Have you read…? January reading

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Gah! It’s already nearly the end of February so I have been a TAD SLOW getting these posted! Oh well. Better late than never! Here’s what had me flicking over pages in the first month of 2018.

Goodwood by Holly Throsby

I read this book whilst down at the beach and it was the perfect holiday read. Goodwood is a small community in rural New South Wales. Life is uneventful and uncomplicated for the residents of Goodwood until two of its residents disappear – the beautiful and inscrutable 18 year old Rosie, and one week later, the local butcher and pillar of the community, Bart. Greenwood is rocked to its core as the residents and local policeman, Mack, attempt to discover what has happened to the two. Could the two have been involved with each other? Why did Bart not seem to want to discuss Rosie’s disappearance with his wife whilst the rest of the town was abuzz with speculation? Was Rosie’s violent stepfather involved in her disappearance? Or Lafe, the leering uncle of Rosie’s boyfriend? Why was $500 stashed in a hole in a tree trunk by the river? Throsby has populated her novel with deftly drawn, idiosyncratic characters, who, together, create a community that feels very real. The resolution is uncomplicated, as befits the town, yet satisfying.

First Person by Richard Flanagan

I have never read any Richard Flanagan books before so I was keen to read First Person when it was proposed at book group. In the early 1990s, struggling Tasmanian writer, Kif Kehlmann, is employed to ghost write the autobiography of Siegfried Heidl, a conman who has defrauded the banks of 700 million dollars. Heidl becomes an increasingly frustrating subject for Kif – he leaves writing sessions abruptly for meetings and interviews, he refuses to divulge details of his early life to enable Kif to write his story, or to show any repentance for his actions. A further unsettling aspect of their relationship concerns the warning Kif is given by his friend, Ray, Heidl’s bodyguard, who warns Kif not to reveal details of his personal life to Heidl as he has a way of insinuating himself into people’s lives. When the relationship between Kif and Heidl comes to an end, we follow Kif’s subsequent writing endeavours beyond the world of books and into the world of television. The novel owes much to Flanagan’s own experience of ghost writing the autobiography, Codename Iago, of fraudster John Fridrich. There can be no doubting the quality of Flanagan’s writing but the story? The consensus amongst our book group was that it was a bit ‘meh’. In a meeting between Kif and his publisher, Gene, that takes place about two thirds the way through the novel, Gene tells Kif that whilst he has some ‘interesting things’ in his manuscript ‘something needs to happen.’ And that is exactly how I felt. Nothing was happening. It was a continual cycle of Kif meeting Heidl, Heidl running off, Kif’s book going nowhere, and Kif becomingly increasingly frustrated, as was I! Maybe that was the point – to make me feel as frustrated as Kif. There were, however, some interesting observations made about trust in the novel. Heidl explains to Kif how trust is ‘the oil that greases the machine of the world.’ He observes that people we don’t like we still trust; that people who profess to know their professions – who lead the world – we trust. But what if they don’t know what they are doing? Heidl suggests that they are ‘the real conmen’. And, for me, the issue of trust in a world of reality TV – the world Kif comes to inhabit – and social media, is an interesting one to ponder. So would I recommend it? If you are happy to read a novel purely for writing style and language, yes, but if you want an engaging story, perhaps go for something else.

Force of Nature by Jane Harper

Force of Nature is the second novel by award winning writer, Jane Harper. Aaron Falk, the federal police officer who featured in The Dry, returns to investigate the disappearance of the acerbic Alice Russell during a team building hiking camp in the fictional Giralang Ranges. Falk and his partner, Carmen Cooper, become part of the investigation team as Alice has been assisting them in revealing the money laundering activities of her employer, BaileyTennants. Force of Nature is structured in a similar way to The Dry switching between chapters which focus on the investigation, and those which detail the unfolding events of the hike. As with any good thriller, there are a number of possibilities to keep the reader guessing as to who could be responsible for Alice’s disappearance. Could it be the son of the late notorious serial killer Martín Kovac, who dumped his victims’ bodies in the Giralang Ranges? Maybe Daniel Bailey, Alice’s boss, who was seen talking to her alone one night at the camp? What are we to make of the injuries to the face of Alice’s boss, Jill Bailey? What about the message ‘…hurt her…’ left on Aaron’s phone from Alice the day before she was reported missing? And there’s a red herring thrown in for good measure too! For me, the ending was not quite as satisfying as that of The Dry but it was a page-turning read along the way so I finished it a pretty content reader!

How’s your reading year going so far? Have you read any of these? What did you think?

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Taking Stock: January ‘18

52FA7955-F41F-4C28-B6D7-AA5FD97762A3.jpegToday was one of those days where I woke up feeling a bit flat. Do you have those too? There was no reason for me to feel down in the dumps but I just did. Maybe it was hormones? Australian Open hangover? Lack of sleep after the heat of the past couple of days – and yep, we did lose power at our place. Sweaty, sweaty, sweaty with no air con! So I thought, as I was out on my morning walk, feeling like I was about to burst into tears 😩, that it might be a good time to take stock to give myself a bit of a rev up!

Cooking: well, about to start cooking bolognese because cool weather means a more hearty meal.

Drinking: green tea at the moment. And I’ve also been drinking water with fruit chucked in it. Yep, it’s a 2018 thing happening in my kitchen. Today’s combo – pineapple and lime.

Eating: the ice cream birthday cake from my girl’s birthday yesterday. That necessitated a quick trip to my mum’s to pop it in her freezer during the power blackout.

Making: a weaving with purple wool to pay homage to ultraviolet being the Pantone colour of the year.

Reading: about to start Force of Nature which I just bought at the local bookshop with my babysitting money from this morning’s work. Thought it might pep me up!

Watching: lots of tennis! But now we need to find something else. Maybe Search Party? I did see Three Billboards outside Ebbing Missouri the other day and it was great. Frances McDormand… LOVE!

Listening: to birdsong with my little people this morning. How much fun it is to see kiddies observing the world around them!

Hearing: tv in the background. My man clacking away on his keyboard.

Knowing: it is our wedding anniversary on Thursday. 26 years. I think that’s a long time.

Hoping: everyone has a happy, healthy year.

Wanting: to see all the movies – I, TonyaThe PostSweet Country. It’s Oscars season and this year there seem to be some really compelling movies out there.

Wondering: how to develop my creative endeavours this year. A few classes, inspiring excursions, looking through books in the library?

Loving: this new ad campaign for CGU Insurance. I know that sounds completely weird to love an insurance ad, but it’s so great to give applause to migrants after the many negative messages that are presented in the media. I hope it brings a bit more humanity into people’s hearts.

Liking: the freshness in the air after some pretty humid days.

Laughing: at being called ‘a legend’. Chuffed!

Looking: at the photo of one of my weavings hanging on Shani’s wall. It makes my heart sing to see it in its new home!

Feeling: super happy for a friend who has just announced she’s having a bub!

No reason for me to be feeling slumpy at all! Lots of good things happening here! I hope your 2018 has started swimmingly. Maybe you want to take a leaf out of Pip’s book and take stock as well?

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What I did in 2017

 

So this is a thing I like to do. Rather than coming up with resolutions for the new year and wondering what lies ahead, I like to reflect upon the year that was – to think about what I enjoyed, achieved, and maybe even what was a bit challenging. And whilst we are already one week into the year, and 2017 is starting to feel like a bit of a distant memory, I think I can recall just enough to make up twenty noteworthy happenings. Here we go!

  1. Walked across the Brooklyn Bridge in very heavy snow. The rest of the family LOVED the snow but I must confess, no matter how rugged up I am, I do not handle cold well and I may have shed a little tear whilst they emitted exclamations of joy!
  2. Enjoyed not being a school mum anymore. It was fun – for the most part – at the time but I’m not unhappy to see the back of concerts, sports days and parent teacher interviews.
  3. Cheered when my girl got her driver’s licence. No more driving supervision. Woohoo!
  4. Worried when my girl got her driver’s licence.
  5. Worried when my man suddenly didn’t have a job. Gulp!
  6. Sighed with relief when the employment gods shone upon him after not too many months of job hunting. What an exhausting, rollercoaster ride that is!
  7. Enjoyed our first child free holiday in Tassie. We have had nights away from them in the last twenty one years but not an actual holiday.
  8. Joined a book club and met friendly new people. Thanks Isabel!
  9. Played chauffeur to my man when he broke his foot. moon boots are a bit cumbersome!
  10. Opened an etsy shop!
  11. Celebrated my girl’s 18th, my boy’s 21st and our 25th wedding anniversary. What a year of milestones!
  12. Held a new baby for the the first time in years! When I came home my girl said ‘your clothes smell different’. Yep, new baby smell! Heavenly!
  13. Volunteered at the Melbourne Writers Festival.
  14. Walked more steps than I ever have before because apparently my bones are a bit on the soft side. Gah! Ageing!
  15. Learned I can kill weeds with boiling water. Best discovery ever! I like a tidy garden but I DO NOT like gardening. And pulling weeds out of the cracks in paving? much hrrumphing under my breath!
  16. Probably wasted too much time scrolling through social media. That is a new year’s resolution if I have to have one!
  17. Reached my reading goal on Goodreads.
  18. Binge watched TV shows – The Crown, The Americans, The Handmaid’s Tale, Before We Die. This is what happens when my man is free to watch TV at night rather than working.
  19. Bought a long coveted lamp from Retro Print Revival.
  20. Watched the passing in parliament of the same-sex marriage legislation and shed a tear of happiness – and relief.

So 2017, I now bid you adieu. There were some ups, some downs, but you were mostly kind to me and for that I say ‘thank you’.

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Crafty uses for book vouchers

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I may be getting ahead of myself here, but perhaps you might find a book voucher in your Christmas stocking on Monday morning? The good folk at Readings have put together a fab list of crafty books  to help you put that voucher to good use.

My friend Karen lent me her copy of On the Loom and it is lovely. I may need to buy my own copy to add to my library. I’ve seen Craftivism sitting on the shelf of my local bookshop and I think that looks like a pretty good read too. And I like the look of the macramé one. And maybe this one may tempt my girl to take up a needle and floss? Going beyond the Readings list, this one by Hollie Chastain about collage is also a goody.

Do any of these appeal to you? Maybe you already have some? Happy reading, happy crafting!

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*this is not a sponsored post

Taking Stock: December ’17

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‘Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus, right down Santa Claus Lane’. Yep, it’s that time of year again! Are you ready? I have just put away the sticky tape and scissors so I am feeling *phew*.  Let’s see how much I am consumed by Christmas at the moment by doing a quick ‘taking stock’ à la Pip Lincolne.

Making: ice cream plum pudding – and licking the bowl! My mum always makes it but I’ve never done it before. It’s part of my tweaking some Christmas day traditions. I wrote about that over here. I used chop chip ice cream to make it a bit more indulgent.

Watching: Love Actually tonight. With my girl. Because it’s Christmas.

Drinking: water

Eating: asparagus for lunch with shaved parmesan and toasted almonds. I wish lunch would magically appear before me but alas it does not. Today I was not inspired but at least it was healthy. And chocolate fudge as an after dinner treat.

Cooking: salmon for dinner? Maybe?

Hearing: birds chirping.

Smelling: faint traces of the candles I was giving a pre-burn before they take up centre stage on the table on Monday.

Liking: that it will not be too hot on Christmas Day. 22 degrees sounds perfect to me. Good eating weather, as some in my family say! And we won’t become overheated by my lit candles!

Reading: reports about the car incident in Melbourne yesterday. Tragic.

Wishing: people wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that every such act is an act of terrorism. I think it best to see what comes of the police investigation so we can understand what it is that threatens the safety of our community. Is it terrorism? Mental health issues? Drugs?

Wondering: if we’ll need to wake the kids up on Christmas morning! Gone are the days when they were asking us what was the earliest they could get up – 6am was our answer. Last year we had to rouse them at 8 so we could get pressies done before I had to start preparing the food for the day!

Buying: all of the things! Pressies, food, drink.

Knowing; tomorrow is food shop day!

Writing: a list of what I need to buy.

Trying: to work out how the food will all fit in the fridge. It is an engineering feat every year trying to squash, squish and balance things in there.

Looking: forward to holidays by the beach after Christmas. How nice is it to wake up to a view of the sea and the sand, walk along the beach, have a coffee, read a book, have dinner at the pub, leave beds unmade? *sigh*

Disliking: ironing the big white tablecloths for the Christmas table. They are so unwieldy. And I come from a line of fastidious ironers so I always feel like I am being judged if it is not ironed just so!

Pondering: what design to do for my next weaving.

Noticing: I feel a little tired. Maybe I need a nanna nap.

Waiting: for my girl to come home from her singing lesson. Always feel relieved when I hear the car pull into the drive.

Feeling: happy that everyone in the family has achieved their goals for the year! Yay! Lots of work went into that.

So that’s it, lovelies, for 2017! Onwards and upwards to 2018. I must say I find ‘2018’ to be more aesthetically pleasing than ‘2017’ so let’s hope it will be a year filled with aesthetic pleasures! Enjoy your Christmas and New Year celebrations. See you next year!

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Do I dare change our Christmas traditions?

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See our Christmas wreath? It’s the same one I’ve pulled out of the cupboard since before my man and I had our kids. And the Christmas lilies? Every year they stand happily in the same vase in the hallway. I remember one year, after I was a little tardy in my Christmas lily buying, my boy saying ‘ah, now it smells like Christmas!’ when they finally made their appearance. Traditions are important, right? They bind us to our family. They bind us to our culture. But I have a question. Well, two. What do you do when traditions start feeling routine? Are you allowed to tweak them?

Here’s our situation. We have a small family. There’s me, my man and our now-grown-up boy and girl. My man and I each have one un-partnered sibling, and then there’s my parents and my man’s mum and her husband. My mother-in-law’s family is all in the UK. With such a little bunch of us, and with no-one having to juggle competing family demands, it makes sense for us to all do Christmas together. And since our family of four sits in the centre of both extended families, and our house has the most suitable space – and a pool – we host the day. When the kids were younger this was great – no need to ferry between different houses and they didn’t need to be parted from their pressies.  The day has a routine. Everyone arrives, drinks are poured, the usual seats are plonked down into, presents are distributed and opened. ‘Thank yous’ and nods are shared around the room and the nibblies I’ve prepared are eaten before we sit down at our thoughtfully arranged places *wink*, crack open the Christmas bonbons and try to get the streamers from the poppers to drape from the light fitting that hangs above the table. There’s seafood for entree, ham and turkey with roast potatoes, various salads then plum pudding studded with the old thr’pences and shillings that belonged to my nanna. By 4pm everyone is ‘full to pussy’s bow’ and the male members of the family seem to have flaked out around various rooms in the house (not quite sure why this is when it is my mum and me doing the food prep!). But after eighteen years of doing the hosting bit, with the same crowd, I’m starting to feel like some of the excitement has gone from the day. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and I feel blessed that I have been able to spend every Christmas Day with my parents and my brother for so many years. And my man has been able to spend it with his brother and mum, and each set of grandparents has been able to spend it with their only grandchildren. How fortunate are we? But now that we don’t have the Christmas energy of little people infusing our day, I feel like we need to do something different to give the day a bit of a rev up. But how far can you break with tradition without ruining the day?

Could I throw some snags and chicken on the barbie, and as long as there are pressies and bonbons would that be enough to make it feel like Christmas? Could I change it from lunch to dinner? Could we all go to a restaurant for lunch?

Last year, I decided to scrap the entree and just go for more substantial pre-lunch nibbles. I thought this might leave a little more room in our tums so that we could actually enjoy eating some pudding! My mum seemed a little hesitant when I suggested this but I think it worked okay! This year I’m adding an ice-cream plum pudding to the dessert menu after my boy said that he finds the traditional one a little filling at the end of the meal. My mum suggested we could ditch the pudding for something like a lemon tart (we’re not a pav family) but I think for my brother and my English mother-in-law, it wouldn’t be Christmas without a pud! We only ever have turkey at Christmas so it wouldn’t feel quite the same without that on the table.

And that would be the worst thing. To have a Christmas Day that doesn’t feel like Christmas – even if the day isn’t as thrilling or exciting as I remember it as a child, or when own boy and girl were little. Maybe it’s not the traditions I need to tweak, but the way I think about it. This is what Christmas is for us and this is what holds us together as a family. One day, I assume, I’ll have to share my kids – and grandkids! – with other families on Christmas Day so perhaps it’s best that I not tamper with our traditions too much in the meantime. Maybe some extra baubles hanging around the house, an updated Christmas playlist and that ice cream plum pudding are all we need.

Have you ever changed your traditions? Did it work? Or did it make you yearn for the way it was?

I hope you have a happy Christmas Day however you celebrate.

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Ten good things about this weekend

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This is the second in an occasional series (that means I wrote another post like this back in March!) about what’s been nice about this weekend. I’m sure there have been other pleasant weekends in between but this one has been choc full of good stuff!

  1. Meeting new people at my friend Isabel’s book club.
  2. Eating dumplings with the same new book club buddies.
  3. Movie date with another friend. We saw Murder on the Orient Express. It was entertaining, the costumes were lovely and I liked that Michelle Pfeiffer’s face had lots of movement to it. And she still looked gorgeous.
  4. Not getting hit by a car as my friend and I jumped off the tram. Phew! That would have put a dampener on the weekend!
  5. Buying this book for next month’s book club. I think it looks super interesting.
  6. Coffee in the gardens with my man.
  7. Warming sunshine with a gentle cooling breeze.
  8. Catching up with a friend for her birthday, drinking wine and munching through a burrito bowl.
  9. Watching the second season of Happy Valley.
  10. An early finish at work for my girl which saved us from a late night pick up.

And now it’s time to settle down now in front of Postcards. It’s our traditional finish to the weekend. Yep, it’s all pretty much advertorial but it’s nice to find out about local places to visit. And there’s always the anticipation of whether Bec will do the one or two handed wave with her ‘bye, bye for now’! How’s your weekend been? Have you had some chill time? Has it been a social one? Or has some solo time allowed you to recharge for the week?

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