Sep 29, 2016

Weird Weather For Spring. 'Station Eleven' - Emily St. John Mandel.

South Australia,

I really hope you're all safe.  I've just heard on the news that tonight's weather may be even worse that last night's which ripped transmission  towers out of the ground and left around 1.7 million of you without power.

Do take care and I hope you managed to get home early and that the house is well stocked up with the essentials.

The weather here's been just a fraction of a percent of what's hit South Australia.  Just enough wind and rain to keep us on our toes about being safer drivers and keeping our gardens free of loose items that could become lethal projectiles.  And just enough to make me recheck the torches and chargers.

We've regressed back to some favourite foods of winter thanks to the weather today.  Baked Granny Smith wedges tossed in cinnamon and sprayed with a bit of oil are always great straight out of the oven.

And, of course, our perennial favourite - the cheese toastie.  Looks like this weekend's sandwiches are going to feature custom bitten cheese slices thanks to Preschooler SSG.
I had a bit of browse through 'Things We Love' (a Kate Spade coffee table tome) today.

The book is a tribute to key elements of the Kate Spade aesthetic.  It's the perfect kind of book for a browsing.  There's not too much text interspersed between hundreds of images of New York City as well as archival images from previous Spade campaigns and collections.

Preschooler SSG will be accessorizing with abandon this summer thanks to my good friends at Crocs who love a licensed chilidren's shoe as much as I do.  Dory and Lightening McQueen.  That's a dream summer of shoes right there as far as Preschooler SSG is concerned.

A very familiar print from Kate Spade...  I have a pencil case that features these confetti like lights.  It used to be an amenity kit  but it does its new job really well too.
Short of reasons to continue your Netflix subscription?  Be at a loose end no longer because Jonathon Demme's new film about Justin Timberlake  on tour debuts October 12.  It's a Netflix exclusive and I'm going to dedicate an entire day off (and some bargain priced champagne from Dan's) to watching it, I think.

I've also got a fascinating read to share.  'Station Eleven' by Emily St. John Mandel.  Twitter suggested it to me a few months ago and I've only just discovered my download of it on my Kindle.

'Station Eleven' has been classified as sci-fi by many reviewers but to me, it's 'futuristic literary fiction'.  Actually, perhaps that should be post apocalyptic literary fiction because the world of 'Station Eleven' is one without technology as we know it now.  A mysterious flu decimates a world at a time much like our present.  Jeevan is in the audience of a performance of 'King Lear' when the terror begins and Arthur Leander, the lead actor, dies on stage.

Life after the death disintegrates rapidly.  People start dying of the flu in their hundreds then thousands then millions.  There is no electricity, there is no fuel.  There is no one left to repair or produce those essentials of life in the late 21st century.  There also isn't much law and order either.

Twenty years after the epidemic, Kirsten Raymonde lives a nomadic lifestyle touring around fragmented communities of survivors with a troupe of performers who presents various plays of Shakespeare to their audiences.  Shakespeare is popular because of its beauty and place in history - a comforting time well before the era of the terrors the audiences have survived.

The 'Station Eleven' of the title refers to a series of comics that Kirsten treasures from life before Year Zero (the onset of the flu).  They were written by Miranda, Arthur's first wife.  Kirsten is obsessed about Arthur and his life as documented by the celebrity magazines.  She keeps clippings about him that she collects from the abandoned houses she and the troupe sometimes pass on their travels between performances.  It turns out that Kirsten was a child actor who was part of the cast when Arthur was performing as Lear that night he died.

Mandel writes with this dark, slowness that subtly intensifies as her various interrelated plots intersect.  The time shifts between Year Zero and Year Twenty (the present day where adult Kirsten is touring with her troupe) are managed skilfully.  There are references to characters and events that neatly stitch things up between the eras.

As I've probably mentioned in previous book reviews, I'm not a science fiction fan but there was something about 'Station Eleven' that grabbed me.

Have you read 'Station Eleven'?  I understand Mandel has written several other novels that have a similar feel, theme wise.  Which would you recommend next?

Sep 27, 2016

Costco. Bettina Liano. Daiso.

It's been months in the planning, today's trip to Costco.  It used to be so easy to either stop off on the way home from where I used to work.  Then I used to make a day trip out of it with the then Toddler SSG when riding in a trolley was still a novelty he wanted to last forever.  But since we've moved (and I now have a very independent and agile Preschooler on my hands) the only safe and sane way of tackling Costco is to do it on my own on a weekday.  Which I just did, armed with a shopping list that's been in progress since the last time I visited all those months ago.

The catering rolls of food wrap have been stowed away (I find their size and the thunk they make on the bench top every time I use them deeply satisfying), I've squirrelled away three dozen biros in my work bag and the grown ups chocolate jars have been refilled and rehidden in the pantry.  It was the highlight of my day finding those snack sized Butterfingers today.  Coming a close second was the half hour I spent this morning ironing name labels into all 15 items of my latest order from Next for Preschooler SSG.

It's all a bit different at Costco these days.  Trolleys now have to be paid for, Aldi style.  Fortunately, it's not as much of a hassle getting your coin back because there are return keys chained to every trolley return bay in the car park.

The number one item on my list was the Kirkland brand of ground cinnamon.  It's a steal at $3.99 for a jar that's just over 300g.  I've seen other brands sold for double this at stores like About Life without any clarity as to the country of origin of the cinnamon used.  I'm convinced that Vietnamese cinnamon has a sweeter and richer taste.

It wouldn't be a trip to Costco without me shopping beyond my list, would it?  Do you remember Bettina Liano jeans?   Unfortunately, the label went into liquidation in 2015 but you can find her logo-ed Ts and denim shorts at Costco as of now.

Just under $20 for a pair of denim shorts.  I couldn't walk past an offer like that.  The denim has a nice weight to it too.  I ended up buying a pair in black because all my other summer denim is blue or white.  Props to the girl next to me who reckoned we could both try on our pairs over our jeggings rather than chancing it by stretching a pair over our clothes and hoping for the best,  It worked first go for both of us.

I will leave you with the lastest in clothes pegs from Daiso.  Our laundry will be drying in the breeze this season from under my new Mickey Mouse pegs.

Do you own a pair of Bettina Liano jeans?  I can't remember whether this was The Label in Australian denim before or after Sass&Bide?  I'm feeling my age just posing this question.

Sep 26, 2016


Just resurfacing from a busy weekend.

I'm feeling nothing but love towards this glorious sun we're having today.  It's filtered the pallor and pastiness out of my face like you wouldn't believe.

Some scenes from the weekend....

I took myself out for breakfast on Saturday before heading into work.  One day, I will live on the edge and go out for breakfast on a weekday work day...

Being the weekend, I managed to snag a spot on the highly coveted green level of our multi storey car park.

I was here on a daily basis for lunch and more coffee.

In a pocket of quiet time on Saturday, Preschooler SSG and I went down the road for afternoon tea Italian style.  A scoop of chocolate gelato for him and a bottle of blood orange San P for me.  We sat outside watching the world go about its business as the sun shone overhead.  I think we've got a good thing going for summer when it arrives in a few short months.

Meanwhile in Canada, the working weekend looked a little like this for the Cambridges.
Kate wore McQueen in Vancouver.
And Jenny Packham when the family deplaned in Victoria.

You know, don't you. that the McQueen will grown on me in coming weeks and that I will chance upon a facsimile of it at Zara which I will buy and archive for future wear.  On a day, ideally, involving minimal walking or preschooler wrangling because I think heels will be mandatory to pull of the look.  Chinese New Year, perhaps?  It would be a lovely frock for the races or a wedding, neither of which are on the horizon of my social calendar, though. 

I will be looking towards my friend Leslie aka  The Hostess of the Humble Bungalow for all the latest as she lives not far from where the family will be staying this week.  Canada has pulled out all the stops for this visit so far and I've really enjoyed the photos and media coverage so far.

Apparently, Prince George was being a typical three year old and didn't high five the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau.  I wonder how old George will be before he's allowed to wear long trousers?  Will his parents succumb to the tyranny of track pants like many of us already have?  What will they do with all those lovingly bought (and incredibly cute) pairs of designer jeans they may have sourced from the US outlet stores?  I bought those jeans in lieu of the adorable tutus my friends buy for their daughters.  Only Preschooler SSG is in a jeans refusal stage of his development right now and it's trackies or nothing at the moment.

I clocked off at work at lunchtime on Sunday, by which time it was cold and wet again.  But I set off for home determined to make the most of the weekend I had left.  First stop, the gym where I'm slowly getting my sprint speeds up again after all these colds I've had.

Then I dropped off all my Kiehl's empties and got my card stamped.  By the looks of the fine print, I'm due three rewards.  They were out of stock this weekend so I'll chase things up later and write a bit about my haul.

I also picked up a few things I'll write about another day.  They were almost free because I got these gift cards to redeem against a future purchase as well.  Not bad for an afternoon's work.

And then Preschooler SSG and I hit the supermarket to shop for the week ahead.  This is us negotiating about what our next tin of bedtime drink powder will be.  And the winner is Ovaltine, readers!!  Sounds much healthier than chocolate milk powder, doesn't it?

I seem to be flicking pages on my diary at the rate of knots these days.  It's going to be the end of the year before I know it.  I'm determined to not let next year get away from me so I'm starting my trip planning for 2017 now.  In fact one of my resolutions for the new year will be to take myself overseas twice over the year.  Though I've flown into Texas several times over the  years, I've never actually left the airport in Dallas Fort Worth to explore the state.  So I'm planning  my first trip of the year to Texas.  San Antonio, to be precise.

Have you visited Texas?  Are you from there, perhaps?  What is San Antonio like around May?

Do three year olds grow out of their track pants obsession?

Sep 23, 2016

Friday Drinks.

Good times.  I'm working through this weekend.  It's my last one for the year which I'm pretty happy about.  On the other hand, I can pretty much guarantee that this will mean nothing blog worthy will be going on for the duration.  So before I disappear off into the sunset for a bit, here's a recap of the last bits of excitement (such that it was) I'm going to be seeing for 72 hours or so.

We got our new council bins on Thursday.  I thought it would be a great idea to multitask and bring them round to the back of the house while I was sipping my apres gym coffee.  Yes.  In my activewear.  Eye roll.

It was noisy business and I was feeling a bit self conscious about interrupting the peace of the morning before the builders down the road even had the chance.  (Un)Fortunately, I wasn't the only person out and about making a ruckus because the distinctive sound of a shopping trolley that's supposed to lock it's wheels once it's removed from its shopping centre (but hasn't) soon stuttered out its harmony to my bin wheels.  My neighbour was wheeling a Dan's trolley down the street while he walked his dog on his way to get a coffee.  I think we're the special street of the 'hood.  The eccentric aunt who yoga retreats in Byron (aka Far North Bondi) and shops from the hard core organic and whole foods aisles of About Life when she is in town (as opposed to doing it light with a coffee and a ready made lunch from the cafe).

My care package from T2 arrived.

Perfectly and excessively gift wrapped as always in layers of monogrammed black tissue paper and the trademark black on black T2 gift box.  120 peppermint tea bags?  You betcha.  I started off with one soothing mug before dinner and it's escalated from there.  Relaxing with benefits to digestion, metabolism, weight loss and immunity plus T2's version tasting so good?  I've even started substituting it for my afternoon cup of tea as well.

T2 had a gift with purchase promotion when I placed my order and it a special edition tin of their new loose leaf tea, Packs A Peach.  It's a black tea with chunks of dried fruit in it and smells like summer in its tin.  Can't wait to try it iced this summer.

In other beverage news, I've made an early start on the Christmas champagne stockpiling.  I refuse to buy the fruit mince pies and fruit cakes that have started to appear on our supermarket shelves for Christmas that's still 93 days away but I will fill my trolley with some of Dan Murphy's heavily discounted champagne.  Veuve is currently going for $110 per pair of bottles.

Sorry, did I really just write that Christmas is 93 days away?  That's a double digit number.  Already!?!?!  When did this happen?

Does anything unique happen on your street?  Are you responsible for it?

Have you started stockpiling food and drink for Christmas yet?

Have a good weekend.

Sep 22, 2016

The Weeknight Book Club: 'The Hypnotist's Love Story' by Liane Moriarty.

Hurrah!  I've finally finished a new novel.  It's certainly been a while.

'The Hypnotist's Love Story' (link to the Kirkus review) is a Liane Moriarty novel from 2012.  I'm a big fan of Liane's thoughtful and humorous writing.  Her novels are often weave a handful of characters' lives together into plots that have this addictive mix of the issues of middle class Australian suburbia spiked with a bit of the unexpected.  I love reading her word sketches of Sydney and I love the way she gives her characters such vivid internal dialogues and imaginations.

'The Hypnotist's Love Story' is the story of Ellen the thirty something hypnotist of the title.  The novel begins with Ellen embarking on a new relationship with Patrick, an attractive widow with a young son.  It's been a rocky road in the partner department for Ellen but she's cautiously hopeful about things with Patrick.  They have an awkward date during which Patrick disappears to the bathroom for a bit only to return to their table with News.  Not that he wants to end things but rather that he has an ex girlfriend named Saskia who's been stalking him for years.  In fact her turning up to the restaurant was why he was away from the table for so long.

Ellen is intrigued by this shock announcement and sees it as a challenge.  After all, as a successful hypnotist, shouldn't she be able to change mindsets (her's, Patricks or perhaps even Saskia's?)  in order to alter beliefs and behaviour?

The novel alternates between Ellen and Saskia narratives.  We begin to understand the reasons why Saskia feels the way she does about Patrick and his family.  She was there for him after his wife died and helped him raise Jack in the early years.  When the relationship ended, so did much of the direction and purpose of Saskia's life.  Her coping mechanisms revolved around how she could still be a part of Patrick and Jack's lives.

Meanwhile, Ellen is struggling to adjust to all the change in her life.  She's suddenly found herself part of a ready made family of Patrick and Jack as well as being pregnant with Patrick's baby.  Ellen's independent mother who raised her alone after becoming pregnant on purpose to an engaged man suddenly reconnects with this man after he divorces.  Through all of this, Ellen has her work as a hypnotist with all its challenges and interesting clients.

Ellen and Saskia meet and a kind of triangular 'relationship' is established among them with Saskia's intensified stalking of Patrick and now Ellen having a devastating outcome.

'The Hypnotist's Love Story' is an easy read that grew on me after the first few chapters.  I wanted to know more about Saskia's past with Patrick and also how things would end for her now that Ellen was on the scene.  I didn't find Patrick particularly fascinating or even remotely 'I'd put up with your stalker to still have you in my world' worthy so the whole love triangle with Ellen and Saskia component of the relationship wasn't a big deal for me.  I did find Ellen's life as hypnotist fascinating reading and this was big part of the compulsive page turning for me.

Sadly, I haven't had nearly as much joy with 'The Last Anniversary', one of Liane's earlier novels.  It's moving incredibly slowly.  It's taken me months to even get to the 37% read mark my Kindle tells me I've reached.  If you've read it, should I persist?

Sep 21, 2016

Wednesday's Miscellanea.

It's the middle of another week.  Already.  I hope it's treating you well so far and if not, may things be on the improve from now on.

Miscellanea  from the week so far.  Everyday things but also, now that I look at it, a surprisingly high proportion of current affairs type things as well.

Remembering: that it was oh so sunny yesterday....

As I sat on a warm deckchair at the pool after my swim.

Admiring: those fancy new five dollar notes firsthand.

They're not just beautiful to look at with their hologrammed ribbon of images through the bill, they're also designed to be easier to use for those with visual impairment.  Connor McLeod is the fifteen year old who made this happen.  He was twelve when he began his campaign.  I've got a good thirty years on him and am not even close to doing anything to improve our world for people who experience it differently through their impairments and differences.  I don't even know where to start.

Using: a book of butterflies as stamps.

Drinking: real tea at work.  Finally. Both caffeinated and herbal.

Wearing: shorter hair and a favourite scarf tied differently.

I went to the hairdresser yesterday and lost a few inches, zillions of greys plus at least a kilo of hair.  I am loving wearing my hair down.

Doing the dishes with: this gloriously scented special edition Morning Fresh. It's got a white tea fragrance and a touch of magenta colourwise.  Anything to add some joy to the dishes.  I'm not entirely convinced about the 'Fast Dry Tecnology' claim though.  But maybe I'm washing my dishes wrong.

Listening to: Dolly and the Pentatonix's acoustic version of Jolene.  Make that listening, re-listening and downloading from iTunes.

Could it be even more perfect than Dolly's original solo version?  Even more haunting and evocative?  The song was first released in 1973 and was already timeless.  This reworking featuring new harmonies will ensure the song will never disappear into obscurity.

Collaborations like this between different generations of musicians fascinate and inspire me.  It's wonderful seeing music being a universal language that brings generations together.  Each learning a bit from the other, the older and the newer combining to make something even better.

Reflecting on: Magda Szubanski and Jimmy Barnes' team effort on QandA Monday night.

To be Australian is to have a little place in your heart for both Szubanski and Barnes.  Their contributions to our cultural identity, their open disclosure of difficult times in their lives (for Magda it related to her sexuality and for Barnes his decades of drug and alcohol abuse and its impact on those who loved him) and now, their unified stance in opposing the non-binding plebiscite bill on same-sex marriage that our Prime Minister is putting before Parliament.

I will confess my ignorance of the implications of the plebiscite right now.  It sounds like a good thing marriage equality on face value except that its result is non binding and would only guide future discussion in Parliament rather than changing existing laws.  There is the potential for the community debate leading up to any ballot being fuelled by bigotry and hatred.  Which would do little for the cause of marriage equality.

It's going to cost us as a society to the tune of $160 million dollars that could go to fund programs to help Australians in difficulty through illness, disability or domestic violence.  It is also money that could go towards other services and facilities that would benefit the general community.

Realizing: that life is not perfect for anyone.  I'm in my forties and I've seen a fair bit of life's ups and downs.  But I still need to be reminded about we are all only human.  Undoubtedly, some of us are more beautiful, talented, wealthier, intelligent, altruistic, patient and stronger than some others of us.  But we all face the same challenges in life.  Marriages end.  But life needs to and will go on and children need to be loved and raised.
It's the lucky majority of us, though, with our non spectacular and obviously imperfect lives that get to deal with our problems in private.

Did you watch or listen to QandA Monday night?  What are your thoughts?


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