Taking Some Time Out

Taking Some Time Out

After some time out from my blog, I feel I need to write about the current situation with the Covid-19 pandemic and how it is affecting people in my local area.

Technical Issues With My Blog

I have been having some time out from my blog.  Basically I ghosted Midlifestylist.  There were several reasons for this, one of which is that I “broke” my website.  I have been trying to fix it but to no avail.  I put a new plugin on my website which does automatic backups.  One of the plugin’s features is that it tidies up your photo gallery.  I thought that would be a good idea because I know I have a few images on the website that I don’t use.  I thought it was going to delete 10 images but it deleted almost everything.  

Images are a vital part of my website because I use them to illustrate statistics and as part of my guides.  I have spent a lot of time creating them.  It is devastating to lose so much from my website.  I attempted to restore an older version of my website from a backup file but have not been able to do it.  The technical aspects of running a website have always been challenging for me because I am self taught and really have no idea what I’m doing half the time.  It was the last straw for me and I had to step away from it or I would have exploded!

Tough Subject Matter

Prior to that I had been writing and recording episodes for my podcast.  The subject material was always going to be tough because it is about my BRCA2 genetic mutation.  The last episode was about prostate cancer, which has impacted my family in a huge way.  Writing about the cancers that have affected my family, and the ones that I have a high risk of getting like melanoma and pancreatic cancer, caused a lot of emotion.  That also was a deciding factor for me taking a break from my blog.

Readjusting to Work

I increased my hours at work and have been struggling with fatigue from the shift work.  Because I still have frequent medical appointments to attend, and chronic health issues, I have struggled at times.  I love my job and I’m so glad to be back at work.  I feel very blessed to have such a supportive boss and I will never take my job for granted again.  I just know that I need to maintain a good work/life balance.  I am currently doing five shifts a fortnight and aim for six.  I know that getting back to seven shifts is almost definitely out of the question because I was struggling with that many prior to my time off last year.  I’m just happy to be back and I know it was a huge achievement to get there.

All of these factors combined lead me to taking a break from blogging.  I didn’t want to just churn out anything and I felt that at times that is what I was doing.  I wasn’t happy with what I was writing.  I would rather write less often and with passion for the subject matter.  Having a break has been good for me.  I won’t be writing as often as I did before as publishing a blog piece weekly is just too difficult for me.

Border Closures Due to the Pandemic

The thing that made me decide to write again today is the current situation with Covid-19.  There are some issues that I am not happy with that I would like to write about.  Australia is divided in a way I never thought I’d see happen.  I live in Queensland which is a lucky state to live in.  Our Covid-19 numbers have always been low compared to the rest of the country and any outbreaks are quickly staunched by short sharp lock-downs.  We have never seen the high numbers here, meanwhile New South Wales and Victoria to the south of us have struggled with high numbers and lengthy lock-downs.

As a result we are isolated behind an impenetrable border at the moment, not allowing anyone to enter our state at the current time.  The problem with this is that, in their effort to keep Covid-19 out, our leaders have created other issues.  The worst problem is that they now will not allow medical staff to cross the border.  Many of the staff in hospitals, nursing homes, medical centres etc. come from Northern New South Wales.  The Queensland government has deemed them to be non-essential so they are not allowing them through.  

Media Coverage Does Not Reflect The Truth

The media has not picked up on the fact that they are not allowing doctors and nurses who are fully immunised through, even with a letter from management to say they are essential.  The result of that is that staff are doing double shifts and overtime to cover them.  Meanwhile these perfectly capable Fully Immunised staff are on full pay at home.  You won’t see that on mainstream media because they are too busy covering protests and people sneaking through the border and getting caught.

I have a major issue with the media’s coverage of this pandemic.  They have been the cause of the distrust that the public has towards the Covid-19 vaccines.  If they hadn’t made such a big deal out of the small number of people getting reactions from the vaccines, there wouldn’t have been so much fear in the community and our vaccination rates would have been much higher.  The truth is that every vaccination causes side effects to a certain number of people.  The risk of getting a blood clot from the Covid-19 virus is much higher than from the vaccine.  The public is given a skewed picture of the risks. 

Vaccination Rates 

In Australia the vaccination rollout started with nursing home patients and people who already had medical issues.  The rate of vaccination complications is always going to be higher in these people than in the rest of the community.  The media sensationalised the number of people having reactions which has negatively impacted the public’s view of it.  The Delta variant is a huge threat to our unvaccinated population.  It changed the whole picture of the pandemic.  If we want to control this pandemic we need to get at least 70% of the population vaccinated ASAP.

The Pandemic Has Caused Housing Shortages

Because of our low numbers in Queensland, we have seen a huge influx of people moving here.  This has impacted the supply of housing in a massive way.  It is now almost impossible to rent a property in Southeast Queensland and the value of housing has risen in line with the demand.  Locals are being pushed out of the market because we can’t compete with the amount that people from NSW and Victoria are able to pay.  My son is moving back home because it is almost impossible to rent a property in his price range.

Desperate people are offering six months’ rent in advance, or $50 more per week on the asking price, to be able to get a house.  My house has risen in value by about $300,000 in the last year.  People from interstate are buying houses sight unseen so that they can move here.  Lock-downs mean that people are unable to run their business – especially on the border between Queensland and New South Wales.  

The Effects of the Pandemic on Business

My brother lives in northern New South Wales and he is in strict lock-down.  He can’t run his business because he’s not able to travel more than 5km from home and customers can’t come to him.  The Government is propping up many businesses like his with funds but many of them will still go bust.  The most heartbreaking image we see on our nightly news is that of families forced to hug each other over the border barriers between our states.  

A Glimmer of Hope

We had some good news today, that Northern New South Wales is ending it’s lock-down which means that there will be more freedom to cross the border.  This is just for essential workers and students, which means that medical staff should be able to come to work.

There is light at the end of the tunnel for this pandemic.  We are seeing other countries getting back to normal once their vaccination rates are high enough.  Meanwhile, I hope all who are reading this are in good health.  I would love to hear what life looks like in your part of the world, so feel free to comment below.

Shared on #Life This Week Linkup on Denyse Whelan’s blog

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Reaching a Goal and Setting New Goals

3 hooks with colourful tags hanging

I Reached My Goal of Returning to Work

Some of you have already seen my latest update on social media so it will come as no surprise that I finally reached my goal. A goal that seemed impossible to reach a few months ago. I started back at work this week after nearly 11 months of sick leave.

I thought I would be nervous and anxious because I suffer from anxiety, but I was calm and relaxed. Too relaxed perhaps because I was nearly late on my first day! I had forgotten what the traffic was like at that time of day. My employer is supporting me during this transition period. I have started back at two shifts per week, non consecutive days and am building up to my usual 7 shifts per fortnight.

A Gradual Return to My Job

My first day was primarily a training day to do my yearly mandatory competencies on the computer. I felt a bit brain dead by the end of the day. I’m so glad I continued to use my brain during my sick leave, to write this blog and complete a course. It has helped me to keep the grey matter from being neglected!

My second day I was looking after patients with one of my colleagues as a buddy alongside me. Having her there to ask questions was so helpful. We use computers for all of our documentation and I had always found the computer difficult to use. I prefer the old school way of nursing because I feel that the computers take you away from the patients. But they are here to stay. Most of my questions related to the computer – the nursing came easily (once a nurse always a nurse!). I was happy that I didn’t feel as rusty as I expected.

It felt so good to look after patients again. I really missed this role while I was off work. It’s great to feel like a productive member of society again. Catching up with my colleagues was also lovely. There have been 3 pregnancies amongst the staff while I’ve been away. I enjoyed being welcomed back to the team.

While many of my colleagues are aware of the reason for my prolonged absence, very few know how hard I had to work to be fit enough for my job. I will never take my job for granted again. I used to think it would be nice to not have to work, but when I was in that position the only thing I could think of was returning to work. Nursing is such a rewarding career and it’s all I know. I couldn’t think of doing anything else.

Returning to work after long term sick leave as a nurse.  Image:  the author Christina Henry in scrubs on her first day back at work in nearly 11 months

Staying Fit and Strong in the Future

My goal is to keep up the exercise program that I have been doing. I used to have so much pain, especially in my lower back. The Exercise Physiologist has helped me to build up my strength so that I am using the correct muscles for lifting and performing tasks. I don’t want to lose that strength by sliding into bad habits again. I have never felt healthier and my back has never felt so strong.

Some of my daily routines will be different to before my sick leave. I used to cook a meal for my family no matter which shift I was on. We have become empty nesters in the past few months so I no longer need to do this. Freezing the excess has become a new habit and it will come in handy to have meals for my work days.

Many of my regular readers have encouraged me as I struggled with my journey to wellness. Thank you to everyone who has written such supportive comments. I feel overwhelmed sometimes by the kindness given to me. Every one of those comments meant a lot to me and helped me, especially when my spirits were low.

My New Project

For the last few weeks I have started working on a new project. I am creating a resource page for BRCA genetic mutations and cancer awareness. It is something that I feel drawn to because I have learned so much through my own journey. I am writing the script for a podcast on the same subject. This is a side project to my current blog, and will be attached to Midlifestylist.com. You may see the odd blog post on this subject in the future.

Lack of time will always be a factor. I wish I had more time to do everything that I want to do! But my blog has kept me motivated and busy for the entire time I was off work so I intend to keep going with it. Writing has always been my passion and it has given me purpose.

I will try to continue my weekly blog posts but as life returns to normal I may not have time to post a blog every week. I will try to continue sharing to my favourite Linkups but may have to reduce it to fortnightly in the future. Returning to work was my goal and after finally reaching it, my new goal is to stay fit and healthy so that has to remain my priority.

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A Weekend in the Lamington National Park

The Lamington National Park, Gold Coast, Australia

Exploring the Beautiful Gold Coast Hinterland

My husband had two weeks off recently due to an infected cat bite on his thumb.  We had some time on our hands and, because we hadn’t been away since last March, we decided to make the most of it.  Luckily we live in one of the most beautiful areas in Australia.  We often have a staycation – a short trip within an hour of home.  Right on our doorstep is the beautiful Gold Coast hinterland, so we had a night away there, at Lamington National Park.

The sun sets over O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat in Lamington National Park, Canungra, Queensland, Australia
The sun sets over O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat in Lamington National Park, Canungra, Queensland, Australia

The Gold Coast of Queensland, Australia

The Gold Coast is known as the glitter strip because it has all the glitz and glamour of high-rises right along one of the most pristine beaches in the world.  Our most famous beach is Surfers Paradise.  It is a tourist mecca, with many attractions like theme parks and night life.

I rarely go to that part of the city, however.  I much prefer the natural environment that can be found in the Gold Coast Hinterland, also known as the Green Behind the Gold.  There are waterfalls, rainforest and a diverse collection of wildlife.  Away from the crowded beaches, up in the hills is where my heart sings.  That is where I feel at peace.

One of the beautiful native birds at O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat
One of the beautiful native birds at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat

O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat

We decided to visit O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat.  I had only been once before, and my husband not at all.  I took a youth group camping up there the first time, an experience I will never forget.  Many of the teenagers had never stayed overnight outside their family home so it was a huge eye opener for them.

To get to O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat is quite an experience.  The road is narrow and windy and the trip takes 90minutes through Canungra, up the mountain to the World Heritage listed Lamington National Park.  The views are stunning of farm land in the valley below and the mountains of the McPherson and Darlington Ranges.

View over the valley towards Beaudesert from the Lamington National Park
View over the valley towards Beaudesert from the Lamington National Park

O’Reilly’s has an interesting history.  It started over 100 years ago as a settlement for the O’Reilly family who cleared the land for cattle farming.  Over time they began to receive guests who had made an arduous journey to get there.  That is how the guest house began, in 1926.  Over time it has grown and is now a large operation of several types of different accommodation options, a restaurant, bar, day spa and winery.

View over the pool area, towards the south at O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat, in the Lamington National Park
View over the pool area, towards the south at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat

Another interesting historical fact is that in 1937 Bernard O’Reilly trekked through the rainforest to rescue survivors of the Stinson Plane Crash. There is a replica of the plane at O’Reilly’s. His knowledge of the local area was vital in locating the wreck, and during the rescue effort.

Replica of the Stinson Plane that crashed in the Lamington National Park in 1937.  The survivors were rescued by Bernard O'Reilly who knew the area well.
Replica of the Stinson Plane that crashed in 1937. The survivers were rescued by Bernard O’Reilly who knew the area well.

The Wildlife and Rainforest

Part of the attraction for us was the wildlife.  Very experienced guides are available to lead the guests on a number of different guided walks, educational talks and hikes through the Lamington National Park.  We took part in two guided walks, and also viewed a documentary of the wildlife in their cinema.

Feeding one of the many birds during the guided bird walk.  Some of the paths are suitable for people with reduced mobility, like this one.
Feeding one of the many birds during the guided bird walk. Some of the paths are suitable for people with reduced mobility, like this one.

There is also a treetop walk – a series of suspension bridges up to 15 metres above ground that allow you to walk amongst the tops of the forest.  Because I get severe vertigo with heights I was very nervous at the slight swinging of the bridges but I made it across by not daring to look down.  My husband even climbed up the 30 metre high ladder to a platform where he could view 360 degrees across the top of the rainforest. 

One of the suspension bridges on the Treetop Walk at O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat, where you can walk amongst the treetops in Lamington National Park
One of the suspension bridges on the Treetop Walk at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, where you can walk amongst the treetops in Lamington National Park

The Glow Worm Tour

Without a doubt my favourite part of the weekend was the nighttime glow worm tour.  The guide took us for a short drive from the resort. We then hiked through the bush to a stream where thousands of glowworms sparkled like stars along the bank.  The stream was flowing gently, so that the glow worms reflected in the water.  When you looked up through the trees, the milky way glittered brightly above us.  It was incredibly beautiful.

Two ringtailed possums in the top of the tree in Lamington National Park
Two ringtailed possums in the top of the tree

Matt our guide helped us to spot many native animals and plants along the path.  His knowledge and enthusiasm for the wildlife enhanced the experience.  One of the more interesting creatures was a bright blue crayfish which can walk 2km away from water!  This was a feisty little crustacean who snapped its claws at us.  He has a mean bite we were told.

The bright blue coloured crayfish on the rainforest floor in Lamington National Park
The bright blue coloured crayfish on the rainforest floor

We encountered two types of possums, many different varieties of birds and insects, lizards and spiders.  I would have just walked straight past many of the creatures but Matt had a way of finding these elusive animals in the dark.  

Matt the guide pointing out a native frog.  One of the wild animals in Lamington National Park
Matt the guide pointing out a native frog

Hand Feeding the Birds

The early morning bird walk was just as interesting.  Being able to hand feed the wild birds was a beautiful experience.  The rainforest is home to a huge variety of birds.  The most colourful are the parrots that you can hand feed. Many of the walking tracks are suitable for all types of fitness levels, with two being suitable for wheelchairs..  

The more adventurous can take a segway safari tour, or try the flying fox.  There are guided walks through the Lamington National Park, or there are many tracks that you can do on your own without being a paying guest.  Maps are available from the National Parks Information Centre or O’Reilly’s reception.  

Hand feeding one of the native parrots that live in the rainforest
Hand feeding one of the native parrots that live in the rainforest

If you are ever in our part of the world, pay a visit to the hinterland.  The experience will stay with you much longer than a day at Sea World.  There is so much more to the Gold Coast than the glitter strip and Surfers Paradise.

Hand feeding the birds at O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat
Hand feeding the birds at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat

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A Very Special Birthday Celebration

A Very Special Birthday Celebration

Celebrating a long life with joy

My father-in-law turned 90 years old last week. I would like to share with you how we celebrated this special event in this post. It was a very special birthday celebration which almost didn’t happen because of sudden changes in travel restrictions. We were so lucky that the weekend strict lockdown in Brisbane didn’t affect us.

Happy 90th birthday Cec
Happy 90th birthday Cec – cheers to a long life

A Positive Outcome From 2020

One of the most positive things about 2020 was nurturing relationships that are important to me.  Normally my life is extremely busy and I feel continually jetlagged from unrelenting shift work as a nurse.  Many of you know that I have been off work since May because of complications during surgery.  Having time on my hands has been a blessing in that I have been able to spend a lot of time with my in-laws. 

I have had time to visit for a chat and a cup of tea, and not stress about needing to be somewhere or do something on my brief days off.  I also have been able to attend all the family gatherings, whereas most of the time I work on public holidays and other special occasions.  This is something I don’t take this for granted.  I feel like I have been blessed with this time.  

Stronger Family Relationships

My relationship with my parents-in-law and my sister-in-law have been the most improved by this.  My sister-in-law and I have been able to plan some lovely family gatherings such as my mother-in-law’s High Tea surprise birthday party.  I could also help with my sister-in-law’s 50th birthday Alice In Wonderland party.  Just in general we have become closer this year, bonded by being married to two lovely men who are definitely the product of their equally lovely parents.

My sister-in-law and I share another thing in common. Both our mothers passed away when we were newlyweds in our early 20s.  I think that it is why we know that we need to create lovely memories during the latter years of our parents-in-laws’ lives.  Every birthday and special occasion has taken on new meaning as we are aware that time with them is limited.

My husband and I with Gwen and Cec, my parents-in-law
My husband and I with Gwen and Cec, my parents-in-law

My Father-in-law’s Special Birthday Celebration

My father-in-law’s 90th birthday is the latest milestone for our family. We celebrated the occasion with a lovely lunch.  The family let me organise the event which I felt very privileged to do – they needed to put some trust in my organisational skills!  I don’t have the same creative, event planning abilities as my sister-in-law (just look at what she did for my mother-in-law’s High Tea and you will see what I mean!).  But I am pretty good at organising things.

The day was a success, and the smiles on everyone’s faces were my reward.  We had the lunch at a club nearby which we have used previously for events.  

My father-in-law celebrating his 90th birthday with his sister and dear friend
My father-in-law celebrating his 90th birthday with his sister Shirley and dear friend June

Celebrating a Long Life

At 90 years old, my father-in-law has been through a lot, including serving in the Australian Army in the Korean conflict when he was a young man.  He has chronic pain from injuries sustained in a fall through a roof, and suffers from COPD.  His mind is still sharp and he and my mother-in-law still drive and live independently in their own home.  Cec is one of the kindest men you will ever meet.  To be able to organise this special birthday for him was an honour.

I was brought to tears when the whole club sang Happy Birthday to him.  I created a collage of photos of him from babyhood until now and he was “tickled pink!”.  He talked about each photo and shared his memories with us.  His sister aged 92 was able to come from Northern New South Wales. A close family friend who has been like an Auntie to my husband and his brother was also able to come.

A collage for a 90th birthday - celebrating the life of my father-in-law Cec
A collage of photos depicting the life of my 90 year old Father-in-law Cec

The Special Birthday Celebration Almost Didn’t Happen

We have been holding our breath leading up to this event. No-one knows whether the border to New South Wales will close again or we’ll be sent back into lockdown.  There was a weekend lockdown as close as Brisbane and Logan because of two new strains of the more contagious UK variant of Covid-19 being detected in Brisbane.  We have been extremely lucky here to avoid it.

Treasure your loved ones as you never know when they will be taken from you.  This year marks 30 years since my mother passed away, and 10 years since my sister died suddenly from an epileptic fit.  It’s hard for me to fathom that so much time has passed.  Many of you know that my mother-in-law is in the final stages of lung cancer so we value any time we have left with her.

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Be a Tourist in Your Own Town

Be a Tourist in Your Own Town

A Holiday At Home – Staycation

I have previously written about making the most of your staycation and suggested ideas for having a holiday at home.  I wrote that blog post at the beginning of 2020, before lockdowns and social distancing were an everyday reality.  Already many people were changing their travel plans because of the emerging health crisis from Covid-19 in Asia and Europe. 

Since then, travel has been severely curtailed in most corners of the globe. The tourist industry has been severely affected worldwide.

This post is to encourage you to be a tourist in your own town. Being stuck at home during the holidays can still be enjoyable. You can support local businesses as well as discover new things about the local area.

We enjoy being a tourist in your own town.  On the HOPO ferry, Gold Coast, Australia.  Photo of Christina Henry on the HOPO ferry
On the HOPO ferry, Gold Coast, Australia.

Travel Restrictions Due to the Pandemic

Up until now, Queensland has managed to avoid high numbers of Covid-19.  Our strict border control has been effective in keeping our state virus-free.  We have been lucky, unlike Melbourne and Sydney who have faced much higher numbers and harder restrictions than us.  We have two new cases of the new more contagious variant so Brisbane is now in lockdown for three days in an attempt to contain it.

My city, Gold Coast, has managed to avoid going back into lockdown.  Time will tell whether our luck will run out.  We are on the border of New South Wales, and as of today most of NSW residents can travel here, apart from Sydney residents from hotspots. Up to date information about border restrictions can be accessed here.

The Effect of Lockdowns on The Gold Coast, Australia

As soon as the border closed to Sydney, and more recently, when Brisbane went into lockdown for this weekend, there was a mass exodus heading straight for our city.  Why people can’t just stay put for one weekend is beyond me. There were lines at supermarkets and shortages of toilet paper and essentials again – as if we didn’t learn anything from the last lockdown.

Gold Coast is a tourist city.  One of our major industries and source of employment is tourism.  Whenever an Australian city or state goes into lockdown there are mass cancellations of flights and accommodation bookings.  People are losing confidence in travel because of the insecurity of not knowing whether you will be allowed to leave your town, or even your house.  Consequently our tourist industry is struggling.

Being a Tourist in Our Own Town  

Last weekend my husband and I decided to be tourists in our own town.  We had been wanting to check out our HOPO service (hop on, hop off ferry) for over a year.  This ferry does a continuous loop throughout the day, stopping at five destinations in the heart of the Gold Coast.  Rather than drive to Marina Mirage for lunch we decided to travel on the ferry.  We love the water and our canals are one of the most beautiful parts of the Gold Coast.

We were really impressed with the HOPO ferry.  It is set up to showcase the best of the Gold Coast to tourists, stopping at iconic destinations such as Surfers Paradise.  The ferry is licensed and the staff provide a commentary as you pass interesting spots on the journey.  We discovered interesting information about our own city that we had never heard, even though my husband has always lived locally and I’ve been here for 22 years.

We had never seen a floating church before!  Photo of a superyacht next to a floating church.  On the HOPO ferry, Gold Coast, Australia
We had never seen a floating church before! Photo of a superyacht next to a floating church. On the HOPO ferry, Gold Coast, Australia

A Day On The Gold Coast HOPO Ferry 

We commenced our journey at HOTA, the Home of the Arts, where there happened to be a fabulous market that day.  Our first stop was Marina Mirage where we disembarked.  We walked up through the shopping centre and passed cafes and restaurants, to Fisherman’s Wharf Tavern.  The Tavern has been here for as long as I can remember and is a Gold Coast icon.  We enjoyed fish and chips and a couple of beers overlooking the water.  

After returning to the ferry, our journey continued to Southport Broadwater Parklands which has a fabulous playground for kids and an aqua park.  Following this we travelled to Sea World Marine Park, followed by Surfers Paradise.  The whole journey takes an hour if you remain on board.  A $25 day pass allows you to hop on, hop off as many times as you like.

Be a Tourist in Your Own Town.  Christina and Phil Henry in front of Fisherman's Wharf Tavern, Gold Coast, Australia
My husband and I in front of Fisherman’s Wharf Tavern, Gold Coast, Australia

Where Are the Holiday Crowds?

It is the summer school holidays in Australia at present, a time when you would expect the city to be packed with visitors.  This was not the case – there were very few tourists around and we did not have to wait in line anywhere.  Great for us, as we could enjoy our day out without the crowds, but indicative of the dire situation for the tourist industry.

Be a Tourist in Your Own Town.  Our view at lunch - the Gold Coast Seaway, Australia
Our view at lunch – the Gold Coast Seaway, Australia

Support the Local Tourist Industry

If our tourist industry is to survive in Australia, we must support it.  If you are free of travel restrictions in your town or city, consider spending a day as a tourist.  We thoroughly enjoyed seeing the Gold Coast through tourists’ eyes.  Support local businesses who are undoubtedly struggling to remain afloat.  

The footbridge from HOTA (Home of the Arts) to Chevron Island, Gold Coast , Australia
The footbridge from HOTA (Home of the Arts) to Chevron Island, Gold Coast , Australia

Support local businesses:

  • Shop at farmers’ markets and independent grocery stores;
  • Eat at local cafes and restaurants rather than getting take-out from fast food outlets;
  • Have a night at a local motel with your partner or girl friends (a girls’ night out);
  • Check out the tourist attractions in your town;
  • Buy essential items such as clothing from independent retailers.

The pandemic is far from over unfortunately.  We will be living with the threat of the virus until most of the population is immunised.  Keep using precautions, social distancing and hand hygiene to protect yourselves.  Stay safe and healthy.

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A DIY High Tea For a Special Occasion

A DIY High Tea for a Special Occasion

A DIY High Tea To Celebrate My Mother-in-law’s Birthday 

We had a DIY High Tea last weekend to celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday.  The event was such a success I thought I’d share it here.  I have included instructions on creating your own DIY High Tea because this themed party was easy to put together ourselves.

A Special Birthday Celebration

My mother-in-law’s birthday was approaching when my sister-in-law and I planned this event.  It wasn’t a milestone birthday, however it was an important one.  This could be the last birthday we spend with her because she is in the final stages of lung cancer.

As a family we know the importance of creating memories.  No event has passed without us celebrating together in some way.  Our parents-in-law haven’t been in great health for a few years and, although they still live independently in their own home, we have noticed that they have slowed down considerably.  We are blessed to still have them both at age 86 and nearly 90.

My mother-in-law Gwen at her surprise birthday party looking beautiful and so happy.
My mother-in-law Gwen at her surprise birthday party looking beautiful and so happy.

Hatching the perfect plan

Michelle and I decided to make this birthday a very special celebration for our mother-in-law.  It would be a surprise party as we knew Gwen would love it.  The theme was a garden party high tea.  A few years ago we had gone to a revolving restaurant at the top of a Surfers Paradise building for high tea.  Unfortunately there are no high teas available due to Covid restrictions so we decided that a DIY high tea would be easy to put together.

The original plan was for a garden party under a white gazebo.  Unfortunately torrential rain forced our party indoors but it looked just as beautiful.  My husband and I were to pick up my parents-in-law for a surprise location.  We were to follow my husband’s brother in our car, but first we needed to go to his house.

A lovely surprise for our guest of honour

We made sure Gwen walked in first to the beautifully decorated room.  The look on her face was priceless.  Everyone was in tears, overcome with emotion.  We managed to pull off the biggest surprise birthday for the most special lady.

Gwen my mother-in-law just after she came into the room - surprise!
Gwen my mother-in-law just after she came into the room – surprise!

Here’s how to have your own DIY High Tea:

A DIY High Tea is a great theme for a special occasion. For a birthday, hens’ night, fundraiser, girls’ night out, Mother’s Day, baby shower or family celebration. Everything you need to decorate it is easy to obtain from second hand shops and discount stores, which makes it budget friendly.

Colour co-ordination

Choose complementary colours. Pink, mint and white are lovely colours that are very feminine.

Theme

As well as being a high tea, we made it a garden party – as if you are having tea with the Queen!  We bought sun hats for everyone and we all wore floral or linen.

Decorations

Most of the decorations came from KMart and discount stores.  We looked for colour co-ordinated decorations, with a floral theme to suit the garden party aspect of the theme.  All the flowers were dried or silk flowers.  My lace tablecloth was draped over pink disposable tablecloths.

A DIY High Tea would not be complete without three tiered cake stands displaying petite cakes and chocolate dipped strawberries.  Pretty teapots, cups and plates, set out on a lace tablecloth suit the feminine aesthetic.
A DIY High Tea would not be complete without three tiered cake stands displaying petite cakes and chocolate dipped strawberries. Pretty teapots, cups and plates, set out on a lace tablecloth suit the feminine aesthetic.

Tea pots and crockery 

It was nice to use our own crystal glasses and china that we had in our china cabinets.  I have a dinner set that originally belonged to my English great-grandmother – it is over 100 years old.  My sister-in-law scoured second-hand shops for teapots, milk jugs and cups.  It was a very eclectic collection which looked awesome and suited the feminine aesthetic well.

Food

This is the focal point of a High Tea.  Everything is bite sized – cakes, sandwiches, savouries and scones with jam and cream.  We bought most of the petite cakes from a French Patisserie, and supplemented that with supplies from the local supermarket.  If you are looking for a cheaper alternative, local supermarkets usually have a great selection of bite sized cakes and frozen savouries.  Pretty floral serving platters and tiered cake stands display the petite cakes beautifully. 

Drink

Pots of tea, coffee and juice on the tables.  Pink champagne in an ice bucket.

DIY High Tea Table Setting showing pretty cups saucers and tea pot, a three tiered cake stand with petite cakes and platters of finger sandwiches.
DIY High Tea Table Setting showing pretty cups saucers and tea pot, a three tiered cake stand with petite cakes and platters of finger sandwiches.

Music

A sound track of music from the 40s 50s and 60s suited the occasion.  My mother-in-law really enjoyed hearing the music she listened to in her youth.

Game

My mother-in-law loves bingo so that is what we played!  We all put $10 into the kitty and played two games with various amounts to win.  It made it more exciting.  The winner on the day was my mother-in-law which thrilled her no end!

Playing Bingo at the DIY High Tea
Playing Bingo at the DIY High Tea

A Successful DIY High Tea

The day was a great success.  It was very easy to plan, and was probably one of the easiest themed parties to source everything we needed.  I’d highly recommend giving someone special a DIY High Tea.  Even the men in the family enjoyed it. 

My sister-in-law Michelle had the initial idea, and together we expanded on it.  She missed her calling as she is so good at party planning, down to the fine details.  

A DIY High Tea for a Special Occasion - the Henry Family enjoying tea and smiling towards the camera.  Everyone has sun hats on, which suits the theme of Garden Party High Tea
A DIY High Tea for a Special Occasion – the Henry Family enjoying tea and smiling towards the camera. Everyone has sun hats on, which suits the theme of Garden Party High Tea

Credits: 

Michelle Henry, execution of the high tea plan, preparing most of the food and styling the room

Aaron Tawadros, photography

The Henry family, enthusiastically taking part in a surprise party for a very special person. Everyone was involved in some way, from setting up the room to helping set out the food.

A DIY High Tea is a great theme for a special occasion.  For a birthday, hens' night, fundraiser, girls' night out, Mother's Day, baby shower or family celebration.  Everything you need to decorate it is easy to obtain from second hand shops and discount stores.
A DIY High Tea is a great theme for a special occasion. For a birthday, hens’ night, fundraiser, girls’ night out, Mother’s Day, baby shower or family celebration. Everything you need to decorate it is easy to obtain from second hand shops and discount stores.

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Mood Boosting Playlist for Midlifers

Mood Boosting Playlist for Midlifers

Music Affects Our Emotions

Music has a positive affect on our emotions.  I have always used music as a tool to uplift my mood.  Spotify sent me my list of songs I listen to the most, and it’s too good not to share.  I have dubbed my playlist the Mood Boosting Song List for Midlifers because listening to these songs never failed to uplift me this year.

Music Evokes Pleasant Memories

Music evokes memories of growing up in a very creative family.  My parents met because dad spotted mum singing in the Church choir.My parents loved music and we were brought up loving a variety of genres from classical music to rock.  My mother was a beautiful singer and I learned to harmonise by singing along to Eagles, Simon and Garfunkel and Fleetwood Mac. At Christmas we would stand around the piano while mum played Christmas Carols, and we’d sing along.  Mum would also entertain by playing the ukelele and singing fun folk songs.

Our family’s love of music goes back generations.  Dad’s father played the piano while silent movies played at the cinema.  Dad had 8 brothers and sisters and they all learned to play an instrument.  As a group they would play on stage to entertain a gathering. Some of the extended family became accomplished musicians.  My cousin played viola for the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. 

Mum playing Christmas Carols on the piano while everyone sings along.
Mum playing Christmas Carols on the piano while everyone sings along.

Passing My Love Of Music On

Both my sons both inherited the music gene and can play multiple instruments.  My elder son has played the drums in several bands and has a Diploma of Music.  He has made a business out of creating band tour videos and music videos. My love for music extended to singing in the choir. I taught my younger son to cook while playing our favourite tracks in the background. He is a content writer, but the first expressive material he wrote was song lyrics.

Starting them young - My sons at age four and one
Starting them young – My sons at age four and one

So you could say that music is in my blood. I have used music a lot this year to uplift my soul as it has been a really tough year. Music never fails to improve my mood.

Here is my Mood Busting Playlist for Midlifers:

Mood Boosting Playlist for Midlifers

What music do you use to uplift your mood? Please share in the comments.

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A Positive Attitude Can Improve Your Quality of Life

A Positive Attitude Can Improve Your Quality of Life

A positive attitude can improve your quality of life and contribute to longevity and improved health as you age.  A positive attitude to life has been shown by studies to increase your lifespan by 11 to 15%, and increase your odds of living to 85 years or more.  Other benefits of optimism include stress reduction, improved immunity and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.  It improves resilience to illness and contributes to happiness, leading to a richer, more fulfilled life  (Source VeryWellMind.com).

My Observations of Elderly Patients

 As a nurse I have developed the opinion over many years, that if you make it to your 80s and 90s, you are often healthier than the 50 or 60 year old in the next bed.  That generation was made of steel and their inner strength comes from having to survive and thrive during so many hardships.  In their eight or nine decades they have seen wars and hardships like no other.

The Strongest Woman I Know Is 85 Years Old

The strongest woman I know is my 85 year old mother-in-law.  Strength can be measured in physical terms, but in this case the strength is her inner strength and fortitude. Over three years ago she was diagnosed with lung cancer.  She was offered treatment but she declined as it wouldn’t have cured her.  While her family fell to pieces she declared “I feel fine!  What are you all upset about?”

She got on with life and it was easy to forget she had incurable cancer and other health issues.  She has always been very active and sociable and cancer didn’t slow her down.  Off she went to bingo and lunch with her friends, carrying on life as usual.

Gwen has not only survived, but thrived.  She refused to change her lifestyle and continued to live life to the fullest.  She’s the type of person that cleans up and moves all the furniture before the cleaner comes.  We offered to help her and my father-in-law but they push on, staying as independent as they can in their own home.

A Positive Attitude Can Improve Your Quality of Life

We often complained about our aches and pains and other physical ailments.  Gwen would sit and listen to us all moan, then would pipe up with “You’re all falling apart!  I feel great!”  She put us all to shame because she never complained, and rarely has had a day in bed.  If she goes to bed during the day we know she’s really sick. Her positive attitude and stoicism has helped her maintain her health.

A positive attitude can improve your quality of life and contribute to longevity and improved health as you age.
A positive attitude can improve your quality of life and contribute to longevity and improved health as you age.

The Cancer Has Progressed

This year we’ve all noticed her slowing down, becoming more short of breath and looking pale and gaunt (under the makeup of course!).  One day she coughed up blood, which gave us all a fright.  My sister-in-law persuaded her to go to hospital to be checked.  Remarkably she’s never been in hospital other than that time, and another time when I called the ambulance because she was having chest pain.

The scans revealed that the cancer has grown and now 90% occludes her bronchus – the main airway to her left lung.  It spread from the initial tumour on her left chest wall to surround all the major blood vessels and organs beneath her sternum.  It’s finally catching up with her and she only has a limited amount of time left.  Mind you, she was given 9 months to live over three years ago so she’s far surpassed anyone’s expectations.

Staying Active Keeps You Healthy

Her positive attitude and get-up-and-go is the reason she is still here with us.  If she had decided to slow down, sit around and accept our help, I have no doubt she wouldn’t have still been here.  Just by being more active (she even still does her exercises) she has kept her physical strength up, and not allowed her body to degenerate.  

If she had lain around, she would have been at higher risk of developing pneumonia because her lower lungs would collapse and trap mucous in their bases.  Just by keeping active she has prevented this common cause of death in the elderly.  Both my parents-in-law have had influenza and other upper respiratory infections during the last few years, and miraculously have pulled through every time.  

Just seeing how the two of them have not only survived, but thrived, is so inspirational.  My own father lost most of his mobility over the last two decades of his life because he enjoyed being waited on hand and foot.  I remember encouraging him not to sit around when he was only in his 60s.  Use it or lose it.

Strong Family Connections Are Important

My husband’s family have always lived within 10 minutes of each other which is in contrast to my own.  I had no family around when I was bringing up my sons as a single mother, so it was a shock to the system to suddenly have so much connection with family.  That connection has contributed to my parents-in-law living such fulfilled lives.  My nieces and nephew don’t know how lucky they are to have so much contact with their grandparents in their 20s.

Keeping Mentally Active Improves Quality of Life as You Age

Keeping mentally active has also played a part in their quality of life.  My mother-in-law does puzzles and crosswords, while my father-in-law has a keen interest in documentaries.  He tinkers with the boat and has always been a keen gardener.  We always get great advice on gardening and home improvements from my father-in-law.

Living Life Without Regrets

The one thing I’ve seen in common with my father and my parents-in-law is that they don’t fear death.  They have lived long productive lives and don’t live with regret.  They have strong connections with their families and look forward to being reunited with their loved ones that have gone before them.  My dad was incredibly peaceful and serene when he was on his death bed despite severe pain.

We can’t choose the day we die (unless we commit suicide) but we can live our lives in such a way that the quality of life is maximised.  Keeping physically active and emotionally connected to our families – having a purpose in life – is vital if we want to live life to the fullest like my mother-in-law.

Our Family’s Loss Will Be Acutely Painful

We will all be devastated when we lose her.  The heart of the family will be gone.  We’re all dreading the day.  My sister-in-law and I lost our mothers when we were newlyweds so we know what it’s like.  30 years later and I still miss her.  Our husbands don’t know what being without your mother is like.  I just hope I can be strong enough to help my husband through the grieving process as he has helped me.  I lost my sister suddenly and my father after a long battle with prostate and pancreatic cancer, and Phil has supported me through both those losses.

We’re planning a surprise high tea garden party for my mother-in-law’s 86th birthday in three weeks.  If she can make it through her birthday, then Christmas, then my father-in-law’s 90th in January, we will be relieved.  We’ve had her for borrowed time already but that would be a bonus.

Stay Positive – It Will Improve Your Quality of Life

Elderly people who maintain their quality of life have much to teach us.  A positive attitude and a sense of optimism will not only improve your quality of life, but it will help you live longer.  Embrace all that life has to offer.  Keep strong ties with your family and maintain a healthy lifestyle.  Your health will be enhanced if you stay active and continue to exercise your mind. Above all, a positive attitude can improve your quality of life as you age.

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The Best Anti-aging Skin Care Products

The best anti-aging skin care products

The Anti-aging Products that I Recommend

My previous post Caring For Your Skin as You Age discussed how our skin ages, and what anti-aging product categories you can use to care for your skin.  I am now going to tell you what I recommend to be the best anti-aging skin care products based on my own experience.  Please note, I am not a beauty therapist, nor am I an expert in this area.  However, I am a Registered Nurse and the products I use contain the ingredients that are known to assist in the anti-aging process.

My budget is fairly low.  I tend to use brands that are available at the discount pharmacy or supermarket.  I have tried many brands over the years, but I have found I can generally rely on a few brands because they consistently produce positive results in my skin.

This post may contain affiliate links which means I may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure. I have links to Amazon in this article – the highlighted clickable links in text are to Amazon Australia, while the picture links are to Amazon US.  

Anti-aging Skin Care Routine

Cleanser

My skin is sensitive, so I use an NEUTROGENA Extra Gentle Cleanser 200mL""” target=”_blank” rel=”noreferrer noopener sponsored nofollow”>Extra Gentle Cleanser by Neutrogena.  It is fragrance-free and doesn’t leave my skin feeling tight or dry.  This cleanser is non-soap so it helps to moisturise my skin without clogging the pores.  It has been tested by dermatologists and is safe for allergy prone skin like mine.

Serum

I am very new to using a serum because the price of serums was outside my budget.  However I found the Ordinary brand for an incredibly cheap price at the discount pharmacy.  It contains the same active ingredients as other more expensive brands (hyaluronic Acid 2%) and is vegan and ethically produced.  

I am stunned at how much this has improved my skin.  I had open pores, dry scaly areas, lines particularly around my eyes and sunspots.  All areas of my face improved within a few days.  It acts as a chemical exfoliant, so I no longer use harsh physical exfoliants such as scrubs.  For this reason, this serum is the one of the best anti-aging skin care products that I have used.

Moisturiser

At present I am using a wonderful product that I bought in Japan.  I am unable to source it here in Australia so I will use my favourite product by L’Oreal when it runs out.  L’Oreal is a brand I trust.  Their products are consistently of high quality.  I love the fact that they formulate products for your age group to target specific skin concerns common among all of us.  The Age Perfect day cream is my favourite in this range.

The Classic SPF15 Day Cream contains sunscreen which is an important factor for me.  If I can prevent more age spots from developing on my skin I would be very relieved.  It always leaves my skin feeling hydrated without a greasy residue.

Sunscreen

My favourite sunscreen brands are Cancer Council and Neutrogena.  Their sunscreens are of the highest quality and very reliable.  I need to be particularly sun smart as there have been three close members of my family diagnosed with a melanoma, including my son.

My favourite sunscreen for my face is Cancer Council’s Foundation.  It doesn’t leave my face greasy, and contains just enough tint to use like other foundations.  I have never been sunburnt while using products by Cancer Council or Neutrogena.  

If I am going to be in full sunlight for an extended period of time I apply a cream sunscreen and then follow it up with Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist.  This ensures I haven’t missed any areas.  I also wear a hat and try to avoid the sun between 10am and 2pm.

The Anti-Aging Skin Care Products That I Recommend.  From Left to Right - Cancer Council Foundation, Neutrogena Extra Gentle Cleanser, The Ordinary Serum, LÓreal Age Perfect Night Cream, Garnier Skin Active Nutri Bomb Face Mask, Garnier Skin Active Micellar Cleansing Water, Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist
The Anti-Aging Skin Care Products That I Recommend. From Left to Right – Cancer Council Foundation, Neutrogena Extra Gentle Cleanser, The Ordinary Serum, LÓreal Age Perfect Night Cream, Garnier Skin Active Nutri Bomb Face Mask, Garnier Skin Active Micellar Cleansing Water, Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist

Makeup Remover

I swear by Garnier’s Skin Active Micellar Cleansing Water.  Any other products sting my skin and make my eyes inflamed and red.  You can use this all over for face as it is very mild, and it is also able to remove eye makeup.  Because I can use it to cleanse my whole face it saves time which is important to me.  I tend to neglect this step if it takes too long, so this product is perfect.

Night Cream

My night cream is L’Oreal’s Age Perfect night cream.  This gives my skin that added moisturiser at night, allowing it to be restored and refreshed.  It reduces the appearance of age spots.  I can use it close to my eyes without it feeling too heavy on the more sensitive areas of my face.

Face Mask

Once a week I use a Garnier face mask.  I choose which to use from their wide range of masks, depending on how my skin is that week.  This week’s mask was chosen for it’s hydrating properties.

Skin care is important as we age because our skin begins to show the affects of sun damage and loss of tone.  I took my skin for granted when I was younger which I really regret now.  The products that I have recommended have helped me to improve my skin texture and tone.  They can’t perform miracles but they can help my skin to be the best it can be at my stage of life.

Please let me know if there are any products you swear by.  I’m always keen to try new skin products if they are suitable for sensitive skin and not too expensive.

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What I Really Want For Christmas in 2020

What I Really Want For Christmas in 2020

Family Unity is More Important Than Gifts

My Christmas wish list is a little different this year. What I really want for Christmas can’t be wrapped and placed under the tree. Christmas is a time for families to gather, often over a celebratory meal and the traditions like gift giving.  In Australia it is one of the main celebrations of the year.  Even if you don’t identify as Christian, most families gather together.

Most mothers take on the role of organising many of the Christmas traditions such as buying the gifts and preparing the food.  It can be a busy time leading up to the day as mothers tend to take on the extra tasks so that Christmas can be a happy time for their family.

Christmas Traditions

Every family has its own traditions for this time, whether it is watching the Carols by Candlelight, eating roast turkey, or going to Midnight Mass.  There is often food that she traditionally cooks every year because it is someone’s favourite.  

Every year there are a few things that I always cook.  My son loves turkey, but it has to be one specific turkey that I cook.  I was a single mother during their teens, and my budget didn’t stretch to buying a whole turkey.  I cooked a rolled turkey thigh that was frozen – it was pretty grim.  Even though I could now cook a whole turkey, my son insists on that awful rolled turkey thigh!  Every year we laugh about it, but that is what I still cook for him!

My Christmas Wish List

As another Christmas looms, I have put some thought into the gifts on my wishlist.  This year’s Christmas is sure to be extra special as most of us will be pleased to see the end of this very trying year.  These are the gifts I would love:

  • My family to be united to celebrate Christmas
  • Security and safety for my family
  • Good health – everyone remains Covid free, with the prospect of a vaccine soon
  • My sons are happy with life and both stay employed in jobs that they enjoy
  • Our country remains free of natural disasters
  • Our leaders keep our country safe and our economy strong
  • We are free to travel and enjoy our freedom again
  • Peace and serenity, gratitude for all that we are blessed with

I am optimistic that I will receive all the gifts on my wishlist this Christmas.  Wouldn’t it be a lovely celebration if we could all receive them?  It wasn’t that long ago that we took most of this for granted, but after this year I don’t take anything for granted anymore.

The Gift I Most Desire

Time with my family is even more precious now, as both sons moved out leaving us empty nesters.  The border was closed for most of the year meaning that I couldn’t see my family in New South Wales.  Our family has had many health issues, not from Covid, but from cancer and other issues.

This year the emphasis won’t be on material gifts, it will be on celebrating together as a family.  One of my brothers will be here, which will be lovely.  

My other brother has sadly distanced himself from the rest of the family after our father passed away.  It’s such a shame as dad’s dying wish was for all of us to be united as a family.  The situation seems insurmountable as he refuses all attempts of reconciliation. 

It may be the last year we spend with my mother-in-law too, as she has reached the palliative stage of lung cancer.  We will treasure every moment we have with her.  

This Christmas Will Be Different

This Christmas has taken on a different meaning for all of us.  We now don’t take for granted that we can cross the state border, or gather together as a family group.  Our health has been our focus and we no longer take that for granted either.  It will be a relief that we made it through one of the most challenging years any of us has ever seen.

I am so grateful for a Christmas celebration with the most precious thing, my family.

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