So a very dear friend and blog reader gave me a great birthday gift – she named it an Advent calendar and the concept is to do different ‘bucket list experiences’ each month together. We started with my birthday dinner at Momofuku, and then things slowed down! Of course, I have things I want to see and do that didn’t feature on her 12 months of birthday fun Advent calendar, and I got busy in March doing all sorts of fun things.
One thing she’d earmarked us doing was Humming Puppy Yoga – funny name right? It’s a yoga studio that has a resonant frequency going at all times, as well as being constantly at 27 C. Warm, but just right. This weekend, I went along to try it.
I selected the class based on timing – 2.30pm would work well around church (as it was a long Palm Sunday service). The class at that time was called Mellow Yoga which sounded like just what I’d feel like on a Sunday afternoon!
This place is next level on chic, hipster, boutique exercise. It’s like first class style. The waiting area and bathrooms were stunning. I’d settle just to ‘wait’ for someone and never do a class and die happy! They are upstairs from a tea store, so there’s two teas to sip, or coconut water or filtered water. Luxury right?
The studio is the third or top level of the building. The room was wonderfully dark for the session with only muted lighting and a lit candle. The session was an hour long, and it was blissfully relaxed and over before you knew it. My friend S said it was an expensive place for a nap, but cheap for therapy – and it really is a hybrid of the two!!
Of course, it wouldn’t be a complete visit without dropping in on the tea lounge. Again, jaw droppingly gorgeous in style. We had Ginger lattes and some fancy snacks (you know, all goey and power foods but nothing like conventional food!)
I’m not sure if I’ll do expensive yoga again, but I want more of those drinks!!
I’m reading a captivating book I picked up by chance at library closing time. Whilst it’s fiction, I feel like I’ve learnt a lot about Saudi Arabia and the Islamic culture. According to the story in City of Veils by Zoe Ferraris.
– women can’t work unless married. Inevitably they lie, and if they are found out, stop working
– women get a trousseau upon marriage, filled with countless under garments. How bizarre when the rest of a woman other than family and a wife are covered in scarves and robes.
– there are ‘summer marriages’ – travelling business men marry a co-wife and travel with her. Because they are married, no harm, no foul. They divorce after the summer. The religious clerics think this is preferable to prostitution, though it is similar, as women are often paid by a new car or a villa
– women get driven places, by brothers or cousins. What and how these men manage it, I’m not sure. The women will travel as a passenger in the back seat! This is juztaposed in the book with the women who work with the police being allowed to sit in the front, which is a shock to the women to be seen as ‘equal’
– one female character married her mother’s friend’s son, for about 2.5 months. After the mother’s death, the marriage dissolves. The woman returns to living with her brother – and essentially being ‘kept’ by him, but she still returns to the ex husband for money too.
– women often are left standing when the men sit face to face (ie when two people come to visit someone in an office). That just seems perverse but awkward too!
– men don’t make eye contact with women, often looking above them, at their ‘halo’
– there’s men’s and women’s sitting rooms within homes. It’s common to take guests their (segregated by sex). The Arab characters find it strange that the two American female characters both take them into the kitchen.
– a man invited to dine with a family will not actually get to ‘see’ the woman, except perhaps if she comes to serve tea! They stay in their sitting room, and the women in the kitchen with the children.
– the story gives the perception that Arab wives provide martial obligations on a daily basis. If this is true, I’m thankful that such an obligation isn’t extended more widely…
Overall, I’m enchanted by other cultures. I’m blown away that I manage 60 (was 75 before redundancies) men and I’m a woman. Who wears what I like (but chose to be conservative with work wear). In another part of the world, TODAY, women have none of these liberties. How amazing that globalisation hasn’t totally caused homogenization (is that the right word?)
Isn’t the internet grand – I was too lazy to go to the bedroom to check the author, so googled, and was delighted to find there’s another two books by this author which I’ll promptly want to read.
Also, those who blog book reviews, do you have a ‘weirdness’ about wanting to post the exact cover picture of your book, not an alternative one? My cover images was more orangey, not at all the one I put above.
Oh my gosh, I have literally just finished this book, and fired up the laptop to tell you about it (then being an antique that it is, I brought in the washing… cause it takes that long!)
If you’re one of my blog readers who has not read this book, I would strongly encourage you to read it. It is an EPIC! (I don’t mean it has 500+ pages, every page is well worth it) Admittedly, I am biased for a holocaust book, even a fictional one, but I wish this hadn’t stayed on my ‘to read’ list for more than two years before I finally borrowed it from the library. What an engaging, intertwined, elaborate tale!
The book starts with a number of different characters (a history professor and a incarcerated black man) in New York city in present day, before weaving the stories together with the civil right movement in the US and the holocaust and the events in Poland during the second world war. While it can be cliched to neatly tie off every character, I feel like Perlman spent years perfectly this story, because it really does appear seamless. There are pages of bibliography – nothing here seems to be purely fictional. It does justice to the true agents of change and history during the holocaust but also the civil right movement in the US.
I am proud to see that Perlman is a fellow Queenslander. And on returning to the cover page, realised he wrote Three Dollars both the novel and the film/screenplay. I have seen the film (and loved that the central character was an engineer!). I think I make an unprecedented weekend stop at the library to collect his other bestseller Seven Types of Ambiguity, before I google his fan page and Facebook page :p I’m biased but I tend to think Anglophone works that the French media acclaim must be outstanding. The French are renowned for their disdain for all things English/American (as touched on in the book I gave up on 1000 years of annoying the French), so to take the time to translate the works, but then to win awards, well, to me, that’s the ultimate compliment.
Does my recommendation make you want to read it? For those of you who have read this, am I overstating the greatness, were there things that you didn’t like?
Some of my favourite bloggers are doing the Reading Down the House, thanks to Dar suggesting it at An Exacting Life (and her latest update here). Fiona at Declutter is also on board, and I’m sure I’ve missed a few others. The idea is to set a shortlist of books already owned to get read this year!
I bowed out of the challenge, as I only have two french books in my home I’ve not read, and… I’m not game to stumble through them!
However, I thought I’d let you know about my library list, and which books I’ve read (or did not read!)
Over the holidays, I took out four book:
Screw Business as Usual, Richard Branson
This book I read all the way through, but my overall impression was that it was disjointed. The book seems to flit all over the place, talking about Branson’s companies’ initiatives, but also other great companies out there, looking at HIV health and the environment and and and. I think Branson has done well from his previous books, and perhaps thought this book would maintain the momentum, although he does seem genuinely engaged in making the most of his fortune to help others. His view is that business needs to be involved in solving the world’s issues, and with innovation and well thought out plans, it can be win win. I do encourage this point of view, I just wish the book had flowed a little better.
1000 years of annoying the French, Stephen Clarke
This book arrived at my library with in the Large Text format designed for those with impaired sight. The size of the weighty tome intimidated me (which is why Richard skipped the queue). I did about 80 pages into, but I was still in the days where the French were in England, and the English in France, and everything was still counties or provenances, which is a little tricky to my modern geographic knowledge. I think I should probably have skipped along to the last 100 years or so, but when I realised my three weeks was up on the loan, I was pretty sure I was unlikely to get through it with a renewal. I called it a day only part way through. (I thank Mochimac at SaveSpendSplurge for the recommendation)
Filthy Lucre Joseph Heath
I think both Dar and Fiona have read this book, but sadly, it just went over my head. I liked the premise of the book, but when I started reading it, I found it hard to keep going. I got bogged down in incentives!? I think I get even less pages through this than 1000 years AND I’d already renewed it once already.
Nope, no time to waste on books that don’t draw me in (I like to blame the writer, rather than my feeble inattentive shrinking brain!)
The Street Sweeper Elliot Perlman
On Sunday, I decided to start the last of my book pile, having grown bored with the above two. Well, did I make a good dent in one day reading this book. I took to the balcony (with the overpowering smell of Bokashi compost juice I added to water for my ailing lemon tree that I got for my housewarming). Even with the smell, the breeze kept me there, and I finally got to where the characters start to converge into one story. I don’t like to guess where stories are going, but I hope they touch a little more on the WWII references, as much as I know they’ll continue with the Civil Rights movement and oppression of African Americans.
There you go – after a long time since my last book review Tuesday, there’s a snappy round up (ok 1 round up and 3 partial round ups!) of the books I’m working through on my library list. Only 19 more to go (and 84 previous loans, which goes back to Jan 2012).
For the week I was in Perth, visiting the BF’s family, I enjoyed the benefits of cable TV (Foxtel). Oh my my my, if I made a good impression with his parents with my conversation, looks or helpfulness, it may have all been undone by my taste in television. And if not, certainly for the QUANTITY of TV I squeezed into a week’s holiday!
Rest assured, we took a road trip to the south, ate out, did some shopping and saw some sites, as well as meeting some of the BF’s hometown friends. But it was hot, and the BF got sick, with me following suit in the final days. So TV watching filled all those gaps.
I can spare you many hours of morbid fascination, I shall summarise the trash I watched, and if I have any insights from my viewings!
Superskinny vs Supersized
I only watched one episode of this, but sorely wish I could have seen another. A doctor combines one underweight women with an overweight women for four days in the feeding clinic. During that time, the two women eat the diet of the other, whilst discussing how they feel. The episode I saw had a competitive marathoner (Kim) paired with an overweight lady Tracey (whose job is not memorable). What amazed is how the marathon runner applied her determination from running to eating overladen plates of fatty, fried food. She talks about the feelings she has, in her mouth, in her stomach, but also the emotional reactions to eating the quantities, as well as processed meat. The overweight lady follow the marathon runner’s mainly liquid diet, and balks at eating fish one night. Interestingly, the camaraderie that develops between the two women sees Tracey eat fish the following night. She explains that she let the runner down, and that it’s a mind over matter thing.
Overall, the two ladies spend 12 weeks apart (the miracle length I think for a diet to start showing effects), and both have eating plans – the runner set at 2900 calories and the overweight lady at 1900 calories. They meet after the 12 weeks, and both have seen improvements in their bodies and their weight.
To keep on theme with the above (rest assured, there are other themes of TV shows I watched). Precious and her sister Florence swear they eat 1200 calories a day, work out regularly but can’t seem to shift the weight from their curvaceous figures. In the way that only a TV show could, they video everything they eat for five days, including having two private detectives follow them! The video evidence shows huge portions, regular take out (despite promises they seldom it it), multiple meals and the idea that anything eaten an hour after exercise doesn’t count! (oh, I wish!).
What I learnt from this show is how warped one’s idea can be about the quantity and the type of food eaten. I am incredibly tempted to start my own food diary (and bore blog readers?) to try and account for the 8 kgs I’ve gained since university years. I, too, am convinced I infrequently eat unhealthily, but clearly that’s no true!
Selling Home Australia
The article gives you an idea of this guy’s stubbornness!
Another love of mine is home renovation. This show takes unrealistic vendors (at least in the two shows I saw) who want to sell their property for far too much, despite it being dated, ugly, old and generally unappealing. Stubborn vendors are shown comparable properties at their proposed selling point, but seldom seem to want to adjust their sales expectations. Some how, the host weasels them out of some money to renovate the houses superficially and hopefully sell the property. The house in Maroubra *finally* sold for 1.4 million after being passed in at auction. The terrace in Redfern (which I know well from walking past) didn’t sell, and the auction was cancelled due to the agent realising her and the vendors sales hopes didn’t reflect the interest in the market. The vendors were eye rollingly greedy (see the link in the photo credit!), but I did enjoy seeing properties being spruced up! Hire furniture just makes me swoon. Maybe it’s the ultimate in minimalist living it represents?
It did sell in May 2013 for $825,000.
Say Yes to the Dress
This, unbeknownst to me, has a New York series *and* a Atlanta series. And I’ve watched both. Atlanta comes with things like ‘a southern gurl’ and ‘I respect my elders’ (so the dress store lady better be firm in telling grandma that this lace sleeve business is NOT ok!). I was gobsmakced that someone spent $13,500 on a Panina gown. I’d look up how to spell that, but it might be a step too far for the BF! Seriously, most of these brides care only for Panina – here I was thinking Vera Wang was the name in weddings (maybe she is still – on a scale far greater than $13,500!) Some women even wanted a ‘second’ dress – you know, one for the reception, and one for the ceremony. I got sick and tired of this show fast – far faster than the networks were churning them out!
See, another theme emerges – weddings. Here, four brides bitchily rate their three other brides’ weddings. The bride with the highest ‘score’ wins a honeymoon. There is a lot of self absorbed moments, and depending on the episode, the girls can be horrendous or lovely, but there’s always some competition. This show taught me that it’s customary to have drinks (and even as much as a food buffet) before the sit down meal! Seriously – two feeding frenzies! I also noticed that the alternate serve idea isn’t big in the US like here in Australia. You either get what you’re given (and it’s all the same), you get served from a number of options (I think this is called ‘family style’) or you order in advance. All these are things I’ve never experienced at Australian weddings (yet?).
An oldie but a goodie! I’ve been known to pass other summers finding episodes of this show on YouTube (yes, readers, if you thought I was at all high brow, I’ve certainly ruined that for you now!). I love this show’s concept – wives move to other families for a week. For the first half, they follow the rules set by the absent wife. The second half, things get nasty! Wives try to implement more of ‘their’ way. The genius of this show is in the casting – they find two families with a clear ‘opposite’ – whether in organisation, hobbies, labour splits between parents or children etc. By doing this, and finding two examples in the extreme realms, helps to moderate both families to seek a middle ground. They must have outstanding producers behind the scenes, as every episode seems to result in some adjustments to family life for the better.
Any trashy TV habits out there, or are my learned readers all book worms only?
I know many of my readers, are readers of books too! So I thought I would share my top 5 books. Not my latest reads but the books that years later I still remember and I want to share with others. And none of them are what I’d call classics either! Each of them will probably reveal a little more about me too.
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr
This book was read to my year 6 class by Mrs… oh wow, I don’t remember her name! Mrs Jones! Or was in Year 5 – what a memory I don’t have (I had the same classroom those two years, so perhaps that’s why I’m confused).
This novel was my first introduction to Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. Since then, I’ve devoured countless books on the holocaust (my book collection features them heavily). The title refers to the characters decision making on packing toys. Until I moved in with the BF (two months ago), I slept with my teddy bear. I promised him (and past BFs) that when I had a permanent bed mate, I would shelve Jessie. To this day, I miss her, and when I’m sick, the BF gets her for me, to cheer me up.
Honeymoon with my brother by Franz Wiesner
This book is the true story of the author being more or less left at the alter. Instead of ‘wasting’ the once in a lifetime trip he’d planned, he signed his brother up, and they started seeing the world. It’s a story of healing, but more than that, what I took away from it was the desire to travel genuinely. To travel and to LISTEN. Not to read Lonely Planet and go where everyone else goes. I don’t travel with a guide book (and sometimes, I regret that!). I ask people in hostels and hotels what they like. I go wherever, and enjoy the journey of walking streets. I go to Jewish Museums (everywhere). That probably goes back to the first book!
Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder
Not be confused with Sophie’s Choice, which I also enjoyed, Sophie’s World is a book that introduces a child to philosophy. Every book by Gaarder is a masterpiece in my mind, and develops and introduces new and challenging concepts to me. She has an incredible knack for storytelling.
Emergency by Neil Strauss
I was in NYC in 2011, and browsing Barnes and Noble. I was hoping to find secrets in a Postsecret book, but didn’t 🙁 I wanted to find something to read, as I’d exhausted my supply by this stage in the trip. I find it so difficult to BUY books, because I don’t (by and large) keep books. I wanted something engaging, but enduring. I’m not sure how I resolved to buy Emergency, but it was my first introduction to ‘doomsday preppers’. I do like end of the world movies, so it probably has something to do with that. Nonetheless, it still sits of my bookshelf and I keep thinking ‘I must get some candles, and a canteen of water, you never know what could happen’.
Each peach pear plum
This is the only childhood book I was adamant could not be downsized or rationalised. My mother loves to downsize, and when you move 10 times in 10 years, I’m lucky to have any childhood books still standing! I love that it rhymes, incorporating all the characters you know from other stories – Mother Hubbard and Tom Thum. It’s just such a joy to trip along through the story, and the illustrations always capture my imagination.
How about you? What books changed your life? What book are you always telling people they just *have* to read?
It’ll come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog that I’ve recently read Beth Terry’s book Plastic Free (she also has a blog, sorta sad it’s not called Fake Plastic Fish anymore!) .Before I read Beth’s book, I did post all the reasons I’m not plastic free.
I loved Beth’s book – she’s real. She struggled. She admitted she loved ready made freezer food, and there is no plastic free freezer convenience food. She admits to stalking the drug store looking for alcohol not in plastic, and buying a woolen duster, just cause it was plastic free.
The point is, in contrast to Bea Johnson’s book Zero Waste Home, you feel like you are on the journey with Beth, and she’s not preaching. She knows every reader won’t go to the same extents she will, but similarly, she make compromises too. You have to, it’s just not practical to be 100% plastic free in today’s world.
I did learn a few things from her book too, that I’d like to share:
Thermal receipts/paper is not recyclable. I’d never thought about what make thermal paper work, but it’s coated in plastic, and so not great for recycling
BPA free items don’t explain exactly what is in them, and there’s no promises that aren’t equally as bad for you :s
My milk containers are layers of plastic and paper, and likely aren’t recyclable. Sadly, given it’s heat treated cows milk that makes it lactose free (rather than soy or almond milk), I’m not sure how to work around it.
I could make my weekly posts link up to her weekly plastic free challenge, and join more like minded souls – though it does require taking some of the recyclable plastic and looking at that. So far, I don’t include that in my weekly Zero Waste posts. Have any of you read Beth’s book?
Oh, and bin man stood me up on Friday. So I will try to rebook to meet him, and will diligently report to my readers.
Lastly, I’ve forgotten my gratitude section in the last few posts 🙁 Whenever I queue posts, I don’t put them in, so it’ll come and go from posts as I see fit. BUT… in other news, I took a snap of my licences since I moved to NSW and put them on my blog’s Facebook account. Please feel free to have a sticky beak at my face changing over time – the BF likes my second learners the best I think. You should be able to link from the bottom of the right hand side’s banner.
This week’s book review is a book I casually found on the shelves of my library, in a section I was looking for something else. Bottlemania by Elizbeth Royte looks at the politics of water – both bottled, and tap water. It’s a great, easy to read non fiction book. It was published in 2008, so it’s a little out of date now, and I wish there was an edit with how some things have gone since then.
I want to share with you some great stats:
In 2006, in the US, each person on average used 686 single serve beverage bottles. In 1960-70s, that number was closer to 200-250 per annum, and largely beer and soft drink.
The 8 glasses of water a day is a fallacy – not that water isn’t good for you, but the body reaches homeostasis, and anything additional will just be ‘waste’.
The EPA predicted that by 2013, 36 US states would be suffering drinking water shortages (for tap water). I’d love to know how this 2008 prediction has turned out.
In the US, NYC, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle and Portland, Oregon are the only cities where they are not required to filter their tap water. (Interestingly, all cities I want to visit).
The company that owns Clorox (a bleach brand) also own Brita filters – which, filter out chlorine. How’s that for market capitalisation!
Compostable corn based plastics are only compostable in commerical compost heaps – backyard compost heaps are unlikely to ever get hot enough. And it doesn’t mis well with regular recycling either. That’s of course, without considering the amount of herbicides and fertilizer it takes to grow the corn. What would your thoughts on this, Polythene Pam
Overall, the author can’t help but prefer tap water while admitting it’s fair from ideal either. The costs and effort that go into making water drinkable are extensive. The EPA regulates a number of contaminants, but there’s as many again that it does not test for, or regulate (like residues of drugs!). There’s far less restrictions on the quality of bottled water. Not even filters like Brita can remove many of the concerning compounds found in water – both tap and bottled.
It was an eye opening ‘story’ of drinking water, and I’m glad I picked it up. I can’t tell you how it ends, as I do have two chapters to go. What are you thoughts? Are single use bottles worth it for the convenience combined with BPA leaching? Or would you rather tap water – treated with all sorts of chemicals to counteract the aging lead pipes, and the leftover pharmaceuticals and perchlorates? It’s really not as simple as I thought it might have been
Thanks to the blogging community, I picked up this fiction novel about betrayal (thanks Dar, at An Exacting Life, she mentions it in this post). At 550 pages, it wasn’t a short read and at times I did wonder whether it was worth finishing. Slowly the various characters lives were woven together, and as the final chapters came together, the true characters presented themselves. All this book has on it’s back cover is “Would you betray someone you love to give them what they want?” It’s a pretty chilling question, and not at all simple to answer.
It’s hard to explain all the characters in this story, but there’s a pair of brothers, and a brother/sister pair, and their associated families. The first brother, Alex, is a successful scientist and incredibly esoteric. His brother Dougie has become a postman, and is the family failure. The other due is a Ritchie a former music star who now produces a teen music contest for TV, and his sister Bec is a scientist looking to find a vaccine for malaria. Both these duo’s marriages and family, partners and parents are also included in the stories, which at times makes it a full house! [I’m proud to report, to regular book review readers, I remembered those character names without looking them up! My brain and name memory must be improving!]
Overall, the snippets of the book I quoted to the bf (in the closing chapters) left him saying ‘that’s one messed up book you’re reading there’, and to an extent he is right. But every life has these silent betrayals and compromises. This book touches on fidelity, blackmail, torture, forgiveness, love, lust and a sprinkle of nepotism and family feuds. I wasn’t bored whilst reading this – none of my other books got a look in whilst this was on the go, so whilst it might be murky and like a wet day in winter, you can’t help but wonder how things will turn out. I’d definitely recommend it, so long as you’re ready for a cloudy day!
I really think you, my readers, are high brow and that a blockbuster movie review will probably be of little value to you. Nonetheless, I’m not finished another book yet (though I did start on a fiction book – yay) so instead, I bring you a film review, which shall be World War Z.
I’m pretty interested in the ‘end of the world’ – whether it’s in the form of a natural disaster (remember my Emergency book from the book inventory post?) or from a more ‘minor’ adjustment to life – such as the holocaust. So World War Z was on my ‘to watch’ list the first time I saw a trailer.
The story is humans becoming zombies through some sort of rabies like infection. The premise of the movie is for Brad Pitt to find the source of the virus (disease/infection – you can see I’m not really on top of this medical terminology) and hopefully a vaccine. To be honest, I’m not a zombie fan (though I did see Warm Bodies a little while aog) but this movie made it seem possible and realistic. A viral infection that causes people not to die, but to stay in a permanent in between state, and continue to infect people. It almost seemed plausible!
Interestingly, despite the film probably paying through the nose for Brad Pitt, it could have been any actor in this film and it would have still been enjoyable. That being said, if you’re going to have a jet setting UN agent, why not make it shaggy haired Brad Pitt? His wife was pretty well played too – she’s strong and courageous when she needs to be (before they are helicoptered to safety) and scared and lonely when she calls him (at most inopportune time, waking the South Korean zombies in the airfield!)
There were so many things I thought might or could happen in the film that didn’t. Why did Brad Pitt’s family take the Indian boy from New Jersey (where they crashed in a family’s apartment)? Who would take an extra kid to a naval ship with limited space? How come Brad’s wife gets a satellite phone, come on, she’s just doing nothing on the naval ship and the world is ending!! Why take a recently bitten, then amputated, Israeli solider scooped up and taken with Brad Pitt on a long haul passenger plane full of people? She could have ‘turned’ at any time! Or when Brad Pitt’s in the room of all known infections, and he doesn’t know which one to pick, surely the camera could have moved up and down to nod, and left and right to shake it’s ‘head’. And the ending, it didn’t really seems as Hollywood as I’ve come to expect. Sure there were tears and a rainy reunion, but as far as curing the masses, it didn’t happen.
There were some great moments in this film. Where the Israeli explains this rule (I wonder if it exists in real life) where if there are 10 people, the 10th person must disagree, and accept a treat as true and plausible. In this manner, Israel created a haven from zombies, by building a wall in about 10 days. Also, the premise that a zombie would look for ‘fresh’ meat, and therefore overlook those who were weak, such as those with a virus. If I was more science based, I’m sure I could ripe holes in this theory, but it sounded good to me.
I hear the book it very different to the film, so of course, I’ll just have to read it!