Cold feet

I’m not sure about this.

I’m having second thoughts.

I’m thinking of chucking it in and starting something new.

I have cold feet.

Again.

I’ve been here so many times before.

Why is it that every time I start to get into something, I pull back?

Why is it that just when I might be about to accomplish something, I give it away?

Why do I want to stop now?

Is it because the novelty is gone?

Is it because it’s starting to get difficult?

Is it because I’m overwhelmed by the thought of doing this long-term?

Am I scared?

Of what? Failure? Success? Change?

Can’t I just take it as it comes?

Can’t I just keep this in the present and let the future come to me?

Can’t I just enjoy the journey and forget about the destination?

What destination? The grave? Screw that.

☀☀☀

I’m on a plane.

On a return flight from my hometown.

With a pen and notepad.

Writing.

In the moment.

And I feel great.

Because in a world full of distractions, here I am in a place that conveniently cuts them off.

A place where I can shut out the world.

A place where I can focus.

A place where the words can come to me.

And as the page fills, I feel a spark.

I feel the fire coming back.

The same fire I felt back at the beginning.

The sunshine.

And I feel warm.

I feel warm in my heart.

In my chest.

In my mind.

In my arms.

In my legs.

In my feet.

☀☀☀

I’m back in Wellington.

Off the plane.

Back to earth.

Back into the noise.

Can I keep the fire going?

Can I find the moment amid the distractions?

Can I find the time? The space? The energy?

It seems so simple when I’m there.

Just me and the notebook.

Just me and the weights machine.

Just me and the spreadsheet.

In the moment.

But of course it’s simple when I’m there. The question is, can I get there?

Can I get there often enough to keep the fire burning?

Can I get there often enough to keep the sun shining?

Or will my feet freeze once again?

For the record, the water is 12°C/53°F. Brrr!

Make Yourself (some dinner)

Rev up those fryers, ‘cause I am sure hungry for one – Help! Help! My leg!

– Fred the fish, SpongeBob SquarePants

While you’re at it, rev up those vocal cords too. This is gonna get intense.

Welcome to the Sunshine Singalong Cookathon!*

(*working title)

Invite a friend, or maybe wait until you have the flat to yourself – I’m doing the latter…

Tonight’s soundtrack is the 1999 classic, Make Yourself by Incubus. Want to sing along? Hit play and turn up the volume!



Cue the music!
1 Isn't it strange
Isn’t it strange

It may look strange, but it works! I call this the poor man’s sound system. It amplifies the bass to give a deep, satisfying sound.

On the menu tonight: Chicken tikka masala. Get everything out now so you don’t forget anything later!

2 Isn't it weird that a privilege
Isn’t is weird that a privilege…
3 could feel like a chore
…could feel like a chore?

Grab a cup of frozen mixed veges and give them a quick blast in the microwave while you chop the onion and garlic. Chuck the mixed veg and onion in the pan with a little oil.

4 It seems as though I'm going nowhere
It seems as though I’m going nowhere really [flipping] fast
Garlic cooks quicker, so hold it back til the other veg is soft. About now you’ll need to put on the extractor fan – and turn up the music so you can still hear it! Now fill the saucepan two-thirds with cold water and put the heat on full.

6 Experience the warmth
Experience the warmth

Fry the veg til it’s done and turn the heat off. Dump one cup of rice into the saucepan, which should be warm by now. Important: Turn the heat down now or it’ll boil over during the next step! (True story.)

7 Just when you thought it was safe to think
Just when you thought it was safe to think

Time for chicken! Chopping this is probably the most time-consuming part of the process, and the most demanding in terms of food hygiene (wash your hands, folks!). Recipes will typically tell you to cook the meat first, or cook meat and veg separately, but I’m too lazy to wash up two chopping boards and two frying pans. So, veg out, chook in, heat on.

8 If I hadn't made me
If I hadn’t made me, I would’ve been made somehow

This stuff demands your full attention for the next little while, apart from a few quick stirs of the rice. Keep it moving – pink to the middle, brown to the outside. Let all that water (injected to bulk up the weight for sale) pour out and steam away.

9 Hold the wheel and drive
Hold the wheel and drive

When the chicken starts browning, dump everything in the pan. EVERYTHING. Including the sauce. (Drain the rice first.) While that simmers, now’s a good time to start washing up. But scrape the bottom once in a while to stop it burning!

10 Pardon me while I burst into flames
Pardon me while I burst into flames

When it’s no longer soup, it’s time to plate up. And we’re done, midway through the last song! Make Yourself (sans bonus tracks) clocks in at 48:12, so including clean-up we’re talking maybe 50 minutes total. Take a bow and chow down!

11 RESIST AND MULTIPLY
RESIST AND MULTIPLYYYYYY!
Bonus round: How many more meals will I get out of this?
12 That is your privilege
That is your privilege

One medium container and one small container means three more meals ready to go –not a bad haul!

And that’s how I cook.

This method works for a remarkably wide variety of recipes:

  • Meat: Chicken, steak, sausages, mince, or none at all (substitute pumpkins and/or kumara for substance)
  • Carbs: Rice, pasta, couscous, corn chips, wraps (skip the saucepan for the last two 😉)
  • Veg: Frozen mixed, kidney beans, black beans, chickpeas, lentils
  • Sauces: Pasta sauce, Indian, Chinese, Mexican, soy/teriyaki
  • Optional extras: Cheese, sour cream, chilli sauce, mayonnaise/aioli
  • Music: Whatever you like to sing along to!

Some combinations obviously don’t work. Use common sense. Or go wild and experiment!

Ok, but… what?

You might have cringed while reading this. Sauce from a jar? Everything in one pan? What madness is this? Well here’s the thing: I’m not a chef. This is a pragmatic system, honed over years of flatting, and it works for me. It’s economical in money and time, it’s nutritious (I think!), and – crucially – it’s fun. So much so that I no longer dread cooking – I truly look forward to it!

What’s your go-to food-prep playlist? Got any cooking tips for me? Let me know!

Introducing sunshineintensifies.com!

It’s been almost two months since I dipped my toe into this blogging thing. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into – I still don’t, really!

I honestly thought I’d be out of motivation by post number ten, and this hobby would flame out like so many others. But, no! The words are still flowing, the notebook is filling with ideas and drafts, and there’s plenty more I want to share with the world.

So I’ve decided to wade in a little deeper – up to the waist, I guess! To that end, I’ve sent some money over the internets (gasp!) and upgraded this blog.

What does this mean?

I want to say a huge thank you to my online community for your support. I’ve learned so much already, and I’m convinced that this is the right thing to do. And I’ve discovered that writing is surprisingly therapeutic – which means I’m not likely to stop any time soon!

Here’s to the sunshine. Long may it intensify! ☀️

Gym, week 3: The umbrella hunter

This post is part of a series on my commitment to the gym. Every week, I hold myself accountable by posting an honest recap of my workouts. Can I make this habit stick and see some gains?

We had a classic Wellington southerly storm this Tuesday. Gale force winds, heavy showers, the works. This presented a perfect opportunity to indulge in another new hobby of mine – brolly-hunting!

The broken brolly in a bin is a symbol of Wellington. Some people, presumably tourists, attempt to use umbrellas in these conditions. I guess they just see rain and think, “oh, it’s raining, better take the brolly”.

The trouble is, these things are built for rain – and only rain. Not wind. As these tourists find out the hard way, your bog-standard umbrella will wilt in the face of an 80km/h southerly gust.

If they’re lucky, they’ll be able to get to shelter, fold it up, and save it for another day. And if not? Well…

1 Yowch
Yowch.

This is where I come in. I’ve made a bit of a game of it. On rainy days, I have the camera app open and ready for action at a moment’s notice. At lunchtimes I don my raincoat and head out on “parasol patrol” on a route with high foot-traffic and lots of bins. This usually comes up empty, but the walk is refreshing enough that I don’t care!

I’d seen a good few brollies before this week – two in one day at one point. But Tuesday, 12 June exceeded my wildest expectations. I’d found, not two, but FIVE by the time I got home from work. I even snapped the same bin twice with different brollies!

2 Morning and evening
Morning and evening, same bin
Wait, isn’t this post supposed to be about the gym?

I’m getting there! But not by my usual route. I’m taking a small detour in search of more brollies. Because apparently five isn’t enough. Well guess what? I was rewarded at the first bin!

6
Hit ’em for six!

And shortly after that:

7 Just a handle
7 (on closer inspection this was just a handle, but it totally counts!)

And right by the front door:

8
8 (at first I thought this was two, but it’s likely just one brolly bent around)

Riding the high of this umbrella overload, I smashed my weights session. I even went above my starter weights on the machines without slowing down. Am I starting to see some gains? 😮

Week 3 wrap

Unfortunately the week went downhill from here, for reasons I won’t mention in this post. For now I’ll just say Thursday was a write-off, and I did spend Friday night in a yoga studio, though not actually doing yoga. So here’s what I managed:

  • Monday: 30-minute spin (still getting over that cold…)
  • Tuesday: Weights and brolly-hunting
  • Saturday: Town day, ~1.5 hours walking (trust me, this is more tiring than it sounds – I had to lie down for an hour when I got home)
  • Sunday: Weights and an hour-long hill walk

I may come to regret hitting both arms and legs today. We’ll see.

Can I pull myself together and put in a full shift next week? Or will I break like an umbrella in the wind?

Enter a New World of pain
Enter a New World of pain!

Seen any good brolly wreckage lately? Let me know!

Gym, week 2: In everyone’s best interests

All right folks, here’s the wrap for week 2 of my gym adventure:

  • Saturday: Yoga, weights
  • Sunday: Umm… I walked to town and back?
Snake! What happened? Snake? Snaaaaaaake!!

Mission failed? Not so fast. Here’s what happened:

No complaints from the body yet, other than the cold I’m now coming down with.

Me last week

That cold got worse. Much worse than usual. This was me for much of the week:

1-grooooaaaannnn
Grooooaaaannnn

Here’s a thing you need to know about Wellington. It’s a disease-spreading machine.

People come in and out of the city all the time. Some of these people carry cold-causing viruses. Some of these viruses come from halfway around the world and no one’s immune to them. The local geography funnels people onto a narrow strip of land. It’s cold and damp. Oh, and air conditioning spreads germs through entire buildings.

I love Wellington, but I get sick way more often since I moved here. It’s kind of annoying. Heaven help us if a pandemic breaks out.

I felt the ominous tingle in the back of my throat on Saturday morning, and by Monday I was done for.

Timely news

Naturally, the question came up in my mind: Should I exercise when I’m sick? Just as I was tossing up whether to skip my Tuesday weights session, the local news site ran an article on exactly this. The answer’s pretty clear cut – unusually so for articles that ask questions like this!

So I decided it’s in everyone’s best interests – especially mine – to rest. For five days. I say especially mine because, even though I’ve spared gym-goers my germs, this is Wellington which means everyone else will catch this cold before long. I just don’t want to be the one responsible for giving it to them!

Did I mention this cold was worse than usual? I’m no doctor but I’m pretty sure I had a fever on Wednesday – I can’t remember the last time that happened…

Excuses, excuses

This brings me to something I neglected to bring up in the intro. Namely, the part where I cover my ass!

Sometimes life gets in the way and I can’t reasonably get to the gym. Or, I can in theory, but it’s really better that I don’t.

Now to go full-lawyer. I may skip gym for reasons including but not limited to:

  • Illness
  • Injury
  • Travel
  • Force majeure or acts of god. (Because every legal document needs those.)

For lesser interruptions, like social events or appointments, I’ll reschedule workouts. As committed as I am to gym, there are more important things in life!

As for now, I’m pleased to report that the cold’s all but gone and I’m back in the swing of gym.

2-im-ready
I’m ready!

How do you deal with interruptions to your workout schedule? What other totally legitimate excuses can I add to my list? Let me know!

A is for…

I take a pill to help me through the day

I stay inside until I feel okay

– Ladyhawke, Anxiety

 

Hi, my name is Evan, and I’m anxious.

I don’t mean I’m nervous about publishing this post. Well, I am, but it’s not just that. What I’m talking about is…

Anxiety.

Constant low-level fear, anxiety.

Freak out in a crowded supermarket, anxiety.

Hide in the bathroom while I have a panic attack, anxiety.

But you know what? In spite of this, I’m having the time of my life. That’s why I’m writing this blog – to show how good life with anxiety can be.

It’s a reminder, for the hard times, that it gets better. That when the storm passes, the sun comes out again.

IMG_0513
[sunshine intensifies]
I need reminding of this once in a while. Maybe you do too. I hope this helps.

Unfortunately, anxiety doesn’t go away. That’s not how it works. It’s part of who I am, and I’m okay with that. But I won’t let it take over.

I am more than my anxiety.

You are more than yours too.

 

There’s joy not far from here

I know there is

This isn’t everything you are

– Snow Patrol, This Isn’t Everything You Are

 

☀☀☀

 

A is also for About. Check out my new About page!

Gym, week 1: It’s not a fashion statement

Before I start, I want to set something straight for some of my readers. Back when I first joined the gym I stated that I wouldn’t wear gym shoes with my work clothes. I said it’s “a fashion crime I’m not willing to commit”.

I take it back. Here’s proof.

1-proof
It’s not a death wish either. Though it does feel like one some days.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s recap week 1 of my commitment to the gym.

So far, so good

You’ll be pleased to know that I made it through the first week without incident.

  • Sunday: 60 minute spin
  • Monday: Yoga class
  • Tuesday: Weights
  • Thursday: Weights
  • Saturday: Weights

And because the week starts on Monday (at least in these parts), I’ll throw this in to put us back in sync:

  • Sunday: 45 minute outdoor run (8km)

No complaints from the body yet, other than the cold I’m now coming down with. I can’t really blame that on the gym though!

Dress for success

Some people take gym fashion very seriously. I am not one of those people. I just want to get through my workout in relative comfort. To that end, I’ve spent next to nothing on gym clothes and used stuff I already have. The unexpected upside is some of my gear has nostalgia value!

2-shoes
Gym shoes maketh the gym man

These are actually running shoes. They look vaguely fitness-y so I’m sure no one bats an eye at the gym. I’ve had these 5+ years, but they’re still holding up just fine since I haven’t used them a whole lot.

3-navy-blue.jpg
Classic navy blue

I’ve had these more than half my life. I wore them when I did the Otago Central Rail Trail way back in 2003. (I still want to go back someday and ride it the other way!) They’ve been my go-to exercise kit until very recently, and still hold up pretty well. Unfortunately the shorts lack pockets, which I now deem an essential feature, so they stay in the draw unless the rest are in the wash.

4-warehouse
Warehouse special

I bought these for Round the Bays 2018 – my first 10k running event and still one of the proudest moments of my journey so far. Cheap yet functional, and I love the colour of the shirt!

5-viva chile
¡Viva Chile!

This shirt is legitimately from Chile (Patagonia to be more precise). I haven’t actually been there. But it does make for a cool conversation piece – like New Zealand with Australia, Chileans have a “little-brother, big-brother” rivalry with Argentina. Besides that, it’s a nice, long, comfy and stylish shirt.

6-stripes.jpg
Racing stripes

I bought these because I needed a second pair of shorts with pockets. Can’t go wrong with black. (I said some of it has nostalgia value, not all!)

Function over form

This is me heading out the door on Tuesday morning.

7-ready for anything
Ready for anything

How ridiculous do I look? Well, I have more pressing concerns at this point than my appearance. Like, how do I get to work and gym without (a) forgetting any gear, or (b) drowning?

Wellington decided to turn full winter this week – heavy rain, strong southerly, and bitter cold (by North Island standards anyway). Dressing for work has never been more complicated!

Let’s take stock of what I’m wearing here:

  • Standard office wear (sans shoes, which now live under my desk)
  • Thermals, top and bottom
  • Thermal socks over my office socks
  • Raincoat and rain pants
  • Gloves
  • Beanie
  • Gym shoes (any wetter and I’d have worn gumboots)

I’m not going on an Antarctic expedition here – just work and the gym! I have no idea what passers-by thought of this, but boy was it comfortable!

Hot yoga, not wet yoga

One thing you need to watch out for when doing yoga, especially in a heated studio, is moisture. I get sweaty hands, so it’s tricky to hold a downward-facing dog at the best of times. Doubly so towards the end of the class when my mat is covered in sweat. (Pro tip: bring a towel!) So the last thing I want is for me or my mat to be wet before I even begin! Which is exactly what threatened to happen this week thanks to the rain. So, thinking quickly and cutting it close on time, I came up with this:

8-#yogafashion
#yogafashion

Yes, that’s a plastic supermarket bag around my mat. And yes, I wore gumboots to the studio. But more importantly, I contained the damage to a few drops, which I quickly dispatched with the towel. Mind you, that didn’t stop me falling over (twice) during the class, but that’s because I was trying a new pose that takes more balance than I’m capable of!

Onto the next…

So that’s week 1 clear, in spite of nature’s best efforts. It’s only the start of winter though!

How long can I keep this up? What fashion crimes lie ahead? Stay tuned to find out!

What’s your gym style? Where do you stand on the “function vs form” debate? How do you motivate yourself to work out on cold and rainy days? Let me know!