Sunday, October 20, 2019

Reflections - National Dyslexia Month (Australia)

Many of you know I love my garden. A place of contentment, and a place for me to reflect. 
I spend alot of time in the outdoors, and a lot of time at work.... 

Especially in spring, now, I enjoy the new life, new flowers, and new animal life in the garden. 
Here, my newly established passionfruit is showing me it's intentions... 

This was a recent harvest which then converted to a variety of meals during the week. 
I get a great sense of satisfaction knowing that I grow my own food. 

This month is national Dyslexia Awareness Month. I didn't know there was such a month until recently when I read blog post. I was moved by the authors story to reflect on my own story. I have Dyslexia, which wasn't really diagnosed until I was in my 3rd year of Uni, and sitting in a child psychology lecture and recognised many of the symptoms in myself. I did go for a formal diagnosis, which resulted in this -  "it's clear you have learning difficulties, but you've clearly found lots of skills and tools to manage well at Uni, so keep doing what you're doing".

So I kept doing what I was doing... almost 25 year laters I have multiple degrees and multiple master degrees and an executive career. It seems like I developed strengths that helped me in my career, despite the difficulties I have reading and recalling facts & figures.

as an example of how dyslexia impacts on my life - in my business, we spend alot of time on teleconferences these days - this involves dialing into (often) 12 digit phone numbers, followed by a 6 digit ID code, then (often) a 8-12 PIN no.... By the time Ii actually get dialled in, my heart is racing with nerves, and my anxiety takes minutes to settle. This pattern is repeated when logging into banking sites.... numbers are so important in daily life. 

Recently I was talking with a friend about how hard I find reading for pleasure, and how I'm trying to set aside time to practice reading for pleasure. I read on a kindle, and I set reading goals by percentage - ie, dont stop until you've read another 10%.. but it's hard work to do that. I'm easily distracted, I'm not engaged, and I feel like I'm running a marathon.. My girlfriend said - just stop it. If it's not pleasure, dont do it.

She's right! it's not enjoyable. Except for a few genres and authors I've found I can engage with, I just dont have fun reading.

[warning - this is disturbing] I have another friend who says she doesn't get why people blog book reviews. SHe's a prolific reader, and says what she thinks and feels about the books she read are her experiences. However - I do like book reviews. They help me learn about the world, without having the run the marathon of actually reading the book.

Thank god for Podcasts! I love podcasts. I love listening to information. . Any recommendations for new podcasts are always welcomed in my life!

For Dyslexia Awareness Month, I ask you to reflect on reading in your life.  Enjoy it if it's your thing, or move on if it's not! Podcasts are the new world of books...

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Fires & Surprises

 A couple of weeks ago we had a bushfire in the neighbourhood. This is what I could see from my back deck. We knew it was the bush growing in our swamp area. It was about 2km from our house.

On the night, the house was filled with smoke, but it wasn't too scary, I felt safe and confident it would be unlikely to come this way. Still, as a child I lived in a bushfire zone, so my auto pilot went into motion. I packed a light o'night bag, I grabbed our 'important papers' file, and the photo album we haven't scanned yet from grandmas. I made sure I had the hard drive packed, and other necessary items.

Through the evening, my friends called a few times to check if we wanted to go and stay at their place. A lovely gesture. At one stage someone had called me to check on us, and they commented "Australlia's so dry, even our swamps burn!".  Sadly, we know the fire was light by youths.

So now, a few weeks on, I'm discovering things I didn't know. The fire engulfed my favourite cycling path. I've been riding this path, almost weekly for more that 10 years. It's usually a lush green forest, filled with frogs, bird life and snakes.

 What surprised me most in the new naked landscape, is the landscape that has always been behind the greenery... I had no idea at all that the swamp came this close to the path! and I had no ideas there were sand dunes in the mist...

 an old railway line used by the mines, there are also remnants of mining equipment and infrastructure. While horrified what fire can do, and why these fires occured... I'm enjoying the new discoveries.

and watching the new green life appear....

So long live my bike path, and come forth new green growth - I look forward to seeing what the new forest will become!

And thank you to the firefighters who faught this blaze for three days. Your dedication and skills ensure no house or life was lost.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Lilac Girls - Book Review

Last month I hosted Paris in July, and I was also swamped with work and other important commitments, so I didn't get the chance to do any of my own posts for Paris in July. So this month I will get a few done, starting with this review.

I took the recommendation to read this from  a list of books for reading during Paris in July published by Mel U at the Reading Life, I'm glad I did, although it's not an easy book to read. A couple of reasons why it wasnt a easy book for me to read.

Firstly, the book tells the story of three different women, which means each chapter is told by each women in turns. I find that style of narration difficult to get engaged with. It took me more than half way through before I was interested enough to finish.

Secondly, the book is based on real life events occuring in Poland, Germany and New York in 1939 when Hitler was invading France & Poland. Thats not an easy subject to read about. Life in Ravenbruck, a women's re-education camp, the only one in Germany.

Thirdly, is was a story about a young female german doctor, who in a time of war, takes a job in the women's re-education camp believing she was doing the right thing for her country. However, she ends up being forced to do unimaginable things. Things that will haunt her for the rest of her days.

But despite being difficult to read, it was in the end, a story of resilience, women's strength and community. Through out, I was distracted by the New York Socialite, Caroline, storyline. But in the end, she was the angel of grace. What was even more inspirational, was that Caroline was one of the real women. After the war, she lead a beautiful movement to help the women who were harmed during the war. 

Thanks Mel U for the recommendation.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Paris in July 2018 - final wrap up - thank you

When July comes to an end theres a sense of disappointment in the air, a sense of loss, as Paris in July,  the blogging event, comes to a close. Yet, as it is well known in this community........ Paris is always a good idea! The event, with its Mr Linkys, with the buttons, the challenge to honour all things Parisian or French, may end, but we can still read, eat, drink, watch, enjoy & review these things... and i hope we will.

This year we had a collection of different buttons to help us mark our posts, as a reflection of the different members of our community this year. Its the diversity of the participants that I love about blogging events. We come from all walks of life & yet in blogging, in July,  we come together to share our appreciation for the old, current & emerging culture of Paris.

Thankyou all, for sharing your holiday memories, your experiences, the books you read, the movies you watched,  the french food & festivities you celebrated, the recipes, the history, the polotics.... childrens stories, book titles, book covers, things you collect, exhibitions you went to, and parks you spent Time in.  All of these posts, all of your contributions, they are Paris in July!  We did it together .

Merci! A la prochaine!

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Paris in July - Week 5

Paris is always a good idea! Haven't we been having fun? I'm wrapping up week 4 and putting up week 5 because I know there's more to come... you've got more to share haven't you? For me, I'm 40% through the only book I was likely to read, I haven't had a chance to cook something, and I had another guest to interview, but time is running out... I'm sure my extra posts will pop up in the next couple of weeks...

This past week has been a week of fun, but also a week of learning...

Fun stuff for me - Mae found Paris inspired Art in Detroit, Jeanies B&W images of Paris, Kwarkito's personal stories of being in Paris, Deb Nance's favourite settings in Paris for books, junkboattravels walk through paris and restaurants and cafes, Mae's review of French style and Carola Bartz' memories of la vie douce a paris - images of pastries and icecreams... Erin @CrackerCrumbLife also posted about books read including the cat who walked across France!

Things to learn - Mae read a book mostly about death and loss, and Mel U read many books, one about G Steins Cook, the Lover by Dumas, short stories translated from Yiddish, and also shared with us some good info about Natalie Clifford Barney. In Fact Mel U proposed Natalie should host our Post Paris in July Party!. Lisbeth posted about Paris Salons of an era past. And there were books set in wartime eras.

I hope I didn't miss visiting anyone's post this week but there were many - thank you for sharing all of these insights into different elements of Paris.

This week, share your posts here. I'll do one further wrap up next weekend. And, here's to Paris and the Champs Elysees for the final of the Tour de France!

Friday, July 26, 2019

We're heading into Paris this weekend! (Tour de France)

This has been this most read book in our house this month. Its the most loved magazine in many Australian TdF homes, because it has everything you ever want to know about the tour.
Articles with a strong focus on the teams all Aussies love...
And all the other teams. 

The magazine guide comes with a wall map of each stage outlined. We might be the only household that actually hangs it up, but we refer to this most nights. We liked to check if we've been there before, and where each stage is heading. Its also a conversation starter with guests... 

What can I say.... 
The editors know their audience!

 And when the race is quiet (rarely), theres many other articles of interest..
And rider profiles...
And here is Caleb... so far, hes won two stages this year. 

Who would like a copy of this? Im happy to send a copy to 2 Paris in July participants. If you're interested, comment below, naming either your favourite team or rider. 

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Paris in July - Week 4

Button Created by Mel U @ The Reading Life
Wow, Week 3 was a whirlwind of visiting Paris in July. I cant believe we're about to enter Week 4 - but the good news is, we will have a week 5 (even though only have a week)....

I am sorry I have been very busy this week, and didn't get a chance to visit many of your blogs until today, but today I've had a ball. I have been overwhelmed with the variety of posts this week, but I've also become a bit jealous. Some of you have amazing and beautiful photo's capturing your memories of Paris and France. My holiday snaps never turn out that great. Carola Bartz posted some gorgeous images of a fountain in Tricolour for her post on La Fete Nationale and also another post title 'Sur La Table' with enticing images of cafes and Bistro's of France. Kwarkito posted some gorgeous images also - in particular a B&W of the Seine - Reminded me of my parents photos from the early 70s. Jeanie's images of the old and new in Paris were also a strong reminder of the iconic images in Paris.

Reading through all the posts today awakened in me a desire to visit Paris sooner than I was planning. Jackie at Junkboattravels posted on the Atelier des lumieres, an interactive art musee which I certainly hope is still around if I get back to France soon. 

In the book reviews space, Mel U posted on some really interesting short stories, including Cheri by Colette and a song about reading Colette in Summer (so Paris in July!)... Deb @ Readerbuzz did another fun post, which I'm sure all of us can relate to, where she reveals she's a sucker for any book with a typically french image on the cover!.

So many great posts this week - you probably didn't even notice that I didn't get one done myself! I hope to post one or two this week.. But now it's time to launch Week 4.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Paris in July - Week 3

As I recover from an afternoon of food and wine at my friends Fete de Quatorze de Juillet, many of you may just be preparing for 14th July, or Bastille Day in another part of the world. I wish you as much joy in the celebrations and I have had today. We had so much cheese & pate, followed by savory tarts, vegitable quiche, then a bouillabaisse (seafood soup),  then we had chocolate tarts, and other amazing french pastry treats. Gosh I am so full right now. It was a beautiful afternoon, bubbles, rose, white and red wine flowing for all the guests. We finished with tea/coffee and Macarons! so frenchy, so chic!  To be honest, it wasn't really about celebrating Bastille Day, although we did have the airshow on the big screen, it was more about catching up with good friends and finding a good reason to do it.
Anyway, it's time to wind up week 2 and start week 3 of Paris in July 2019.
Can I just reflect on what happened during week 2....  there were many links and crossovers this week.

Photo's and memories - le Marche aux Fleurs, Du Jardin de Tuileries, Flaner metro, and the first time trying Macarons!
Art reviews - surrealist photography by Claude Cohen (Lucy), and collections of Mona Lisa around the house. Then there was a post about Parisy-things around the house - memories and souvenirs from past trips and the book about Degas.. Mae reflected on workers in Paris history using art to tell the story.
We had one film review by Arti on A Sunday in the Country. Interestingly, Arti reflected on this film as an expressionistic cinematic painting. Linking this film with other posts that focus on expressionism.
Many books were read and reviewed - about Paris worst neighbourhoods (Mel U), world war II novels, Degas (the artist), novels and classics from Zola.  We also had summary posts about collections relating to french history, famous characters from french books, and a review of the classic french novel Madeline.
While there was one book review about great chefs (The Gourmands Way), we only had one recipe posted (by me) this week.

I couldnt help noticing there were books about art, art used to describe characters of the past, a movie that was more like art, and Zola featured in a few different posts. I wanted to call out Jackie, who recently visited France and tried Macarons for the first time! What a treat Jackie. What I love about Paris in July, is that we each remind the other of things we love, or wish to do and experience. So glad there's one more Macaron lover in the world.

Now, it's time for week 3 - remember to link your new posts in here..

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Paris in July - Learning to cook French Desserts - Guest Post

My friend Megan is an inspirational lady, with an amazing life story. One of her most admirable characteristics, despite being terribly generous, is her willingness to learn new things. She's designed and rebuilt her home, she's learnt chinese, studied law, she's an artist, as well as a senior executive in the public sector. She's been an outside observer of Paris in July for many years, (although she doesn't blog) but she's sat next to me on the train for years when I've been hosting.... Anyway, this year I've convinced her to share some thoughts as a guest blogger! 
Thank you Megan. 

This is not Megan or I, but someone who looks happy to be learning new skills...

Learning to cook French desserts
Over a quarter of a century ago I had the privilege of being taught to cook several desserts by a classically trained French chef.  Even now, I can see myself standing at the stove beside him as he helped me engage with food in a way I have never encountered. 

Like most cooks, I’d become accustomed to the different smells of food, but this was an altogether more sensual experience. I had to use my sense of hearing, sight and touch to actually produce desserts using his recipes.  This whole-of-body experience was epitomised in his recipe book – there was no method, only a list of ingredients.  Crème anglaise, as it cooks goes from a swishing sound to a whooshing one and the movement of the wooden spoon makes deep crevices rather than surface lines. It’s only then you need to start checking if it is thick enough by drawing a line across the wooden spoon.  A sabayon needs to be whisked until your pointer finger can no longer stand to be in the water bath that the mixture is sitting in. 

During that time a diner wrote to a food magazine requesting the recipe to a wonderful chocolate mousse cake we had on the menu.  As an untrained cook, I was pretty chuffed that someone had asked, but we could never provide the recipe as there was no way we could be certain that the diner could make it at home.  For this recipe my sight was the key measuring tool – Denis’ method required me to whisk the egg yolks and sugar until they came up to a dent on the side of a decades old mixing bowl.  On the off chance that one of the readers of this blog is that dis-satisfied diner, here is the recipe.  Oh, and its not a mousse cake any real sense of the word, it’s a flourless chocolate cake that is light (and gluten free) and has a moussey soft centre

This is not Megans image of her recipe, but one I've borrowed from
Chocolate Mousse Cake
360g bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small bits
½ tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp brandy
50g soft unsalted butter
12 x 65g eggs, separated
50g caster sugar

Grease a 26-28cm springform cake tin and line the base and sides with baking paper.
Preheat the oven to 150 Degrees C.
Melt the chocolate, butter vanilla and brandy in a bowl over a bain-marie of hot water.  Let it cool
Beat the egg yolks with 30g of the sugar until pale and the mix “ribbons” – which means little rivers of pale yolkiness sit on top of the mix before slowing sinking
Mix the cooled chocolate and yolks together.  The chocolate needs to be cool enough not to cook the yolks but must not have begun to set
Beat the egg whites with the 20gm sugar until soft peaks form – which means that when you lift up the whisk the tips of the egg whites curl over like the top of Mister Curly’s hat (aka Michael Leunig character)
Beat ¼ of the egg white mixture into the chocolate mix – use a large metal spoon and lift the mix up and let it fall softly back into the chocolate. 
Now fold this lightened chocolate mix gently but thoroughly back into the remaining egg white mixture. A big balloon whisk is good for this
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 50-60 minutes. It should remain slightly moist in the centre with a thin crustiness on the outside. Remove the ring and base. Leave it to cool completely. The cake will collapse a little.
It needs to be cut with a knife dipped in hot water, otherwise the moist centre will stick to your knife and pull the cake apart.
Serve with whipped cream and raspberries.



Sunday, July 7, 2019

Paris in July - Week 2

Merci mes amis.... what a wonderful first week we've had in this Paris in July. My habit is to try and provide a summary of the weeks posts from across the globe, and launch the 2nd week. So despite being really busy at work at the moment, I've tried to get around and visit you all. I've really enjoyed the excitement, passion and, as we've experienced before, the diversity of posts.

Book reviews filled many of the posts this past week - love stories, world war II stories, crime books, and of course foodie books. But my favourite book post this week was Deb Nance @ ReaderBuzz and her post of favorite french stories from childhood. There were also a couple of reviews that I appreciated because they warned us... Mae posted on a disappointing read of A taste of Paris, and Becky posted on a dark and creepy book called Dark Triumph..

Photo's and Memories of visits past also featured.. I just loved Carola Bartz  post on the City of Lights - gorgeous! Junkboattravels and Kwakito also posted some fantastic images of a city we all love... please share more photos!

Shopping in Paris made it to one post - but dont we all love shopping in Paris. Jeanie went shopping for art supplies and books. What a fun way to turn your artwork into a memory... I challenge more participants to recall their shopping experiences in Paris!

I think I was the only blogger who posted on French food this week, but next week is Bastille Day, or Le Quatorze Juillet, so maybe there'll be more food and wine to post on?

Now, only one of us made mention of La Tour de France - A Strong Belief in Wicker - but I am also a lover of La Tour. We are so lucky here in Australia to have the best commentary on La Tour de France through SBS. I'm sorry those from other countries cant see it. It's just a beautiful presentation of the country of france, the race, the teams, race tastics, and we have our 'taste of the tour' show as well - featuring food of the region the race is travelling through. A strong belief in wicker and I will become a little sleep deprived because the race shows between 11pm and 1:30am on Australian TV.

Here's to Week 2 - where I will feature a post from a guest cook and we'll end with something to celebrate Le Quatorze Juillet.

Friday, July 5, 2019

La Raclette

Paris in July is a blogging event with participants all over the globe celebrating all things Parissienne and French. For me, I love French Food, Wine and especially cheese. This week, my French class had a party, une fete de la Raclette. Oh my did we fill up on cheese... 

Here you can see the little cheese pans under the griller...and potatoes on the top.

If you are the kind of person that indiscriminately put cheese on everything that you eat (aren’t we all, deep down) La Raclette is the lunchtime treat for you. Essentially it’s a hard cheese that grilled ‘til it’s golden and bubbling, then scraped into a delicious gooey mess over potatoes and gherkins or straight into toasties. Pure heaven

Have you ever done this? This device has 2 layers for heating. Under the top tray is the griller. You put your cheese in a little pan under the grill, then when its all melty and yummy, you drizzle it over the plate of chosen items - sliced meat, potatoes, mushrooms, gerkins, capsicum etc..... on the top surface you can heat your other ingredients. We did les champinions et la pomme de terre. 

My other Paris in July intentions include 2 guest posts, a celebration of La Quartoze Juillet, some reflections on french music, a movie, and maybe a  book or parts thereof.. 

For those joining in this blogging event, I'll do a summary post kn sunday and a new mr linky for next week.. 

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Paris in July - l'événement de blogging commence

This picture sits on the bench in my Library reminding me of trips I've had to Paris. The actual art work in the frame was a flier inviting us to an art exhibition in Les Jardins du Luxembourg.

What reminds you of Paris? What do you dream of when you think of Paris? What is it that helps you capture those memories or hopes?

Paris in July is a time when we reflect on our love of Paris, and all things French, and when we (most often) vicariously visit Paris through books, music, theatre, film or food.... over the years, bloggers have joined in the Paris in July blogging event for as little as one post, or as many as 3 posts a week! Mel U is notably a very regular poster in Paris in July.

So, if you haven't heard about this before, you can read about it here....
If you haven't signed up yet, you can do it here.....
If you'd like to check out of event buttons - look here.

If you've got posts celebrating Paris in July, you can start sharing your links below in the Mr Linky..

Monday, June 24, 2019

Paris in July 2019 - button options.

Wow, aren't these fantastic options? 
The Paris in July community have come to the party, and here's the choices for Paris in July Buttons this year. 

 Pretty in Pink - offered by Lisbeth @ The Content Reader

 Marc Chargall - offered by Mel U @ The Reading Life

Best food in the World - offered by Mae @ Maes Food Blog

La Tour Eiffel - offered by me. 

Thank you everyone for making these offerings to Paris in July 2019. It's not long now... Start spreading the word!

If you haven't signed up yet, do so here

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Paris in July 2019 - Sign Up

Welcome to the sign up post for Paris in July 2019. I will keep a link to this page in all the posts this month for easy access. Once you've signed up here, I will add your link to the blog roll on the side of my blog also. 

Buttons - I have had no creative offers of buttons - so I'll work on something a little more original this week. But for the time being if you have any images you could offer for the event, let me know. contact me here...

Event Description 

Paris in July is a French themed blogging experience running from the 1st – 31st July this year.
The aim of the month is to celebrate our French experiences through actual visits, or through reading, watching, listening, observing, cooking and eating all things French!  Here's a link to some of my previous reviews.
There will be no rules or targets in terms of how much you need to do or complete in order to be a part of this experience – just blog about anything French and you can join in! Some ideas might include;
  • reading a French themed book – fiction or non-fiction, 
  • watching a French movie, 
  • listening to French music, 
  • cooking French food, 
  • experiencing French, art, architecture and travel
If you are interested in being a part of this experience use the MrLinky widget below to add in your details. 

Over the past few years, it's worked out that I've tended to post a new MrLinky each week so we can keep up with our fellow players, and follow each others Paris in July Journey.  NB, when you enter your name, also enter in brackets the theme of your posts ie, Tamara (Book review).....

In the lead up to July, you may like to post some of your intentions... let us know what you're interested in and what Paris in July means to you. We love to share this journey! 

Monday, June 10, 2019

Paris in July 2019.... Lets go!

So here it is.... Paris in July 2019.

I'm sure it needs no explanation , but for those who would like a brief description, Paris in July is a month long blogging event, with very few rules - except to focus on something Parisienne, French, or from France.... movies, books, authors, food, places, music, experiences, people, culture, history, future.... whatever you like to blog about - just do a post on something you love about Paris or France, and link it in.

There's no rules on how many posts you need to do with a French theme, and there's no limit on it either! Some of the usual participants dedicate the whole month to Paris in July, while others just link in from time to time. Some are solely into books and authors, while others try and test from all things Paris and France... So, weather you in boots n all, or just for a taster, join in, and enjoy the journey.

  • Starting next week - 15th June - I will post a Mister Linky widget - so you can register your interest
  • Then I will start a Paris in July 2019 blog roll on the side of my blog so you can easily find each other
  • If you want to see what others have posted on in the past, I've done my best to keep an archive here

Homework for this week - I would like to invite a creative lover of Paris in July to design us a button or logo - something that we can share in all our posts to connect us all together. Here's a sample of buttons from the past. You can find my email in the 'about me' section on my blog.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Seasonal Images

 Welcome to my garden on the eve of winter..... I enjoyed a cuppa here this afternoon as I had a chance to reflect on a big week in the city at work.... love coming come to get grounded again.
 I dont recall planting a special variety of eggplant, I think this interesting giant was a gift....

 Plenty of delicious green herbs to enjoy

 Mint is such a fresh addition to the back deck....

 This is a  more average eggplant, but producing very well...
loving eggplant on the BBQ each weekend.

I have been absent from my blog for a long while, and largely because I've been quite busy at work. My work is 2 hours from my home, and many weeks I dont get home mid week.. Therefore I love to come home, where I get to enjoy the local harbour for a stroll and drinks with friends, and then a retreat in the garden. 

In the spirit of seasonal images, I am thinking July is not that far away..... what happens in July? 

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Japanese Literature Challenge 12

My gratitude to Bellezza for hosting the JLC 12 - a bit of an annual event for me - one that encourages me to venture into a genre I do enjoy. Here's the welcome post, which states the challenge runs from Jan to March 2019. My post is a bit late due to my recent travels.. But I did join in, and here's my three reviews.. my apologies that ive borrowed from others for these reviews.... 
The narrator of “Killing Commendatore” is a 36-year-old painter. His wife has just left him. Having sacrificed his early ambitions as an artist to become a master portraitist, he leaves his Tokyo apartment bewildered, before coming to a realization: “I . . . wanted to try painting whatever I wanted.” A friend from art school lends him a remote house in the mountains, and he begins to search anew for the meaning he once found in pure creation. 
This stuff is very Murakami. “Killing Commendatore” repeats almost exactly, for example, the descent through a well to a magical world that occurs in his earlier novel “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.” Odd creatures constantly come to life in his writing, perhaps most memorably the human-size frog calmly preparing tea in the short story “Super-Frog Saves Tokyo.”
        This very apt description comes from the guardian... 
Paul Klee once described the act of drawing as “taking a line for a walk”. No doubt Murakami views his writing in much the same fashion, as a creative ramble, as illuminating for himself as it is for his reader. His line zigzags, takes tangents and doubles back on itself. The view changes so often it’s hard not to feel turned around. Sometimes, reassuringly, Killing Commendatore runs across ground the author has mapped out before. Its gallery of spirits, for instance, can be compared to the “Little People” he deployed in IQ84, while a mystical descent into a dry stone pit is a familiar Murakami trope, most conspicuously showcased in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.
For me, Killing Commendatore was reminiscent of other story lines and themes, but was a bit different. I dont think I've read anything of Murakami that has used painting as the medium of art - it's usually writing or music. What I did enjoy about this one was the influence and impact of the little girl in the story. She was a nice reminder of connection with others, and she allowed the narrator to take us on the journey of observation.  
  • Out, by Natsuo Kirino. 
Four Japanese women - Masako, Yayoi, Yoshie and Kuniko - work the night shift together at a factory making boxed lunches. Yayoi's husband, Yamamoto, is drunk and violent, and obsessed with an escort girl named Anna, who works at a club run by psychopathic gangster Satake. Yamamoto has also lost all the couple's savings playing baccarat at Satake's club. One night Satake beats Yamamoto up and throws him out. When Yamamoto gets home, his wife strangles him with his own belt. She confides in her friends, and they, led by Masako, agree to take Yamamoto's body, cut it up and dispose of it in garbage bags dispersed around Tokyo.  (the Guardian
        A gruesome storyline, but somewhat engaging.  I was quite interested in the character of the main lead. As goodreads notes 
Kirino has mastered a Thelma and Louise kind of graveyard humor that illuminates her stunning evocation of the pressures and prejudices that drive women to extreme deeds and the friendship that bolsters them in the aftermath.
  • Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kowakami
Shortlisted for the 2013 Man Asian Literary Prize, Strange Weather in Tokyo is a story of loneliness and love that defies age.
Tsukiko, thirty-eight, works in an office and lives alone. One night, she happens to meet one of her former high school teachers, "Sensei," in a local bar. Tsukiko had only ever called him "Sensei" ("Teacher"). He is thirty years her senior, retired, and presumably a widower. Their relationship develops from a perfunctory acknowledgment of each other as they eat and drink alone at the bar, to a hesitant intimacy which tilts awkwardly and poignantly into love (Amazon
         One review describes the japaneseness really well - 
 "Each chapter of the book is like a haiku, incorporating seasonal references to the moon, mushroom picking and cherry blossoms. The chapters are whimsical and often melancholy, but humor is never far away.... It is a celebration of friendship, the ordinary and individuality and a rumination on intimacy, love and loneliness. I cannot recommend Strange Weather in Tokyo enough, which is also a testament to the translator who has skillfully retained the poetry and beauty of the original." --The Japan Society 
While all three of my books were completely different in style and character, I feel I gained new insights into life in Japan, connection to japanese themes, and something new about Japanese art.

Sunday, April 21, 2019


I'm a huge fan of life long learning, the continuous pursuit of improving knowledge, and the practice of curiosity. For me, regular reflection, reading & conversations are important elements of that practice of curiosity. This is not a formal process of learning for me, but rather the meandering through lessons of life and work. 

I share these reflections following the celebration of my graduation this week. Undertaking a masters degree as a mature student and full time worker, is a commitment to fast tracking learning in a particular field, engaging formally in lectures and assessment, in the hope of demonstrating a particular set of knowledge or skills.

At my graduation ceremony, the occasional speaker shared three important lessons from her career. She recommended graduates firstly find their passion, and then find a mentor. Secondly she said take a chance, be brave, and go new places. Thirdly she said, reflect on the journey, and enjoy it. If you're not enjoying it,  change it.

I would echo these sentiments from my own experiences, however I would add two more points of advice for younger new graduates. 

  1. Find your community, a group of like minded professionals who will support you, challenge you and catch you when things get tough (as they do). These people are your sounding board, and can help with your professional identity,  as if forms &/or changes.
  2. Identify what your unique offering is - this is not just your passion, but what you give back to the world. 

I have some wonderful supports around me, personal and professional. These people constantly remind me what my unique offering is, and uphold me when I'm in need. I want to say a huge thanks to the women & men in my life who have encouraged me, challenged me, and held me when things got tough. My mother and sisters who are great teachers in their own fields, to my coaches, mentors & professional colleagues and peers with whom I have had many hours of debate, and a couple of my closest friends (like minded beings) who remind me I can do better. 

While the formality of university is over, the journey continues.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Love India!

I'm having a ball, and yet i have no shower, no air conditioning, no phone, and no chocolate! Im visiting with friends and the NGO I've been coming to for 12 years. My friend and I leave our partners at home, and come here to support the local NGO as friends and encouragers.

In the past I volunteered as an english teacher and volunteered to help write policies and grants, but things have changed alot here in India. The school is now well staffed, and some of the teachers speak  english very well. Our contribution these days is conversational english, and role modelling. We used to also run a hostel for local girls to stay closer to their high school, so accomodation wasnt a barrier to their continuing education. These days, government funds and runs hostels and our hostel closed down. Roads are better, and soon public transport will be better .. this will also improve the access to higher education for our rural girls.

This week, despite a collection of amazing Hindu and local celebrations like Pongal, weve been in conversations with the team about the next steps in a business model we started last year. Its pretty exciting to be a part of these discussions, and to hear about what the team are holding as their vision.

Celebrating Pongal 
Harvest festival

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Ordinary Stuff

My homegrown potatoes. I'm so chuffed. I have never grown potatoes before. But, potatoes are such a stable in our diets here, I dont know why I haven't tried these before.

Potatoes are ordinary things, not usually something that takes up a blog post - but harvesting these potatoes filled me with a strong sense of gratitude for the ordinary things in life. So I thought I'd just ponder those things for which I am grateful for recently.
True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. Seneca
I'm grateful that I can walk, ride my bike, swim and am generally an active person. This allows me to enjoy the  outdoors, help others, do my own housework and so many other ordinary things. As a side note, I am grateful for the health professionals who have helped  me with my mobility and rehab for active living.
 I am grateful to live in an environment that has accessible running water. Water is so important in daily ordinary life, and I dont have to think about it very much. My family who live in some of the driest parts of Australia do have to think about saving and protecting their water sources, and my friends in India also have to work for their water. So I am grateful.

 I am grateful that I can enjoy the smell of Mint, breath in fresh air, walk safely in my streets, sleep in a safe house, and that I enjoy the company of some amazing people in my life.

“Life is truly too short to not be HAPPY and GRATEFUL today.”