Bookish & Writerly Recaps: June 2017

Well, would you JUST LOOK AT THAT. It’s the last day of the month, and we actually have a recap. WE HAVE A RECAP, PEOPLE! Miracles happen, magic is real, goddesses walk the earth etc. etc.

What I have forgotten to mention is that as I get ready to publish this, it’s 11:30 at night on said last day of the month, so I’ve cut it pretty fine and also I’m kinda tired (hence the rambling having already begun). So let’s get this DONE.

What I’ve written…

I’ma be straight-up as always: there’s not much to report here this month. Over on Writer’s Edit, I’ve been writing about character motivations and types of freelance writing jobs, but novel-wise, I’m still working through some stuff.

I will say that the story’s still swirling its way around the back of my mind a lot of the time, and that I even wrote a random little 500-word scene the other night when I got a burst of inspiration. I think – I hope – I’m almost ready to start writing again in earnest.

Camp NaNoWriMo starts on the 1st of July (tomorrow as I write this), so I’m thinking of using that as a tool to help me get back into the swing of regular writing. I might mix up the usual Scrivener sessions with some handwriting and morning pages, and see how I go.

Blank notebookImage via Unsplash.

…Or, more accurately, what I’ve been doing instead of writing

I recently started listening to the podcast My Favourite Murder, and I cannot tell you how glad I am that I did. It’s pretty self-explanatory: two ladies discussing various murder cases they find fascinating. The details of the murders, while super interesting, can get pretty dark at times (which, I mean… duh, they’re murders). But the hosts Karen and Georgia even it out by being so hilarious and wonderful. I feel like I can relate to them in so many ways, and it just feels like I’ve made two new friends who keep me company while I’m doing boring everyday crap.

TV-wise, I’ve been loving the Starz adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s American GodsI’m only halfway through, but so far it’s doing an incredible job of bringing that big, complex, intriguing book to life. It’s highly stylised and visceral and funny and full-on, and just really damn entertaining – can’t wait to finish it.

Also, conveniently, the day I got home from the US was the day the new House of Cards season dropped – so of course Nate and I binged it in about a week. A couple of years ago I blogged about my love for House of Cards, and I still dig it. It’s gone in a bit of a different direction than I thought it would, but Frank and Claire are still ruthless as ever and scary AF and I love it.

I also saw Wonder Woman at the movies and damn near jumped in the air and fist-pumped with how much I enjoyed it. What an excellent movie and what a genuinely passionate, strong and emotional heroine at the fore. Along with every woman I know who saw it, I came out with a smile on my face and a sense of goddamn go-getter girl power.

My Favourite Murder-Wonder Woman

What I’ve read

Well. I’ve just checked my Goodreads and realised that, as well as being six books behind schedule on my reading challenge, I only read TWO BOOKS during the whole month of June. :/

I realise this is unacceptable. But as you’ll see, one of those two books was REALLY big and dense and kinda old with tiny type and lots of made-up words and… I’ll just use that as my excuse, and vow to do better during July.

(Actually, I’ve just come back to finish this post on the last day of June, and I ended up binge-reading the last half of another book last night – so let’s make that a total of three for June. Still pretty average, but what are you gonna do.)

Anyway. Here’s what I’ve been reading:

Hunted by Meagan Spooner

I absolutely loved this. When I read the premise (a Beauty and the Beast retelling) I was kind of like, ehhh, do I really have time for yet another retelling? But I decided to give it a try, and it turns out I have all the time in the world for this gorgeous book.

Hunted is a lovely take on the tale as old as time – original, while still retaining that beautiful fairytale feel. The writing is wonderful and it’s a lot slower-paced than a lot of other YA fantasy, which I am sooo here for. I mean, I love action as much as the next fantasy fan, but sometimes it’s nice to take things slow, you know?

Meagan Spooner paints her scenes with precision and beauty, and her characters with depth and nuance. Elements of Russian folklore are woven carefully into the tale of Yeva and the Beast, both of whom I adored. Plus, the book’s themes of duality and indefinable desire are fascinating in the ways they’re explored.

I’ve seen several people slam it for various reasons on Goodreads reviews (note to self: stop reading Goodreads reviews), but I disagree with all of them. For me, Hunted was completely captivating, and both the style and story couldn’t have worked better.

Hunted

Dune by Frank Herbert

Aaaaand now we come to the reason why I did not read much this month!

Dune is known as *the* science fiction novel, and for good reason. Published in 1965, it’s sci-fi on an epic scale, with as much in-depth world-building as you’d expect from the highest of high fantasy.

I enjoyed this. It’s long and dense and a little bit dragging at times, but it’s wonderful sci-fi. There’s action, technology, politics, prophecy and big ol’ desert worms that’ll eat you and everyone you love.

One thing I found interesting about the writing style is that it’s omniscient third person narration – something you rarely see these days (at least, something I rarely see). It took me a while to get my head around the head-hopping, but it was a little refreshing point of difference that I enjoyed by the end.

Anyway, I liked exploring the planet of Arrakis and watching the destiny of Muad’Dib unfold, and one day – perhaps when I’m not so far behind on my reading – I’ll definitely be picking up the sequel (but never watching the movie adaptation again… I have it on as I write this recap, and good lord, despite being faithful to the book, it is so. Hilariously. Terrible.)

Dune

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Strangely enough, the next book on my reading schedule was another story inspired by Russian folklore, and I enjoyed it just as much as Hunted. All the elements of The Bear and the Nightingale are woven together so beautifully, in such lovely prose, that I’m thinking these awesome ladies are definitely onto something with Russian folklore!

I loved the brave and intuitive protagonist, Vasya, and Morozko the mysterious winter king. I loved reading about the spirits guarding the household and the forest, and the demons threatening them. To be honest, I don’t think there was anything I didn’t love about this book.

Katherine Arden’s prose is as beautiful as the story she tells, and the magical atmosphere running through the whole story makes it feel like a folktale in its own right. There are also some scary, almost nightmarish moments, which adds just the right amount of excitement to this slow-burning tale (another winner for slower-paced fantasy, woo!).

P.S. I usually only include the cover of the edition I actually read (hence the six-dollar-paperback Dune cover above). But for The Bear and the Nightingale, I had to include both the UK/AUS (left) and US cover (right). Our version is so colourful and unique and lovely, but the US cover just looks like the story in visual form – wintry and mysterious and beautiful.

Bear and the Nightingale

You’ll notice I was correct last month in predicting that, no, I would not venture beyond my horizons and read something other than SFF anytime soon.

BUT: both Nate and I are currently reading a FINANCE book (I know, wtf, right?), so hopefully that’ll be in my round-up next month to break up the ever-present slew of otherworldly tales. ;)

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Happy July, everybody – hope your month is full of warmth and wonderful things. (Also, for any Murderinos who might be reading: stay sexy, and don’t get murdered. Elvis, you want a cookie?)

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Internships, Podcasts and a Shiny New Website

I’m just going to throw it right out there and say that I can’t think of an interesting intro to this month’s update. So, continuing the trend from my last monthly update, here’s a Harry Potter-related picture of the most recent global holiday/occasion.

Valentine's DayHappy Valentine’s <3 Gilderoy. Image via Pottermore.

So festive. Anyway, here’s what’s been happening for me throughout January and the first half of February.

What I’m doing

Freelancing

In all the excitement of putting together a 2015 reading recap in my last post, I forgot to announce that I finally have my very own professional website! Yay! You can find it at www.clairebradshaw.com.au.

It’s full of info about the freelance writing and editing services I offer, as well as the work I’m currently doing and have done in the past. There’s also a link to a little portfolio of my writing, and a handy contact form you can use if you want to work with me. :)

Website

(Side note: I also got some very cute business cards in January. I feel like such a fancy business lady.)

Internships

Ahh, that word: ‘internship’. It comes with all sorts of confusing connotations, especially when you’ve got a head full of worries about making/saving money and being a Real Adult With A Proper Career.

It’s been almost a year since I was flung into the wide open world on my own, and in that time I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned that I want to – and can, and should – call myself a writer. I’ve learned that working with words is truly what I want to do for the rest of my life. I’ve learned that I have the most wonderful, supportive partner in the world, who’ll encourage me when I’m floundering, and who’ll stick by me even when I’m earning next to nothing.

And I’ve learned that if an opportunity through which you’ll gain valuable experience presents itself, you should be brave and consider it – even if it means going out of your way, or making no money from it.

Late last year, two such opportunities did present themselves, in the form of two different internships. I dove right in without a second thought. It couldn’t hurt to apply, I thought; if I never heard back it was no big deal, and if I did – well, I’d work that out when I came to it.

As it turned out, it did come to it, because I was offered both internship positions. After some consideration, I accepted both of them… And so far, I’m really glad I did.

NSW Writers’ Centre

Until the end of June, I’m a one-day-a-week intern at the wonderful New South Wales Writers’ Centre, which offers an amazing range of courses, resources and services to NSW writers.

I’ve been there for almost a month now, and I’ve completely fallen in love with the place. It’s such an amazing atmosphere to work in. I’m surrounded by lovely people who are as passionate about writing and publishing as I am, all within a vibrant hub brimming with opportunities for emerging professionals and creatives. Working there makes me feel like a real part of the Australian writing community, and it’s a very nice feeling indeed.

There is a slight downside to this internship, though, in that the Writers’ Centre is in Lilyfield, Sydney… and I’m in Newcastle, about 170 kilometres away. This means I’m up at 4:30 every Wednesday morning, jumping on a train at 5:30 and arriving in Sydney by 8:00, then catching a bus that just makes it to the Centre before 9:00… And doing it all again come the end of the day.

I stagger in the door around 8:30–9:00 every Wednesday night, my appreciation for Nate reaching an all-time high every time as he welcomes me with a home-cooked dinner and a glass of wine. (Told you he was amazing.) But despite the vague feeling of dread that accompanies setting my alarm on Tuesday nights, despite the long, long days and the travel-weary state I’m in at the end of them, I’ve enjoyed every day I’ve worked at the Centre so far.

It also helps that it’s situated in a lovely historic building in the beautiful, jacaranda-shaded grounds of Callan Park. Nothing like blooms and a breeze to foster creativity…

NSWWCImage via NSWWC.

white magazine

My second internship takes place every Friday at the lovely white magazine. Apart from the fact that it’s an amazingly beautiful publication, perhaps the best thing about white for me is that it’s local – the office is smack in the middle of Newcastle! It’s an absolute dream to have a (now worldwide) publication based so close to home, let alone to be able to work with them myself.

To call white a wedding magazine would be to do it a disservice, because it’s much more than that. Unlike many other bridal magazines, white focuses not only on the big day, but all the days that come after it. The mag and its online component are full of all the usual beautiful real wedding galleries and styled shoots, but white also makes a point of delving into the love story behind each couple they feature. It makes for really beautiful, meaningful, moving reading alongside all the gorgeous imagery.

As the mag’s mission statement itself says:

We are a catalyst for positive change in the culture of marriage and relationships… We bring together stories of love and life – personal narratives of laughter, romance, oftentimes tragedy, but always hope. We hold marriage up to the light, and use our pages to venture into honest, clever and meaningful conversations about all the unglamorous parts of marital (mis)adventure.”

I’m loving the people and the work at white so far, and I’m looking forward to getting as involved as I can with the upcoming production of their next issue.

White MagazineImage via white mag.

What I’m writing

Writer’s Edit

My latest article for Writer’s Edit, 9 Simple Ways to Sharpen Your Manuscript, pretty much does what it says on the label.  If you’ve finished your manuscript, firstly, I bow down to you, because since NaNoWriMo I’ve added a total of 700 words to mine (BLAH); and secondly… I hate to tell you, but the work’s not over yet.

There’s more to be done before you think about sending out your book, even if you’ve perfected the plot and tidied the writing (and bewitched the mind and ensnared the senses…). I’ve done a stack of research and put together a checklist of nine little things you can do to make your manuscript at least 900 times better.

(While you’re over at Writer’s Edit, have a think about submitting to our third and final Kindling anthology, Kindling Volume III! We’re looking for short fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction and writing advice, and submissions are open ’til March 1st, so get on it.)

Writer's EditImage via Writer’s Edit.

Fiction

I recently spent a lovely Sunday writing all day to finish an entry for the Newcastle Short Story Award. One of my writing goals for this year is to try to get more work out there, whether by submitting to publications or entering competitions (or both). Run by my local Hunter Writers’ Centre, the Newcastle Short Story Award seemed the perfect choice for my first submission of the year.

I’m not sure if my piece will do well (that’s what you get for leaving things to the last minute), but I’m really pleased to have entered, and to be honest, writing the story was a joy.

On the topic of fiction… Remember how I mentioned above that I’ve done basically nothing on my fantasy WIP since NaNoWriMo concluded? Well, I thought it was high time I kicked myself back into gear and really got back into this project.

To that end, the lovely Helen Scheuerer and I have agreed to do a self-imposed NaNoWriMo next month! We’ve dubbed it NaNoWriMarch, and we’re both spending the rest of February plotting and planning and preparing. I’m hoping to go into this one feeling a LOT more ready than I did before November’s NaNoWriMo – stay tuned to see how that goes…

To doThe poor To Do list is getting a workout as March approaches… Image via Kaboompics.

What I’m reading/listening to

Books

I recently signed up to Goodreads, where I’ll be tracking all the books I read this year.

So far this year, I’ve read six books:

  • The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
  • Crown of Midnight, Heir of Fire and Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas
  • Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Patrick Rothfuss’ and Sarah J. Maas’ books have had me fangirling pretty hard. I love fantasy fiction SO much. Burial Rites was great too, my first Australian read of the year; and I read The Girl on the Train in a single day, over two train trips, so that was pretty cool. (Another good thing about my NSWWC internship: five hours of uninterrupted reading time on the train every week.)

At the moment I have multiple books on the go, which is something I rarely do, but THERE’S JUST SO MUCH TO READ AND I WANT IT ALL. I’ve set myself a modest 40 books in the Goodreads 2016 Reading Challenge, but my ‘Want to Read’ list long surpasses that…

Goodreads

Podcasts

How did it take me so long to get into podcasts?!

Nate’s been a fan of them for a long time, but since he mainly listens to sports podcasts, I automatically dismissed them as boring and irrelevant to me. It wasn’t until he showed me the non-sports program he listens to that I became interested, then completely hooked.

The most wondrous thing about podcasts is that they make boring activities WAY less boring! Doing the dishes, cleaning the house, driving 40 minutes to my parents’ house – these are all humdrum activities that I now actually look forward to, because I can listen to podcasts while I do them. (‘Looking forward’ to cleaning the house might be an overstatement, but you get what I mean.)

The coveted title of Claire’s Favourite Podcast has to be split between two shows: Stuff You Should Know, from HowStuffWorks.com, and So You Want To Be A Writer, from the Australian Writers’ Centre.

SYSK is amazing. The hosts, Chuck and Josh, are so easy to listen to – they’re funny and genuine and a little bit daggy, which I love. They cover this ridiculously wide range of topics, from the broad to the obscure, and the way they deliver the show makes for interesting listening, even on the most dull-sounding subjects.

One of the best things about SYSK is their regular scheduling: you know you’ll get a new episode every Wednesday and Friday (Australian time). I’m particularly grateful for the Wednesday eps – they really brighten up the last leg of my long morning commute! Plus, Nate and I listen to episodes together when we can, whenever we have a long drive or want to drift off to sleep listening to something. It’s great.

So You Want To Be A Writer is equally wonderful. Valerie Khoo and Allison Tait are two go-getting Australian writing ladies who I really admire, and the amount of advice, insight and industry info their podcast offers is incredible. Every week they cover news, trending topics and writing tips, as well as conducting an interview with a successful writer.

Just listening to this podcast makes me feel more like a ‘real writer’, and I feel myself learning and absorbing and growing more passionate with every episode. I especially love hearing about established writers’ routines and experiences, both via the interviews and from Allison and Valerie themselves. And, of course, the plethora of writing tips and advice is truly invaluable!

An honourable mention must go to another podcast I subscribe to: Serial, from This American Life. The first season, which covers the infamous Adnan Syed/Hae Min Lee murder case, was such addictive listening that I smashed out the second half all in one day.

The current season isn’t quite as mysterious and gripping – it tells the story of Bowe Bergdahl, a US Army soldier who walked off his base and was held captive for five years by the Taliban – but I still find myself fascinated by it. Military stories definitely aren’t one of my foremost points of interest, but the way this story is delivered has me really invested, always curious about what the next episode will bring.

Podcasts

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Well, this was a way longer post than I originally anticipated! It’s made me realise that I do have a lot going on at the moment, but also that that’s exactly the way I like it.

Hopefully next month’s update will be centred around the amazing leaps and bounds of progress I’ve made with my book… ‘Hopefully’ is definitely the operative word there. But at the moment I’m feeling motivated and optimistic, and that alone makes me really happy.

Things I Love Lately: Instagram Edition – Countryside Dreaming

Hello, writer’s block, my old friend.

Actually, I’m not sure if what I have can even be called writer’s block. Usually, people suffering from that particular ailment are in the midst of writing something already, and have simply come to a standstill…but lately, I’m rarely in the midst of writing anything, because what I’m having trouble with is getting started.

You might say instead that I’m having something of a crisis of inspiration. Inspiration is the absolute essence of a creative life; it’s no wonder I feel a little lost without it. It’s a bit of a strange time for me.

I want nothing more than to be writing, writing, writing all the time, so to try to get myself started, I’ve resorted to desperately Googling variations of the phrase ‘what to write about when you have nothing to write about’. What I’ve found, mainly, is what I already know: write about what you know, what you’re passionate about, whatever you’re thinking about. Just write.

So to get myself moving, I decided to get meta and start thinking about what I have been thinking about. And one thing in particular came to mind: the fact that I’ve lately become a little bit obsessed with the idea of the countryside.

Ever since Nate and I stayed at a beautiful bed and breakfast in the Upper Hunter Shire town of Scone a couple of months ago, the countryside – especially the Australian countryside – has been playing on my mind. I’ve often found myself daydreaming of perfect pastoral views and early, foggy mornings brightening into clear days; of big, rustic kitchens and crackling fireplaces; of a lifestyle based on simplicity, clarity and the comforts of home.

Little essences of country lifestyle have been jumping out at me everywhere, too: home-baked lavender shortbreads calling my name from café cabinets; Far From The Madding Crowd bumping its way to the top of my to-read list; Women’s Weekly ‘Country Classics’ cookbooks tempting me from bookshop shelves…and, most of all, a curious trend in the bunch of new accounts I’ve started following on Instagram. You guessed it: they all feature scenes of the countryside and the life that comes with it.

So after another long stretch with no blog activity, I’ve finally come up with this post. It’s just a quick look at five of my favourite countryside Instagram accounts – the ones that fill me with dreams and inspiration. (In other words, the ones that get me feeling the way all writers want to feel, all the time.) I do realise that it may be more focussed on images than writing, but hey – it got me blogging again, so I’m not complaining!

Now, after all that ado, read on to transport yourself to some of the most beautiful countryside Australia has to offer. (All images are courtesy of their respective Instagram accounts.)

Tamsin’s Table @tamsinstable

Rolling, sun-dappled hills, wandering farmyard animals, seasonal food on long timber tables…have your eyes misted over in pure dreaminess yet? If so, you’d best snap back to reality and go check out the Insta-feed from Tamsin’s Table! It’s full of all the things that make country life so idyllic: bucolic landscapes, gorgeous interiors and delicious home-cooked treats.

All this beauty comes from a farmhouse in Gippsland, Victoria, run by Tamsin Carvan and her family. But they’re not the only ones who get to enjoy it: picture intimate lunchtime gatherings featuring homegrown produce laid out on handmade furniture, as well as workshops and masterclasses teaching you how to make the most out of what’s in season – that’s what’s on offer at the numerous special events held regularly on the 113-acre farm. Find out more at www.tamsinstable.com.au.

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The Timber and Stone Retreat @thetimberandstoneretreat

If you’re ever in need of a relaxing, rejuvenating getaway, what’s the first thing you think of? A beachside holiday? A big-city shopping trip? Whatever it is, trust me – after you’ve seen this feed, all you’ll want to do is visit a country retreat the little Victorian township of Malmsbury!

Curated by the owners of the picturesque Timber and Stone Retreat, this account paints a portrait of the perfect country escape through beautiful snaps of the house’s interiors, gardens and surrounding property. The feed as a whole has a beautiful aesthetic, with plenty of muted tones and pops of warm colour.

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Country Style Magazine @countrystylemag

This one is pretty self-explanatory! Australian magazine Country Style is the perfect coffee-table tome for lovers of the most picturesque parts of country life. Gorgeous rural scenery, stylish farmhouse interiors and homely, garden-to-plate food – you’ll find it all in both the magazine and its Instagram counterpart. Somebody please stop me from taking out yet another mag subscription…

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Country Style_2

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Gold Dust Days @golddustdays

Gold Dust Days is a blog run by friends Jesse and Kathy, who both live in the beautiful town of Daylesford in Central Victoria. Their Instagram feed documents the day-to-day imagery that inspires the pair and shows off the loveliness of their hometown.

The main word the ladies use to describe Daylesford is ‘magical’, and I have to agree with them. Everything about their little town seems to be bathed in the golden glow that their blog name suggests. Their photos reflect this as well – there’s plenty of warm, sparkly hues from all the autumn leaves and sunrise/sunset skies!

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Em and the Wild Things @emandthewildthings

I’ve hardly seen a more dreamy Instagram feed than this one. I couldn’t find out much about Emily, who runs the account, but her bio reads: ‘Grass, landscapes, flowers, kidspam, abandoned, the everyday.’ And that’s pretty much what you’ll find here: a series of beautiful vignettes of country and family life.

From what I can gather, Emily’s on Instagram purely for love, not money, business or self-promotion. It seems like she’s just super passionate about capturing and sharing beautiful moments from her rural life in Central NSW – and no wonder, when it’s as pretty as this!

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If you have any other lovely Instagram accounts you’d recommend following, leave them in a comment below or tweet me @paperbackbird!

Things I Love Lately: Clouds, Clothes and House of Cards

Fictional politics, winter fashion, quiet getaways and views from the top: here are some of my favourite things from the last few months.

House of Cards

Ahh, Francis J. Underwood…the most intriguing (and occasionally terrifying) TV lead since Walter White. I missed the initial House of Cards hype train when the show first started (as I am rather apt to do), but boy oh boy did I jump on board recently! I quickly became fascinated by the ruthless power couple that is the Underwoods, and now I don’t know what to do until Season Four.

HOUSE OF CARDSImage via hollywood.com

Everything about House of Cards perfectly reflects the smooth, cold, calculating nature of its key characters, from the softly sinister tones of the soundtrack to the carefully crafted aesthetic of the cinematography and set design. The colour palette is gorgeous: muted, neutral and often shadowy, dealing mainly in shades of grey, black, blue and white with the occasional gold highlight. It’s beautiful to look at and listen to; throw in some ultra-sharp political drama and a fourth-wall-breaking Kevin Spacey, and you’ve got some damn addictive viewing.

Image via fusion dot net 2Image via fusiondotnet.wordpress.com
Image via fusion dot netImage via motionvfx.com
Image via motionvfx comImage via fusiondotnet.wordpress.com

Autumn/winter clothes

Now, speaking of colour palettes…I’m about to get all girly on you here and have an OH-MY-GOD-I-LOVE-CLOTHES moment, so be warned. In my opinion, the best thing about cool-weather clothes (besides their ability to hide the evidence of all those hot chocolates and warming pastries you’ve been consuming) is the beautifully rich range of colours to choose from.

Clothes 1

On a recent stocking-up trip to H&M, I bought cardigans and jumpers in shades of mustard, oxblood and byzantium (yellow, maroon and purple, for the less shade-savvy/pretentious reader), and picked up staple navy pieces like spotted blouses and striped long-sleeved tops. I can’t wait to pair them with comfy jeans, scarves and brown lace-up boots for all those hot-chocolate-based outings I’ll soon be going on.

Clothes 2

Holidays

A couple of months ago, Nathan and I both took a week off work and treated ourselves to a little holiday. Travelling up the coast to beautiful North Haven, we spent a few days camping, eating, wandering and playing aqua golf, before moving along to a little cabin at Manning Point – a favourite holiday destination from both of our childhoods. We indulged in three-course home-cooked breakfasts, napped, read books on the beach, played board games, walked around the sleepy streets, and visited the local bowling club senior-citizen-style for dinner and raffles.

IMG_1904Stunning views from North Brother Lookout near North Haven.
IMG_1919Fish and chips by the river at Manning Point.

I hate to use a holiday buzz-phrase like ‘relax and recharge’, but in truth, that’s exactly what we did. I felt like I came home in a totally different mindset, feeling much more relaxed and at ease with myself and the world at large, and so did Nathan. The rare getaways we take are usually to big cities and are jam-packed with activity, so it was really nice to have a holiday in the true sense of the word.

IMG_1907Early evening strolls around Weeroona Caravan Park, Manning Point.

Sky views from my balcony

We’ve had some crazy weather where I live lately; the NSW East Coast has been absolutely battered by wind in gales and rain in torrents. By chance, Nate and I had actually been away from home during the worst of the storms, and due to flooded roads we couldn’t get back when we’d planned. But when we eventually did make it home at 6:30am the following day, we were greeted by the most magical morning sky I’ve ever seen.

Sky 1

Apart from being a welcome respite from the moody cloud-cover of the preceding few days, the gorgeous sunrise reminded me of all the beautiful skyscapes I’ve witnessed from my well-situated balcony. I’ve watched angry clouds amass themselves and spit out purple flashes of lightning; admired painting-esque sunset scenes of puffy clouds hovering on a gilded horizon; and marvelled at the perfect pastel gradient of many a clear afternoon sky. My previous post was even written on my balcony under the calming influence of a brand new day’s sunrise.

Sky 2

Sky 3

Sky 4

Yeah, I’m pretty lucky to live where I do.

Things I Love Lately: Melbourne Edition

There are so many things I’m loving at the moment that I couldn’t resist another one of these posts! I’ve recently been on a lovely mini holiday to Melbourne, so I decided to run with that theme. Melbourne is one of my favourite places to visit, so it was hard to narrow down into a few snippets – but I’m sure there’ll be many more trips there in the future, and many more blog posts!

Breakfast

Of course number one on this list was going to be food. I went into my Melbourne trip fully prepared to spend most (if not all) of my money eating everything I could get my hands on. I definitely did that, so I’m going to have to narrow things down again here and focus on one meal: BREAKFAST. (The best meal of them all.) These were two of my favourites:

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This adorable spread from The Hardware Société is called The Continental. With my dodgy photography you probably can’t tell, but it consisted of a little granola and yoghurt jar, a warm croissant and some vanilla macerated strawberries.

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Granola again! I must admit it’s becoming a bit of an obsession of mine. This one is apricot, coconut and fig with vanilla yoghurt, almond milk and poached stonefruit. It’s from Twenty and Six Espresso in wonderful West Melbourne.

Cocktails

All my Melbourne drinks were not only delicious, but photogenic too. The two picturesque sippers that follow were both enjoyed in Fitzroy, which leads me to assume that it must be Beverage Photography Capital of the World.

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This tropical-looking treat was from a place called The Grub Food Van. I can’t remember what it was made of exactly, but I know it had coconut ice, some sort of sugar syrup, probably pineapple juice and possibly gin…whatever it was, it was amazing.

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This one was absolutely as refreshing as it looks. Titled ‘The Fitzroy Beer Garden Cooler’, it’s a lovely mix of Hendricks, elderflower, apple juice, soda, cucumber and mint. YUM.

Sunny weather

For a city with a notorious reputation for temperamental, often miserable weather, Melbourne absolutely turned it ON for us! Our three and a half days there were filled with warm sun, clear skies, crisp air and cherry blossoms…

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Stop it, Victoria, you big charmer.

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Men’s clothing

Men’s clothes are SUPER comfortable. This isn’t exactly news to me – I’ve been known to *borrow* many a jumper or T-shirt of Nathan’s and *forget* to return it ever again. However, I recently went one step further and bought a few men’s clothing items expressly for myself. (Best decision ever.)

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This ridiculously comfy H&M jumper is my new favourite thing. I originally picked it out for Nate, but then snuck back to grab an XS for myself…so now we both have one, and have to make sure we don’t accidentally wear it out in public together. Now, H&M, if you would please hurry up with that Sydney store of yours…

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I didn’t get this tee from Melbourne, but I thought I’d include it anyway, because a) it’s unisex and b) it’s super cute. It’s by one of my favourite brands, The Orphan’s Arms: two guys from East London who print gorgeously English things on tops, jumpers, tights, etc. I’m slowly building a collection of their pieces and I don’t think I’ll be stopping anytime soon!

Things I Love Lately…Six Months Later

If there’s anybody still out there… HELLO! After six months of complete silence, I’m back.

I feel REALLY slack for having let the blog go for this long. I was just so busy – working two jobs, keeping up with postgrad study, trying to maintain some semblance of a social life – and blogging was, unfortunately, relegated to the bottom of my priority list.

However! A few things have changed since I last posted. Last month, I made the decision to leave my bookshop so I could just stick with the one job. I absolutely loved working at the bookshop, but it was time to leave. I now work solely as a writer (or ‘Communications Coordinator’, if you want to get technical), taking on more projects and loving every minute of it.

So now that I’m starting to get settled into a better routine, I’m going to make an effort NOT to leave a gigantic six-month gap in between posts here! I thought I’d kick things back off with a nice little set of ‘Things I Love Lately’. :)

White Bird Art

WBA (2)Image via White Bird Art

I love birds and woodland animals and beautiful drawings and sticking pretty things on my walls. (Who doesn’t?) So when I came across White Bird Art, it was instant love.

They’re two amazingly talented girls from Sydney who create gorgeous artworks of birds, foxes, flowers and just all manner of loveliness. I picked out two of their prints for Nate to get me for my birthday, and they are such a sweet addition to the walls of our little apartment.

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As well as being ridiculously clever, the girls themselves are lovely too – my prints got lost in the mail thanks to AusPost being dodgy, and they were SO helpful and wonderful about it!

You can visit White Bird Art’s Etsy shop here and their website here. And by ‘can’ I mean ‘should, right now’.

WBA (1)Image via White Bird Art

Cormac McCarthy

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I remember one of my undergrad writing teachers always going on about Cormac McCarthy, never missing an opportunity to spruik the harsh American beauty of his prose. When he showed us an excerpt, I read it, went ‘eh’, and didn’t think about McCarthy again until this year.

My bad.

Getting an awesome discount at the bookshop I worked at was beneficial to more than just my budget: it made it easier for me to expand my reading repertoire. We stocked a fair few of McCarthy’s books, some with beautiful, striking cover designs that always caught my eye when I was stocking shelves. I decided to give him a go and start with No Country for Old Men, which is obviously one of his better-known works.

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Eight pages in, my thoughts, as recorded on Twitter, were:

  1. Interesting.
  2. Has he actually removed the comma button from his keyboard?

Dude doesn’t use a lot of punctuation.

I found it weird at first, but slowly and surely, I got completely sucked in by this sparse, gritty novel. His prose, which seems at first to be nothing but long sentences with lots of ‘and’s, has this strange, hypnotic, addictive quality. It completely draws you into his world – whether that be the dusty, gun-slinging, drug-running world of No Country, or the bleak, never-ending, post-apocalyptic highway that is The Road.

Don’t you just love it when you find a new author to add to your favourites?

Lego Harry Potter

Image via megagamesImage via megagames

To anyone who knows me, it’s no secret that I am a shameless, hardcore, lifelong Harry Potter fan. Like, I’m talking Hedwig and Time-Turner ornaments on my desk, movie soundtracks playing while I do uni work… Yep.

Processed with VSCOcam with a5 presetProof that my desk is something of a HP trinket shrine.

Anyway, I’ve realised that one of the key feelings I get from anything Potter-related is comfort. It was such a huge part of my childhood and brought me so much joy that every time I immerse myself even slightly in that world, I just feel calmed.

So when I was feeling a little stressed out by work and uni lately, the most brilliantly genius idea popped into my head: I should absolutely, totally get a Harry Potter game to play on Nate’s Xbox. (How I hadn’t thought of this before, I have no idea.)

Off I trotted to the shops, with seasoned Xbox veteran Nate in tow to help me out. I ended up scoring a secondhand copy of Lego HP Years 1–4 for $20! Potentially THE BEST $20 I HAVE EVER SPENT.

Image via lego.wikia.comImage via lego.wikia.com

I’m proud to say that my previously non-existent Xbox skills have increased tenfold! I can now run around, jumping and joyfully Expelliarmusing everyone in sight, all without looking at the controls. One hundred points to Hufflepuff. (I fully embrace the fact that I would absolutely be sorted into Hufflepuff.)

Anyway, the point of all this is, I have found a new method of stress management and it is exploding things and making potions as a little Harry made of blocks. I highly recommend that you give it a try. x

Things I Love Lately (Feat. Cupcakes and The National)

Hello and happy Tuesday, if there’s anybody out there still reading!

I’ve been pretty slack on the blog front lately – partly because I’ve been busy, but mostly because I’ve been trying to think of something really worthwhile and interesting to post. After spending a while despairing of my lack of ‘worthy’ ideas, I realised that if I was this meticulous about every blog post, I’d only average one every ten years or so. So here goes my somewhat self-indulgent Things I Love Lately post – expect to see many more of these in the future!

The National

Img courtesy of fugitivesounds.orgImage courtesy of fugitivesounds.org.

I freaking love The National. Their music is dark, slow-burning melancholia, peppered with the occasional incredibly uplifting moment and… some more melancholia, but up-tempo this time. They’ll break your heart, but you will totally love them for it.

Last Friday, I was lucky enough to attend their show on the Opera House forecourt. It was a perfect, warm, clear summer evening on the harbour: the House lit up in colour, the crowd chilled out and ready for the show – and what a sublime show it was. Matt Berninger’s beautiful voice was the highlight for me; it’s just heavenly live. I’m so impressed by the way he can transition seamlessly between his signature haunting baritone, his higher range, and his crazy hoarse screams on songs like ‘Abel’. I’m even more impressed that he waded his way through the entire crowd during ‘Mr November’ without sustaining any damage besides a pair of lost glasses (he was right up the back with us at one stage and I squealed a little).

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Anyway, it was a gorgeous night and I’m so glad to have had the experience of seeing them live! You can see for yourself what I’m talking about via the Opera House YouTube channel – watch the full set from the second show here. (For the record, my favourite National song is ‘England’ – if you haven’t heard it, go listen to it right now. It’s soft and beautiful and it conjures images of lying in bed watching raindrops run down the window and I love it so much.)

Hello Naomi

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Imagine sitting down in a tiny pastel-coloured café, ordering a chocolate cupcake with vanilla-mint buttercream, and sipping on a little bottle of flavoured jersey milk from a stripy straw. Doesn’t your brain just explode from the cuteness? Mine almost did when I discovered Hello Naomi, a sweet little café in Newcastle serving cupcakes and cookies, coffees and teas, jersey milk and fresh juice and hot chocolate… the list of treats goes on and on. It’s such a lovely place to go for a catch-up with a friend, a coffee date with the boyfriend, or even just to treat yo’self – because you’re a strong and independent woman who deserves it, am I right?

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Follow Naomi on Instagram (@hellonaomicakes) to admire her creations and go into a virtual sugar coma – or, better yet, get yourself to Newcastle for the real thing!

Cheap jewellery

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I got these rings and this necklace for $7 all up. Best. (Rings not modelled on hand due to me having a fat finger day.)

Mail

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Everyone loves getting nice things in the mail. For me it’s especially exciting, as the only things that usually turn up in my mailbox are bills to be paid or letters for the previous tenant (seriously, Peter, change your address already). So this year is going to be awesome, because I’ll be getting regular deliveries thanks to my new Frankie subscription and my new by-distance postgrad course with the University of Southern Queensland! Mr Postman, you’re my new best friend.

Fresh limes

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I’m so obsessed with limes at the moment. I only recently discovered what is now my favourite cocktail of all time: the Charlie Chaplin – equal parts sloe gin, apricot brandy, and fresh lime juice. I also love adding lime to my food – most times when Nate and I make Mexican food I forget to buy limes, but when I do, I will juice a whole one of those delicious bastards on top of my meal. If there’s a lime in the house I’ll even squeeze it over any type of lunch wrap I make – EVERYTHING tastes better with limes!! (Crazy lime lady in the making. Off to make use of the supermarket’s 3 for $1 deal right now.)

IMG_7212Image courtesy of cocktailmusings.com.

So, there you have a few of my favourite things at the moment. I’d love to hear some things that you love lately!