Friday, March 27, 2015

Books that Majorities Should Read

What is it like to be the odd one out?

For most of my readers (I am assuming here) we are used to being in the majority we haven't been refugees, or the odd face in the sea of faces that are similar. I think it's important for majorities to do all they can to understand what it is to feel on the outer.

I was really interested to read Cat Thao Nguyen's moving memoir We Are Here. Nguyen is born in Thailand in a red cross refugee camp after her parents made the extremely treacherous journey on foot from Vietnam through the jungle of the Khmer Rouge Cambodia to escape persecution. Eventually they find themselves in Sydney with nothing except a sarong gifted by the man who risked his life to get them across the border into Thailand.

When I started this read I thought I might end up overwhelmed and unable to finish but Nguyen has such a vivid and captivating voice that I actually read this one very quickly, I usually find memoirs slow going. By the end of the book I was a little bit in love with the author and I'd still be very keen to have her for dinner! I have talked about the book with so many people since I have finished it.

Mostly, I finished the book so challenged about the ways in which we as a community, and more specifically me as a individual, reach out and make connections with new arrivals. It helps to paint the picture of how huge a transition it is to arrive somewhere that everything, every single thing, is alien and foreign and you have to start from the very bottom. So often I thought, where was a local family who could have just given a friendly word, advocated, passed down hand-me-downs?... It's made me want to get more involved in the lives of people around me.

It's also made me realise again how much pressure is carried by children who have to play adult roles in order to keep the family moving and accessing information and how important it is for us (majorities) to try to make the way as easy as possible.

There is something in this story for everyone - my favourite parts were when Nguyen Speaks about seeing a photographic installation of Vietnamese sewing rooms around the world and the power of recognition that moved her to tears, "He delivered to me the type of validation that comes with a published artwork carrying the core themes of one's life... it was the beginning of my understanding of the transformative and healing powers of creative art." There are some pages folded over and underlined in my copy.

So much good stuff. This book has the power to tell stories that need to be told.... stories that are the backbone of emerging new societies in every country around the world. The world is ours to share and we need people who can translate it for us when we can't understand it and who will hold up painful truths that we need to acknowledge.

I applaud and congratulate Nguyen on a wonderful, moving book that has challenged and inspired me on many levels. And I'd like her to know - I have a space for her in my diary if she's ever in Adelaide.

Details - Allen and Unwin Feb 2015, RRP $24.99 available as an ebook. Many thanks for this book in my mailbox.

love you more than a book that has folded corners xxx

Thursday, March 26, 2015

13/52 Another Vogue 8469

Last year I made Vogue 8469 which I lengthened. To date it has been one of my most worn items. So I was keen to repeat the process.

Initially I thought I would make another maxi dress but the fabric made me think that I might end up looking like I was straight out of a holly hobby photo shoot (in a bad way, not sure that there would be a good way but I'm open to suggestions!).

Sadly the light in our room was most punishing for using the self timer so you are stuck with in the mirror shots.

I love this fabric, strawberries make me happy.

It is a very simple make - I lengthened the top part significantly to make it over the ladies and gave it a little extra width as well. Aside from inserting a zip (which isn't tricky) I think this is a great beginners dress. The design makes it flattering for the curvy lady and the aline skirt hides all sorts of bits and pieces as well.

What is your favourite dress silhouette?

love you more than strawberries and cream xxx

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Iron Necklace - reading

Hi y'all

So I am continuing with my great commitment to read, read, read (making up for lost years when I was studying and only read what I had to, was working and felt too exhausted, was mummying smalls and couldn't manage anything!).

The Iron Necklace by Giles Waterfield is a novel that crosses generations and borders. The book opens in the years immediately before world war one. Irene - English, marries Thomas - German, bringing their families together and leading her to settle in Germany. As the novel unfolds each of the characters is drawn into the war, lines are drawn and loyalties are challenged.

The novel moves between members of both families and how they respond to the war. Mainly the story is Irene's and to a lesser extent her granddaughter Pandora's. As Irene's loyalty is tested does she side with her husband and his family or her country and her family?

The novel is one that lingers, threads of different stories weave together to make the whole and of course there is the awful knowledge for the reader of just what will unfold for the characters in the second world war - which is not directly dealt with.

I enjoyed this novel - it's more high brow than chic lit and the characters are complex. If it was up to me I would have added some kind of family tree or list of characters at the beginning because there were so many that it took me a while to work out where I was each time the narrative moved to a new character.

A good read for anyone who likes complex family stories and historical settings. Winter evenings with a steaming cup of something hot. I'll be recommending it to my mama.

Details - Allen and Unwin Feb 2015 RRP $29.99 also available as an ebook.
thanks to A&U for keeping my reading varied and well stocked.

love you more than a perfectly described piece of jewellery xxx

Monday, March 23, 2015

12/52 - Swing Ball or Totem Tennis?

Apparently it's the same thing depending on what side of the Tasman you're on!

We found this super cute spot right next to a new cafe we were trying out after a bike ride through the parklands.

Beautiful cafe

beautiful setting

love you more than menus you can colour in xxx

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Yeah I Made It - 12/52 Kimono Top

Hello lovelies,

I made 3 of these tops just before we left for Adelaide from a self-made pattern. They are my go-top top with jeans or a denim skirt combo.

Shapeless but colourful and easy to wear - although usually still a little warm for the summer and spring here.

This one is stretch at the back and a piece of fabric I was given by a friend when she was clearing out her fabric stash (I love it when that happens!).

I call it my Monet top.

Simple, easy to wear, nice colours - not the most flattering thing in my wardrobe but I don't really care.

Do you have a go-to garment that ticks most of the boxes?

love you more than ready made bias binding xxx

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

books everyone should read

Zafir by Prue Mason is part of a series of books called Through My Eyes, each is a stand alone novel about children living in contemporary conflict zones.

Zafir is 12 when the book opens and 14 when it closes. During that time his life and circumstances change dramatically. Once a privileged child of a well respected surgeon by the end of the novel things are hugely different (because, you know, I don't want to spoil it for you). The book is set in Syria in 2011- and accurately captures the events that unfolded during that time.

This book is well written, it feels contemporary and I know that young readers the world over will be able to relate to Zafir, his best friend Rami and Eleni. They are in essence 'ordinary kids', like those everywhere, who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances.

This year the school I teach in is made up 50% of children whose mother tongue is not English. Reading it reminded me that I have no idea of the 'whats, hows and whys' people have encountered to find themselves in a new country. We ourselves are in a new country and our whys were so easy - it may not be true for the children I meet any day in the classroom or the people I pass on the street.

As the internet shrinks the world we are faced increasingly with the reality of those who are forced to see, flee and live through terrible, terrible things. If nothing else, this story brings light and understanding the things that have recently happened, and are still happening, in Syria.

I have already recommended this book widely as a text for using with older (11+) readers in schools, the writing, the issues and the ways in which social media is used would all be excellent discussion points for a group of readers. More than that though, I think this is a book we should all read - this is our world, these are the conflicts we inherit and, as much as we can, it is important for us to really understand what it is to be caught in what was your home and is now a war zone.

If we can truly empathise with people who haven't lived our journey then surely we will build more compassion and tolerance as we move forward.

One of the most important books I have read this year. I will be seeking out the others in the series too - even though it breaks my heart to read them.

Details: Allen and Unwin, Feb 2015 RRP$15.99, also available as an ebook.

love you more than a box of tissues and a book that makes you need them xxx

Monday, March 16, 2015

11/52 - the waterfall swing

As part of the fringe festival we took the boys to a show and while we were waiting they had a turn on the waterfall swing.

Such a fantastic idea and free if you didn't mind waiting in the queue.

We made the boys take their t-shirts off so that they wouldn't be soaked all through the show afterwards.

They loved it!

love you more than a cool sprinkle on a hot day xxx