Thursday, October 25, 2012

Cosmic energy and the importance of Vitamin D

When it comes to improving my mood and sense of wellbeing, nothing works quite so easily as spending some time outdoors, soaking up a spot of cosmic energy in the form of sunshine. Either walking around the Barham Lake, digging in the vegetable garden, kayaking down the river or just sitting outside on my deckchair eating lunch, I find time outside is time well spent.

Last weekend’s beautiful weather along with our annual Barham Koondrook Show on Friday evening and all day Saturday and the monthly Koondrook Barham Farmers Market on the bank of the Murray River Sunday morning, proved a magnificent combination and a good excuse to get out into the fresh air.

After decades of being warned how bad the sun was for us and how we must “slip, slop, slap” we are now being warned of the dangers of vitamin D deficiency, of covering up too much and wearing excessive amounts sunscreen.

Vitamin D combined with calcium and exercise is essential for strong healthy bones, teeth and muscles. Calcium cannot be fully absorbed by the body without vitamin D. With many Australians these days spending more time inside than out, our overall levels of vitamin D have fallen to such a degree that a Deakin University study involving 11,000 people from around Australia, indicated nearly one third of the population may be suffering from vitamin D deficiency.

Bone and muscle pain, weak bones (osteoporosis), and a compromised immune system leading to an increased risk of some cancers, heart disease, type two diabetes, infections and depression are all possible outcomes of vitamin D deficiency. Not good news for our aging population residing inside nursing homes, the large percentage of the workforce who spend their entire working day indoors or our computer and electrical gadget addicted children (playing an Xbox will not increase your vitamin D levels…)

Vitamin D is found in small quantities in a few foods (eg fatty fish - salmon, herring, mackerel, liver, eggs, fortified foods). However adequate vitamin D levels are unlikely to be achieved through diet alone.

Luckily, for most of us it is relatively easy to obtain an ample amount of vitamin D by exposing our skin to sunlight while maintaining a sensible balance between sun exposure and protection against skin cancer. We just need to make it a regular habit.

During summer months when the UV radiation is highest, a mere five to ten minutes a day of sunshine on our bare un-sunscreened arms, hands and face (around 15% of our body’s surface), is enough. When UV radiation is lower during the winter months you need longer in the sun (as do people with darker skins) but even then, a quick ten to fifteen minutes each day or thirty minutes three times a week, will stand you in good stead.

Daily outdoor exercise (as well as my personal favourite: al fresco dining) can assist with the body’s production of vitamin D… bring on summer and the backyard barbeque I say.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The up side of change

“Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we really want is for things to remain the same but get better.” – Sydney J. Harris (1917 -1986)

When I read this quote by the late American journalist and columnist, Sydney J. Harris, I felt as though it had been personally written for me. My resistance to change is a source of amusement for my family and friends. Just last week my Tuesday night dinner buddy, Emma turned up with a bottle of wine, an apologetic look on her face… and an iPhone in her hand.

Prior to Tuesday last week Emma and I had prided ourselves with our resistance to “smart phones”, clinging faithfully to our identical Nokia 6120 mobile phones. They made phone calls and sent text messages and in our opinion had a better range than any of the newer mobile phones, so why change?

The week before I was due to fly to England my little Nokia 6120 started making buzzy static-y noises when I was speaking to people and then switching itself off at random moments during the day – not a good thing when it’s your work phone and you run your own business. The thought of buying a new phone and having to learn how to use it, days before flying away on an excellent adventure filled me with dread.

Very quickly I found a solution that would involve minimal change. Another friend (also named Em) had already crossed over to the dark side; she’d bought an iPhone a few months earlier but still held a significant collection of Nokia 6120s. By that evening I had my new secondhand Nokia and spent nearly an hour or so transferring all the contacts, wallpaper and even my Creedence Clearwater Revival ringtone from my old phone to the new one.

You have no idea how relieved I was to have my almost identical replacement phone to accompany me to England… they say a change is as good as a holiday but I say, a holiday is preferable to a change.

Like everyone else since the dawn of time, my life is constantly filled with change. Many changes are subtle and happen almost subconsciously with minimal resistance on my part. Big life changes that feel forced upon me out of left field are the ones I resist the most; a battle of wills I inevitably lose.

Paradoxically these big life changes that feel out of my control, are often the ones that in retrospect have propelled my life forward and opened up incredible opportunities and experiences I hadn’t dreamt of. They have, (dare I say it?), made my life better.

Change is scary; it involves leaving what you know and what feels safe, for the unknown. In my experience, when I want to move forward and have a richer, more interesting life, then I need to push the boundaries and spend at least some of my time outside my comfort zone.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Red Carpet Evening 2012

Not all that long ago I read an interesting bit of trivia that said many people fear public speaking more than death itself. How ridiculous I thought… but then I discovered something I feared more than death itself or public speaking. Dancing in public.

What seemed like a fun idea and noble cause back in early September is now looming as my greatest fear to date (excluding snakes; I hate snakes).

Slipping down the street after work one day, I had headed into Purple Patch Skate and Surf to see Sharon and purchase some new school shoes for Sam. We chatted while I paid for the shoes and then Sharon asked me if I would agree to be one of the dancers for the Red Carpet Evening.

The major fundraiser for the Barham and District Medical Centre, the annual Red Carpet Evening is an excellent evening out at clubBarham Golf and Sports. The evening includes the hotly contested Dancing with the Stars, a dance competition where four couples battle it out on the dance floor for the ultimate prize… the mirror ball trophy.

Having absolutely no experience whatsoever when it comes to dancing, I suggested Sharon ask someone else. Unfortunately she already had but was still one dancer short. With the official practice due to start the following night the clock was ticking. Reluctantly I agreed, comforted by the fact that there was still eight weeks until Saturday 27th October; plenty of time for dancing practice and miracles I hoped.

Dancing is definitely not my forté. When it comes to dancing, coordination and rhythm you’ve either got it or you haven’t and sadly, I haven’t. Although our talented and lovely dance instructor, Courtney praises us with words of encouragement each week and my fellow dancers all seem to be improving rapidly, I remain dubious of my actual progress.

As the days and weeks evaporate my anxiety levels have increased to the point I have now commenced Operation Desperation otherwise known as the “Look Like a Salsa Goddess by the 27th October” Diet and Exercise Plan. My self-styled regime includes making healthy food choices, increasing my fruit and vegetable juice intake, minimizing adult drink consumption and attending Ilka’s Enthusio Fitness classes in a last ditch effort to attain some level of coordination.

Previously I had shunned all forms of gym workouts and anything remotely resembling a fitness class. It wasn’t my “thing” and why would anyone ever want to do that? I had wondered. I am pleased to report I now have a few classes under my belt and I’m loving my morning Enthusio sessions. Namely because my fellow Enthusio devotees are all shapes and sizes, all levels of fitness and all have an excellent sense of humour. My coordination still has a long way to go but at least I’m having fun, laughing and getting a lot fitter.

One other key component of the Dancing With the Stars competition is the money jars that can be found at various locations around the town. One dollar equals one vote and the most votes per couple is a significant factor in deciding the overall winner, even despite their dancing ability on the night (a small fact that is giving me a lot of comfort).

So in a blatant example of self-promotion, please find the tins that have Shane Ricketts from Murray River Meats and Annie Barr from Rosedale Health and Wellbeing on or visit and donate to us! …Or better still, support our Barham and District Medical Centre; buy a ticket for Saturday 27th October and come along in two week’s time for an evening of fashion, food, excellent company and questionable dancing.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Deni Ute Muster 2012

Early last Friday the boys and I set out on an excellent (mini) adventure for the school holidays. Curiosity had finally got the better of me; I wanted to find out why thousands of people converge on Deniliquin every year for the Deni Ute Muster.

What began as an idea in 1999 to hold the world record for the largest parade of legally registered utes in one location has grown into a huge two-day event that injects a serious amount of money into the Deniliquin local economy.

We teamed up with experienced Deni Ute Muster attendees Leanne and Danny Gleeson and their family to camp at this year’s Muster. With our trusty Nissan packed to the hilt with swags, a couple of tents, eskys and other camping essentials, we convoyed over to Deniliquin.

The weather deteriorated as we approached the town and by the time we’d entered the family camping area at the Deni Ute Muster site the temperature had plummeted, the winds had become cyclonic and rain was forecast.  

The boys had brought Henry’s new tent he’d been given for his birthday and I was looking forward to testing out my little Tarptent that I had recently purchased.

The Tarptent lived up to its reviews that suggested I could safely pitch it on the side of a mountain during a blizzard. Standing firm despite the gale force winds that were blowing… sadly we couldn’t say the same for the boys’ tent. Within a matter of moments it was reduced to a twisted mess of shattered fibreglass poles and ripped fabric. Luckily the forecasted rain didn’t eventuate and they all enjoyed sleeping out under the stars in their swags. (Henry hedged his bets by rolling out his swag under the Nissan.)

There was certainly no shortage of entertainment for our two days of camping at the Muster. The bands and singers included amongst others: The Living End, John Williamson, Lee Kernaghan, Daryl Braithwaite, McAlister Kemp, The McClymonts, Travis Collins, US country music star Joe Nichols and former American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson was the headline act.

Dust and nostalgia washed over me as we sat watching the Australian National Circle Work Championships and I thought fondly of my first vehicle; a 1979 HZ V8 Kingswood ute with its twin exhausts and extractors that I’d told my Dad were for fuel efficiency… (sigh) I loved that ute.

The overall winner and crowd favourite in both the circle work and ute barrel racing was a plain, little yellow Datsun 1200 ute. It seemed quite comical next to the B&S styled utes that were adorned with five post roo bars, numerous aerials, roll bars, spotlights and stickers.

Besides music and circle work, we also enjoyed watching the rodeo with its bull riding; ventured out into the ute section (known as the feral area) to watch the tractor pull; admired the spectacular aerobatics display by the ShowTime FMX motorcross bike riders; watched the ute barrel racing competition; enjoyed a glass of Don and Jo Hearn’s medal winning Semillon at the Restdown Wine Bar; Tom, Sam and Henry joined the blue singlet brigade for the official blue singlet count (1667 this year); watched the AFL Grand Final on the big screen near the huge main stage; Justin from Port Fairy bet Henry five dollars that he couldn’t ride the mechanical bull for the full eight seconds… Henry lasted for twelve seconds and collected his money; toasted marshmallows on the campfire after dinner each evening and generally had a great time. 

The Deni Ute Muster’s biggest year to date was 2010 when Australian rock legends Cold Chisel were the headline act. That year the number of utes totalled 10,152 with over 25,000 people in attendance.

This year numbers were down and no doubt the weather kept some people away, still there was an impressive total of 5,015 utes gathered in the ute paddock and we along with 15,000 other people enjoyed a fantastic weekend.