If you love reading chances are you have been part of a Book Club at some time. I believe that the key to a great book club is the combination of insightful people with opinions reading books that stimulate interesting, challenging, thought-provoking discussion. But it seems no matter how hard you try to select great books for your book club it is difficult to decide on titles that lift your conversation from content and character to concepts and insights into the human condition.
If your book club is one where the members choose the books the big challenge is always how to decide on the books to be read. A great alternative to book store and radio/magazine/tv recommendations can be found at Rapunzel Reads, a new blog site written specifically for book club members by self-confessed book addict Kerry-Lynne Hamley.
Kerry-Lynne has been a member of many different book clubs not only in different cities, but also in remote parts of Australia and the Middle East. With a deep knowledge and appreciation of English literature, her reviews examine each book from the perspective of a book club member who may be considering what they should recommend to their book club. It is also invaluable for the person who loves reading and wants to expand their choices and their knowledge of contemporary "good reads".
This site is in its infancy but already there are some excellent recommendations for your book club or your own personal reading. Eventually there will also be brief guides to popular books so if life has overtaken your good intentions you can read the "cheat's guide" before you go to your book club meeting.
So visit and bookmark Rapunzel Reads, then next time your book club is considering what books to read next, or you are discussing books with your friends, you will be able to throw in some well considered comments about various books and impress them all with how well read you are!
The Guardian newspaper in England has just released their list of the best holiday destinations for 2015 and I'm delighted to see that Brisbane is on the list.
Once an overgrown country town, the Queensland capital has changed beyond recognition in recent years: Lonely Planet named it Australia’s hippest city last year. Alongside hotel and bar openings and the rise of riverside restaurants such as Pony Dining (which, in an act of gastronomic symbolism, replaced a McDonald’s at Eagle Street pier) and Stokehouse Q at Southbank, Brisvegas has a series of happening villages. Prime among them is Fortitude Valley, where the world’s first Tryp Hotel opened recently, as did Kwan Bros, a superb Japanese-fusion restaurant. Also on the north bank of the Brisbane river, once-seedy Caxton Street, near Paddington, is a new social hub, now home to the flamboyant Gambaro hotel and to Lefty’s Oldtime Music Hall, which has live bands, 100 rye whiskies, and was named Gourmet Traveller’s “best Australian bar 2014”. (Quoted directly from The Guardian's article.)
I don't know Brisbane as a tourist destination, but as a place to live I have found Brisbane wonderful. Small enough to make getting around easy, but large enough to have everything we want in a city. Certainly I still miss aspects of Sydney, and still get excited when I revisit that city and catch up with old friends there, but as a city to live in and a city in which to raise a family, Brisbane is a winner.
Croatia is also mentioned and we are booked to spend time travelling around Croatia later this year. I hadn't realised that Game of Thrones features Dubrovnik, but really every image you ever see of Croatia is quite beautiful. I'm looking forward to spending time there.
As for all the other places on that list….my travel bucket list is getting longer all the time!
Hannah Brencher – "Love Letters To Strangers"
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love – "Your Elusive Creative Genius".
Every year many people are given puppies or kittens as Christmas gifts. Some of those animals are very fortunate and go into homes where they become part of the family. Others are not so lucky.
After the holiday period is over animal shelters everywhere get many additional cats and dogs brought in to them "to be given to a good home". The new owner either didn't want the animal, the novelty wore off, or it became clear that they couldn't look after the animal as it should be cared for.
The sad reality is that many of these animals are put down because they have nowhere to go.
If you are considering a new animal companion for 2015, perhaps now is a good time to think about getting a Rescue Animal, giving one animal a life that they wouldn't have otherwise.
Ok Ok, I know it's corny, but it just isn't Christmas without Mariah Carey and Michael Buble singing this song…and singing it together is a special treat.
Merry Christmas to you!
When you reflect on 2014, I hope it is with a sense of gratitude and fulfilment. Even if you haven't achieved your goals, even if things have gone wrong…there will be some parts of the year that stand out as positives. It is easy to give the glib answer "Yes, it's been a great year thanks", knowing you don't really feel like that at all. It's tempting to read those Christmas card letters which outline in detail all the wonderful things that happened to other people in the year and feel a little like climbing under a rock. We all get like that at times.
There have been some horrible things happen this year, in Australia and around the world. You can't help but absorb that sadness, and even some apprehension about the world we live in. But at Christmas time let's remember the good experiences, the good people and the blessings of the year. I hope you can find joy within yourself this Christmas and recognise that all we all really want for Christmas is peace, love and respect for all.
This YouTube clip is full of youthful exhuberance and lots of humour. I'm sure they'd have had great fun making the video! Enjoy it and have a happy Christmas.
Christmas hit me early this year. Usually I am a fairly self-motivated person. I don't need someone else to organise me, and I work perfectly happily setting my own agenda and following it. That's how it usually is.
Then December hit!
I don't know if it was that I had to get ready for an early Christmas celebration with some of the family, so did the Christmas shopping early. I don't know if it was returning to Aldi on December 3 to get an extra Christmas cake to give to someone, only to be told that most of their Christmas stock was sold out and they wouldn't be getting any more "because it was so close to Christmas".
Whatever the reason, my brain shut down and my motivation went out the window. It has become a marathon effort to write for my blog, which I normally love to do, and trying to make business plans for next year just seems like a task that is beyond my capabilities. Fortunately I've maintained my interest in clients, but not in marketing or any of the other tasks a small business person needs to do.
Am I burnt out? I don't think so. I still love what I do, I just don't want to do it NOW. I don't want to walk into my office in the morning. I don't want to do my normal tasks. I want to go and buy a coffee, or catch up with a friend, or hop in the pool….anything really except what I'm supposed to be doing!
So in case you also feel like you want to declare that no more work needs to be done this year here is my list of the seven signs you need a holiday.
1. You need a strong good coffee before 9am, and one that you make just won't do the trick.
2. You can't remember why you put that message to yourself in your diary, or in fact what that message means. What am I supposed to be doing at 10am? Who cares?
3. You have started 5 jobs by 11am but haven't finished any of them.
4. By noon you realise you have forgotten to buy a Christmas present for someone who is dropping in next week, and might have a gift for you so you must have one under the tree for them. It's hard to know what to buy because you haven't seen them since this time last year. You rush out the door to the nearest shopping centre. At least it is air-conditioned.
5. By 2pm you are back at work, people are asking where you have been and you mutter something about not feeling well.
6. By 2.10 you take a call from the person involved in your 10am diary message, full of apologies but with no real recollection of when you made the appointment, why you didn't write down the details properly and wondering how you are going to get the work to them that they require before your working day finishes.
7. You don't get the work finished. You don't really care. You go home, drained at the thought of having to do it all over again tomorrow.
If you agree with 5 out of the 7, how about we just call it "Christmas", close our computers and happily float off into holiday mode.
I confess that meandering slowly through local markets, eating traditional street food, and eating where the locals eat is one of my greatest joys when I am travelling. I'm an adventurous eater and enjoy sampling the food that is loved by the people of an area I am visiting. I learnt on my first adventuous trip out of Australia that I had a cast iron stomach, so purchasing from street vendors holds no fear for me.
The food and travel website Thrillist has released its guide to The World’s 18 Best Food cities. Their top cities were chosed according to a trend of improvement and innovation, as well as the diversity and uniqueness of traditional styles and the quality of the venues.
Coming in at number 17 was Melbourne Australia. I love their comparative description of Sydney vs Melbourne. I've never really understood why people are so passionate about Melbourne, but I obviously haven't eaten at the right places.
If Sydney is the New York City of Australia, Melbourne is basically a less hilly San Francisco: smaller, a little more Victorian in its stylings, with an impressive food scene to match. Though famous chefs from all over the world have opened outposts in Sydney (see: David Chang), Melbourne’s scene happened more organically with chefs that came up there, as evidenced by now-ultra-famous toques like Frank Camorra of the MoVida empire, and Andrew McConnell of Cumulus, who turned laneway (like alleys, but much cooler sounding) dining into something more hep, less sketchy.
Bordeaux and Bologna are rated as first and second in the world, with London listed in fourth place for the big name restaurants in that city. But I was delighted to see the street food in quite a few cities was mentioned as being an important part of the culinary experience of cities such as Mumbai, Marakesh and even New York.
I have special memories of meals in interesting places around the world, perhaps the most amusing being beside the sea in Da Nang, Vietnam, where we ordered two spring rolls and ended up with two serves of 20! More recently we stayed at a hotel in Bangkok, booked online for no reason other than it was the right price in the area we wanted to be in, where the chef had been part of the royal family's staff and cooked many of the traditional Thai food. With no idea of the reputation of chef or restaurant we ate at the hotel just because we were too tired to go anywhere else, and had the most superb Thai meal. Such are the things that make a holiday very special.
What is your most precious memory of a foodie experience during your travels?
On our recent holiday in New Zealand we had the wonderful experience of visiting Rotorua and the surrounding areas.
I remember Rotorua clearly from my first visit to New Zealand as a young University student. It smelt bad. It was an old and daggy looking town. There was steam coming out of drainpipes. I didn't like it then.
I knew I should revisit Rotorua but I didn't expect to experience it so differently. Rotorua is now a very successful tourism town. Accommodation is busy, even midweek and out of the main tourist season. It is unique because of the thermal activity that is an ever present aspect of this town, and of course this is why people flock to the town to visit.
The town itself was interesting, with my favourite building being a beautiful old museum that used to be the thermal baths. A visit to this museum was delightful and very informative. We also visited a Maori village and saw food being cooked the traditional way, steamed in the thermal waters. We enjoyed a couple of quirky features of the town – A Superloo (not sure why it was so Super…Maybe I should have visited it to find out) and a tree covered in colourful crochet.
People had told us to visit the local park in the centre of town, and there, just metres from play equipment and European styled park gardens were areas of steaming mud and steam gushing out of rocks and ponds. Very strange! I'm sure the OHS people wouldn't allow it in Australia. It would be surrounded by high fences and barriers. Not so in Rotorua….If anyone wanted to they just had to duck under a normal park fence to be in the danger zones.
Stranger still, but mesmerisingly beautiful, was Orakei Korako, about an hour out of Rotorua. You park near a lake, with steam rising from the water in a few areas close to the shore. One of these areas had a family of ducks all happily swimming around in the warm water. I half expected to find "Steamed Duck" on the lunch menu at the cafe.
We both had minor mobility issues that week. David had sprained his ankle a week before the holiday and I have an irritable knee. When we asked about purchasing tickets we were told there were 700 steps at Orakei Korako, so we nearly decided not to go. I'm so glad we changed our mind.
A short boat ride across the lake you disembark to view a luna landscape, and then follow paths through an area of amazing thermal activity. It was ugly and beautiful at the same time, fascinating and constantly changing as you walked around the designated paths. As we began our return to the boat we were delighted by the lovely rainforest area we walked through, complete with the New Zealand emblem of the silver fern growing beside the path. A description of the area doesn't do it justice. All I can say is…see it for yourself.
We got a great deal on flights through the booking site that is available through World Ventures Travel Club. Our flights were nearly half the cost of what was quoted on the online site we would normally have used for my travel arrangements, and just over $300 less than through the other site I've often used to book air fares…..for exactly the same flights, same day, same time! I was absolutely delighted and determined to make the most of opportunities for cheap travel available through this travel club.
We have just booked an amazing holiday for August next year. We are going to Croatia and will be cruising and touring there for 3 weeks.
We tend to be independent travellers, finding our own deals, deciding on the itinerary and then getting a bit off the beaten track where possible. However this particular trip comes highly recommended to us and it’s appeal was very clear when we read about it, so we decided to give it a go.
A travel agent in Perth takes a small group of people to Croatia, his country of origin, each year to share the highlights of the country with them. Over a few years the trip has been refined, the cruise ship has been changed and the itinerary has been altered a little, but the spirit of the trip remains the same….A small group (34 people) having fun together and seeing the best that Croatia has to offer.
While we will be based on the cruise boat for much of the trip, we will meet in Zagreb and travel by road to Rijeka. Once we embark on the boat we won’t be confined to the coastal cities as a coach will be waiting for us in some places to take us to see special places inland then back to the boat. For the last 6 days of the trip we will leave our boat behind, staying in Dubrovnik then travelling by coach to explore some inland areas, including the Plitvice Lakes and National Park.
When I was a young backpacker Croatia, which was then part of Yugoslavia, was almost a “no-go” zone. Fellow travellers spoke of how beautiful it was and how cheap to travel but it was considered dangerous, especially for female backpackers. The only one of my friends who visited there was raped and she discovered, too late, that this was not uncommon. Politically so much has happened in the country since then, but the physical beauty and much of the history of the region remains intact. We will be visiting ancient Roman ruins, walled cities, beautiful islands and a coastline that is stunning in photographs. It sounds amazing to me!
So as the excitement mounts it’s time to start reading about Croatia, it’s history and geography, and choose a couple of good Croatian-related novels to read while relaxing on the cruise. Any suggestions?
By Daniel Noll By Esupat, a Maasai woman in northern Tanzania. “ You can call me Airport ,” Esupat said, laughing. She sat atop a Maasai hut with her legs crossed, straddling a half-built chimney. Small piles of bricks surrounded her; wet cement fell…