How to get a good night’s sleep – with scientific proof! ( kind of…)

It’s a never-ending topic of discussion among those of us who work in brekkie radio – SLEEP.

If only we could all sleep like the babies...

If only we could all sleep like the babies…

How much did you get last night? How DID you sleep? Were you woken up? Did you get to bed on time? For some reason, our sleeping habits provide an endless source of conversation and fascination.

Even if you have a regular job, the yearning for a decent night’s sleep is an all-too common problem. Finding the solution to achieving a good quality night’s shut-eye is like a search for the Holy Grail.

Well now I can offer some SCIENTIFIC PROOF that should help you on your way.

I use a FITBIT that monitors my sleeping habits with a graph. Basically it shows a blue graph that is interrupted by light blue lines when I am restless. Pink means I’ve actually got up and out of bed to go the bathroom or get a glass of water.

Here’s what happens when I use an electronic device – mostly my iPhone – before turning out the bedside lamp:

My sleep pattern last night

My sleep pattern last night

And here’s what happens if I read a book instead:

My sleep pattern after reading a book

My sleep pattern after reading a book

NO BREAKS AT ALL!!

Books beat phones hands down.

I tried it again the following night and here’s proof:

Sleep pattern last Wednesday night

Sleep pattern last Wednesday night

You might think it’s obvious, but if you’re like me, you’ve heard the advice before and ignored it. Now I’m convinced the experts are right and I hope you are too.

So it’s simple – PUT AWAY YOUR MOBILE PHONE AND i-PAD and READ instead.

Happy sleeping!

 

 

Going Wild about WILD HOLLY (It’s all about the pies…)

Cold winter days like today make me just want to snuggle up under a doona binge-watching TV series and eating comfort food.

Ah, comfort food – the stuff that takes us back to our childhood – when treats from the bakery were vanilla slices and jam tarts with not a sniff of salted caramel in sight. As for school lunches, it was a special day when you were allowed to order a basic meat pie for lunch. With tomato sauce, of course.

So you imagine my delight when daughter Veronica took up an apprenticeship this year at Brighton’s oldest bakery – WILD HOLLY. Now this is a store where baking traditionalists will be in pure heaven. It’s been running since 1937 and while much has changed over the years, what comes out of the kitchen still has lashings of good old-fashioned quality and style.

Come with me and I’ll take you on a trip down the foodie world’s memory lane. But be warned – you’ll be drooling.

Owner and head baker Brett O’Callaghan says WILD HOLLY is not only Brighton’s oldest bakery, but the second oldest business in the suburb overall. His father, Brian, began as an apprentice baker with the first owner, Mr Perry, as a teenager. No one can remember Mr Perry’s first name – apparently he was never called anything else.

Wild Holly Bakery in Brighton

Wild Holly Bakery in Brighton

While the shop has moved from several locations over the years, it’s been in its current position at 389 Bay Street, Brighton, for the past forty years. Brett has been at the helm for about ten years and we chatted about how the store has maintained its success.

JEN: I guess a lot of Wild Holly’s appeal comes from the fact that you still carry a lot of traditional cakes people can’t find anywhere else?

BRETT: Yes, we do a lot of older-style cakes, biscuits and pies – traditional stuff that we make on the premises. We make everything here. There’s only one biscuit we out-source and we make just under 200 lines.

Owner Brett O'Callaghan

Owner Brett O’Callaghan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JEN: Wow – that’s a lot of cooking! How many staff do you have?

21st birthday Croquembouche cake

21st birthday Croquembouche cake

BRETT: We have eleven staff with four bakers out the back, including myself and the rest are shop staff. I trained under Dad. Left school and didn’t know what I wanted to do so Dad said, ‘You can’t be a bum and come and work for me.’ So I did and eventually fell in love with it. Did a four-year-apprenticeship then worked at several other places but came back and managed the shop for a couple of years with Dad but that caused a few hiccups because we had some different ideas about how to do things. Then I went and opened up my own bakery in Hampton for twelve years, then moved to Sydney for ten years then came back and bought this off my father and have been here ever since.

JEN: Was you Dad a hard taskmaster?

BRETT: Oh yes, he was. He had high standard and an ‘It’s my way or the highway’ work ethic. He was President of the Bakers Association of Australia and went overseas, representing Australia in various competitions. And he still offers advice.

JEN: What drew you back to the business?

BRETT: Basically dad was getting older and wanted to sell. I wanted to keep it going too so bought it from him and it’s been mine ever since.

JEN: Do you ever think about updating the style of cakes and pastries?

A delectable selection...

A delectable selection…

BRETT: I like to keep it as traditional as possible, using the recipes and the old-style way they’re made. We do make some new things – especially because of the cooking shows – and will give a few things a crack for a while but our clientele prefer the traditional stuff. The older-style biscuits are extremely popular. And the kids love the cupcakes and the older customers love the old-fashioned sponge cakes.

Popular Wild Holly biscuits

Popular Wild Holly biscuits

JEN: I love the cupcakes! Do you vary the designs?

BRETT: Yep, we do pigs and cats, frogs, faces. Easter we do little chickens and at Christmas we do reindeer and snowmen, then ghosts for Halloween, so there’s a bit of variety.

An assortment of cupcakes

An assortment of cupcakes

JEN: Christmas must be a busy time for you?

BRETT: Yes, we do Christmas puddings and cakes. We even started up Christmas cooking classes last year that were really popular, so we’ll start them up even earlier this year, around September or October.

JEN: How have your worked in such business for so many years with so much lovely food around you and not become fat?

Wild Holly is famous for its quality pies and sausage rolls

Wild Holly is famous for its quality pies and sausage rolls

BRETT: (laughs) Well I was very fat once, but decided I couldn’t go on like that so started physically training a lot – running and swimming and bike-riding – so that helped.

JEN: But do you still eat the cakes?

The cake Ronnie says she'll make for me one day!!

The cake Ronnie promises she’ll make for me one day!!

BRETT: Oh, yes, I have to. I need to try everything. I mean, if an apprentice puts too much salt in something – which doesn’t happen a lot – I need to know. So I need to check the flavours.

Of course Brett would NEVER be speaking about Veronica, because it seems likes she’s doing pretty well. Most importantly, she loves her work  – even though she starts before dawn. For us, it’s always a great day when she brings home extras to sample. Especially the meat pies! Now that’s something I can never say NO to.

Veronica and her pies

That’s my girl! Veronica and her pies

So there you have it. If you’re looking for some respite from all those high falutin cooking shows and fancy pants restaurants and are hankering for a taste of the best from yesteryear – now you know where to go. Yep, Wild Holly. Still serving it up as good as it was nearly eighty years ago. YUM!

FOR ENQUIRIES, PHONE WILD HOLLY ON 9596 4915 or visit the shop at 389 Bay Street, Brighton.

The First Chapter Dilemma

I was just moments away from pushing SEND on a group email – inviting friends and family to my book launch – when my mobile rang.

The editor at Harper Collins had a last-minute change-of-heart about the opening chapter to my novel, MAKING HEADLINES. Mary thought it was a little DARK for the type of book that was primarily going to marketed in the chick-lit and romance genre.

It was a tough call for me as I really liked the original opening chapter, but I could see her point. And Mary was very reasonable – ultimately giving me the final say. Being my first novel, I was happy to take her advice, but I still think back to the original version and wonder if I DID make the right decision. So I thought I’d offer up part of the original FIRST CHAPTER here – for you all to read – and I’d love to hear your feedback. Especially if you’ve already read MAKING HEADLINES.

To avoid any SPOILERS, I’ll discuss the reasons about WHY this chapter was ditched – in the paragraphs AFTER the book segment. Can’t wait to hear what you think!

——————————————————————————————————–

MAKING HEADLINES – by Jennifer Hansen

CHAPTER ONE

 ‘Then whack! He slams that cricket bat smack down on your desk, missing your hand by a whisker!’ Julia slapped her hands under Rachel’s chin.

Rachel jumped, vibrations ringing in her ears. ‘And this is the man you think could be our new boss?’ she said, spinning her chair around to switch on her computer. As she reached for a notebook a growing unease began to fester. Her fellow reporter had an uncanny knack of being spot-on with rumours.

‘Yep,’ grinned Julia, leaning back in her chair. ‘That’s Helmut Becker for you. Bit of a nut job, but they say he gets results. And it is all about the ratings after all.’

Beyond their desks the usual pandemonium reigned. Early morning rush hour — TV monitors blaring, phones ringing and people shouting, and Rachel didn’t want the glue that held it together leaving. She stared towards the news director’s office. ‘I wish I could change Tony’s mind.’ It was like the plates beneath her feet were shifting. Too much change, too soon.

‘We don’t know he’s going yet. And stop looking like that. Anyone’d think you had a boss-crush.’

Rachel turned back to Julia. ‘Don’t be ridiculous. He’s more like an uncle. I mean, he’s just so … well, nice. I mean, he gave me my big break and …’ She paused as a striking man with shoulder-length dirty-blond hair strode past their desks towards the edit suites at the back of the newsroom.

‘And don’t get hooked on him either.’ Julia rolled her eyes. ‘That’s the new head editor, Mitch. Really rates himself, and hates working with juniors, so steer clear.’

‘You crack me up,’ said Rachel, shaking her head. ‘You know I’m taken.’ She turned back to her computer, inhaling deeply. The editor had left a scent in his wake and it wasn’t aftershave. It was like he’d just shaken the surf from his hair after riding a wave into work. A ridiculous thought. Who’d go surfing in the middle of winter? She snuck another look as he walked away, taking in his strong physique. As if feeling her eyes graze the back of his neck, he turned, giving a lopsided grin as he caught her out.

Embarrassed, she smiled back stupidly and sucked in her breath. Damn, he was good looking. She wondered what he was doing at work so early. Surely as head editor he could take his pick of the shifts and leave the early stints for the juniors? She shook her head. She had to stop this. No flirting. That’s what had landed her in trouble in Sydney a month ago and she still couldn’t deal with the emotional fallout.

‘Thought there were problems on the home front,’ said Julia, as if reading her mind.

‘Oh, not really—’

‘Rachel Bentley, get your arse over here.’ Rob Kingsbury’s strident voice cut through the mayhem. As Chief of Staff he sat at what was known as the COS desk, the hub of the newsroom. A misogynist with a mission, Rob carried himself like a boxer. Sporting one of his standard check flannel shirts, he was like a lumberjack ready to swing his axe at anyone in his way.

Rachel scurried across and Rob began to read from his computer. ‘Young girl went on a bike ride yesterday about lunchtime. Never came home, believed abducted. Police doorknocking in Torquay. Get your butt down there and if there’s nothing found by six, we’ll do a live cross. That’d be your first live cross.’ He looked at her directly. ‘You up to it?’

More than six months into her job, Rachel was used to Rob’s verbal shorthand, but still felt she hadn’t won his approval. ‘Aye, aye, sir,’ she said brightly, with an enthusiastic salute.

He glared. ‘Fine. Hope you’ve got an overnight bag on standby because you might need it. Get moving. With News Eight.’

Thank God she did have a bag stashed in her car. All reporters were required to have one handy. News Eight was her favourite camera crew. She’d be working with Gary Bouts, a patient cameraman with a talent for turning the most mundane story into a visual masterpiece. She raced about getting organised before heading to the news car. They had to be there by eleven for a media conference with the parents, and the coastal town was at least two hours away.

It was a long trip and Gary drove quickly. The sky was bleak and the strong wind swept clouds across the sky as if trying to keep pace with the news car. Driving over the Westgate Bridge, the car was buffeted by vigorous gusts. Rachel was glad she’d brought her wool coat. It would be cold by the sea.

She used the time to send her partner, Tim, a text message, letting him know she might be away for the night. No reply. Not surprising given he was probably asleep after a late night.

They bypassed Geelong down a long straight road lined with a sprinkling of country properties and scrubby bushland. Finally the ocean appeared, dark and choppy. They were nearly there.

Torquay felt deserted, just a couple of surf shops, an ice-cream store, and a fish and chip shop that would have been crammed with tourists in the summer months. Police had set up a media briefing at the local scout hall. A swarm of journalists, photographers and cameramen were wrangling equipment and vying for the best position in front of the podium. It was a musty building that looked like it hadn’t been used since the 1960s.

At the entrance, Rachel spoke briefly with a junior police officer, then made her way to where Gary and his assistant were setting up the tripod and camera. Through the chaos she saw a young couple, sitting still on the makeshift stage, waiting for the questions to begin. A picture of their daughter, radiant and smiling, was pinned to the wall behind them. Their eyes darted about the room. The woman wore a denim skirt and crumpled floral blouse, and clutched a tissue. Her fair hair was thin and lank. The man reached to pat her knee and she seized his hand, gripping it tightly. Then looking downwards, she wiped her eyes.

A stocky police officer stood on the stage. He checked his notes and placed them on an old wooden lectern, before coughing into the microphone. ‘Okay everyone, this is the situation. As you already know, six-year-old Daisy Beattie disappeared yesterday after going for a bike ride. She left home at approximately 12 pm and didn’t return. Her parents raised the alarm at five o’clock but despite ongoing efforts to find her we haven’t had any leads. Police began a doorknock this morning and will continue a search of the local district today. Right now, we want to hear from anyone who may have seen Daisy, anyone with any information that may help locate her. And her parents, Bruce and Pauline here, want to make a special appeal for help.’

The officer’s eyes betrayed emotions he dare not voice. The police were locals and would know the family. He motioned to Bruce, a sturdy, unshaven man with the body of a labourer.

Bruce’s shoulders heaved under the weight of it all as he stood. His strong hands grasped the sides of the lectern, his head bowed. Without looking up, he began. ‘Our daughter, Daisy, probably just got lost somewhere …’ His voice trailed off. Pauline rose awkwardly and moved next to him, placing her arm around his waist. She whispered in his ear then moved the microphone towards her, eyes anxious and wide.

‘This is a very difficult time for us. Daisy is our life. She is …’ Pauline paused, blinking rapidly. ‘She is just the sweetest girl you could ever meet. And smart.’ Her mouth lifted slightly. ‘We’re just so worried. She’s probably just got lost somewhere and is probably cold and scared and … We want her back so much. So much.’ Pauline’s voice started to crack. Bruce raised his head and took her hand. They looked at each other, helpless.

Bruce took a deep slow breath and turned again to the microphone. ‘We just want anyone in the area to keep a look out for her and call police if they see anything. She was riding her Malvern Star. A red one. You can see her photo and she’s such a good kid. She wouldn’t talk to strangers or anything and she always rides to the corner shop, so it’s not like her not to come back. If anyone can help, it would mean everything to us. She’s our only child and we just … we just want …’ He looked at Pauline in desperation.

‘We just want our little girl to come home,’ Pauline finished and then turned and sank against Bruce, her body shaking.

Rachel stared at Daisy’s photo — her long, light brown hair and carefree eyes — wondering what the little girl was like. Where might she have decided to go? What could have drawn her away from home? The police officer stood. ‘Righto, so that’s all for now. If you want more pictures, we’ll be doing a line search by the beach and continue with doorknocking in the local area. Thanks.’

Gary switched off the camera and looked at Rachel. ‘Let’s get the doorknock first then head to the beach. Bloody hope they find the poor kid.’

Rachel nodded mutely.

*   *   *   *   *

Positioned on a stretch of sandy steps leading up from the beach, the camera crew were filming the search through the dunes when they heard shouting from a group of police. They rushed in their direction. Rachel’s head pounded and the scrub scratched her legs as she ran, struggling to keep up with the camera crew. What were they saying? She couldn’t tell from their tone if it was good news or bad, but as she drew closer, she saw a police officer pointing to a red bicycle in the long grass.

‘Have they found her?’ she asked Gary, trying to catch her breath.

‘No, but it doesn’t look good,’ he replied quietly, as he continued filming. Rachel watched the police huddle as forensic officers moved in for further examination. It was Daisy’s bike. There was no sign of her.

Gary reached for his mobile. ‘Better get on the phone to Rob,’ he said. ‘Looks like you’ll be doing a live cross.’

Rachel’s hands flew up to her ears. ‘Oh no, all I can think of is the parents’ faces.’

Gary frowned. ‘Come on, Rach, it’s all part of the gig. Put your emotions in a box and get on with it.’

Rachel knew he was right. Ditch any feelings. Keep walking. Keep talking.

*   *   *   *   *

Three hours later, Gary was setting up his camera in a car park overlooking the beach. The Outside Broadcast truck arrived to establish the link and all was ready. Other crews from rival networks were also dotted along the foreshore, preparing for similar broadcasts for the six o’clock news. The light was fading, and Rachel wondered how it was possible to feel both numb and terrified at the same time. The countdown began to her first live cross. Just five minutes to go.

She shivered and pulled her coat tightly around her. It was colder near the beach, sharp winds blowing across the water. Only half an hour earlier, a flurry of police activity signalled a shocking discovery. Now Rachel’s carefully rehearsed report was useless and she would be the one responsible for delivering this news. She stared down at her scribbled notes, trying to memorise the details. Focus. Focus. Get the facts right and keep the emotions in check. She wondered how Daisy’s parents were. She stamped her feet on the ground, trying to rid herself of the shakes.

‘One minute to go, Rach,’ Gary’s voice came calmly from behind the camera.

‘Sure, all set.’ She checked her earpiece for the tenth time as she tried to brush her hair from her face. This was the lead story, which meant newsreader Jack Nolan would be asking her questions. Rachel was mildly relieved it wasn’t his co-reader Mary Masterson, who seemed to have a set against her. But more importantly, she must do the best she could, knowing what was at stake. She could picture Daisy’s small shining face before her and that was all that mattered.

The sound of the news theme burst into her head through the earpiece. Like a runaway train, there was no stopping the inevitable. Gary started the countdown and she heard Jack introduce the story.

‘And now we cross live to reporter Rachel Bentley, who is at the scene in Torquay. Rachel, what’s the latest?’

‘Jack, just before two o’clock today police found what they believe is Daisy’s bike, near the Torquay foreshore. They continued their search in that area and about half an hour ago, police found the body of a young girl in scrub behind the beach, nearly a kilometre from the bike, not far from where we are standing. Daisy’s parents are yet to identify the body. So we … um … can’t confirm that the body is definitely Daisy’s, but police fear the worst.’ She was on autopilot.

‘Rachel, are police able to say how the victim died?’

‘Again, no official confirmation at this stage, but early reports indicate it was a brutal attack. It’s suspected the young girl was sexually assaulted and a knife was used. It’s believed … well, I’m not quite sure how to say this, but she was attacked severely, making identification quite … ah … difficult.’

‘Rachel, this is potentially such tragic news for the parents. How are they coping?’

What a stupid question. ‘Well obviously, we haven’t spoken to the parents as they are with police identifying the body. It has been a shocking day for them. They spoke with the media earlier at a press conference, calling for help from the public.’

A taped piece of the parents’ appeal was played to air. Rachel watched the TV monitor on the ground before her, saw their faces from a time when they still held some hope that their daughter was alive. Then it was back to Jack.

‘So, Rachel, while we wait for the body to be identified, police will also be hunting for the killer. What action are they taking?’

‘Jack, they’ll be conducting a widespread doorknock of the area, as well as following up on clues from forensic. As you can well imagine, this horrific crime has rocked the local community and the town will be rallying behind the parents, offering their support and stepping up all efforts to help police find the killer. So for now, it’s back to you in the studio.’

‘Thank you, Rachel. We’ll cross back to you if further details come to hand. And now …’

‘All clear, Rach, well done.’ Gary took off his headphones, smiling.

‘Thanks,’ she said quietly, unclipping the microphone on her jacket.

‘Oh, and they’ve confirmed we’re all staying the night. Local hotel on the foreshore. That way we can be up early when the police get going on their hunt again.’

‘Sure,’ she said. ‘I thought as much.’

She wanted to call Tim but thought it best to wait till she was back in the privacy of her hotel room. Not that he’d be overly fussed. They hadn’t spent a lot of time together lately anyway.

The wind whipped across her face and she could taste the salt in the air. She turned to look over the dark sea. The sound of the waves chopping at the shore beat a rhythm that held a murky secret.

*   *   *   *   *

Rachel and the crew were back on the beach just after the sun came up, as police and forensic officers gathered to continue their search. Late the night before, police had confirmed the body of the young girl discovered in the dunes was Daisy Beattie. Now they were intensifying their hunt for her killer.

After filming more footage of the police search and doorknock, Rachel’s next job was to approach Daisy’s parents for an interview. They drove past the same quiet shopping strip in Torquay, then another couple of kilometres until they reached the corner store that Daisy had meant to cycle to last Sunday. They turned into the street and quickly spotted the Beattie home. The front picket fence was lined with flowers and tributes. Mourners gathered outside, standing still, wiping away tears and hugging each other. Rachel asked Gary to wait in the car. Put your emotions in a box, she kept repeating to herself as she tapped lightly on the plain timber door. If they don’t want to talk, run away.

A pale older woman with grey-streaked hair in a bun opened the door.

‘Hi, I’m Rachel Bentley from Channel Six. I’m so very sorry about Daisy,’ she said.

‘Thank you, dear. I’m Daisy’s grandmother, Come in, won’t you?’

‘Oh, well, not if you don’t want me to?’ She wanted to go back to the car. She shouldn’t be here. But it was her job. What kind of a reporter was she? Pathetic and emotional.

‘Oh, it’s fine,’ she said, ushering Rachel in. ‘Bruce and Pauline want as much publicity as possible to find that animal.’

The couple sat on a shabby corduroy couch, surrounded by friends and family. Flowers in vases and glass bottles crowded the room, filling the mantelpiece and overflowing on to the floor under the windows. People were milling about with cups of tea and fruitcake. Rachel seemed to be the only reporter.

‘Bruce, Pauline, I’m Rachel Bentley from Channel Six. I can’t imagine how you’re feeling right now and if you’d rather I leave, that’s fine.’

The pair looked up at her, as if trying to work out how to fit her into the picture.

‘I don’t think I can talk on camera … right now,’ said Pauline, her eyes wide and vacant. Rachel hoped she’d been dosed up on Valium.

‘No, I’ll do it,’ said Bruce. ‘I’ll do anything. We gotta catch that fucking bastard …’

But as he stood up, he took a deep breath and shuddered. Then, with a guttural roar, he turned, doubled over and fell to the floor, punching the couch with primal ferocity.

‘Oh, I should go. I’m so very, very sorry …’ Rachel looked on helplessly, the stares from the crowded room burning into her as a middle-aged man took her by the elbow and led her away.

‘It’s alright. You’re just doing your job. But these guys aren’t up to talking. I’m Daisy’s uncle. I’ll do the interview, okay?’

‘Of course,’ said Rachel.

Outside, Gary was waiting with the camera. More people filed past the house, leaving bouquets and gifts. One tribute had a photo of Daisy encircled by a wreath of roses. Rachel looked at the innocence in her eyes, and heard the waves crashing on the beach in the dark and the swish of the long grass in the dunes, sounds that now echoed pain and torture.

*   *  *   *   *

After driving back to Network Six and putting her story together, Rachel returned to her desk, weary. There was a note of congratulations on her keyboard from Tony, saying she’d handled her first live cross really well. She didn’t want praise. It felt wrong. She was relieved, however, that it hadn’t been a debacle.

That night, she drove home with mechanical precision. Keeping those emotions in a box was draining. On the outside everything had to be done very carefully to stop an implosion. A catch-up with her girlfriends might be the tonic she needed. She spoke briefly on the phone with Kate, who said the girls were heading to the Dogs Bar in St Kilda for a drink. Maybe she would join them.

She drove down a narrow street, craning to search for a park. She was aching to see Tim and put their world back on an even keel. Not only after the events of the last two days, but also after what had happened in Sydney. Rachel needed reassurance they were going to be okay.

Still no spare car spots. That was one of downsides of inner-city living — the shopping was great but the parking was rubbish. Nor was it the prettiest of locations; dotted with abandoned factories and scrappy tea-trees. Finally she found a park a block and a half from their grey weatherboard home. She walked quickly to cover the distance, jumping over cracks in the asphalt paving.

Bursting through the front door, she called out to Tim. No answer. For a moment she wondered if he’d organised a surprise party for her birthday. It was in four days, and he still hadn’t mentioned any plans to take her out or organise something with friends, which made her suspicious. The house appeared empty but as she neared his study, there was tapping on a keyboard. Of course. Tim was ensconced in front of his computer. Relief washed over her. The last thing she felt like was a surprise party.

A technological genius and a Mensa member, Tim had been retrenched from his programming job two months earlier and had made little attempt to find another. But Rachel wasn’t concerned. She knew how smart he was and the type of job he deserved was often difficult to come by. A recent spate of bills meant she’d had to dip into her savings, but she was confident it would only be short term. In the meantime, he kept himself busy playing online medieval battle games.

‘Hey there, sweetheart, still slaying them dragons?’ She swooped on him from behind, hugging him around the neck.

He lifted his cheek, eyes glued to the screen as she planted kisses over his face. ‘Uh huh … How was your day? Ah shit. I was nearing an all-time record!’ He ran a hand through his wavy brown hair. Overdue for a trim, it reached his shoulders.

Standing behind him, she gently massaged his neck. ‘Hmm. Actually, I’ve been away for two days, in case you didn’t notice?’

‘Of course. How was it?’ he said, eyes still trapped by the game.

‘Tim, for Christ’s sake, do you even care where I’ve been?’ She slapped his hands away from the keyboard and planted herself in front of the computer.

‘Jesus, Rach, you arrived home at a bad time! What the …?’

‘Because you’re playing a stupid computer game?’

‘Well, yes, as I said it was a near record and—’

‘I’ve been reporting on the murder of a six-year-old girl. Shit that happens in the real world.’ She walked off to get her phone. ‘I may as well go out.’

Tim followed her. ‘I’m sorry, Rach. Look, hang on, we can—’

‘I’m going to the Dogs Bar. You can join us later if you want to.’

‘Sure. I’ll come in an hour.’

She walked away to dial a cab. Right now she couldn’t even look at him.

——————————————————————————————————-

So there you have it. Mary also asked whether one option would have been to change the story so that poor Daisy was found alive. Sadly, in the real world, children who go missing under ten years of age are very rarely found alive. As a journalist, I couldn’t write something – even as fiction – that would seem to me to be so completely unrealistic, so I opted instead for an entirely new chapter.

The final opening chapter is a much lighter story about Rachel Bentley covering a story about a children’s Anzac Day service. There’s more humour, but the emotion of the day also let’s the reader see that Rachel has a big heart and is affected by the stories and the people she connects with on the road.

My eBook, Making Headlines

My eBook, Making Headlines

 

So if you’re looking for something to read tonight, download MAKING HEADLINES and read how the FIRST CHAPTER turned out in the final version of the book.

And please let me know what you think – DID I MAKE THE RIGHT DECISION?

 

It’s all about the FRITTATA

A weighty issue...

A weighty issue..r

In a recent Blog post about a weight-loss competition among a group of girlfriends, I mentioned that I’d write at a later date some of the diet tips I used to lose those five kilos. Finally here, it is!

Before I go any further, let me point out that:

  1. I am NOT a dietician, so please consult a medical professional before taking any of my advice
  2. I am aware and sensitive to the issues of those with eating disorders and am by no means encouraging unhealthy or extreme weight loss, but am also aware that for those who ARE overweight, any help and encouragement can be beneficial.

 

Great, now the disclaimers are out of the way, let’s head into the kitchen!

Alinta at work

Alinta at work

Oh, just one more thing… I should point out that a lot of the credit for this recipe and the constant and positive support behind my on-going pursuit for better health and a better body are due to my personal trainer – the wonderful ALINTA WILLET. Anyone looking for a personal trainer should sign up with her immediately! (details below)

Here’s the three tips Alinta has given me that have made the biggest difference to the way I eat and drink:

  1. Start the day with a glass of warm water and juice from half a lemon. Wait at least fifteen minutes before eating or drinking anything else.
  2. Eat a protein-based breakfast and leave the carbs till AFTER training. (Yes, you must do a weights workout!) This is where the magical FRITTATA comes in.
  3. Ditch white wine and drink red instead. I know those who know me well will be shocked to hear I have pretty much given up my much-loved Chardonnay for a glass of Shiraz (or two) at the end of the day and it’s made a massive difference.

Now let’s talk FRITTATA.

Due to the fact that I work in breakfast radio, (tune in to SmoothFM 91.5 from 6am till 9am every day to hear MIKE PERSO and myself on the More Music Breakfast Show) I was a little disheartened when Alinta told me I should stick to a protein breakfast in the mornings. How could I cook up a bacon and eggs feast between news and traffic reports?

That’s when Alinta’s face lit up and she told me she had the perfect solution.

FRITTATA.

Yep, this is a magical concept that will change your life!

With this recipe, you can cook up a HUGE casserole dish worth of FRITTATA and divide it in to ten portions. That means – working Monday to Friday – you have TEN breakfasts prepared from just ONE cook up! You place each portion in a plastic container – eat four fresh and freeze the rest. It’s brilliant. Just a minute and a half in the microwave and it’s ready to go. It’s so filling, you won’t feel hungry for hours. And it’s a healthy start to the day.

There are several versions I make – one with chicken – and one just with veggies but I think I’ll start with the lamb recipe.

INGREDIENTS

2 x 500g packs lamb mince
1 large onion
Spices: Cayenne pepper, Chinese Five Spice and Sumac (Sambel Olek is optional – if you like chilli)
Salt and pepper
1 punnet Perino tomatoes
1/2 punnet sliced mushrooms (optional)
1 dozen eggs
Dash of milk
Grated Parmesan cheese

METHOD

  1. Start by chopping up an onion and frying it in a pan with coconut oil till clear.

    Use coconut oil to fry one large onion

    Use coconut oil to fry one large onion

  2. Remove onion and place in a large casserole dish, along with a punnet of Perino tomatoes sliced in half. (uncooked) Sprinkle on salt and pepper.

    Tomato and onion

    Tomato and onion

  3. Fry up the lamb mince in two batches, adding the three spices – SUMAC, Cayenne Pepper and Chinese Five Spice as who stir. Add around 2 or 3 teaspoons of SUMAC, two dashes of Cayenne Pepper and two dashes of Chinese Five Spice for each batch. I also love to add a teaspoon of Sambel Olek (chilli paste) for extra spice.
    Frying the mince

    Frying the mince

    4. When the mince is browned, add it to the casserole dish on top of the onion and tomato.

    Putting the mince in the dish

    Putting the mince in the dish

    5. For extra substance and flavour – but this part is optional – fry up half a punnet of sliced mushrooms and add this on top, then pat the meat and veggies down into a firm base.

    Patting the mince and vegies into shape

    Patting the mince and vegies into shape

    6. Beat up a dozen large eggs in a big mixing bowl. (sometimes you need 14, depending on the size of the eggs) Add a dash of milk to pump up the volume, then pour over the meat and veggie base in the casserole dish. Sprinkle a light dusting of Parmesan cheese on top – unless you are being more diet-conscious – in which case, ditch the cheese!

    Pour the eggs and milk mixture over the mince then add a sprinkling of Parmesan

    Pour the eggs and milk mixture over the mince then add a sprinkling of Parmesan

    7. Bake in an oven at 180 C for roughly 40 minutes – checking after 30 minutes to see how it’s going. When it’s golden on top, remove from the oven and let cool for five minutes.

    The finished result!

    The finished result!

    8. Slice into ten portions by cutting one row horizontally and four lines vertically. Then place each piece in an individual plastic container for storage.

    Individual dishes

    Individual dishes

    And voila! That’s ten brekkies cooked in just one hit! Unless you have to share with the family…

    Breakfast for ten sittings

    Breakfast for ten sittings

    It really is the best way to start the day! The Thai chicken version is pretty tasty too.

    Oh, and don’t forget, if you want to sign up with the lady who has million more wonderful tips on food and exercise, here’s Alinta’s details. Happy eating and let me know how the frittata works for you if you give this recipe a go!

    Alinta's business card

    Alinta’s business card

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Night To Remember – The Book Launch for MAKING HEADLINES

My eBook, Making Headlines

My eBook, Making Headlines

Today, it’s exactly three weeks since the Book Launch for my eBook MAKING HEADLINES and life has been so crazy since I let it loose on the world, that I’ve only just got around to Blogging about the actual night.

Prior to the launch, I wrote a post about my indecision as to whether I should hold a party or not. Post-party, I can say without a doubt – I am absolutely thrilled I went ahead with the night and will hold it dear as one of the most significant events in memory.

Yep – that’s a big statement, so let me explain. To me, it was a celebration of a project that I was passionate about. So much so, that despite having many major hurdles and doubts along the way, I saw it through to the end, allowing it to absorb a huge part of my life.  The ultimate goal was to have the book published, so I could share this story with the world and hopefully provide a tale that would engage, entertain and also offer a few insights into an unusual world. To have the book be given the tick of approval by a major well-respected publisher – Harper Collins – is, for me, a major achievement and something well worth celebrating. On the night, everyone who is an important part of my life and who was able to be there, turned up to celebrate with me and the room was filled with the most wonderful, supportive energy. So many people commented on what a happy evening it was – and that’s exactly how it felt for me too.

Hotel Brighton

Hotel Brighton

 

The venue, at HOTEL BRIGHTON, was perfect, with the upstairs function area providing a classy and intimate environment – as well as fabulous food and service. I’d highly recommend it to anyone looking to host a private function! There was also a screen so we could show my Book Trailer.

 

Big thanks to everyone for coming and helping to make it such a special occasion. Especially to my dear friends Brigitte Duclos and Mitch Catlin who took on the roles of MC and interviewer respectively, making it much a more entertaining night than if I’d been up there in front of everyone on my own!

Brigitte Duclos and Ann Peacock

Brigitte Duclos and Ann Peacock

Mitch Catlin and me in matching polka dots!

Mitch Catlin and me in matching polka dots!

As well, a huge debt of gratitude to our friends and Fletch’s NEIGHBOURS fellow cast members for coming along and helping garner media support  – and for hamming it up beautifully for the cameras. Here are some of the best shots from these wonderful people:

Jackie Woodburne, Stefan Dennis, Gail Easdale and Natalie Bassingthwaigthe

Jackie Woodburne, Stefan Dennis, Gail Easdale and Natalie Bassingthwaigthe

Stefan Dennis and Fletch

Stefan Dennis and Fletch

Fletch and Natalie Bassingthwaighte

Fletch and Natalie Bassingthwaighte

 

 

 

 

 

 

A shocking read! Gail Easdale, Jackie Woodburne and Natalie Bassingthwaighte

Gail Easdale, Jackie Woodburne and Natalie Bassingthwaighte

Stefan Dennis and Fletch

Stefan Dennis and Fletch

Here’s some of my speech from the night, along with some photos from the evening:

———————————————————————————————–

“I could never have come this far without the help of an incredible writing teacher and she’s here tonight. Thank you SO much to Olga Lorenzo from the RMIT Writing course. Olga taught the Creative Writing unit and I studied with her for three years. I could not have finished this book without her invaluable input and guidance.

Olga is also herself an acclaimed and brilliant writer and has her second novel THE LIGHT ON THE WATER coming out in a few weeks, (TODAY!) so congratulations Olga – I can’t wait to read it.

Olga Lorenzo and me

Olga Lorenzo and me

A big thank you as well to all my fellow students at RMIT who gave me valuable feedback during work-shopping sessions in class. In particular, to my friends that grew from that course to develop our own writers’ group – to Ann Bolch, Lisa Bigelow, Kaye Holder and Clare Strahan.

An extra special thank you to Ann Bolch who also worked as the first editor of the completed manuscript and did a superb job. If you ever need a good editor, Ann is exceptionally talented and very, very wise.

A congratulatory hug from Ann Bolch

A congratulatory hug from Ann Bolch

Lisa Bigelow and me

Lisa Bigelow and me

As well as the Writer’s Group, two of my friends and my sister took the time and effort to read early drafts. Thank you to Jill and Rick Molinsky for your encouragement and support.

Also a huge thank you to my dear, wicked, gorgeous, talented, close friend, Rochelle Nolan, who is sadly no longer with us. Rochy was always my biggest supporter, read an early draft of the book and pepped me up whenever I was feeling negative about my writing. I wish she could have been here to see the book in its final published form. I miss her every day.

To my dear friend and stepsister, Sian Prior, another superbly talented writer, who inspired me to take up the RMIT PWE course in the first place.

To my wonderful friend and author Ellie Nielsen, who also not only encouraged me to take up the RMIT course, but inspired me with her own book ‘Buying A Piece of Paris’ and then invited me to that very apartment where we shared what was ostensibly a writing sabbatical but also involved plenty of champagne in the work-shopping of ideas, lively conversation and literary debate.

Ellie Nielsen, Michelle Van Raay and me

Ellie Nielsen, Michelle Van Raay and me

To special friends who were always there with love and support – to Julie, Brigitte, Andy and Mitch – as well as all my friends who came on the night.

Anne Peacock, Libby Ross, Andy Webster and Julie Milnes

Anne Peacock, Libby Ross, Andy Webster and Julie Milnes

Steve and Ineke Carey with me in the middle!

Steve and Ineke Carey with me in the middle!

Fletch, Tania Gogos-Wilson, Jen and Ross Wilson

Fletch, Tania Gogos-Wilson, Jen and Ross Wilson

Margaret Zita and Maryanne Gianarelli

Margaret Zita and Maryanne Gianarelli

Nick Holland and Aki Kotzamichalis

Nick Holland and Aki Kotzamichalis

To my work colleagues at Smoothfm; to Jane Elliot for her help on the publicity front and to Mike Perso, for his amazing and enthusiastic on-air support.

Mike Perso and me

Mike Perso and me

Tanya Simpson, me and Jane Elliot

Tanya Simpson, me and Jane Elliot

Nova's Matt Smithson, Sophia Lazarides and Matt Thomson

Nova’s Matt Smithson, Sophia Lazarides and Matt Thomson

THE SMOOTH TEAM - Program Director Pete Clay, Lauren Saylor, Mike Perso, me and Ty Frost

THE SMOOTH TEAM – Program Director Pete Clay, Lauren Saylor, Mike Perso, me and Ty Frost

Ty Frost and me

Ty Frost and me

To my former news-reading partner, Mal Walden, for understanding that NO character in this book is based on him!

Mal Walden and me

Mal Walden and me

Present and past co-hosts!

Present and past on-air colleagues

To Harper Collins; for agreeing to publish this work; in particular, Mary Rennie for going above and beyond in managing to take this book to the next level from its original draft.

To my parents and step-parents; Mum and Ken, Dad and Margot, for their never-ending encouragement and support.

Me and Dad (John Hansen)

Me and Dad (John Hansen)

And lastly, to my immediate family – my husband, Alan, and two children, Veronica and Tom. I am very much indebted to you all for putting up with my absences while I was holed up in my office, writing. For understanding that when I disappeared into ‘Book World’ I should not be interrupted.

To Alan, for his patience and love throughout; to Tom for actually reading the first few chapters and proving to that me he will one day be the best writer in the family; and to Veronica for finding great words to replace the rude ones.

My beautiful children Veronica and Tom, with Tom's gorgeous girlfriend Carrington Hannah

My beautiful children Veronica and Tom, with Tom’s gorgeous girlfriend Carrington Hannah

————————————————————————————————-

So that was my night of nights! Again, thank you to all who came and to all who have since bought the book online. Thanks also for the continuing social media support. If you forgot to post something on social media on the night, please retweet this Blog to help get word out about the book. The more it sells, the more chance I have of it being printed as a hard-copy book!

My eBook, Making Headlines

My eBook, Making Headlines

 

For those wanting to buy a copy, MAKING HEADLINES is available on iBooks and Amazon AND Google books.

And for those interested in enquiring about a function at HOTEL BRIGHTON, phone the wonderful Grace Eddy, Functions Co-ordinator, on 9596 3244.

 

A Weighty Challenge – our own BIGGEST LOSER competition

A weighty issue...

A weighty issue…

So the Christmas holiday period of over-indulgence has long come to an end and most of us are looking at the results on our waistlines…

One girlfriend, Julie, decided to take drastic action and has come up with a brilliant idea that involves getting a group of friends together to stage our own ‘BIGGEST LOSER’ competition.

Here’s how it works:

1. It costs $200 to enter the competition
2. Weekly weigh-in is every week at 10am Sunday – 2nd weigh-in was today
3. The challenge goes for 8 weeks and the winner is the one who loses the most percentage weight i.e. if you weigh in at 100 kilos and you end up 90 kilos then you have lost 10% body weight.
4. We will have a 6-week makeover day where we pamper ourselves using the money from saving on food and alcohol.
5. With 8 entrants, we have $1600 in the kitty and the winnings will go as follows:
Winner – $1000
Runner up- $300
The last $300 will go towards French champagne and an end of competition break-up party.

Alinta at work

Alinta at work

After weigh-in today, I’ve lost a kilo in the last week but am coming in at third last on the bottom of a list of eight. Wanting some extra help, I’ve turned to my wonderful personal trainer, Alinta Willet, for some more tips – especially about what to EAT.

Alinta says it’s always best to start he day with a glass of half a squeezed lemon in hot water to:

  1. Kick-start the metabolism
  2. Help flush out toxins
  3. Help curb the appetite

About half an hour later, Alinta advises sticking to a protein-based breakfast and staying away from any carbs till late afternoon after a work-out, but she DOES allow some carbs for dinner. This is a bit of a reverse-theory from what I’ve usually worked with but after trying this for some time last year, it did seem to work and now I just have to get back on the program.

Here’s a small section from my chat with Alinta:

JEN: So why it is important to eat a high protein breakfast?

ALINTA: Starting your day with a protein rich breakfast will keep you fuller for longer. It will elevate the neurotransmitters – dopamine and acetylcholine  – which will increase brain function throughout the day and motivate you to train. High GI carb breakfasts produce an initial spike in blood sugar levels followed by a rapid decline, leading to hunger and carb cravings.

JEN: Is that good for everyone?

ALINTA: It depends on the individual and what you’re hoping to achieve. But if you’re wanting to lose weight, then this will be more effective.

JEN: I love this lemon-water idea you put me on to. Tell me more about that.

ALINTA: Yes, it’s great. You start the day with half a lemon in warm water, which helps you rehydrate after being asleep for so long which helps with the cells in your body and for brain function. It also helps with metabolism and alkalises your body to help clear out the toxins.

Training with Alinta

Training with Alinta

JEN: How many times should I be working out?

ALINTA: Ideally four to five sessions a week is good.

JEN: Long workouts or are short hard and fast ones better?

ALINTA: I think for women keeping the workouts under 45 minutes is good because after that amount of time, your cortosol elves start to rise and your testosterone drops which puts you under more stress. More cortisol in your system helps the body to store fat, which isn’t good. Stress is one of the reasons why we can end up storing fat around the stomach.

Now that’s good news! Too much time in the gym can actually be counter-productive? Excellent!

(P.S. Coming up in one of the next blogs, I’ll share Alinta’s famous Lamb Frittata recipe that I now cook for breakfast – it’s delicious.)

To have and to hold – or not?

Thinking, thinking...

Thinking, thinking…

Writing a book is a bit like a pregnancy.

Often you think about it for quite a while before you get on with it.

Then there’s the long gestation period, the hard work you put in trying to make it the best it can be, and finally, the long-awaited arrival of your carefully nurtured baby.

 

 

Birth of a book

Birth of a book

With the actual birth, there can be debate about the best way for this to happen. A c-section or a natural birth? An epidural or go natural?

Likewise with publishing, there are also plenty of options. However, it’s becoming more difficult to have a book produced in hard copy – REAL PAPER –  with publishers unwilling to take risks on untested authors.

 

\With the eBook business booming, it would seem more and more established publishing houses are moving with the times and looking to the internet for success. Whether you like the book or not, E.L. James Fifty Shades of Grey made it’s incredible leap to the top of global best-seller lists – selling more than 125 million copies worldwide – starting off life as an eBook.

Of course authors have choices. If you can’t find a publisher, you can always opt to self-publish – whether it be hard-copy or online.

Making Headlines

Making Headlines

For myself, while I’d love a hard-copy version of my own book MAKING HEADLINESto have and to hold – it seems for the moment, I’m going to be marching forth into the world as a new author – waving the PLATFORM PILGRIM flag.

(Thanks to my ever-encouraging writer friend Lisa Bigelow for coming up with that innovative tagline!)

Yes, thanks to Harper Collins Publishing, I am about to become a Platform Pilgrim. My eBook will be launched on Thursday, February 4. And that’s because I would much prefer my book be given the tick of approval from a recognised publisher that has a wonderful heritage as Australia’s oldest and one of the most respected companies in the business, than do this on my own.

Sure, in the long run I’d love nothing more than to have a REAL book in my hands – but for the moment, I still consider my eBook to be an achievement of which to be proud.

And LOOK, it’s already listed on the Harper Collins website and you can pre-order!!!

Harper Collins website

Harper Collins website

Yep, and it even costs less than a cup of coffee!!

My biggest dilemma with becoming a Platform Pilgrim was deciding whether to host a book launch or not. Would people think it was over-the-top and silly – given they couldn’t leave with a signed copy of the tome itself?

In the end, after much debate with Fletch and friends, I have decided to go ahead and have a party. After all, it’s the end of a VERY long and arduous road and I think I deserve to celebrate my baby’s birth.

Harper Collins have also kindly agreed to provide ‘Book Samplers’ on the night of the launch, so guests WILL leave with a couple of chapters in a small printed mini-book, as a taste of what’s to come in the novel. So yes, there will be REAL PAPER given out on the night.

It’s taken many years AND tears to finish MAKING HEADLINES and I am so delighted and relieved that it is finally making its way into the world. All up, it’s more than eight years since I started thinking about this project. Now that’s one helluva long pregnancy.

Bring on the champagne!

A champagne moment

A champagne moment

 

 

 

The Year That Was – the highs and lows of 2015

It’s always a nostalgic time. The last day of the year inevitably leads to reflection about the year that was – dreams won and shattered; friendships rekindled and lost; unexpected joys and tragic lows.

I know it hasn’t been a great year for many and I’ve also had my fair share of sad times, but I’m going to take pause to put on my Pollyanna hat for a moment and try and celebrate the highlights.

Before going down that path, I want to pay tribute to two people no longer with us. It’s my way of keeping their memory alive.

Rochelle and me

Rochelle and me

I can’t say ‘goodbye’ to 2015 without sharing one more memory of my dear friend, Rochelle. Her passing was such a massive shock and her loss has been so hard to come to terms with. That sadness will stay with me and our friends who all miss her so much, and will do for years to come. Only two years ago we had a New Year’s Eve party at our place and of course, karaoke was a part of the evening. Rochelle blew everyone out of the water with her version of the Adele song ‘Someone Like You.’ It was a heart-wrenching and poignant rendition and the only moment in the night where everyone stopped to listen. Singing was just one of her talents.

 

We thought about having another New Year’s Eve party this year but I’m not quite ready for that yet. Maybe next year.

Nic Jacobson

Nic Jacobson

 

And then for my son and his friends, just over a week after VCE exams finished, their schoolmate Nic Jacobson was tragically killed in a car accident. The school community rallied around Nic’s parents, Laurie and Jane and his sister Marni. Unspeakable sadness. Inexplicable loss and devastation. Tom had been at school with Nic from Prep through to Year 12. Our hearts go out to Nic’s family and you will forever be in our thoughts.

 

 

Before those tragedies, there were happy times. Afterwards too, although those days are also tinged with a sense of loss as you try to remember the special moments and be grateful for what was and then to live in the moment, knowing how precious and short life can be.

So for now, I’m going to focus on the highlights that made the year special – some planned, some unexpected – but all bringing light and some joy to temper the sadness. Here’s my Top Ten for 2015:

  1. Wedding Anniversary holiday on the Greek Islands. I Blogged about this so you can read back if you want to learn more!
  2. Drinking my Porn Star cocktail

    Drinking my Porn Star cocktail

2. Continuing to work at Smoothfm 91.5 with Mike Perso on the More Music Breakfast Show. 

Mike Perso and me

Mike Perso and me

3. Being nominated for an ACRA (Australian Commercial Radio Award). I didn’t win, but just to be nominated was a huge thrill.

The Smooth News team

The Smooth News team at the ACRAs

4. Fletch celebrating Neighbours 30th anniversary after starring on the show for 20 himself. That was one helluva party at the Carousel!

Fletch and me at Neighbours 30th party

Fletch and me at Neighbours 30th party

5. Daughter Ronnie starting out in the hospitality industry and doing really well. Now working at WILD HOLLY and loving it – although I don’t think she’s allowed to do THIS any more!

It all started with licking the bowl...

It all started with licking the bowl…

6. Starting back at the gym – training with Alinta and getting fit again.

Training with Alinta

Training with Alinta

7. Tom finishing Year 12 and doing brilliantly with his VCE score – not to mention winning the RUSDEN House leadership trophy… He says I shouldn’t mention this because it’s bragging but quite frankly, I don’t give a damn. WELL DONE TOM!

Tom's winning year

Tom’s winning year

8. Finishing my novel MAKING HEADLINES and preparing for next year’s book launch.

Making Headlines

Making Headlines

 

9. Performing at the Starry Night Ball with Fletch – helping to raise funds for the Alannah and Madeleine Foundation – and fitting into my silver hot pants – thanks to Alinta!

Starry Night ball

Starry Night ball

10. Ending the year by hosting a family Christmas at our house with everyone happy and healthy!

Our Christmas tree - mostly decorated by Ronnie!

Our Christmas tree – mostly decorated by Ronnie!

A testament to the great Christmas we had – I don’t even have one group photo because we were all having so much fun, no one remembered to take a picture or think about posting a social media snap even once. Now that’s living in the moment.

 

The horror of VCE – Teens under pressure

It’s the toughest time of year for VCE students who are right in the middle of exams and facing intense pressure to do their best. I remember it myself like it was yesterday and now I’m watching my son Tom go through the same ordeal. But is it the same? Is it worse for students these days because competition to get into tertiary courses is more fierce or is it all relative?

Tom studying

Tom studying

With so much media focus on how difficult a time it is for students, I thought I’d try and get some answers from some teenagers themselves. That can be hard – particularly with young men – so I decided to take Tom (who has just turned 18) out to lunch, along with my sixteen-year-old nephew, Jesper, who is facing Year 10 exams, to ask them first-hand how they are coping. Which they found highly amusing…

Out to lunch with Tom and Jesper

Out to lunch with Tom and Jesper

Here’s how our chat went.

JEN: Jesper, you’re going through exams right now. Is it intense?

JESPER: I think it’s pretty low key because it’s not relevant to my VCE score. It’s the last year where it doesn’t count. And the subjects I’m doing now, I’m not doing next year, apart from English, so it doesn’t matter so much. I can just cruise through.

Jesper ponders his future

Jesper ponders his future

JEN: Have you got an idea about what you want to do after school yet? Is there a lot of pressure to make up your mind early on?

JESPER: There is a lot of pressure with teachers asking you what you want to do. For me, I think it will be interior design. Or maybe… no, I think interior design.

(I’m very impressed he knows already!)

JEN: And Tom you’re right in the middle of Year 12 exams. How are you finding it?

TOM: It’s a pleasure to be here. (heavy sarcasm and comedic tone) Jennifer, great question firstly, and thank you again for having me here.

JEN: If you’re going to be a politician, you’re going to have to stop the avoidance tactics and learn to answer the question. Oh hang on, no, you’ll be a great politician… So HOW ARE YOU COPING with the pressure of exams?

TOM: Another good question. No, it’s a lot of pressure. These are last exams I’ll ever do at school. Lot of people make you feel like you’re whole future is hanging in the balance when you go into those exams, so yes, a lot of pressure. You’re hands shake a bit when you’re writing answers sometimes, so a decent amount of pressure.

JEN: You told me about one of your mates who was so terrified before an exam that he couldn’t even face being near his friends before walking in to the exam room…

TOM: Yes, one of my friends had to go off into a classroom to be by himself and try and calm down. Then he came outside the exam room where we were all huddled, having a chat, and my friend took himself into a corner. His hands were together his head was down his eyes were closed and it looked like he was praying. So he looked very stressed.

A lot of kids are also really exhausted from studying so much. They put pressure on themselves to do well. And there are a lot of stories about kids having problems with their parents – not getting along at all. The parents want them to study harder and get so angry that a couple of boys have run away from home.

JEN: And how have your parents been?

At least Tom can manage a smile!

At least Tom can manage a smile!

TOM: Just atrocious. I’ve detested every second I’ve spent with them. (He’s smiling, so it’s okay…) No, in all seriousness, they’ve been good. Very reasonable expectations – not too much pressure. Although occasionally when I come downstairs to have a break and I’m at the table eating, my mother will say, ‘Gee, study’s going well,’ which is perhaps a bit unfair. Especially at 10.30 at night.

JEN: I’m sorry. I think I said that when I came home after being out so thought you’d been taking it easy all night. Sorry. Jesper, let’s get back to you… (and avoid Tom’s home truths- ouch!) Jesper, when you hear Tom talk about Year 12, does that worry you or do you think you’ll be fine?

JESPER: I think I’ll probably be more relaxed. I’m probably not the brightest kid out there, but at least I know what I want to do so I can focus on that. (He is very bright – and modest!)

JEN: And you’ve got better social skills which is a huge plus.

Taking time out

Taking time out

JESPER: Yep, a relaxed Libran.

TOM: Does he? Meaning I don’t?

JEN: No, I wasn’t comparing him to you. Just saying that he’s better with people than your average bookworm academic-type. He’s a charmer and that will be a huge plus when he’s persuading clients to take on his interior design work. (much laughter)

TOM: Well, you can’t study for that.

JEN: No, but Tom you’re a charmer too. You have heaps of friends! What are you all planning to do after your last exam to celebrate?

TOM: Just go back to a friend’s house and have a quiet cup of tea and biscuits while we recount stories about school then go home at 9pm and go to bed and have a nice relaxed time. (more laughter)

JEN: Right… So is there much excitement about the end being near?

TOM: Yes, I just got a message from Ted on the way here – a group chat – saying only ‘Nine more days, fellas.’ We’re all looking at the calendar. I have a countdown clock on my computer till the final exam so it will be a fantastic feeling when we finally finish.

JEN: And what do you want to do career-wise?

TOM: Be a stay-at-home parent.

JEN: Oh nice. So how many grandchildren will I be having?

TOM: I’m looking at between 17 and 21.

JEN: So you’re planning to move out of home?

TOM: I’m planning to live with my parents forever.

JEN: You might need to get a job to feed that many tiny mouths.

TOM: Both my parents are in the media so I’ll be fine.

JEN: I think you should be in the media.

TOM: Ah, thanks, Mum!

Jesper offers Tom some advice on their radio show together

Jesper offers Tom some advice on their radio show together

JEN: And I think Jesper could be in the business too.

TOM: Well, this is where Jesper and I want to announce our new radio show together. Actually it’s a podcast.

JESPER: Yes, we’re going to be stars.

JEN: Okay, but can you just get through exams first?

BOTH: Sure.

JEN: Then you can be stars. Thanks guys, Good chat. Now get back to the books.

Well I think that went quite well. A few stories about the rigours of Year 12, but ultimately I think Tom’s coping brilliantly. I’m incredibly proud of the hard work he’s put in consistently all year and the marks he’s already achieved.

Good luck Tom for the last two exams next week!

But while it’s been a tough year for VCE students, it’s also been hard on the parents.

Now I’m working on the More Music Brekkie Show with Mike Person at smoothfm, we’ve been chatting all year about both having sons in Year 12 and what we are all going through. Good luck to Will as well!

And while our sons will be letting of steam at the end of it all with SCHOOLIES, we thought it was time to give the parents a special celebration to mark the end of a tough year as well.

So that’s why we’re organising a ‘PARENTIS’ night – next week. If you also have a teenager studying VCE, you can join us AND be in the running to win a trip to India! – See more at: http://www.smoothfm.com.au/station/smooth915/show/mike-perso#sthash.bfBSW3rh.dpuf

Getting in shape – how ALINTA THE GURU has convinced me this is the BEST way

On the NEVER-ENDING quest to be healthy and lose weight, I’ve recently signed on with a new personal trainer and she is INSPIRATIONAL!

Her name is ALINTA WILLET and she is one very cool lady. And super fit.

Alinta Willet

Alinta Willet

In fact, Alinta is so inspirational, I now refer to her as ALINTA THE GURU when I chat about her wonderful fitness tips on air with Mike Perso on the SmoothFM More Music Breakfast Show.

I decided to go back to the gym because I knew if I didn’t commit to working out WITH SOMEONE ELSE on a regular basis, I’d never have the will power to do it on my own. And I was about ten kilos overweight… Early morning radio is not good for the waistline!!

Alinta is 33 years old and has been a personal trainer for about 18 months.

When she hit thirty, Alinta felt it was time for a career change. She’d been working in the hospitality industry for a long time and the lifestyle was taking a toll.

A lightbulb moment!

A light bulb moment!

After suffering some health issues of her own, she was inspired by a girlfriend to take up weight training and had a….

HUGE LIGHT BULB MOMENT!!

‘I thought this is great and everyone should be doing it. I became quite passionate about weight training. IT’S THE HOLY GRAIL!  I couldn’t believe I hadn’t done it before and thought it was amazing.’

 

REALLY??? When I heard this from Alinta three months ago, I was skeptical. You see, I’d returned to the gym out of a feeling of necessity and duty – not because I thought it would be the answer to my prayers.

Turns out, Alinta has helped me to make some big changes to my body and I am starting to see what she’s talking about. Everything she has been saying is ABSOLUTELY RIGHT and makes complete sense.

In a nutshell, here are the benefits of weight training, according to Alinta The Guru.

Training with Alinta

Training with Alinta

  1. Body toning
  2. Anti-ageing
  3. Weight loss is easier because muscle burns fat
  4. Positive thinking
  5. Less stress
  6. Mental and physical discipline
  7. Can overcome back pain
  8. Body strength
  9. Improves overall health
  10. Decreases blood pressure
  11. Improves sleeping

 

 

Alinta’s enthusiasm is infectious too. She really does LOVE her job and our chats during the work out sessions make the time spent at the gym fun as well. Here’s how our conversation about weight training went:

JEN: SO tell my why I should work out?

ALINTA: There are SO many benefits from weight training. Not only does it make you stronger physically, I believe it makes you stronger mentally as well. It’s a discipline. As well, you are pushing yourself to your limits each time. If you manage to get through a tough session, it’s a good feeling and you feel like you’ve achieved something. It’s a win! The more wins the better. Each workout is a win.

JEN: Have you been able to see results with your clients?

ALINTA: I’ve been getting some great results. Nothing makes me happier than when clients come to me and say they don’t have back pain anymore or they’re losing the weight they want to lose. It’s why I do it – it’s so rewarding.

JEN: Do you ever get bored?

ALINTA: No! I love what I do and being able to change people’s lives for the better. That’s my mission in life. To help as many people as I can to become stronger, fitter, healthier and happier.’

(See? I told you she was a wonderful person!)

JEN: How does weight training help the body lose fat?

ALINTA:  Lifting weights helps to build fast twitch muscles that raise your metabolism. The more muscle you have the more calories you burn at rest. There’s also the afterburner effect of exercise that can last for as long as 38 hours after your workout.

(I really like this point – that more muscle burns more calories – even when you’re NOT working out!)

JEN: What about the risks of becoming too muscle-bound? As a woman, I don’t want to look like a beefcake…

ALINTA: You won’t! It would take an enormous amount of hours to look like a body-builder. I also tailor individual programs for each client, so everyone’s workout is different. You can’t have a cookie cutter gym program for everybody.

JEN: One thing I love about working out with you is that you also manage to fix tight spots in my neck or back that are causing me problems. Do you do that for everyone or am I special?

ALINTA: Well, you are special but all the workouts are based on structural balance. That means it’s important to fix any structural abnormalities for any individual. Once your body structure is better, everything else will follow. Another reason why I love weight training so much is that I used to wake up with chronic neck and back problems every day before I started training properly and now I don’t get that at all.

JEN: What are the other health benefits?

ALINTA: Strength training does so much! It decreases blood pressure, improves heart function by increasing arterial function and decreasing inflammation. It also improves hormone levels by helping to eliminate oestrogen – which means less cancer risk and lower body fat.

It can also help if you’re trying to have a baby! Working with weights improves reproductive function.

Weight training can enhance the nervous system and gene pathways, with new evidence emerging evidence that shows how weight lifting prevents ageing by rebuilding damaged tissues. It also leads to better brain function and coordination of movement.

Jen: Cool! So I’m going to be stronger, brighter, younger, healthier AND smarter??

Alinta: Sure! And that is WHY weight training is the HOLY GRAIL!

Me and Alinta

Me and Alinta

So you can see why I’ve been converted! Since training with ALINTA THE GURU, I have lost more than five kilos and feel much healthier and more toned than I have for years. Nor do the sessions every get dull, as Alinta changes my program about every six weeks.

Alinta also has plenty of clever tips about healthy eating. And drinking! But this Blog is long enough already, so let’s save that advice for another chat.

And if you’d like to work out with ALINTA THE GURU, here’s her details. Get ready to feel fantastic!

Alinta's business card