The 500 club

So, yay! I reached a milestone with my blog the other week…

My other blog.

Carcrashgratitude to be precise. This blog that I created, birthed from my parent blog, this smikg.com, has now amassed over 500 followers.

519 to be exact, as of this writing. 😁😁

And it’s great! My offshoot blog has almost doubled the followers of my original writing blog, and I COULDN’T BE HAPPIER.

And why? Because gratitude, that’s why.

I just wanted to write and celebrate my little win, my ‘happy progression’ as it were, but also speak to you about how I came to be here, and place some perspective, some thoughts on this experience, and maybe even offer some advice for some of you who may be starting out…

So how have I managed to exceed the number of followers with my second blog when it arrived on the scene two years after my first one?

  1. Consistency is key. I blog every single day about an item of gratitude. Looking at my latest title, you will see that it’s at 1887 days of consistency.

That’s 1887 days of gratitude in a row. If I said it was easy, I would be LYING. I’ve almost given up many times, and all those hard times was when life got really, really hard. But I was proving something to myself, more than anything else.

So, I’m still here.

2. Second. Photos help A LOT. I can’t tell you how often a well-placed photo gives me more likes.

Clearly, I don’t do it for the likes. We’ll come back to this one in a moment. But people are a visual species, and seeing something, even if it isn’t your photo (the Pexels free photos option via WordPress is great) encourages a person to click on your post sooner. The photo tells them the story, before your post does.

Also, food photos tend to be really popular. Just saying for any would-be chefs.

3. Don’t just follow for the sake of getting likes back, please. That is so trite. Be original for goodness sakes.

Just be honest. I think we’re all immune and desensitised to commonplace, fence-sitting ideas and thoughts. Be yourself. No one else will be.

4. I haven’t overly promoted myself in all this time. I haven’t promoted myself, really at all. In the WordPress world, I’ve liked blogs that I genuinely like, and let the blog grow organically from that.

Just remember… I have been doing this carcrashgratitude blog for 5 years now. So 500 followers in 5 years, is really not much…

That’s about 100 a year. Less than 10 a month. Of course more recently my reach has grown exponentially, but we are talking averages.

5. Why don’t I care about followers? Well let’s be honest, I do, kind of, because it means that people are appreciating what I’m saying and my words are having an impact. So that, I care for, greatly.

But if you are a writer, you are going to write, because you love writing. It’s something in you, and no matter how much you write and you write and you write, you will never ever get it out.

The writing bug that is.

Therefore, people clicking like or follow, is just the icing on the cake, the sugary sweet, superficial stuff.

It’s not the bread, the carb, the density of the cake. The whole piece that just took you hours to bake and get out of the oven.

So, if you’re a writer and just starting out, keep going. You’ll be glad you did.

If you just wanna join the ride, my carcrashgratitude blog can be found here, with a little story about how it all came to be, here.

And yes I am being cheeky and all self-promoting, I’ve done that before too, here.

Ha ha ha. Now I am being too much.

Anyway, thanks for joining me on this ride.

To quote a masterful genius…

“We are gathered here today, to get through this thing called LIFE.”

💖💖

Photo by Tessa Wilson on Unsplash

What I can and can’t read

I had a revelation the other week.

Not really a full-blown knock my socks off lightbulb moment, more this was a slow burn, a gradual dawning and coming to understand what it is I should read, and what I should not…

This idea cemented itself in me as I had sat on the couch before midnight, finishing the last 20 pages of the novel The Light Between Oceans, while CRYING MY EYES OUT.

I can’t do sad stories. Not now. Maybe even, not ever.

I realised it first when I was reading Burial Rites. A deeply haunting, fascinating tale, but ultimately one that made me sick to my stomach as I finished the last chapter. Actually, sick, in a gagging way.

Following on from that with my latest read, The Light Between Oceans, and though I didn’t feel nausea, I was deeply anxious for the characters from the second half of the novel onwards.

At one point I nearly stopped reading when I thought there was the possibility that MY IDEAL ENDING wouldn’t eventuate.

But I convinced myself, surely it would, surely there weren’t people raving about an amazing book, when it left you on such a sad note?

Well, guess what?

IT DID.

Really, it broke my heart. I have no bad words to say about the writing, the plot, the setting… the author describes the characters and place so poetically, and with such elegance, that to know this book received many awards is absolutely not a surprise.

Even the plot, which ebbs and flows, growing gradually at first, that becomes a can’t-put-this-down, edge-of-your-seat page-turner that you must keep reading towards the end. No faults, at all.

But, I have to question, and I ponder, and I think, again and again and again…

What kind of frame of mind does one have to be in to write this kind of story? How can you feel any sense of satisfaction, knowing readers won’t be satisfied?

And what kind of frame of mind does a reader have to be in, to actually LOVE this type of sad story?

It is driving me crazy.

I’m still IN the novel, the feelings and the melancholy and the feeling of loss still following me, and I feel I will never read an award-winning book again…

Because they all seem to deal with huge, hard, really difficult and sad emotions, and I can’t do sad.

It reminds me of another book I read many years ago, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. She wrote something I still remember to this day. She always felt she had to read a certain type of genre book, but those kinds of books brought her no joy.

They brought her no happiness. So she was going to stop reading them, accept that they weren’t for her, and choose ones that brought her happiness.

This decision brought her a huge sense of liberation, and I think I need to do the same.

Maybe if life was all going to plan, and there were no dramas in my life, and I had no problems… maybe then.

Maybe then I could read a sad story, just to know, awaken the senses.

I get that life will always have it’s problems, but I seriously believe that maybe if my life was devoid of confusion, deep frustration, and things were generally more peachy than keen, then maybe, maybe then I could be happy about a sad ending that made me heave with sobs, my pjs becoming wet from my stream of tears.

Like, if I was bored. Life was so good, it was boring.

Yeah, if I was bored. Like that’s ever going to happen. 🙄

I need to know how you feel. Can you read sad stories? Have you read this one? Am I just overly empathetic and feeling too much?

You know what it made me realise though? I wanted to read stories of youth, of drama, crazy days, love and lust and gossip and secrets, revelations and family, friendship, coming-of-age and acceptance.

All bundled up into a nice little off-the-beaten-track package.

I wanted to read, MY STORY. And you know what they say?

Write the book you want to read.

Well, I better keep on then…

Scared to get off the train

PAULA HAWKINS – The Girl On The Train

“… It’s because I feel like I’m part of this mystery, I’m connected. I am no longer just a girl on the train, going back and forth without point or purpose.”

It’s the everyday girl at it again, taking your sympathy, well-meaning thoughts and constant cheerleading from the sidelines, and stealing them before jumping onto the moving train.

Yes it’s the everyday girl, but the ever day girl in crisis and beaten and battered by life, is what works in fiction, stories, LIFE.

I’ve been noticing this a lot lately, and maybe it’s because I happen to be reading books like this more often right now, or maybe it is too prevalent… I don’t know. I know it works, but it has made me more aware of my own representation of women in my works.

It works. Don’t get me wrong, it does. And as much as it appears overused to the brim, this concept still has you turning page after page.

I was made curious already by the end of chapter 1.

Hawkins does well to keep you interested in her thriller. The tone of the book starts out cheery and with some hint of positive promise, and as we are exposed to each day of this fairly ordinary girl, and her journey on the train every day, we start to gain glimpses of darkness, of sadness, and of desperation.

It is a slow reveal, much like the old-fashioned train brakes squeal slow slow slowly to a screeching halt, deafening you with their metal-scraping sound at their destination.

She is an ordinary girl yes, but her life is messed up in more ways than she can count, and as reader, you sway quickly between thinking of her as pathetic, to feeling really sorry for her. It’s a fine line.

An early insight of her darkness comes in the first chapter:

“Living like this, the way I’m living at the moment, is harder in the summer when there is so much daylight, so little cover of darkness, when everyone is out and about, being flagrantly, aggressively happy. It’s exhausting, and it makes you feel bad if you’re not joining in.”

Such a true observation. I love it much more when I come across a passage in a book that rings so true to me, to life.

And with this early intrigue into our poor protagonist Rachel’s life, we learn many things, all of which make this a fantastic thriller.

She is an alcoholic. Centring a thriller around the inconclusive and unreliable memories of a drunk is a GREAT start.

She has an ex that left her for another woman, and they live in her old house. Ouch.

And she has been privy to a love story unfolding from her seat in the train, about the supposedly ideal couple that lives doors down from her old place… but then after witnessing something that shatters that love story, something happens.

All the characters are, or become, intertwined with each other in this story, and this becomes apparent both as the story progresses, but as different characters points of view come into view per chapter, with the first differing view being from her arch nemesis, the woman who took her ex away.

Oooh! Juicy.

I found this an interesting tactic, and a foretelling one, as it’s risky to have the point of view of your protagonist’s enemy expressed in a book. Naturally when you put someone’s point of view in a book they organically become more understood and less hated by the reader. Even killers have been known to have their motives understood in this way. So to have someone so apparently selfish and self-obsessed, have her views and opinions expressed and validated and EVEN understood, is a huge deal. It is an important one too.

It is a book about clues. There are clues throughout as to ‘who did it,’ who people really are, and what their real intentions are too, but of course these clues are so well imbedded, that as I was trying to read into every detail, these clues just became extra details. The clues not only reveal things well in advance, but their mention spikes interest and keeps the story moving forward.

There are hints of adultery, hints of cheating, and hints that things are not always as they appear, clearly a prevailing factor of the story. What Rachel sees while on the train, is not necessarily as rosy and perfect as it is in real life. This is further supported by the differing points of view that we get, as we are suddenly privy to another character’s actual thoughts and real everyday life, something far removed from Rachel’s perception of them. The fact also, that Rachel cannot remember what happens after she gets drunk, is further testimony – how can you trust your own head, thoughts, memories, when they are based on substance abuse? She is as clueless as we are as readers.

As for Rachel as protagonist… sure we like her. A bit. We root for her because sadly, she is quite pathetic. Her drinking and lying get her in trouble time and time again, and sympathy reigns supreme as she pines for the life she used to have, the life she lost. We root for her, because we want her to get it together, but then we also want her to solve the mystery and prove to everyone that she isn’t incompetent! Unfortunately, she treats small victories like she deserves a reward, and those rewards come in the form of a drink. So the cycle is ugly and seemingly never-ending. If anything, that on its own serves as a warning – do not drink: it can mess up your head and you will fail to solve a mystery!

The scary element comes in not knowing what has transpired in the time that she was inebriated… she often can’t remember anything. She’ll have a message or email as memory, but will have no recollection of it. This isn’t just frightening for Rachel, but as reader you have to wonder: if she can’t remember what has just happened in the last 8 hours, there is the very real possibility that she did something horrible while drinking and now also can’t remember it?

The book gives us realistic representations of life, not just in the sad honesty that is alcoholism – she is constantly on and off it, and sometimes only stays sober as she wants to stay involved and know what has happened – but there are the media references too. Things like facebook, email, even X Factor make an appearance. These social media references stand out so starkly, and I couldn’t help but wonder how a book like this would be received let’s say 50 years down the track… would it still make sense? But then again we still read Austen today and we don’t care how out of date that world is!

“…the part of me that can’t resist a bit of drama is actually quite disappointed.”

Although this is stated by Rachel, you will feel anything but in this page-turning thriller. The number of times I changed my mind on who I thought was guilty was overwhelming, and I had a number of wild theories about who did it, only to be proven wrong time and time again. Rachel is drawn to the scene of the crime like a moth to a flame, and the risk of getting burnt is almost guaranteed. But it is drama to her dull life, and she can’t help herself from going back, time and time again.

The biggest message from the novel could be this: someone else’s life could look ideal when you take a glimpse from within a moving train… but when we look a little closer, we can hear the harsh words spoken. Bear witness to the constant arguing. The holes in the walls… the un-slept beds.

Ultimately this is the story of people, how they change, how they are perceived differently from one person to another, and how we can never really truly know someone… anyone. And it stays true to the theme ‘the grass is not always greener on the other side,’ or should I say,

“life is not always smoother once you’re off the train’s tracks.”

Please let me know your thoughts on The Girl on the Train in the comments below, I would love to discuss with you. 😊

A great lifestyle

Switch Lifestyle

Westfield Fountain Gate, 352 Princes Highway Narre Warren

(Visited November ’18)

It was always going to be a great day.

Of course it was, when two generations of girls were getting together to eat, drink, and then…

SHOP.

Okay so the little girls wouldn’t quite appreciate the satisfaction in the latter task just yet…

But it was never too early to expose them, right? 😉

A long overdue catch up is what had me catching up with my cousin, and our girls. My girl, and her girl.

Girls girls girls. 💖💖

It was mine and baby girl’s first time at Fountain Gate shopping centre. We had trekked the 40 or so minutes over, and upon walking through the centre’s doors discovered a whole lot of really awesome shopping options. 😍

But we weren’t there purely for the shopping. It was the lunch time catch up. We found my cousin and her little girl, and with my slightly bigger little girl, headed on over to Switch Café.

It was a Friday in Spring, and it was still and sunny, though there weren’t many people lunching out that day. Inside it was quiet, perhaps a bit more upmarket and reserved, with diners scattered here and there close to the entrance doors, while we opted for a more, shall you say, child-friendly spot.

Outside. Where we could make as much noise as we liked 😉

The menu was a bit fancier than your standard lunch fare, and that reflected in the restaurant’s atmosphere. A wide range of pizzas, salads and burgers accompanied by more traditional sit-down meals like roast chicken, fish and steak elevated it to a nicer than average lunch time option.

And then there was the dedicated kids menu. Always a massive plus when trying to decide, as options to adults for their brood is like sprinkles upon an ice cream for the kids.

When it came down to ordering, I went for the Crispy skin chicken breast – with a warm salad of potato, kaiserfleisch, red onion, roquette, roasted garlic & lemon mayo, red wine jus

Baby girl had the kids meal chicken schnitzel – chips & salad OR peas, corn and crispy potatoes (hers was the peas and corn option)

While my cousin got the Hawaiian pizza without pineapple.

Baby girl also opted for apple juice with her meal, which made her tummy all the more happy, you can be assured.

So she was pretty happy, because it was good ol’ fashioned kiddie fare… chicken, chips, peas and corn. I loved the chicken schnitzel as opposed to nugget options, as the meat is far cleaner and better to eat. It was a healthy and satisfying lunch time meal. The extra veg on the plate, so cute and tiny? Awesome. Little fingers love little food.

I loved my meal. The chicken was so succulent, the jus it was surrounded by was so flavoursome and delicious, and tied together with the potato, onion and roquette (I call it rocket, but it still tastes just as amazing!) my mouth was dancing, so happy.

It was a really heartening but healthy meal. We followed it all with babycinos for the girls, coffees for us, and ice cream for them too (not pictured, it went too quick!) It was course after course of course.

Everything was great, and to be honest we were just excited watching our two princesses eat and drink alongside each other, that the food would have been great even if it was a bit below par, just for the fact of our attention being on the girls… but it definitely wasn’t that day. The food was delicious and watching the little princesses, it was a real “aww!” moment.

We walked off, hand in hand, ready to shop ‘til we dropped… or pooped. Whichever came first. 😉 🤷‍♂️

Food: 7.5/10. I loved the options on offer, from your everyday basic lunch fare to your classier sit-down options.

Coffee: 7/10. Pleasing and accommodating.

Ambience: Pretty quiet and chilled. We were surrounded by other restaurants/cafes, but in our little sheltered corner there wasn’t much going on… bar the craziness on our table. Suited us just fine 😉

People: Friends and couples catching up from what I could spy inside.

Staff: Friendly, and helped with our questions.

Price: I have no idea! My cousin shouted! However, the menu will have likely changed from our dining experience to the posting of this review, so best to check out their website at https://www.switchlifestyle.com.au/ And also keep in mind any current covid restrictions while you’re there.

Advice: I can’t think of any, other to say if it bothers you that it’s quieter during the day, visit them on weekends or at night, and if you prefer the quiet… well a Friday afternoon seems calm enough. 😉

In a nutshell: I think this is a great stopping point between shopping or movie watching, a resting place to catch-up with friends, or simply somewhere to indulge in a really lovely lunch. And the dedicated kids menu, means that I am more likely to Switch on over to their dining next time I’m in the area. 😁

Switch Lifestyle Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Slow steps are still steps

“The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.” – Paulo Coelho.

This quote greeted me today as I sat down to work from my desk at home. I managed to smile somewhat amused, while wondering –

“Does the same apply if you’ve fallen 216 times… and it wasn’t just in this COVID year?”

“Shouldn’t getting up then, be harder?”

The answer came to me, like a whisper in the air…

‘Falling down that many times should make it easier.’

Tonight’s sunset. Possibly the last I will snap for this year. A year that has been rife with drama, heartache, loss, sadness, frustration, and SO much sickness.

I, like many, are heading into the new year VERY cautiously. I do like the idea of a fresh slate, but remember, the construction of life, of time, into days weeks months years, is a human construction.

One digit in the year date changing, does not mean things will magically change.

We, US, have the power to change our life and our state, every day, every hour, and every minute with our decisions.

Scary stuff, right?

As a kid I always wanted to know SO BAD, what was going to happen to me in my life? Where would I end up? What would I do? Who would I be surrounded with?

I’ve come to realise that we just aren’t meant to know.

Life can be seriously scary, and the last few years have shown me that. Tell a person the obstacles, hardships and frustrations they will encounter over the next few years, and they will likely collapse and die… and I am not even exaggerating. People would just give up. Cry mercy and throw their hands in the air, throw in the towel as it were.

Nothing.

So instead, we know nothing. This is how it is meant to be. This is how we get through life.

Slowly. Minute by minute.

Hour by hour.

Day by day.

Step by step.

Living in the present moment. Being in it wholeheartedly. Dedicating ourselves to the nature of just being, and by being in that space, finding that slowly, but surely, we are inching forward.

That is my plan for the new year. Really, my only plan.

We can’t guess, nor can we assume to know what will happen. It would be ridiculous to. And this past year has shown us ALL, how we really do know nothing.

It might be good. It might be bad. Likely, it will be both.

But how much of either, and when, and how?

Don’t fret.

As the sun soon sets on the day which many people will celebrate the end of, remember…

It’s all in your head. Sure, have fun in the moment. God knows we deserve it.

But remember, each day…

Step, by step.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Getting to Christmas amidst a pandemic

I had to question myself the other day, only days before the big festive day.

“Why was I so behind in Christmas preparations when we had been in iso over half the year?”

Why wasn’t I prepared?

Why didn’t I get to it earlier?

What was I doing ALL THAT TIME?

It’s enough to make you feel down and unaccomplished, especially in comparison to those that share their Christmas achievements, way from, I don’t know, OCTOBER.

But it’s been a tough year. A tough year for many. A tough year for ALL.

Like something I read on social media… we have all been in different boats. Some of us went through the pandemic in a fully-manned yacht… others were swept up in the storm from within the rickety confines of their dinghy.

Everyone has had such a different journey, so it’s important not to compare their covid boat ride, with yours.

Just like all of life, really.

We are all on a different life journey. Things will happen at different times for ALL of us.

We will be sad when others are happy, and vice versa.

We will be well when others are sick.

And vice versa.

Personally, I had both good and bad. Good in that I was fortunate enough to get a job just as the lockdown began.

Bad in that I experienced a bevy of health problems that manifested physically, and then caused me a great deal of mental stress.

When you throw in the worries, routines, and schedules of all those around you – children, partners, parents, family, friends…

No wonder we have barely held on.

I am here to tell you.. if you’ve managed to get to Christmas by the skin of your teeth… it’s ok.

This is your journey, remember. Be easy on yourself.

Look after yourself this holiday season. Be kind to others, but most importantly yourself.

You are here. You have survived. That is more than enough.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. 🎄🎅💖💪

How it feels when waiting for feedback

What are the feels when you give away your most prized possession?

How are the insides of your body, every second, every minute, every hour, of EVERY SINGLE DAY?

How do you cope, knowing someone is out there, casting a seriously discerning eye over your soul’s work, while you are there…

Alone. Wondering. Waiting.

If you aren’t a writer, here are some other-worldly scenarios that you might be able to relate to.

WAITING FOR FEEDBACK…

It’s like getting to the train station on time, but the train leaves as you reach the platform.

Photo by Fabrizio Verrecchia on Pexels.com

It’s waiting all night for dessert, but then you throw up, and everyone else eats the cake anyway.

It’s giving someone your newborn child… and then they don’t call to tell you how the baby is going. And then they leave the country.

Photo by Ksenia Chernaya on Pexels.com

It’s having your arm hanging out the window of a fast car, flailing about wildly, and the driver won’t slow down no matter how loud you scream.

It’s someone taking the last bite of your favourite meal. Without asking.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

It’s calling someone repeatedly on their phone, but only getting through to their voicemail.

It’s the ellipses (…) being a permanent part of your every day life.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

But finally, waiting for feedback is like being in a seemingly unending lockdown that has no definite end date.

Waiting. Just waiting.

Hold on… 🤔

Photo by Felipe Cespedes on Pexels.com

(Inspired by life, but not intended for anyone in my life… I promise 😉 )

No Sookie, just La La

Sookie La La

593 High Street Northcote

(Visited October ’18)

I didn’t know where I would be led that day as I travelled to the other side of town after having dropped off baby girl at kinder for the day. But what I did know was that I was meeting my old work colleague who was on maternity leave… meeting her, and NOW her new bub.

As it happened, I met her at her place and we then walked a couple blocks to High Street to get a bite to eat…

And suddenly, history was repeating itself.

Because she and I were going to a café to eat with her newborn… and SO many years earlier, she had met me in a café to catch up with me on MY maternity leave, while my newborn accompanied – baby girl. 😍

Now we were in Northcote. Then we were in Northcote.

That was MY FIRST FOOD REVIEW on this blog.

And so it all comes back to the start.

She led me to a place called Sookie la la – so appropriate with her baby in tow. Alas, her bub was a gorgeous boy and did no such thing, although he probably was a tad jelly with all of our caffeine consumption at times.

It’s a scaled-back café right on High Street, think understated industrial fittings, painted brick walls and signs of the building’s age with decorative cornices and the back door hanging askew 🤣

But it’s very much your simple local café, and that is where the simple-ness STOPS.

Because these guys are very much trying to give you a heart-attack.

They had this American-styled classic diner with throwback to brekkie and lunch meals that you would swear would make you question what red/white and blue flag you were travelling within.

Southern-style options, lots of chilli, and options like sloppy joes fit the bill and paint the picture. The biggest image for me though? Their Elvis French Toast – with banana, bacon, maple and peanut butter.

MWA HA HA. So wickedly wrong and GOOD at the same time.

But that wasn’t the one I went for that day. Instead I went for the just as indulgent –

Brekky Brioche – Scrambled eggs, bacon, bell pepper and chipotle relish… with the optional potato gems too.

Why the hell not when in an American classic café, eat as they do too.

Accompanied by my ol’ faithful… cappuccino.

It was such a moist, soft and juicy burger! So delicious, but also, SO MUCH BEIGE ON A PLATE. Oh man. I couldn’t even get through all my potato gems, and realised the error of my excited eyes at the end, looking at my half-eaten plate like –

Why did I do that?

Besides the stuffing myself beyond breaking point part, this café serves up comfort food at its finest. The relish was a great contrast against the bacon and egg, and that bun…. So soft! Incredible.

And the bacon was clean! Like no gross fatty bits, just nice, clean bacon… just the way I like it 😉

But it was so good… I went on a fast food detox after that meal. It inspired it. So like, be warned.

Food: 8/10. For what they do in comfort food, incredible. For what they do to your waistline, also unbelievable 😂 It’s a great, satisfying ‘treat yo-self’ place.

Coffee: 8/10. Coffee in the burbs of ‘almost’ inner city Melbourne… you never disappoint. 💖

Ambience: Chilled and cas on that weekday, quiet with soft background music filtering through the café.

People: There were locals popping in (like my colleague and ‘almost’ former local, me!) with other friends meeting for brunch and lunch too.

Staff: You know the creative type, who only works to pay their bills so they can play in bands, busk, paint sidewalks on the weekend? They are too cool to serve you your eggs on bread but they MUST? Yeah, kinda like that, but with occasional smiles.

Price: I have no idea as my colleague shouted me! But individually my burger was $12, VERY decent in price (actually too cheap if I dare to say it!) and my coffee about $4. Awesome and reasonable prices here.

Advice: It’s the place to go after a break up, to catch up on goss with friends, in cold weather… or simply for a taste of yester-year.

But DON’T come here if you’re on a diet.

In a nutshell: A really interesting diner-style cafe that fits right into the creative and eclectic side of town that is Northcote. Although currently on a health kick, I wouldn’t go right now, but every phase of life passes and different things come up again, and the need for an Elvis themed French toast may arise AT ANY MOMENT… just saying… you never know.

Afterword: I always hate finding out that a place I went to closed before I had a chance to post my review… alas Sookie La La has stuck to its name and seems to have shed its tears with signs of permanent closure mentioned online. But I still post these reviews because I hope somewhere, in the infinite space of online web, that there is someone who will see it and realise it is not a lost cause, and it may just reopen somewhere, sometime…

Because comfort is something we all need at one point or another. If this place does pop up again, do be sure to check it out.

Sookie La La Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Magic of Creativity

ELIZABETH GILBERT – Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

“A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner – continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you – is a fine art, in and of itself.”

I actually bought this book for a friend, as part of a KK present in 2015. She LOVED it, having viewed Gilbert’s TED talks online, and eagerly took it all in, before kindly offering to lend it to me.

I’d had no intention of reading it. I didn’t know much about Gilbert, I hadn’t seen her online TED talks, and I hadn’t even read Eat, Pray, Love. I know. Am I even a woman?

Yet, when I read Big Magic, I felt like this book was truly meant for me.

That story in itself is one kind of Big Magic there. 😉

This is a book for all creative souls, and don’t be mistaken for thinking that you are NOT one of them, or cannot be creative in any form. Creativity doesn’t just appear to artists, writers, actors and musicians: it is there in the kitchen, at the needle and thread. It is in your garden, on the running track, and out in the wilderness. Creativity comes in an endless amount of arenas, in fact, it is EVERYWHERE, and the purpose of this book is Gilbert setting out to help you find that Big Magic of yours, whatever that may be – and giving you the purpose and courage to just go for it.

“All I know for certain is that this is how I want to spend my life – collaborating to the best of my ability with forces of inspiration that I can neither see, nor prove, nor command, nor understand.

It’s a strange line of work, admittedly.

I cannot think of a better way to pass my days.”

Gilbert puts forward the case that a creative life, is the only life to live. And I have to agree, as a fellow writer (I am declaring myself, as she says you must) this book was like “yep, yep, yep” for me. But you don’t need to be a writer to enjoy this book, or find a sense of kinship in the stories she puts forward. It is an entertaining read, very easy to follow and hard to put down, and her conversational style lets you flip page after page after page quite easily. Her examples and self-rules are appropriate for all creative endeavours, and she basically thinks you should just do what you want to do, no matter what.

“Begin anywhere. Preferably right now.”

Creativity, and the act of fulfilling what it is you love to do, is the reward in itself. Putting the pressure on your creativity, whatever it may be, to pave your way through life and pay your bills, is a huge and unfortunate act, and a horrible burden for your creativity to endure. The act of doing what it is you love is the reward itself, and Gilbert said it best, when she spoke about a time of her life when she was not being published:

“The rewards had to come from the joy of puzzling out the work itself, and from the private awareness I held that I had chosen a devotional path and I was being true to it. If someday I got lucky enough to be paid for my work, that would be great, but in the meantime, money could always come from other places.”

She also told the story of a friend of hers who had returned to figure skating in her 40s – after giving up on the sport when she was younger, realising she wasn’t going to be winning any medals. However she loved the sport, and would get up a few hours before work to figure skate to her hearts content.

The story is a realistic one too, in that her friend did not quit her job or sign on with an Olympic coach after rediscovering her dream – the creative living is in the fact itself, that is the reward, and no ‘awards’ are needed.

Because, you can pursue your dream and live to your hearts purpose, living out the days of your life with joy, as Gilbert puts it:

“Anyhow, what else are you going to do with your time here on earth – not make things? Not do interesting stuff? Not follow your love and your curiosity?”

Otherwise, she offers up this juicy dare:

“There is always that alternative, after all. You have free will. If creative living becomes too difficult or too unrewarding for you, you can stop whenever you want.”

Ha! Not a fat chance in hell. I’m in this for the long haul… are you? 😉

But I’m scared! you cry out. Gilbert covers that too. She paints a picture of fear as boring. Something I had never considered before, but when she explains that humans and animals are all afraid of the unknown, and that that in itself is nothing extraordinary or special… well then that fear becomes very boring. The object of fear most likely differs between human/animal, sure… but it is still fear. So same same, so unoriginal, just another “mass-produced item.”

We all need fear to survive, it’s human nature, it’s a survival tactic. But creatively speaking, we do not need it in that arena. It is mute, unnecessary.

She says how Harper Lee did not write for decades after writing To Kill a Mockingbird, because she was scared of how she would out-do its success! Fear kept her from writing, when writing in itself is the reward. Imagine if she had only forged through her fear and written on, what do you think she could have produced? We will never know.

Rather than waiting for your genius to hit… you must head out there and get onto your passion, because guess what? Your genius is waiting for YOU.

“There are people out there who still consider Beethoven’s symphonies a little bit too, you know, loud.”

And no matter what you do, there will always be that one person. That one, measly person, (1, if you are lucky), who finds fault in what you do. You cannot be in charge or control what other people think of you, and Gilbert says it is none of your business anyway. Let them have their own passionate opinions about you, just as you have your own passionate opinions about them. The only thing you are in charge of, is creating your own work. That’s it. It’s the only sane way to live.

And what to do, if someone is really, truly, attacking your work and everything about you? Gilbert sums it up absolutely perfectly.

“Just smile sweetly and suggest – as politely as you possibly can – that they go make their own fucking art.

Then stubbornly continue making yours.”

She swears. I fucking love the gal.

“Your art not only doesn’t have to be original, in other words; it also doesn’t have to be important.”

I hear you sister. When I decided that in order to become a writer, I had to embody writing as something I did in EVERY day of my life (years later and I’m still posting regular content on SmikG and carcrashgratitude) I wasn’t concerned with how it was going to heal the world. I had, and still have an expression that needed to come out, I wanted to share my views with the world, on writing, on coffee, on Motherhood, on whatever the hell shit me or made me so inexplicably grateful that day, and I never really asked myself ‘is this really important?’ To some, probably no. To me, it is what I love to do, and so if it makes me happy, if it means I can express myself as I wish and get a great sense of fulfilment in doing so, in just being me…

Well then, why the hell not?

I think what she is trying to say, is don’t get caught up in the whys and hows, worried that what you are doing is not going to save somebody else’s life. Creativity is an important part of everyone’s existence whether they realise it or not, and the world needs humour, insight, honesty and flair to keep them going on going.

And though you may think it has all been said, or done before… maybe it has, but not with your unique take on it. Only you can say it, or do it, as YOU can.

You have to do whatever it is that is within you, because of YOU. Because you have something that has to be said. To be expressed. No one else has this, just you.

“You are worthy, dear one, regardless of the outcome. You will keep making your work, regardless of the outcome. You will keep sharing your work, regardless of the outcome. You were born to create, regardless of the outcome. You will never lose trust in the creative process, even when you don’t understand the outcome.”

She offers up some fabulous bits of advice, some of which I carry close to me as I write, or just generally as I go about life… firstly, no one else cares. Not in the vindictive sense – but a freeing way of thinking about your life, and doing what you want to do, is to remove yourself from the idea that people are so concerned about everything you are doing – chances are they probably don’t think of you as much as what you think. They are too busy building up their own lives and doing their own thing, they don’t have time to stop and ponder hard about what your next move will be, and how it will affect them. So just worry about yourself.

Secondly, you will fail. But when you do, do not bother with the whys and hows of it – just pick yourself up and move on with the next project. Dwelling will only make things worse. Own it, and just move on.

Which brings me to another great question…

“What would you do even if you knew that you might very well fail?”

Hmm that puts things in perspective doesn’t it? She offers this up in a different form, rephrased by the writer Mark Manson, who asked “what’s your favourite flavour of shit sandwich?” This sounds absurd, right, but just take a moment to think about it… what are you willing to put up with the most, and what are you so passionate about that you don’t care about the cons of what it is you are trying to do? That my friends, is your flavour of shit sandwich.

How bad do you want ‘it?’ Like Gilbert said when a friend of hers didn’t want to write anymore, because he didn’t like the results (awards) he got from it, leaving her hungrily eyeing off his uneaten shit sandwich! How much, do you want it? It’s a telling question (and answer) indeed.

A terrific idea Gilbert brought forth in this book was the concept of ideas, and them owning us, choosing us to manifest themselves through, rather than us discovering them. They live around us, with the whole purpose of their being to be made material through us, and they will try and catch our attentions through all manner of ways. Sometimes we catch the signs… sometimes we don’t. And when we miss them, they will simply move onto another willing participant.

It certainly explains the phenomenon, of two people in different places having the same idea. Or how you think up a great idea or invention, and then months later it is advertised or on the market, and you say “that could have been me!” Well it could have been, but you didn’t want it bad enough, so the idea left you. Sheesh, harsh there.

Gilbert offered up one story regarding herself, and an idea she had… and then how the idea went away because she had not been focusing on it for a while… only to later learn the exact idea had now been brought into existence by a fellow writer friend of hers!

Why, that sounds like Magic! Big Magic to be precise. I’ll let you read the actual book for the full details, but it is one of those stories that you just can’t get your head around, it’s that terrifically fantastical.

One name for this is multiple discovery, a term used in the scientific field. It is when the same idea appears in two different places at the same time, and a lovely way to explain it is:

“When the time is ripe for certain things, they appear at different places, in the manner of violets coming to light in early spring.”

I have always in some way believed this, and I don’t even know how this thought of mine came to being or where I got it from. But once an idea is out there, it is ripe for the picking!

This made me think, A LOT. I was stressing for a good while over the book I wrote, that had just been hanging around on my laptop waiting for me to do it over, or send it to someone, for ages. Her take on ideas moving around drove me to push on, because I don’t know what I would’ve done if my idea went away from me! I owe my idea, my book, that much!

I have ideas though that have stayed with me for so long, so I don’t know what Gilbert would say about that… my ideas love me? They don’t want to leave me even though I rarely have time for them? I believe with her theory while still feeling it’s unfinished, incomplete, with some work in progress exemptions to it. 😉

Believing in an other-worldly force, like ideas playing with us, is not an overall novel concept… the Romans for example, didn’t believe that people were geniuses. They believed a person HAD a genius, a muse as it were.

Are you responsible for your incredible thoughts, visions, imageries? Or is it your Muse who should really be accepting all praise/blame? Keeps that ego in check doesn’t it?

“I have chosen to believe that a desire to be creative was encoded into my DNA for reasons I will never know, and that creativity will not go away from me unless I forcibly kick it away, or poison it dead.”

I couldn’t agree with her more. Something has always happened to lead me back to writing, and one of the classic examples was one night many many many years ago, when Hubbie asked me what I would do if I had no boundaries, what would be my ultimate vocation, and so the wheels started turning from way back then. I think it’s important for us to go on this creative journey and find what it is that makes us happy, and then go about our lives DOING THAT THING. It IS about the journey, and not the outcome, because at the end of it all, isn’t that what it’s all about? Living a fulfilled and happy life?

I’ll end on the most terrific story.

Many years ago Gilbert’s uncle went to see the writer Richard Ford at a bookstore appearance. During a Q&A, a man in the crowd asked Ford why he was so successful with his writings, when the man himself was the same age as Ford, wrote the same themes as Ford, had a similar background to Ford, and yet still did not have the same success as Ford! He wanted some advice, but asked – please, don’t tell me to persevere, that only makes me feel worse.

Ford replied that he would never tell him to persevere; instead he told him to quit. The crowd was stunned. Ford went on to say that clearly, writing gave him no pleasure, and life was too short to be miserable during it. He told him to find new hobbies, find new things to do “but don’t write anymore, because it’s obviously killing you.”

And then.

“If you happen to discover, after a few years away from writing, that you have found nothing that takes its place in your life – nothing that fascinates you, or moves you, or inspires you to the same degree that writing once did… well then, sir, I’m afraid you will have no choice but to persevere.”

CHILLS CHILLS CHILLS.

You’re welcome.

Please let me know your thoughts on Big Magic in the comments below, I would love to discuss with you 😊

A whale of a holiday

The Whaler

39 Salamanca Place Battery Point Hobart

(Visited August ’18)

It was our last night in Hobart, and somehow again, the struggle was real.It continued, because again we were at a loss as to where to eat on the apple aisle.

Only we didn’t want fruit… we wanted DINNER.Most of the bars/eateries in Salamanca Place were geared for friends and locals, not so much for families. We were brought inside places and showed where we would sit… at a table with high-stools… it just wouldn’t work! Baby girl would fall off it, damn it!

Baby girl would fall off it, damn it!

At first we were reluctant to head into The Whaler, with that younger just-out-of-high-school crowd, a bouncer out front, and of course it was also that the building looked like it had been picked up out of Brunswick Melbourne and plopped down at the corner of Salamanca Place.

We were wary. Was it appropriate with a child in tow?

But once we went inside to check out the menu, we found out that not only was there a kids menu (shock horror!), but we were allowed to eat inside with her if we wanted… something about kids being in a licensed venue, I don’t know. I mean I wasn’t going to order her a beer… I’ll wait ‘til she’s about 9 for that.

(Totally joking).

It didn’t matter though, because we chose to sit outside. We had fresh air and lo and behold, no stools. Just benches. Inside seemed rowdier and we were just happy to have a meal and drink on our last night on this most interesting of holiday locations.

I ordered all of our drinks and food up at the bar (a la inner city Melbs pub style!) and then we proceeded to sit back, relax, take in the Saturday night Salamanca vibe and reminisce on what the last 5 days had been like.

Our drinks helped us think back over the past week.

A ’16 Beautiful Isle Pinot Noir for me, and a Cascade Lager for Hubbie

Searching for parking on Davey street along Salamanca Place…

Getting lost on the highways and looping right on Tasman hwy instead of turning right on Domain highway…. REPEATEDLY…

Struggling to find decent takeaway food…

Dealing with a sick baby girl for a day and a half…

Having the sunrise wake us nice and early at 7am if we were lucky, due to the non-existent blinds…

The hills…

The water…

The views from our rental in Lutana…

The fact that everything was cheaper!

Port Arthur, lookout points, meeting real-life animals up close at ZooDoo…

Discovering art and everything deep and dark at Mona.

Nah, yeah. The verdict was clear. We loved Hobart. 💖🥰

Baby girl watched youtube with her recently acquired fairy doll in fairy shop (an absolute must for fairy girls!) and glittery lip balm. Because as a 5 year-old you just don’t know who you will see in Hobart City on a Saturday night. 😉

We were happy when the food finally arrived. Happy because it looked great and also tasted just as good.

I had the special of Fair Market Fish, which was Silver Warehou from Tasmania, with fries and aioli

Hubbie had the 250g Cape Grim Scotch Fillet, with thick cut chips, charred greens, and single malt mushroom sauce

While baby girl had the ½ serve Fish and Chips

We were actually really impressed with the quality of baby girl’s fish pieces, more so since it wasn’t the classic family-catering place, despite the small kids menu on offer. She enjoyed it too as she nibbled while watching Elsia and Anya on youtube. Ahh kid life.

My fish fillets were also delicious accompanied by the chips and aioli, and although at the end of the day it was still your simple fish and chips, tasting the quality of the product like in baby girl’s meal, was impressive.

Hubbie enjoyed his steak. He said for a pub meal it was what he’d expected, but still, he was satisfied.

We felt relieved and happy once our tummies were full, glad we had made the right choice… Yeah! Since we had already paid, all we had to do was walk over to the rental, and then go back to start thinking about packing… 😬

Food: 7.5/10. It was surprisingly good for a pub-style place like that, bringing us memories of our inner-city town back home.

Coffee: N/A.

Ambience: Actually really quiet outside, surprisingly for a Saturday night. Wonder how the place fares in the warmer months. A couple of groups of friends, mostly teens and 20-somethings, were gathered outside at one stage but that was it. It was happening inside though, everyone seemed to be there.

People: As mentioned, the younger crowd, think out of high school teens and uni students, 20-somethings and those looking for a good meal with their pint of locally brewed beer. There was a kid in the bar with family though (shock horror, I know!)

Staff: The lady I ordered with and then subsequent waiters who brought us our food were all super lovely.

Price: $95. What? Under $100? For alcoholic drinks and 3 meals? They’ve broken away from mainland Aus not just in shared territory but in prices too…

Advice: This is a great place to hang out with friends, a cas night where you can enjoy some drinks, as well as know for sure the food quality will match.

In a nutshell: This one was the surprise underdog for me. It impressed with its great drink and food options, the major plus being baby girl’s food was better than your usual frozen nuggets on a plate – in fact nothing like it at all! And to end our Hobart visit like this, to be positively influenced and stunned all in one…

Well it kind of was the overall theme of our trip there. Pleasantly surprised, as we’ve found a new place to love.

We can’t wait to come back. 😊

The Whaler Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato