Friday, 29 March 2013

Five for Friday

Five life tips from a mother. Not tips about being a mother

15 amazing words courtesy of the Swedish language.

The simple pleasures in  life: a Puppy pinwheel.

We all hope you have an enjoyable long weekend! Be sure to try a cocktail or two...


Because Easter is all about cute photos of rabbits and ducklings.


Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Cocktails for Easter!

Ah, Easter. Long weekend, time off work. BBQs, parties, trips away. Family parties, hanging out with Grandma. Easter eggs, marshmallows, more chocolate than you can handle.

Chances are that in amongst all that, some of you will be doing some drinking this weekend. While beer, cider and wine are some of my favourite things, the long weekend means there's absolutely occasions for cocktails.

Some of these seem to be for a climate a lot colder than Brisvegas, but anyway, here's a few suggestions for Autumn-y and Easter-themed cocktails:

Sparkling Pomegranate Punch (source)

And, especially for Easter, some rabbits and pastels:
The Bunnytail (source)

Friday, 22 March 2013

Five for Friday

I'm sure you've all heard of this instagram feed, but you must take a look. A Russian guy who loves to travel has met his perfect travel companion / girlfriend and snapped photos of her around the globe, pulling him by the hand to new and wonderful places. You do not need an instagram account to look at this. Murad Osmann's instagram feed.

Everyday People Cartoons; Cartoons about women, and the people who love and annoy them.  

One high-flying woman's perspective on work/life balance.  

50 best photos from fashion month.

One of my good friends (who blogs here) is putting together a team for the Gold Coast Colour Run 'The Happiest Run in the World'. It's a fun day out in support of being fit, healthy and happy and also supporting The Ponting Foundation. 

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The time I became a cyclist

Up until about eight months ago, I was very wary of bikes. Primarily because the majority of times I had hopped on one in the last twenty-odd years, which I could count on one hand, I had hurt myself. Once it was simply running into a tree, another it was seeing a car come out of a driveway and deciding that they were most definitely going to hit me so the preferable thing to do would be to fling myself onto the road. Oh yes, they were all very much self-inflicted and entirely my fault. As a result, I felt like bikes and I were best off avoiding each other forever after. But in the last few years, bikes have become somewhat popular and Brisbane has started to embrace the cyclist. I use the word 'embrace' lightly as there is still plenty of cyclist rage going around but I think we're getting there. So for my birthday a few years ago, my boyfriend decided that he wanted to get me a bike so we could go riding together. The idea was horrifying at first, but over time I became slightly intrigued. Especially when I saw the variety of cute bikes you could get... So after 6 months, I finally became the owner of an Electra Townie. Once upon a time (for about the first five minutes), my bike looked like this:

Image from
Besides the fact that I liked the look of it, it was also the most comfortable bike I trialed  It's a heavy cruiser bike though, so not made to go super fast. But that wasn't really my concern at the time. So after a few slow rides around the footpath in my local park, reminiscent of my park rides as a five year old, I tried riding on some longer bike paths and even managed some quiet roads. To my surprise, I really, really enjoyed cycling. I am lucky to live in an area which caters well to cyclists and the majority of my ride into the CBD is along the mostly flat Bicentennial Bikeway along the Brisbane River. So I now ride to work at least three times a week, attach my front wicker basket and cycle to the West End Markets every Saturday morning and make breakfast dates on Sundays to places I can get to on my bike (West End, Wooloongabba, New Farm and Toowong/Milton are all good post for the future). Being able to cycle to these places has given  me a lot more independence since I don't have a car. Plus, due to not wanting to ride too late to avoid the strong sun and heat, I have somehow turned into a morning person who gets up by 5:30-6:00am instead of doing the slow, reluctant rise around 8:00am. I also love that I'm saving money on not having to get public transport and run for the bus every day, inevitably missing it by that much at least once a week.

This week is Bike Week in Brisbane (16-24 March), which is a 'celebration of all things cycling' and involves several bike-related events such as organised group rides, cycling seminars and 10-speed dating. You can visit for more details. I personally plan on participating on Thursday for Ride to Work Day and will be stopping off at Redacliff Place for the free breakfast! The 10km Sunday Family Ride is a possibility is the Post-Ride Festival being held out Southbank. Had I had time last Saturday, I would have loved to have gotten involved in the Papergirl revival, which involved delivering artwork via bicycle (see

Image from Bike Week website

So if you have a bike available to you, think about participating in Ride to Work Day! There are several meeting spots organised if you want to ride with other people but don't know anyone. Cycling is fun and while Brisbane doesn't quite have the bike culture of Amsterdam, we do have some nice bike paths available to us and has definitely gained a lot of popularity. And as long as I don't have too many more run-ins with helmut-less lycra-d-up cyclists who cut me off and then don't indicate when they're turning off, causing me to run into them, I will be cycling around the place for the forseeable future.

Book review: Lifesaving for Beginners by Ciara Geraghty

Written initially for Sassi Sam and reproduced here. 

On a small road outside Dublin, a tired truck driver swerves to miss a deer, causing his truck to ram into one car and another to roll into a ditch. One driver dies and the other escapes miraculously with little more than scratches. This tragic accident sets in motion a chain of events that brings families together and uproots long-kept and damaging secrets. 

Lifesaving for Beginners is Ciara Geraghty’s fourth novel.  It is told through two perspectives; that of nearly-forty year old, successful author Kat Kerrigan and Milo, a young boy who loves his lifesaving classes, his mother and banoffi. As engaging as the story is, the real enjoyment for the reader comes from the select cast of realism of Geraghty has gift for creating characters with comparatively few words but who come alive and whom you can believe and invest in as a reader.

Principal protagonist, Kat Kerrigan, is not an instantly loveable character. She has spent her life concealing truths from the people who surround her, including herself. Only four people know that she is the anonymous author of internationally best-selling movie-making detective stories, and two of those people are her publishers. Kat is terrible at personal relationships, being secretive and selfish in the extreme. The only person in her life whom she loves unconditionally is her brother Ed, who has Downs Syndrome. Along with Milo, the second narrator, Ed is a delightful character who is portrayed with such sensitivity that you never feel sorry for him or his family but rather appreciate him as the person who brings out the best in Kat.

Back when she was 15, something happened to Kat that she has never dealt with and which she has kept secret even from her family. By covering over and burying the past, she has changed profoundly into the prickly, ultra-private person she is now. The car accident that doesn’t kill her still acts like a bomb thrown into her life, bringing up the events of 20 years ago and causing Kat to embark on an indulgence of self-destructive behaviour.  

Milo, in contrast, is loveable and caring. His mother died in the car crash and he is left in the care of his sister Faith. As much as she tries to keep everything together for him, he feels keenly the loss of his normal, ordered life and of course, his loving mother. His young voice has been perfectly captured by Geraghty, making it so easy to fall for this small boy who is dealing with personal tragedy and family fallout with great maturity. 

Lifesaving for Beginners deals with death, privacy, secrets and trust in the closest relationships people can form – with family, partners and life-long friends. Geraghty has written an engaging and personal story told from the perspectives of two very different people; the instantly likeable Milo and the contentious Kat, whom you warm up to as she allows herself to grow and become accepting.

Though Lifesaving for Beginners may be what I call ‘aeroplane reading’; the light yet absorbing books you pick up in airport news agencies for plane journeys; it is so much more emotional and rich than what is called for by the genre. Geraghty is a delightful writer who sweeps you up in her characters and tells stories with hope and enjoyment and the very necessary hint of darkness. If you were to pick this book up for a flight to Europe, you wouldn’t put it down for the full 24 hours.  

I had the good fortune to meet and interview Ciara Geraghty for Sassi Sam. Read the full interview. 

Interview with Ciara Geraghty, author of Lifesaving for Beginners

Thanks to Sassi Sam I had the good fortune to meet with an interview Ciara Geraghty, author of Lifesaving for Beginners. I would like to thank Ciara for her time and for being such a charming person to interview. I have edited out the rambling parts of our conversation, though they were pretty interesting.

What inspired the story of Lifesaving for Beginners?

Lifesaving for Beginners was inspired by a conversation I had with a friend of mine in County Kerry. The last time I was there I was chatting to my friend and she was telling me the story of her two elderly spinster aunts who lived together and died within months of each other. My friends' Dad was their only remaining sibling and he was going through their personal effects after their deaths and he found a birth certificate. One of them had had a baby in her teens and given the baby up for adoption. The baby, a baby girl, was sent to an American couple. But the aunts never spoke of it and one ever knew. We don't even know if the other sister might have known or not.

That absolutely fascinated me, the idea something so huge could happen to somebody and they just bury it and then continue to live their lives as if nothing ever happened. So that inspired the story of Kat who as a teenager had a baby and then lived her life as if nothing happened.

Forced or pressured adoption is a very controversial issue. Are you particularly interested it as a social issue?

I remember in Ireland when I was 14, and there was this young girl, she was 15 at the time and she was pregnant. She lived in a small town in the midlands in Ireland. No one knew she was pregnant and when she was due to give birth she went to the grotto in the town, which is a statue of Our Lady in the grounds of the church, and that’s where she gave birth to her baby. She brought scissors to cut the umbilical cord but it was a freezing cold night and they both died.

That sort of snagged in my net, I never really forgot that, it was so horrendous. Even to talk about it now, it's a horrible thing to happen to a young girl. In Ireland in the 80s it was still such a shameful thing for a young girl to have a baby and have sex. Those two stories (the young girl and the aunt) resonated with me and I suppose that's what interested me about the whole adoption situation, that's how I came to it. I'm more about the stories than about the topics. Definitely I'm about the characters, they would be very important to me.

So you started with this true story of the Aunt who had secretly given birth, from there how does your story evolve? Does it start with a character?

It definitely starts with a character, yes. So I had my character Kat Kerrigan and I had the idea; and I was interested in the technical aspect of telling the same story through two difference perspectives. I love the idea of perspective, that two people can experience exactly the same thing but tell it very differently because of their perspective. I wanted to tell the same story but through two different people to see how that would work. So I thought Faith and Kat.

But I couldn't make Faith work.  She a 24 year old woman I don't know if it was the age gap or if I wasn't that interested but I tried for the longest time to tell it. I have a big file on my computer labelled 'Faith' with about 25,000 words but I couldn't get it to ring true, I just couldn't make it work.

Then I was reading another book, Emma Donoghue’s Room.  She tells a very horrific story of a woman in captivity who is basically abducted and kept in a cell below ground on this horrible man's property and she gives birth to a baby. (In the novel) the baby is now five and Donoghue tells this horrendous story of captivity and abuse though the eyes of a five year old. Because it’s told through his eyes, there is such beautiful innocence to it. He’s seeing these dark and horrendous things happening but because it is told through his eyes there is such a lightness and innocence about it.

So I thought why don't I tell Faith's story through the eyes of her younger brother Milo, and the minute I started doing that it worked, it came.

Milo, the second voice in Lifesaving for Beginners, is at once such a mature young man and then he has just the perfect voice for a 10-year-old. How difficult was he to write?

I think you need access to a 10 year old boy before you can write it truly. Emma Donoghue, when she wrote Room, her son was 5. I do think you need that experience, or have an incredible good imagination. Even just the tone of their voice, you have to be familiar with it to write it. At the time my son was nine and I just thought I have access to this voice and this innocence and the way kids talk. He's one of my favourite characters. He just really worked for me and I was delighted to be able to do that.

Of the two voices in Lifesaving for Beginners, was there one that one easier to write?

Milo was the easiest to write. Kat is a prickly character anyway, so writing her was tricky but I really enjoyed it because she's nothing like me. I mean we're both writers but she's in a whole different league. She's the JK Rowling of thrillers. I had great fun writing her and getting to be difficult and prickly but certainly Milo came much easier.

I did worry about the readers – are the readers going to be rooting for Kat? Are they going to be in her corner because she is so difficult? But readers are giving me good feedback, saying they were won over by her. She is such a lovely person but she buries it all.

Why is Kat so prickly?

I think what's wrong with her is that she's never dealt with what happened to her when she was 15 and she's basically been dealing with post-traumatic stress ever since then. The car accident basically forces her to deal with it, like a grenade landing in her life and blowing the whole thing out of the water.

I think she would have been a different person if that (giving birth as a teenager) hadn't happened to her. It had a huge impact of her but she never dealt with her and then with the accident all her chicken s came home to roost at once and then she had to confront them.

Kat’s brother Ed, who has Down Syndrome, was he a difficult character to write?

I wanted to write Ed because I wanted there to be a relationship for Kat where she shines. I wanted that one relationship in the book where her goodness and her humanity shone through, and her relationship with Ed was that relationship.

My children go to lifesaving classes every week and while they're there, there are people with Down Syndrome in the pool as well, having a swim. That's possibly where I got the idea from. And then I know a couple of people with Down’s and I did a lot of research as well.

Hopefully I got it ok, because you don't want to mess around with the portrayal of the condition. It's difficult because you don't want to be patronising. You want to deal with that sympathetically but not be patronising; there is a balance. He's a nice character in his own right. You like Ed, you don’t feel sorry for him. That's the side that Kat sees in him.

Monday, 18 March 2013

McLaren Vale; an ideal location for a cross-continental catch-up

McLaren Vale is a small township 50 minutes south of Adelaide that has lent its name to the surrounding wine region and it was where I spent my second Australian-wine-region holiday of 2012.

An old travelling friend who lives in Perth and I decided to have a wine-infused holiday and we chose McLaren Vale because it was roughly halfway between our two cities. Flying in on Friday night, we motored down to McLaren and found our carefully selected cottage; a compromise between proximity to town, price and quaint wine-country-cottage; and quickly opened the complimentary welcome bottle. Getting up the next day, I was metres away from my own cellar door / café overlooking a garden and vines. Not a bad start to a trip.

McLaren Vale is small but fruitful wine-making region. There are 88 cellar doors in a region enclosed by the sea to the south and Adelaide and the Clare Valley to the north. If you had enough time, you could easily spend a fortnight visiting the Barossa, Clare Valley and McLaren Vale and taste hundreds of wines.

Artwork outside d'Arenberg, the very first stop on our McLaren Vale trip. 

The great advantage of how small the McLaren Vale region is, is that you can get up late, take yourself out for coffee and breakfast and still make it to four vineyards before lunch. There are scores of wineries within a 10 – 12m drive of the town, so you can skip from one to the other on a quick easy circuit.

McLaren Vale is known for its Shiraz, Grenache and Chardonnay. The first vines were planted in McLaren around 1838 and wine producers such as Hardys have been producing wine from the region since 1850. It is a real treat to be able to drink Shiraz from vines 50 to 100 years old.

Sculpted vineyards and twisted vines.

Just as with my previous trip to Margaret River, though I tasted scores of the region’s iconic drops, I found myself loving the range of Tempranillo, Sangiovese and the heavier Cabernet blends. My friend, a mad keen Australian wine taster and amateur connoisseur had to taste every Grenache on offer and there were plenty for him to sample. I tried my hand at Chardonnays, reasoning that if any region was going to change my opinion of them it would be this one but no. I came away with a better opinion of Australian Chardonnays but not a convert.

Shiraz and Cabernet vines.

We mostly stopped at smaller wineries that we were not at all familiar with. They have so much more personality and passion and I found it easier to engage with the staff behind the bar and learn about their wine and the region. My favourite winery was Hugh Hamilton, partly for the delightful set-up but mostly because I could happily have bought a mixed dozen and enjoyed every drop. 

The selection at Hugh Hamilton. Greatly enjoyed.

Friday, 15 March 2013

High tea at Bacchus

I found myself is the enviable position this week of nabbing an invitation to the launch of high tea at Bacchus, the now 5-month old luxury bar at Rydges South Bank.

If you haven’t been to Bacchus, it’s one level up from the street and is a slightly odd all-in-one entertainment space. There is an outside deck complete with glistening pool, ready for cocktail hour, there is an art-deco inspired restaurant in varnished wood with golden trimmings and a bar lounge with the feel of a London club complete with high-backed arm chairs you can disappear into.

Business women and men enjoying some indulgence
Photo filtered to better represent the feel of the bar. 

As it was the launch, we were rather spoilt. Instead of the standard one glass of bubbles, a charming waitress was circling with a bottle, so my one glass of Moet turned mysteriously into three. Also, instead of the usual three-plated tier of delicacies, waiters circulated with plates of delicate sandwiches, macarons, coffee cake and citrus tarts, so there was no moderation in my demolition of pastries and chicken salad sandwiches.  

It was a most pleasant way to spend a Thursday lunchtime.
If you’re looking for a place to have high tea in Brisbane, I would recommend Bacchus. The space has an enticing feeling of luxury, and the food is excellent. Rydges really is going all out, bringing in top managers and pastry chefs from all over the world to oversee their latest venture, topped off with excellent waitstaff, who are worth their weight in gold for the positive influence they have on your experience.

There are three levels of tea - English cream tea ($30 p/p), quintessential high tea ($36 p/p) and Champagne high tea ($49 p/p). As someone who has experienced a fair few high teas over the last two years thanks to girlfriends getting married, I would recommend Bacchus for the quality of the food and service.

Five for Friday

Check out Trending City for all the amazing things happening in cool cities all over the world. Brisbane included!

I know a lot of friends who will understand this; We could all do with a little less 'busy' by Fat Mum Slim.

30 saddest endings in literature. Warning: contains HUGE spoilers. Obviously.

A shout out to our nation's capital which celebrated its' century this week.

And finally, a video to make you smile.

Thursday, 14 March 2013


"Homophobic language isn't always meant to be hurtful, but how often do you use it without thinking?"

The Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services at the University of Alberta in Canada has set up a website called, which monitors the use of casual homophobic slurs on Twitter. The figures are astounding. (To me, anyway.)

The website has three tabs; Today, Last Week, and All Time. The numbers are collected on the website in real time, so you can actually refresh the page and watch the figures climb.

Between March 7th and March 13th (ie Last Week), the word 'faggot' was used in a tweet/tweets 322,576 times. The phrase 'so gay' was used 77,878 times.

In the count for Today, 'faggot' had been used 31, 419 times at the time of writing this blog.*

From the website: "Words and phrases like “faggot,” “dyke,” “no homo,” and “so gay” are used casually in everyday language, despite promoting the continued alienation, isolation and — in some tragic cases — suicide of sexual and gender minority (LGBTQ) youth."

* I'm not sure how the 'Today' count interacts with world time zones. 3.22pm in Brisbane is 11pm in Edmonton, Alberta, but the fact that this number might represent a whole day rather than a partial day doesn't exactly make it better.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

My zombie apocalypse team

Flicking through a tumblr, I found this little image and loved the stream of comments that came after it.

I immediately started thinking about who mine would be, so here is the list;

  • Hunger Games Trilogy - Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mallark
  • David Attenborough's Africa - David Attenborough

and then either

  • Ruddy Gore (One of the Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries novel) - Phryne Fisher
  • Elementary - Sherlock Holmes and Dr Joan Watson

I think I'd be pretty ok in a Zombie apocalypse. In fact, I suspect I'd be the weakest member in the team and therefore the most likely to be sacrificed first as superfluous. After all, my only real skills are making strange inappropriate comments, folding fitted sheets and as a potential baby-incubator. Only one of those is really useful in an apocalypse. 

Friday, 8 March 2013

Five for Friday

Should I eat this shit? A website that tells you if you should eat something. 

To celebrate getting 1 million followers on Twitter, Lonely Planet have released their Best Travel 2013 guide free for download

Brisbane's latest mobile food enterprise, following in the very successful footsteps of the Bun Mobile: Wandering Elephant. 

Gucci releases new leather handbag line with a passport detailing the life of the cow it came from. The accessories version of 'meet the meat'?

The Australian Writers' Centre have opened their annual Australia's Best Blog competition, so if there are blogs out there that you really enjoy and value, nominate them for an award. This is a great opportunity to give recognition to people who put a lot of time and love into a project that brings enjoyment, help or entertainment to others as well as themselves.

Happy Friday

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Brews at Bitter Suite

On Wednesday night, in a bid to enjoy Brisbane despite the seemingly endless downpour, we headed out to try Bitter Suite, a local pub with style in the heart of New Farm.

Bitter Suite is housed is a red brick building on the corner of Welsby and Lamington Streets in New Farm. Heading in from the rain, the glow of the lights and the full tables looked incredibly inviting.

Inside, Bitter Suite is an enjoyable mid point between warm English gastro-pub and the personality-laden inside-outside bars that are popping up all over Brisbane

We shared a few plates; duck pancakes (the house specialty), bread with oils and a dish of olives. All were very tasty, though we could easily have devoured another couple of serves of the pancakes. The weeknight special beer'n'burger for $20 was very tempting. If we'd spotted the pig'n'beer special of slow roasted suckling pig, chips and a 3/4 pint for $20 we definitely would have gone for that.

Even on a rainy Wednesday night, there was a steady stream of people come to enjoy the good food and excellent selection of beers. I even think there were a few people there on dates.

Bitter Suite is well worth a visit. Nice atmosphere, good food and beer and the bar staff were friendly and helpful. An all over pleasant pub in which to spend an evening.

Bitter Suite have regular Beer Baron gatherings, if you want to educate your taste buds and will be welcoming all comers for St Patricks Day.

Bitter Suite on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

The joy of Aunty Ji

I wanted to share this with you all. I go to Bollywood dance classes once a week for the exercise but also because it's terrific fun. This week surpassed all previous weeks, however, because of the song we're dancing to. Aunty Ji is apparently a huge hit in India and once you listen to it, you'll know why. It's a bizarre Bollywood rock'n'roll track that makes you twitch and want to move.

The message is pretty simple too. He wants Aunty Ji (a familiar yet respectful term for a women of your parent's age) to get up and dance!

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Alcoholic volcanos and layers of leis

A couple of weekends ago I threw a birthday party with two of my favourite people and fellow February-babies Caz and Kirst.

 Kirst in Gorman and me in Kitten d'Amour.

We’ve thrown joint birthday shindigs for a few years now. First at Alloneword, then at Limes and this year’s venue of choice: Alfred and Constance.  All three of us have had some good times there, so with the considerations of a Tiki bar, Queenslander decks, good food and a very helpful events coordinator, it was a pretty easy choice to make.

Bar drinks and decoration

Waking up on the day or your birthday party, if you’re looking forward to it, is a little like a second birthday. It felt like by special day all over again, but this time on a Saturday so I got to sleep in!

The party started early and our friends faithfully turned up right on the button to help us celebrate. There were beers, mojitos and bottles of wine to wash down platters of devils on horseback and bowls of thick salty chips.

Celebration time!

Over the night I got to catch up with so many old friends I now seem to see only at our annual bash. A triple birthday is one hell of an excuse to get people together. In amongst all the updates, we managed to down some Zombies (only one each), Jamaican Divorces and Kava Bowls.

Pina Coladas and Kava Bowls.

Cocktail appreciation time.

There were some great parts: everyone went nuts on the cocktails and the oddly 90s music. Being outdoors significantly lowered the temperature on what was one of Brisbane’s only clear Saturday nights this year. The bar staff were charming, the food as good as expected.


Downsides were that we had been lead to believe we’d have a small roped off area for a few hours which would then be opened up. But when we arrived, there was a rowdy blow-up doll-toting hen’s night in process on our little deck and they were not to be moved. Also, the place seemed to be much busier than any other time I’ve been to Alfred and Constance. Good for them, but it bums me out when I can’t reach a bar laden with pina coladas.


Nevertheless, a great time was had by all, and I would recommend Alfred and Constance for functions or for just a nice, relaxed evening out.  There’s something just so right about the combination of wooden deck, novelty cocktails  and fake turf carpet that really makes a night out. 

Thank you to all my wonderful friends who helped make my night!
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