Book Club

Together with a few other NZ bloggers (Laura, Samantha, Lizzy and Madi), I’m part of a monthly book club. A book club has always appealed to the book nerd in me; so often we can get stuck in a rut of a particular genre (or author) because it’s comfortable. Having a different person choose the book each month gets me out of my zone and enjoying stories that I might not have otherwise chosen. The fantastic company, honest conversation and delicious food is none too shabby either, especially after what are sometimes challenging weeks! I thought I’d share some of our recent picks with you,

Fates & Furies


Still Alice

Written from the perspective of a patient with early-onset Alzheimers, it follows Alice’s decline from college professor into someone that struggles to remember the relationships she has with the people around her. I hadn’t seen the film so I was going into the book completely fresh. I loved that it was written from her perspective, the use of Alice as the unreliable narrator really gave me insight into what it is like for someone with the disease. As a fellow teacher and a mother, I’m not going to deny that there were moments in this book that brought tears to my eyes.

The Rosie Project

Before it was even discussed in the novel, I’d already diagnosed the protagonist, Don Tillman, with being on the autistic spectrum. Running his days with maximum efficiency, he decides to tackle his love life with the same efficiency by designing a questionnaire. A pity and a blessing then, that he falls for Rosie – one of the questionnaire’s most unsuitable candidates. I think that Simsion does an amazing job of making you love his characters. No single character in the novel is without flaw, yet he somehow makes them endearing. I didn’t expect to like this book, and it’s not one that I would have chosen on my own based on the blurb, but I really enjoyed it. So much so, I went and read the sequel straight away!

Fates and Furies

A story written in two halves, showing  a relationship from both a husband and a wife’s perspective. Covering an extraordinary span of time, it tackles the ideals of both love and honesty and makes the reader examine what it means to be truly happy. It takes a few chapters to really engage you but then it’s hard to put down. I think that Lizzy said it best when she compared it to Gone Girl – in the end, no character comes out untarnished and you think that everyone is a little bit obnoxious. Groff is not shy about showing the gritty, harsh side of her characters and it makes for engaging reading!

Do you take part in a book club? Or have any recommendations for what we should read next?



Getting back on the (healthy) horse: Progress Update

If you have been reading for a while, you will know that this year I’m hoping to get my health and fitness back on track on year – it’s not been the easiest journey but I’m getting there!


In my last post I spoke about how I’d had my fitness assessment and that it wasn’t as scary as I thought it might be. Since then, I’ve actually been making use of the weights area of the gym. I can’t believe how comparatively weak my arms are – I really thought that almost two years of lugging a baby/infant/toddler around would count for something but I am still on the very low weight settings for all my arm exercises. Where I’m noticing the most difference is in my legs – both in looks and feel. I’ve had trouble with my knee for years since an accident and yet as the muscles are tightening up, I’m not having anywhere near the patella slippage issues that I used to. Part of me is kicking myself for leaving it this long, but hey, that’s hindsight for you.

I’m feeling my best on days that I manage to knock out an hour’s cardio. Now some days that is purely done through some of the more major household chores, some days that’s at the gym. Today it will be by wrangling a toddler at the mall. But I’m noticing that if I don’t hammer out a gym session (and let’s be real, I can’t manage that every day – especially as a solo mum) then I need to get active somehow. I’d had quite a stagnant, inactive day on Tuesday and was itching to get moving by the time that CJ got up. I strapped him in his stroller and we went for a late afternoon stroll. So endorphins actually are a thing, who knew?

I feel like the more I’m active, the more I’m actually interested in being active. I had an unexpected free hour in a day of work last week that in addition with a lunch break added up to more like an hour and three-quarters. My gym was literally around the corner from the site that I was working at that day so I managed to cobble together a gym kit from what I had in the car (thank goodness for the mummy/emergency kit!) and blat out a mini-workout. I book creche sessions a fortnight ahead. Part of me looks at myself and is like “Do I even know you?” – but this new, fit mama is definitely the version of me I want to know.

People have asked if I’m dieting too… and the answer is “not really”. I am way too much of a foodie to deny myself what I think are some of the greatest pleasures in life. My eating has changed somewhat since becoming a solo mother; having the choice in what to eat and when rather than cooking for others (I still don’t eat dinner at the same time as CJ, it’s just TOO early) but if I’m going to a restaurant I’m going to have that delicious dessert and not feel one iota of guilt about it. I posted the above picture on Instagram the other day with the caption that “I gym so that I CAN taco” and that’s pretty true.

Even with still eating what I want (in moderation), I’m definitely noticing changes. My stomach is not flat (and to be honest, I doubt it will ever be) but I’m starting to lose the fat that found its way there during my pregnancy. My legs are noticeably smaller, especially around the knees. My “magic pants” that fit me perfectly and were on a ridiculous special of $5 no longer look that magical on me. It was the final one that actually prompted me to jump on the scales and see what my weight was reading – I was shocked to find that I was six kilograms down already from the weight that I was at when I started at the gym. I’ve been losing between 500 grams to a kilogram a week and that’s a really sustainable level of weight loss for me and a great motivator.

One other thing that’s really helped me get over those “I can’t be bothered” days is a little accountability group I belong to. While we’re geographically distant, thanks to the web we keep each other accountable through messages, pics and snaps. It gives me that extra little boost on days that I need it… but surprisingly that hasn’t been too often. It’s crazy… I never saw it coming but I think I’ve become one of those people who likes going to the gym. And even crazier, one of those people who likes working out solo at the gym. I just strap on my headphones and go.


SweetMama Signature

Getting inked…

My first tattoo, I was just about to turn 21. My friend offered to pay for it as a 21st present – she has a rose vine that winds its way down her entire leg. I wasn’t quite that brave! I finally felt like I was coming out of what had been a rough end to my teenage years and was finally blossoming into who I was meant to be. I got a butterfly tattoo in what was then the very fashionable “tramp stamp” location, smack bang in the middle of my back, easily hidden. I’ve never regretted the tattoo; the back story of it means far too much for me. But for several years now, I’ve wished that I could turn it more into a back piece, incorporating memories of my mother and other people who’ve passed too soon from my life.

Surprising then, that given the opportunity to get another tattoo, this isn’t what I chose to do. I’m still not entirely sure what I want this back piece to look like, but I did know what I wanted. For so long I’ve put the happiness of others as a priority, even when it came at my own expense. There’s something very telling when so many of the comments that I’ve had recently are about how well and relaxed I am looking. CJ’s happiness will always be a huge priority in my life but I don’t ever want to make the mistake of putting myself last on the list again. I wanted my new tattoo to be a visual reminder to myself of how my happiness was important. So many of the inspiration pics were of chinese characters or the words “happiness” or “joy” or quotes. All fine for other people, but none of them spoke to me. Then I saw this piece and my heart said “Hell YES”.


It’s the molecular structure of serotonin, your body’s naturally occurring “happy chemical”. As a child of two scientists (a very long time ago, my mother was a laboratory technician – that’s actually how she met my dad), science has always played a part in my life. I have memories of making red cabbage indicator with mum and testing acids and bases in the kitchen. I remember plotting out constellations in the backyard with dad. I remember a childhood filled with rock collections, trips to volcanoes and my sister’s bug magazine subscription. If anything could remind me of who I inherently am, and why my happiness is important, this was it. Choosing my foot as the location was simple too, I want it where I can see it every day. It can still be hidden if necessary, but I think that public perception of tattoo art in the last decade has changed drastically and it’s unlikely that I would need to cover it on a regular basis as part of my employment.

I had the work done by Lusi of White Rabbit Ink who is absolute amazing. Her attention to detail was second to none and their studio felt much less clinical than where I had my first tattoo done. We had great conversations about how cleanliness and sterility doesn’t have to mean that the studio feels like a hospital and I’m really excited to see what their new studio looks like that they are opening in December.

Five days later? I’m still in love with it. I’m so excited for it to heal properly, not only because I would like to go back to wearing my usual shoes and socks at the gym, but because then the fine line work that Lusi did will be even more obvious. And it does the job. Every day I get out of bed, look down at my feet and smile.


I Read A Lot: “Gold Fame Citrus” by Claire Vaye Watkins

Dystopian fiction is everywhere at the moment – and I love it! A quote from another author of the genre, Ally Condie, reads “The beauty of Dystopia is that lets us experience future worlds – but we still have the power to change our own”. We see the reflection of the nanny state in Orwell’s 1984, the glorification of “car-crash” TV mimicked in The Hunger Games where other people’s pain is entertainment. In a similar strain, Watkins brings the topics of climate change, environmental responsibility and greed to a head in Gold Fame Citrus.


Desert dunes have spread across the southwestern states of America, burying many major cities beneath tonnes of sand. Anybody in California is stranded, subject to the basic rationing system and black market exchange. It is there we find our female protagonist, Luz, and her ‘woodsman’ saviour, ex-Army Ray, playing house in an abandoned starlet’s mansion as the dry city life rolls past them. One might think that they could stay this way indefinitely; that is, until two-year-old Ig comes into their lives. Suddenly the impetus is there – it might be worth searching for something better. They hear of a community in the desert whose leader has a natural talent for dowsing water. Do they take Ig on the journey in the hope of providing her with a better life than ration colas and black market berries?

What I loved about this text was the glorious imperfections of all the primary characters in this text. Everyone felt so gritty and real. The juxtaposition between Luz’s history as a media darling and her current status provide stark contrast to the text, even as they progress the storyline and explain motivation. Ray’s dark secret is never fully explained, yet just the fact that he has one makes him more well-rounded than just the hero archetype. Ig, toddler though she may be, houses some secrets of her own. I loved how through multiple characters the stereotypes of motherhood and manhood are explored and torn open, even if at times it felt like there was no solution to the unasked question. Ultimately that was one of the most frustrating things of the book too (although should definitely not be taken as a serious criticism) – I like all my endings tied off with a nice little bow, whereas Watkins has been very cunning with what she brings to a resolution and what she leaves undone. Much like real life in that regard I guess!

This is definitely a more grown-up dystopia – while it is likely to be placed under the umbrella of “Young Adult” fiction, I think it requires a maturity on the part of the reader to appreciate the novel fully. Even as a thirty-year-old, there was some content in the book that I felt unsettled about. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s good to be nudged out of your comfort zone, but it is something to bear in mind. If thinking about purchasing this book for a teen, I’d be looking to give it to your 17-year-old who is perhaps ageing out of ‘younger’ dystopian novels like Divergent. And then I’d steal it off their bookshelf and read it myself.


Currently: November 2015

With a huge amount of change going on in my life recently, I thought it would be interesting to complete one of these “Taking Stock” memes now. I’m really interested to look back on it in six months’ time and see if life has continued to grow and develop the way I hope it will.


Making: exciting plans that are slowly coming to fruition. Just a couple more pieces to lock into place before it all starts to feel real.
Cooking: Whatever I please. It sounds terrible but one of the perks of no longer being in a relationship with a picky eater is cooking whatever food pleases me. Last night it was dumplings… tonight I haven’t even eaten yet because I’m not hungry.
Drinking : Fresh, fruity beers – I think that with the amazing weather we’ve been having my body thinks it’s summer.
Reading: Some of my old favourites, although I do have a new book review for you coming up on Thursday!
Wanting: a crystal ball, so I can see how my future plays out.
Looking: out at the sunset, thinking that NZ is a pretty alright place to live.
Playing: Fire Truck Song on YouTube. Part of CJ’s Halloween costume was a firefighter hat and he loves to listen to the song while wearing the hat, and then we swap so we listen to the song and I wear the hat.
Wishing: That I had the kind of job where I could return to full-time work at any time.
Waiting: For the dryer to finish so I can make up my bed with fresh, clean sheets – best feeling ever.
Liking: Opening up my writing from not only my novel to other short pieces too, that I’m publishing on my other blog.
Loving: The gym, which I never expected to. I definitely feel better on the days that I go.
Pondering: about a conversation I had in the wee hours of Sunday morning, and what it all meant.
Hoping: That happily ever afters do exist, and that I’ll get mine one day.
Needing: A little bit of balance. I’ve been running myself ragged in the 24 hours a week that CJ is at his dad’s, trying to do all the things. While it’s probably something that I needed to get out of my system, I think that it’s probably now time to dial down on some of these commitments and just allow myself the time to relax and just be with my thoughts.
Smelling: My new perfume – still loving it as much as when I first tried it.
Admiring: Solo mothers like my friend Corrine who do it all with zero help. I think I would struggle really badly to do this all with no breaks.
Buying: not a lot, actually. Trying to behave myself at the moment.
Getting: A little something, just for me, on Wednesday. Check out Instagram if you want to see
Disliking: Toddler defiance. I know it’s a normal developmental stage but it would be great to have just one nappy change that wasn’t a wrestling match.
Feeling: Attractive. I know that’s a weird thing to say, but it’s true. I guess that the old Roald Dahl saying is true – “If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely”. I feel like I have much more room in my head for positive thoughts and maybe that is what is shining through.
Craving: Jalapeno poppers, and I have no idea why.


Writing Inspiration: Words that are giving me the feels

I’m currently working to complete my first novel – whether it is ever published or not is another story, but I want to prove to myself that I can do it! As part of getting my head back in the “romance” game (at least in a writing sense!), I’m reading a lot – especially short texts and poetry – and I want to share some of my cool finds with you here.


Don’t be selfish. If you do not love the way her hair curls at the ends or her nose wrinkles when she laughs then let her go. If you don’t see her as a fucking masterpiece then let her go, because someone else will. Don’t be selfish. If you don’t love the way she sneezes or the way she dribbles the toothpaste down her chin when she brushes her teeth then let her go. If your heart doesn’t almost beat out of your chest when you wake up and the first thing you see is her soundly sleeping on your shoulder. Someone else would kill for that. Being with someone when you know you don’t love them is cruel. It’s not only cruel, it’s holding them back from someone that could give them everything. Someone that feels waves breaking in their ribcage when they see her walk around the corner. Someone that has had the worst of days, but rainbows suddenly appear at the thought of her. Someone who hears the sound of her voice and it soothes the darkest of nightmares. If that is not you, let her go. She is wonder, she is magic, she deserves someone who believes that every single day, not just on certain days.

Certain Days // E.E.

Falling for a person isn’t a process. You can’t plan for it in advance, or anticipate its arrival. Love strikes in single moments. Anywhere. Anytime. Some day you catch them gardening in the sun, or singing dreadfully in the shower, and you think, Oh I could spend all my life with you.

The Quick Strike // Beau Taplin

It’s a very dangerous state. You are inclined to recklessness and kind of tune out the rest of your life and everything that’s been important to you. It’s actually not all that pleasurable. I don’t know who the hell wants to get in a situation where you can’t bear an hour without somebody’s company.

Colin Firth

And I think you hate the smell of smoke
You always try to get me to stop
But you drink as much as me
And I get drunk a lot
So I’ll take you to the beach
And walk along the sand
And I’ll make you a heart pendant
With a pebble held in my hand
And I’ll carve it like a necklace
So the heart falls where your chest is
And now a piece of me is a piece of the beach
And it falls just where it needs to be
And rests peacefully
So you just need to breathe
To feel my heart against yours now

Wake Me Up // Ed Sheeran


I’m sorry… and I’m not.

Dear CJ,

It’ll be years before you read this but I know that one day you’ll be curious. X’s mummy and daddy live in the same place and your mummy and daddy don’t? I hope that when that happens, you’ll come and talk to me. I also selfishly hope that when you do, a lot of the emotions of these past few months have faded into the past and that recalling them is harder for me. But you deserve the truth and hopefully by writing these things down now, you’ll get it.

First of all, I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that you have two homes – that there’s mummy’s house and daddy’s house and that they aren’t the same place anymore.

I’m sorry I couldn’t give you the childhood that both your father and I grew up with, with both parents in the same home. Part of me feels incredibly guilty about that – that we got it but that you never will.

I’m sorry that you are so young that you will probably never remember a time when we all snuggled up together as a family or holidays that you went on with both mum and dad.

I am sorry that no matter how much we are flexible and try and make it work, inevitably holidays will get harder. They’ll be less relaxing for you than they should have been – whether it’s getting shipped between family get togethers or missing out.

I’m sorry that you are going to come home from school excited about something and only one of us will be there to tell.

I’m sorry if you ever feel like you came from a “broken home” – please know that I tried everything I could think of to fix it. One thing you will learn about your mother is that she’s a perfectionist and having a failed marriage was never part of the “plan”.

I’m sorry that at times I’m going to be stretched to capacity and not have the patience with you that I should have.

But for all the things that I am sorry for, there’s many things I won’t apologise for.

I’m not sorry that I made the decision to be a happy mother for you on my own rather than a miserable married one. When your father moved out, I was incredibly sad for you but also incredibly relieved for me.

I’m not sorry that it ended when it did, when we both still like and respect each other enough that seeing each other isn’t awkward.

I’m not sorry that I learnt from your grandmother’s legacy that life is too damn short to lead a mediocre one. One of the things that kept running through my head as I was making this decision is that your grandmother was only 19 years older than me when she died. How much of that time was I willing to wish away hoping that things would change? Eight years? Five years? One? We’re not promised any length of time on this earth, so it really is up to us to make the most of the uncertain time we have.

I’m not sorry that I’m a person who learned to value myself in a seriously real way, probably for the first time ever. I hope you never doubt the fact that you have value to contribute to the world; in big ways of course, but also in the small interpersonal encounters you have every day.

I’m not sorry that it’s taking me a while to find my feet and work out what is best for us – the future is suddenly filled with more possibilities than ever before and I want to make sure that I choose the right one.

I’m not sorry that I will teach you that occasionally it’s okay to be selfish. Those nights I ask your aunty to baby-sit so that I can go and have dinner with my friends? They are important to me; that time away will only make me a better mother to you.

I’m not sorry that I have and will continue to make sacrifices for you – you are the only one whose needs I’ll put ahead of my own.

I’m not sorry that I’ve hopefully given both your father and I the possibility of creating new relationships that are a better role model for you of how a relationship should be than the one we had.

I’m not sorry for you about our decision to coparent. We will always put what is best for you first, whatever that may be. In my line of work I’ve seen too many people choose not to put their child first and I would never do that to you.

We both love you CJ – even if we aren’t “in love” with each other anymore. I hope you always remember that.


I Read A Lot: “Cleopatra’s Shadows” by Emily Holleman

I’ve been fascinated by Ancient Rome ever since studying Classical Studies in high school – something about the forging of empires and the birth of so many of our modern ideals is absolutely fascinating. Reading Colleen McCullough’s Masters of Rome series only left me more fascinated about the empire and the influence it had on surrounding kingdoms, including the dynasties of Egypt. Lo and behold, Cleopatra’s Shadows shows up on my doorstep, an Egyptian mirror of the same time in history as the same series I have just finished. A debut novel by Emily Holleman, the cover alone was striking enough to make me dive in.


Everyone knows Cleopatra but her sisters, with the passage of time, have been relegated to mere shadows. Holleman’s novel focuses on the two lesser known sisters – the usurper, Berenice, and the younger sister, Arsinoe. A hostile takeover of the throne by Berenice sees Cleopatra flee to Roman shores with her weak-willed father, the former King. Arsinoe must fight for her own survival in a court that is openly hostile to the children of a concubine, learning quickly how to play the games of power. Berenice battles constantly with her angry mother, a court of advisers that are only too quick to further their own agendas and with traditions that she feels no longer serve a new Egyptian kingdom. Both find themselves in situations that test not only their courage but their humanity.

I was completely sucked into this novel. It was one of those books that I literally only put down because my son would wake up from his nap time. Holleman’s previous experience as an editor for is apparent in her ability to craft masterful chapters but it goes beyond that to a real passion and desire to tell the stories of her subjects. I don’t think I’ve felt as much compassion for a character since I read The Other Boleyn Girl. I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes peeled for future novels by Emily Holleman – at the very least, I need to know what happens next to Cleopatra’s shadow sisters!


CJ Says #1

I love that I have a little talker and sometimes the gems that he comes out with make me laugh. I can only imagine how fun its going to be as his vocabulary builds. Here’s some recent giggle-worthy convos:

  • Me: What sound does a cat make?
  • CJ: Moo
  • Me: No, cow goes moo. Cat goes meow
  • CJ: Meow. Meow. Kitty.
  • Me: What sound does a cat make?
  • CJ: Moo
  • Me: If you aren’t going to lie on the change mat I’m going to have to put this nappy on your (toy) piggie.
  • CJ: (howling, grabbing the nappy off me) No… NOOOOO. No nappy.
  • Me: Why not? Why can’t I put the nappy on Piggie?
  • CJ: Piggie no nappy. Piggy go potty. (Right then…)
  • CJ bumps himself and is teary
  • Me: Are you sore?
  • CJ runs out of the room and comes back hauling his stuffed T-Rex that is as large as he is
  • CJ: ‘Saur!!!
  • CJ Counting: 1, 2, 3, 2, 3, 6, NINE!
  • CJ: Guppies? Guppies peeeeez. Buh jusss one. (LOL this one is totally me… I’ll only let him watch one episode of his favourite shows)

It’s funny what words are flavour-of-the-month at the moment – thank you, doggie, piggie and nine are the current favourites that we hear lots of stories about but it feels like he’s coming out with new words every day! I can’t wait to see what that clever wee cookie comes up with next.


Writing Inspiration: “Teenage Sky” by Rona Adshead

I’m currently working to complete my first novel – whether it is ever published or not is another story, but I want to prove to myself that I can do it! As part of getting my head in the game, I’m reading a lot – especially short texts and poetry – and I want to share some of my cool finds with you here.


A teenage sky at Yallingup, W.A. (personal photo)

Teenage Sky – Rona Adshead

There is a teenage sky this morning,

Budding from a hesitant horizon

Daubed with lipstick streaks of sunrise

And awkwardly draping the nubile hills

With tangled scarves of mist


Youthful day begins, unsure of its shape;

But confidence comes with stronger light

The sky pulls on its sturdy denim blue

Causing an anorexic crescent moon

To waste away in unseen pallor


Suddenly a defiant shower

Trips over its own sulky pout

Then, just as quickly, the sun

Begins to poke holes in the pockets

Of the still quietly weeping clouds.


Oh, teenage sky, made of mood and moment,

Take this as the morning of your life

Which is a beginning – not finality:

Strength of the noon hour is yet to be

When you will glow in your fulfilment.

I work with teenagers regularly and I think that’s what draws me to this poem. The start of a day in New Zealand, often tempestuous but full of promise, is very much a metaphor for the adolescent experience and vice versa. Beautiful words.