#redmondtraveldiary18 · Europe · Hurtigruten · Norway

Oslo, Norway

Day 21, Wednesday 10/10

Waking up this morning knowing we had reached the end of our Hurtigruten adventure was bitter-sweet. We never like ending a cruise, but we had experienced such a wonderful time and we were excited to see what was next.

Thankfully we booze-packed our luggage the night before. So when we woke up it was really just our carry-on we needed to have sorted. Due to a miscommunication on our end, we were not out of our room by 8am as you should be and so we were in a bit of a mad rush to get sorted. G had already started looking at the weather in Oslo, to see if we would be getting back to warmer weather!

After we left the boat and headed to the bus which would take us to the airport, I was able to hug and give a kiss on the cheek to the exploration director, she was absolutely wonderful and I think she made the trip as good as it was!

Our bus ride to the airport was another cramped experience. Honestly, as majestic as the return trip would have been on our cruise, I think I am in desperate need for some wide-open spaces and need to get away from lines and crowds and rudeness and staring (seriously, four days is about my limit).

During our booze-packing last night, I seemed to have the insight that my luggage would absolutely be over the 20kg limit. We are flying with Norwegian Air Shuttle and I think this is the airline with the least amount of luggage permissible. I bought an extra two kg’s and thankfully came in with 400grams to spare. We cooled our heels at the airport for a couple of hours and we were able to say goodbye to our wonderful dinner buddies, Ros and Wendy – two beautiful souls from Adelaide who we had connected with on the trip.

As terrible as this sounds, honestly knowing we would not have to handle the aggressive behaviour and poor social skills of 75% of the guests on the ship had the same effect on us as too much champagne. As we boarded our bus and drove off towards the airport it was bitter-sweet. We could not believe that this journey which we had waited years for, was over. Just like that. What an adventure!

Once we made it to the incredibly tiny airport in Kirkenes, we had a few hours to wait before our flight. Our flight to Oslo was quite quick and to look out the window and see the beautiful landscape change so drastically was amazing. I guess given the 1800km stretch of land between Kirkenes and Oslo, was roughly the same as Cairns to Brisbane (with very little change in the landscape in comparison in terms of seasonal change), it was mind-blowing to see such huge changes.

Landing in Oslo was amazing, that airport is just phenomenal. We had less than 24 hours in Oslo and given our exhaustion we were so glad we had decided on the train into town for our very brief stay.

As we carried our gigantic backpacks, day packs and all of our de-robed jackets/scarfs through the streets we immediately realised that Oslo was a city we would return to one day. After spending a week in very cold, sparse areas of Norway it seemed a shame that we had only one night in Oslo.

We made it to our hotel, immediately received a room upgrade (this was so welcomed and so appreciated!) and then I decided to spend an hour in the shower. Washing, scrubbing, exfoliating, shaving (!) and basically stretching out in the gigantic shower-bath. I typically hate shower-baths, but after very cramped quarters on the ship, I was so excited to be able to reach behind my knees!

I decided to accompany my shower with 90’s music, a bottle of Limoncello (had only intended for a small glass but once I realised the extent of my wild-woman body-hair, the bottle quickly became necessary. An hour slipped away easily and as I emerged feeling like some glamorous, post-Arctic-circle siren – I threw my thermal leggings in the bin, dumped my empty Limoncello bottle on top of it, threw my hair into a top-knot and was ready for our express Oslo tour!

NB: ‘Tour’ means us legging it for as far as we can go in one direction, then coming home. Usually involves several stops at drinking establishments. Always completely worth it, as we always come across the prettiest places and sights, and all for free when you’re walking!


Our walk was warm and pretty and we could visibly see the seasons changing and I wasn’t wearing thermals! Yay! We hoofed it to Kampen and then walked back to Tøyen and then found ourselves standing outside what would quickly become Grant’s favourite part of Oslo. Way Down South. Hello, American BBQ. After all of the fish which I had consumed, and the Sheep’s Head we quickly tried to forget, it was for the best that my red-blooded man had come across a restaurant famed for their trays of meat.

*Edit – I have since become a vegetarian and I also believe that eating my weight in salmon and also seeing my Husband consume the head of a sheep had something to do with it. Oh, and the white/blood sausage, but that’s for a future post!

EUROPE - 947The hospitality was amazing, it was our favourite thing to do – banter with the Owner and Staff (our highlight was meeting the lovely Jim himself, enjoy delicious food, enjoy each others company and then go for a long and slightly tipsy walk home. We both left with our amazing #stretchypants t-shirts, full bellies and without the guilt, we perhaps should have felt, about scarfing down American style ‘Family Pickins’ platter BBQ in Norway.

Oslo was such a brief stop and I would be lying if I said I didn’t think of it often. One day I hope to return and spend a lot longer in Norway, explore the family heritage and throw ourselves into everything this beautiful country has to offer.

Thank you, Norway, for everything you shared with us, for all of your beautiful sights and for planting within us a seed to revisit. It will take us a few years (maybe ten or twenty) but we WILL be back!

Thank you for reading my post! I am a Brisbane based creative and blogger. I do not receive payment for my blogging, and in the event, I have been gifted any products and items, I will always mention this. I live with my Husband, make hand-crafted household and personal eco-friendly items, accessories, and provide photographic services when requested.

If you enjoyed my post, I would be so appreciative if you left me a review and liked this post.

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For any wholesale, product sale, blogging or photographic requests – please email me at hello@courtneygayecreative.com.

x Courtney x



Lifestyle · rock it like a redmond · Social Media / Marketing

2019 Autumn Trends

It is safe to say that nobody has ever accused me of being particularly fashionable or on-trend. Despite this small set-back, of having zero fashion sense, I am still interested in trends, styles and most importantly, colours!

As my little business continues to grow, I do have an interest in staying in touch with what the best hair trends are.

In terms of the next 9 big hair trends for 2019, as predicted by the experts (and referenced by Harpers Bazaar), they are as follows:

  • Blunt Bobs
  • Grey hair
  • Super-straight
  • Adult accessories (yay for Rock it Like a Redmond!!!)
  • At-home colour
  • Modern top-knots
  • Glossy hair
  • Big volume
  • Lilac makeovers

My hair is thick, heavy, dense and long. It is also red. So the thought of having a blunt bob is terrifying because in 1996 I attempted this and I looked absolutely ridiculous.

Grey hair can look absolutely amazing on some people, I just don’t think it is for me.

Super straight hair just reminds me of the smell of the GHD going through my hair for hours on end, only to go outside, be hit by humidity and putting my hair back up in a bun anyway.

Adult accessories are where I am at, given I am making scrunchies, bandanas, hair wraps and scarfs, I am pretty pumped that these are a real thing at the moment. Plus they look adorable!

At-home colour is pretty much how I spent many hours in my bathroom from 2001-2013, so the thought of dying my hair ever again is also out. I also always managed to bust through the gloves and end up with stained hands/neck/forehead – the works.

Modern top-knots. Look, I have no idea what this means but my hair has pretty much been in a bun since I was 8 years old and I am not about to change that. So I feel like I have this covered.

Glossy hair. Completed unachievable for me. My hair is like horse-hair. Only less impressive and less glossy. Power to all of you that have pretty hair, my jealousy is next level.

Big volume. I am there, no need to work on that! Also willing to donate hair to anyone who needs some. Seriously I could provide wigs for a family of four.

Lilac makeovers – I wish I could do this. I have loved looking at people with pretty pink hair and I hope I see more of the lilac colour!

If you are after any hair accessories, and you like to support charity, then please check out my shop – $1 from each item sold goes to charity, they’re cute as hell and you can be a part of the on-trend movement! #yay.

Shop Hair Accessories

What’s your favourite style?

x Courtney x

#redmondtraveldiary18 · Europe · Hurtigruten · Norway · Travel

Travel Diary (Day 17) – Hurtigruten Day 2

Day 17 – Saturday 6/10

This morning we awoke with our love of Norway burning deep in our hearts. Here we were in a country and along a coastline with history we had researched and heard of for years (we both have Nordic heritage). Did you know that the oldest human skeleton ever discovered in Norway has been carbon dated back to 6,600 BC?!

Although expensive, we were so glad to have paid for a room with a window. In my previous post I did say we did not have 100% visibility but what we did have was absolutely divine. The coastline, the mountains, the fjords. It’s all just absolutely magical.

We woke and made it to breakfast (another scrum of pushy and arrogant activity despite the beautiful hospitality of our staff), before we were to leave the boat for our Trondheim tour. A saving grace? Different bus tours for English and Deutsch speaking passengers. So the tourists who had decided that they were UFC breakfast buffet champions, were in-fact on another bus. #win.

Once it was time to meet down at the point for those of us who had paid tours to make, we again had to wait for those who did NOT have tours booked who of course shoved and pushed their way to the front. Hot tip: Just don’t be a dick. Wait your turn. Be polite to the beautiful staff looking after us. Don’t be a dick. Stop staring. Say please / hello / thank-you. Oh, and stop being a dick.

We made it to our bus and it was time for our Trondheim tour, inclusive of the amazing Nidaros Cathedral! This cathedral was astonishing and we lucked out with our guide within the Cathedral. The way this woman led her tour had us completely captivated and I fell in love with her instantly. There were no cameras inside of the Cathedral, which is pretty standard given those who are attending for prayer should not be disturbed by old Bob who has his flash on and is snapping a bunch of over-exposed rubbish pictures.

Now, the Nidaros Cathedral has an amazing history, I hope you will enjoy the next facts as much as I did!

  • It is built over the burial site of King Olav II of Norway and Saint Olav, the King of Norway, who became the patron saint of the nation, and it is the traditional location for the consecration of the new Kings of Norway.
  • It was built over a period of 230 years, from 1070 to 1300 but all works have continued until 2001.
  • It was taken from the Catholic Church by the Church of Norway in 1537 (and this was after a turmoil of the 16th century Protestant Reformation).
  • Norwegian Christian Faith was extremely influenced by continental Europe, the Holy Roman Empire and German Confederation.
  • Nidaros is the northernmost medieval cathedral in the world.

If you do get the opportunity I would definitely recommend a visit. I only wish I had more time in Trondheim, or that I had not fallen asleep on the tour after the Cathedral tour!

Tonight was our first night on the Hurtigruten where we had an arranged table for dinner and we were seated with two lovely ladies from Adelaide, so it is always nice to meet someone from home when you are away.

Dinner was phenomenal and I seriously was flirting with the possibility of becoming part-fish, if I continued to eat the amount I was each day! Cannot best that Norwegian salmon though, not at all!

Thank you so much for reading, I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, please ‘like’ or share the post so I can see! 

Please note, I have not been paid any sponsorships at all for this post, however some of the links in my blog posts may be affiliate links, meaning that at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

I only ever talk about my own personal experiences and adventures, places and locations which I love and think you will too!

To follow me on Instagram click here – courtneygaye_travels

To follow me on Facebook – you can do so here – Courtney Gaye Travels FB

If you are a Pinterest fan – you can find me here – Courtney Gaye Pinterest

x C x

#redmondtraveldiary18 · Europe · Travel

Travel Diary (Day 12) – Bergen to Sogndal

Day 12 – Monday 1/10 – Bergen – Sogndal

We woke up this morning in beautiful sunny Bergen, completely taken away with what an incredible location our hotel was. We were staying right near the fish markets and it’s location to the harbour made us wish we were staying for longer!

Our hotel came with a free breakfast and everything you could possibly want was available to us. I will never say no to a free breakfast, I’ll pretty much load up on as much food as I can to survive the day. Also, given the price of pretty much everything up here I’m inclined to shove pastries in my pockets (but haven’t….yet).

After a quick walk around Bryggen, several coffees and a forty-five minute battle with Lycamobile via phone / text / app and website to get G’s up and running. Here’s a tip, play dumb when someone rude as hell in an airport sells you a Sim and Credit, and ask them to top it up for you. Otherwise you are going to end up with a useless little plastic SIM card.

We ended up seating ourselves at a coffee shop, feeding off of the free WiFi and managed to get Grants sim working for 100NKK, which was around $20 Australian. Also, the credit that comes with SIM cards in Europe is crazy! He know has 60gig, which I doubt he would use in a year. I on the other hand, Ashe dutiful Wife will make light work of it!

We headed back to our hotel, I packed our bags and Grant caught a cab to the Hertz to pick our car up and drive it back. He was back with a zippy little VW within the hour, we did a small grocery shop and hit the road.

Our nav told us it would be four hours out to Søgndal and it was already passed lunch so we legged it. We drove straight through Flåm by accident and decided to keep going, with the hope we could see the area on our way home. Originally when we made our travel plans we had intended on doing the Norway in a Nutshell journey, but the price was obscene and still incredibly limiting without your own transport, so we scrapped that and decided to make our own way.

We had time to stop and see the incredible Borgund Stave Church, this place is absolutely incredible and was completed in the 12th Century.

Our little hire-car did the job and before we knew it we had made it to the Manheller-Fodnes ferry, which only costs around $20AUD to get across to the otherside. The efficiency of these barges are amazing. Once we crossed the fjord we were faced with two tunnels, one of which was 24km long! Which is a crazy long tunnel to drive through.

As we drove into Sogndal, we knew we had made the right choice, on heading in-land for a while, just our Air BnB in the loft above a boat-shed. We arrived quite late so we did a quick shop (just basics but honestly, the price of Norway is crippling!).

Sogndal is a municipality in Sogn og Fjordane county, Norway. It is a beautiful little town on the northern shore of the Sognefjorden and has a population of just under eight thousand people. Your three star hotel averages around 200 euro’s, thankfully we had managed to score our Air BnB for three nights for under $600.

We settled in with some wine, some Netflix and an early night, we wanted to make sure we made the absolute most of our time in the area!

Thank you so much for reading, I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, please ‘like’ or share the post so I can see! 

Please note, I have not been paid any sponsorships at all for this post, however some of the links in my blog posts may be affiliate links, meaning that at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

I only ever talk about my own personal experiences and adventures, places and locations which I love and think you will too!

To follow me on Instagram click here – courtneygaye_travels

To follow me on Facebook – you can do so here – Courtney Gaye Travels FB

If you are a Pinterest fan – you can find me here – Courtney Gaye Pinterest

x C x

#redmondtraveldiary18 · Courtney's Travel Tips & Tricks · Europe · photography · Travel

Travel Diary (Day 11) – Faroe Islands to Bergen (via Copenhagen)

Day 11 – Sunday 30/9 – Faroe Islands – Bergen (vis Copenhagen)

Well we knew today was a write-off, as most transit days can be. We had no idea how long the day would feel though! As our schedule really only allowed us to visit the Faroes for three days, this meant we would leave on a Sunday. Sadly there are no direct flights on a Sunday from Vàgar to Bergen, so we needed to fly via Copenhagen.

As our travels tend to play out, we woke up to shocking weather and we were beyond pleased to have experienced the beautiful weather we had whilst we were there.

Our flight was not until lunchtime, so we had a few hours to explore Vagar a little more, we drove out to a beautiful old cathedral, boat harbour and village with some older style log buildings.

We drove back to the airport, dropped off our fantastic little cat which had served us well and decided that wine + beers at the airport were our best-bet for some time wasting.

Once we were on the plane we had a few more drinks and watched movies on our phones and we were back in Copenhagen. We had around a four and a half hour layover in Copenhagen, but once we collected our luggage and then took it to the departures terminal and survived that disaster we couldn’t be bothered leaving the terminal. We had originally planned to maybe go back into Copenhagen and see some more, but sadly that was not to be!

We departed Copenhagen around 9pm and landed in Bergen at 10:30pm, it was such a long day. Once we had our bags we then headed out to our bus transfer which dropped us off at the Torget stop near the old fish markets which was the same block as our hotel!

Originally we had booked to stay at a place called Citybox Hotel, but in my over-prepared state as I couldn’t pre-pay the stay I had cancelled it and booked elsewhere. We stayed at the Magic Hotel in Bergen and it was gorgeous! The rooms great, the location could not have been better, incredibly comfortable bed and all-inclusive breakfast in the morning. If you are heading to Bergen, I couldn’t recommend this hotel any more!

Really not too much to update on today, given it was a transit day – only that we are finding the serving of hot fish meals on planes to be, um…different? Also a lady kept turning around in her seat and turning our air pumps off above our seats. Seriously she did it three times, until I had to tell her ‘No, leave it – that’s my fan and it’s on me’. Oh and the other lady that tried to stay on her mobile phone during our plane’s taxi – hiding behind her seat. Hilarious.

The Scandinavians are a very tolerant and patient bunch, put it that way! We all know what sort of responses occur with that sort of behaviour in America!

Thank you so much for reading, I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, please ‘like’ or share the post so I can see! 

Please note, I have not been paid any sponsorships at all for this post, however some of the links in my blog posts may be affiliate links, meaning that at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

I only ever talk about my own personal experiences and adventures, places and locations which I love and think you will too!

To follow me on Instagram click here – courtneygaye_travels

To follow me on Facebook – you can do so here – Courtney Gaye Travels FB

If you are a Pinterest fan – you can find me here – Courtney Gaye Pinterest

x C x

#redmondtraveldiary18 · Europe · Travel · Travel Gear

Travel Diary (Day 9) – Faroe Islands

IMG_6031This morning I woke up to my gorgeous Husband telling me that sunrise would be within the hour and although we were both tired, it would be an absolute shame to miss it. It took a while to get going, but with our Frank Green Eco-Cups (to see this incredible range click here & at the moment it is $7 flat-rate Aussie shipping), at the ready and Kathmandu jackets good to go, getting out that front door was easier than I would have expected!

It was incredibly early and the sky was beginning to flash her pink tones, so without certain knowledge of the area, we headed to the highest point we could before the sun rose. The wind and the temperature of it in the Faroe Islands are unlike anything I have experienced before. When you take into consideration its coordinates 61.8926° N, 6.9118° W and its average temperature of 7° to 10° during the month in which we were there, as well as 30km winds, then it is only expected to be cold. I have tot ell you though, it was worth it – here are some of our shots from our early morning.

Once we made it back to our Air BnB, completely blown-away by the beautiful sunrise over Tórshavn we had witnessed, it was time for breakfast (toast & coffee) and to map out an action plan for the day. We made our way from Tórshavn through to Viðoy, where we first able to stop and have a look around. Driving through those tunnells is abslutely wild in the Faroe Islands, I have my Husband to thank for making it through, beause I 100% would have freaked out driving through those lowly-lit one-lane tunnel for km’s on end!

Our journey toViðoy was around an hour and a half (with a few stops) it was our most far away destination for our stay so we really wanted to knock it out the first day. The weather was being kind to us, it was incredibly windy and raining on and off but then we would have these incredible bursts of sunshine, which is quite rare given the time of year! The drive from on side of Viðoy to the other is just amazing, the cliffs coming out of the sea in the Faroe’s, commanding attention is something I will not soon forget.

We ate our packed sandwiches, enjoyed the view and then drove around to visit the Viðareiði Church, it is located in one of the most beautifully scenic locations I have ever seen and it has an amazing history to it. Viðareiði is the northernmost settlement of the Faroe Islands, so it felt really special to be able to visit such a place. It sits on the ocean, facing the fierce winds and has behind it a lovely village. To the north, Mount Villingdalsfjall rises over 844 meters (2,769 ft) from the water and it provides an astronomical background to the area. The church itself is rich with history. In the 17th century it was destroyed by a storm, it is said that part of the cemetery was washed away by the sea and that the coffins were recovered in Hvannasund and reburied. The church which stands on the land currently was constructed in 1892 and the silver was a gift from the British government, thanking the Viðareiði citizens for their assistance in saving the brig Marwood, which was shipwrecked in the are in 1847.


We had another beautiful, cold, scenic and jaw-dropping drive back to our Air BnB, had potato gems for dinner, drank wine and whiskey and cuddled on the couch. I think we may have even watched a horror movie, it was so typically us. To do something so calm and relaxed and ‘normal’ after experiencing something so astronomically beautiful!

Tomorrow was a new day and we had mapped out some big-ticket attractions for it!

Thank you so much for reading, I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, please ‘like’ or share the post so I can see! 

Please note, I have not been paid any sponsorships at all for this post, however some of the links in my blog posts may be affiliate links, meaning that at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click-through and make a purchase.

I only ever talk about my own personal experiences and adventures, places and locations which I love and think you will too!

To follow me on Instagram click here – courtneygaye_travels

To follow me on Facebook – you can do so here – Courtney Gaye Travels FB

If you are a Pinterest fan – you can find me here – Courtney Gaye Pinterest

x C x

#redmondtraveldiary18 · Europe · Travel

Travel Diary (Day 8)- Faroe Islands

Day 9 – Friday 28/9

Waking up and knowing that you are heading to a magical land you stumbled across through Pinterest five years ago, is to say the least, a little overwhelming.

As excited as we both were, we really had no idea what our expectations should be or what we would be coming across. We knew that the weather for most of our trip was likely to be rain-filled, windy and cold. So to some degree we were prepared for that (side note: jeans, as fond as Aussies are of them, are not technically wet/warm-weather pants), other than that we had no idea what would be awaiting us.

We caught a cab from our hostel to the Copenhagen Central train station, as neither of us really felt like hauling our packs there. Once we were at the station it was all pretty straight-forward and just like that, we were on our journey to Vágar Airport, Faroe Islands. The flight was only two hours, Atlantic Airways has movies available on their internal and free Wi-Fi which is always appreciated! I made a terrible choice and watched a movie about an elderly couple, one of whom has Alzheimer’s and the other terminal cancer. Grant watched a comedy and his thoughts were “why are you crying? Always go dumb with the movie Courtney. Always”. I’ll admit it, there was far too much crying on that plane.

As our plane came in for landing and we spotted many of the Faroe Islands our of our window, we were nearly jumping from our seats. Flying into the Faroes is other-worldly, it is honestly like nothing you have ever seen before. Or in our case, will ever see again.

Getting off the plane was easy, getting the keys to our hire car was easy – there was just one problem. My international sim did not work there. Grant had bought a SIM card at the Copenhagen airport as well as the top-up credit, with the assurance (yet disdain) that it would work by the cashier. Yet here we were, in the Faroes with absolutely no reception. Thankfully I managed to feed offa servo’s Wi-Fi as G bought us very bizarre drinks (my request admittedly) which tasted like Guinness cola soda (but in a bad way, not a good way). So after a few back and forthcoming we found our Air BnB in Tórshavn.

Our Air BnB absolutely blew away any expectations we had, it was gorgeous, local to everything and had anything you could possibly need. Relief. Pure relief after our bare-as-bones hostel stay the two nights before.

It was a converted area on the bottom floor of our hosts home. We had a separate bedroom, laundry, wet room, tv with Apple TV and a courtyard. The kitchen was fully equipped and it just felt like home. For three nights we paid around $600 Australian and our host had left some local fruit and biscuits and locally brewed beer as well. It was just lovely.

It was getting on in the day so we went and spent a small fortune on a grocery shop, came home, had a few drinks and watched tv. The little comforts. We also started planning our Faroe Island attack for the next couple of days.

I was still coughing and generally being gross (seriously a holiday tradition of mine is to be a germ-riddled pain in the arse. So Grant slept in the lounge room, which is so unfair for him. He’s such a gentleman, honestly if it was me I would have kicked me out to the lounge room.

It was hard to believe we were finally here, this little place we had only dreamt of, changed our plans for and squirrelled away an extra amount of money which would make your eyes water to get there!

Thank you so much for reading, I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, please ‘like’ or share the post so I can see! 

Please note, I have not been paid any sponsorships at all for this post, however some of the links in my blog posts may be affiliate links, meaning that at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

I only ever talk about my own personal experiences and adventures, places and locations which I love and think you will too!

To follow me on Instagram click here – courtneygaye_travels

To follow me on Facebook – you can do so here – Courtney Gaye Travels FB

If you are a Pinterest fan – you can find me here – Courtney Gaye Pinterest

x C x

2017 reading journey

Autumn Reading Challenge (Part 3)

August I continued my reading challenge, here are the last four books I managed to squeeze in before the change of season – enjoy!

Why we should go Vegan – Magnus Vinding (2014)

veganAs part of my reading challenge, I needed to find a book which would make me ‘smarter’. I only finished my degree last year, so definitely did not want to launch into anything too heavy or high-brown, so, taking into consideration today’s age and where we are at; I chose this book. Why we should go vegan, by Magnus Vinding.

I think Vegans are incredibly strong and brave and I champion their efforts. I don’t want to turn this blog post into some hotly debatable space for/against veganism, but what I did appreciate was Magnus’ ability to champion veganism in a practical, respectful and factual fashion. No personal attacks against meat-eaters, just facts on why we are ruining the environment. Cruelty aside (not that I ever put this aside, I do eat limited animal products), we are, in truth, destroying the environment.

I certainly won’t be going vegan anytime soon but I have made changes where I can (for now). I only use beauty products which are cruelty and animal free – the only exception is if I have products with honey in it. I do not drink cow’s milk (have never liked it or where it comes from) and I try to limit my meat intake to 1-3 times per week; and when I do it is always organic and free-range. I know that some vegan’s scoff at this, that perhaps I am not trying hard enough; and I will be honest, I don’t have the desire to go vegan with my diet, despite the knowledge and awareness I have. But I am working on it.

Read this if you are after a concise and respectful argument in why we need to end the abuse of other beings. You don’t have to become vegan, but we do have a responsibility to acknowledge the damage we are responsible for.

Room – Emma Donoghue (2010)

roomThis book is told entirely from the point of view of five-year-old Jack. Jack who lives inside a room and has always lived inside this room. This book is inventive, funny and will rip your heart out through your stomach. Room is home to Jack and his Ma, it is the prison of Old Nick. This is all Jack knows, until they (he and his Ma) plan their escape.

I found this book to be amazing, I don’t have children so I wasn’t quite ready for the naivety of Jack, I am in my thirties so I don’t remember seeing the world so one-dimensional at that age. The story of his Ma, who has been held captive in a room by her kidnapper for seven years, with her five year old son had my heart in my mouth in several parts, and my stomach churning in others.

I also watched the movie after I read the book and I feel it gave a better representation of Ma’s point of view, I was able to connect more with that and I cried in the movie but not in the book. In saying that, I think people who are parents would be more likely to cry in both. I loved this book, it was beautifully written and it will stay with me for a long time.

Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte (1847)

Iwuthering heights will never NOT be a huge fan of Catherine and Heathcliff, ever! Oh, I know they are dysfunctional, I know they are terrible people and I know the story itself is dark and without reprieve. HOWEVER, I still absolutely love it. I think Heathcliff is a mastermind, he is cruel and crazy but I find it romantic how tragically in love with Catherine he is and the lengths he goes to reclaim is pride and overcome the humiliation from his life. I love that we never find out where he comes from, all we know if he is dark and mysterious and seriously messed up!

Catherine is cruel and unkind and in a way ‘gets her own’ for her treatment of others. The revenge is messed up, the story told is depressing and I cannot get enough of it. I love Wuthering Heights and if I could have my way, I would name my son Heath (Husband says no as he knows how I felt about Heath Ledger – RIP). The story is chaotic, and complex and it really highlights the dark crevices inside our souls, if we choose to avoid shining light on them. It is not the first time I have read Wuthering Heights and it will not be the last. It is a classic in my eyes and I will forever love reading about this dark romance between Heathcliff and Catherine in the moorland setting.

The History of Us – Leah Stewart (2013)

the story of usLeah Stewart has several novels, The History of Us being her fourth I believe and follows three grown siblings returning to their childhood home to face a family secret. The story was an easy read and well-written, it makes you realise we (families) are all complex and we all have our secrets and difficulties. I definitely related to the difficult Grandmother and the different relationships Eloise has with her nieces and nephew. My heart ached for Eloise, as her entire life is put on hold and the trajectory changes in order to care for her orphaned nieces and nephew. The story follows two decades and the change in Eloise, as well as the need for the three children to lead their own lives and follow their own path.

It did remind me to cherish everything we have, prioritise what should be prioritised and remember that nothing is forever, so we may as well do our very best whilst we are here and love our loved ones fiercely and boldly.

To be continued…



2017 reading journey

Autumn Reading Challenge (Part 2)

the summer bookThe Summer Book – Tove Jansson (1972)

I don’t know if irony is the right word for this, but the fact that my reading challenge suggested I read a book about summer in autumn was a little odd! I actually am not a huge fan of the summer, I live in Queensland, and it’s too hot. I am sensitive to the sun, overheat really easily and sunburn with hanging out just one load of washing outside! So I was not sure where to begin in reading a book about summer. Thankfully, after searching ‘summer’ in Apple iBook’s, this little gem popped up.

A book about an elderly Grandmother and her very stubborn and strong-willed six year old Granddaughter living on a tiny island in the Gulf of Finland, The Summer Book is peaceful and kind and relaxing. It is a gorgeous book and I am so glad it was translated into English in 2003, or I may never have had the pleasure of reading it! I found myself laughing out loud to this book, it is humorous, inspiring and warm. Tove wrote this with her own family in mind and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I did take some learnings away from this book which were:

  • Some days it is important to slow down;
  • Soak it all in, every pebbly, stick and change of wind – pay attention and enjoy it all;
  • Love those closest to you, quirks and all; and
  • Perhaps our lives are over-complicated for no real-good reason and we would all benefit from a tiny little island off of Finland occasionally!

poemsPoems by Emily Dickinson – Series One – Emily Dickinson (1924)

I will be honest, I am not a poetry fan. I don’t really understand it, I certainly respect those who do, but unfortunately I am not one of them. I also don’t really understand art, I know that makes me sound ignorant but really, I just do not get it. Fortunately, however, I realise that ‘understanding’ poetry, does not directly correlate to your ability to understand life. Really, art and poetry are the same – it is a form of expression. On the other hand, photographs speak to me. That I understand, it must just be how my brain is wired.

My reading challenge had a book of poetry listed and I had been avoiding it for weeks on end, because I just don’t like poetry. Emily Dickinson’s series one book was very sweet, with poetry about nature being the sweetest. I cannot help but feel bad for Emily that during her life less than 12 of her 1800 poems were published, and it was only after her death was she considered to be one of the most original and influential 19th century poets. Look, there is no point lying – I just do not like poetry and every page was a struggle, but I can certainly appreciate Emily’s talent and ability, like all poets – I take my non-creative hat off to you!

strippedStripped: Twenty Years of Secrets from inside the Vegas Strip Club – Brent Jordan (2010)

Okay, so I still am not entirely sure why I chose to read this book, I think it was free on iBook’s and I had downloaded it, so may as well read it! What I thought was going to be an eye-opening look-see behind the dark world of strip-clubs and debauchery in Vegas, turned out to be a basic and repetitive story form a security guard’s point of view. It wasn’t written very well, but it also was not fiction, so you can’t expect it to be twists and turns the whole way through. It certainly opened my eyes to a few things but it was pretty boring and I would not recommend it to anyone looking for something juicer. Mind you, I am completely turned off by the entire world of dark and smoky strip clubs, not really my scene. I think the man who wrote it, Brent, has suffered terribly in his short time physically for his role and I winced whenever I read about the pain he was experiencing and the possibility of lung cancer due to other people smoking in the clubs.

It is a book of sex, cash, violence and greed but not at all as entertaining as you would like it to be. My only take from this book was don’t become a stripper and don’t let my husband become a security guard at a strip club. You know, the basic sort of life warnings you give yourself ;).

handmaid's taleThe Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood (1985)

As one of my absolute favourite books for the year, The Handmaid’s Tale was again chosen due to the mini-series coming out on SBS this year. I knew I couldn’t start it until I finished the book and once I started the book I am pretty sure I read it in two or three days. With only 311 pages, I was not expecting there to be so heart-stopping. Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, established and enforced by the Sons of Jacob. You remember Jacob right? According to the book of Genesis, he was the third Hebrew progenitor with whom God made a covenant, he also had two wives – Leah and Rachel (sisters) Jacob had 12 sons and each son became their own family and were the Israelites. Let me just leave this little pearler for you ‘Give me children, or else I die!” (Genesis 30:1).

Okay, that’s enough old-testament speak from me, but I am sure it gives you a little background into The Handmaid’s Tale. Offred is a Handmaid, her job is to get pregnant to her Commander and his Wife (read: slave captors). Women are not allowed to read, write, or leave the area. Handmaid’s are valued only if they are fertile. Offred had a Husband and daughter, a job and was a free woman in Boston – but not anymore.

This book is terrifying and the mini-series is even scarier. You know what is scarier though? It is not really that far from fiction. Perhaps the fertility aspect of it – but not the slavery, woman’s right, loss of freedom side of things. I recommend you give it a read and be very, very thankful for where you live in the world and the rights we have, there are far worse situations out there in the world and we should all be ashamed and frightened for it.

To be continued…