something I had to learn.

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Do I ‘regret’ being depressed for so long?  No.  If I had never experienced this depression, I would not be the person I am today.  Nothing in life worth having comes easy and for me, dragging myself from the depths of my depression was hard work and will continue to be for the rest of my life, but it makes me proud to know that I have overcome such a hurdle and ‘chosen’ happiness.

Smiles and Sunshine

Katie

Roasted Vegetable and Quinoa Salad

Salads don’t have to be restricted to the summertime and this one is an absolute favourite of mine.  I was at a bit of a loss for what to have for lunch over the weekend and there wasn’t a huge amount of selection being so close to grocery day. Then I remembered this salad I used to make a few years ago.

This is not my own creation, but I’ve adapted it over the years to suit my tastes. I remember showing up to the family Christmas lunch one year with it and my cousin had prepared the same dish with her own twists! It’s a great way to use quinoa too which is bursting with nutrients. As always this recipe is gluten and refined sugar free and as a bonus this weeks recipe is also egg, nut and dairy free (although I sometimes add sliced almonds or feta)! The quinoa also makes it protein rich, which is an important quality for salads.

Roasted Vegetable and Quinoa Salad

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1 medium orange kumara (sweet potato) cubed (approx 2 cups)
1/4 crown pumpkin, cubed (approx 2 cups)
1 red onion cut into wedges
4 garlic cloves
2 cups shredded spinach
1 tbsp basil
1 cup quinoa
1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (to taste)
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 180 degrees

In a saucepan, place quinoa and 2 cups of water (or stock to add more flavour)

Bring to the boil then simmer until all water is absorbed, stirring occasionally

Once ready, fluff with a fork then set aside in a bowl

Line a baking dish with tinfoil

Spread pumpkin and kumara and garlic cloves evenly across baking dish

Sprinkle with basil, salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil

Bake for 15 minutes

Toss vegetables and add red onion.  Bake for a further 10 minutes

Add roasted vegetables to the quinoa and mix well

Add balsamic vinegar and mix well

Add spinach and mix well

I like to have this salad on it’s own, it’s good hot from the oven, reheated in the microwave and is just as good cold too.  It also makes an excellent side dish.

Smiles and Sunshine

Katie