Stars

Some stuff I’ve come across while browsing online for Christmas present ideas. My problem is that I keep discovering stuff that I would like, and not necessarily things for the people that I’m shopping for:

– For photographers, mugs that look exactly like Canon and Nikon lenses. And the Nikon one zooms. Too cool.

– For people like me, pirate mug! And pirate iPhone/iPod case!

Squishy bowls! For people who like squishy things.

Bullet casing earrings. Or if bullets aren’t your thing, maybe an octopus cuff bracelet? Or maybe some clockwork?

– Bookmarks! Silver and personalised. Brass with a pretty dangly thing.

Wallets for tea bags? Huh. Or a wallet for guys, with a bee. I am into insects at the moment.

Messenger bag – I am also into little leather straps. And bags with birds on. And bags made of wool. And bags with red suede. And hemp bags with bows.

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Early mornings

I have decided that I live too far from Brisbane to do the Bridge to Brisbane again. I am not sufficiently enthusiastic about the event to make getting up at 3.45am worthwhile. I don’t particularly enjoy hanging around in a crowd of thousands of people, waiting for everyone to start making their way over the bridge. And having to honk at drunken revellers still enjoying their night out and staggering around in the middle of the road is just depressing.

As I was getting into the car to leave, there were about four small explosions from a neighbouring property, followed by the sound of every dog in hearing beginning to bark. And there are a lot of dogs around here. It was a very noisy way for the day to begin.

As there were no further noises, like screams or shouts, I thought it probably wasn’t necessary to do anything further about it. Life in a rural area – breezes in the trees, bird song, and the occasional explosion at 3.45am.

Keeping cool

Using some of the limes I bought on the weekend, and cooling down with water filled with sliced limes and mint leaves. I was drinking this while watching news of the terrible bushfires in Victoria. My parents (and me, although I was far too young to have any memory of it) left their home behind to be destroyed in the Ash Wednesday fires, and I always think of their stories of that time when I hear news of bushfires.

Apples & limes

At the fruit & vegie store this week – cheap limes, and lovely green apples. They look beautiful in the big blue glass bowl that I use for our fruit.

Mum, living in the midst of the floods that are covering half the state, told me that last time she went to the supermarket all the lights turned off in the fresh produce section – no fresh supplies have been able to get through the flooded areas. I am glad she has her vegetable garden.

Book Round-Up for 2008

In 2007, I read 173 books. I was aiming, in a vague sort of way, for a total of 200 books in 2008 (just for the pleasure of the round number). However, I didn’t quite make it – instead I read 183 books in 2008, including audio books.

Best Nostalgic Journey

I start re-reading the Chalet School books by Elinor Brent-Dyer, a mammoth series of books that runs to about 60 volumes. I began with The School at the Chalet, and got to book 26, Carola Storms the Chalet School, only skipping a few rare volumes I couldn’t get hold off. My enthusiasm for the books has waned the further I go on in the series, particularly as new characters are introduced who are exact echoes of the first characters. I rather prefer the first characters to those who come after, but alas, they all grow up, get married, and usually vanish from the storyline.

Best Book with a Mission

Scarlett Thomas’ PopCo might be a book with a message, and a wee bit moralistic for my taste, but it’s also a fantastic story about cryptography, marketing and ethics for the modern age. I enjoyed it so much it led me on to No Logo, Naomi Klein’s book about globalisation and marketing and the rise of sweatshop labour.

Worst Book

I read several dreadful fantasy novels, but the hands-down worst novel I read in 2008 has to be Breaking Dawn, the final book in Stephenie Meyer’s best-selling series. One of the worst cases ever of an author inserting her religious and personal moral message into a fantasy book, of all things. I mean, who decides to use a book about vampires to create their perfect Morman marriage? The plot development and characters are also laughable. Any book that makes you visibly cringe while reading goes on the Worst Book of the Year list.

Best New Author

There were a few new discoveries, including Ellis Peters and his Brother Cadfael novels, Patricia Briggs’ novels about werewolves, and Patrick Rothfuss’ debut novel The Name of the Wind (which I loved despite its use of fantasy cliches). Oh, and Tana French’s debut, In the Woods, a brilliant mystery.

Most Long Awaited

The Stone Key, of course, the penultimate book in practically the longest running series of all time, Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn Chronicles. I was terrified Isobelle might die or something before finally writing an ending to this very convoluted tale – and although it’s not the most brilliantly written book, I loved it all the same.

Best Guilty Pleasure

Hands down, Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels, which I picked up after getting hooked on True Blood, the recent TV series based on the books. They’re pretty trashy and Charlaine needs a better editor, but I love ’em. I’m reading through the series way too quickly.

Best Audio Book

I really enjoyed The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, a creepy mystery written in the 1860s that went for about 20 CDs. It’s the perfect sort of book to listen to though – you can let the language roll over you, and the narrator of the version I listened to did a great job, particularly with soft voiced Count Fosco.

And for next year? I’m going to continue plunging on through the volumes of Chalet School books, as I’ve had a few months off and I feel ready to venture back in. My mother introduced me to JD Robb at Christmas (Nora Roberts’ futuristic-thriller persona), so I think I might be reading a few of her books, and I’ve got several non-fiction books about brain function on hold at the library, just for fun.

Bubbles

We spent Christmas at the farm in Daintree, the whole family (in a way). I don’t know if we still call it the farm, as it’s hardly an accurate description – but “at the nature refuge” doesn’t have quite the same ring.

It’s been many years since we were all together for a celebration up north, and it was a particularly special time, I think, filled as usual with a lot of hysterical laughter. I got given Balderdash, which I had never played before, and currently it’s rating up there as a particularly awesome present and most fun thing to do on Boxing Day.

Transition

I’m doing Triathlon Pink on the Gold Coast next weekend, an all-women’s triathlon raising money for breast cancer. It’s not a full triathlon – I think I might die if I attempted to do a full triathlon – and there’s three different lengths you can do. I’m doing the longest version – a 300m swim, in a pool, a 9k bike ride and a 3k run.

I’ve been training away, mostly at the gym, and on Wednesday for the first time I did the full distances of everything as a trial run (except I did about 1k in the pool because my training buddy and I were enjoying the swim and thought we’d just keep going). It was all manageable, and I’m sure I’ll be able to handle the real thing without collapsing, as long as I don’t have my gears up too high during the bike leg and tire myself out before the run.

I’m more worried about the whole transition area thing, and forgetting something when leaping on my bike and being disqualified (from a charity race. Yep, I’m good at finding completely pointless things to worry about.) I’m not good at being cool and collected when rushing around in an unfamiliar situation. That’s when I do things like reversing the car into the house – not my greatest moment. (Um, it was a new house – I’m fairly familiar with driving cars.)  Anyway, I’ve got over a week to continue to fret about all the things that can go wrong during transition, and figure out a way to get my goggles to stop fogging up.  The spit regime isn’t working.

“Running”

My workplace has a personal trainer come in twice a week, and I’ve been taking advantage of the sessions, which work me far harder than I work myself at the gym.  I’ve been working harder at the gym as a result because now if I don’t feel exhausted at the end of a session I feel rather lazy.

I’m doing the Bridge to Brisbane this year (also with a group from work – it’s rather motivating working with a group of people who do crazy things like run to work), and have been trying to train a little so that I can do the 10ks without being agonisingly slow.  However, I can’t bring myself to tell people I’m going for a run without feeling the urge to put interted commas around “run”.

I’ve been roughly following the Couch to 5k program, the beginning of which is embarrasingly close to my present fitness level.  The DJ Beatsmith podcasts for the program are good.  I’ve been unable to find any podcasts that aren’t techno, unfortunately, as I find techno incredibly boring.  I did find a guide to creating your own interval running mixes, so I might have a go at that at some point.