Edited highlights: bare trees and summer memories

On Monday I worked from home as Spider Boy had a cold. It was also time for his plaster to come off. Once we got home from the medical centre, I noticed for the first time that the branches on the trees outside our window are bare. I don’t know how long they’ve been that way. But as I stood by the window I thought, “Didn’t those trees have red leaves on them last time I looked?”

How could they have lost all their leaves so quickly? I thought back to Summer. I had to think hard. I found an image in the old brain files of a red and blue parrot playing peek-a-boo amongst the masses of green leaves on the same tree. Then the leaves had turned red. Now, it was leafless, and I didn’t even notice it happening.

Time just slips away, and before you know it we are halfway through the year. We’ve even passed the Winter Solstice (8.43am Tuesday 21 June, by the way).

As I mentioned, Spider Boy had his plaster removed this week. He still needs to wear a splint for three weeks while doing anything active. His skin was dry and flaky where the plaster had been. But when I went to cleanse and moisturise his arm with Cetaphil, the flakes had already disappeared. Tonight the skin on his arm looks like new.

It’s a new season, we are well into Winter. So I’m going to present some pictures of the last weeks of Summer, when we said goodbye to Sydney and began settling in to our new home in Canberra.

Click on the images to read the captions…

7 Halloween cupcake recipes… an Alexcellent roundup.

Halloween is tonight but you’ve just got time to bake some last-minute cupcakes. Here are some spooky-but-cute Halloween treats from around the web if you’re needing some sweet inspiration.

1. “Broken glass” cupcakes from marthastewart.com

glass-cupcake-phobias-1011mld107647_vert

The “glass” is sugar and water.

2. Reese’s Frankenstein cupcakes from yourcupofcake.com

Reeses_Frankenstein_Cupcakes__1413226569_85051

3. Ghost cupcakes from thecomfortofcooking.com

DarkChocolateCupcakeswithMeringueGhosts-1

7. Chilly ghosts from hellocupcakebook

chilly-ghosts-2-2

A second lot of ghosts but these were too cute to resist.

5.  Cupcake liner witch hat from thecakeblog.com

(This one involves a bit of paper craft)

witch_hat_cupcake_topper_sm

6. Skeleton cupcake from bhg.com

101244738h.jpg.rendition.largest

7. Dotty Halloween cupcakes also from bhg.com

Simple but has quite a visual impact on a plate.

101613560_1.jpg.rendition.largest

Whether you bake or not, have a spooky and yummy Halloween!

Fun with puff pastry: easy apricot turnovers and mini chocolate croissants

IMG_6205

On Winter weekends I like to do what I can to improve my baking skills.  This particular Sunday I decided to make apricot turnovers and a few mini chocolate croissants.

If you have ready-made puff pastry in the freezer and a tin of fruit in the cupboard, you’ve got all you need for a yummy, yet simple and quick winter breakfast or dessert.

Mum accidently ate a mini chocolate croissant that I was keeping for Spider Boy’s breakfast the next day.

“It wasn’t worth the calories… but then I’m not a pastry person” Mum said when I asked her about it.

Well I AM a pastry person, and take my word for it…  warm puff pastry with fruit or chocolate is the way to go.

I have no idea of the calories. I would give up sugar (quelle horreur!) before I’d ever count a calorie – I am just not a maths person (although I can just about handle the geometry needed when working with sheets of puff pastry).

Easy apricot turnovers

Ingredients

2 sheets of frozen puff pastry

1 can apricots (or apple, cherry or whatever takes your fancy)

1 egg, beaten

a bit of sugar

a bit of butter

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180C

1. Defrost 2 sheets of puff pastry for 10 minutes at room temperature.

2. Cut each sheet of pastry into four squares.

3. Place a heaped tablespoon of fruit in the middle – not too much fruit or it will burst out when cooking. Best to leave about 2cm between the fruit and the edge of the pastry.

4. Fold over the pastry square into a triangle and pinch the edges together. Make pretty markings on the pastry with a fork (it’s like art).

6. Line a baking tray with baking paper and butter it. Brush some beaten egg over the uncooked turnovers so the finished product is golden and shiny when baked. Place a few little cuts in the pastry top to let out steam when cooking. You can sprinkle a bit of sugar over it if you wish. Leave a couple of centimetres between each pastry on the tray, otherwise they’ll join together like mine did.

7. Bake at 180C for about 15 minutes (until golden brown).

Serve warm with custard, vanilla ice cream, or whipped cream.

Makes 8 turnovers

Mini chocolate croissants

IMG_3226

Ingredients

1 sheet puff pastry, defrosted

a handful of choc buttons (about 20) or four tablespoons Nutella (or other chocolate spread)

1 beaten egg

a bit of sugar

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180C

2. Cut sheet of defrosted puff pastry into two rectangles, then cut each rectangle into a long triangle.

3. Place four choc buttons near base of each triangle (about 2cm away from edge).

4. Roll up triangles from base to tip, with choc buttons inside. Fashion into classic croissant shape.

5. Eat one choc button for each mini croissant you roll up. I’ve factored in one choc button sneaky nibble per croissant in my ingredients list.

6. Brush with some of the beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar if you like.

7. Bake, as per the apricot turnovers, at 180C for about 15 minutes (until golden brown).

Makes 4 mini chocolate croissants.

Review: Kurtosh House, where “gluttonous curiosity is to be explored”.

Señorita Margarita had told me there was a great bakery/cafe she wanted to share with me when I next trekked over to her neck of the woods. So last Sunday when Spider Boy had a birthday party to attend nearby, I dropped him off (after watching him ride a mechanical bull that looked like a giant guinea pig) and my mum, sister and I went to Kurtosh House (No.1), a cosy little bakery in Randwick (Kurtosh Houses 2, 3, 4, and 5 are in Surry Hills, Crows Nest, Darlinghurst and Wollongong respectively).

IMG_5779

The decor is very old-world rustic charm thanks to the pretty tiles, exposed brick walls, metal and wood chairs, soft lighting and a beautiful vintage-style coffee machine.

The cake display will make you say, “Oh wow!” Well, that’s what I said. There were sample plates along the top of the cabinets which looked like they were being regularly replenished.

IMG_5781

Clockwise from left: strawberry sponge, cookies and cream slice, lemon crumble cheesecake and choc-hazelnut torte.

There were huge slabs of cake, from fudgey chocolate, to sponge to cheesecake.  And the special thing is that cake is sold by weight (to satisfy your inner-glutton, according to the Kurtosh website). So you could ask them to slice 100 grams off a huge slab of chocolate, sugar and butter, and pay $4.50. So neither the indecisive nor those with a penchant for variety need to fret, their website statesWell, that’s a relief.

IMG_5782

They also sell chimney-shaped pastries called Kurtosh’s (also known as chimney cake), something I’d never seen or heard of before. These are cylinders of caramelised crispy flaky pastry dipped in a variety of coatings, such as cinnamon, coconut, pistachio, walnut, almond, caramelised hazelnut and chocolate hazelnut.

IMG_5780

Normally I go to bakeries for the combination of fat and sugar, but since it was lunchtime I ordered a quinoa and veggie pastry. I know, you’re practically blinded by my halo, right? It was so good, I couldn’t even taste the quinoa. But I could taste the curried veggies, which were not too spicy, not too bland, but just right. Does quinoa even have a taste? Or is it like tofu, the quinoa of the 90s?

IMG_5783

Kurtosh describes itself as being …what home feels like – comfortable, cozy, relaxing, flawed, unquestionably accepting, eclectic and sweet. I would say they pretty much nailed it. The only flaw I could see was that our veggie pastries weren’t quite hot enough, but when our waitress brought them over she said that may be the case and she happily obliged when we asked her to reheat them.

The coffee was great. And in case you’re wondering, yes, of course I took home a dessert for later. When I paid for my coffee and pastry and realised I didn’t have any cash, a staff member at the counter told me there was a $10 Eftpos minimum. Luckily there were plenty of slices to choose from that could bump up my spend. And bump up my blood sugar at the same time.

I chose the cookies and cream slice. The staff member helpfully reminded me I only needed $2.00 worth of cookies and cream slice to total $10. But that would mean less than 50 grams of sugar and fat. I can do better than that.

I told her I’d take the 100 grams slice for $4.50, thanks very much.

If the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, then Kurtosh House No.1 would be Love Potion No.9. If the old cliche is true, here’s hoping for more baking successes from me, and less baking “disasters” (read about one of my baking disasters here).

By the way, if you have a penchant for pastry porn, I implore you to get onto the Kurtosh website now.

www.kurtosh.com.au

Kurtosh House No.1

20B – 20C St Paul’s Street, Randwick

Open Monday – Friday 7am – 10pm

Saturday – Sunday and public holidays 8am – 10pm

Ph 9399 8412

Baking with yoghurt: Mango and vanilla yoghurt cake with white chocolate ganache

098

I love cake, but in my efforts to be healthier, I’ve been thinking about ways I could reduce the fat. No butter? Yes, it is possible to make a cake without butter. But let’s not get too crazy. This cake does have some butter in it. But less than normal because today I’m substituting some of the butter for low fat yoghurt.

I don’t think about calories anymore. I am trying to shift my thinking from units of measure (I was never good at maths anyway) to good nutrition and balance. In other words, I would never let a few (hundred) pesky calories get in the way of me and my cake. But I do acknowledge that when food is lower in fat, without sacrificing texture and flavour, it’s a winning combination. Baking a cake using yoghurt is a way to achieve that.

Using yoghurt as a substitution for butter or oil in cakes is a smart and yummy way to reduce the fat content, as well as lending a lush texture and slightly tangy flavour to the cake. Plus it’s a great way to add a little bit of protein and calcium! As I’m a maniac for mango, I used a low fat mango and vanilla yoghurt. 042

Ingredients The cake bit

150g butter (softened)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup caster sugar

2 eggs

1 and a 1/2 cups low fat mango and vanilla yoghurt

2 and a 1/4 cups self-raising flour

1/4 cup milk

The white chocolate ganache bit

1/2 cup cream

360g white eating chocolate, broken into small pieces (Will make about 1 and 1/2 cups)

The mango yoghurt frosting bit

125g butter (softened) 2 and 1/2 cups icing sugar

1 and 1/2 tablespoons Mango and Madagascan Vanilla Yoghurt

Method

Cake

1. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius /160 degrees Celsius fan-forced. Grease deep 22cm-round cake pan and line with baking paper.

2. Beat butter, sugar and vanilla extract in a bowl with electric mixer on low, until fluffy.

3. Beat in eggs one at a time

4. Fold in yoghurt

5. Sift flour into bowl and add milk gradually, stirring as you go. Add the flour and milk in two batches.

6. Dollop mixture into cake tin. Bake for 1 hour. Let cake stand in tin for 5 minutes before turning upside down on wire rack to cool.

7. Slice cake in half horizontally and spread the top of one layer with the white chocolate ganache

8. Sandwich the two halves together. While cake is baking, make the ganache and frosting.

Ganache

1. Pour cream into a small saucepan and bring to the boil.

2. Remove from heat and when bubbles have disappeared add white chocolate.

3. Stir until smooth

4. When ganache has cooled down, pour into a bowl and beat with electric mixer on medium speed.

Mango yoghurt frosting

Beat butter, icing sugar and yoghurt with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.

Spread frosting on cake with a spatula.

Serve garnished with passion fruit pulp.

Serves 12

Keep cake in fridge. 074 064 076 112

Ordinary joys: Bondi views, pudding and flowers from Spider Boy.

With all the bad news in the news, especially lately, I am even more grateful for my ordinary joys.

While making sure my head remains above the sand of this world (as much as I can stand), I remember and appreciate all the good things.

Spider Boy and I are loving the lack of routine of the school holidays, and oops there goes my “posting schedule” and look lets blame the computer/Internet again. I think the computer’s Internet is a bit broken, something to do with using all the data (thank you Spider Boy’s music teacher who has apparently introduced her students to the wonders of Wii “Just Dance” on YouTube) .

Yes, we did some dances in the living room in front of the computer.

So now my son knows about One Direction. It’s a boy band in case you don’t know.

I feel I’ve come full circle back to my Backstreet Boy days.

A figure eight  if we go back to NKOTB.

So anyway going over the data limit means I’m posting this from a mobile device. Hopefully it publishes OK as the configuration is a bit strange in the draft version.

So now, on with my “joy in the ordinary” for the past week.

Last weekend I took Spider Boy to a park near my sister’s place where he climbed, slid, swung and then frolicked in a field of daisies. Then picked some for me, bless him.

021

Later we had coffee with Bat Gran and Señorita Margarita at Top Hat café  in Clovelly. Margs had a coffee card with a free coffee. So we went there. It was lovely cafe; Light, airy, fast and friendly service, calming yet interesting decor and reasonably priced, good coffee and accompanying cherry toast and fruit loaf. Can’t remember now if that’s what it was called exactly but it was fresh and tasted home made (in the good way).

022

The bathroom was interesting too, with a light-fitting impressively made of takeaway coffee cups! (NB cute little top hats pattern)

024

Coffee was followed by a drive along Campbell Pde, Bondi, on the way to McDonalds for The Happy Meal I’d promised Spider Boy. Sundays at Bondi draw the peeps, no matter the season. But this wasn’t just a normal Sunday, it was The Festival of the Winds – so dots of colour filled the sand and sky, but as I was in a moving car (Bat Gran was driving) I couldn’t really get a great shot of the kites. I often think about going to Bondi on a Sunday, and when I do, I am reminded of just how crowded it gets, especially in warm weather. I grew up in Bondi and continued living there in my 20s and into my 30s. I love the place, but it is sooooooo much more relaxed during the week.

025

Later that day, I made this chocolate and blackberry chocolate pudding, with a recipe from the back of the Creative Gourmet frozen blackberry carton. It was a success and worked well served hot with vanilla icecream.

020

And thank goodness I have started going for walks again. The weather’s been sunny and dry the last couple of weeks  and it all seems a bit easier. We had what seemed like a month of rain in August (something like the wettest August Sydney had seen in 10 years). And really there’s no excuse not to get back into walking, especially when the terrain is sea-level flat, and picturesque too.

026

I hope whatever you’re doing or wherever you are, you are finding the joy in the ordinary this week. We are off to Canberra for Floriade, the annual spring flower festival, so will post about that next week.

 

Edited Highlights: delightfully pink, playfully green. And trashy chocolate.

I should be posting Edited Highlights at the end of a week, not the beginning (and let’s face it, we’re rapidly sliding towards the middle of the week), but technical problems over the weekend has caused a delay to my “posting schedule”, which is admittedly haphazard – but I’m working on that.

The last week of winter was a mix of wet weather and sunny days but I thought I’d get into the spirit of Spring with this collection of pink(ish) things.

030

Clockwise from top left we have the perfect after dinner “dessert” (yeah, that’s what I tell myself, wait till you see what I really had for dessert last week (not every day – have to maintain that 300 gram weight-loss after all).

I found this cute little set of measuring cups and spoons in Woolworths and I plan to make good use of them, measuring ingredients for baking AND for those two words diet gurus are so fond of, “portion control”.  Mmmm baking and portion control. That’s a potential stressful situation right there.

Unlock Your Style by Nikki Parkinson from Styling You was launched a few weeks ago and it is next on my reading list. Hoping to unlock my style this Spring.

And as I had used up my last drop of Chanel No.5 a little while ago, I thought it the perfect time to finally open this gift from my jet-setting Dad. I do love miniatures. That black lump on the lid is a tiny tiny fabric rose attached to a tiny tiny elastic band. Tres chic!

008

Here is my neck line getting ready for Spring with rhinestones. I love a good bedazzling. This jumper comes from Topshop.  I like to wear it next to this Magnolia which is blooming like no tomorrow.

In other news, I have been a little annoyed by the negative reaction to Lena Dunham’s Emmy’s dress last week.

lena-dunham-emmys-2014-emmy-awards-gty-lead

According to the above poll on Hollywoodlife.com, 85.95% of respondents loathed it, and 14.05% loved it.

I am firmly in the love camp. I just love it. And I love her for wearing it. That is all.

Now to the serious business of garden greenery and park playtime.

033

We have a few little strawberries growing in a tub in the courtyard. I love this patch of greenery. I don’t know what it’s called but the tiny flat leaves give the impression of a soft emerald carpet on the pavers. And Spider Boy found a caterpillar… that he enjoyed poking a bit with a stick. I know it seems awful but I didn’t want to deny SB’s natural curiosity. The caterpillar remained unscathed. Well maybe a little bit scathed, but still alive. I’m sure it bounced back. Unless a bird got it.

039

Then it was time for some scooter riding in the park. Here’s Spider Boy in his Buzz Lightyear helmet carrying his scooter to the pathway.

And we finished the week with the king of desserts – chocolate brownies.

036

Yeah, I thought a chocolate brownie from Domino’s Pizza wasn’t trashy enough. So I trashed it up a bit more. Double the fun.

Have you unleashed some new things for Spring – or Autumn?

Edited highlights: chocolate pudding, snowdrops and other ordinary joys

I realise I seem to have developed a theme here in the past few weeks, namely involving snow, fake or otherwise, and chocolate. Well it IS winter!

With all the bad news reports (the bad news that is additional to the constant bad news that already happens) lately, it would be very easy to be overwhelmed by it all and think of nothing else. I know how blessed I am to have the privilege of leading my ordinary life, that is sprinkled with moments that I feel compelled to photograph and share. It’s the joy of the ordinary. And I really appreciate it.

This past week I tried my hand at a chocolate and raspberry pudding – with a few canned cherries thrown into the mix. It tasted surprisingly decadent, considering the recipe was from Diabetic Living magazine and the chocolatey flavour came from cacao and not Cadbury’s.

019

Although I’m sure serving it with cream was not what Diabetic Living had in mind, but, it just elevated the choc-berry cherry goodness to new heights.

021

Spider Boy, Bat Gran and I caught up with Senorita Margarita at, where else – the local chocolateria. After jogging along Bondi Beach first, obvs.

027

Jogging? As if. No, it was straight into San Churro for churros as soon as we hit Bondi.

034

Well, look. At least the sauce was dark chocolate. And we shared the plate.

Later in the week, Spider Boy and friends played in a cliff-top park and we wondered what bizarre weather event was happening on the horizon.

041

And snowdrops are growing in the back courtyard. Like little ballerina skirts.

048

Hoping you’ve found some ordinary joys in your week.

Mortifying muffins and eye-candy neighbours

The beauty of uncooked meringue

The beauty of uncooked meringue.

I love baked goods. I own a lot of cookbooks. I look at baking blogs. I like to try to make something from the pages/posts of these books/blogs. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

A recent baking effort fell into the latter camp. I was determined to make a zucchini loaf and a batch of spinach and ricotta muffins to give my cousin whose husband was recuperating at home from a cycling accident.
After school drop-off I tried to scurry away quickly so I could do my important job-hunting/work-sourcing baking work. I said “no” to a P&C morning tea and “yes” to my own baking extravaganza.
I am not going to bore you with the details of how and why both these recipes went wrong, as I would be guessing anyway. But the outcome was that both the loaf and the muffins just refused to cook on the inside, yet insisted on going dark brown on the outside. My oven, the tanning salon.
“Oh, you can’t give her that,” Mum said helpfully as she peered at the zucchini loaf. Just for fun, I pinged one of the muffins at the kitchen bench and it actually made a pinging sound. I could get away with eating a muffin myself, but I couldn’t actually offer them to anyone else as I’m afraid they fell into my “mild disaster” category of cooking. The zucchini loaf was categorised “major disaster” so, although in conflict over the waste of ingredients, I binned it, because no one was going to want to eat that.
I forced myself to eat a muffin though, just so I could feel the ingredients/time wasn’t totally wasted. I had it with salad for dinner that night. It wasn’t bad, as it wasn’t actually charcoal and at least I could taste the feta and parmesan in it.
I had three egg whites left over from my yolk-filled baked goods. They were sitting in the fridge just waiting to turn into meringues. My grandmother had made them often. They were always a lovely pale milk-coffee colour, crispy on the outside and chewy in the middle. Even though I had eaten them often as a child, I still didn’t know exactly how she did it.  To make meringues, I still had to consult my Commonsense Cookery Book (Metric edition – originally compiled in 1970 by the NSW Public School Cookery Teachers’ Association). I have the 1981 edition – it was my high-school cooking class bible.
Simple but effective.

Simple but effective. Dog-eared and reliable.

I enjoyed beating the egg-whites with mum’s 70s egg-beater. It’s quite the workout. A pinch of salt, more beating, then I poured sugar on to those stiff white peaks and beat again, until I had snow-covered mountains of meringue. After folding in more sugar, I spooned the confection into a piping bag and piped out coils, building up the outer ring to make little meringue nests. They looked like the effort of a beginner potter, Dali-esque clocks melting in the late afternoon sun streaming in my kitchen window. I popped them in the oven for a slow, low suntan.
The fragility of uncooked meringue

The fragility of uncooked meringue “coils”.

Later, when Spider-boy and I got home from school pick-up, mum announced “Ooooh, you should see the eye-candy that’s moved in next door”.
“What? Who? Tell me EVERYTHING!” I demanded.
So turns out the eye-candy that Mum was referring to was one bloke who’s paying rent and another who’s “just visiting” (or so he said). Then the next day we saw two women coming out of the flat, dressed as if they were going to a nightclub, but they each wheeled a pram and accompanying baby. And they have all been there every day for the past week, obviously living in our real neighbour’s two-bedroom flat that she is sub-letting to the two eye-candy families. Cosy.
They have nothing to do with this story, except to say that no way was I popping round next door Desperate Housewives-style with a basket of my mortifying muffins to welcome them to the neighbourhood. Nor would I be delivering them to my cousin. If my street were Wisteria Lane, then my mortifying muffins would be considered a weapon of mass obstruction (to being a good neighbour/to cousin’s husband’s recuperation).
But my meringues were a different story. I tasted one that night, and they weren’t bad. The palest shade of milk-coffee, crispy on the outside and chewy in the middle. Worked a treat with a bit of vanilla ice-cream and blueberries. I had wanted to redeem myself with the meringues. It was a bizarre self-imposed My Kitchen Rules-style showdown where I was the only competitor and there were no attractive celebrity-chef judges. Maybe I could’ve knocked on the eye-candy neighbours door after all and asked them to join me for a bake-off. So all right, maybe I can bake a little, but it is a bit unpredictable. All I will say is that the zuchinni Loaf and the muffin recipes did not come from my Commonsense Cookery Book.
Redemption by meringue. I don't mind the crack - the beauty's in the flaws right?

Redemption by meringue. I don’t mind the cracks – the beauty’s in the flaws, right?

 And my cousin’s husband? He got a box of Lindt chocolates. My baking may be hit and miss, but I am very good at buying chocolate.

How a Cherry Pie and a DeLorean was my undoing

A few months ago I signed up to Michelle Bridges’ 12-Week Body Transformation (12WBT), a 12-week online weight loss program.  So have I lost any weight? Yes, I did, in the first three weeks. But today, 16 weeks later, I really don’t know what I weigh, and I don’t care about the number anymore.

At the end of week 4 of the program,  I stepped onto the bathroom scales with anticipation. I then stepped off them with horror. I was incredulous to see that I had in fact gained 800 grams in the past week!

I had tried really pretty hard, but had still gained. I was so frustrated with myself, the scales, and those pesky, impertinent 800 grams, that I ate whatever I wanted that whole weekend – and it was a four-day weekend (we went away during school holidays) including one night in a hotel where the buffet breakfast was included. Here is just one of the delights that I ate…

Take that, 800grams. Mmmm it was good though. Worth every damn calorie.

Take that, 800grams. Mmmm it was good though. Worth every damn calorie.

After that weekend I was well and truly off the Weight-loss Wagon, straight onto the Shuttle Bus of Shame, which delivered me quickly to the Den of Denial.

As the weeks rolled on, I would simply delete any emails from Michelle Bridges, and was pleasantly surprised not to receive any “Alexandra, you haven’t weighed in for a while!” notifications.

But then came Week 12’s email. The subject heading was “Finale Workout and Party”. I clicked on it. “Maybe I could join them for the mass workout?” I thought,  riding in the DeLorean of Delusion*.  I thought of last year’s group workout, and remembered how in a strange kind of way, I had actually enjoyed it. But thank goodness I came to my senses and realised that, since I hadn’t even gone for so much as a walk since the day I ate a beer truffle at ten in the morning, a sudden mass aerobics class may not be such a good idea, not wanting to have a massive heart attack and all.

Delorean DMC-12

My DeLorean of Delusion looks somewhat like this.

Then I received an email about joining the next round of the 12WBT, which was to start in a week’s time. I realised that would mean another finale party and a chance to frock up with hair and makeup! I seriously thought about signing up again and having another go,  just so I could get to that finale party.

But before I could enter those credit card details, I pulled into the reality station. This online program has not worked for me twice now, what makes me think number three is going to be third time lucky? Apart from the saying, “third time lucky”. I can’t pay good money to do a 12-week program just to have a makeover and go to a party.  So no workout, no party and no “body transformation”!

Instead, I have my memories of last year’s finale workout (didn’t go to the after party then either), and I share them here with you now…

I recently took part in a mass outdoor workout which was the culmination of my attempt at Michelle Bridges’ 12-Week Body Transformation (12WBT) I fell off the wagon many times during the 12 weeks. Actually, I completely gave up in week 4 (I did still read the weekly emails). But I thought I had nothing to lose by giving this mass exercise class a go. It was free, and it was in a park near my dad’s place, handy for babysitting Spider Boy.

Once I started the class, I thought about stopping. But, it wasn’t too hectic, I was keeping pace. Hey, maybe I could do this.

“Right everyone, great warmup!” boomed Michelle’s glamorous man-assistant, a muscly tanned young man with his radio mike and headset. The Warm Up.  Oh yes, I’d forgotten all about that. 

I thought about stopping again, just escaping now.  But I give up on so many diet and exercise attempts when they get a bit hard. I caught a glimpse of another woman’s T-shirt with the words, “Pain – it’s only temporary!” on the back. I took it as a sign – I had to finish this damn workout – even if I was wearing a singlet with the words “Bust a Move” on it above a dancing cartoon cow that was actually part of a pyjama set from Target.

So I busted my moves amongst the positive pop psychology-sloganed lycra. One thousand people, mostly women between 20 – 50ish from all over Australia. Some in sensible workout gear, some dressed up. There was a Wonder Woman. There was a flock of fabulous fat fairies in green wigs and matching tutus. A clutch of elves in blue T-shirts from Canberra wearing silver sequinned elf hats. 

The punters were keen – I saw two plastered limbs but their owners still moved what they could. It was one big arena of positivity (with ample water, sunscreen and uplifting, gym-style music pumping motivating through the speakers). It was Priscilla Queen of the Desert meets Alex Queen of Desserts, meets Oprah, meets Aerobics Oz Style. In fact, you could say it was a Disco in an Unlikely Place.**

The initials JFDI appeared on many T-shirts.  “Just F—ing Do It!”  I really need to embrace JFDI.  And following on from that, JFFI (Just F—ing Finish It) and not to mention my all time favourite, JFSI (Just F—ing Start It) in the first place.

Glamorous man-assistant told us to “Grapevine” , a move I haven’t seen since the early 90s (oh who am I kidding, it was the late 80s), at Healthlands Bondi Junction. 

“Class over!” he finally boomed as I huffed and puffed. What? Already, it was only ½ hour in to this “endorphin extravaganza”. 

“Cross-over!” he boomed again as he executed his nifty footwork. So not only am I unfit, I’m deaf as well. 

There was one foray into group activity where we had to break off into small teams and actually engage with sweaty strangers. This was getting a bit too “boot-camp” for my liking. I stared longingly at the gate bordering the workout area, about 50 metres away, thinking ‘Do I make a run for it now?’ because Lord knows that’s what I felt like doing. Engage with complete strangers when I’m red, sweaty, unco-ordinated and un-plank worthy?

There was a row of Michelle’s minions at the gate, blocking it like a row of bouncers. There was no escape. Face your fear, Alex, be an adult, finish something, JFFI! So I stayed. I planked, I conquered. I JFDI (Just F—ing Did It)! I had little breaks here and there, but it was ok. There was no pressure, everyone was there to have a good time, and I really did.

Apart from a small bindi injury sustained during the mass plank-off, I came through the workout unscathed. Red-faced (literally) but unscathed.  And more importantly, inspired to get moving, and JFDI! (and finish it.)

Michelle Bridges’ 12WBT definitely has its merits. Thousands swear by it and it obviously works for them. While I am extremely impressed with, and have been sporadically motivated by Bridges’ drive, enthusiasm and amazing positivity, I found the program’s expectations of me were a little high. I think it’s great for people who like structure and are motivated by the group, competition and challenges in general. My failure on the program was to do with my own character flaws (laziness, procrastination, tendency to hide in the Den of Denial, compulsion to make butter from cream etc.etc) rather than anything to do with the 12WBT itself.

I am now trialling the 5:2 diet by Dr Michael Mosely, who to me, is the Kevin McCloud of science and medicine. This diet is also known as The Fast Diet – not because it’s fast (damn it), but because you fast for two days a week (limiting your calorie intake to 500 per day) and “eat well” for five days. Every week. Forever.

Hopefully I can “JFDI”. I will keep you posted.

*The vehicle you think about time-travelling in when you really want to go back to the 80s, while being deluded that it is in fact possible to go back. Especially if you play Huey Lewis and the News on your tape deck as you wish, hope and pray. Can also be a metaphor for any journey of delusion you are on.

** A time or place of unexpected joy.