My 2014 Tour de France

Hooray! The Tour de France starts today and for years I’ve dreamt about going to France in July in order to follow this major sporting event throughout the French countryside and soaking up the atmosphere and tasting the local produce as the world stops and focuses on France. I’ve been lucky to visit France on two separate occasions however not in the month of July when the country hosts the Tour de France. So like thousands of others I spend three weeks of July watching the tour from the comfort of my lounge room in the middle of the night. Fortunately July just happens to be school holidays for the middle of the year so lazy sleep ins help with bleary eyes and usually there is only one week to have to manage the disrupted sleep patterns. I haven’t given up on the dream to get back to France one day but in reality, thanks to SBS I have to say staying home and watching the live telecast is much easier, more convenient and cheaper than a month’s self drive holiday following the Tour throughout France. I actually couldn’t think of anything worse than living in a campervan for one day let alone 21 days!

There are so many positives that come along with a cancer diagnosis, for me one good thing from my forced early retirement from my teaching means I am free to watch as much late night TV as there is on offer on both free to air and pay TV. So given I don’t have the worry of dealing with the impact of late nights and having to stand in front of 25 eager youngsters in a classroom whilst suffering with lack of sleep and bleary eyes I am able to stay up quite late to watch each stage of the Tour de France. Last year was my first time watching without the pressure of work the following day and I started to do a little commentary using my Facebook page. This year I have decided to continue to use social media and will use new skills of tweeting to enhance the whole experience. I must admit at the start of the 3 weeks I do clearly express to my Facebook followers that if they don’t like what I write they can easily change my settings so they don’t have to follow along. Every one has choice. I won’t be offended as I know there are so many people who post info about their lives that I’m not interested in and I’m guilty of switching quite a few off when I’m over what they share! There is an old saying ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’, and luckily we are all different because the world would be boring if we were all the same!

Thanks to a bit of luck and my new Twitter hobby, I’m proud to say that this year a tiny piece of me did get to go to the Tour de France and I didn’t need my passport, to pack a suitcase or to even leave home!


After seeing a Twitter request for knitted bunting to help decorate the town of Ilkley for the Grand Depart of this year’s Tour de France in Yorkshire, United Kingdom I got knitting.


I had great fun knitting these triangles and even more fun with my dear friend Kath who helped take my photo in Williamstown one busy Friday afternoon before popping my 5 yellow creations into the post box along with a cuddly koala and a Melbourne postcard.


Luke and I traveled to the north of England in 2011 prior to watching Brianna dance in Dublin in the World Irish Dancing Championships. We visited Yorkshire and particularly enjoyed our drive through the dales along the narrow roads with the dry stone walls keeping the grazing sheep safe. I remember quite clearly the town of Bradford as we headed back from an overnight stay at Goathland, home of the famous pub filmed in the UK TV series Heartbeat on our way to stay at Haworth, home of the Bronte family. We may very well have driven along some of the same route that the Tour would take on its Grand Depart. Who knows? Ilkley is one of the first towns the TdF cyclists will pass through on Stage 1 and I would love to be there as the Tour de France cycles through such a beautiful part of the world.


I had hoped my bunting would be somewhere along the roadside for the cyclists to enjoy with other knitted bunting that so many people had generously knitted but my parcel of knitting all the way from Australia was such a surprise that it was decided to display it inside the Visitor Information Centre in Ilkley.

IMG_2175I’m more than happy to have heard from Peter that the staff have pointed out my contribution to many Aussie visitors! Here are Peter and Margaret inside the Ilkley Visitor Information Centre.


After the excitement of the Tour there will be a group of women who are going to join all the triangles to make blankets for people in need. How lucky will those recipients be to know they have a blanket made with love from local UK knitters along with others like me from around the world?

In the lead up to the Grand Depart I continued to Tweet about the excitement of the Tour de France and included quite a few Yorkshire hashtags in my tweets. I enjoyed learning more about this form social media and continue to be surprised when someone from the other side of the world favorites one of my tweets! I didn’t know who was behind the @visitBradford or @IlkleyChat but am grateful for their reply tweets which I enjoyed reading.  I hope that I helped make just a little bit of difference with my knitting and tweeting!

I have decided to take a photo each day of the stage map and include some information that might be of interest.

First up is the map of Stage 1 of Tour de France from Leeds to Harrowgate (190.5km). Nothing too interesting about Jaffa lollies apart from the fact they are usually irresistible! I was so excited knowing the Tour was actually starting and I had Luke and both Brianna and Branwell sitting in the lounge room watching with me. I know they all probably thought I was crazy, or should I say they know I am crazy but I hope they were proud of me and my contribution. Not that Vincenzo Nibali would have noticed as he cycled past but it all certainly helped with the atmosphere, which Yorkshire certainly had heaps! People lined the side of the roads from Leeds all the way down to London for the 3 days the Tour was in the UK.


Cheers! Brown Brothers Moscato and my Tour De France official guidebook are much more interesting!

Blog Tour de France

Stage 2 York to Sheffield (201km). My highlight will be the riding through Haworth home of the Bronte family. Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall are among some of English literature’s classics. Branwell the brother of Charlotte, Emily and Anne was a poet and is who our son is named after!


The peloton making their way down the Blubberhouses dale in Yorkshire just a small mountain to get the cyclists in the mood for what is to come once they cross over the English Channel onto French soil. I included this photo with my tweets and was amazed to get responses from people living in the UK.


Like the previous night by time the Tour arrived in Haworth I was so excited and I had everyone gathered around again. This next photo shows the riders cycling up the cobblestone road in historic Haworth. I wondered what the Bronte’s would think of the huge crowds and colourful cyclists riding through their hometown?


Stage 3 Cambridge to London (155km) is a short stage today. I’m sure the Queen will enjoy front row seats as the race finishes outside Buckingham Palace! There won’t be much time for dilly dallying and tourist stops in London as later on the cyclists will need to travel down to Dover with their entourages to catch the ferry across the Channel in order to arrive onto French soil for tomorrow’s stage.


Off to the French inspired Cinnamon Patisserie in Williamstown for some inspiration as the Tour de France has left the UK and is now on French soil! Won’t have as many visual prompts but will do my best to keep you updated. Of course you know the drill if you don’t care for cycling just switch me off for the next 3 weeks!

I’ve never been to watch the Tour de France, however thanks to SBS and my Official Guide I’ve got the best view from my comfy lounge chair especially while wearing a red scarf and my beret, a purchase from one of my trips to Paris.


Stage 4 travels from Le Touquet-Paris-Plage close to the coast across to Lille near the Belgium border (163.5km). It will be interesting to see if the French crowds will be able to come close to the hundreds of thousands who lined the road for the first three days in the UK. Lille is famous for filled waffles according to Gabriel Gate, SBS’s compare of Le Taste of Le Tour for the past 10 years and whom shares local French recipes each night prior to the race starting.


Stage 5 starts in historical Ypres in Belgium and will provide us with a most exciting day’s cycling as it travels back down into France to Arenberg-Porte du Hainaut (155.5km). There are seven sections of cobbles for the riders to battle through. The race organizers have just closed two sections which are too wet and dangerous for the riders’ safety. Anyone who has walked along the cobblestones of old European cities will know how hard it will be for the riders to stay on their two wheels. Let’s just hope for a safe stage without any crashes and any serious injuries. The Camembert Rouzaire is one of France’s most famous cheeses made in the Seine-et-Marne department which has Disneyland and Fontainbleau tourist attractions.


Stage 6 begins in Arras and sees the peloton head south east to Reims (194km). This area of France is home of some horrific battles from the First World War which this year commemorates 100 years. Yesterday’s stage was an amazing day of cycling, such brilliant TV entertainment for us at home but a showcase of the remarkable determination and talent these men have on their bikes. Horrible wet conditions over the cobblestones made it such a hard day at the office. Sadly Chris Froome fell twice on the wet roads and had to pull out of the race injured. NibaliI retains the yellow jersey. Arras is very close to the front line where many battles were fought including Vimy Ridge where now there is a memorial for the Canadian lives lost in battle. Reims is home to many of the world’s finest Champagne houses including G.H. Mumm and Veuve Clicquot.


Tonight’s stage 7 goes from Epernay to Nancy (234.5km). No time to enjoy any of the bubbly liquid that this region is famous for as it is the longest stage so far and the riders will be feeling the pain by now having raced for 6 days in a row. Lots of aches and pains, sore bones, blisters and grazes along with a sore bum from the constant sitting on the saddle will start to take their toll on the riders. Maybe there should be some champagne in those water bottles to help sooth the pain! Today’s featured Fromager des Clarines cheese comes from the Comte region where the race will be cycling through on stage 11. This rich buttery soft cheese comes in a wooden box to help it continue to ripen. Enough of cheese and back to the cycling make sure you look out for the two big hills towards the end of the stage which should provide us with an interesting end to the race.


Stage 8 sees the Tour de France head into the Vosges Mountains. Starting in Tomblaine and heading south to Getardmer La Mauselaine (161km). Hoping that the cyclists will be able to stay on their bikes after such a high number of crashes and falls in the past few days. Today’s photo  with thanks to Blue Illusion, Williamstown highlights one of the most famous French women in history Coco Chanel known for success in fashion and the iconic Chanel look. The Lorraine area is famous for its quiche, I learnt how to cook quiche Lorraine in my year 7 French lessons at Kilbride.


Stage 9 Gerardmer to Mulhouse (170km). Day 2 in the Vosges Mountains will keep the riders concentrating today as they face 6 climbs. Today’s photo includes a yummy pain du chocolate! Tomorrow is Bastille Day, the French National Day of celebration. Hope you find something French to enjoy! But then again you might prefer something German or Argentinian depending on who wins or loses the World Cup!


Stage 10 sees the peloton racing for the third day through the Vosges Mountains. Mulhouse to La Planches des Belles Filles (161.5km). This is where the men from the boys will show through and the lead of the race may change hands again! Hopefully a Frenchman will get through to the end on Bastille Day. Tomorrow is a rest day. I know I need an early night so the riders will also be ready for their first rest day since starting back on 5th July!


Stage 11 Besancon down to Oyonnax (187.5km). Today’s stage just might give some time for the peloton to settle down after the rest day and the upset of the previous stage of losing Tour favourite Alberto Contador.


Stage 12 Bourg-en-Bresse to Saint Etienne (185.5km). Today sees the Tour de France travel through picturesque south east France. The riders should be happy the climbs are nothing like those of the past few days in the Vosges or what is ahead.


Stage 13 Saint-Etienne to Chamrousse (197.5km). Two huge mountain climbs in the last 50 km will again sort the men from the boys, it is going to be another tough day in the saddle! It is so sad to see more riders having to abandon the Tour de France as a result of a bad fall or illness. Gorgeous French chateaux and the countryside of the Alps will continue to keep the viewers interested throughout today’s stage although I’m not sure how much the cyclists will take in as they pedal along! Sorry about the pate in today’s photo as it isn’t a very attractive sight and was hard to make it look interesting!


Where possible I like to integrate my interests so today’s #fmsphotoaday theme CURLY met the Tour as the road the cyclists will be riding through the French Alps on the Tour de France is definitely curly today. Glad it is them and not me!


Stage 14 Grenoble to Risoul (177km). Today’s cycling sees the riders at the highest point of the tour at 2360m on Col d’Izoard. We are now two thirds through the Tour and each day cyclists continue to abandon the race. The spectacular scenery of the French Alps can’t be beaten by much else. A hearty beef casserole and a glass of my new favourite red wine from Bordeaux complete today’s photo.


I am a day late so hope I don’t cause any confusion! Stage 15 from Tallard to Nimes (222km) was rather lengthy and a good opportunity for the sprinters. The wind didn’t play havoc by splitting the peloton, it was just rain which soaked the riders and crowds who gathered along the roads. Hard to believe the Tour has been going for two weeks. Rest day tonight before the final trek into the Pyrenees and the ride along the Champs Élysées into Paris on Sunday! A croissant with some luscious raspberry Bonne Maman jam completes today’s photo.


Today I learnt who was behind the Bradford tweets when I got a parcel in post from Lisa in Yorkshire thanking me for my knitting! Lisa and Sarah had been tweeting me and sent a collection of memorabilia from the Grand Depart of Tour de France. I opened the Yorkshire Vision newspaper that was included to find a picture of me and my knitted bunting! So excited that I was included in the story of how the Bradford district was preparing for the Grand Depart of the Tour de France.


Stage 16 Carcassonne to Bagneres-De-Luchon (237.5km). Today is the longest day of cycling and the end will be exciting as the final descent of just over 20km will test the skill of each of the remaining riders! Will Nibali be able to hold on to the yellow jersey? Will an Australian get to the finish line first? Today’s stage map in the photo is surrounded by special items from Yorkshire which have arrived in the post as a thank you for my knitted bunting. I was so surprised to get all of this TdF memorabilia! Including my photo on Pg 42 of the Yorkshire Vision!



Stage 17 Saint-Gaudens to Pla D’Adet (124.5km). Today is the shortest stage of the tour but not necessarily the easiest as the cyclists continue their journey through the Pyrenees. The cake featured in my photo today is a scrumptious chocolate mousse cake from one of Melbourne’s newest French eateries Becasse, at the new Emporium Melbourne. Well worth a visit if you get the chance to spend some time in our beautiful city!


Just in case you aren’t impressed with the round brown cake, here is a close up of the inside yummy chocolate mousse! Yummy in my tummy!


Stage 18 Pau to Hautacam (145.5km). Another day in the mountains for the climbers as we continue our time in the Pyrenees. First the climb up the Col du Tourmalet will test the strength of those still in the race and then the final climb up to Hautacam will keep those of us at home watching in the dark wide awake! Today’s photo highlights two books written by Lance Armstrong after his battle with cancer. He won 7 consecutive Tour de France titles from 1999 to 2005, but sadly his wins were stripped from him after he was found guilty of doping offences. No matter what people say about Armstrong he is still a champion in my eyes. Unfortunately he had denied the illegal drug use throughout his career but finally admitted to doping in a TV interview with Oprah early in 2013.


Each night I have watched the Tour from the comfort of my reclining lounge chair thanks to SBS. I have also been part of a larger community on Twitter made up of other #tourfreaks as we might be described who enjoy the #sbstdf coverage hosted by Mike Tomalaris who impresses us with his pronunciation of the international cyclist’s names along with the places the Tour rides by. We can always get a good idea of the weather with just a quick look at Mike’s hair. I was quite impressed when Mike favourited a few of my tweets, retweeted some and one night he even took the time and replied personally to one of my questions. At this high point of the Tour I continue to be amazed at the wonders of technology and how Mike, Matt, Phil and Paul along with their amazing @CyclingCentral crew are able to bring us so close to the riders and France. Surprisingly I think there was only one day where the weather interrupted the SBS coverage. We are lucky to have the talented and knowledgeable Matthew Keenan as commentator for the early part of each stage before legendary Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen take over close to the 100km mark. Phil and Paul are like an old married couple as they talk their way through each of the 21 stages. This year the expert pre and post discussions were shared around to give viewers some variety.


Each night around the 50km mark to go we look forward to when @norbs calls for us to take part in #toursnacks. People describe the food which will get them through the final 50km of the race. Just as the cyclists need to be careful to keep fuelled, so too do the viewers taking part in the fun back home here in Australia. The taking of food photographs is encouraged and helps spur on the menus on offer. Given that everyone else is sound asleep I do my best to quietly tippy toe around the kitchen as I hunt for my special treats. Its funny how it might be 1.45am in the morning and yet cheese and biscuits along with a glass of Milo and milk are so appealing!


Stage 19 Maubourguet to Bergerac (208.5km). Three days to go now. I think I can, I think I can! Today’s cycling will be advantageous for the sprinters. Vincenzo Nibali just needs to stay on his bike to take this years win. Peter Sagan has the green jersey and will hope he might get the stage win. The roads will be flat. Today I have included a yummy Nutella filled crepe from the local crepery. I know Clemence our French visitor would love one of these!


Tour de France finish tonight was another cracker ending with huge crash just before finish line upsetting Sagan’s chance for a stage win. Tired but got my second wind in time for some bagpipes at Glasgow2014! Oh and the Australian National Anthem too as we celebrate our Aussie track cyclists – Gold for Jack Bobridge and Silver for Alex Edmondson in 4000m individual pursuit and Silver for Annette Edmondson and Bronze for Amy Cure in 2000m individual pursuit! The musical contributions by #trolldj certainly adds to the atmosphere at home. A little bit of ACDC along with the bagpipes playing over a visual montage of the cycling, while ‘It’s a long way to the Top’ sounds out can just keep one that little bit awake at 1.20am in the morning as the eyes start to drift off to sleep. One of my favourite songs is Edith Piaf’s classic ‘No Regrets’ as the Tour cycles through the fields of France while The Muppet’s ‘Moving Right Along’ provide a complete contrast, but it is late at night so all taste has pretty much gone out the darkened window!

Stage 20 the penultimate stage Bergerac to Petigueux (54km) is the only time trial of this year’s Tour de France. First place of the Tour is decided as long as Vincenzo Nibali continues to ride safely. The final 2nd to 5th spots of the Tour will come down to the success of a few individuals who are very keen to take a podium finish. There hasn’t been a French man stand on the podium since 1997. Today’s photo includes some yellow food to celebrate – m&ms, bananas, tick tock biscuits and yellow iced vanilla cup cakes I made! My twitter #toursnacks group of cycling friends are all enjoying yellow treats tonight. I have enjoyed tweeting each night with like minded cycling fans! I’m rather pleased that over the past 20 stages I have increased my Twitter followers from 17 up to 33! The Tour makes its way into Paris tomorrow and their will be a women’s race in the Parisienne streets before the men of the tour arrive on the Champs Élysées.


My personal Tour de France challenge was to knit 21 different #chemohats over 21 stages from Yorkshire to Paris. 19 are finished so only 2 to go before the final of 3660.5km is cycled along the Champs Élysées!


Stage 21 Evry to Paris Champs-Élysées (137.5km). Well the final day of racing is here and the cyclists have covered 3660.5km from Yorkshire in United Kingdom across the English Channel to the north of France, across the flat fields, through quaint French villages and up and down 3 different mountain ranges in France. The cyclists have experienced all sorts of weather over the 3 weeks and so many falls and crashes have altered the outcome of the race. Italian Vincenzo Nibali will wear the yellow jersey along today’s road and just needs to stay on his bike to be this year’s winner! In my photo today some Moët champagne and a French choux pastry to celebrate! Viva Le Tour!


Joan of Arc and the 164 male cyclists who have made it to the Champs Élysées at the final of the Tour de France!


Vincenzo Nibali Italian winner of the 2014 Tour de France.


It’s over! Thanks for the memories! Here is my contribution for #toursnacks on the final night.If you look carefully you should be able to read #sbstdf and @norbs. Was actually quite fiddly working with the mini size smarties. They looked good and tasted better!


I thought I might have had a good chance at winning a competition that #SBSFRENCH sponsored but unfortunately I was pipped at the post by a Souffle au Fromage! Can you believe that? Now it was a very nice looking souffle created by @MadameFlavour an appropriate name given her success tonight. Oh well I have a whole year to think about next year’s entry!

Been a wonderful 3 weeks touring the UK and France. Have had fun posting my photos along with information of each stage so those interested could follow along with me. Can happily report all of the yummy croissants, eclairs, crème brulee, pain du chocolate, macarons, chocolate mousse, pate, Brie, Camembert, Moët champagne, Bordeaux, Beouf Bourguignon and crepes used in my photos have all been thoroughly enjoyed. Thanks to my lovely family for helping me on my own personal Tour de France even if I didn’t need a passport and it was in the comfort of our lounge room on some very cold dark winter nights.



It’s July!

July is my most favourite month of the year. You might very well wonder why because as the wintry weather sets in many people here in the Southern Hemisphere are grumbling about the cold, wet and windy days and the increasingly long dark nights. For two weeks of the month we have school holidays so our routines become less strict as most of us in our household are on a break from work or university. I love travelling and have been fortunate to visit France on two occasions and loved the countryside as I drove from Calais to Paris and then south on my way to Switzerland.

Cold weather, holidays and travel aside, the real reason I look forward to July is because I know for 3 weeks 198 riders will be undertaking the most amazing physical and mental feat of cycling a total of 3660.5km in the Tour de France. This year’s race kicks off in the county of Yorkshire in the United Kingdom for the first two stages, then from Cambridge to London for the third stage before heading across to France for the final 18 stages.

Blog Tour de France

This is my 12th year of sitting up in the middle of the night to watch the cycling. You might wonder why the interest in cycling and the Tour de France in particular.

Back in 2003 on one Friday night my husband and I were out filling in time while we waited to pick up one of our children at a party in Chapel Street. We met up with a past pupil of my husband’s. Anyway the young man asked how I was, knowing that I’d been unwell having been diagnosed earlier that year with breast cancer. He asked had I read an inspirational book written by a young cyclist who had experienced cancer and successfully overcome it with a variety of conventional and alternative treatments. At the time I had no idea who the cyclist was that we were talking about on that cold winter’s night and what affect reading his book would have on me, but agreed that I would look into finding out more. Over the years I have found out that once you have cancer people like to suggest things for you to do or read so as to increase your chances of overcoming the illness, like the consumption of particular food for example apricot kernels, so I am always polite as these suggestions are genuinely made for good and I exercise caution as to what I might do with the information.

Anyway the cyclist we were referring to was Lance Armstrong and a couple of days later I was very touched that the young man had gone out of his way to purchase a brand new copy of Armstrong’s book, It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life and leave it carefully wrapped with my name at my husband’s office. I have to admit that a book about a sportsman was a rather different type of gift I am used to receiving as most people tend to give flowers, hand cream or chocolates. I started to read it and immediately was interested in the journey that Armstrong had been on since being diagnosed with testicular cancer at the young age of 25 in 1996. No matter what people think of Armstrong and his illustrious cycling career, I have to say I do admire what he did to overcome cancer and to get back on a bike. Ok so his career may have been improved somewhat by taking illegal performance enhancing drugs I’m not going to condone the use of any drugs, but he is still a remarkable man.

How could any one cycle up to 200kms each day for three weeks straight around the French countryside with only two days for rest? I have nothing but respect for Armstrong and each of the cyclists as I have no idea to the answer of how anyone could do that (with or without performance enhancing drugs I might add). The Tour de France is a race of elimination, as many cyclists have to pull out as the grueling stages take their toll. Unfortunately illness and accidents happen to cut short the dreams of many. Mark Cavendish one of this year’s favourites was in an accident yesterday and dislocated his collarbone. Such disappointment as months of training and preparation were dashed in a simple bike crash close to the end of the first stage of the tour. Someone’s misfortune is another person’s good luck as this crash allowed Marcel Kittel to take advantage and reach the finish line to win Stage One and the honour of wearing the famous yellow jersey. It will take a few days for the cyclists to settle before we have any idea who will be wearing the yellow jersey in Paris on the 27th July.

So the very kind and thoughtful gift of a book by a past pupil of my husband sparked my interest in Lance Armstrong, which led to my interest in cycling.

Time for TV

Well I’m not sure about some of the things that happen these days, as there often just seems to be too many horrible things to focus on. A whole aeroplane full of passengers recently disappeared from the face of the earth and there was so much bureaucratic blundering in the initial days which made any chance of finding survivors so remote and even more impossible the location of the black box which may hold some answers of how a modern day plane could just drop out of the sky. Then there was the incomprehensible fact that the equivalent of a whole year level of female students had disappeared in Africa. All those girls to be sold as slaves, all their mums so broken hearted at the loss of their darling daughters. I actually had to ask my son was it a huge trick that social media was playing on us, or was it just an urban myth or should we really be hassling the leaders of the world to be doing something to find these young women who unfortunate by their place of birth would not have the chance to grow up with the free choice my own daughter and her friends have living here in Australia. No wonder I don’t like to watch the news, or shows about the police or murder mysteries. Instead I choose to watch lifestyle TV shows focusing on buying and selling homes, home renovations or cooking shows.

I’ve always loved watching TV and have been happy with free to air offerings until I became unwell and found myself in the position of becoming an expert on daytime TV. The programming offered by free to air channels here in Australia is quite a disgrace. Good local TV programs cost lots of money, which makes it difficult for production houses to continue to keep up with a good variety of TV. So it becomes cheaper for our networks to offer us a fairly standard daily menu. Starting with morning talk shows, daily advertorials, some overseas soapie action, a few game shows, the news followed by evening current affair shows, some locally produced soapies, then many re runs of overseas shows, a sprinkling of one or two good Australian productions and some cooking or home renovation shows. Throw in some footy in winter and tennis or cricket in summer and that is about all we have. Then there is the constant barrage of advertising for funeral insurance and Internet providers in amongst ads for ahh bras and robot vacuum cleaners. I eventually persuaded my husband and we gave in and signed up for Foxtel so as to increase the daily offerings by 83 more channels and much better chances for a good variety of TV. Our children were over the moon as they had wanted us to get Foxtel for years, and now they continue to live in hope that one day they might also get that puppy or kitten they have dreamed of or the trampoline they were deprived of as young children.

Anyway I digress so back to the story, the introduction of the genre of reality TV has crept into our lounge rooms and is influencing water cooler discussions, as people are dissecting the behavior of a variety of contestants who grace our evening TV screens. The recent My Kitchen Rules (MKR) series, searching for the best pair of home cooks was such a let down as the production crew had edited the show cleverly so as to have many really good cooks who just so happened to be really mean people. I’m not just talking about mean young people either which people seem to think is a common trait of Gen Y. The MKR audience is multi aged so its contestants span the age groups and the Queensland male dubbed “The Captain’ was a prime example of a mean older male doing his best to criticize the offerings of his co contestants as no where near the standard of his and his much younger wife’s cooking, yet when push came to shove he could barely cook simple dishes. The recent series also portrayed two younger women who were friends from extensive overseas travels, as two very mean young women who had a win at all costs attitude way over and above the average person’s competitive streak. Outside of my magical TV screen they may very well be nice young ladies who were stitched up by the production crew and some clever editing, however I doubt it. The rivalry with this pair and the Greek twins from Melbourne provided the 2014 series storyline right from the start. Many families with young children sit together after dinner and given there is something about cooking shows, which young kids seem to love the 7.30pm timeslot of MKR did really well with its ratings. The number of cooking shows and recipes books appealing to children is evidence and yet MKR encouraged such mean behavior with its contestants, which in my opinion is not very good with its young audience.

Then in an adult time slot on Arena – Foxtel, the Real Housewives of Melbourne has not long ago finished its 10 week first series run. What a locally produced TV show this has been? The mean girls on MKR look like butter wouldn’t melt in their mouth when compared with the RHOM characters. Yes I call them characters, as I doubt any of them could be classed as real housewives. I don’t think they cook, do dishes, dust or clean a toilet given the amount of expensive champagne corks, which popped throughout the series. They might not do housework but they can shop and so much money and time was spent looking perfect. In one episode Janet and Chyka had a personal shopping experience at what looked like department store, David Jones where they stayed in a luxurious change room sipping champagne while the sales lady rushed around the store finding suitable outfits along with matching handbags, shoes and jewelry without any worries about the cost of any of the items. As part of looking so perfect some of the RHOM also spent lots of money on Botox and other medical procedures blatantly promoting the business of one of the wives and her husband, a cosmetic surgeon. Unfortunately Janet, the oldest of the housewives still looks the oldest of the women even after spending so much money on treatments to slow down the aging process. On one episode, one of the housewives was out shopping considering a piece of art at the pricey sum of $70,000. Who would spend that much money on a piece of art to decorate the front foyer of their chalet in the snow? Also unlike ordinary housewives who might be lucky to grab a takeaway coffee on the way to work, I can say the RHOM did tend to do lots of coffee, although most of the filmed coffee dates involved bitching about some of the other RHOM members behind their back or bitching to one of them in actual person. Horrible language and mean words were exchanged between these so called high society women from Toorak. The bullying between the 6 women has been highlighted and rocked the social media world. The male host of the reunion show shut down his own Twitter page as he was accused of fueling the bullying on the carefully edited reunion show.

So you might say, change channels or just turn the TV off as you are an adult and by your watching you are encouraging this poor behavior. Yes I could do that however I have found it interesting how both local TV shows evolved. I have done my fair share of talking about the mean girls in these TV shows and will think carefully when both return to our airways next year.

Finally you may be interested what took over the place of MKR and RHOM? House Rules is a home decoration competition where couples compete to renovate and transform each other’s homes and one successful couple will win their entire mortgage to be paid for. It is nearly the end of this series which was carefully filmed and edited to portray one particular couple, who happen to have left behind 7 children at home being quite mean and having that win at all costs attitude. I don’t like them at all and didn’t want them to win so was happy when they were the first couple to be eliminated. I also hope their children are not going to watch their mum and dad on TV as they were poor role models at times.

On Tuesday night a totally new type of competitive TV show aired on Foxtel, The Great British Sewing Bee where contestants show off their sewing skills to the judges in the hope of being crowned the best home sewer. I know that sewing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but there wasn’t any bitchiness or meanness as the participants worked their way selecting fabric to make an A-Line skirt showing how competent they were at following a basic sewing pattern. Each person seemed to be genuinely interested in the creative talents of the others as they completed the final task of producing a dress of their own choosing. Some had practiced techniques at home whereas others were rather brave and attempted something they’d never made before in the chance of gaining an edge over their fellow competitors. The star sewer of the day, a male costume dressmaker made a black and white polka dot dress. He’d never made a ladies dress before. Everyone seemed really happy for him and genuinely sad for the young mum whose reversible silk dress she had made three times prior to the day, just didn’t work on the day of competition and resulted in the first elimination. This show produced by the same people as The Great British Bake off, and although a competition promotes positive values of respect towards others so unlike many of the reality offerings on TV these days. If you enjoy sewing or just want to see something a bit different tune in for the next three weeks.

Friday Night Fun!

Last night I stepped out of my comfort zone and headed up to one of the local pubs to catch up with some people I used to work with. I’ve been unwell on and off for a good 3 months and this past week or so have picked up and returned to my old self. I’m feeling so much better and stronger as each day passes and on Wednesday I drove up to the shops and had a couple of hours out and about all on my own. It is so good to see the old Tanya again.

Most Friday afternoons I’m settled in my front lounge room that I like to refer as my reception room. Now don’t think I’m too fancy but the ladies in Jane Austen’s time spent their days sitting in the reception room doing some craftwork while passing the time away in between receiving their visitors and drinking lots of cups of tea and nibbling on sweet treats. Over the past 20 months while I’ve been at home I’ve had lots of visitors in my reception room and shared many cups of tea and as to sweet treats well there have been so many yummy treats I could open my own sweet shop! Not to say anything about all the craftwork I have enjoyed doing while passing the time away.

I enjoy sitting in my reception room and I love the fact I am comfy and yet can see what is happening out in the street and what the weather is doing outside. My visitors are able to sit on the couch and take some time to slow down and share with me the stories about their lives. I love to listen to the latest family news catching up with all the gossip or travel stories. Traveling is one of my favourite things and any opportunity to talk about places I’ve visited is good for me.

Last night I broke my usual Friday afternoon routine and drove myself up to the pub to catch up with some work colleagues as one of them was heading off on long service leave. Just being out of the house was great but the freedom of driving myself was even better. Both my kids cheered me on and encouraged me as I told them I was heading to the pub. I went through the usual process of checking and rechecking my outfit. Even after losing so much weight I still go through the same routine each time I leave the house. I struggled with my shoes as I was so cold and so I dug out some boots, which haven’t been worn for nearly two years now. I dusted them off made sure there weren’t any spiders hiding inside before zipping them up over my stretch jeans. I’ve never worn boots over pants so felt slightly uncomfortable, yet my daughter assured me that it was the only way to wear boots!

I loved catching up with everyone and sadly there is never enough time to talk to each person in a group situation. They were all happy to sit and relax while enjoying a drink, because as teachers they are right in the middle of report writing season. For them it was regular Friday night drinks yet they had no idea how happy I was to be out and sitting in the middle of their lively and vibrant conversation. After three hours I left the pub feeling invigorated and so happy. I may not have won the local footy club’s Friday night raffle. Although a meat tray would be a great addition to the freezer I know I’d have trouble drinking all those free pots of beer, but for me I was the winner and had won something so much better than those prizes.

Day Night Autumn Spring

Well it’s much cooler and quite dark down under here in Australia, yet it is warmer and light in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s Autumn in our part of the world and Spring up north. Ok I know you don’t need a geography lesson, but I just want to set the scene as to how some things just happen. The newspaper has just been delivered at 3.30am so I know most Australians are safely tucked up in their bed sound asleep. Not me though!

Each year at this time in May the Giro D’Italia takes place throughout Italy and this year SBS, a free to air television station is covering this cycling event in the middle hours of the night for the first time, straight off the back of their coverage of Eurovision 2014 in Copenhagen. Joy oh joy for someone like me who loves both cycling, singing and dancing and not necessarily all at the same time! Not to forget a love of colourful World flags.

Last weekend a World first happened as a bearded lady, Conchita Wurst from Austria took out the illustrious Eurovision crown with her amazing performance of Rise Like a Phoenix. No matter where you might stand on the idea of someone so beautifully dressed as a woman, yet with the blackest of black hairy beards, you would have to agree that the girl can sing and the lyrics of the song were very apt. The performance of this showstopping tune, reminiscent of a James Bond soundtrack sung by Shirley Bassey was destined to win and Wurst even sent a message to Russian president Vladimir Putin that Europe is full of “respect and tolerance” in response to Russia’s backlash against her sexuality.

Now back to my geography lesson, if it is day here it must be night up North so depending on your location, Europe is always about 9 hours behind Australia. If you want specific time differences check the World Time app on an iPhone. Therefore while we were asleep last weekend, the Eurovision semi finals and grand final took place. The problem for me was the fact that on Sunday there were no spoiler alerts on the Eurovision Facebook page or the Sunday morning current affair/news shows and so anyone else like me wishing to enjoy the delayed telecast in the Sunday evening prime time spot and be surprised as to who was the winner, already knew Austria’s Conchita came first, followed by The Netherlands and Sweden.

Luckily, unless I fall asleep this won’t happen with the live coverage of the cycling as SBS start their coverage around 11pm and continue till the day’s stage finishes close to 1.30am here in Australia. I have been known to fall asleep with about 20kms to go while watching Le Tour De France, only to wake up watching a taped version of the World Weather whilst listening to some funky European music soundtrack. Quite disconcerting as one minute cyclists are racing through beautiful French countryside, or climbing the Italian or Swiss Alps and in the next blink of an eye the weather in the Greek Isles has taken over the screen. Then once fully conscious I realise it is actually cold, dark and I’m alone at 3am here in my lounge room!

While touring Europe in 2009, the Giro D’Italia was racing into Venice on the day I was there. The city was full of colourful cycling signage and amazingly lots of flat wood covered the famous walking bridges so the cyclists would be able to ride over the canals towards the end of the afternoon. Unfortunately the bus trip I was on would have me driven safely on to Rome as the crowds celebrated the end of the stage in Venice. I’d never heard of this event before that day and now years later I am able to watch it in the comfort of my own lounge room in the middle of the night. This year the race started in Northern Ireland where the typical Irish weather didn’t disappoint – lots of rain and very little sunshine for the first three stages. Once back on Italian soil the race has resumed in Southern Italy and it will make its way up North over the next three weeks. Truly an amazing endurance event where fitness and riding skills are just as important for cyclists and their support crews as safety is. We have already seen some horrific road accidents as the usually dry Italian roads have become wet, greasy and extremely dangerous as rain has fallen. The riders decided to neutralize the race on one day causing the commentators to question this decision. With less than 10 kilometres to go the cyclists’ go slow actions were proven right as a serious wet patch caused a horrific crash and race ending injuries for some riders.

I look forward to more late nights ahead watching the Giro D’Italia  and hope that all cyclists continue to ride safely given the road and weather conditions over the next three weeks. It is looking very good with 12 Australian cyclists in this year’s race. Michael Matthews, wearing the Maglia Rosa (pink jersey) was first across the finish line today. Cadel Evans came 3rd and by the look on his face he was hoping for better than that as he led a good section of the last part of the race in the small breakaway group after another horrific crash just before a small round about on the wet and greasy road. Cadel’s team member Caruso was seriously injured and as a viewer it seemed ages before medical help and an ambulance came to help him.



The Photo a Day theme today was funny. Within my family I’m not necessarily known for being funny and I’m happy with that, and my husband well, ‘Dad you are not funny now, you never have been funny and you are never going to be funny!’ in the words of my son B2 who luckily seems to have got all the funny genes. He has a great sense of humour, is very witty and has always surprised me with the things he says.  His early morning breakfast radio career has me wide awake at 6am each Wednesday morning, quite a sight sitting in the dark with headphones plugged into my iPad just so I can listen to that sense of humour without disturbing my husband.

So today I scrounged around for a funny image to capture. I didn’t have any cute puppy dogs or toddlers to help out. Often I find the best idea for the day’s theme just comes to fruition as the day rolls by. I like it that way rather than having to stage a photo, which sometimes takes a lot of brainpower, time and energy to get just right.

Anyway as I was getting dressed today in the sudden snap of cold weather, I was surprised to discover that a pair of my favourite ‘comfy’ trousers were way too big for me. Now it shouldn’t have been a surprise really given over the past 16 months I have lost somewhere over 30 kilograms. I am unsure of the exact number because although I have always been a ‘larger lady’ as my oncologist kindly referred to me on my recent visit I never focused on the number. So my weight loss could be anywhere between 35 and 40 kilograms. It doesn’t really matter.

The weight loss has been gradual, very slow and steady just as weight loss experts suggest about half a kilogram a week. It took a while to realise I was losing weight or that my clothes were too big. Looking back at photos of before cancer and after I can see such a difference now. I queried my medical team was there something they knew that I didn’t know. No, that wasn’t the case and it was not a great concern for them. All was good! So my theory to this dramatic weight loss total is that I have been taking tamoxifen, a daily hormone tablet, which supports my hormone receptor positive type of breast cancer. I haven’t had much of an appetite for what seems like ages now and this added to the nausea I suffered influenced what I was eating or rather what I wasn’t eating therefore my weight loss. My medication was changed mid November and it took a while for me to register but I no longer struggle with poor appetite and don’t feel the slightest bit nauseous like I had in the past. I am often found at an open fridge door at 2am in the morning searching for something else to eat. Standing on the scales each month at the hospital I look forward to the day the scales stopped going down, very different to any time I was on the scales at Weight Watchers where I hoped and prayed for weight loss.  It has been three months now and I have remained the same weight and am more than happy with that.

Funny means different things for different people. I always find it funny when someone, say my husband gets accidently hurt, you know when they hit their head or jam their finger in the door that slap stick type of comedy you see on Bugs Bunny or Tom and Jerry cartoons.

I don’t know where it came from but I thought it might be funny to have a photo wearing my comfy pants, you know the photo where the person is standing fully in one leg of a pair of trousers to show their weight loss.  

Well I suppose I always thought it would be such an achievement to do that.  I have achieved much this past 16 months just not sure that significant weight loss is something I would have high up on my list. Weight loss as a by product of having cancer doesn’t bring the same sense of achievement as having lost weight after months of hard work with Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig or home delivered meals with Lite ‘n’ Easy or those 29 minute sessions at one of those all female only gym workouts. Cancer and funny don’t seem to go together for many people so I hope I haven’t upset anyone with my photo.

I posted my photo for Photo a Day without thinking what it might look like for others apart from me just being funny, that is a lady with two legs standing inside one leg of a pair of her comfy trousers.  I thank the 85 lovely members of the group who stopped and took the time to like my photo or leave a comment to acknowledge the weight loss without knowing my story. That is the story of a lady with cancer whose life is so different now, at least 35 kilograms different. Unbeknown to them, they just saw the results of the hard work of weight loss, not the hard work that goes with radiation, chemotherapy and that hormone therapy which is what I really think is responsible for my weight loss. I didn’t have to go to the gym or worry about how each lettuce leaf was going to keep me satisfied till the next meal. I posted the same photo on my personal Facebook page and got a completely different response because they know my recent health situation. It must be hard for people who know me and have watched what I have been through to know whether they should acknowledge my weight loss as a good thing. I am pretty sure if I had been on a diet or had my stomach stapled and didn’t have cancer they would have congratulated me. Don’t get me wrong I’m not upset or feeling like I have missed out on something here. I love how one friend has commented a few times now on my skinny legs and I have taken that as a compliment. The same friend also asked about my bra size, which I very proudly said I was now a 14DD. (Yes I am writing that in public!) She is observant and not scared to say what she thinks. I love her honesty.