26 reasons I am happy

Wednesday morning seems as good a time as any to enumerate just some of the things in life that I am grateful for. 

To me, happy and grateful are very close kin. I cannot imagine having a happy life without being actively, sincerely grateful for all the good (and the lessons that come from the not-so-good) in my life. Grateful comes first, in my mind. 

As today is the 26th, let’s see if I can list 26 things I am grateful for. 

Here goes: 

  1. Coffee; a simple daily pleasure. Every morning, the first thing I do is make myself a cup of coffee. It’s always good, and I always enjoy it. Thank you coffee. 
  2. My home. It’s a bit of an ugly duckling, this weatherboard half-house that I rent, but it is my space, my refuge and recharging station, and I love it. You can tell that I live here, and that’s how I think all homes should be. 
  3. Hot showers. Seriously! Often when I step into the shower I find myself thinking about how many people in the world don’t have access to a hot shower, or even a cold one, and it makes me thankful. 
  4. The kids I know. I don’t have children, it was never part of the plan, and at 50 I have absolutely no regrets about that. I’m lucky to have ten nephews and nieces, and plenty of friends with kids. Kids are interesting, forthright, creative, expressive and give some of the best hugs in life. I love the kids I get to watch grow up. 
  5. My work. Work is not a cornerstone of my existence, yet it’s an important part of life. I work part-time in a small legal office with people I get along with, that’s enough for me. Pro-tip: Don’t put too much pressure on the way you make a living to fulfil you. There are *lots* of ways to live a contented, happy life. 
  6. Mornings. Because of my part-time job, mornings are all mine. I can take my time, enjoy my coffee, fold some laundry, watch a design show, make my lunch, paint, mooch, hit the treadmill or sleep extra late if I need/want to. Being a night owl, these easy mornings suit my natural rhythms beautifully. Grateful! 
  7. The Corolla. My car is my independence. 
  8. My enjoyment of cooking. This has increased over the years, as my skills have. I feel a lovely sense of pride and accomplishment in cooking simple, tasty meals for myself. I choose to look after myself in this way, and that makes me happy. 
  9. Making lists. How I love a list! On my desk at work right now there’s a fresh list of tasks and reminders for the afternoon. Nerd alert! I make lists for packing, lists of what’s in the fridge, lists of books I want to read… lists! 
  10. My mint t-shirt. This is the tee I reach for when I’m going for a walk, or doing a few reps of simple exercises in the backyard. When I wear my mint t-shirt, I feel good! I might even feel a wee bit strong, that’s new for me. 
  11. Having an eye for beauty makes me happy. I’m grateful that I can appreciate the lines of a lamp or a colour story in a room, a cosy fireplace or a beautiful kitchen. I love seeing a building or a painting that makes me stop in my tracks. I notice the way people dress and compliment their choices. Beauty matters, and not in the way we’ve been conned to think it does. 
  12. My reflection, not because of the way I look (I’m cute, there’s no question of that!) but because of the way I feel about myself. Every single day, without fail, I look at myself and smile. Every day. It’s a “gift” that I’ve actively cultivated. I appreciate myself! 
  13. Half way there, woo hoo! I’m grateful for milestones, not just destinations. The trouble with pinning all your hopes on reaching your destination is that if life throws you a curve ball, then your happiness is thwarted. 
  14. NATURE! This one is massive. If I’m having a bad day, turning my attention to nature is a sure-fire way to perk myself up. If I’m having a good day, looking at the branches of a tree or noticing a leaf on the footpath or the prettiness of dappled light will boost my mood instantaneously. 
  15. Creativity. Once I started to draw and paint a few years ago, a whole new world of creativity opened up to me. Spending time at my art desk, or out and about with my sketch book really tops up my tank! 
  16. This blog contributes hugely to my happiness. I’ve met such incredible people thanks to blogging, and found immensely powerful support and encouragement from fellow bloggers and readers. Thank goodness for blogs! This ties in to #8, #11 and #15 on my list – blogs and the women who create them inspire me in all these areas and beyond. 
  17. The way focusing on gratitude makes me even more grateful. I wasn’t sure I could list 26 things easily, but the more I ponder all the things I’m grateful for, the easier it is to think of 26. Lists! They work. 
  18. I’m so grateful for my sense of self. I have been through seasons where I’ve worked hard on my thoughts and how they’ve limited me, where I’ve painstakingly undone false narratives I thought were utterly true. This has been the most worthwhile work I’ve ever done. I’m happy with the woman I am. Pro-tip: Just because you *think* something, it doesn’t make it true! 
  19. Books. I love how reading opens the world up to me. From travel memoirs to cookbooks to incredible fiction, books are a major source of enjoyment and education. Words can, and do, change the world. Read a book! 
  20. I’m grateful for my health. Yes I’ve got challenges, there’s a pacemaker in my chest, my heart is electrically faulty. I need to take multiple medications every day. I have to monitor everything I eat and drink, yet I’m grateful that I can manage my health with such ease. I could so easily let my health make me miserable, but I choose not to go that way. I choose. I am definitely grateful for that! Is that a two-fer? Bonus! 
  21. Seasons. I’m grateful to live in a city with such distinct seasons. Sure, sometimes they get a tad confused, but I enjoy Melbourne’s wonderfully unpredictable weather. There’s always something to chat about! 
  22. Memories. Though I sometimes despair at the state of my memory, I have many lovely recollections of childhood holidays at the beach, my grandpa’s bear hugs, being a teenager in the decade of all decades, the 1980s. I often tell my sisters stories about our family that they don’t know, as they were only babies or little kids. I can tell their kids about when their mums were kids! Life is long, a lot of great stuff happens along the way. I’m grateful for that. 
  23. Tied with memories, I have to include my friendships in this list. I am unbelievably lucky. My friendships have shaped the person I am. As a hardcore introvert, and a person who longs to be deeply known, the people I count among my close friends are so precious to me. Though they are few, they are mighty! I love them. 
  24. Oh look, 24 – my favourite number! I have no idea why. Seems appropriate to make #24 my quirks. I am grateful for my quirks. I sing a lot, I make up ditties about moronic drivers and housework and play silly games with myself. I am quirky and I revel in it! 
  25. Art by people I know. I’m so blessed to have artistic friends. I have a beautiful photograph of a sunset on my wall, a birthday gift from a talented friend. I have paintings and sketches created just for me, by friends near and far away. Looking at their work makes me happy. 
  26. I made it! The last spot on today’s list has to be that I am grateful that this list isn’t exhaustive! I’m grateful that I have, and recognise, so much that’s good in my life. Life is a gift. It is so important to remember, I didn’t earn anything on this list. 

I hope that my list might inspire you to reflect on things that you are grateful for, things that make you happy.  

Maybe times are super tough right now and the idea of practising gratitude makes you cringe. I’ve been there. It’s okay to feel that. I get it. 

Perhaps life is sweet and easy right now. List the ways you’re enjoying it. 

Thank you for being part of my happiness. I am grateful for you. 

Annette x 


If you’d like to, please tell me something that makes you happy. I love reading your comments. 


The Power Of Telling Your Story

Few things in life are worth setting an early alarm for, but on Thursday night I set one so that I could be on time for Friday’s break in scheduled programming. 

At my last cardiac clinic appointment, my fabulous clinic nurse Caroline asked me if I’d be interested in participating in filming a project to educate people either newly diagnosed with, or caring for someone with, heart failure. I said yes before she finished the question. Yes! Resoundingly. She gave me the details and I left the hospital that morning with a spring in my step. 

Fast forward to yesterday and I chose a few of my favourite things – all blue – and settled on very minimal makeup because I was a bit spotty. I really wanted to wear no makeup at all, but my ego prevailed. Thanks spots! Just concealer and mineral makeup, not a lick of mascara or anything else. I wanted to look like everyday me on film.  

Heart shield activated!

I drove over to St Kilda, reminiscing about old jobs, weddings and friends as I passed familiar buildings, and arrived 20 minutes early because that’s just how I roll. 

The studio was located at the back of the back of other businesses, and the light filled reception area was quiet as a church while I filled in my release form and thought about questions I may be asked. 

The producer came out and introduced herself, and soon enough I was inside the small studio, chatting with the interviewer. 

Lights were adjusted, my minimal makeup got a lift with a bit of bronzer and my mouth went dry. 

We started filming and I found myself thinking about the intended audience. 

I remember how stressed and scared I was, discovering I had heart failure. Heart failure meant nothing to me, and sadly seems to be equally off the radars of most Australian women. It kills us, in droves, yet we know little about it in the public domain.

Women’s hearts aren’t like men’s, when we have heart attacks we sometimes don’t even realise it. Our symptoms aren’t like the sudden heart attacks men have in the movies. And, sometimes fatally, we don’t want to make a fuss… I was almost in that category by the time I was sent to Emergency. (To be clear, no heart attacks for me.)

In the studio, I talked about going to hospital after an X-ray showed my heart to be worryingly enlarged. 

I shared how hard it was to grasp what the doctors were telling me – “you have heart failure”.

I just could not comprehend their words. Had they said cancer, I had a frame of reference, but heart failure – nothing registered. 

I recalled how often I spoke to, texted or emailed Caroline in those early days. She was my trusted teacher. Without her availability and expertise, I would have been so lost and unsure of myself. Thank you Caroline. 

The experience of being interviewed was thrilling, and as I answered questions, I remembered everything that the last year has been. As I talked, I knew my presence in that studio meant something. 

I know people will see these videos, of lots of people living with heart failure, and they’ll be helped. 

My story mattered. It matters. And not just in the realm of my heart’s buggered pump. 

Stories matter. They shape our lives, even when we aren’t conscious of it. 

Being asked to commit part of my story to film was pure joy. And I did well, I know I did. The interviewer, who was great at his job, affirmed that to me. 

I was more than happy to contribute, and I wanted to do a good job. For myself, for Caroline, for all the nurses who cared for me so professionally and compassionately in hospital, for my skilful surgeons and for other women with heart issues. 

After we finished filming, we chatted and took photos. That’s Caroline giving me a hug, she’s a total rock star. 

As I left, the producer said they would use one of my comments in their social media campaign. Chuffed! 

I made a quick video for Instagram when I got in my car, and as I watched it back I could see and hear the joy of the day in my voice and on my face. 

I was asked to CONTRIBUTE, and I did. Meaningfully. Authentically. Deliberately. 

That is my jam. 

On Monday, I posted on Facebook about having a quiet day at work, and the sense that in ticking things off the to-do list, I had been contributing to the team. I love that feeling. It’s more important to me than any perk or plush salary. 

It’s why I’m here. I want to contribute positively to the world. 

Yesterday I was given the opportunity to do that, and it’s the freest, fullest and strongest my heart has felt in a long, long time. 


When someone asks you to share your story, don’t dishonour them, or yourself, by breaking eye contact, making a joke or saying you don’t have anything worthwhile to say. 

You do. 

We ALL do. 

The best feelings I’ve EVER had come from exchanging stories – knowing yourself and having someone invite you to share it, and listening to someone tell you who they are. Whether that’s over coffee or in a studio is neither here nor there – tell your story, and be open to other people’s stories. It’s what connects us.

My heartfelt thanks to you, Caroline. You reminded me why I’m here, and that’s a beautiful gift. 


Annette xx  

Lessons from the heart

I’ve had nothing but time on my hands since I was wheeled out of surgery last Thursday. 

Here are some things I’ve been pondering.

Hearts are amazing. 

Really, that should say hearts and heart surgeons are amazing. 

Last Thursday at 10am I lay in the catheter lab, on a bed/slab whatsit which I’m sure has a fancy medical name I don’t know, and two surgeons guided three teensy wires into my heart, and the process didn’t kill me. 

Not only that, they attached those wires to a little electrical box that is now controlling the beating of my heart. 

I mean, wowee kazowee I’ve got my very own internal beatbox!! 

And I was awake while all this happened; though I will say the sedatives they gave me were excellent and I wasn’t really *there* for a lot of the procedure. I would dearly like to pash whoever invented those drugs. 

Nurses are incredible. 

All nurses deserve to be applauded each and every day as they arrive at hospitals and clinics the world over. If you are a nurse or a midwife reading this, I want to say thank you. 
Thank you from the bottom of my beatbox heart. 
What a magnificent job nurses do, caring for people on their most vulnerable days. 
As my procedure wound down last week, the only place I was feeling any pain was my lower back. I was on that whatsit slab for three hours, and my back was not happy about it. 
I was crying under the surgical drape, knowing I had to stay still and let the doctors finish their work, and I asked one of the nurses if she would hold my hand. Without hesitation she grabbed my hand and held it for what I think was about 20 minutes, until I was stitched up and patched up and wheeled back to the ward. I love that nurse! 

Family matters.

Team Hill has been sensationally present and supportive throughout this whole process.
My awesome sisters tag-teamed taking me to and from hospital on surgery day, and my parents have been wonderful in making sure I’ve got everything I need as I recuperate. From having enough fruit at home to coming over to cook for me, to spontaneous pharmacy runs and putting the bins out, they’ve been so helpful. Thank you family! 
A special shout-out goes to my niece Matilda, who let me sleep in her bed that first night after surgery. Her room used to be my room when I was a kid, and there was something wonderfully comforting about peeking out at the night sky from the exact same spot I did that 30+ years ago. 
I reckon the familiarity of home has healing power. 

You got to have friends…

This one’s a biggie. It’s one I’m lucky and grateful to say I’m bigly blessed in. 
I have outstanding friends. Outstanding! 
I’ve had friends rallying and sending me sweet words, and utterly delightful cards and gifts; beautiful art, home made tea bags, care packages bursting with chocolate, flowers, some beautiful soft tees, journals, and magazines. (I hope I didn’t forget anyone or anything!) My workmates even bought me some super cute recovery pjs! 
I am absolutely convinced that all the positive energy that came my way prior to surgery helped me to stay calm on the day. 
I’ve had lots of super uplifting messages from friends old and new, and offers of help, and I’m proud to say I’ve allowed myself to be helped, without worrying about whether it’s an imposition. Pro-tip: when someone offers help and you accept it, you’re not imposing on them. 
Also, when someone else makes you a chicken sandwich, it always tastes at least 84% more delicious. Fact. 
Being stuck at home (I still can’t drive until the end of next week) I’ve been hanging out online a lot and posting a lot of #recoveryselfie photos. It’s great to still be able to connect with people, even if I can’t get out and about. 
On that note, a friend saw a post of mine on Facebook last night, where I was fretting about my wound, and she called to check on me, then turned up on my doorstep after midnight with supplies from the chemist! We gasbagged and laughed for a few hours, so I got to use up some of my words, and even better, I was distracted from worrying about my wound. 
Another beautiful friend offered to cook for me, and arrived earlier in the week with a gigantic basket filled with home-baked, and low sodium, meals. They’ve all been delicious! 
Like I said, bigly blessed. 

Wounds, and hearts, know how to heal. 

it’s extraordinary how the body is built to heal. 
Each day since the surgery, I’ve felt better and better. 
Sleeping has been a massive part of that incremental improvement. 
I’m convinced that the vast majority of us underestimate the power of sleep, not just for post-operative healing, but for daily rejuvenation. We need more sleep. Do whatever you can to get it. 
Generally, I’m not much of a rule follower (you’re shocked, aren’t you?!) but I have been extra diligent about not moving my left arm much, not trying to do all the usual things myself, and it is paying off. 
Yes, I’m bored, and I’ve got cabin fever; but I’d much rather be bored now than land myself back in hospital, or worse, because I didn’t follow doctor’s orders. 
My heart muscle is still damaged, but it is working more efficiently. My pacemaker sees to that. 
My body is wounded, but it’s healing. 
That’s how it’s designed.
Pretty awe-inspiring isn’t it? 
From the couch, 
Annette xxx 

What’s cooking?

Hello all! Happy weekend to you! What’s cooking? 

Speaking of cooking, I have been wanting to share a little bit about my new eating regime. There’s a sentence I never expected to type. 

I’ve now been following a low sodium path for almost three months. 

You know what they say; time flies when your heart’s enlarged. Bahahahaaaa. 

But seriously folks… 

When I was told to radically reduce my sodium consumption, after being diagnosed with heart failure, I felt quite daunted by the prospect of it. I’ve always had a combo sweet/salty tooth and I was worried that going #loso would mean banishment to the land of bland. 

I have had to make some big changes to my shopping, cooking and eating habits. The first thing I did was clear out my fridge and pantry, getting rid of so many every day things, from benign looking pasta sauces to chocolate biscuits that had crazily high levels of sodium. Self-raising flour, forgetaboutit. Tinned soup, buh bye. So many things you’d never think we’re loaded down with sodium – bread, salad dressings, peanut butter, mustard, even some brands of tinned corn. Tinned chickpeas didn’t even make the grade. 

The “grade” by the way, is 200mg of sodium per 100g. That’s the dietary advice I was given before I was discharged from hospital, so that’s my standard. If I wanted to be super hard core, I’d ratchet that down to 120mg, but I am allowed to ease in at 200mg. In a perfect world, I should consume less than 1 teaspoon of salt per day. That’s not as easy as it seems. Turn a few tins over, you may be mightily surprised by what you find. 

Those first days were truly eye-opening. I think often the only salt people pay any attention to is table salt, which when combined with salt used in cooking, accounts for less than 25% of the salt/sodium we consume, according to the Heart Foundation Australia website. Just 25%! 

Shopping for groceries used to be an opportunity to zone out, just me and my trolley, starting in the fruit and veg section and winding our way unhurriedly to the milk and eggs in the opposite corner of the supermarket. 

Once I started reading every single label, and avoiding the chip aisle entirely, grocery shopping became a chore, and a frustrating bore. 

It took a while, but I found my feet and didn’t have to spend 40 minutes shopping to return home with only tinned tomatoes and not very loso at all bread, which was the only exception I allowed myself. Overall I’m grateful it hasn’t been as difficult as I first anticipated, but it was a big adjustment. Big.  

In the past almost three months I have eaten:

zero McDonalds, 

no pizza, 

not a single more-ish piece of KFC popcorn chicken, 

nothing involving soy sauce, oh I miss you Asian cuisine…

not a bought from a cafe/fast food joint/nestled-beside-a-juicy-piece-of-restaurant-chicken chip or french fry or a paper wrapped fish and chip shop burger… none of these things have passed my lips. 

I haven’t even had a scraping of Vegemite on toast. 

And, I have lost NO WEIGHT AT ALL! Going #loso is not the next 5:2 diet, I assure you! 

I went completely cold turkey on potato chips, which I ate mostly every evening as an after work snack. This withdrawal made me cranky enough to kick a kitty on several occasions. Properly, swearily cranky. Thankfully, that’s passed now.

In fact, a couple of weeks ago a friend sent me a message saying she’d noticed a particular brand of potato chips had only 200mg of sodium per 100g…. (right on the edge of the gold standard). Intrigued, I bought a packet. I weighed out a small bowl of chips (65 grams to be precise) and sat down on the couch, raised a chip to my mouth and cough, splutter, choke, they were SO SALTY, they actually burned my tongue! Potato chips. Weakling 200mg sodium potato chips, I found them almost inedible. 

Proof positive that our tastebuds regenerate pretty darn quickly. 

Those chips got binned a few days later. So that’s over. 

The thing that I can’t get over is that the brand and varieties I used to devour daily had three and four times more sodium than those weakling, tongue burning ones. Triple and quadruple the sodium. Almost every night. For years!  

Poor heart.   

I’m sorry. 

For everything I’ve had to give up, there’s been a gain, or a new discovery. 

I bake my own bread, and it’s delicious! I use this recipe. Works every time. 


I have replaced the savoury crunch of potato chips with lightly pan-fried wholemeal pita breads. There’s even a low sodium sweet potato dip in my fridge at the moment! I do miss the ease of a thrown together dinner of bakery bought bread, ham, olives, dips, and cheese. Beloved cheese… but there’s always a cheeky slice of Swiss, which is one of the lowest sodium cheeses, or a teensy sprinkling of parmesan on my crispy pita bread. 

I’ve discovered Sophie Dahl’s wonderful recipes. Her cooking is robust, simple and vegetable driven, and delicious! 

Lentils and pumpkin and kale, oh my! 

Fooled you – I don’t eat kale. I haven’t gone bonkers. 

I do eat these… absolutely scrumptious, super low in sodium, full of flavour chicken meatballs. Thank you Jamie Oliver! 

They’re my favourite fake-away dinner, and I get three meals from a $5.50 tray of 20! Frugal AND #loso! 

Also on high rotation, loads of mushrooms, sautéed with leeks and olive oil, a little garlic and some passatta – heaven. Perfect with the one brand of low sodium gnocchi I’ve found, or atop a crunchy slice of home baked toast. 

Tomorrow I’m going to make BabyMac’s chicken and vegetable soup. I haven’t had soup for almost three months, as I’m on a daily fluid restriction. It is crazy cold in Melbourne at the moment, so I’m going to give it a whirl, measuring cup in hand!

Thankfully, I found a super low sodium (but quite expensive) chicken stock at my local Coles, and the Coles brand salt-reduced chicken stock is close enough to 200mg to pass muster. 

Tip: home brand products are often lower in sodium than their fancy shelf mates. Organic doesn’t mean low sodium. Foods labelled “low sodium” can still be off the richter scale if you really need to cut back. It’s all about reading every label, until you get the lay of the land. 

Like anything, change takes time. I’m changing one pantry clear out, one shopping list, one home baked loaf of bread, one label, one new recipe at a time, and I’m happy about it. So is my heart. 

It’s good for me to have a reason to take better care of myself. I am worth the extra time and effort. If only I could find someone to do the dishes for me. So. Many. Dishes. 

So that’s a little insight to what’s been going on in my world. 

What’s cooking at your place this weekend? Let me know, I love it when your comments keep the conversation going. 

Cheers, and don’t forget to read your food labels! 


Annette ❤️


Update: That BabyMac soup, it’s utterly EPIC! Here’s a progress shot. Oh so good!