Simple Steps: Healthy steel cut oats (ready for the week)

I have been trying to come up with ways to keep up with this new life of mine, which I am loving, but is keeping me very busy. This is the second in a series of posts that will outline a few of the time-savers or simple steps that I have implemented into my routine to make things a tad easier. 

I am a bit of a breakfast demon in our household. Not much conversation comes from mummy before her morning coffee (I am like the Cookie Monster, “mmm coffee”) and if a healthy breakfast isn’t quick and easy, it is usually put aside for buttered fruit toast. 

After spending way too much money at a local bulk whole foods store including about a kilo of steel cut oats, I went in search for ways of cooking these without having to stand at the stove stirring for 30 minutes at 5.30 on a weekday morning. I have to be out the door around 7.15am so breakfast cannot be a complicated business. 

 

Alas, the internet provided me with many options, one of which was to use a slow cooker (which I do not have – am I the only one?) and the other was doing a quick boil in the evening and then leaving overnight, then reheating the next morning. Finally, I found a source that said that steel cut oats are actually brilliant cooked in bulk and then moistened up with a little milk then reheated on a busy morning. So that that is my plan…

Ingredients:

1 cup steel cut oats

2 cups water

2 cups milk

Pinch salt

A bit of honey or maple syrup goes down a treat too.

Method:

Soak the oats in the water overnight, covered on the kitchen bench top

Place into a small-medium sized saucepan (you will note that the oats will have expanded) then add the milk

Bring to a slow boil and then turn it right down. The soaking should in theory reduce the cooking time to no more than 20 minutes, but just keep wandering by as you go about your business and stir/check/taste until it is at the right consistency.

Scoop out a portion (recipe makes 4-5) and add the maple syrup or honey (or fruit? nuts? go crazy)

Place the rest into your fridge. The next morning you can scoop out another portion, add a splash or two of milk or water and reheat in the microwave or on the stove until warm. Add topings again. 

I really love the nuttiness of the steel cut oats and was having a few extra sneaky spoonfuls this morning while washing the pan. 

 

Do you have any tricks for getting a healthy breakfast on board during the week? 

Life lately…and a puppy

Magic
Magic

You know you are the kind of person who takes on too much when you decide to go back to work, do a Masters degree and get a puppy (on top of parenting two littlies) all in one year.

Am I bonkers?

Some would say I am.

I get a lot of funny looks of disbelief when I tell people that a puppy will be joining my family soon. “Are you sure?” they say. No, Im not sure. But life is too short to only do what you are sure of.

I spend a lot of my time giving things a go. This blog was one such moment. I started that, with no real clue about the blogging world and it has evolved over time.

Now that I am taking  a bit of a step in a different direction, career wise, I am also taking considered risks in the sorts of projects I take on. I think most people know me as someone that is motivated and gets stuck in and I am not so scared of failure really.

I ask myself all the time how I can help my kids be the same way. Really, the best way to teach is to model. 

So we got a puppy. Her name is Magic and she is a chocolate coloured labradoodle. She is totally cute, sweet, and exhausting. What do you think?

Do you take many calculated risks in your life? Or do you play it safe? I love to hear from you. 

Simple Steps: Clearing the email clutter

If you have been reading my kinda stressy posts lately, you will know I am kinda tense about how I am going to manage everything this year. It has been a big leap going from SAHM to working/studying mum. I’ve always/mostly/mainly been proud/judgy/preachy about my amazing abilities in keeping it all under control.

Things have changed.

Suddenly, I have realised all of this ball juggling isn’t getting me anywhere. I can’t give up on my 3 big things: family, study and work. So what can I do? Im making baby steps to change the little things – yes, those things that stress me out.

Three days ago I unsubscribed to pretty much everything in my email box. I did this after leaving my email unchecked for one day and then coming back to 153 emails – none of whom were actually meant for me as an individual.

Whenever we buy something, follow a blog, or subscribe to a newsletter, we get an email. Some websites were sending me multiple emails every day! I was hitting delete on pretty much every email because I didn’t have the time to distinguish between the useful or the not right now. Sometimes I would flag something, thinking I would get back to it…and I never did.

Here are some of my new email management tactics:

  • I am using Bloglovin’ to follow my favourite blogs. I do get a daily email but that email is soooo much better than getting twenty emails.
  • I have unsubscribed or changed my email settings for most of my email subscriptions – I figure that if I want to know something, Google will always be there. It also stops me from wanting things I didn’t know I wanted!
  • I have set up folders such as “To do this week”, “To do this month”, “Complete” so that I can flag items that require a follow up and keep it out of my “inbox”.
  • I have thought about dumbing down my smartphone, but I like to have emails from my kids childcare, my university and other family stuff available whereever I am. This means I need to keep on top of managing my email subscriptions.
  • I’m on a bit of a buying ban – the clutter in my home life is pretty much replicated in my email/online life. Less online shopping means less email clutter and this works in reverse too!
  • I place reminders to check my emails three times per day rather than constantly.

So this morning I checked my email and guess what? Only three emails waiting for me. I was able to give those emails my actual attention and I felt rather less frazzled!

Im interested to hear how others manage their email! Please let me know if this gets out of control or whether you have amazing strategies to deal with the explosion!?

3 steps to changing my health habits…

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This pic I took at a park in Esher, UK, makes me want to be all zen…

Over the last couple of days I have made a couple of decisions about the way I am choosing to look at my health. Over the next four months I am going to be working part time, parenting my daughters and doing my Masters degree online. My time and energy is going to be spent being present and mindfully engaged in each of these three priorities. Unfortunately, when things get busy, my exercise routine goes down the toilet, and my food choices (whilst not bad) become more about quick and easy options than complicated (but healthy) recipes with loads of different ingredients.

This kind of stresses me out because I need to make a few decisions here about how I am going to manage. Eating the right kinds of food and exercise are really important to me, and help me remain focused, energised and also maintain my weight. That said, if the choice is spending that couple of hours of free time with my kids or going to the gym, kids win. How on earth am I going to manage this?

I have made three decisions:

1) Food choices – put simply, food choices are going to be all about simplicity, health and energy. At any given time, I am going to choose the most healthy (i.e. least processed) option available. If I have run out of food it will be scrambled eggs and salad for dinner. If I have a few hours free, I’ll make a nice pasta sauce with some grated veggies and lean protein and freeze some for later. Snacks will be fruit, nuts, yoghurt and carrot sticks with hummus. Easy peasy.  I won’t be cutting anything out and I wont be giving up on the chocolate. Choose the best, most healthy option and leave the guilt behind.

2) Exercise when I can and for health rather than weight loss- I would love to say that Im going to be able to fit the gym into my routine every day, but I really cannot. Downloading a bunch of yoga/pilates videos on Youtube is a great option for time poor people, as is interval training. Twenty minutes of interval training has more impact than a 45 minute jog. Rather than beating myself up for not training every day, I have decided that getting up from my desk and doing ten minutes of yoga or taking a walk around the block with our new puppy is a better and more stress-free option.

3) Mindfulness – I have talked about this quite a lot and a new book I have been reading has confirmed the value of mindfulness in daily life. I’ll admit, in times like these, meditation just does not happen unless it is at the end of a yoga session (and often interrupted by giggling girls downward dogging all over me). Instead I am doing this: about three times a day, or whenever I think of it, I am stopping for about thirty seconds. I turn my attention to something nice that is happening either in the forefront of my experience or in the background – e.g. the warmth of the heater after coming in from the cold, the sound of my daughters belting out “Let it go” upstairs, the memory of the giggles I heard as my husband played peek-a-boo with the girls last night (never gets old!), the feeling of excitement I get about something I am doing at work, the feeling I get after exercise….so I call my attention to either this moment or the memory of it and I kind of emerse myself in it. It is best to do this as it is actually happening, but hey..sometimes we need something to take our mind off our stresses and bring a little peace. If I have a few more minutes I will sit with my breath. It is so calming, and it also provides a feeling of warmth, happiness and gratefulness into my life, making it more meaningful. Mindfulness is all about being in the moment and is a powerful way to reduce stress and increase happiness and focus.

How do you manage busy periods to keep on track? I love to hear your tips!

PS. If you really are strapped for time you might like these recipes herehere and here. Check out my recipes page for more inspiration!

Reading about reading: The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books Saved my Life by Andy Miller

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Image via Goodreads

I cannot resist a memoir about reading. It is like one big blog of book reviews, with a few “how this book affected me” kind of chapters thrown in. I love to know about why people choose the books they do, whether they loved them or hated them, whether should read them (or not) and how their life changed about reading that book.

This was the premise of Andy Miller’s book The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books Saved my Life. Andy Miller, a very funny man, is also a big book lover, a new dad and works in publishing. He wants to write, but he doesn’t. He wants to read for pleasure, but the most he has read since his son was born was the so-called “crappy” Da Vinci Code – a book that every other person on the planet has read (and hated – or so Andy says). Andy decides to utilise his daily commute into the city to read books from his Betterment List, one that grows from 12 to 50 once he gets into the swing of things.

The books Andy chooses are classics (although there are a few in there that I had no idea existed). Many of those books he finds a real struggle to get through but struggles he does. Some of those books he really struggled with. One he gave up on. Then he almost gave up on another…until he asked himself whether getting into the habit of giving up on books before the end breeds this behaviour in other books. Some books he didn’t enjoy reading but was glad he did, and then there was the book that he loved.

I have to say, I think I must think I like reading about reading (does that make sense) more than I actually do. Perhaps I actually prefer to read.

I liked the memoir part of this book, the funny anecdotes about his time working at a bookstore, and the conversations he had with his wife or son about various books was quite good. I liked his thoughts about book groups and reading for becoming a better human being even if the book is not an enjoyable read. I liked his discussion about how books affected him, how difficult he found some books and whether we read classics just to say we’ve read that title.

The actual book discussions? Other than War and Peace…I was bored. I skipped pages, skim read paragraphs and then finally finished it, thankful I could finally get onto reading an actual novel again.

Do you like reading about reading? 

The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy

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Image via Goodreads

Published in 1958, the book follows American Sally Jay Gorce, a crazy but charming sort of girl who has escaped her parents once and for all to Paris where she has been granted two years of freedom (and financial support) by her uncle. In the first page we meet the antagonist of the story, Larry, who seemingly leads Sally Jay on for the duration of the story as they galavant around 1950s Paris, pursuing her acting career and getting into all kinds of trouble. I LOVED this book. Ok, it was a bit of a shambles in terms of plot, but overall it was funny, engaging, cheeky and beautiful. The Virago Modern Classics cover is beautiful too.

I loved that Sally Jay dreamt about being tied down as a librarian, as if that is the worst, most boring job in the world (which I am here to tell you it is not!), is always completely under or over dressed, always innocent of how her actions might lead to trouble, but always wanting to do the right thing (even if it isn’t actually what everyone else considers the right thing).

There were a number of times when I laughed out loud. I felt as if I were on a journey with SJ. I was one of her friends and I pictured every Parisian street she stumbled drunkenly down. I felt for her when her crush on Larry went on unnoticed. I loved the way she flitted between concerns and how she was so like this current twenty-something generation, except that she had no Facebook (and what would she do if she did!)

This is one of those “modern classics” that is perfect for someone to read who may be a bit overwhelmed with the thought of reading a classic, or thinks classics are boring. This is so terribly not boring. This is funnier and crazier than many of the coming of age YA books you see in bookshops. It isn’t for everyone, but it was a romp in Paris, and that is a great little holiday for me.

PS. Thank you to Lesley, Booktuber at WordsofaReader for this book recommendation. Loved. It.

Have you read The Dud Avocado? What did you think? 

Life lately…and some reading

Life lately has been a whirlwind. I am still getting used to being a working (and studying) mum, sometimes leaving before my youngest emerges from her room in the morning. Yes…I have a sleeper (albeit only one). I managed to fit in two workouts this week, but that was mainly because I didn’t work as many days I have no uni work to get done. *Sigh*. How am I going to fit it all in?

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We also had Olivia’s 4th birthday party the week before last. I managed to make a layered cake with sprinkles, taking inspiration from this Not Quite Nigella post (and other Pinterest finds). My husband’s 40th birthday followed days after and so we celebrated with a night out at our favourite restaurant, China Doll, in Woolloomooloo (Sydney). Being all caked out, I “made” another Not Quite Nigella idea, the watermelon cake – which was actually quite beautiful to eat. I am tempted never to make cakes again after that one.

I’ve managed to secure a block of work for next term, part time in the library, which is so amazingly exciting for me. I can hardly keep my ideas to myself and am constantly reminding myself of the fact that I only have a couple of days per week to put my ideas into practise – I am slowly realising that despite my best intentions, being a mother means prioritising and not being able to do EVERYTHING. *Sighs* again.

Finally, we are waiting for a new little labradoodle puppy to arrive in a few weeks time. Every week or so we get another lovely photo from the breeder, which excites us all. Hubby is in charge of names because he was outvoted in choice of breed. We can’t wait!

Of course, I have been reading as much as ever. I now have an even greater source of book discover (at the library that I work) and am really struggling to keep to my TBR for the next little while so that I can add to my book collection guilt-free. Over the past week I have read:

The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy (review to come)

Storyteller by Zoe Daniel

City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

I am currently reading:

The Smartest Kids in the World: and how they got that way by Amanda Ripley

What are you reading? 

Some food hangover swaps….

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A bit of green never hurt anyone

It has been a while since I posted anything about food or health on the blog. I’ve been so absorbed in my course, my family and my books that I have steered my writing away from writing about my health, even though it is something I am constantly playing around with myself.
So yesterday was my daughters birthday and we had the most beautiful Italian meal in a nearby suburb. I have been watching what I eat lately, but that did not stop me from ordering the crispy calamari and a tiramisu (seriously, you CANNOT go and eat at this place without having the tiramisu). I try to go with balance in my eating and for the most part I eat mostly fruit and veggies with good bread, free range or organic meat and don’t forget the goats cheese I sprinkle on everything. I don’t kick myself when we eat out because its not like it happens every night (or every week for that matter!).
BUT…we have had a big week of eating sugary foods and it isn’t about to stop. My husband turns 40 tomorrow and another weekend of food debauchery is about to descend.
So what to do when the food you eat is giving your that sluggish hangover kind of feeling? I have minimal levels of will power when it comes to going on any kind of detox, but I do do a few little “swapsies” as my daughter would say…just for one day or two. Who knows? They might work for your too.

1. Swap your mid-morning coffee with a ginger tea (recipe here) – it has that strong taste that won’t make you feel deprived of your coffee but the ginger is very cleansing indeed.
2. Instead of a snack, have a green juice (recipe below) – I just bung everything into my Nutribullet blender – sometimes it tastes great, other times not, but it does seem to rehydrate me.
3. Swap your morning toast or sanga for some nice eggs. I find it takes less time to whip up a simple scrambled eggs with some chopped up chives than it does to wait for my toast be ready. Even better, whack an egg into a mug, maybe pour in some frozen veg and microwave it for a minute or two.
4. Swap your sneaky after-dinner ice cream for a bowl of mixed frozen berries. I don’t even defrost them, just eat the softer ones first (raspberries) and the harder ones last (strawberries) so they have time to defrost. Yummo!
5. Swap that hard core workout for a bit of yoga. I always feel so refreshed after a bit of yoga, even though it is bloody hard at times. It really helps with digestion and stress, plus there are some great YouTube channels that you can use to mix it up a bit. I always like Tara Stiles’ yoga YouTube clips.

Green Food Hangover Juice
Handful of washed baby spinach
Juice of one lemon
1/4 avocado
2 cm peeled ginger
1/3 cucumber
1/2 apple
A few mint leaves or parsley – what ever is in your garden
Cup of water

A letter to my daughter on her birthday

To my little princess,

Today you are four. You are so happy to be four because that means you are a big girl at last. Birthdays suddenly mean everything to you. You can’t wait to share some ice cream with your friends at daycare. You can’t wait for dinner at the Italian pizza place we love to go to nearby. You were so happy to receive that $10 Cinderella barbie doll – I have finally realised I don’t have to spend a fortune for you to experience glee on your birthday morning.

We had a party with all of your friends over the weekend. We made a layered cake with lots of food colouring, sugar and sprinkles (everything you aren’t normally allowed to have!). You helped me make it because you love to cook.

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Our cake baking session (try to ignore my messy kitchen please!)

You couldn’t wait for your sister to wake up and join you this morning. You are finally beginning to form a lovely bond. Sometimes you fight, but usually you just play together, encourage each other and plant kisses on each other’s cheeks. It is just so beautiful to watch.

You are four going on fourteen. You must have a particular style of dress, one that swishes when you perform Let it Go or do you ballet twirls. Your vast collection of trendy jeans from the UK have lay dormant in your drawers. Only a dress will do.

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Pretty in pink

Sometimes you are shy, but once you trust people, you open up and show them just how beautiful you are. You are proud of your own achievements and you always encourage us as well! Not a day goes by without a “I like how you…” or “Well done Mummy!”. If someone is sad or hurt you are the first to tend to them. You have the empathy of an adult, and although I don’t want you to carry the world’s problems on your shoulders just yet, I am proud that my daughter looks beyond her own angst and can show sympathy and empathy to others.

I love the way you climb into bed (ok, so I don’t think your dad likes this bit…he is normally evicted) in the morning and draw pictures with your fingertips on my back as I snooze. You are the best alarm clock ever. Ping! Eyes open and ready to face the world. You are just like your dad in that way.

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My girl

In so many other ways you are a miniature version of me. We parents always have one child that is just like us (or we think they are) and you are her. You are sensitive, as I am, and you always want to do your best. You worry about things…silly things, big things. That is me to a tee.

I want time to stand still right now because I am entering another phase of motherhood where I am needed less and less, or perhaps in different ways to when you were both babies. With each year you become such beautiful little people, but I want the process to slow down. Slow down please! You don’t have to rush to grow up. You were the one we waited ages to get and when you arrived you were like a hurricane in our lives. Oh so hard, but I wouldn’t trade a day.

I love you my sweetie pie. Happy birthday. Love Mummy. 

Review: Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler

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Image via Goodreads

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant was a wonderful book. It is the first Anne Tyler I have read (and wont be the last). After watching The ABC Book Club discuss the story in May, I promptly purchased it from my favourite bookstore. It sat there patiently while I completed my final reports for my Masters degree, and read a few other books (some of which I did not finish – I seem to be doing that a lot, not finishing books – how things have changed).

Im glad I did not try to read this book while my head was still filled with academia and education. It is a personal read and it is one that requires focused reading times without distractions. It isn’t the type of book you read alongside the dozens of others you have sitting unfinished on your nightstand. This one must be read alone.

The book is about a family and begins with a woman, Pearl,  who is about to die. Her son is sitting by her bed, and her daughter is on her way. Her other son is out of contact and she is ready to go. She begins to look back on her life as a mother. She wants to make sure that her husband who deserted her (and the children) thirty-five years ago is invited to the funeral. She remembers that day when he left her and the children, and begins to see her own failings (although who could blame her, she thinks, after hanging on by a thread raising three children alone).

The family story is told from multiple perspectives. I loved that about it. Just when we think we think a character is black and white absurd, we are shown the layers in their behaviour. We see the rivalry between eldest boy, Cody, who never quite lives up to his dreamy and “good” brother, Ezra. Jenny is flighty, hardly settling down. Each are victims of their mother’s moods in their own way. The book makes you angry at Pearl for being so harsh, for favouring Ezra, and beating Jenny and causing such a rift between two brothers that lasts a lifetime. It makes you want to shake Ezra, when he loses his one love, or Jenny for being so clueless or Cody, for being such a horrible person. But the depth and complexity of each character, and of the family as a whole reminds you that there are reasons that each of them are this way. You see some of your own failures in each of them. Perhaps you see some parts of your own family (not too much in my case, thank goodness). 

I loved the way that Pearl, good or bad, remained so central to all of her children throughout their lives. They may have hated or loved her but she guided them, and all of their relationships beyond the childhood home. She complained often about the breakdown of her family, often shown in the way they could never sit down to an entire meal at Ezra’s Homesick Restaurant without somebody getting the shits and walking out. But, whether her influence was positive or not, it remained so until she died and beyond. 

Anne Tyler captured families, in all of their complexity, in such a brilliant way. We are tied to our family, whether we like it or not. It was as if everything and nothing happened in the plot but I still couldn’t shake the way it affected me. I thought about the role I play in my family and as a mother. The books that affect us and make us reflect on our own lives are the ones that are truly great. I highly recommend this book, because all of us have a family, and a mother. 

It has been just ages since I read a really really REALLY good book. I mean, I seem to give a lot of 4 star ratings on Goodreads, but 5 stars have been few and far between. Im really desperate for a 5 star read to fill my upcoming school holidays. Do you have a suggestion?

Life lately…juggling and abandoning

A little bit of gardening
A little bit of gardening…they are very proud of our lemon tree that Olivia helped plan two years ago

Life lately has been a bit of a juggling act. Assignments due, work to be done…and then there are my kids! Beautiful little souls they are…I have to constantly remind myself, like moment by moment to ensure that all of those things I am trying to get done are not getting in the way of being a good mum.

It is SUCH a juggling act.

In some ways I am so thankful that I have been able to stay at home and focus on them and only them for the past four years. On the other hand….

They have grown so much without their mother hovering over their every move. You know what happened when my youngest child started daycare? She jumped from coasting way under the 3rd percentile for weight on the growth chart to in the normal range! She has become her own little person, learned to play with others, learned to stick up for herself, and learned to love and trust others apart from her Dad and me.

Look, I actually think Im a pretty good mum but there is value in being looked after by educated and loving carers in a safe place. My eldest daughter’s social life is better than mine (and kind of dictates mine right now…anyone else get this too?). I despise all of that talk aimed at making mothers feel guilty about their choices…blah blah blah. You know what I have gotten out of getting back to teaching? I have had adult conversations (and teenage ones too seeing as I am a high school teacher), I have had to think on the fly, communicate, collaborate, organise and drink coffee (the whole cup – an awesome development!).

Ive also really really missed my girls, and there is value in this also because when we are together…we are together. I have no interest in my phone, my blog stats are completely abandoned, Facebook is suddenly not on my radar and we are mindful of our time together.

So what else have I been doing? We are party planning right now, which is a fab opportunity for some on the spot self-training on Canva, which I used to create some birthday invitations for my daughter. The invitation list became so extreme at one stage, it felt as if the more kids I invited, the more kids I felt were missing out. Im also using Pinterest to find some fun ideas for cakes and decorations, most of which are completely beyond my abilities and time availability at the moment…but still, its fun to dream. Luckily, Olivia is quite happy with this Not Quite Nigella creation which seems easy enough.

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Image via http://www.notquitenigella.com/2012/06/18/sprinkle-cake/

Ive also been abandoning books like you would never believe. I never used to give up on books but over the past two weeks they have been dropping like flies at the 50 page mark. Perhaps I will get back to them, and perhaps I won’t. I have suddenly realised that what everyone else likes does not matter when it comes to reading and books. On the other hand, some great books have come my way as well such as Room by Emma Donoghue (not so new – but an overdue read for sure) and The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane (read for my book club).

So thats it, big stuff, small stuff…it was a busy week. What have you been up to?

Finding and staying true to your blogging voice…

Just over a year ago I began writing this blog with absolutely no plan as to what it would be about. That wasn’t very blog savvy of me, but honestly, I never actually thought I would get any readers. I went through periods where I would write a lot, then periods where my motivation left me. I read books about how to build audiences, search engine optimisation, earning cash from your blog and marketing your blog using various social media platforms.

Yesterday, after attending the National Book Bloggers Forum (run by Penguin Random House), I got to thinking about my voice as a blogger. What is it I want to say?

Blogger and author, Sneh Roy, said it best when she said that finding and following your voice (and persistently pursuing that voice on your blog) is more important than following trends or writing what you think people want to read. She said, if you write what is important to you, then people will come.

That struck me, because Sneh is someone who has made her blog more than a hobby, but an essential part of her identity as a person.

Yesterday, I was given the opportunity to meet and listen to some truly inspiring people, from publishers who seem to have an contagious energy for the books they plug, to authors who follow their heart and turn their true passions into works of art for us to engage with. More importantly, I was able to talk to women (and one man) who, like me, love books. They love them so much they want to share them with the world! They are the book bloggers.

Over the coming weeks I want to spotlight some of the bloggers I was able to meet yesterday. The first one has a “vlog” and is called Words of a Reader. Lesley, who needs no introduction from me because she has a very loyal following, is passionate about classic books and has inspired me to give Booktube a bit of a go in the future. Perhaps that will be one of my blogging goals coming out of the conference.

Just to give you a bit of a taste of the vlogosphere, here is a great vlog Lesley posted for those of us that sometimes find classics a bit daunting:

How are you inspired as a blogger? In the spirit of community, I would love it if you could share one of your favourite blogs (book or otherwise) by linking below.

Why I read…

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I read to relax, to be transported, to be entertained.

I read to know more, to grow and to be a better person. I am a life long learner and with every book I become more of who I want to be.

I read to have choices, because knowledge is power.

I read because I want my children to know that books and reading are important. I am their role model in life. I want them to become readers too.

I read because it is something I love to do. If I had a choice between watching tv (okay…perhaps if Offspring was on, I would choose the tv), watching movies, knitting or crocheting, or reading….the book would win.

I read even when I shouldn’t. Even when I am completely crazy busy, or sick, or really should not have time to read, I always have a book or two on the go.

I read because I want to be empathetic to the way others think or feel. Reading has shown me how a boy who grows up in a Room feels, the perspective of two resistance fighters the moments before an assassination on Reinhardt Heydrich during the war, the way a mother feels when her son doesn’t return with all the other soldiers, and it has reminded me of how first love felt.

I read to understand how the world works, how people relate to one another, how best to relate to my children.

I read after being moved by other bloggers (book and otherwise) to see and hear and taste and understand what they have experienced. I read because other people say something is worthwhile, or something excited them, or something moved them.

I read because life can sometimes be pretty ordinary. That isn’t to say I am unhappy! I wouldn’t want to experience what characters in books experience every day of my life…therefore I read about it.

I read because I love books. I love buying them, I love borrowing them, I love reading about them, I love studying to be someone who will share books with younger generations. I love them filling my shelves and my blog posts and I love seeing piles of them on my children’s bedroom floor, perhaps fallen after a sneaky after bedtime read (something that my daughter does a lot and something I don’t particularly mind).

Why do you read?

Life lately…garage sales, reading and Mothers Day!

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Wow, I have finally seen the light of good health after a long stint on the couch with a virus. This is just the beginning of our cold and flu virus here (despite it being just under 20’c right one month before winter) in Australia and I am desperately jealous of all of those Northern Hemisphere people who are enjoying the daffodils or cherry blossoms in their place in the world. Ok, so Im pretty lucky here. I hardly even have to put on a cardigan (although I often do anyway, just because they make a nice little fashion change after shorts and tees all summer).

Ive been so lucky to have a husband that flits around just taking care of stuff while I have been lacking in energy. I think perhaps he would make a way better housewife than I do. He seems to get things sorted and never sits down, although now I cannot find a thing because he has been busy tidying and putting things away.

I finally got back to my studies, and am a little behind so if I go dark on the blog, you know why! I haven’t even been able to pick up a book, but I am finally getting back to a bit of reading. I picked up The Hare with the Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal the other day as I had heard some good things. Its taking a little time to get into, but according to Goodreads, there is promise once you get over that first reading hurdle.

I did manage to read a great book, highly recommended, called The Thirteenth Tale which is set in gloomy northern England, and set in an old gothic house. It is fully of mystery, suspense and is well written. You can check out my review here. If you would like to read something about Sydney, or my old stomping ground, the Northern Beaches of Sydney, another great book is The Lost Girls which is about the death of a teenager in the 1970s and the impact it has had on the family today.

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On Saturday we had a garage sale as part of our council’s attempt to get people to reuse and recycle their old goods. It was a pretty great day, despite making hardly any money. I particularly loved having loads of chats with all of our neighbours, who all came to say hello and am definitely motivated to get socialising with them a bit more, perhaps by having a street party (all part of building my village).

Olivia was our top sales girl, and pretty much made most of the cash we made by asking people to buy things directly…”will you buy this book?” “will you buy this money box?”. It worked too! She charmed them like a pro.

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Then Sunday was Mothers Day which was so wonderful. The kids and hubby brought me pancakes in bed and then we all went off to the city for some yum cha and a bit of an explore. It was just totally lovely.

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Happy Mothers Day to my mum, who I think perhaps I am becoming more and more like every day. How did you spend your Mothers Day?

Review: The Thirteenth Tale (Eclectic Reader Challenge: Gothic)

Image via Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40440.The_Thirteenth_Tale
Image via Goodreads

“‘Tell me the truth.’ It is a simple request, but one that shakes the reclusive and enigmatic, Vida Winter, to her very core. For has she not spent the past six decades writing fictional lives that have not only brought her fame and fortune but kept her violent and tragic past a secret?”

The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield.

When reclusive biographer, Margaret Lea, is asked to write the life story of best selling author, Vida Winter, she hesitates. Not only is Vida Winter still alive and therefore not the type of writer she usually writes about, she is also known to evade the truth of her past.

Nevertheless, she travels north, escaping the empty feeling left after discovering that she was one part of a twin, lost when she was born. Here she finds that Vida Winter has more in common with Margaret than she ever could have realised. And so begins her journey of self discovery which evolves alongside the search for Vida’s true story.

Much of the story is set in the large Angelfield estate, home of siblings Charlie and Isabelle, who always have something of a strange relationship, and Isabelle’s twin daughters, the ‘feral’ Adeline and Emmeline. Charlie and Isabelle are completely obsessed with one another and when Isabelle is sent away to a home for the insane and subsequently reported dead, uncle (or was he?) Charlie disappears, leaving the twins to wander the house, being vaguely looked after by the dotty housekeeper and the gardener.

Of course, lawyers and doctors get involved, worried the two girls are just as strange as their mother and uncle, employing a rather harsh nanny who begins conducting psychological experiments on the children, separating them. Of course she doesn’t last either and they largely raise themselves, taking comfort in each other, their bond…the twin bond, like a piece of string holding them together.

We aren’t really sure who Vida is for much of the story, but we think she is the psychotic Adeline. It is a really dark story, with the building suspense adding to the gothic feeling. There were so many elements that built upon the depth of the book. The question of identity when you are one of two (twins, I mean). The idea of who we are if we don’t know where we come from. I particularly loved the “writers” element, that is, the budding biographer hiding out in a bookstore who writes the story of the most successful writer in the UK. It asks what makes a writer, and whether the stories they write are who they are.

I do love a story about a writer. What can beat a story about a writer whose family owns a bookstore who is writing about a writer?

For the most part it was one of those books that can immerse you so deeply in a story, you rarely lift your head to face reality. There were a few occasions when I felt the sub-plot took over, but it is definitely one of those rare books that is literary, and  yet feels quite fast paced.

Finally, I read this along with others in my online book club and I am reading it for the Eclectic Reader Challenge hosted by Book’d Out. I had trouble knowing what to read for a “gothic read”. I could really only think of Rebecca (already read) and was grateful to be introduced to a book that I would not normally have picked up but really enjoyed. This was the general consensus amongst the others in my book group too. If that isn’t a good recommendation, then what is!

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Have you read any “gothic” novels that you can recommend? What do you love about them? I love hearing from you!