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I quit sugar – week 4

It’s the end of week 4 following the IQS regime.  And what have I found after not consuming sugar for four solid weeks?  Hold your collective breaths … here’s the results.

Weight loss – only a measly 1kg.  This was an ongoing surprise.  After 3 weeks, I hadn’t lost anything.  So after some discussion in week 3, I realised my portion control needed revision – a case of a few handfuls of nuts too many. So I cut back and lost the kilo.

Measurements – completely unchanged.  Unsurprised.  You don’t lose weight, the shape doesn’t change.

Wellbeing – very even moods, but I’m on HRT (which contains a small dose of antidepressant) so who knows whether it’s the absence of sugar or the medication keeping things nice.

Energy – haven’t particularly noticed a huge change to date. Not feeling blah every day though, and certainly not exhausted and needing an afternoon nap, so that’s a good start. Find myself a bit perkier in the evenings and coping much better with late nights.

Overall health – took weeks for the bronchitis to completely disappear. The thick phlegm constantly in my throat for weeks was the worst and I’m very glad to be rid of it.  I’ve not had an issue with the chemical taste in my mouth either, so this means I can actually taste what I’m eating.  Goodness, I’ve only just realised that!

Bowel movements – have become regular, plus blood from haemorrhoids has all but disappeared.

Exercise – not quite so exhausted after a workout, which I’ve just realised as I write this. Perhaps changes are more subtle.  Exercise at the gym 5-6 days a week and really trying to push myself to improve the heart rate.  It’s going well.

Motivation – it’s quite strange because normally at four weeks, I’m over the dieting thing. But I feel very motivated to continue with this because I see it as a lifetime way to be healthy. I don’t feel deprived, I have the time to make different things and while some of the recipes are really rather odd, I’m enjoying all the new taste sensations.

Outcome 1

So I’m really disappointed with the result, mostly because I expected better weight loss. If you’re not eating all those cakes, chocolates and desserts, and meal sizes are smaller – then surely some weight loss must occur – even at my advanced age.

On Saturday I was so disheartened that I decided it was time for a bit of deviation. So when out for dinner at a friend’s house, I accepted the offer of a cocktail (ice-based with 3 different non-creamy alcohols), enjoyed a small portion of dessert, and knocked off a few pieces of dark chocolate. That was my blowout and I was promptly on the straight and narrow again on Sunday.

Outcome 2

After some discussion with my partner after this dinner, decided I’d add a variation to my IQS week. Two days of the week would be devoted to fasting, specifically the 5:2 diet in which you imbibe 500 calories only for two days of the week then eat normally on the other five.  I can do that.

Sunday was the first day and it went well.  Got rather peckish at times but we had a lot of hot drinks and got through it without any trauma.

And guess what?  I woke up this morning (Monday) feeling considerably perky. So we’ll see how that goes combining the two diets.  I’m thinking this could be a winning combination.

We’re doing a trip up to southern NSW in weeks 5-6 so that’ll be a challenge not having my kitchen with all its ingredients and a freezer full of preprepared foods.  There’s also the challenge of eating 500 calories when in the company of friends on holiday.

There you go – let’s see how the next few weeks go.  I shall keep you posted.

I quit sugar – week 1

At the end of the first week on the I Quit Sugar (IQS) program, here’s how it’s travelling.  Despite copping a nasty dose of acute bronchitis in the lead up and during the first week, I amazed myself by not wavering from the plan.

Preparation

First things first, I began by:

1.  Clearing out the kitchen

I’ve been ditching/eating unnecessary foods for quite some months as a prelude to quitting sugar and rubbish food altogether.  We have a very small kitchen with limited cupboard space, so all interesting ingredients are lined up along the main shelf.

kitchen-shelf

I left existing sauces intact in the fridge.  They’re easily enough ignored (who binges on tomato sauce?) and my partner can happily finish them off.  He’s not interested in being on this no-sugar plan, so I can’t penalise him too much.

Anyone who knows me will know I LOVE cream.  Cream is by far and away the world’s best invention.  Because full fat dairy is encouraged on IQS, cream stays in the fridge.  However, there’s not much I can munch it with during the first 8 weeks – no cake or fruit or desserts.  However, I’ve worked out it can be tossed on cereal and if one is desperate, one could make creamed rice or sago.  Where there’s a will there’s a way.  The trick will be consuming a little tiny bit and not half the carton, otherwise weight loss won’t be happening.

Stopped buying fruit a few days before the start date and anything left has either been munched or tossed to the insects in the compost bins.

Leaving everything else as it is because, as mentioned above, I don’t have a lot of space in the kitchen so it’s not filled with tempting evil munchies.

2. Shopping

IQS kindly provide you with a list of stuff to buy.  So on Sunday I took my list, hacking cough and grocery bags for a big shop.

Had the vague hope I shouldn’t need to visit a supermarket for another week and this proved correct.  This is a welcome novelty – tend to hit a supermarket a few times a week. Nice to not waste time going so regularly.

3. Cooking up a minor hurricane

*  Tomato sauce

Homemade IQS tomato sauceStore bought tomato sauce is FULL of sugar, BBQ sauce is even worse.  So I made a batch of homemade tomato sauce.

Oh my, it’s very spicy and the cooking odour sure flavoured the house.  However it rocks and rolls on top of sausages and lamb chops. Scrumptious.

I divided into 3 portions – one for the fridge and rest in the freezer.

* Mayonnaise

Stopped eating store-bought mayonnaise a few years ago after realising how full of toxic fake oils they are.  You will not find a single mayo that doesn’t contain canola, sunflower or some other crap oil, no matter how much the label declares it’s healthy and amazing.

I keep a container of IQS mayo in the fridge.  Makes it easier to create a potato salad or toss over a green salad. And what’s more, it’s a really nice mayo.

* Bread

In 2016, I worked out which breads to buy at the supermarket.  Certainly not the rubbishy mass produced bread all supermarkets have as they contain toxic fake oil and/or sugar.  So I’m left with artisan breads – ciabatta, rye, wholemeal and white cob. Pretty sad isn’t it, having to eat artisan breads.

Over the past year, I’ve often made my own bread with divine help from a breadmaker*.  Originally Gregoire and I were concerned we’d stuff our faces with fresh bread until it was gone, but that’s turned out not to be the case.  We love devouring the crust straight away, but otherwise a smallish loaf lasts 2-3 days.

* Breakfast muffins

The Apple Bircher Breakfast Muffins took a while to make – a lot of ingredients and a bit of fiddling around.

They look great but are quite heavy, so I can only eat one at a time (a serving is two). Devoured them warm with delicious full-fat yoghurt.

Next time I’ll lessen the amount of almond meal and use flour to see if that lightens them up.  Oh, and pick a sweeter apple.  I used a very sour granny smith – not a smiley experience when you bite into a wedge of apple inside the muffin and it sets your teeth sideways.

Health

1. Appetite

Due to the bronchitis, no exercise occurred until the end of the week, and my appetite went on holiday (bit of a change).  With thick phlegm constantly sitting in my throat and a vague chemical taste lurking, both the look and taste of food wasn’t so enticing.

Hence I wasn’t hugely interested in eating, let alone overeating. I wondered how that would change once the lurg cleared up.  It finally got better as I moved into week 2, and the appetite is back.  Kept getting hungry and so overindulged in nuts.  Not a good idea, need to plan better as they’re too high in fat.

2. Cravings

Even though my appetite wasn’t brilliant, found I was still getting the odd craving after lunch or dinner.  I got around that by going off into my study and doing some painting or messing about on the laptop.  Worked a treat.  End of craving.

3. Toileting

Isn’t this a fun topic?  I know you’re busting to read about this.  I’m actually only including this because it might be useful to others who follow this regime.  You young things may laugh but trust me, it’s likely bowel issues are going to happen to you.

All my later adult years (never took any notice earlier on in life), bowel movements occurred every 2-3 days.  Never been regular and often I’d be a bit constipated.

Poor eating has inspired the advent of first stage haemorrhoids (trying spelling that in a hurry).  This means it bleeds when I have a bowel movement.  No pain at all – but it sure requires a lot more toilet paper to mop up.

I’m charting how often I go and so far, while it’s still irregular, bowel movements are more often and it’s easier to go. This is a good thing. You may smile now.

4. Other stuff

No other issues, which is surprising.  Thought there’d be lousy somethings happening at some point.  In a weird way, I think the bronchitis helped in that I was too sick to crave anything.

Energy is good, slowly improving.  This is the main area I’m keeping an eye on as I’m so tired of being tired.  However, it does help being retired.  Full time work has got to be one of the biggest obstacles to being rested and relaxed.

Weight loss

I lost 1 kilo in the first 5 days, then put it back on in the last 2 days.

Why?  We went out for meals on Saturday night and Sunday lunch plus dinner.  I’m still no good with controlling my intake when I’m at someone else’s place, where the only things to occupy my brain are conversation and food.

Even though I didn’t eat sugar (excluding 6 cherries, 2 strawberries and 2 thin slices of pineapple), there was too waaaaay much cheese, salami and olives consumed.  I paid the price.

We’re away from home and eating out for 4 & 1/2 days in the second week.  I’m trying to plan for this now.

———————-

  • Thanks to my sister Ruth who loaned the divine breadmaker

I’m quitting sugar!

It’s time to make change.  Middle age isn’t a lot of fun when the diet keeps whirling out of control, weight starts to pile on, and one feels perfectly crap.   So here’s how I’m gonna do it.

The ‘now’ situation

After continually waking up feeling tireder than when I went to bed, struggling to be motivated, feeling like my get-up-and-go has got-up-and-vanished-into-the-ether, I’ve decided to get serious and do something about it.

The extra kilos I’m carrying will be playing a large part in feeling so bad, and therefore that’s the area I need to change first.  It’s also the one area I have 100% control over.

I’m also aware that menopause plays a huge part in feeling blah much of the time, so I plan to eventually get my hormone levels checked.  Then I’ll know for sure how much of a male I’m turning into.  Honestly, how unfair is that.  When you’re a female, looking like a bloke isn’t part of the plan.  Same for a guy.  How many older guys do you know who have breasts and higher voices?  Maybe they need to follow my plan too.

And while I’m on the subject – why is there viagra for men and nothing similar for women?  That’s just plain mean.

 

Why sugar/fructose is really bad

I plan to refer to this list whenever I feel like jumping off the wagon.

  • Sugar is highly addictive.
    Like other addictive substances, it takes a mountain of willpower to kick it. There’s a mountain of research on this so I ain’t talking through my hat.
  • Causes overeating.
    The sweet stuff seems to encourage bingeing and thus we munch more than we’re ever designed to eat.
  • Team up sugar with fat and very soon ye shall put on weight.
    You might be able to get away with it in your 20s, 30s and even your 40s. But by the time you hit your 50s and although you might still be active, for most of us getting fatter becomes the order of the day.
  • Sugar feeds cancer cells.
    This is a biggie. I wonder if people who have cancer are told this by the medical profession?  Indeed, I understand you’re fed a sugar substance when they scan to find cancer cells, because cancer cells just looove to feed and grow on sugar.  Why is this not more widely known?
  • Sugar marries well with many diseases.
    For example, sugar loves to play havoc with people who have autoimmune diseases. There’s a lot of information out there on the havoc sugar creates when you’re suffering from all sorts of things.
  • Causes rollercoaster highs and lows.
    This leads me to wonder if people who suffer from depression, bipolar and other such mental issues wouldn’t benefit from ditching sugar from their diets.
  • It’s linked to dementia.
    If this works out to be so, I’m in very big trouble.  Dementia runs down my mother’s side – females only at this stage.  Perhaps cutting out sugar will stop or defer the onset of symptoms.
  • Inhibits our immune system so it’s difficult to fight off bugs.
    I’m finding as I age, that the body takes 2-3 times longer to heal. Adding sugar to the equation probably doesn’t help.

Health concerns

I’m adding this bit so I have a baseline to refer to as time goes on.  For others who happen upon this blog, it might prove useful if you’re suffering similar issues.

  • Weight control.  I’m too fat.  Far too much fat around my mid-section = middle aged spread.  With the joys of menopause (so little to recommend it, other than saying goodbye to years of stomach cramp and messy periods), no clothes fit nicely.  One feels old and decrepid.
  • Feel addicted to sugar.  Crave it much of the time. Throat often full of phlegm so I’d like to find out what’s sparking that.
  • Heart rate issues.  Not able to exercise as well aerobically (even from a year ago),  takes 3-4 times as long to recover from aerobic exercise, find my heart beats way too fast if I push myself.
  • Poor energy. Tired and fatigued much of the time and have to take Nanna naps when it gets bad.
  • Lack of motivation, enthusiasm, get up and go.  Most days I suffer from the ‘blahs’ and the ‘yeah whatevers’.
  • Healing.  Taking 4-8 weeks to heal from cuts, abrasions and mozzie bites.
  • Bug fighting.  Constantly fighting off an impending cold and when I get them, ooh I’ve had some doozies.
  • Chemical taste in my mouth.  Nasty taste comes and goes and may have something to do with my teeth. But if I can remove sugar as a possible irritant, then the dentist is my next port of call.

Operation ‘Quit Sugar’

Denise in 2005, like to be feeling and looking like this again
Denise in 2005
– like to be as healthy as I was then

Here’s the plan. I’m going to:

1. Cut sugar from my diet for a minimum of 8 weeks.

The official start date is 12 January 2017. I’ll be following Sarah Wilson’s “I Quit Sugar” 8 week plan, and joined online to ensure there’s added incentive.

Bought her books in early 2016 and have been trying lots of her ideas, but that hasn’t stopped me imbibing sugar in all its various formats.

However, I’ve noted that when I do cut down on sugar, I feel heaps better and lose weight without unduly thinking about it.  But now I really need to go the whole hog and not just phaffle around with sides of bacon.

2. Cut toxic fake fats out of my diet forevermore.

I began deleting the following fats from my diet in mid 2014 after reading “Toxic Oil” by David Gillespie. This means one no longer consumes margarine, canola oil, sunflower oil, corn oil or soy oil.

Why?  Because they’re man-made using chemical processes. Our bodies have no clue what to do with them when consumed. You can argue all you like that David’s deductions aren’t scientific, but to me it makes total and perfect logical sense. If a product needs a chemical process to be created and provide a shelf life such that it doesn’t spoil in 5 minutes, there’s something wrong with it.

I also plan not to consume anything with palm oil given the environmental concerns.

The tricky bit is … these products are in EVERYTHING. Have a look at the ingredients in any sort of cracker, biscuit, crisps, fish and chips, most deli goods, relish, mayonnaise, sauce, frozen meal, bread (excluding artisan), tinned foods etc.  I bet you can’t find one that doesn’t either contain one of the above ingredients and/or sugar of some sort. Good luck with that.

It makes you realise how widespread their use is and how tricky it is to remove them from your diet.  And it also makes you wake up to the idea that eating fake oil can’t possibly be good for you.

3. Keep up the exercise plan.

This one isn’t a problem as I’ve exercised 5-6 days a week for decades.  Weight training, tabata, HIIT, F45, personal training, running, swimming blah blah.  I don’t muck around – I like to work hard because it’s only for an hour each day.  I can spend longer than that eating lunch.

The trick will be to step up the intensity throughout the 8 weeks and give my heart a good workover to ensure it’s still in tip top nick.

4.  Get off HRT.

Finally, when my diet is under control and I feel half decent again, I’m going to wean myself off HRT tablets very s-l-o-w-l-y.  The tablets contain a mild anti-depressant, which I wasn’t aware of until I tried going cold turkey in early 2016.  That didn’t turn out so well.

I became depressed and incredibly angry ALL the time – like REALLY REALLY angry,  I’ll kill you all, don’t muck with me or you die.  My thoughts were negative and suicidal.  Certainly no fun to be around … oh my poor partner.  I’d burst into tears at the weirdest times – often after exercise which is when I’m normally at my most euphoric and happy.

So while life felt pointless, another part of my brain knew these thoughts weren’t logical and eventually it clicked that going cold turkey was a really stupid idea.  I resumed HRT a few months later and life eventually normalised.

But I want to get off them again only this time I’ll go slowly, safe in the knowledge that my nutrition is the best it can be.

5. Get a face lift

Just tricking.  Every time I mention I need a bit of a freshen up on the facial bits, everyone goes nuts at me.

And now …

So there you go.  That’s the general plan.  I’ll add some ‘before’ photos in due course and keep you posted as to how I go  …

Harry Potter’s magical notes on becoming an editor

Recently I meandered along to the local library to listen to four happy souls natter about some of the finer points of publishing a book in Australia.

Listening to them talk about how a writer works closely with an editor from a publishing house, I thought “goodness, should’ve looked at editing when I was a young and carefree youth because it might’ve been a terrific career.”

Despite having tossed away full time work and therefore not too interested in the job market, I wondered what skills you need to become a publishing editor – not just because I have a quiet yen to make a children’s book – but just in case I suddenly need to look at a different career. In my next life anyway.  Maybe a Harry Potter epic number 2.

So I asked them the question – what does one have to do to become an editor?

This question was unexpected so the speakers up front seemed a bit thrown. After all, the subject was supposed to be what it took to publish a book.

Here’s how to become an editor

Despite being thrown, here’s a wave of answers you may find useful.

1.   Do a specialist publisher course

I looked this one up. Apparently you need a Bachelor’s degree in English, Journalism or Communication. Then to specialise in a specific area like science or IT, go get some experience and qualifications in those fields as well. And to top this off, gaining a certification in copy editing and publishing wouldn’t go astray either.

You have to do all this in order to know the “principles and practices associated with the development and structural editing of a range of texts from 5 genres: fiction, literary non-fiction, illustrated non-fiction, children’s and young adult, and educational.”

One course I looked at will provide you with “advanced skills in manuscript appraisal and editing”. Mmm, in a semester, you’ll have advanced skills?  I’m somewhat sceptical given it generally takes lots of practice over time to acquire advanced skills in anything.

While a degree course sounds very attractive, the hiccup is it costs around $40-50,000. Somehow I doubt the income of an editor sits in the ‘magnanimous’ range, so in effect you may be paying back fees for decades to come.

2. Get a job in a bookshop

Apparently this is a useful occupation because you get to learn about your audience and what appeals to them.

However, I suspect not many potential editors do this because I spend half my life in bookshops, and no-one’s ever asked me what appeals and why.

3. Understand the technicalities and complexities of what makes a great narrative

This allegedly involves reading LOTS of books. I’ve read loads and piles and buckets of books over the decades, but I don’t think this necessarily gives you a knowledge of what makes a great narrative … unless you spend time analysing what made it so good.

Personally I enjoy reading for the sake of it, and analysis paralysis isn’t my cup of peppermint tea.

Providing there’s no spelling mistakes, glaring grammatical stuff ups or punctuation issues, I’m a happy reading camper.

4. Get the right personality

No detail was forthcoming about what was the best personality traits for an editor.

However, because you’re working very closely with writers, you need to be able to collaborate and counsel the writer without overriding their personal style. In this regard, it’s a fine talent to read the writer’s personality and know how to respond to get the best out of them.

5. Get lucky, or fall into it over time

That might’ve worked decades ago but I suspect in today’s world, this option’s a little easier said than done. However, that’s not to say it’s not possible because amazing opportunities exist everywhere, every day.

What’s missing from this list?

1. Wot about the gramer and speling?

Nary a word was spoken about the vital skills of grammar, punctuation and spelling. What’s the world coming to when an editor has no clue how to structure a sentence, when to use ‘their’ or ‘there’, how to spell ‘accommodation’ or ‘misspelled’. Gosh, how many folk even know whether it’s ‘misspelled’ or ‘mispelled’?  An editor should automatically know this by waving their magical spelling wand.

I (tried to) read a book recently called “Off Your Rocker” by Noni Gove. It had a great premise about travelling the world in retirement on your own and should’ve been a wonderful book.

However, it was appallingly written, full of repeated sections and l-o-n-g paragraphs, along with serious spelling and grammar issues.  It didn’t take long before I started correcting it as I read.

I eventually gave up, figuring the publishing company must’ve missed editing this one completely.  It’s sad when an author seems unable to string a readable paragraph together without causing a person to shred the book along the way.

I’m keeping that book as an example of what NOT to do when writing, and the invaluable contribution an editor will make to a book.

Photo
Example of a page from “Off Your Rocker”

2. Detail fiend

You need to:

  • be picky to ensure there’s no errors, and the content is clear and moves forward nicely
  • follow up any detail that needs to be checked to ensure it’s correct.

3. Network, network, network

This one cuts across all jobs and industries. An editor needs to have a network of people with appropriate experience and knowledge in their field.

4. Working with others

For most of my life, there’s been an element of teamwork in every job – mostly being told what to needs to be done and then completing it in the timeframe required.

Same goes for the publishing business. There’s a high level of coordination required to bring a number 2 Harry Potter-style epic to fruition on the date set for publication, so you have to work with others to pull it together.

C’est tout …

I leave you with the oft quoted and wise words of William Shawn, editor of The New Yorker from 1952 until 1987.  William has an interesting personal history (lived with both his wife and mistress – not at the same address fortunately) and was apparently a fine editor, which you’d have to be to last that long.

The work of a good editor, like the work of a good teacher, does not reveal itself directly; it is reflected in the accomplishments of others.

 

Making the most of a timeshare

About 25 years ago, I bought a timeshare.  It was a truly stupid financial decision and one I’ve kicked myself more times over than can be counted.  Now I’m now longer working full time, the moment has come for some serious payback.  Here’s how I’m achieving this …

Here’s the costs

First there’s the initial cost ….

In 1990, a week in a timeshare was worth A$9-10,000.  This amount was enough for a small deposit on a flat or cheaper home.  So to compare with a value in 2016, I figure it’s the equivalent of about A$40,000.

In real terms, the timeshare was worth about $2,400 but timeshare sales people with their magically misleading calculations, infrastructure and incentives to entice you to part with your dough all have to be paid for.

Hence the huge markup and over-the-top profits the industry made (and still do).

Here’s the math, and don’t panic because it’s very simple:

a                             52 weeks x $10,000  = $520,000

So, in 1990, was a 2 bedroom unit in any resort worth $520,000?  Not on your pickled gherkin.  Absolutely not.  In 1990, that unit would’ve been worth about $125,000 on a very sunny day.

Then there’s the maintenance fee …

Each year you get slugged a maintenance fee for your week (or credits or points).  And yes, it’s a disproportionately huge amount to what you actually own.

For example, I own a holiday apartment in Queensland.  The body corporate fee plus additional maintenance is $5,000pa – that’s $96 per week.  But the fee for a week at the timeshare this year was $770.  How can it be worth $674 more?

And the cost to exchange …

You’ve bought the timeshare and now you want to stay in a resort that you don’t own.  Time to fork out some more money to exchange your week.  Generally this costs between $119-150, depending on who you use.

Selling a timeshare

I could sell my week, but unfortunately I will NEVER get back its real value, let alone what I paid for it.  Even now, if you purchase a timeshare (be it points, weeks or credits), I’m incredibly safe in saying you can kiss most of your money goodbye.

Right now, my timeshare is worth A$1,500 – on a very optimistic day.  In reality, I’d be lucky to get $1,000, if I could sell it at all.  It’s been this way for decades and it will not change.

Payback time

So having spent precious money on a timeshare and realising it’s fairly pointless trying to sell it, how do you make the most of it?

Here’s how I’m getting payback for all that lost money.

  1. Use your timeshare – you’ve forked out a maintenance fee so you might as well take your week. You’re wasting that money if you don’t use it. If you can’t use it, rent or sell the week to friends or family members.
     ..
  2. Make the most of bonus weeks.  The timeshare company should send you an email with a list of resorts available in the next couple of months at cheap rates. This is easier if you’re not working full time and can be flexible with where you stay. We love bonus weeks.
     ..
  3. If you’re invited to a timeshare presentation and you’re promised a good deal for a meal, a cruise or a new dressing gown, take it up.  Assuming you have time.  I occasionally do this for payback and inevitably learn something in the process.
    ..
  4. To spend your timeshare week in another resort, put in your exchange request as early as you can.  Timeshare presentations can be sneaky and misleading when it comes to the strength of your resort’s trading power, and so the only real way to get in is to beat everyone else to it.
     ..
    It’s annoying because you have to plan so far ahead (2 years or more) but apparently this is the best way to get what you want. Personally we don’t work that far ahead so we frequently miss out … then use AirB&B when caught short.  We love AirB&B.

Consoling yourself

  1. Timeshare companies say you should think of timeshare as a holiday which you’ve paid for in advance.  Personally this doesn’t make me feel better because I pay for all accommodation in advance anyway, but you might find comfort from it.
    ..
  2. Timeshare resorts actually provide great amenities such as kitchens, washer/dryers, and are often more spacious than other resorts. Some are even quite luxurious, particularly if they’re new or recently renovated.  When you compare with the cost of a hotel, motel or similar resorts, it often works out you’re getting a good deal.
     ..
  3. Use bonus weeks or points offered by your timeshare company. They can be used over a weekend, to house your friends for a period of time, or to add another week to an area you’re visiting.  Now we’re retired, we use bonus weeks as much as possible as we travel around.  It’s great because you get to stay in nice places you didn’t know existed.
     ..
  4. If you use points, you can also:
    • exchange for airline tickets, hotels, travel packages, cruises, amusement park tickets
    • rent part of your points
    • rent more points from the exchange company or another owner to get a larger unit, more holiday time or a better location
    • save or move points from one year to another

For more thoughts on timeshare, see my post on timeshare tattle.

Timeshare tattle

I bought a timeshare about 25 years ago.  If you’d like to know my thoughts on this method of having a holiday, read on …

So what’s a timeshare?

I’ll start at square one so those who don’t understand the concept of timeshare can get a grip on it.

I’m not an expert, and although I’ve owned a timeshare for a long time, the industry does change its offerings from time to time in order to suck more people in.

So there seems to be a couple of types of timeshares:

  1. Purchase a week or points at a particular resort, then either stay at that resort for no further monies, or pay out more dollars to stay at a different resort.
    ..
  2. Purchase points or credits in a timeshare entity, then stay at whatever resort you want for however long your credits allow you to. Some resorts chew up more credits than others, so the length of time varies depending on the quality of the resort.

There’s more permutations to these options.  For example, you can select a particular week in a year (such as in school holidays) – this will inevitably cost you more.

Initial costs

What you fork out is going to vary.  Listen to the sales pitch, then leave and do your research.  A secondhand timeshare is inevitably going to be much better value than a new one.

The credits game

Last week we attended a “Tweed River lunch cruise for $5 if you attend a Wyndham timeshare presentation”.  Over two hours later we walked out a lot wiser and slightly bemused at the hideous prices quoted for ‘credits’ in a timeshare.

For example, they took one look at our travel budget and decided to offer their special Top Quality option – about $80,000 for 4-8 weeks of timeshare.  The trouble with credits is it’s tricky to do the mathematics to find out what a week is actually worth.

Whatever way you look at it, I would never entertain the option of buying brand new credits.  If you’re interested, suggest you buy them secondhand.  You’ll save a lot of dough.

In truth, we only went to get the cheap river cruise – part of my payback scheme!

Maintenance fees

For every week or bunch of credits you own, you’re going to get lumbered with a yearly maintenance fee to cover management costs, maintenance and general upkeep.

The amount varies depending on how new the resort is, so don’t fall for the “it’s only $300 a year” because in a few years as the resort ages and maintenance is required, it’ll miraculously jump to $500, then $600, $700, $800 …

Then surprise surprise, special levies begin to appear to replace the pool shade or broken equipment, or add 16 new air conditioners because management didn’t think about putting funds aside (yes, I’m just a tad bitter).

You can’t get around the maintenance fee or special levies.  You have to pay it or you can’t use your timeshare.

What can you do with a timeshare?

Stay in your resort

Pick an appropriate date, book it and go. Should be no additional costs although I can’t guarantee that.  Some resorts slug you a further amount (eg. $20) to cover utilities such as electricity.  You can probably take a guess as to what I think about that.

Generally you can stay a weekend, mid week or for an entire week – depends on what you’ve bought.

Stay in another resort

For those who own weeks or points, you go through a separate company such as Holiday Concepts, RCI or DAE to stay at a different resort.  In my experience, they charge up from $120-150 for the privilege.

I do not recommend RCI unless you own a timeshare through Wyndham Vacation Resorts.   Wyndham bought out RCI a few years ago, and consequently RCI is valueless to anyone except Wyndham members, who get the pick of resorts and timeframes.  The rest of us get the dregs, and there’s not too much of those left either.  DO NOT buy RCI membership unless you’re with Wyndham – DAE are a better deal.

So be aware you can’t always get into the resort you want at the time you want.  You’ll need to book 2 or more years in advance to even have half a chance.

Bonus weeks

From time to time, you can score a bonus week or weekend for a good price.  These are what make timeshare worthwhile.  More about those in making the most of a timeshare.

How do you purchase a timeshare?

I bought mine through a timeshare company and indeed, you can do that too.  But beware, you’ll be paying through your nose.

Therefore I highly recommend you buy a timeshare secondhand and you’ll save a LOT of money.

Do some research on the internet for companies who deal in used timeshares, and check websites such as eBay or Gumtree to see if owners are selling them directly (even better value).  Instead of paying $20-40,000, you’ll pay a fraction of that cost.

Can you sell one?

Yes, you can.  But this is important … you will NEVER get back its value no matter what the timeshare sales people tell you.  You spend your money on a timeshare, kiss most of it goodbye. Forever.

For example, right now my timeshare might be worth A$1,500 on a very optimistic day.  In reality, I’d be lucky to get $1,000.

 

So what’s the point of a timeshare?

I’ve probably put you off owning a timeshare, but it does have positives.  If you’ve bought one secondhand, you’re a step ahead of those who’ve kissed away a lot of money buying a brand new one.

The good things about a timeshare are:

  • you’re forced to take a holiday or you lose your week
  • you get to stay in places you never knew about
  • most resorts are very good quality
  • most resorts have kitchens with everything you need in it
  • most resorts have washing machines and dryers
  • most are located near places you’d like to visit
  • many have programs like pancake breakfasts, whale watching walks, games and trivia sessions etc – many are excellent if you have children
  • resorts are built to be child-friendly
  • use bonus weeks to stay longer (available last minute)
  • use bonus weeks to start getting value (see my next blog entry for more information)

There’s probably more positives and I’d love to hear from other owners who benefit from owning a timeshare.  Always good to balance the equation!

1 good reason to use Facebook

Many of us enjoy sharing those special moments on Facebook … an overseas adventure, an incredible meal, a horrible deed undertaken by your child, appreciation of a loved one, the cat spinning around on an automatic vacuum cleaner, or a divine new recipe featuring acai, kale and quinoa.  But have you considered how it could be used for something more?

My mother suffers from dementia.  For the last few years, she’s lived in a high care home in New Zealand.  I get over there to visit her 3-4 times each year and with each visit, she’s lost a little more of her memory and personality.  There’s very little memory left now but you can still occasionally trigger a little spark when looking at photos, or talking to her about some little thing from the past.

For example, because one can never be sure if she remembers you, my dad asked her recently “hello, what’s my name?”   “Goodness” Mum replies “you really should know that by now …”.

There are times when I’d love to have all her memories in one place – all the special things that meant something to her, read her dry witty comments, look at photos that gave her pleasure, explore examples of her beautiful knitting, crochet, embroidery and ceramics. Mostly I’d just love to find out what made her tick because, over the years, I’ve forgotten.  Or I never knew.

While most of the time I’m grateful that Facebook didn’t exist during my young years (dread to think what seriously embarrassing stuff I’d have posted), there’s many times when I wish the internet, digital cameras and Facebook had been around when I was 14, 21, 30 years old.

Why is this?  Because over the years, and after one particularly scarring relationship, I’ve forgotten who I was way back when.  And because of that relationship, I have very little left to show for it in the way of photos and memorabilia. It’d be really interesting to look back and get a view of what I was thinking, what was I interested in, what did I do with my time, what did I look like, who were my friends and what made them tick, and on what planet was my brain at any given moment?

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This lack of memories got me thinking.  Actually … worrying mostly.  What if I get dementia? Why can’t I remember what I did yesterday?  Do I have it already?

Even if I do all the things the “experts” say to prevent this poxy disease, I suspect that if my mother copped it, and her mother copped it, then there’s a good likelihood I’ll cop it too.

SO, WHAT ELSE?

These days I use Facebook for something different.  It’s become my “future proofing” – a memory album for the future, in case dementia starts tearing away and destroying the pathways to memories in my brain.

I take comfort that should I end up in high care in the far flung future, my ol’ chap will be able to display my Facebook feed on an iPad 127 and share memories of things I’ve posted. He’ll probably get a surprise too, because not being a Facebook user and indeed slagging it at every opportunity, he doesn’t know the half of what I’ve posted on there.

So instead of denigrating Facebook or seeing it as a skitefest by your friends, perhaps try seeing it as an opportunity to stack away those memories for the future.

Why not show everyone your personality, express what matters to you (including religion and politics), post lots of cat videos, and ensure there’s heaps of photos and anecdotes about your parents, children, grandchildren, aunts, uncles and friends.

Sure beats having nothing to show at the end of it all!

Whaling at Noosa

Although the forecast was for rain, we took the punt it’d stay sky blue and headed off to Noosa National Park headland for a stroll around the headland.

Got there early, scored a lucky car park (always a scramble as there’s never enough parks for the huge number of vehicles wanting to use it), and off we wandered.

The goal today was to find dolphins and maybe a greenback turtle.  Yeah right, my expectations of seeing both creatures weren’t tremendously high.

However, in the first few minutes, we spotted a small pod of dolphins cavorting not far off the coastline. When walking along Noosa Main beach the previous day, another pod of dolphins bounced along close to shore. Swimmers nearby were unaware these magnificent creatures were so close. Today, paddlers and surfers were also unaware of their supreme luck in having these friendly souls weaving amongst them.

We’d forgotten whale season* had recently started and thus were surprised to see spouting and splashing in the distance. So started the humpback whale spotting in earnest.

Loads of locals and tourists walk this trail … it’s tremendously popular. Other than Australian, the main accents today were Kiwi, British, French and German. Between us, we spotted many a whale heading south and together delighted in their antics.

Did you know the humpback whale has two blowholes? It has one for each lung and each lung is the size of a small car … which possibly accounts for the huge lingering drifts of spray they pump out through their blowholes.

Every time a whale breeched – and they’d often do so 3-4 times in a row – there’d be gasps of awe.  I wondered aloud how the Japanese could bear to kill them in the name of “scientific research”, when in reality they munch them as an expensive delicacy.

Dozens of whales went sailing by – some singly or in small groups. We enjoyed each and every one we spotted even though they were away in the distance.

At Hell’s Gate (tip of the national park), a large and lively pod of dolphins dipped around the headland and disappeared into the depths.  The whales were way out to sea so you only the spray from their blowholes was visible.

On the way back, a wonderful treat awaited us. We could see a whale breaching close to shore and hurried along the path to get a better view. Two whales then swam close to the rocky shoreline, close enough for the gathering crowd to see their large sleek bodies from where we stood on the rocks, and hear the noise of their blowholes.

To the delight of all who’d gathered, the whales meandered near us for quite some time before continuing their southern migration.

A very slow walk in the end, but unexpectedly successful. And guess what, despite not seeing a single turtle, we had blue skies the whole day.

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* From June to November, humpback whales migrate around 10,000km from Antarctica to the Queensland coast where they madly have babies in the warmer waters.

Smoking in Japan

If you exclude beautiful manners, outstanding courtesy and magnificent cuisine, one of the other things I love most about Japan is the lack of smoking.

Before our first visit to Japan in 2010, the Cute Fellow and I were under the impression that smokers lurked everywhere – flicking ash as they walked, blowing smoke in your direction, assaulting your sense of smell in every public arena.

We had strong mental images of Japanese men smoking non-stop in every available corner. We envisaged smokers in restaurants, cafes, on the street, in shops, shopping centres, public transport, clubs, outside office buildings, inside office buildings and everywhere you could imagine wanting to be.

Consequently a serious discussion ensued about how we’d handle this impending trauma … particularly me as I’ve been a vocal non-smoker from a very early age.  I recall when, at about 7 years old, I was chased around the house by my furious uncle after I stuck a carnation in the end of his dreadful (and hopefully expensive) cigar. Even then I thought the smell was appalling.  He died quite young … suspect all that smoking had something to do with it.

Over to Japan we go and what a surprise! The reality is you can wander anywhere without being poisoned by noxious cigarette fumes.  Such a revelation.  We walked around in wonder and amazement during our entire six week visit.

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Smokers gathered beside the Meguro River in an allotted spot (June 2016)

On our June 2016 trip, we found the oddity of seemingly really nice restaurants which allowed smoking while dining – the “eat and die from lung cancer at the same time” regime.  We avoided those like the plague and only stumbled into one in the back streets around Tokyo Station because we were starving and it was getting late.  That turned out well because most smokers had gone back to work by then.

In reality, the only places where smoking is truly disgusting are pachinko parlours.

Pachinko is a slot machine lover’s paradise. The walls are lined with vertical pinball machines. Players (and there’s a lot of them – all the parlours we visited were packed) fire metal-sounding balls which hit a forest of pins as they cascade down. The noise is phenomenal – mindblowingly deafening.

To add to the misery, a thick haze of pungent cigarette smoke drifts around. It defies logic that players and staff don’t end up with a serious dose of lung cancer after 15 minutes of exposure.

I’ve since discovered that smoking in Japan had changed quite significantly in recent years, in that it’s been declining in popularity over the last decade or two.

In 2014, the adult smoking rate was just under 20% in Japan which is still very high. Compare that with Australia at 13.3% (2013), 19.3% in the UK and 16.8% in the USA. However France, bless their great wine and fresh baguettes, sits around 30% – an amazing figure given they have the most restrictions on smokers (but do the least to enforce them).

Notice painted on footpath in a Tokyo Street

Japan don’t have much enforceable legislation as such, but they do seem to have enforced non-smoking in public places using entertaining signage and fining recalcitrant smokers.

On our recent trip to Tokyo, there were frequent signs posted on footpaths and buildings prohibiting smoking.  Smoking areas have also long been specially designated in offices, restaurants, fast-food eateries, restaurants and public areas.

Smoking’s not actually illegal, but it’s become socially unacceptable.  Whenever I saw someone walking along the street with a lit cigarette, I actually felt shocked.

So all you non-smokers out there, head off to Japan for a wonderful (almost) smoke-free experience.  It’s well worth it!

Double goosey gander

Ever met a Cape Barren goose?  No?  Then you’re in for a treat.

You won’t find this lovely hued goose anywhere other than Australia. They reside in the southern coast of Western Australia and in south-eastern Victoria, although we’ve only seen them on Phillip Island, where we are based.

They rank as one of the world’s rarest geese which makes them very special. Fortunately there are more of these geese kicking their heels up today than at any time since the settlement of Australia. This is apparently due to the improvement of pastures in which they graze – so much more to eat.

How about a magpie goose?

They’re common in northern Australia and used to be widespread in southern Australia. However, the usual story – humans stuffed that up by draining the wetlands where the birds breed.

The Cape Barren goose and the magpie goose hang out at opposite ends of Australia. The monochromatic orange legged magpie goose lives in coastal northern and eastern Australia, and southern New Guinea as well.

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Painting of magpie goose and cape barren goose (didn’t scan so well sorry)

Introducing the Cape Barren goose

This gorgeous critter was rarely seen on Phillip Island. However, in recent years, they’ve become surprisingly common. They’re still classed as vulnerable or rare, so it’s a magnificent pleasure to see their numbers steadily increasing. Occasionally we’re treated to the sight of dozens of birds making merry together in grassy fields overlooking the bay.

This goose is a grazing bird and munches happily on common island tussock grass Poa poiformis for those of you busting to know the Latin name). They’re also partial to chowing down on spear grass, herbs and succulents, pasture grasses such as barley and clover, and legumes.

They tend to hang about in pairs – it’s unusual to see one on its own. In autumn, Mum lays her eggs in a nest in the tussocks on open grasslands. To ensure he contributes equally to the equation, Dad builds the nest and lines it nicely with down. Then they noisily defend it against other crazy geese. Like many humans, they’re monogamous and hang together for life. Mum incubates the eggs but the babies are brought up by both parents.

The geese on Phillip Island are wary of humans but they do allow you get relatively close. The other thing we noted is couples inhabit the same areas all year around. We do a count every time we leave the island and you can almost always find the birds in the same fields.

Because their colouring is quite amazing and they’re such special birds, I’ve included one in my sketchbook.  Both geese are tearing about on wheels and the Cape Barren goose has the dubious distinction of being on a skateboard.

And now for the magpie goose

When wandering past the Port Douglas golf course on our northern Queensland meander, I spotted a gaggle of magpie geese picking around the edge of the grass.

They have a black neck and head, with a knob on the crown of the beak which gets bigger as they age. Bit like a human female bottom really.

The underparts are white and the bits I like best – the bill, legs and feet – are orange. Where they differ from most waterfowl is they don’t have fully webbed feet. Instead they have strong clawed toes that are only partially webbed. I’m sure you all wanted to know that.

They’re very partial to chowing down on aquatic vegetation. They munch mostly wild rice, paspalum, panicum and spike-rush.

Magpie geese build nests in secluded places, preferably close to wetlands. Like the Cape Barren goose, Dad builds the nest.

Pairs of geese mate for life, but a male might cohabit with two females. Why is it you always hear the story of one guy with two girls? Who’d have thought geese would have such proclivity towards this behaviour.

Fortunately all adults share incubation and care for their babies.

Given the magpie goose isn’t very keen to make your acquaintance, he’s on skates for a quick getaway.