everydaysparks

Stuff I see, which you might not.

Three things I like a lot right now

Oh, hello. I just wanted to tell you about three things that I am liking a lot right now. In case you might like them too. A book, an app, and a podcast – they won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think they’re great.

Firstly, the book. It’s Hillbilly Elegy by J.D.Vance – I’d heard good things, and when the Independent is quoted on the cover: “a great insight into Trump and Brexit”, then I really couldn’t resist. I guess it’s a great insight into that, like a window into a different world. 


I have always known that I couldn’t go on one of those tv talent shows – sure, mostly because I can’t sing and/or dance, but also because I don’t have a particularly interesting back story to my life. Family, friends, education, health, opportunity – this book made me realise that what I consider “normal”, or maybe even “boring”, must sound like fairyland to so many people. And this J.D.Vance kid was born in the 1980s, so it’s not as if it’s a story of how life used to be in ye olden days. It’s interesting and well-written – easy to read on a rainy weekend – and I like that it asks more questions than it answers. Definitely got me thinking.

The app is Lumosity, a “brain training” app that I bought a family subscription to for Christmas. When you google, “apps to prevent dementia”, it always gets a run, and although my parents are (a) reading this, and (b) currently in possession of all of their marbles, I figure it never hurts to give these things a try. We are a competitive people, so the fact that this tracks your performance and compares you to your age group (with an impressive global sample size) is appealing. Some of the games are also quite addictive (looking at you, Train of Thought) and you feel like king/queen of the world when you beat your previous score or get to the next level. 

I think they recently got busted for deceptive / misleading advertising (allegedly over-stating the scientifically proven benefits for dementia / aging etc. But I think as long as we’re enjoying it as a fun challenge, and not expecting miraculous results, then that is all good.

The podcast was discovered by my lovely sister-in-law, Rocky, who shares my interest in slightly quirky books, people, things in general. It’s called Missing Richard Simmons, based on the fact that colourful character Richard Simmons disappeared from public life a few years ago and seemingly flicked the switch on his former life – no contact with his former staff, friends and associates. For someone who was so gregarious and seemed to thrive on his relationships with people, this dramatic disappearance has stumped lots of people. Hence the podcast – the guy is a former friend of Richard and is determined to find make contact. The colourful characters that he meets along the way make this podcast so great – I am sure I have been caught shaking my head or giggling as I listen to it on the way to work. 


It’s become a very popular podcast (we’re up to episode 3, with a new episode released each week) – even if you don’t love Richard Simmons (you monster!) then there are surely enough bizarro people and stories in this podcast to keep it interesting.

And they are three things that I like a lot right now. Hope you like them too!

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Sweet as, bro

One of the joys of not working at the moment is time to do things. All sorts of things, really. Like on Monday, when it was a nice sunny day in Melbourne and I got to walk to the beach and sit on a bench and read a magazine. Sure, I was wearing four layers and had my hoodie on, because Melbourne winter. But it’s so nice to have the time to do stuff like that.

Elwood

Yesterday I had a meeting in the city, and then dinner with some lovely work friends, and I had a few hours to fill in between the two. I wandered around a bit, which wasn’t super fun in the rain, so thought I’d go and see a movie. As you might imagine, there aren’t that many people at the cinema mid-afternoon on a Tuesday. Let’s just say the average age of folks there was 60ish.

What were my old mates and I seeing? A New Zealand film, recommended by my mum and dad, called Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Hunt for the what now? I know, it is a strange title alright, but it is actually a lovely heartwarming film featuring Sam Neill (as his regular character of Cranky Old Man) and a rotund little Kiwi chappie. It was pretty funny and a little bit sad and had some truly stunning images of NZ in all its natural beauty.

As I am committed to research for this blog (and I have the time to google nonsense), I just discovered that apparently the movie premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this year, which is a pretty big deal. And after it opened in NZ in March, it’s become the highest grossing locally-produced film OF ALL TIME. Which is also a pretty big deal.

It’s not going to win any Oscars, I don’t think. But I thought it was a great movie – especially if you’re having a crappy time or need some lighthearted entertainment, this film could be just the thing. Cool accents, beautiful scenery, and a lovely, feelgood story. And I can’t get the “Ricky Baker” song out of my head now (it’s in the trailer, below). Sweet as, bro.

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Square One

On Saturday, I was reading an article in the Good Weekend magazine on Eddie Jones, the former Wallabies coach who has gone to the dark side and is now coaching England (see you and your team of losers on the 18th in Melbourne, Eddie). Anyway, the author of the article, Peter Wilson, included an interesting fact that I wanted to share with you here. Just in case any of you are geeks like me, and find this sort of stuff kinda cool…


So, now you know. (Apologies if you already did, and I am the only person alive who had no clue. Awks.) Thanks to Fairfax for still printing newspapers and for still employing journalists (not enough, but that’s another story for another day) to help us learn new stuff.

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Hello again

So, it’s been a while. I just checked and the last post that I made was on 3 September last year, when I was in Washington DC. I really hope no one was waiting on this blog to give travel tips for an imminent US holiday, or as proof of life, or as inspiration for being. Although if you were, then I’m sorry, and I do hope that you found other sources of support.

Hope you’ve been well. I’m all good, thanks. I am a bit (ok, a lot) of a fair weather friend to this blog, only really making the time to write when I feel like I have a lot of spare time. Which, when you’re in the thick of work and family and life, with all of the things that take up time on evenings and weekends, doesn’t happen that often. Usually when I’m on holidays (see 3 September post from Washington DC here). Or when I’m not working as much, as is the case now.

I’ve just finished up in the rollercoaster-ride of a job that I’d been in for the past couple of years. NB, I wasn’t actually working on a roller coaster, although I do note that the ride at Luna Park in Melbourne does have an attendant standing or sitting in the middle of the carts on each ride, so don’t rule that out as a potential career option.

Image from lunapark.com.au

FYI, the person in the middle of this gaggle is the Attendant standing up on The Great Scenic Railway ride at Luna Park in St Kilda. I don’t know what they ever get called on to do during the ride, but it’s a real job. [image from lunapark.com.au]

I’m also moved and am now technically living between two cities (Sydney and Melbourne), which has been lots of fun. I have been very lucky to have finally moved to Melbourne – a city that I have loved for a very long time, even looking for graduate roles down here back in the 90’s. I’ve spent a bit of time down here with a number of jobs, but when the opportunity came up to move earlier this year, I took it. And then a month or so later, I resigned. That sounds bad, but please don’t think that I tricked my employer into paying for my relocation (they didn’t), or that I found another gig shortly after moving (I didn’t).

It was just a case of bad timing – the work rollercoaster had been on the up and up for what felt like such a long time, and I was in the front cart waving and laughing and screaming and enjoying the whole amazing experience. Best ride EVER. Then the rapid and steep descent started around January and that left me grimacing and holding onto the bars too tight and the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach wouldn’t go away, and so I decided to get off the ride before it put me off amusement parks for life.

silly-serpent-hero1

Not such a silly idea. [image from lunapark.com.au]

Sure, I guess most sensible people wouldn’t get off the rollercoaster until they’d found their next ride – the Silly Serpent (see above) maybe, or the exotic sounding Arabian Merry. Instead, I am going to hang out for a while and see what ride to go on next. I feel as though I’ll know the right one when I see it, and hope that I’m tall enough to get on. In the meantime, I’ll read some books and walk around and do some people-watching while I wait. And hopefully get back to this blog, sharing my particular brand of nonsense with you. Maybe while snacking on the carnival foods that the Luna Park website offers (“Fairy-floss, pop-corn, snow-cones and hot-dogs”). All of the hyphenated goodness.

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Two anniversaries today

Today is a special day for two reasons – it is our lovely Dad’s birthday (77! Imagine!) and it marks two years since my friend Steph and I took our first steps on the Camino de Santiago. Both anniversaries include wonderful people, and bring back many fantastic memories of fun times and lots of laughter. With a few challenges along the way (if you were a blog reader two years ago, I am recovering well from The Insect Attack of 2013, thank you).

I reckon it’s always important to celebrate and remember on a day like today, so here are some snaps for today that make me smile.

All dressed up - LIttle Jim and Little Pat. (That's my Dad on the right, circa early 1940s, I guess.)

All dressed up – LIttle Jim and Little Pat. (That’s my Dad on the right, circa early 1940s, I guess. He still has good hair.)

Dad / Dadoo / Dooey. Or you can call him Pat. Our lovely Lauren's portrait (on an etch-a-sketch) from a few years ago.

Dad / Dadoo / Dooey. Or you can call him Pat. Our lovely Lauren’s portrait (on an etch-a-sketch) from a few years ago.

Steph on the Camino. I am available to photograph weddings, parties, etc on my iPhone.

August 2013. Steph on the Camino. And yes, I am available to photograph weddings, parties, etc on my iPhone.

Fields of smiling sunflowers along The Way. Sometimes cute, sometimes very creepy.

Fields of smiling sunflowers along The Way. Sometimes cute, sometimes very creepy.

Cruz de Ferro on the Camino, at sunrise. This should be on more bucket lists, I reckon.

Cruz de Ferro on the Camino, at sunrise. This should be on more bucket lists, I reckon.

IMG_5634

And we made it! After 800km, our arrival in Santiago de Compostela, September 2013. [Unfortunately, this pic is missing Shane and some of our other Camino family.]

So many good times. So many good people. Happy Birthday, Pat, and Buen Camino, Steph and our Camino family!

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Some snaps from WA

Greetings from here, the sunny south west of Western Australia. Rather than document the picture-perfect scenery, I thought I’d share some other snaps from WA. Not ones that you’ll be seeing in the tourist guidebooks any time soon, but I think they provide an important insight into some aspects of life in the west.

Supermarket elves pre-peel the onions here

Naked onions.

Naked onions.

Customised car license plates are very big here

Hey

Mrs

Even churches put wacky Christmas ads in the local paper here

Uh huh.

Uh huh.

So, there you go. There’s so much more to this stunningly beautiful part of the world than the incredible beaches, wine and food. You’re welcome!

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Happy New Year!

Hello and I hope that your 2015 is off to a great start. I always like the first day of a new year (or month, or week…or the first day of most new things, really – but especially a new year). It definitely feels like it’s a chance to start afresh, with a clean slate, or a blank page, or a restarted ipad (if you prefer). And that’s super exciting, that sense of optimism and possibility.

'We are lucky ducks', I said yesterday to my niece Amelia (3) as we spent some of the last day of 2014 here. 'But we aren't ducks, we are PEOPLE', she said. Fair point.

‘We are lucky ducks’, I said to my niece Amelia (3) as we spent some of the last day of 2014 here in Busselton, WA. ‘But we aren’t ducks, we are PEOPLE’, she said. Super lucky, either way.

Whatever has happened before can be irrelevant, as the new year marks a new beginning. Whether it’s beginning a commitment to being healthy, reading more books, blogging more frequently, baking more cakes, taking more holidays, meditating regularly or whatever. And it doesn’t even matter if it’s a real beginning or a fake beginning (a re-beginning that is kinda more like a second or fifth or four-hundredth attempt). Whatevs, THIS could be the year!

Anyway, 2015 has not turned me into Deepak Chopra, so that’s the end of my reflection for today.

(Oh, and for the record, I am smashing my new year commitments so far – here’s a blog post, there’s a half-read copy of Amy Poehler’s excellent book ‘Yes Please’, we baked rainbow cupcakes yesterday, and I’m currently enjoying a short break in Western Australia. This year definitely has the potential to be the best ever. Because, why not?)

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Some very good advice…

In the spirit of Thanksgiving and the festive season, I thought I would share some excellent advice from my lovely niece Laura, aged 9. This was part of a homework assignment last week. I really do think that this little book, Recipes of Advice, could come in handy for children and adults all around the world. Including, you know, political leaders and diplomats and HR professionals. And meanies.

LG_recipecover

Recipes Of Awesome, more like.

Some excellent suggestions.

Some excellent suggestions.

And I take this opportunity to say, 'thank you in general' to my fantastic parents.

And may I take this opportunity to say, ‘thank you in general’ to my fantastic parents.

A good friend indeed.

A good friend indeed.

 

So many gems to consider – love you and your work, Laura Grace. xoxo

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Finding Headspace

I have written about this before in various guises, but here is a simple truth about me: I am not always a great Completer-of-Things. Thinker-of-Things, most definitely. Planner-of-Things and even Starter-of-Things, absolutely. And if I ever get around to completing even a fraction of the things that I think or plan or start – or just dream about while I look out the window – look out, World.

However, since I am now 8/10 of the way through my current Headspace meditation trial, I figure that it’s safe to say that this is something I’ll definitely complete. And so I wanted to share it with you here, in case you haven’t heard of Headspace or their ‘gym membership for the mind’, starting with a free trial program of 10 minutes a day for 10 days.

According to their website (and, I’ve got to say, my experience over the past eight days), Headspace is all about ‘meditation made simple’. Not woo woo woo pan pipe music, cascading waterfalls and bird calls, but proven meditation techniques with a scientific foundation. Treat your head right is their tag line, which sounds like an excellent idea to me.

Headspace was started by Andy Puddicombe who, according to a quote on the website from the New York Times, “is doing for meditation what Jamie Oliver has done for food”. Only not charging quite so much (or offering branded tea towels and crockery, at this stage). I’d first seen Andy juggling his way through an interesting (and relatively short) TED talk – you can check it out here if you like – about the importance of mindfulness and, in a nutshell, making time to give our overly busy minds a rest on a regular basis. Another excellent idea.

On another topic, here are two giraffes that my lovely niece Ella and I met at Roar and Snore on Sunday morning.

Speaking of head space, here are two giraffes that my lovely niece Ella and I met at Roar and Snore on Sunday morning.

The Headspace site and app are easy to navigate, pretty to look at and fun to use. With clever animations and images, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that after I complete the initial 10 day challenge, I’m going to subscribe to get access to their other mindfulness and meditation wares. AND I WILL USE THEM. Look out, World!

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Yesterday

Yesterday marked the beginning of Spring here, with a Sydney day that started out buried in a thick fog, and then opened up to be beautifully sunny.

Yesterday, I laughed and sang and chat-chat-chatted with my lovely nieces on our way to school.

Yesterday, I saw a guy texting as he drove: unbelievably using both hands to text, as he held his iPhone above the steering wheel.

Yesterday, I ate a frittata that I made, topped with fresh herbs from my (teeny tiny) veggie garden.

Springtime daffodil selfie. [image from Pixabay]

Springtime daffodil selfie.
[image from Pixabay]

Yesterday, we went to our lovely friend Claire’s Dad’s funeral. On a sunny day, the first of Spring.

There were laughs and tears and music and lots of people with grey hair. And little baby Emily was there, smiling away quietly. I haven’t actually been to many funerals. And I couldn’t look at Claire and her family as we walked past, because I could feel the tears trying to leap out from the well they’d formed in my eye sockets. But it felt good to give her a big hug afterwards. Because sometimes nothing says what you want to say quite like a big hug.

Yesterday, there was some sadness, some silliness, some sameness, some smiles, and some sunshine. And it was only day one of Spring, the best season of them all (if you ask me). Here’s to happy times and sad times and old friends and new beginnings and hugs. Don’t forget the hugs.

And here’s to The Ship Song, which was in my head today. The Opera House project version from a few years ago is here in case you like it too.

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