The Golden Ticket

Or in my case, the red jacketed book.

I had the best day in Sydney today and so it has warranted a second blog post (first time ever for two posts in a day). I think my whole new karmic outlook is paying off already. Presents for everyone!

So this is how it went down:

My mum and I had decided to go into the city today because we can. I have a Dymocks voucher I want to spend and she wanted to go to The Nut Shop. I rang on Saturday to make sure they would both be open today and they were.
We said we would leave between 7.30 and 8, because we weren’t quite sure what the traffic would be like after Australia Day. We had a dream run in. Didn’t hit a traffic light until Leichhardt (also, that is the stupidest spelling ever and I just lost a $50 bet with my husband over the double h’s, thanks for nothing Lugwig).
We parked, went to Woolworths and found the cranberry sauce my Mum had been looking for for ages and the Baker’s choice muffin of the day was Mars Bar flavour. So all in all this is a great start and it’s only nine thirty.
To kill time we wandered into Hyde Park to see if Sacrilegious was still running. I was confronted with this.

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I was a little sad I didn’t get to jump on it, but at least I did get to see it. As we wandered back toward the mall we realised David Jones was already open (at nine forty five, mind you. Myer has a lot to learn from them). I tried on a few pairs of Kate Spade shoes, though nothing nice enough to warrant their price and then discovered that it was another 50% off the Country Road sale stock so I have a new skirt.
We haven’t even got to the best part yet and now it’s only ten and the rest of the shops are opening.
Dymocks was next on the list because it was kind of the whole reason we were in the city. In addition to a voucher to spend I have been scouring the stores for a new book called The Intern by Gabrielle Tozer. It’s kind of like a YA Devil Wears Prada. Lots of places stock it but I have been looking for a special, limited edition version with a red cover. If you are lucky enough to find one of these copies and post a picture of it on instagram you not only get something good to read, you also get the chance to win a Kate Spade bag. I asked one of the clerks in Dymocks if they had any and there were only about a dozen assorted black and white ones on the shelf. I knew it was a pretty long shot to find one, but I have been looking in every bookstore I go into. They didn’t have the other book I wanted either, I have been searching everywhere for Bel Canto by Ann Patchett but it is nowhere to be found.
Next we went to Top Shop where I realised that the new A line, fifties style, calf length skirts of this season are totally my thing. I’m going to get one in every fabric and colour.
Then it was off to Kinokuniya.
We always visit when we are in the city. It is such an amazing shop. It didn’t open til eleven though, so we had to wait like ten or so minutes. I am so glad we did though. Quite a crowd had gathered by the time the store was due to open and I was by no means first in the door. But I was first over to the YA section and there, on a huge pile of black and white copies was one, just one, red copy of The Intern.
This is it.

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I have never been so excited to find and purchase a book in my life (except maybe Harry Potter). I can’t wait to start reading it.

Coming up on my next blog: Off to my favourite city again.

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Karmic Throwdown

So yesterday I was introduced to this new concept of being a nice person by one of my friends. That’s not to say I am not a nice person (though I can hear some eye rolls out there), more its about making sure that you are a positive person and you share these positive vibes with those around you.

Normally I don’t go in for these chain mail type things, I was always the one who would throw them in the bin, damn the consequences. But I really think this one is worthwhile so I am kind of adapting it to suit my own sensibilities.

The basic concept is that you do five amazing things for five different people as long as they promise to pay it forward, so to speak, and do five amazing things for five other people. And on it goes. It’s kind of like a volunteer system though. You nominate yourself to receive the awesome things (sorry there is no other word) and in doing so pledge to do it yourself.
So what exactly do you have to do for these five people?
Well, be nice. But more specifically you do nice things for them that will make them feel happy. Like baking them something, sending them a surprise gift, treating them to the movies or a coffee. I guess it’s just about thinking of them, thinking of something they might like and just doing it.

So I have accepted to be part of this, and therefore will be doing nice things for people around me. My change though is that I’m not sure I want to do the whole nominations thing. I’d rather just put the last day of each month down as my

do the right thing day

And do something nice for them because it’s a good and right thing to do.

Thoughts?

Coming up on my next blog: That Part Three of my holiday piece isn’t going to write itself. Does anyone want to do it for me?

Visit NSW : Part Two

So this is the second half of my photo essay about my holiday around NSW this month. We’ve already covered the beach portion and the country portion of my travels and now for something else.

Blue Mountains
Like Cowra, this was just a day trip, up to Wentworth Falls. It’s quite a beautiful place, with a great cafe. We were going to have breakfast and bushwalk.

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We walked to Empress Falls first. Which ended up being a good thing because had I eaten before hand I probably would have thrown up down a cliff face. They really should say how many stairs there are going to be. Walking down was ok, it was steep and slippery in places but manageable. Going back up was crazy. Up hill is always harder for me, and in the end I couldn’t even talk, I just had to keep putting one foot in front of the other and use the handrails, where available, to drag myself forward.

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Unfortunately there was no gas at the cafe when we got back and so we couldn’t have breakfast.

Sydney
We finish with one of my most favourite places. I have said often on this blog that it is almost my favourite city in the world (though Tokyo just pips it at the post), and it is definitely my favourite city in Australia, though I’ve never been to Perth, Darwin, Hobart or Adelaide.
This month I have been to the city six times. A few just for shopping, but others to see some really interesting things.
I went on a little excursion to the Powerhouse and Maritime museums. At the Powerhouse there was a video game exhibition which was really just a whole bunch of games for people to play. I didn’t think I s going to lime it very much but then I found this game called Critter Crunch and an hour passed without me even realising it. Gaming doesn’t really lend itself to photo taking though so you will just have to imagine me standing in front of a TV screen with a play station controller in my hand as I feed smaller bugs to progressively bigger bugs until none are left and I have a high score.
At the Maritime museum I went to see the Viking exhibit.

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I could have sworn I’d seen it before but I didn’t recognise any of it. Maybe it was Romans I saw last time? Honestly, I don’t remember. The exhibition itself was pretty interesting but we also had a pass to go outside on the real boats which I had never done before.

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I didn’t actually go on it (because it was too creepy) but I could have if I wanted to.

I also ended up having dinner at Darling Harbour one night for a friends birthday and was lucky enough to see The Lion King musical again at The Capitol. It is such a magical production, the opening sequence of Circle of Life is so overwhelming that you just want to cry.

I also had the quintessential Sydney summer experience of dinner at Circular Quay.

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I went with my family to see David Sedaris. If you don’t know who he is, go out right now, buy Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls and read it right away.

After all that though I did miss Sacrilegious, which I am a bit sad about. How many times do you get to jump all over stone henge?

Coming up on my next blog: Part Three.

Visit NSW : Part One

That wonderful time, the holidays, is almost over. And, for the short time that I have had, I feel like I have accomplished much. I promised a promotion of tourism in NSW and this is what it shall be. All month I have travelled across my home state (not really going all that far distance wise) and sampled a great variety of things it has to offer.
Ordinarily this post would have been six or seven smaller posts with little obvious point. Now that I am not having to write every day it is one epic post that sums up everything great about my holiday and, by extension, NSW.

Let us start at the beginning. Or perhaps, better yet, maybe by region. I feel this is going to be a bit of a photo essay.

Thirroul

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Normally I don’t like the beach. It’s too sunny and sandy and salty, and it stays with you for days. This time was different. Firstly, we hadn’t spent hours and hours trying to get there. This holidays I realised it is actually quicker for me to get to the beaches of the south coast than any other in NSW. My husband loved Thirroul beach as a child and so wanted to take me there. Parking was a breeze, try getting a spot at Bondi on a sunny day, and it was the most perfect weather. I wore so much sunscreen I had a second whiter skin and I lay on my towel reading. It was perfect. I even went in the water. I know for some of you this will be a shock, especially since I have written frequently about my fear of the ocean. But it was beautiful and I had a gorgeous new cossie to show off too. I am almost inclined to change my mind about the beach after this visit. So much so that now I kind of want a beachside holiday house.
I also went to visit my newly married friend in Wollongong.

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It was just as nice here too.

The Great Western Plains
One thing we had to do this holiday was go to Cowra. I have been saying that we should go for a long time, though we never find the right moment, or weather. Well, the weather be damned this holiday, we drove out there on one of the most scorching days. The reasons for the trip west were twofold. My husband has led a sheltered life in terms of his experience of greater NSW. Until a year or two ago the furthest west he had been was Penrith (I may be exaggerating, expect a retraction if he doesn’t agree with what I have written). So then we went to Bathurst, and a year or so later to Dubbo, which he has now visited twice. I wanted him to visit Cowra because it is a place where some real Australian history (the POW prisoner escape during WWII)

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had taken place and also because my great grandparents had a shop in a town just outside it.

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And in that town is a park named after my great grandfather.

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Coming up on my next blog: Part Two

The A Word

So I have realised today that I am no longer allowed to say

awesome

I am sure we have had this conversation before, early in my blogging career my Mum said I used that word too often in my posts and that it made me look like an imbecile (she didn’t actually say that last bit, but it was implied.
It is on my mind again because last night I was lucky enough to go and see the great social commentator David Sedaris.

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He writes creative non fiction. Mostly memoir, sometimes social observation, always funny. I have read most of his books and am seriously considering a subscription to the New Yorker magazine because of him.
Anyway, he read out a recent story about language and the phrases business travellers may need to know when in America. It was cutting and satirical and he went on endlessly about the utter uselessness of the word awesome. I can see his point. It can mean anything from just okay to brain shattering. Most commonly it is used by those in the service industry as an affirmation that they have heard what you have said, and therefore it has no real or valid point as a word anymore.
So I’m going to fine myself one dollar every time I use it. Either in general conversation or in writing. Knowing my track record of its use I am going to be very rich very soon.

The other thing I think I should do, and perhaps this is where all my awesome fines could go, is keep a handwritten journal. Daily.
Sedaris read excerpts from his own diary last night (and he did say some of it would be published eventually, yay) and he dates each entry and titles them with the place they were written. I suppose it’s a little easier for him though, every second entry is from some exotic location – Amsterdam, New York, Perth. Every entry included some witty one liner; an observation he had made or a conversation he had had. I do not travel nearly as extensively as he does, nor meet quite such varied people and so the repetition of the place (and probably the events) may become a little monotonous. It’s still a nice idea though.

The other great thing about last night, besides laughing my guts out and coming to this epiphany about the word awesome is that I got to hang out on Sydney Harbour at the Opera House with my family. My mum won’t let me take pictures of her (and I wouldn’t put one up of myself anyway) so you will have to make do with this.

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That’s just the view from the inside of the building.

Coming up on my next blog: It’s almost time for that photo montage.

Mandatory Sentence

This posts it’s all books that I have had to read. Some for work, others just because they are by authors I like.

I saw a great blog this week about the evolution of dystopic fiction and I have come to the conclusion that this is probably my favourite genre. It fits in well with what I was reading at the beginning of the week too.

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Victor Kelleher is one of my favourite authors. When I was young (or at least younger than I am now) I read everything of his that I could get my hands on. The Beast of Heaven is probably my favourite, or at least the one that has stuck in my head the most, and there is Where the Whales Sing, a beautiful story that I love too. Kelleher is good because he grapples with hugely important moral questions without you even realising it.
For instance, Taronga is an end of days dystopic story where the main character struggles to survive. He thinks he has found utopia in the form of a still in tact, and largely fortified Taronga zoo, but as events unfold both he and the reader start to question whether this Iain fact true.
I like Kelleher’s style because even though it is speculative fiction it still is incredibly realistic. He blends both incredibly well.

I also reread Looking For Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta.
warning: I will be revealing a mayor plot point in the next paragraph. Stop reading if you don’t want it to be spoiled

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I remember loving this novel when I first read it (also when I was young) but upon rereading it I have not felt the same impact as I did before. I still cry when John Barton dies, but I think that is tied more to the film adaptation because the song with or without you runs through my head at e same time and I can’t hear that sing without thinking of Mathew Newton and John Barton. I think perhaps it is the film I remember more vividly anyway. The novel just seems so tame, I thought it was so much more edgy than it actually is.

I also read a short story by Jodi Taylor this week, because, well I could.

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I had to pay one dollar for it though in the iBookstore and I am not sure it was worth it. I do love her concept though, and her writing style and can’t wait for June (or is it July) when the third volume of the St Mary’s Chronicles comes out.

Coming up on my next blog: I will get to my holiday snaps, don’t you worry.

A Symphony of Echoes: Volume 2 The Chronicles of St Mary’s by Jodi Taylor

I love these books. I don’t even know if you can buy paper copies, but I will always spend money on anything electronic that Taylor releases.

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This is the second in her St Mary’s series. Basically it’s about an institution where historians travel back in time to learn more about important events and people and do a little bit of mystery solving. I fluked finding the first book and I was totally hooked. It’s another book with a ballsy female protagonist, a little bit of romance, some mystery and some excellent suspense and action sequences. In the first book they went to the Cretaceous period and Alexandria. In this one, it’s Elizabethan England, or more precisely, Mary’s Scotland.

They are very similar to Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series, except are historically based rather than literature based. And as it seems that Fforde has decided to stop writing, this is the next best thing.

Coming up on my next blog: I become a spokesperson for Tourism NSW.

Taste of Darkness by Maria V Snyder

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One thing I don’t like about electronic books (besides their hideous shortened name) is that you can’t take a cover shot of them, because there is no cover. But that’s not what I want to talk about today.

Instead, let’s talk about one thing I do like, this novel.
Taste of Darkness is the third book in Snyder’s third series. I have also read her Study series and have just bought all three Glass books which I also plan on reading this year.
I have no doubt already raved about her writing style, but feel it can do no harm to do so again.

I love Snyder’s books.
Pure and simple as that.
They are easy to love because they too are pure and simple. Snyder writes perfect teen Fantasy. She has all the right amounts of romance, adventure, quest, action and suspense. AND things work out all right in the end.

Fantasy is always the genre I come back to when I don’t know what to read. It is the genre at I probably read most often, and might almost consider to be my favourite. But it has to be a certain type of fantasy. I don’t like the imaginary worlds trespassing on our own (except in Harry Potter and Narnia) which is probably why I had so much trouble with Cassandra Clare’s novels (that and the same thing just kept happening over and over again without end). I don’t like talking animals either, or animals being the main character. I also don’t like when they get too caught up in the magic of it all, I am happy to suspend disbelief and have faith that it all works, i don’t need pages of description as to why. I do like romance though, but only if it works out, I was so angry at the end of Cecilia Dart-Thornton’s Bitterbynde trilogy I thought I might never read fantasy again.

Snyder has great female protagonists and great male counterparts for them. She also does excellent villains. Every time I read one of her books I wish I was the character. Her well drawn worlds just suck me in. And that is the perfect kind of fantasy writing.

Coming up on my next blog: I better talk about something other than books.

Electronica

Just before new year I went on a bit on an iBookstore binge.

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I actually paid for a number of books. Normally I just download the free ones, but there were a few in some series that I needed to get so I actually paid for them.

I am not against e books in general, it’s just that I like keeping books, like having a physical representation of money spent.
I can’t read e books at night, it keeps me awake in the same way trawling on social media does. I don’t like reading them in bed either, and with a real book I don’t need robe near a power point when I read either. You can’t take e books in the bath either, even though I don’t like getting paper books wet, it’s a little more dire is you splash an electronic one.

I have to be in a certain mood to read e books too. Conditions have to be just right. The book has to be just right for my mood.
I feel like I have to read them in one sitting. There is more of a feeling of urgency to read quickly and finish a book when it is an e book. I don’t know why, I just feel myself rushing. I don’t feel like I savour the reading experience like I do with a paper book.
It could just be the books I have chosen to download though. I feel like e books lend themselves to the action and suspense genres, which contributes to a sweeping glance as well as a quick swiping finger.

There is just a real immediacy about e books that I am not sure that I like.

Coming up on my next blog: I need to find some books to read.