31 January 2015


How many people remember your birthday each year? And I mean actually remember it, not Facebook-sent-me-an-alert remember it? For me, I think it's a solid 8.5. 

My Mum, of course, who will then remind my step-dad (he's the .5). My Dad, for sure. He was a day late in ringing me one year, and felt awful about it, poor guy (it didn't bother me, but it did bother him). My sister, my husband, two friends who have known me for many, many birthdays, and one friend who's relatively new to the scene (you know who you are). Oh, and my husband's ex-wife (and by default, the stepsons, which kind of makes it 10.5 doesn't it?). She's pretty awesome like that, thoughtful. 

As the date gets closer, my Mum or my sister (or both) will inevitably send me an email asking what I want for my birthday. And inevitably I'll reply saying I'm not sure. And then I'll give them a list that will include at least one book, one magazine subscription and something a little pampery. 

I'm a big fan of asking people what they want; I prefer giving things that are going to be of some use. I get a bit antsy when they give me the 'I don't know', or 'nothing in particular', or 'anything you get will be great' reply to my list request. But then I'm not very good at coming up with lists for myself. Sorry. 

I'm also not very good at celebrating my birthday, even though I adore celebrating other people's big days. It's partly being an introvert, I don't like being the centre of attention all that much. And partly being a little neurotic, wanting to please everyone even though everyone says "it's your birthday, do what you want". Plus the last six years or so the husband has been away for pretty much every birthday, and I've been in a city far from home. So I've tended to keep things pretty quiet on the actual day, with a sleep in and maybe a cupcake and a glass of bubbles. 

It's actually been pretty great, because it's meant my birthday celebrations can last for weeks. A dinner when the husband is back in town, a lunch or two when I'm back in Melbourne, maybe a breakfast in Sydney. One year I think I even treated myself to a few days in Hong Kong. Decadent. So yeah, I do like to drag out a birthday, just a little. 

I'm thinking about all this because it's my birthday next Friday. It's the one before a biggish one; one of the ones that make you stop and think  - that number can't possibly be right, can it? 

My husband is going to be in town, and the step-sons are coming over. And even my Mum is flying up for the night. I'm doing a cheeky lunch with the husband on the day, at our favourite fancy restaurant (which also just happens to be a three minute walk from our front door). Then we're going to slow roast a lamb, in our ace kitchen in our ace house, and we'll have a celebratory Middle Eastern inspired feast.

I'm quietly looking forward to my birthday this year; to celebrating with those 10.5 people. Because - for the first time in years and years - I'm feeling settled. It's not just being back in Australia, it's not just the house. It's my sense of family, my place in the world, that feels a bit more settled too. 

There's lots of people in the world who I adore and admire and appreciate, but in the end it's those 10.5 that mean the so much to me, in different ways and for different reasons. And I think, I hope, I mean something to them too.

The My... posts are a way to get me writing more throughout 2015. There'll be one a month, each with a different My... prompt. You can play along as well, whenever and wherever you want. This month's prompt (January) is My Birthday. Next month's prompt (February) is My Pets. Interpret each prompt however you like - a story or a jumble of thoughts, fact or fiction, personal or not. Don't feel too constrained by the months either, if you like a prompt then have a go. And make sure to let me know if you do join in!

28 January 2015

A Year of Movies : One : A Most Wanted Man

There are three reasons we kicked off our year of movie watching with this slow burn of a thriller. One, we loved Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy* which is also based on a John Le CarrĂ© novel. Two, we love Phillip Seymour Hoffman (a genius, so sadly gone too soon). Three, it's generally been well received (88% on Rotten Tomatoes). 

Set in Hamburg in the shadow of September 11, A Most Wanted Man takes a pretty bleak look at the war on terror. Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays Gunther Bachmann, a chain smoking German espionage agent. When a half Chechen / half Russian immigrant arrives in the port city, Hoffman's team and US security agencies are on alert. Is this new arrival an innocent victim escaping torture? Or is he an extremist militant, plotting to fund terrorism? 

This film isn't Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy but it is compelling. Largely because of Hoffman who is brilliant playing Bachmann - flawed, ailing, but still a powerful force. As Demetrios Matheou writes, "Hoffman manages to create a man of iron resolve, who nevertheless carries the vulnerability of knowing that he has failed before." It is a bittersweet thing indeed watching his final performance. 

Like any good spy movie there's twists and turns here, but they unfold slowly, quietly. Still, it isn't a relaxing movie to watch. Even when there's not a lot happening there is plenty of tension and an overwhelming sense that things are going to end very, very badly. Which they do, of course. The ending is a punch in the guts. The good guys can't win, the system is a mess. There is no honour, no hero, no saving the day. 

Cue something cute and fun and happy to watch immediately after this, otherwise you may find yourself wallowing in a murky pit of despair. You have been warned. 

*If you haven't watched Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy put it on your list now. It's brilliant in so many ways and stands up to multiple viewings. 

Twelve months, twelve movies. Simple.

27 January 2015

Typography Tuesday : Ann Patchett on Writing

Ann Patchett's This Is The Story Of A Happy Marriage was recommended by someone, somewhere. A favourite author, on the radio, maybe. I'm not that far in to it, but I've already underlined half the book. Ann writes about the art and craft of writing with such clear eyes, it's both reassuring and slightly frightening.

It's been a timely read; I've been thinking a lot about writing lately. Last year was kind of the year of the image for me, and it feels like 2015 might just be the year of the word. 

Art stands on the shoulders of craft. I like this sentiment a lot. It's something I believe to be true for many things, possibly for everything. Sometimes it feels like we live in a world where we are encouraged to jump straight in - to go for the creativity bit without first learning the skill bit (I know I do this all of the time). 

We see others creating fabulous things and we want to have a go and, sometimes, we want instant results. But we forget the long years of hard work, of sleepless nights and study, that led to that fabulous thing. 

Ann writes "If you want to write, practice writing. Practice it for hours a day, not to come up with a story to publish, but because you long to learn how to write well, because there is something that you alone can say. Write the story, learn from it, put it away, write another story." See that? Write the story and put it away. Don't pitch it, don't publish it, don't sell it. Put it away. 

In the happy social media glow of likes and comments and follows I often feel the need to share and publish and sell. And if I don't share and publish and sell I sometimes feel like I've wasted my time creating whatever it is I've created. So this is a much needed reminder that time spent building skills and knowledge is never wasted. Before art comes the craft.

The font is Harman Script. It's from a family of mix and match fonts designed by Ahmet Altun. It's pretty expensive (I bought it on special a little while ago) but each font in the family is loveable and versatile, beautifully crafted. 


Is this something you struggle with too? Do you allow yourself time to simply practice your craft, whatever that may be? Do you feel pressure to share and sell, or do you just enjoy the creative process?

16 January 2015

Death by Doxie : A Ferdi Pillow

When the world keeps throwing up inconceivably horrible things that you struggle to make sense of, sometimes the best thing to do is just sit and watch your dogs sleeping. Seriously - is this not heartbreakingly cute? One dog is good, two dogs who are best of friends is better. 

Thank you Ferdi and Elfi, for being as adorable as you are. Sometimes, you keep me sane.

10 January 2015

IGEC : Food

Perhaps you are feeling a bit like me at the moment? A bit like a stuffed sausage? After all the entertaining and being entertained I am craving a month of eating nothing but steamed greens and watermelon. 

But that won't happen, because I adore food. And I adore these three Instagrammers who always inspire me with their gorgeous looking creations. Luckily they are all fans of good, wholesome, healthy deliciousness so you can drool with a clear conscious and a happy belly. 

Ruth, aka Gourmet Girlfriend, is a ridiculously good cook based in Melbourne with a gang of kids who seem to be equally talented in the kitchen. I love her honest, from the heart, all hands on deck approach to cooking. And I'm a wee bit jealous of her crochet skills. And her wardrobe...
Every time I look at @kenokitchen's feed I feel healthy and hungry all at once. Thoughtful, nutritious, tasty - what more could you possibly want? I'm super excited that a) I'm doing one of her whole food cooking classes later this year, and b) she's releasing a cookbook soon!
Another foodie who makes healthy look seriously delicious (and often a whole lot of fun too!) is Martyna, Wholesome Cook. I'm a long way from paleo, and I really do adore sugar, but I still find her posts inspiring. In fact, I could go some of those icy poles right now. And maybe some of that spaghetti too. Oh yes!

Instagram is chockfull of the some of the most inspiring, creative, hilarious, clever people I've ever had the pleasure of encountering on the internets. IGEC is my chance to share some of those inspiring, creative, hilarious, clever people with you! Oh and you can find me on Instagram here. 

05 January 2015

Good Things To Do in 2015

How's your 2015 going so far? Mine's been pretty damn good. A bit too good actually, as I'm now finding it hard to get out of the holiday mindset and start being productive again (which is a bit funny considering my phrase for 2015...). I'd really like to stay with the beach going, book reading, bbq-ing vibe for awhile longer but unfortunately the world and my to do list have other ideas. 

One thing I have managed to do - in between the drinking and eating and lazing - is sign up for a few challenges to set the tone for the year. And I thought you might want to sign up for one too? Here's a list if you do. 

Fat Mum Slim's Photo A Day : If you don't know about this you clearly haven't been near the internet in a few years. Daily prompts, take a snap and post it on Instagram, your blog, Facebook, wherever. This year it's switching from monthly to weekly lists, which I think is awesome - much easier to dip in and out of as you please. 

365 Photo Challenge : Basically commit to taking one photo a day for a year. You can follow the prompts set by accounts like @my_365 on Instagram or you can just keep it simple with no prompts and no themes, just one photo each day, like I'm doing. 

Shake Creative Photo A Day : A photo a day challenge hosted by Zoey Martin, who you might know from Operation Move or The Shake. The prompts often have a fitness bent and also cover all kinds of emotions, good and bad and inspirational. A good one for those looking to push their creativity a bit. (With thanks to Dannielle for bringing this one to my attention!). 

Canon Light Awards : If you shoot with a Canon you might want to consider playing along with these awards. Challenging monthly briefs and the chance to get feedback from some amazing photographers - sounds pretty good to me!

Health + Fitness 
Operation Move's How Many Kms in 2015 : If you're looking to get fit and healthy in 2015 and you haven't checked out Operation Move yet, go do it now. They have a brilliant back story, offer a bunch of great services, and continually motivate and inspire me. Plus they've built a community of really wonderful lovely people. This year they've created a Facebook event asking how many kilometres you can move (run, walk, cycle, roller blade, whatever!) in 2015. It's a great place to make a public commitment, see what others are up to and check in. I've put my hand up for 1000kms (as of writing this I'm 18 down, 982 to go!). 

Run Down Under : I'm so excited about this one! Basically it's a virtual race around Australia. Log the number of kilometres you've covered on a regular basis and Run Down Under maps your progress, starting from Canberra (if you use Strava it's super easy to sync your kms). Apparently I've got 72.34kms until my next town, Goulburn... 

Books + Reading 
Pop Sugar Reading Challenge : My lovely friend Cat (who has exquisite taste in books, by the way!) put me on to this. I know lots of people who have 'read more' on their 2015 list and this seems like a fun way to tackle it with things like "A book your mom loves", "A banned book", and "A book with bad reviews" on the checklist. It's a bit like a treasure hunt, and I love that, so although I know I won't finish the checklist (I'm a slow reader!) I'm going to have a crack anyway! 

Set your own goal : I've recently switched from Shelfari to Good Reads to track my reading, mainly because of the iPhone app. But both sites are great, and both sites let you set a reading goal for the year and will track your progress towards that goal. 

A Year of Australian Writing : The gorgeous Pip is hosting a year of reading aussie stories - what an awesome idea! Although I'm not committing to this one I will be following along with great interest (and no doubt adding to my 'to read' pile along the way too).

Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge : Okay so with 339 books on the list it'd be near impossible to get through this challenge in a year (unless you devoted all your waking hours to it, which doesn't sound like a bad way to pass 365 days actually...), but as a fan of Gilmore Girls this had to get a mention! (I've only read 34 of them, by the way.)

Fox in Flats' Style Dares : Not really a year long thing, but fun nonetheless! Andrea runs regular style challenges on her blog. I've never taken part, but I've watched in admiration as others have, and I think maybe it would do me good to get involved. Fingers crossed there's one soon! 

Jewellery Everyday with Megan Auman : Have a ton of jewellery but hardly ever wear it? Yep, me too. Which is why I really like this Instagram based challenge aimed at getting us to wear more jewellery. I think it only runs for a month, but maybe it'll inspire you to stick with it for a year?

Happiness Jar : This is all over the internets in various forms, and seems to be an idea attributed to Elizabeth Gilbert. Basically every day you write down something that's made you happy, something you're grateful for or that you've accomplished. Then at the end of the year you read back through all your notes and feel ace. Nice. Have a jar for each member of the family, even the furry ones, if you like! 

I'll be updating this list over the next week, so if you know of a challenge or something fun to do in 2015 that's not on here do let me know. Maybe you are participating in one? Or hosting one? I'd love to hear about it!