July was mega busy, not much staying in and keeping warm for me!
1. Finish sorting my holiday photos
It's coming up to the year anniversary of my trip and I still haven't properly sorted my photos. Mostly, I've been busy and mostly it's a big job. The thing about digital photography is that you take so many photos! I am arranging them, labeling them and identifying them correctly. And that's where I get bogged down, being particular with a focus on detail (I'm a Librarian, I can't help it!), I am finding labeling buildings etc correctly very time consuming. However, I am doing a little bit each week, and getting there.
5. Read more of my own books. I tend to purchase these, but they get pushed aside for books I bring home from work
The three books I've read this month are my own - more on them below.
6. More live music
Deborah Conway & Willy Zygier and Sarah Blasko.
My review for Deborah & Willy can be found here:
Sarah Blasko is another Australian singer I have loved for a long time and one I've never seen. Her voice is remarkable, stunning range, such purity, and a stillness and ease that is rare. L, little A (a ring in for A) and myself had front row seats at City Hall. The room was perfect for her voice, and it was even more remarkable live. Her band were tight, a great mix of bass, guitars, grand piano. A lot of her songs are very bass and drum heavy, which gives them an unusual sound, though giving her blues and jazz background not surprising. Her presence on stage is enigmatic and charismatic at the same time. She moves in a way that made me think she had some training in ballet or classical dance, though at times she appeared awkward. She was warm and funny with us as the audience. I love seeing a performer for the first time, especially someone as well established as Sarah, listening to their songs, realising how many you know and love, and being swept up in the romanticism of it all as one can only do at live performances.
7. Learn to cook 5 basic, healthy meals I can whip up easily
I've been trying to be better at this. Now it's winter I have a few variations on vegetable/zucchini pie/fritters etc. I've been cooking these up on a Sunday, so I have plenty to eat with fresh vegetables or salad during the week for lunch and dinner. It breaks up the weeks meals and prevents me from being lazy and grabbing takeaway!
8. Don't let the things that usually bother me, irritate me too much
As reported last month, I was suffering a bit, feeling bothered and irritated, sad and upset. The Mean Reds!! I am happy to report that whilst I know I am nowhere near as 'good' as I'd like to be, I have made huge progress in getting back to my normal...which is nowhere near normal! A fun month like July with my wonderful family and friends is certainly gold for the soul.
19. Eat and drink out more/20. Get through my list of local restaurants and cafes
Oh yes, I've done a bit of that...possibly too much!
The usual Gozleme at The Markets plus tried their dumplings this time - divine; and some salted caramel rocky road! Cupcakes from Cupcake espresso. back to Cibo on Beaumont for Tapas, lunch at The Duke, dinner at Agosti, and supper at the superb new French Wine Bar, Le Passe Temps. Newcastle is offering more and more classy and cool venues to eat at, I'm loving it!
23. Spend more time with my niece and nephew
I had a lovely day with them that started with soccer games. Miss 5 was up first and what a joyous time that was. 7 under 6s, only 4 on the field at a time. 3 girls, 4 boys, and they were having the time of their little lives, grins wide, lots of high fives and laughs. If you ever want to see true joy and happiness little people playing like that is pretty much it! Mr 10's was a little more dramatic, with underhanded moves (the other teams) and lots of falling into the mud, some possibly on purpose. We managed to finish before more rain and headed back to their farm for the day. After lunch parents were banished, board games were brought out and the three of us settled in for some serious competition. Loads of fun had by all.
30. Say no or at least I'll need to get back to you on that one to the people I always say yes to that usually let me down
Why does it feel so good to say no? I think the Mean Reds are attributed to being to giving a little bit too much of myself and realising the balance is a little out. Not that one gives to get... Nonetheless, No has been said.
31. Have fun and laugh more at work
Most Libraries have events for children during the School Holidays and Swansea is no exception. N & I hosted a Mad Hatter's Tea Party, which was a lot of hard work but loads of fun. I think the kids enjoyed it too! And then a few days later we had back to back drumming workshops. These are awesome and the kids have a blast, as do we watching and listening to them drum the roof off the library. Libraries are no longer the boring book museums of the 50s. You really must check out your local library if you haven't been to one in a while, you will be surprised at what you will find. Even better come and visit me at Swansea!
33. Go to lots of fun social events
July was jam packed of events.
I did my usual Farmers Markets at Speers Point, and also went to Olive Tree Markets for the first time in months. I highly recommend them, lots of great arts and crafts, entertainment and food. C and I made a day of it, meeting other friends for lunch at Cibo, checking out the fabulous new Christmas Store, 'Tis the Season, indulging at Cupcake Espresso, and having a giggle and cuppa tea at my place.
A fabulous girls night out with A, L, J and S incorporated a Gallery opening, the movie Before Midnight, and checking out the fabulous new French Wine Bar, Le Passe Temps. This is a divine and classy addition to Hunter Street. beautifully and masterly renovated in an old Dec bank Building with yummy finger food and great French Champagne. We all agreed it was a perfect night.
A lot of Newcastle tweeps met up at The Grand Hotel for another Tweet up, Twistmas in July. A lot of us met for the first time back in December and were keen to strengthen those online bonds again. A great night was had by all, with about 50 people turning up to chat, drink and have fun.
Another fabulous Bookclub afternoon at Tallulah's, enjoying exploring the titles we have chosen and chatting about them with these fabulous ladies over wine or coffee. I can also recommend the salted caramel macaroons. This was followed by a trip to Newcastle Art Gallery with M to see the wonderful Philip Wolfhagen exhibition. What a beautiful selection of landscapes including water. I was very impressed. We then headed to Agosti for dinner, and then caught the play, House of Fire. A story about three sisters coping after their mother dies and their father remarries. Written by Deborah Oswald, who is responsible for Offspring, she really knows how to write for women. Was a great play, funny and poignant.
The night previous I went with a group of fabulous ladies to Agosti for their jazz evening. Amazing meals and light instrumental jazz in the background made the evening very impressive.
Add in Deborah Conway and Sarah Blasko...no wonder I am tired!
I should have added a new category to the 42 things...Photography. It is something I have always been interested in, but only lately have been getting back into it. I joined instagram and am addicted, which is great, it makes you look around you differently - what is instagramable? I have been going nuts for sunsets. Working and living on the lake means I see a lot of water, especially driving to and from work, so plenty of opportunities to snap something. I am finding it is a way to slow myself down, sit and look at what is happening around me, be in the moment and enjoy the simple things. I highly recommend it!
Dead Europe - This is an Australian film based on Christos Tsiolka's book. About a young photographer's journey back to Athens to find out more about his family background and Greek heritage after his father dies unexpectedly. His father was highly superstitious and there are elements of this in it, it is confronting, honest, dramatic and amazing. The lead actor is brilliant and holds our attention. It is a difficult film to describe but totally worth watching.
Safety not guaranteed - I loved this film so much I watched it twice. A journalist takes his two interns to a small town to investigate a wanted ad he saw. The ad asks for a companion to travel back in time with, safety not guaranteed. What is the person who wrote the ad up to, can he really time travel, and why does the journalist really want to visit this small town? This is a glorious little film, it's humour is dry and it's gentle on it's characters and subject matter. The acting is superb and is a must see.
West of Memphis - this is a documentary about the Memphis 3. Previously there has been a trilogy of documentaries detailing this incredible story but this is a better telling of the story and backed financially by Peter Jackson a much more professional film. For those that do not know, the Memphis Three were most probably wrongly jailed for the murder of three young boys in 1993. The documentary goes over the scant evidence and the way the police possibly tricked the three, teens at the time, into confessing. I will say no more, and whilst I am not normally a fan of true crime, this really had me on the edge of my seat.
The Impossible - Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor star as the parents of a young family holidaying in Thailand when the Boxing Day Tsunami hit. This is gruelling to watch, with utterly brilliant performances from McGregor and especially Watts, the oldest son also terrific. You will need tissues and a strong resolve, but worth giving it a go.
The Way - I was so so about The Way when I watched it, but that we a few weeks ago and I find myself thinking about it from time to time. Strange how that happens. Martin Sheen travels the Camino de Santiago in honour of his son who was accidentally killed on it's route. Sheen plays a fuddy duddy, set in his ways and as he journeys he collects a mish mash of travellers, all doing the pilgrimage for their own reasons. Directed by Emilio Estevez (and he plays Sheen's son in flashbacks) this is obviously a film of faith, yet it never really pushed that. It was a simple movie shot against the most magnificent backdrop, and it's made me think a lot about varying things since watching it. So give it a go, if it comes your way, I'd be curious to see what you thought!
The Master - this was a thoroughly annoying movie, mostly due to it's subject matter, yet I really enjoyed it. Philip Seymour Hoffman is the guru of a cult similar to say Scientology, Amy Adams his adoring and ever faithful wife, and Joaquin Phoenix as his young protégé. From the get go it is obvious that Phoenix's character has issues, and it only explores his depths as the film goes on. For me it was the powerful of acting between the male leads that had me hypnotised. It is almost a love story (not sexually) between the two. Highly disturbing but incredible at the same time.
Before Sunrise - this is the ultimate love story. American boy (Laid back Ethan Hawke) meets French girl (Feisty Julie Delpy) on a train heading for Paris. They strike up a conversation and he convinces her to get off in Vienna with him and keep him company until his plane leaves...one evening until midnight. And she does and it is beautiful and perfect. The film is mostly conversation, that gorgeous conversation you have when you are first getting to know someone and you feel somehow connected. The stunning backdrop of Vienna works so well, but it's the little things and moments that make this film. Made in 1995, they wear the same clothes, Delpy's hair is not 'done' and she has on hardly any make up...not that she needs any of that. I wonder if a film like this would even be made today. In a scene in a tram, hair falls over Delpy's eyes, Hawke nervously goes to push it back but then chickens and moves his hand back, she self consciously moves it herself. Little things that keep it real.
Before Sunset - 9 years later, Hawke is promoting his book, based on what happened in Before Sunrise, in my own beloved Shakespeare and Company in Paris! Delpy is in the audience and they spend time together until he has to catch his plane back to LA. Again wandering around the very streets of Paris I have wandered, they chat and we find out exactly what happened in and after the last movie. I won't say too much, because these films are worth watching. This is Delpy's movie, she is a little jaded and very honest, some of her scenes including a huge break down in a taxi were so incredibly relatable to me they left me in tears. But mostly this is a joyous movie, with Paris as a backdrop, how could it not be? Both Delpy and Hawke assisted with the screen writing of this as they did the first and it shows. Linklater must have known he was onto something magical when he made the first film. The final scene of this is so incredibly delicious I cannot say, but it left me knowing exactly what was going to happen when the credits started to roll.
Game of Thrones, S2 - oh my, things jumped up a notch this season. No real space here to go into it in detail. Suffice to say I still adore The Dwarf, the Dragon Lady and the youngest daughter. Everyone hates everyone, or so it seems, war is imminent and bloodshed will happen...oh my!!! Plus plenty of beheadings and sex...what more do you need???
Weird things customers say in bookshops 1 and 2 by Jen Campbell started as a blog some years back and I found it through Neil Gaiman's site. It is a collection of crazy things people have said to the author whilst working in a second hand bookstore. Hilarious and cute, if you love books or have worked with books, this is a must read. I reckon I could write my own copy!
Thunderbolt kid - Bill Bryson - this is another talking book read by the author and about his childhood and very dry humour. From baseball to candy to school and family and friends, this is very American but also very relatable. I also listened to a short one he wrote/read about The English Language, it was interesting in parts, but a bit academic.
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes - this was our bookclub book and whilst the writing was brilliant, most struggled because the characters were so unlikeable. I realised I don't need my characters to be likeable to appreciate and enjoy a book. From talking to a lot of people, that would put me in the minority! Anyway, the book starts at the beginning of the characters lives but really in the middle of the story. About halfway through the story is the catalytic point where the story stems from. It is how a single action can set in motion a domino effect of tragedy that possibly you do not even realise. Very real, heartbreaking and exceedingly frustrating characters, it was a page turner for me and Barnes's use of language and metaphor brilliant.
Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman's first adult book in a while and totally worth the wait. It is difficult to explain the plot without giving away the surprises. There are sections of childhood memories, most certainly Neil's, of a young unpopular boy locked away in his room reading, the phrasing and descriptions are raw and real and he makes you smile with a little melancholy. A man returns to his childhood home and reminisces of a particular point in his childhood, the people he was friendly with and the most astonishing thing that happened to them in the 'ocean' at the end of the lane near his house. Of course this delves into fantasy and darkness as all his books do, but as always with so much heart and honesty and beauty it never feels forced, he makes these sequences seem real. And this is why he is the guru, the rock star of fiction writers. He just gets life and it's intricacies and craziness and mixed all of that into the fantasy aspects of his writing. if you have never read anything of his give this a go and then go straight to Coraline of vice versa. Or just follow him online, the most generous and giving man, and he loves Libraries and he is married to the awesome Amanda Palmer!!!
Two visits to the cinema this month!
Firstly L & I spent the afternoon with Munch! I have always loved his Scream, and his life and artistic range are so fascinating, this documentary was great. I was lucky enough to see a large exhibition of his work a few years back in Melbourne. At the time I really only knew The Scream, but that was enough for me. However I was blown away by all his other paintings and the various styles he took part in over the years, his portraits in particular amazing. His life was tragic and you can see this in his paintings. The documentary was filmed as part of a huge exhibition in Norway, celebrating 150 years since his birth. The film takes you behind the scenes in putting together this amazing exhibit and tells his life story. Fascinating.
Before Midnight - the third in Linklater, Hawke and Delpy's romantic trilogy and we find our 'heroes' in Greece on a holiday another 9 years later. I won't give much away but it is a darker turn this time again with rich dialogue and long uncut scenes that are a testament to both Delpy and Hawke's assistance again with the script and of course their acting. Other characters weigh in on romance and life during this, but the movie shines and soars when the scenes are purely the stars. My favourite is still Before Sunset, but this was excellent all the same.
MusicI've been listening to a lot of Deborah Conway and Sarah Blasko due to their concerts. Such diverse voices but I love them both. Also listening to a bit of Tegan and Sara, more modern but still equally great songs and singers, danceable too of course!
On another genre, Steve Martin (the actor) paired up with Edie Brickell for a Bluegrass/Country album. Brickell, best known for her angelic voice and being married to Paul Simon is a favourite of mine, I adore her album, Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars. Martin is an award winning Banjo player, and highly sort after. This is a laid back and mellow album and worth a listen
Hugh Laurie (the actor, there's a pattern here!) has released another jazz album. He is a great piano player and has a wonderful voice, again worth a listen.
Finally, I have been blasting the new Primal Scream album, it's pretty good!