30 May 2014

Cloudstreet - Tim Winton

Image source

This was the Old Ducks Bookclub book for our May meeting.

It was the first Tim Winton book I've read and I wasn't disappointed. Initially, it took me a little while to get into it and to get used to Winton's style of writing. I must say that the lack of quotation marks for conversation really threw me. Sometimes I found myself having to go back and re-read passages just to make sure I had a handle on who was saying what.

The story spans twenty years of lives intertwined by circumstance. I found the juxtaposition of hard work and luck very interesting. I got so incredibly frustrated with some of the characters and the decisions they made. Some were plain unlikeable. And yet they drew me in.

I loved the cycle of life throughout the book and the closure with the spirit of the house's tragic past disappearing with a birth in the house. I also loved reading the Aussie vernacular in this book. It drew me in and helped me to picture the place and time.

I almost gave this four stars, but I just couldn't quite do it - I didn't enjoy the book enough to do so. And some of the Fish stuff didn't grab me. But I think the writing is amazing and the story is great. I probably wouldn't read it again now that I have read it, but I will definitely be reading more Tim Winton in future.

Book: Paperback. Borrowed from my local library.
Rating: I gave this 3 stars on Goodreads.
One-liner: Complicated, out there, depressing, frustrating, but also amazing.

28 May 2014

House Building Time: Digging, Dirt, Pipes and Port-a-loos

Last time I talked house, nothing visible had happened yet.

Oh what a difference a week can make.

Within a week, we went from no activity, to having construction fencing around the block and a few things in between. Yes, that's right, it now actually looks like a house is being built on it!

First, the site was pegged out and our trees came down (same day - a Monday). This was a fortunate coincidence actually. We had booked the tree man first thing in the morning, not knowing the surveyors would be on site. Luckily for everyone, the tree man's excavator couldn't get there in the morning. So the surveyors did their thing undisturbed in the morning and the trees came down in the afternoon. Phew!

The next day (a Tuesday), Bob the Builder's helper arrived to do some digging:

On the Friday of the same week, this happened:

Then, the following Tuesday, this:

That's right, construction fencing!

It has a port-a-loo - it's a bona fide construction site now! 

I can't wait to see what happens next!

25 May 2014

100,000 Pageviews!

Yes, people, this humble blog of mine has reached a rather incredible milestone: 100,000 pageviews!

This big round number is all the more incredible when I look back to see that just under 12 months ago, I was celebrating 50,000 pageviews. Doubling the views in the space of a year for a blog which has been going for four and a half years, was not a goal I had set for myself, but it's definitely something I'll celebrate!

Last year, I used to do a little statistic party (uncool) wrap-up (very professional, good save) every 10,000 pageviews. This fell by the wayside after the 50k post, but I'm taking this opportunity to revive it.

So, without further ado, here's a list of the top 10 viewing countries of all time, with a little message in their native tongue (to satisfy my inner linguist - pardon the sweeping stereotypes for the different English-speaking countries):
  1. Australia: Thanks Aussies, glad you're top of the list. Cheers mate.
  2. Russia: Здравствуйте. Спасибо за чтение моих рассказов.
  3. United States: Hi y'all. Thanks for reading my stories. It's been legen ... wait for it ... dary.
  4. Germany: Hallo. Vielen Dank dafür, meine Geschichten zu lessen.
  5. United Kingdom: Hello chaps. I'm much obliged for your kind attention to my tales.
  6. France: Bonjour. Merci de lire mes histoires.
  7. Poland: Witaj. Dziękuję za przeczytanie mojego opowiadania.
  8. Phillipines:Hello.Salamat sa iyo para sa pagbabasa ng aking mga kuwento.
  9. Ukraine: Здравствуйте. Спасибі за читання мої розповіді.
  10. China: 你好。感谢您阅读我的故事。
If you're interested, the top 6 places are exactly the same as they were a year ago, The Phillipines slipped from 7th to 8th position and Poland, Ukraine and China have entered the top 10, replacing Austria, Czech Republic and India.

Thank you , readers!

You're all stars!

While I'm at it, I'll do a little social media thanking too, because, however flawed, time-wasting, algorithm-changing and white-noisy it can be, it is an important tool for disseminating a blogger's message. So, thanks:
Also, thanks to other lovely bloggers who host linky parties which I join from time to time when I get the chance. You can see their buttons on my sidebar. Also, thanks of course to everyone who joins in with Francesca's Festa of Favourites each month. It's a great little blogging community that I've found here online and I hope that it continues to grow in numbers, positivity and support as the years go on.

23 May 2014

The "Meh" Post

I have about five draft posts behind the scenes in my blog, but I just don't feel like finishing them off. Meh
I have a few others in mind, which require photos to be copied from phone and camera to the computer. But that would require getting up, getting the gadget, connecting it to the computer etc. Meh
On a scale of 1 to 10, my motivation to cook dinner tonight sits at around -2. Meh
Two baskets of washing need to be folded. Meh
One basket of ironing stares at me accusingly. Meh
A guitar string needs replacing. Meh
There are rooms to tidy, toilets to clean, washing up to do. Meh, meh, meh
I need a kick up the bum and a laugh. C'mon kids, entertain me!

Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding

Image source

A friend of mine brought a bunch of her books along to one of our monthly dinners. We all grabbed one or two to take home, with a promise to bring them back the next month and swap some over. This was the book I chose.

How many times have you seen a movie before reading the book? Not often for me, but this was one of those times. I have seen the first Bridget Jones movie a few times over the years and thoroughly enjoyed it at every viewing. I know that my experience of reading the book was shaped by having seen the movie, as I was reading it with Renée Zellweger's Bridget voice in my head.

As a novel, I really liked it. Written as a diary, it gives the reader access to Bridget's zany thoughts. Because of the diary-style writing, with shorter and sometimes incomplete sentences, I found that my pace of reading was  faster than usual and I read the book very quickly.

Book: Paperback. Borrowed from a friend.
Rating: I gave this 4 stars on Goodreads.
One-liner: Loved it - even better than the movie!

18 May 2014

Mother's Day 2014

Okay, okay, so I'm a week late. Better late than never though, hey?

Although I didn't write a blog post about Mother's Day on Mother's Day (too busy enjoying Mother's Day), I did take some photos of its awesomeness in anticipation of blogging, so I can still call myself a blogger :-)

It was a great Mother's Day. Happier than in previous years because my expectations were much more realistic. I don't mean this in a sarcastic way. I just mean that I wasn't expecting or hoping for a day away from everything, a day of no responsibility or even a sleep-in. I was just looking forward to down-time with my family, to cuddles and smiles. And that is exactly what I got.

The MissyMoos all came into our bedroom early in the morning, excited to give me my presents. They jumped up on the bed and each took their turn giving me their beautiful hand-made creations. This was the first year that all three MissyMoos had something for me. (Last year MissyMoo3 [2] had been away sick from daycare the day they had made their Mother's Day gifts). I just love seeing the beautiful things the children make at daycare / pre-school / school. Their teachers are amazing and I hope they know how special their thoughtfulness can make a Mother's Day.

Hubby cooked an amazing breakfast. As a picture says a thousand words, allow me to describe my amazing Mother's Day breakfast in 4000 words:

We had nowhere to be and we just enjoyed one another's company. It was a great day.

Mmm, bacon...

17 May 2014

Baby Phase Ending, One Step at a Time

Tonight we sold the cot.

Tonight we SOLD the COT

Okay, so MissyMoo3 (2) has been in a big girl bed since February and the cot had been resting in the garage since then, so we haven't actually been using it for a few months. I knew we would have to sell it before moving out of The Rented House, (because why would you move something you don't use?) but I was in a bit of denial.

Big girl bed - no more cot

For the first time in seven years, tonight our home will not contain a cot.

It's the end of an era and the second-last milestone before we reach the end of baby stage (we still have nappies in the house). We are edging closer to the end. We are edging closer to a new beginning. Part of me is feeling a little sad, not helped by my compulsion to look at baby photos of my children on the computer during times of nostalgia. But most of me is excited about what lies ahead.

15 May 2014

Returning: The "Official" Book Launch!

Returning has been launched!

Sorry for those of you who have been waiting to hear how things went Monday night. I've been at work for the past two days (talk about back to reality!) so I haven't had an opportunity to write about it. So here we go. It's worth the wait, I promise :-)

Prior to the day, I received a couple of gifts:

MissyMoo1 made me a card

A gift from an Old Duck who couldn't make it to the launch.

Preparations for the day started off well. After taking MissyMoo1 (7) to school, I dropped some books off at the library and ran a couple of errands. Some of you may remember that I had been wondering what to wear.

I decided to check out some local shops with the two youngest MissyMoos - this had so much potential to go badly, but actually things went really well. I found a gorgeous dark blue dress and matching silver shoes. I felt amazing in some new clothes, which helped build my confidence (shallow, I know).

A crazy busy afternoon followed, getting kids bathed and fed their dinner at 4pm, but we all scrubbed up well and managed to arrive at Toronto Library half an hour early to look around and help set up.

When we arrived, a selling / signing table had already been set up with the books on display and the bookmarks to give away :-)

Do you see those bits of paper in the background? They were pieces of "advice to your 16-year-old self" that staff and visitors had written in the lead-up to the launch.

Friends helped out in the nibbles department by bringing a plate, resulting in an amazing spread:

As people started to arrive I sat at the signing table, signed a few books and chatted to people. Most people there were friends, but there were a few there who had heard or read about the launch through the library's promotion of the event, so I met a few new people including a couple of local self-published authors and Amy from Lost in a Good Book, who was kind enough to blog about the event.

Flowers I received from someone who came to the launch

This was my first book launch and it was real! It had formalities and everything! An MC, speeches, book signing and a little competition.

After the MC welcomed everyone, one of the Old Ducks spoke briefly about the book and its themes. She also expressed some comments made by another Old Duck who had been unable to make it on the night.

It was then my turn to take the podium. I had been a little nervous in the afternoon, but there was such a warmth in the room that evening that I felt completely comfortable. Looking around me at a group of mostly familiar and very attentive faces, the words just came out.

Not the most flattering photo, but it's a good one of the dress!
I channelled my high school public speaker, even having a few points on palm cards. I spoke about a year of firsts: first completed manuscript, first peer review of such a big piece of writing, first time self-publishing and first book launch. I spoke about my inspiration for the book and about self-publishing. I thanked a gazillion people. It was a little emotional actually.

We also ran a little game. People were asked to write a piece of advice to their 16-year-old self

There were some great pieces of advice. The best one was "Dream Big. Be Courageous. Believe EVERYTHING is possible!" The prize was a little hamper I put together containing a notebook, pen, some choccies, a bookmark, and a cushion for a little extra reading comfort.

All in all it was a beautiful evening shared with family, friends and my local community.

I feel so incredibly lucky to have been able to do this. I am so thankful for all the support and encouragement I have received from so many dear people along the way.

So now, Returning is launched! Time to tell your friends all about it!

What advice would you give to your 16-year-old self?

Linking up for Thankful Thursday, because I'm so very, very thankful :-)

Thankful Thursday with A Parenting Life

10 May 2014

Getting Ready to Launch

If you haven't seen my Facebook pages lately, you might not know that the book launch for Returning is coming up on Monday.

So, now at T minus 2 days, I am doing some last minute preparations for the big day.

MissyMoo2 (4) has been very helpful, placing these slips of paper into about 40 books the other day:

I'm also putting together a bookmark as a small gift for people who come along. I had them printed at Officeworks, then cut and hole-punched them. The MissyMoos are helping me put the ribbons in them this weekend.

I'm looking forward to sharing the book with new people and celebrating this milestone with my local friends who have supported me with their encouragement, purchases and amazing feedback!

Are you interested in grabbing a copy for yourself? Returning is available as a paperback and an ebook through many online booksellers. Check out www.francescasuters.weebly.com/books.html for more information.

If you fancy your chances, enter  my Goodreads competition for a chance to win a signed copy - you can enter via www.francescasuters.weebly.com

09 May 2014

Francesca's Festa of Favourites: May 2014

Celebrate good times blog posts, come on!

Welcome to the May 2014 edition of
Francesca Writes Here

Are you ready to party?

"Festa" in Italian means a celebration, a party (and, if you look around this blog long enough, you'll see that I'm a fan of throwing Italian words around). This is a place where you can add links to your favourite posts for a given month (this time, it's May 2014), but here's the difference: they don't have to be posts you've written (although they can be). You can link to any post for the month that, for you, has been a must-read, that you're proud of, or that you think is entertaining, written by you or anybody else.

I add some of the posts, from blogs I read regularly, so you might see the same bloggers cropping up over the months. I love being able to use this space to bookmark my favourite blog posts for the month. But, more importantly, I love seeing what everyone else likes reading - it helps me discover new blogs I might not otherwise have seen and it's a great way of sharing the bloggy love. So feel free to link up as many of your favourite posts as you like during the course of the month.

If you've linked a post or had one of your blog posts linked by someone else, why not add the button to your blog and help spread the word :-)

Also, each month I like to choose a post from the previous month's linky party to showcase. I think it's a great way of showing off other bloggers in my own little corner of blogland.


Pick of the April bunch (in my humble opinion)

The April Festa Favourite is:

When Her Heart Stopped Beating {Trigger Warning} by The Multitasking Mummy

The Multitasking Mummy

 April seemed to be quite an emotional month in linky land. There was a bit of reflection by bloggers on where they are in their lives or where their children are in life, as well some deep thinking arising from Easter and ANZAC Day. It is only fitting, then, that last month's Festa Favourite is the most heart-wrenching tear-jerker of them all. I knew from the moment I read this post this it would be the one I would showcase for April. Sadly, so many parents go through miscarriage. Whilst it seems that we are beginning to feel able to open up about it, I applaud Eva for her bravely in opening up about this on her blog so soon afterwards. My hope is that women (and their partners) who go through this always feel supported. Virtual hugs to you, Eva xx

Now, let's get this festa started for Francesca's Festa of Favourites in May 2014. Happy linking!

07 May 2014

Interloper from the UK thanks to International Blog Swap Day

Did you know about International Blog Swap Day? Well, for today, I'm swapping blogs with the lovely Emma from Bubbablue. You can find my swap post on her blog too. Handing over to Emma now:
Bet you didn’t know there was an international blog swap day?!  I didn’t until I signed up for a swap exchange through Tots100 and Digital Parents, and pulled Francesca out of the hat.  So today you’ve got me guest posting (if you want to find Francesca’s post, she’s over here).  
So who am I?  I’m Emma, I’m from the UK and I blog over at Bubbablue and me.

I’ve been blogging around 2 1/2 years starting with a craft blog based around my jewellery makes.  But after having my son N, I realised I wouldn’t have much time for crafting.  I discovered parenting blogs, and decided to start my own blog to journal what we got up to as he grew.  My slant is that I’m not really a baby person; I’m not the sort of person to be cooing over babies or asking to hold them.  In fact, the worst thing about being a parent is having babies handed over to you as everyone presumes you have one, therefore you like them.  I suppose now I’ve had a baby, at least I know that I’m not going to drop them!
What else is going on with me?

  • I work full time currently as a project manager for a non-profit company, working in the area of resource management.  This takes me back to my geography roots, although sometimes I feel like a fish out of water on the technical side, as really my true love is market and shopper research or category management, where I’ve worked for most of my working life.  Let’s face it, if you like food, like shopping, and like people watching like I do, then shopper marketing has to be the job to be in!  Maybe in the future I’ll do that again.
  • I’m a farmer’s wife.  In the UK the stereotype is of a portly woman, bringing up animals amongst her children, baking lots, and being very homely.  Err, we have an Aga, I bake occasionally, and I do own Hunter wellies, so I’ve got some of the boxes ticked.  But I don’t really fit the stereotype.  And I don’t get involved on the farm in case they’re short on bodies for moving cattle or sheep.
  • I spend a lot of time on social media.  I think when you start blogging you never realise how much it will take over your life, but it definitely has mine.  I used to have hobbies (I danced – ceroc 4 times a week and a bit of west coast swing), but as those aren’t particularly family friendly activities, blogging is now my number one hobby. 
  • N’s now 3 years old, and considering I had no idea about children before having him, we’ve been lucky in that he’s been a fairly easy little boy to bring up (to date!).  Well, aside from toilet training, and that’s something we’ve only just gone through.

Over on the blog we blog about general life on and off the farm.  We're big readers so books feature highly, and after having had a year of water wobbles, we've cracked the swimming and that's another topic we blog about regularly.

So if you fancy checking out the blog you can find me at the following places
Thanks to Francesca for hosting me and to you all for reading.  Hope to chat soon.

05 May 2014

On Your Mark, Get Set...

We have seen a few little milestones in our house-building adventure in the past few weeks. Well, when I say "seen", I mean "encountered" - "seen" is jumping the gun a bit as nothing visible has changed on the block of land as yet.

Last week our house plans were approved by council! Being the worry warts we are, Hubby and I had expected things to take much longer than they did and for there to be questions or issues. Not that there should have been - it was a spec home plan with only a few changes to it. It's just that, well, we're worry warts.

And pleasantly surprised we were. Happy days.

Then today, Hubby had the electrical appointment - the last of the extraordinarily inconvenient, must-take-time-off-work-for, difficult-to-juggle-around-school-hours appointments. The last bits of paperwork which the builder needs before commencing were sent off today too. So I guess you could say that the last of the invisible, pre-construction milestones has been reached.

It's so strange. Progress has been made, but it's so intangible at this point that it's hard to believe that we might be in our new home in a few months' time. I've been so nervous and stressed about the whole experience that I haven't allowed myself to get too excited, for fear that something might go wrong. But now, I'M EXCITED!

The Rented House is a comfortable house. But it's not home. And we miss the Fat Cat. To think it might all come together soon, that we might be able to feel settled again, that the MissyMoos will be able to play outside in a usable yard with the Fat Cat looking on - this is making me smile.

I can't wait. ☺
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