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Blogging Challenge – Day Twelve : Favourite Childhood Book

Howdy folks.  Yes, I am skipping challenges on the Blogging Challenge.  Just pretend you haven’t noticed ok?

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I was a big reader as a child.  From the age of six onwards, I always had my head stuck in a book.  I was the annoying kid in class who always finished the assigned reading way before schedule and had to be given other books to read while everyone else caught up.  Yeah, THAT kid.  I was like it in high school too.  It’s very possible I was the only one who actually READ the books we were assigned.  But I enjoyed them – everything from
Catch-22 to 1984, To Kill a Mockingbird and Animal Farm.  I loved them all.

My Mum always read to us when we were little and I suppose that’s why we always enjoyed books in general.  As a child, I loved stories with animals in them, but didn’t like anything scary or dark.  I remember one book I read gave me nightmares and actually made me physically ill so my Mum had to go to the school and asked for it to be removed from the library.  I don’t remember what it was called, but it was a book of so-called fairy tales, and it had one story in it where a witch rips the faces off pretty young girls so she could disguise herself as them and get up to mischief.  Kinda gross.   A less sensitive kid might not have been bothered by it, but it frightened me and my Mum took action ha ha.

I know I had a book about a dog called Barney, that my Mum used to read to me (until it fell to pieces) but I haven’t been able to find it since.  Another favourite was “The Golden Egg Book” by Margaret Wise Brown.  It too fell to pieces from being read to death.

When I was a bit older, I read voraciously on my own.  Enid Blyton was an early favourite, particularly the “Magic Faraway Tree” and “The Secret Seven” (my Mum won a set of these in an art competition when she was ten years old – I have them now 🙂 ).  I still secretly read Enid Blyton books, when I am needing some comfort or just to take some time out.  There’s a been a bit of a backlash about them in recent years, with regard to them not being very politically correct, but I love them.

Of course, Judy Blume was a HUGE favourite as I entered into that tricky pre-teen period.  My best friend and I loved her books and read all of them.  “Are you there God, it’s me, Margaret,” was probably devoured by more 10-12 year olds in the 80s than just about any other book ever written.

I also loved Ursula K. Le Guin and Paul Gallico, Beverly Cleary and Diana Wynne Jones.  I read all the classics – “Charlotte’s Web”, “Watership Down” (a little bit adult for me but I trudged through it when I was seven, not really understanding all of it I’m sure) and “Little Women”.

I read non-fiction too.  Mostly about animals and magic and art.  I Loved poetry and silly rhymes, and books about mysteries and fascinating facts.

I have a favourite children’s book now though.  It was given to me by a friend when I was in my twenties, and I dearly love it.  I would give it to my own children, if I had any, and have actually given it as a gift to friends and family (both children and adults).  My favourite children’s book is “A Little Bit of Winter” by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell.  It’s just GORGEOUS.  The story of Rabbit and Hedgehog, best friends in the wood.  It’s Winter and Hedgehog has to go and hibernate.  Rabbit is worried that Hedgehog will forget about him during the long, cold months that Hedgehog is asleep.  Hedgehog himself does not know what Winter feels like and so they are both missing out on something.  It’s a story about friendship, mostly, but it is SO ADORABLE and the illustrations are the best.  I love it.  I have to do the voices when I read it, which is quite sad, but it’s just so darn cute.  There are other books in this series, but this one is my favourite.

Do you have a beloved children’s book that is dear to your heart?  There’s so many great ones out there, new and old, modern and classic.  Don’t let the kids have all the fun – try a few titles for yourself.  They’re comforting and calming and make you feel better about the world.  And, if you do have children of your own, get them in to reading early – it’s SO important.  My brother’s children all love to read and it makes my librarian heart proud. I’d be proud of them, whatever they did, but the fact that they love books and often can be found with their little heads buried in one is just icing on the cake.

Happy Reading Everyone x

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(Picture : The Book Depository)

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BFF Weekend

BFF Weekend

A couple of weeks ago, I treated my best friend of 34 years to a weekend away.  CG and I have been friends for so long now, we’ve really become sisters.  I think of her as family.  She’s more important to me than just about anyone.  She’s always been there for me and I can always trust her to support and believe in me.

When we were seven years old, her family built a house on my street.  Long story short, we became neighbours and best friends in a very short space of time.  We saw each other every day, went to school together (our Mums took it in turns to take us to school and pick us up), and then hung out together every afternoon.

In truth, we were, at least superficially, very different people.  I was short and awkward, clumsy and hated sport.  CG was tall and athletic, captain of the sports team, good at everything.  She was fashionable and pretty, I was dorky and a bit clueless where clothes were concerned.  But we bonded over books and toys, music and a love of tadpoling.  We shared hobbies and interests, celebrity crushes and talked about everything under the sun.

I’d never met another kid who knew how to play.  I didn’t have to explain the concept of playing “shop” or “detectives” or anything else.  She knew how to do voices for her Barbie doll and didn’t feel silly doing it.  She was happy to play with baby dolls and Star Wars figures equally.  We built cubby houses together and miniature cities for snails (not one of our best ideas, I have to admit) and dressed our dolls in clothes made from scraps of fabric or tiny sweaters knitted with fine wool on toothpicks.  I had my first proper tea party with her and countless sleepovers.  We sang and danced in my lounge-room with my brother and stayed glued to our radios at night, listening to the Top Ten countdown of chart hits.  We watched “Grease” approximately a million times.  We cried when Johnny Depp’s character was wrongly convicted and sent to jail in “21 Jump Street”.  We stuck posters on our walls and wrote in our diaries and talked about boys.

In year eight, we went to separate high schools.  I thought my world had ended.  I was lost and frightened and lonely and felt sure all my primary school friends would forget about me.  But not CG.  If anything, we were even closer and now had even more to talk about.  We still saw each other most afternoons and started the process of growing up and changing and navigating the trials of teenage-hood.  Throughout high school we remained best friends, even though we had our own separate groups of buddies in our own respective schools.  I was very lucky to have a wonderful group of friends, that I am still close to to this day.  But CG was always by best friend.

Fast forward a couple of decades and here we are – still best friends but with different lives and trials and realities.  CG got married quite young, to her high-school sweetheart (luckily, I approved of him, much to her relief) and went on to have two gorgeous kids.  I did the opposite and got married 15 years later, divorced and remained childless.  But we are still close.  I often say we have nothing in common but, truthfully, we have one major thing in common : each other.  Our core values are the same and I think our hearts beat to pretty much the same rhythm.  Our mothers have remained firm friends over the years and have moved away from each other, only to very quickly move to the same neighbourhood, just streets apart.  My Mum sees CG as another daughter, and I know CG’s Mum feels the same way about me.  We all see each other at Christmas – usually spending Christmas Eve or Christmas night together.  It’s been that way since I can remember.

So, this weekend was a celebration of that bond.  We hardly ever get to spend time together these days.  CG works extremely hard at two jobs, plus she has to coordinate the sporting and social arrangements of her children, one of whom competes at a National level in her chosen sport.  It’s not easy for us to find a window of time that can be spent together.  I wanted to spoil CG and give her a relaxing break and enjoy some time together, like the old days.  This was also a gift for her 40th birthday (which was in December) – I figured the thing she needed more than anything was a rest and some indulgence.

We stayed at the Hotel Rendezvous in Scarborough, overlooking the ocean.  The view was lovely, even if it was too cold to actually go out on the beach itself.  We watched the (crazy) surfers out there on the water and enjoyed the sunset.  We went out to dinner and ate our bodyweight in desserts.  We stayed up late talking and catching up, in our PJs of course, just like we would have done 30 years ago.  We drank tea and relaxed and bemoaned our ever-increasing age (although we think we look pretty ok for two women in their forties) and slept in.  We went to a movie and had afternoon tea (there was a lot of food involved in this weekend – can you tell?) and a delightful couple of hours in IKEA looking at all the pretty things we wanted to buy but didn’t really need.It was so nice just to hang out together with nowhere to be and no one to bother us.

I am so lucky to have had a lifelong friend and I hope we will always be close, no matter where life takes us.

To CG, I will say this : Thank you for always being my friend, through all the ups and downs, through boyfriends and heartache, from childhood to adulthood and beyond, through weight gain and weight loss, from illness to health, babies and career changes – I love you lots and wish you nothing but happiness and contentment all the days of your life.

With love xxx

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Parties, Memories & a Bit of Crafting…

Parties, Memories & a Bit of Crafting…

Well, this week has been a busy, stressful and tiring one.  I’ve been a little bit unwell – nothing terrible, just bad neck and back pain combined with some nausea and headaches – and have had some time off work which I rarely do.  I think I was just a bit stressed out and it always affects me physically.  I had been helping my cousin get ready for her 40th Birthday and that in itself was a stressful situation (you think I’m a stress-head? Amplify that by about a million and you get my cousin…) with drama after drama, dresses not arriving, worries about catering, finding wait-staff etc etc turning what should have been a nice backyard celebration into a full-on spectacle.  It all ended up perfect of course – the long-awaited dress (bought on Ebay) turned up the day of the party, the food was all gorgeous and there was plenty of it, wait-staff were booked and performed admirably and everyone who attended had a great time and went to great effort with their outfits (it was a “Fire and Ice” theme).  I cannot say I enjoy parties.  I try to, I really do, but I just don’t get them.  I’m just really uncomfortable and nervous and shy (ugh – I hate saying that; it sounds so lame and childish) and I hate the noise (God, I am so old!) and trying to talk to people by yelling and having to be sociable.  So, really, I am just a party-pooper.  I don’t drink so I tend to feel a bit of an outcast around all the other people who are generally drinking, or already drunk.  I’m not saying you have to drink to have a good time – far from it – but sometimes being a non-drinker kinda places you at a disadvantage.  I don’t want to drink and even if I was able to have alcohol, I wouldn’t anyway because I am always the one driving.  Plus, I am a control freak and don’t like anything that alters my ability to have a handle on any situation.  Luckily, my brother and his partner were there, with my darling little niece, my Mum and all my cousins and Aunts and Uncles too.  Plus a couple of people I knew as friends of friends etc.  So I had some people to hang out with.  I still managed to occupy my usual haunts which (at any given party) are a.) the kitchen and b.) a handy dark corner.  I kinda used my Mum as an excuse to stay wherever she was (it would have been rude to just leave her on her own…) and the kitchen always needs an extra hand.  I did also supply a large batch of cake pops (the bloody things took forever to make…) so I had to supervise their display and serving…  At the end of the day, the party was for my cousin and she enjoyed herself immensely with all her friends and family and looked beautiful and was thoroughly spoilt, which is the most important thing.  I think I was just feeling blue because I’m on my own again and don’t have that significant other to fall back on (so to speak).  I felt like the odd one out yet again and it kinda sucks.

During the week, I did find time to make a couple of things (I had one glorious day off work where I sat and crafted all day, trying hard not to feel guilty about not being at work.  I was just so tired and mentally exhausted – I needed a day off to recoup and regroup) so here is a selection I made whilst watching, ahem, Dr Phil…

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Little owls!  I’ve already sold a couple of pairs of these earrings – owls are the “in” thing apparently…

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I really like these green ones…they look almost vintage…sort of…

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Birds’n’berries (that’s what they look like to me – berries!)

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This is a particularly bright and bold necklace but I figure some people are bright and bold (unlike me who is meek and boring ha ha)…

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I call these the “Royal Sugared Almond” earrings…don’t you think they look edible?  Have already sold them…

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Blue cubes…

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Blue and white and swirly…

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More birdies…this time on toadstools…

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Black and sophisticated pearl…

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Glass “gem stones” – love these beads…

I also had to find time to gather up some old photos for my cousin in England who is doing a photo book for my Aunt who has been unwell.  My cuz wanted a few pics of my Mum and us kids when we were all younger.  Some really nice ones of my Mum and I was kinda cute I suppose…

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Look at my Mum – such a hottie hee hee!  She looks like a Charlie’s Angel or something 🙂

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And me…rocking the socks-with-sandals look.  Hey, it was the seventies alright!?  You’ve gotta love the Tinkerbell pinny though!  And oh, the blonde hair!  Sigh…where did it go?

Now it is time to do some laundry, tidy up my house and get prepared for tomorrow.  I’ve got a hospital visit first thing – got to see my renal specialist for my 6 month check up.  Always makes me nervous but I hope everything is ok.  Then it is back to work – hopefully for a less stressful week and not too many dramas (last week was a tad hideous in many ways).

Hope you have all had a lovely weekend and are planning on having a wonderful week! 🙂

Words to Live by…

Words to Live by…

Good morning!  I am a good girl today – I got up nice and early and went for a walk while it was still cool and quiet.  We have had such a mild Christmas/New Year weather period, it doesn’t feel like Summer at all.  This morning was actually chilly when I got started which is so unusual for this time of year.  Normally it is blazing hot until at least March.

I snapped a few pictures as I walked through the neighbourhood and down to the foreshore.  Lots of pretty flowers and birds, no doubt enjoying the unseasonably cool weather.  I normally take my iPod with me and listen to music, but, as it and my phone were both charging, I took my camera instead.  The sky was pretty grey this morning – a chance of rain perhaps? – and the water on the river was still and glass-like.

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 I got into a bit of a meditative frame of mind (in other words, I was still a bit sleepy and just switched my brain off) and just enjoyed the gentle breeze and relative peace and quiet.  I am trying to be a bit more centred this year, calmer and less anxious and stressed.  I find it very hard to just stop thinking about everything.  So I am now trying to think about good things, instead of worrying, especially about things I cannot change.  I focused on the birds and the water and the city skyline and just breathed (or puffed, depending on how you look at it – I’m not very fit).  It made me think about the Desiderata.  Have you ever read it?

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When I was 12, our teacher’s assistant read out the Desiderata to us at our Year 7 graduation night.  I will always remember sitting there and listening to his voice as he read out those magical words.  As a 12-year-old I can’t say I took a lot of it in, but it has always stuck with me, somewhere in the back of my crowded brain, as words to live by.  I have given it to people as gifts and keep a copy with me.  This year I am going to try and live up to it and remember it’s words more often.  It doesn’t preach and it doesn’t claim to have all the answers.  It’s just perfect.

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If you’ve never read it before, please do now.  I think the world would be a nicer place if everyone knew and believed in these words.

Thank you Mr Rosling – you may not remember this little twelve-year-old girl, but she remembers you fondly and with love and gratitude.

x

Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.

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As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

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If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;

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for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

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Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.

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But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

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Be yourself.

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Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

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Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

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You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

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Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

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With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

© Max Ehrmann 1927

Have a wonderful day everyone.

Life is one big journal entry…

Life is one big journal entry…

I have spent the last few days helping my Mum move into her new house.  So exhausting!  It’s not just the physical side of things – shifting boxes, driving back and forth between houses to pick up yet more boxes, unpacking, cleaning the old house ready for the new people to move in – it’s the emotional stress too that is tiring.  My Mum has lived in that house for 33 years.  I myself lived in it for about 29 years.  There are so many memories there – good memories and bad, happy ones and sad ones.  But leaving it was not the emotional wrench I expected.  We were too busy to get caught up in any soppy goodbyes or sentimental last-minute looks at the garden or neighbourhood.  And anyway, the house is just a house – without my Mum in it, it’s no longer a home to us.  She, and the cats have a brand new house – much smaller and with far less garden to look after – and it already feels like it is theirs.  We may well be unpacking boxes for the next three weeks or more though (now I know where my hoarding tendencies come from!)…

I found a couple of things I forgot I had.  This embroidery my Mum made for my room:

This bunny box I painted years ago (and one of the few things I was quite pleased with, considering I made up the design myself – I was into penny rugs at the time and although I never got round to sewing one, I decided to copy the idea and paint a stylised version of one on this little wooden trinket box):

I also found this lovely mosaic an old work colleague of mine made for me:

In packing and moving, we have had to clear out a lot of stuff, much of it mine (hey, it’s traditional to leave half of your belongings at a parent’s house, isn’t it?).  I was a good girl and threw out or donated loads of stuff.  Some of it was very hard to get rid of but I knew I had to do it.  Mum no longer has the room for it all and I should be a grown up and cull a few things.  I don’t need four hundred magazines.  I don’t need to keep every card I have ever been given (seriously) and I probably don’t need to hang on to my old diaries that go way back to when I was 8 years old.  Or, hang on, maybe I do…they are, after all, a record of my life (dull as it may have been) and reading them brings back memories, some happy and some quite tear-inducing but memories worth keeping nevertheless.

Some choice entries include:

“October 27, 1983 – Dear Diary, Everyone fights.  It’s stupid because they have boyfriends.  We’re not old enough for boyfriends…” (Aged 8, before hormones kicked in)

“January 29, 1986 – Dear Diary, I think I will move down the back with the geese.  Everyone fights. I wish I was a good witch so I could magic anything!” (Aged 12 and obviously still believing in the power of a little magic and it’s ability to put an end to conflict.)

“August 27, 1985 – I have a big crush on John B*.  I wish I was prettier, not so fat and not so boyish so he would like me.  I hope he doesn’t have aids etc (Aged 11.  Already developing awesome self-esteem and not quite grasping the whole AIDS thing and how one contracts it).

“August 13, 1984 – Today was ok.  At school, Matt C* did a bog.” (Aged 10.  A bog, I should point out is a charming way of saying someone passed wind.  Obviously a highly interesting occurrence to a ten-year-old!)

“October 16th, 1986 – Yesterday the circles wore bras, even Christy*! Hah hah! Mum said I don’t need one yet which is dead good!” (Aged 12.  “Circles” were the opposite of squares.  I, luckily, did not fit into either category so was accepted by both sides.  Poor Christy* was terminally flat-chested.  She got a boob job a couple of years ago and leads a full, happy life, unaware of my earlier poo-poohing of her unnecessary underwear choices..)

I’d like to say that my journal entries got better as I got older but, sadly, they did not.  I was still prattling on about boys well into my thirties and bemoaning the fact I was ugly/dumb/fat/etc.  These days I struggle to write anything at all, which is probably a good thing, but I really should try and jot down a few important facts and dates so I can remember them in my dotage.

I would die a thousand deaths if anyone read my diaries but I can’t bring myself to throw them away.  But if anyone does find them, hidden carefully under my bed or in my drawer or on top of a cupboard, I will deny all knowledge of them and refuse to admit they are mine.  Or at least say I was under the influence of some mind-altering drug when I wrote them.  And if John B* is still out there, I didn’t really like you, I was just pretending.  It’s what all the cool circles were doing at the time…

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent!

Ten Random Things (and a bit)

Ten Random Things (and a bit)

Having a tidy up day today.  I figure if I’m going to get anything done I should make a space in which to do it.  That means finding my craft table underneath all the rubble that sits on top of it. And throwing stuff out (which I am not good at) and finding homes for things (which I am even worse at).  Because I’m messy and disorganised.  That’s one thing about me; here’s a few other random facts:

  1. I cry every time I watch the Sound of Music.  I’m fine until I get to the Edelweiss bit and then I’m history.  When they’re all singing it at the Folk festival and they have to leave the stage and try and escape the baddies – gah!  I just dissolve into a messy puddle of sad.
  2. I am related to Gypsy Jem Mace, the English boxing champion.  Several elder members of my family believe us to be descended from actual gypsies but this, for the most part, is nonsense.
  3. I don’t like liquorice.
  4. I don’t like mangoes.  They are gross and smell like rotting fruit to me.
  5. As a child I was terrified of werewolves.  Warren Zevon has a lot to answer for.
  6. When I was 11, I had to write the end of year school play for our class.  I spent a whole 2 weeks on it and was very proud of myself when we performed it at the Christmas assembly.  Until the next day when, instead of thanking me and congratulating me on a job well done, my teacher commented that I read my lines too fast and maybe I could do better next time.  I have never gotten over it.
  7. I share a secret language with my brother.  It contains words like “Boonah!” and “Yupchub!” and is completely meaningless.  We don’t even understand it ourselves.  But we don’t tell anyone else that.
  8. I am overly-sentimental about inanimate objects.  I still have a heart-shaped paper clip a boy I liked gave me when I was in grade 6.  That’s 27 years ago.  Whilst cleaning out a cupboard at my Mum’s house recently I discovered my “treasure box”.  It contained some baby teeth (mine), the revolting remains of my orthodontic braces, some nail clippings (from a pet rabbit I had), a flea collar (my cat’s), a splinter that had been removed from my foot when I was a kid, and a duck feather.  I once won an art competition in Primary School, aged 10.  I won a box of crayons.  I didn’t open or use the crayons until I was in my thirties.
  9. When I was 9 I announced that I was going to move to England and become the next Enid Blyton.  Surprisingly, this did not happen.
  10. I once wrote a book report on “The Brothers Karamazov” by Dostoyevsky.  I didn’t read the book but still got a C+.

     

    So that’s it.  There’s other random facts but they’re for another time.  Maybe when I need an excuse to have a break from tidying up again.