Review: The Kitchen House


I appreciated the author’s craft but didn’t enjoy the story. 

This is the third book this year I’ve read that starts with the end and the story builds up to what you already know. I think it would have had greater impact to not know one of the main characters is hanged. Not far into the story, it was quite clear who the killer would be and it was the choice of two loved characters that would be killed. 

After the climax (which you already know) the story wraps up very quickly. Loose ends are tied up nice and neatly – in vast contrast to the rest of the story. 

I don’t know much of American slave history and this seems an accurate depiction from the little I do know. A stark reminder of the appalling way humans have treated others throughout time.

Rating: 2 stars. (see my book review scale)
Book group book May 2016


How are ya today meme

I chuckled at the title of this week’s meme, thanks to Sunday Stealing; it’s nice to be asked.

  1. Okay, here we go. How are ya today?  Been better, been worse.  I saw this Emily McDowell instagram during the week, which kinda sums it up at the moment.
  2. Have you ever been so happy you felt invincible? I don’t think I’ve ever felt invincible. 
  3. Would you ever refer to something as ‘bitter sweet’? Parenting – yeah that’s how I’m feeling today.
  4. Is there a person in this world you don’t think you could ever figure out?  Loads, starting with myself!
  5. When was the last time you were freaked out?  This afternoon when my son wandered off. I ‘lost’ him for 30 seconds and was moments away from bursting into tears, while tearing shreds off every person between me and him.
  6. Do you learn from ‘every’ mistake you make? No, I wish I did.
  7. Do you sometimes think that you’re too nice? Yep.
  8. Is there something you’re dying to tell someone? No, most people know what I’m thinking 😉
  9. Do you think you have a unique name?  I don’t think so, but I’ve always had to spell my name out, and I made sure my son had an easy to spell (but uncommon) name.
  10. Do you usually try to find the good in people? Yes, usually to my detriment. 
  11. Do you look back on embarrassing moments and laugh about them? Once I stop blushing, as they STILL embarrass me.
  12. Have you ever laughed just to save yourself from humiliation? All the time.
  13. What are you doing in 2 hours? Eating roast chicken dinner
  14. What is the last thing you ate? Grilled fish and a potato cake.
  15. Do you love your job? I really like my job, but I couldn’t say I ‘love’ it.
  16. When is the last time you showered? This morning after swimming lessons.
  17. Who is the last person you texted? My sister
  18. When is the last time you were in a hospital? As a visitor, about a month ago.
  19. The last time you went out to eat, what did you order?
  20. Do you tend to have a lot of those moments where you forget something that you wanted to say?
  21. How long have you known the last person you text messaged? about 34.5 years – her whole life.
  22. Will this week be a good one?  Any week can be a good week, if you set your intention to not let anything get to you.
  23. Anything happen to you within the past month that made you really happy? Yesterday, I took my son to see progress on our apartment, and we were able to get inside and have a look around – getting close now!
  24. Do you prefer to take showers at night or in the morning? In the evening, to wash the day away.
  25. Have you been to New York City? Yes, my favourite place in the world.


Review: The Anxiety Toolkit

Last year, I experienced a lot (well, a lot for me) of stress and anxiety. While much of it reduced when I left the job I was doing, there were still sleepless nights of going over the same things. I’d find I was waking between 2-4am and then, no matter what, it would take two hours to get back to sleep. If I woke at 0345, I could write off that nights sleep.

I read about the topic of ‘rumination’ mentioned in an mainstream media article and thought that kinda sounded like what I was doing in the middle of the night. The article referred to The Anxiety Toolkit by Dr Alice Boyce, so I checked out a copy from my local library.

Apart from Who moved my Cheese and some articles during my post-grad, I think this is the first ‘self-help’ book I’ve read. As I read The Anxiety Toolkit, I learnt with this style of book, you need to take on a different type of reading. It’s not a wind-down-before-bed read. It’s set time aside to read one chapter, then reflect on what was discussed and times when you’ve experienced those things. Also, I read quickly, and again learnt this style of book needs you to slow down and read every word and example.

The Anxiety Toolkit highlighted some of my thinking biases, although not rumination as I initially thought. While reading, I wanted to highlight paragraphs, write in margins (frowned on for books borrowed from libraries), and have a work book on my bedside table to note thoughts. I also wanted the ‘proper’ time (<this being one of my thinking biases) to self reflect on these topics and further delve into my thinking.  Unfortunately I needed to return the book to the library before I had time for a second (or third) read.

Rating: 3.5 stars. (see my book review scale) I’d like to read again, perhaps workshop some topics with others (to fulfill my extrovert qualities!)



Review: Sister

[Spoilers ahead]

I finished Sister by Rosamund Lupton last week, and it’s taken me a couple of days to get my head around this review.

The book starts on a Sunday evening when the main character – Beatrice – is rushing home from New York to London as her sister, Tess, is “lost”.  As the older sister, Beatrice feels she knows everything about her younger sister and they have no secrets.  The end of the first chapter, Beatrice shares Tess’s pregnancy secret with their mother.  In the second chapter, we find out – at the same time Beatrice does – that the baby had died.  Perhaps Beatrice didn’t know everything about her sister.  The third chapter, we find Tess isn’t “missing” but dead; it is ruled a suicide which Beatrice cannot accept.

At this point, I wondered what else was left to tell – three fairly big announcements in short succession.   The middle was hard going, as I’d stopped taking notice of what day the story was up to due to the style of the narrative, which took some getting used to: Beatrice is telling this story to Tess, so we (the reader) are essentially Tess.  Yes, the dead sister. Sometimes we were in the present, other times we were a month/week ago telling the story to Mr Wright (a lawyer of some kind), while other times we were recalling a memory as children, especially since Beatrice and Tess’s brother died of Cystic Fibrosis when they were young. As the older sister of three, I did relate to Beatrice and was sad when Beatrice realised she was the only sibling left.

I had questions about Mr Wright, as he was taking her testimony as Tess’s murderer had been caught.  But this was happening within a month or two of Tess’s murder – the only way I worked this out was one of Tess’s friends was also pregnant, but she hadn’t had the baby yet.  What murder investigation moves that quickly?

When we get to the end of the story, Mr Wright is a figment of Beatrice’s imagination, as she too has been lured by Tess’s murderer. This is when I began to wonder what day it was. How long had Beatrice been waiting to be found? What else was real or imagined?  I enjoyed the twist at the end, and this is what raised the star rating.  I feel I do need to read this one again, if anything to follow the timeline better.

I read this shortly after reading Girl on the Train: another thriller, where you find out what has happened at the start of the book, and the rest of the book is piecing it together.   I’m not sure if I like this format and would be interested to read other thrillers that take a different narrative (I’d love your recommendations).

Rating: 4 Stars (see my book review scale)

Book Group June 2016 book

Ology meme

It’s been a long week, and I’ve made it to Sunday night! I must say, I’m not really in the mood to be blogging tonight, and here we are, so a win for me.  With thanks again from Sunday Stealing.

What is your least favorite salad dressing?  
Most, I prefer my salads naked.
What is your least favorite fast food restaurant? They all have a time and place. I’m not a huge fan of McD’s, but McCafe with a playground is sometimes heaven-sent for tired mummies.
What is your favorite sit-down restaurant? Flowerdrum in Melbourne was divine, and so it should be for the price!
What food could you eat every day just to “get along”? Huh? not really sure what this question is asking.
What pizza toppings would make you hurl? Anchovies 
What is your favorite type of gum to get off your shoe? None

Number of contacts you’d never let your significant other see on your cell phone? No significant other, so none!
Number of contacts in your email address book that are exes?  One
Do you judge others about the wallpaper on their computer? Not so much the wallpaper, but the number of ‘easy to find’ shortcuts/documents.
What is your favorite technology from the past that is now obsolete? Wrist watch. Been meaning to find mine, just coz it’s pretty.
Do you have stuff on your computer that you’d never want someone to see? Yep.

Are you right-handed or left-handed?  Righty
Do you like your smile? Yes, one of my best features
What’s your best feature? Er, see above
Have you ever had anything removed from your body? Tonsils, wisdom teeth.
Which of your five senses do you think is keenest? Hearing.
When was the last time you had a cavity? Couple of years ago.
What is the heaviest item you lifted last? A friend’s couch when I helped them move a few weeks ago.
Have you ever been knocked unconscious? No.

If you could, would you wanna know the day you were going to die? Oh good question. No, I don’t think I would.
Is love for real? Some love is.
If you could change your first name, what would you change it to? I always wanted to as a kid, but now I really like my name.
What color do you think looks best on you?  Bright colours; coral is a fav at the moment.
Have you ever swallowed a non-food item by mistake?  I don’t think so.
Have you ever saved someone’s life?  No.
Has someone ever saved yours? Not in an emergency situation, but I’m sure if I was born 100 years ago, I wouldn’t have made it through postpartum months.

Would you walk naked down a public street for $100,000? Sure
Would you cut off one of your little fingers for $200,000?  Nope
Would you never blog again for $50,000? Sure
Would you pose naked in a magazine for $250,000? Well, I’ve said I’d walk down the street naked and magazines have photoshopping, so yep.
Would you drink an entire bottle of hot sauce for $1000? No way!
Would you give up watching television for a year for $25,000?  I haven’t watch TV for 2 year, so I’d like to know where my $50K is please!

What is in your left pocket? No pockets.
Do you have hardwood or carpet in your house? Both 
Do you sit or stand in the shower? Seriously? Stand.
Could you live with roommates? I do.
How many pairs of flip flops do you own? About 3 
Where were you born? Melbourne, Aus
Last time you had a run-in with the cops? Do speed cameras count? Last November. 
What do you want to be when you grow up? I wish I knew.

Friend you talked to? My sister
Last person you called?  My brother-in-law
Person you hugged? My bubba nephew

Number? 17
Color? Purple (today, anyway!)
Season? Autumn

Missing someone? No
Mood? Tired
Listening to? Prince, The Hit/B Sides (concert Tuesday night, hence purple my fav colour at the mo!)
Watching? My computer screen. 
Worrying about? pinched nerves between ribs causes shortness of breath, which happened to me last Tuesday night.  It’s still a little painful and I’m not sure if/when it will happen again.

First place you went this morning? Swimming lessons
What can you not wait to do? Prince concert (two more sleeps!)
What’s the last movie you saw? Zoolander 2 – so very funny.
When was the last time you got caught cheating? Never
Now that the survey’s (or meme) done what are you going to do? Bedtime now. Night night.

Carry a tune meme

What a great weekend! Very happy to be finishing with this, via Sunday Stealing.

Do you own a tablet of any kind? Yes, an iPad mini that’s about 3 years old.

What’s something people always assume about you that isn’t true? I’m not really sure – I’d happily be enlightened! Maybe that I’m always busy…

On a scale of 1-10, how much do elevators scare you? 2 for a normal elevator, 8 for a glass-bottomed elevator.

When you’re upset, do you vent to people or do you keep to yourself? If I’m truly upset, it will be silent treatment

Have you ever watched a meteor shower? No

Do you tend to put things off until the last minute? Work yes, I need a deadline. Other things, no.

How do you react to random strangers suddenly trying to make conversation with you? I’m always up for a chat (unless they look slightly deranged)

Do you have a lucky number? My family always pick 11 when doing tattslotto numbers – I have no idea why. I like to think it’s because I was born in the 11th month.

Would you go out to dinner with Oprah? Absolutely, especially if she was paying

Did you ever play sports? I played basketball for about a term at school.

Do you feel guilty if you throw food away?  Very. I like to think because I have a dog, I don’t waste as much, as she always gets the left-overs.

Do you think you could make it as a baker? No. My brother-in-law was an apprentice baker and tells horrible stories of coughing up white flour.

Are you one of those people who are wearing scarves with everything? Really? people are doing this?

Have you ever been in a castle? Yes, saw and visited some fabulous castles while holidaying in Wales, years and years ago.

When you were little, did you ever play with Playdoh? Yep, homemade by mum. It was the saltiest thing she ever cooked.

Would you rather write a mystery or love story? Mystery. There’s more to it

Tell me about your worst fashion mistake: So many to mention. One of my first work outfits: red power suit. Short sleeved with massive shoulder pads.

Do you hate it when people smoke around you? Not really, happens so rarely these days.

How are you wearing your hair right now? Wild and free. Driving home this afternoon, I had my sunroof open and the windows down, so it was all over the place!

When’s the last time you were sick? I had a day off work around april last year – as a contractor, that’s a big thing! I can remember being horribly ill when my son was around 12 months old – we were both so ill for about 12 hours and thankfully my mum was able to help us.

Would you rather have OJ or milk with your breakfast? Milk, as I usually have museli or a green smoothie

What were you doing thirty minutes ago? Eating dinner

Do you own any school related clothing articles? I still have my last school dress, signed by my whole class

Would you rather call people or have them call you? I would love people to call me, mainly because it’s usually me doing the calling.

Can you carry a tune? Nope.

Who was the last person who unexpectedly texted you? Just scrolled through my texts: no unexpected ones there, as it seems I start the texts too.

Who do you text the most? My mum.

Planners, journals, and thought-bubbles

The last few months I’ve been looking into hobbies and what to do in my ‘spare time’.  A large part of this has been thinking back to what I used to like doing growing up.

As a teenager, I loved keeping a diary: not a ‘dear diary’ journal but a record of what was happening in my life at the time, even if it was ‘assignment due’.  Few years on, I LOVE pretty stationery (long-time Kikki-k VIP). More recently, I have journalled, jotting down feelings during times of high stress.

Add to this the general organisation it takes to be mother, worker, sister, aunt, and friend in 2016, I also needed something to see my week-at-a-glance, contain paperwork, and general thought-bubbles.

Several hours of research later, here are the journals and planners I looked into and what I thought of each:

Desire Map Planner by Danielle La Porte – sold out for 2016, it was available in both daily and weekly views. Pitched to position your ‘day-to-day alongside your dreams’ this was very tempting.  I didn’t choose this one as I still use my electronic calendar for my daily schedule (pop-ups reminders).  I am still torn about the weekly version though, and it might top the list for 2017. If anything, head to the website and sign up for Danielle’s daily #Truthbombs

Passion Planner – Another ‘all-in-one weekly appointment calendar, journal, goal setting guide, and to-do list log integrated in one’. A great thing about this planner, is that you can download a pdf and print your own if you wish. Plus you can choose if you want your week to begin on a Sunday or Monday (although I can’t imagine why anyone would want their week to start on a Sunday and have their weekends split up). They also have a ‘pay-it-forward’ program, where you can purchase a planner for someone who can’t afford one themselves.  Like the Desire Map Planner, this one went into the hourly schedule, which is too detailed for my needs.

Plum Paper Planner – this one was getting closer to what I needed, and it has 15 different add-ons (Baby Planner, Blog Planner, Budget Planner, other things you need to plan that don’t start with B) and this is what swayed my decision away from this planner – too much choice!

Daily Greatness Journal – I love the colours in this journal. It would make me want to open it everyday.  It’s great if you’ve got a big goal to achieve, and is available in specialised versions if those goals are focussed on yoga, training, or setting up/running a business. Undated, so you can start using anytime of the year.

Erin Condren LifePlanner – this is one I chose for 2016, with the ‘menu planner’ add-on.   When I started my research for planners, this one came up again and again.  What won me over, was something that has become a bit of a hobby: planner stickers! After customising the cover, I wanted to add some colour to the inside pages too.  Another internet search, and turns out ‘planner stickers’ is a whole industry.  There are some beautiful stickers available on Etsy and I’ve found Vintage Glam Studio with free printables!

So, it’s the beginning of February – has having a sparkly planner been useful so far in 2016? I do have it open on my desk at work, so I can jot down things when I think of them. I need to get into the habit of checking it before bed, and referring to it over the weekend when I can be a bit more creative.  I’m not 100% sold on the Erin Condren layout and I’ll continue to tweak what I capture throughout the week.

What keeps you organised and on-track?