Tuesday, November 22, 2016

On our Bookshelf: For Teens and Tweens Christmas 2016

Miss 10 and I have been reading like crazy recently. So many great books out there that we decided to share a few of them with you. It can be difficult to find books for reluctant readers, for teens who think nothing relates to them and tweens who are lost trying to get away from fairies and dinosaurs to something more mature, but not to old.

So here you go, here's a list of great stuff to stuff the stockings with this year. Or just to read from the library when you get your hands on them.

by Aaron Starmer
This is a TEEN book.

Mara is in her senior year when a classmate actually spontaneously combusts. Bam. She's gone. But that's just the first of many students who just up and bust. Why is this happening? Who will be next? What does a community do when fear hits and they can't work out why only the senior kids are blowing up?

Well, if you're one of the teens then it won't take long before sex, drugs and a youtube channel take over.

This book is for teens right now. Or for parents who want to read about life as a teen right now. The characters are using snapchat, making a fortune from their story on social media, they are smart, scared and hopeful.

This book is ideal for a reluctant teen reader who needs something very modern, very now and makes them want to keep reading. The ending was a disappointment to me, but perhaps that's because I am not the audience for this book.

Highly recommended by me, who may have missed some of the references in this book because I am so old.

by Morris Gleitzman

Soon is the fifth book in this series that follows a boy called Felix.

We have previously read Once, Before, Now and After which share what happens to Felix, a Jewish boy left in a Catholic orphanage before the second world war. With Soon, the war is over, Felix is 13 and stuck in a city that is a shambles, coping with limited supplies and no law and order.

Gleitzman writes each of these books so that kids without prior knowledge only pick up what they can, and adults who know so much more can easily read between the lines and enjoy the books.

In Soon, Felix is older, and it's possibly presumed that his readers have aged with him. Unlike in the previous books, in this one, the concepts are discussed more, and we hear a lot more about medical experimentation and how totally vulgar and cruel such practices are. There is also a storyline about a young girl who has been raped by Russian soldiers and is now pregnant. Miss 10 was not prepared for these concepts to be in the book and I suggest parents of younger tweens read the book first.

Recommendation: 13 and up will enjoy this book as much as all the others, while those who have not started the series can easily read any of the books without reading them in any order. Adults will read it in a day.

Ruby Redfort: Blink and you die.
by Lauren Child

May all the book fairies bless the writing hands of Lauren Child. She gave us Charlie and Lola, Clarice Bean and also Ruby Redfort.  This is the last in this series and Miss 10 grabbed it and read it in a week. It's a longer book than some other novels but will keep readers tuned in.

Miss 10 provided the following review:

"There is no need to have read all the other books in the series to enjoy this one. At times the book seemed to be going in all sorts of directions and I couldn't work out why we had to read some bits that kind of made no sense, but it didn't make me want to stop reading it. Towards the end the pieces all started to come together and the parts that seemed so random made perfect sense. This is a really great book, the ending is just the best and totally makes me want to go and read the others in the series that I haven't read yet."

Recommendation: Great book for kids in upper primary school and above, teens and tweens will both enjoy reading the last of Ruby Redfort. Those who have been reading Ruby for the best few years will be very keen to read this one, even if they are now adults.

My Best Friend is a Goddess
by Tara Eglinton

This is a new novel in the Young Adult arena that is written possibly more with a female market in mind. I really enjoy novels set in Australia to help make them more relatable to Australian kids. In this book, we go through a lot of standard teen issues, school, boys, parents who don't understand and mostly friendship. It's written in a very contemporary way, some of it in diary form, some in Instant Messenger form. This is not going to be loved by most adults, simply because it is not written for you, you're too old, you don't get it, you don't understand. It will be loved by females over 14 and under 21 who may relate to the different conversations that occur.

Recommended: Grab this for the teen girl who you just don't know what to buy for this Christmas. She'll be surprised you picked a book so like her.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

How to do Halloween when you don't do Halloween.

Halloween makes some Australians cringe. The concept of a highly commercial sugar filled American custom becoming the norm here can be upsetting, eye rolling, frustrating.

Too bad.

It's arrived and it's growing and it's best that you jump on the scary train with your witches broom in hand and find a way to make it fun for you.

Go on, be a joiner. I promise it won't hurt a bit.

You will get to see kids in your street that you never even knew existed. Our kids are so cooped up inside their picket fences these days that this can be the only night of the year that they get to walk the streets, (even if there are still adults only five steps behind).

You don't need to buy pricey outfits. Turn the dress up box upside down, let the kids use what is in the house and you'll be surprised what's already there. Book day outfits, end of year concerts costumes, face paint, and creativity can go a very long way. Teased hair and an old tee shirt with red paint and rips is really all you need.

We called over some friends, dusted off the camp chairs and a bottle of red wine and while the Dads and kids walked the streets, the mums happily manned the treats to give out to local kids. We meet people from school, people from the next streets, the neighbours and more.

By the time 8.30pm came along we were all packed up and done. All I had left to do was deal with the glitter. So MUCH glitter, because every witch/devil/ghost/ghoul looks better with sparkly faces, yes?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Family Fancy Dress up Night: Inside Out

These days if we get an invite to a party for a Saturday night well the answer is YES!

If the kids are invited and we don't need a baby sitter it's a giant fist pumping YES!

When the party is six days away and you find out that everyone is going in fancy dress and there is no theme to help you decide what you should wear, well, then it's a bit bloody stressful. Until your kids ask if we can all go as characters from their favourite movie, Inside Out.

This is such an easy way to get ready for a fancy dress party and I ended up having so much fun planning our outfits. All day Saturday the kids helped to get the outfits ready.

I went as Joy and found a long blue wig and just cut it short to be more like Joy. I also managed to find a short yellow dress and some great blue shoes. Yes, Joy wears flats, but I decided Joy also loves great shoes. Because Joy is a little orange skin toned I finished my outfit with a fake tan the day before, going for an orange glow!

Mr H went as Anger, which again is really easy to do. You just need a red tie, a red face, arms and hands and some red hair spray.

We found the red hair spray worked best for the face paint too, not soo wet and slimy.

Ms 10 went as Disgust - if you have a tween, Disgust is perfect for them. I had a green dress in my wardrobe so I dusted off the sewing machine and took it in at the seams, then just added a green wig and some easy accessories and you have all the attitude you need.

Miss 7 wanted to go as Riley, the little girl in the movie. Riley is a jeans and hoodie kid who carries around her backpack a lot. Mainly, she wears a yellow hoodie. Miss 7 got some new jeans a new hoodie and she was done.

Everyone brought along a plate of food to share at the party, and I have to admit I cheated by getting some help with the cake - but take a look at that Anger cake at the top, it looks fantastic.

We did fail to get decent photos before we left home, so if you do dress up, remember to get some photos before you hit the party and the disco ball lighting ruins your shots.

Friday, October 14, 2016

A Gatsby Night Out.

On the weekend we got the gig as Professional Seat Fillers at a fundraising ball.

What a fun thing to do! Being a Professional Seat Filler is not for everyone, but for us, it's a great way to do something you just didn't have planned. You need to be happy to arrive at a function not really knowing who you're going to be sitting with and just enjoy the event.

Fundraising balls come with the addition of live auctions, silent auctions, raffles and requests for cash, but there isn't any pressure to mortgage your house to fund the charity.

The theme for our night out was "With a hint of Gatsby", with only 24 hours to pull our outfits together, organise babysitters, decide on transport and get our names on the table seating list we had to move fast. The key is to accept that you might not have the perfect outfit, but your attitude and enthusiasm to attend will take you the rest of the way.

Event organisers always want you to enjoy their function, they go to great lengths to try and make everything run smoothly, so with the right attitude you should really have a good time.

We met new people, were entertained by some fabulous performers, nearly won some wine in the silent auction, heard about some truly extraordinary research being done by medical types who just do the most superb work and had a really good laugh with the people on our table.

We quite enjoy the excitement of last minute plans, finding yourself at an event you never even knew existed, speaking with people at a table who you might not know at all. It's not for everyone, but it can be really good fun.

I am not sure if there is a career in filling seats for event organisers, but if there is...count me in!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Facts about making wishes

You should never stop making wishes. 

Wish making fairies may reside here.

As you grow up, you may not have as much hope that your wishes might come true, but you should still never waste a chance to make one. 

Not everyone is lucky enough to get the chance to make a wish so never take it for granted. Some people give up on wishing altogether, but wishing is good. Wishing is powerful. Wishing never hurt anybody. 

There are a few standard places and times that people know you should make a wish and a few things you might not know about making wishes. Here're a few tips on getting the best out of your wishes.

1) Blowing out the candles on your birthday cake: 
This is the most popular wish and it should be used yearly. It's your reminder to make a wish for the year ahead. Don't waste it by making wishes for someone else.

2) When throwing money in a wishing well
This is known as good karma wishing. If you throw your coins in a well, chances are high that those coins are going to be doing something that helps other people. Karma is what makes the world go round, so your wish is highly likely to come true. Unless you over wished. Over-wishing can be a good thing, but don't be greedy.

3) Seeing the first star in the sky. 
This one even has its own little rhyme. You get more power in your wish if you are looking out the windows in the car as you drive home from a night out. 
Star Light, Star Bright, 
First star I see tonight, 
Wish I may, wish I might, 
Have this wish I wish tonight...

As stars are magical twinkly giant balls of red-hot fire, they are very powerful. Make your biggest wishes, whisper them to the night sky, close your eyes and think about your life when that wish comes true.

4) Chicken Wishbones
Wishbone wishes are not very powerful. If you are not an only child you have to fight with people in the family to get to have a turn on the wishbone, then you have to fight to be able to pick the side you want and then you know that your sibling is going to cheat and make it hard for you. The wishbone wish is flawed because someone's wish doesn't come true, but what most people don't know is that the parents are making a wish as they watch their children wish on the wishbone and it's the parent's wish that usually comes true.  That wish is usually that their children would stop fighting and that someone will throw that wishbone in the bin before the dog chokes on it.

5) Double Yoke-r
If you crack an egg and it's a double yoker, it is your lucky yokey day. Making a wish before you eat them, you've got double the chance it might come true. 

6) Dandelions
Pick that precious little weed up as you walk along the street and blow those fairy seeds all over the place. Fairies live in dandelions and fairies are who help make dreams and wishes come true, the more of them released to fly around the atmosphere, the better. 

7) Find a penny
This is not a wish, do not get confused between good luck and wishes. Remember the saying, 'Find a penny, pick it up, all day long, you'll have good luck.' So if you see a coin laying on the ground, you might have a lucky day, but don't go getting greedy and having a good day AND expecting wishes to come true too. 

Vital information about wishes: 
Wishes can't hurt you. You can make as many as you like unless you have a genie who is only going to give you three wishes. You can make a wish every day. You can wish for things for other people, for things you hope for today or for things you want to happen in years to come. 

Remember, don't just rely on the universe, karma and fairies, keep trying to make your own wishes come true too.

isclaimer: This is not scientifically researched information. If you wish for it to be untrue, your wish might be granted. However, should you wish for it to all be true, you might be rewarded.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Review: A Beautiful Planet - 3D

This week we went to see A Beautiful Planet in 3D at IMAX Melbourne.

To kick off the show it was introduced by a real live Nasa Astronaut! After completing many space missions covering a total of 55 days in space Marsha Ivins, shared with us that the footage we were about to see was not animated, it was all exactly what an astronaut sees in space. At times I had to remind myself of this note as the images look like they could truly be that of someone's imagination.

A Beautiful Planet is only a 45 minute film, but it feels longer as you see so many brilliant images of earth. Cut between scenes are snippets of life for the astronauts living on the space station, how they exercise, sleep, and even grow lettuce. The moments with the astronaut walking OUTSIDE the space station made me hold my breath as I just imagined him falling off and floating off into space, never to be seen again.

It's a great film to see with your friends who might be climate change sceptics. Take them to see it, let them see Earth from far far away where the brown baron lands are extreme, where land has sunk in vast places from people taking underground water for just a few decades.

There is a section where you learn what it would be like on Mars, and with the 3D glasses in full effect, I actually felt a little like I was on a ride at the show. The effects are just extraordinary.

Outside the cinema there is a giant blackboard encouraging people to share the things that they think are beautiful on the planet.

This is very much a documentary, smaller kids might find it a little too documentary like but Miss 7 enjoyed the entire show. If I had any complaints about this film it would be the heavy focus on USA, it's clear that the people making this film are American, while other countries are shown, it is just a tiny glimpse of the top of Australia and not a great deal of Asia. But you do get to see things you could never imagine, like the difference between North and South Korea in perhaps the image that best describes two countries who are physically so close, but in every other way, so far away.

This is certainly a film worth seeing on the big screen and in 3D, no matter how good your TV is at home, it will never give you the feeling you get when watching it on an imax laser screen.

Add it to the list of things to check out these school holidays.

We were guests for the opening night of A Beautiful Planet in Melbourne, photographer Lisa Frieling was there to take photos, including both the images in this post. 

Monday, September 5, 2016


I have written 800 posts on this blog.

That's a lot of words and pictures and such a lovely way for me to go back and remember things.

I am actually pretty forgetful. I fill my head with too many books, too many articles, too many conversations and most of all too many ideas of things that can be done. It means I forget little things sometimes, or  they just sit at the back of my mind until I am reminded of them.

There were times I blogged every day for a month, or ten times a month for the year. I used to always have something to write about.

Then things changed. I started working more and my kids got busier attending activities that needed me to be the mum taxi. I started to find myself getting out and about more with my friends and having less and less time.

And pretty soon the blog ideas ran out, or I just stopped thinking about them so much.

This week at different times both the girls have asked me why I am not blogging anymore and asked if I could start again. Miss 10 even offered me suggestions of things I could write about.

My last blog post that I wrote I really enjoyed writing. It was just a week ago, but once I hit publish, I didn't tell anyone. I didn't share it on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or LinkedIn, I just wrote it and that was enough.

Just writing, for yourself, is just enough.

It might be a book review, or a movie review, or a funny joke or a great photo or thoughts in your head, but writing it down, documenting your times, it's fun, it's useful, and makes you think and use your brain, it makes you use your words in the best way you can...and to make them better.

I never regret making time for writing.

Image: Random photo of me drawn by people who know me best.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Radio Talk: Is the money spent on the Olympics worth it?

Oh I love a bit of talkback radio drama, especially when it's about stuff that's not abusive to anyone else. The Olympics discussion is the perfect kind.

The shockjocks all came out with the great big question of 'Is it worth the money?' instantly you get some people calling up saying, no, we should spend it on something else. But I expect they are the same people who don't like fireworks or art or museums.

Others think it's ok if the money spent is returned with medal winning (gold preferred) performances.

As for me, I love the Olympics. I watched the entire opening ceremony and my girls loved it too, it was the first one they have really seen, I have no idea where we were for London four years ago, but I don't remember watching it. We learnt stuff about Brazil that we wouldn't usually hear, watched the spectacular, and how great was it that they are going to grow an Olympic forest with 11,000 trees to represent each of the athletes.

Then we get to watch all the events. Kids don't always get to see top athletes compete, they don't get to think about what all those swimming lessons at school might actually lead to if they really really wanted it to.

An active life can be a hard sell to some kids and adults, but the Olympics is a reminder of the fun in moving, whatever you do.

There are great athletes who leave the games without medals, but wow, to be able to claim you are 6th in the world, or you made an Olympic final, that's got to be pretty fantastic. At times there are only hundredths of a second between first and 8th. Which is when you can chat about decimal places and timings in a way that isn't so difficult to understand with your kids. These teeny little details all group together to make the Olympics worth watching.

Is the money worth it for the Olympics? I don't know, but I can't think of any other time and place around the world where 207 countries (including the Refugee team) come together for a few weeks peacefully. To share customs, to meet other nations, to compete and shake hands at the end of it. You can count all the medals you like, but none of them will show the benefits of seeing the world work together, however briefly. The Olympics is that place where history is made by good people doing spectacular things, for some that means pushing their body to levels never seen before, but for others it means showing that humans are capable of extreme empathy, support, kindness and peace to whoever needs them. It can be when statements are made about wrongs occurring throughout the world or a light can be made very shinny in the face of evil.

There are also all those topics that can be discussed, like men's rowing outfits, the torso of flag bearers, the swimmer who towed a boat of refugees to Greece for three hours just to be alive, how does the cycling event even work?

Whatever we spend on the Olympics, it's probably not enough.

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