NO LIMITS|MY LOVE FOR HARRIS

Just under four years ago (THE TIME HAS FLOWN), I received an email saying I’d been accepted as an Inky Award Judge for 2014. I was pretty damn excited – I was getting free books and I’d be able to talk and analyse and argue about them with other people. What could be better? (Answer: not much).

One of those 20 EXCELLENT Inky Awards books was Ellie Marney’s Every Breath (the first book in the Every series) and I damn well fell in love. I loved Rachel’s fiery nature and Mycroft’s hair!!! (And also him and his loping-ness, and his Mycroft-ness).

I devoured book 1 and 2 and then came book 3 with Harris!!! (I could spend an entire blog post talking about the Every series, but since this is meant to be a review for No Limits, I should probably get a move on). I’m not going to spoil anything, but book 3 is an exciting time because we get introduced to Harris (and his wily ways).

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Fast forward to my 18th birthday and my sister had organised for Ellie Marney to send me a birthday card.* Included in that package was THE FIRST PAGE OF HARRIS!!! Looking at it, a lil bit has changed – bits taken out – the order changed, but not that much. It’s still stuck to the wall above my bed and even though the book is (almost) out in the real world, it’s probably gonna stay there for a while.

Fast forward to present day. I have just finished No Limits and it was everything I have been excited for. It’s reallly hard to review without spoilers (because I just want to shout everything out from the rooftops, but since it’s not actually out yet, and Ellie was super super kind enough to give me an e-ARC), I will refrain. Kudos to all reviewers who do not spoil. (I clearly don’t do this very often so I’ll try my best).

ANYWAY. Here are the things I liked/loved:
– HARRIS (and his face and the way he grew as a person and his golden-ness AND the certain thing he gets in the book which I won’t talk about BUT I WOULD LOVE a photo).
– AMIE. She strong and powerful (THAT KICK!!), AND SHE’S V. involved in her Indian culture. Her family (NANI!!!), and Beena and her aunt and her dad. They were all so great – and they had their flaws, but whose family doesn’t?
– THE AUSTRALIAN SLANG. If you ever ever need to study Australian slang, read this (or any of Ellie’s other books). The language makes the entire book so relatable – like Harris and Amie could be my friends and ugh!!! So good.
– LOCATION. Everything felt so real!! It feels as if I were to drive down their way, I would expect to see all the landmarks in the book – from the river to the run-down house (incl. their occupants); to plain house and the hospital.
– THERE WAS LOTS AND LOTS OF TOUCHING AND IT WAS EXCELLENT.

There really wasn’t anything I didn’t like, except that it wasn’t long enough. Although the ending is SO SO good, and I cannot see how, in any universe, it could’ve ended up differently.

Diem and I reviewed THIS EXCELLENT BOOK on the BookishFriends Podcast –
LINKY to discussion (SPOILERS!!! and mostly about Harris and his hotness.
LINKY to review (no spoilers, much MORE SERIOUS but equally as important because we discuss the ‘big issues’ in Ellie’s v. wonderful book) ***CONTENT WARNING: drug addiction and domestic violence****

If you ever need to discuss Harris/Amie/Rachel/Mycroft or anything related to these WONDERFUL books, tweet me @laurentheberger.

The book is out today!!! If you live in Melbourne, there’s a book launch that Friday (the 18th of August) at Dymocks in the city (link for tickets/info).

READ IT. CHAT TO ME ABOUT IT. WE CAN LOVE AND SIGH OVER HARRIS/AMIE

 

*My sister also organised for Rachael Craw to send me a card. With her card she sent a video with her reading from Stray. Thank you to both Ellie and Rachael for such memorable 18th birthday presents ❤ <3.

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LOVE to Manchester

Concerts are meant to be safe places to go and have the absolute best time with your friend/s or family, screaming words to a song you fell like was written for you. They’re places for inspiring, for (happy) tears and for losing your voice. They’re meant to be filled with joy and happiness and a sense of finally I’m here, after booking tickets a year ago. Concerts are meant to be filled with shiny lights (aka your phones) when you sway to a slow song, or confetti or those huge balls that get floated around the crowd.

I was lucky enough to go to Adele in March, and this is what I wrote under my Instagram video of the event:

“ADELE ✨ I wanna be like her when I grow up ✨ She is a certified genius, a powerhouse and is not afraid to tell it like it is. She swears like a sailor and has the best laugh and let a little kid’s dream come true by letting her sing the entirety of Hello on stage tonight 💖 Her songs are anthems for everyone young and old and in between; she’s the hope and happiness (and tears over boys) 🌌 Thank you for the night 🌟”

Reading that again, I am immediately reminded about how excited I was seeing her perform (and it truely is a performance – comedy AND singing); about how inspired I felt afterwards to do my own creative things! Concerts are grounds for hope and love and your dreams coming true.

Concerts should never ever ever end like how Ariana Grande’s concert ended. It makes me so angry and sad that this attack happened and especially at a concert – a place that’s there for people to see their idols (finally!) – and sing the words they’ve known the minute the album came out out loud, with thousands of other passionate fans.

I know we don’t know the full story or the extent of the deaths. The last time I checked, there were 22 dead and 50 people injured. That’s 72 people too many. 72 people who came to have the best night, filled with excitement and optimism and hope. 22 people whose parents, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, friends, cousins, grandparents and dogs will be scared and sad and missing them so so much. 50 people we are worried for and hoping for and loving.

I can only hope and believe that everyone injured will recover, and that nothing like this will never ever ever happen again. Not only at concerts, but anywhere: in schools, offices, on the streets, market places, beach fronts, homes or anywhere else.

Sending all the love in the world to those suffering, and may everything be a little bit better soon.

 

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University update!

university

I am now just over 9 weeks deep into my first year of uni – and I like to think I’m no longer just a jaffy*, but someone who has learnt a little bit about how life works at uni.

  1. The lecturers don’t really care whether, you – personally, go to their lecture, but I assume it is nicer when there’s people to talk to. I started off going to every single lecture (except my m+c one, which I dislike with a passion) – but I love the idea that if I miss one, I can still catch up online. That means if I’m feeling unwell (or just not feeling it), I don’t have to push myself to go. Every single lecture (or at least for all the classes I do) are recorded, along with the slides that are used. I do try and go, because it means when I get home I don’t have to catch up on hours of lectures – but knowing that back up is there is very nice.

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  2. Making friends isn’t going to happen overnight. I knew this. I did. But it was also nice to think that going from high school to somewhere where no-one knew me (and I was a year disconnected), it would be a fresh start. I would be a changed woman. And I like to think that I’m a bit different – a bit more confident – but I still gotta learn to put myself out there a bit.
  3. Uni’s better than high school. #Confirmed. I’m actually studying what I like – and I know that if I don’t like it, I can always change mid-semester (which I plan on doing with my m+c class).
  4. They don’t spoon feed you. I know high school is meant to prepare you for uni, and it does in some ways (kinda??), but there is a lot of help at high school: your teachers, student managers, other teachers, your friends etc. Uni is different. Things are explained in less detail, and with less time til the due date. If you need help, you have to make an appointment in advance (and it might not be at good times for you) to see your tutor. They don’t spend super long on a topic – whereas I found at high school, they went over and over concepts until you were sick to death of them (but at least you knew them)!
  5. It’s really nice to have some good food at uni – and not just deep fried potato cakes and $4.50 salads – but also a bit dangerous. At the beginning I bought food everyday, but I’ve become a bit slack – and hey, if money’s not to spend on food, what is it for?

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    Ron is me, and I am Ron.

  6. Everyone’s pretty nice – no-one gives a shit about who you were in high school, and whether you were in this clique, or that one, or had no friends – they’ll probably talk to you anyway. I haven’t come across anyone who is rude for no reason (hello, high school). It’s weird not knowing all the people in my year (as I did at high school, because I’d spent the last 6 years with them) – but I guess knowing a few thousand people is a bit much.
  7. You’ve gotta be pretty motivated, because the teachers (lecturers and tutors) care, but not as much as they did in high school. At high school, it felt like they invested in you, and if you needed help they would be there – before school or after school. The tutors feel a bit interested in you – and want you to do well whilst you’re in their class – but once you’re in the next semester, they won’t know you – whether you got an HD or an F.

So far, so good. There’s been great points, and there’s been some pretty stressful points. I love some of my classes – others I want to get rid of asap. I’ve written more words in my essays in the last 2 months then I think I’ve written in my entire high school career – and a picture is slowly forming about what I want to do when I finish.

*  the super endearing term for clueless first years: just another f**king first year.

 

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Read//Watch//Listen (8)

I’ve written and rewritten about 3 different posts in the last week. I’m not sure myself what I wanna say, so for the moment, draft posts and Shiny New Ideas it is. It’s been a while since I posted anything, so here is version numero 8 of Read//Watch//Listen.

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READ

I am currently reading some excellent #LoveOzYA in the form of Night Swimming (Steph Bowe). I’ve read her other two books, and have mixed feelings about both of them, but so far I’m really enjoying this book. I went to the launch (late, because I had something on before, but I did manage to hear the end of Steph reading out of her book, and all the thank yous). Steph is super lovely (and she even remembered me)!

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Note: Not only is the book itself wonderful, but the MC has a grandad who has dementia, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a YA book and I really really appreciate it!

WATCH

Besides my normal shows, I am watching Suits (which I absolutely love) – and this morning I started the super super hyped Thirteen Reasons Why. I have read the book (years ago, though), so I know mostly what happens, although I’ve forgotten a lot of the details. One episode in, and the thing I’m enjoying the most is the fact that Kate Walsh (Addison Montgomery to the Greys and Private Practice fans is Hannah’s mom). I’m interested to see how they work the show, and whether I’ll like it.

LISTEN

I’m not really listening to anything obsessively at the moment – but my general playlist includes Divide (Ed Sheeran), Green Light (Lorde) and Water Under the Bridge (Adele).

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Any TV show recommendations?

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Starting University

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Tomorrow I have my first day of uni ever.

I’m pretty excited ngl, but the nerves are starting to creep in a little bit. I went to two days of o-week, and that first bus ride and arriving at uni where I knew no-one and had no idea where to do (my uni is so big it has its own postcode), I felt like a year 7 again: lost and scared and lonely.

By day two of o-week, I felt a little bit more comfortable (still didn’t know anyone), but managed to fake being confident to at least talk to one or two people. I struggle a bit with meeting new people because I get all nervous and what if they think I’m ridiculous and do I smell???

But I’m learning (and it’s taken a damn long time) that a) everyone has thoughts like these at one time or another, b) lotsa people are in the same boat, and even though they look like they’ve known each other for forever, they’re probably just walking together because the footpath is narrow, and c), you travelled around the world for 4 months and met people and made friends there, uni friend-making should be a piece of cake.

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I know it won’t be easy – it’s just not something that comes so naturally to me – say, like writing or baking – but I feel more armed and ready to fake confidence and actually talk to people rather than standing in the corner people watching.

I am doing a bachelor of arts (aka bugger all), and my four subjects this semester are: bioethics, media and culture, human geography and journalism. I have no idea what my major and minor will be yet (and whether I’ll even enjoy these subjects); but it’s such a far cry from high school where we were basically forced to do certain subjects, that it’s just really nice having a real choice (so I’m mostly determined to like it on that factor).

As part of my 2017 resolutions (which you can read about here), one of my goals is to make more uni friends. So cheers to that! I’ve had a lot of the same friends since primary school and the beginning of high school, and don’t get me wrong, I love them, but I do want to meet new people and have new relationships and learn new things about said people and relationships.

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Other uni goals include:

  • Joining clubs (I’ve already joined debating, which I did in high school and have missed it for the past year). I also want to write for the uni magazine and there’s possibly some others (film club, creative writing club, linguistics club etc.), that I wanna check out.
  • Go to your bloody lectures because you know in your heart of hearts that you’re not going to sit and home and watch them and concentrate as much as you would in class. The recorded lectures and there as a backup!
  • Do your notes the same day as your lectures, because you will forget them, especially the finer (usually important) details. (I could never do this in high school, but because I’m typing notes during the lectures, I should be able to achieve this).
  • ASK FOR HELP WITH YOUR ESSAYS (and don’t ask at home, the can help, but they’re not the experts). I can write essays, but they take me forever, and I’ll probably have a breakdown somewhere between the second paragraph and the third (actually that’s a lie, it’s usually during planning somewhere); and there is so much help available at uni that I need to get over myself and just ask (and ask and ask) for help.
  • Have fun fun fun! I need to learn to balance uni and fun and actually relaxing and not feeling guilty while I’m relaxing (major year 12 flashbacks).

Here’s to me: loving (and sometimes hating) uni. May I make friends and learn new and interesting things everyday and whilst learning those new and interesting things, summarise my notes in my 5-subject notebook (that I bought today because I am unusually disorganised). Here’s to me probably missing a few buses (but not the important ones), and to not getting too lost on campus, and actually asking people for help when I need it. Here’s to living and having courage and enjoying uni and taking advantage of the things offered and joining clubs and – finally – graduating in 2019 with my degree in arts, with a yet undecided major.

cheers-house

(I miss House a lil)

 

 

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Read//Watch//Listen (7)

This is my first Read//Watch//Listen of 2017 (and also my first one since May last year…)

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READ

I am currently reading Adam Silvera’s new book More Happy than Not. I’m not super far into it (about 80 pages), but I’m enjoying it so far. The last book I finished was Words in Deep Blue (Cath Crowley) which was excellent and so very cute.

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I am still non-consistently writing (see: never), but I WROTE JUST OVER 1500 words the other day. This was quite an achievement because I think the last time I wrote something was last year sometime. At this rate, my novel is going to be finished in about 5 years.

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WATCH

Last night I watched the season (4) finale of How to Get Away With Murder, which wasn’t as cliffhanger-y as the last ones, but there was definitely one bit that was a bit of a shock (classic htgawm style). I still watch Greys and I still enjoy it!

I am also currently watching Homeland (trying to stave off watching them because I’ve only got 3 episodes left until I’m up to date and I don’t wanna wait, so this is my way of pretending not to). I am also watching Chicago: PD, Fire, Med (and Justice starts this week I think, so that’ll be added to my list). I watch Bones (which is sadly getting closer and closer to the end!); and am stockpiling This is Us for when I have nothing else to watch.

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Classic lines from This is Us

 

LISTEN

Despite me not seeing it yet, I am very must invested in the Moana soundtrack. I especially like How Far I’ll Go and Where you are and You’re Welcome. I’m very impressed with The Rock’s singing ability (I did not know he could sing), plus some of the songs are written by Lin-Manuel Miranda and he is so extremely talented so his works are music (literally) to my ears. I really need to get my ass to the cinema to see it.

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What are you guys reading, watching and listening to?

 

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2016/2017 New Years Resolutions

These are my 2016 Resolutions (I wrote a list of 7 on my summary post last year), but on paper I handwrote (wow, what a concept!!), a full ‘official‘ list of 16 NY Resolutions:

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2016 NY Resolutions

  1. DRINK LESS JUICE
    – In the last couple of months this has been going downhill, but at the start of the year, I was a bit more vigilant. I would say ACHIEVED
  2. GET A JOB
    – I have a (pretty regular, proper) job (which I’m going back to on Tuesday after a nice long holiday). So, ACHIEVED
  3. GO TRAVELLING (OVERSEAS)
    – I went with my mom to South Africa and also went on a 4 month trip with my friend around Israel, Europe, London and Abu Dhabi. I did a series of 11 recaps if you want to see what I got up to and live vicariously through my travels (which is what I’ll be doing when I go back to work). ACHIEVED
  4. START/FINISH MY MODELLING NOVEL (OR WRITE AT LEAST 30K)
    – I did start it, but got nowhere near 30K – I wrote a grand total of 12,387 words this year, which is better than nothing but certainly not where I wanted to be. I’m not very good at consistently writing, and those words were probably done in a matter of days/weeks. This was NOT ACHIEVED, and will probably end up back on my 2017 list.
  5. READ 100 BOOKS
    – I only read 61 (same as last year!), so this was NOT ACHIEVED. I attribute my low(ish) number to the large amount of travelling that I did.
  6. SEE SOME FOREIGN FILMS
    – I went to a few JIFF (Jewish International Film Festival), so that ticked this off my NY resolutions list. I saw Fritz Bauer vs. the People, Anne Frank and False Flag. ACHIEVED
  7. SEE AT LEAST ONE CONCERT
    – I didn’t manage to get to a concert this year (so NOT ACHIEVED), but I am seeing Adele next year which I’m SO excited for!!!
  8. LOOK AFTER MYSELF
    – This will always be a goal (whether I write it down or not), but I think I ACHIEVED it this year. I tried my very best to be aware of how I was feeling, and then doing something about it, and not bottling everything up. I did things for me and not always for other people. I took precautions in my mental and physical health and worked hard to be self aware.
  9. LEARN/PRACTICE PHOTOSHOP AT LEAST 3 TIMES WEEKLY (IF POSSIBLE).
    – I worked sporadically on Photoshop throughout the year, but didn’t do it enough. SEMI-ACHIEVED
  10. LEARN HOW TO USE MY CAMERA PROPERLY
    – I have had my camera for way too long to not know all the ins and outs of it, but this year I did a little bit. Certainly not enough, but I know more than I did 1 year ago, and I plan to continue learning more. SEMI-ACHIEVED
  11. MAKE A CROQUEMBOUCHE
    – This has also been on my to-do list for the last 3 months, and I just haven’t gotten around to doing it. NOT ACHIEVED
  12. FINISH SUV
    – Still not there. I think I watched 1 episode this entire year? NOT ACHIEVED
  13. GET A NOSE PIERCING
    – Yep and I love it! ACHIEVED
  14. BE HAPPY
    – It was a year of ups and downs (as every year is), but I have ended it with a feeling of overall happiness. I travelled and laughed and cried this year and spent it doing thins for myself and for once, not feeling stressed out everyday. It was a good year. ACHIEVED
  15. WRITE IN HERE (JOURNAL) EVERYDAY
    – I wrote on an A5 piece of paper everyday from the beginning of year 12 to the middle of 2016 (the day before I left to go travelling). On my travels I recorded a travel diary everyday. When I got back, I didn’t pick up where I left off in my every-day diary. I think I needed it at the time, but now, I’m good! NOT ACHIEVED (but happier with that).
  16. WRITE >18 BLOG POSTS
    – I wrote a grand total of 23 posts this year, so ACHIEVED!

Overall I am very happy with my results – 8 achieved, 6 not achieved and 2 semi-achieved. It was a big year for me, physically, mentally and locationally. 2017 is my first year of uni, so I’m going to be focusing on that as well as the stresses and triumphs that come with it.

2017 NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS

  1. Read 100 books
  2. Get to 35K in my modelling novel (more achievable goal)
  3. Make a croquembouche
  4. Empty the read-and-then-donate bookshelf
  5. Make more/uni friends
  6. Be proud of my achievements
  7. Join uni clubs
  8. Finish The Woman’s Murder Club series of books
  9. Learn to sew
  10. Go on a road trip
  11. Do NaNoWriMo 2017!!
  12. Start a weekly/monthly segment on my blog
  13. Write more poems
  14. Write more short stories
  15. Learn the positions for volleyball
  16. Scrapbook

May 2017 be everything I want.

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Number Crunch (3)

2016 has been a big year. It was my first year in 13 years that I didn’t have school (or uni) commitments. I could almost do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted and I spent a lot of time at the beginning doing just that. I loved the freedom that no routine brought, and during that time I learnt more about how I was as a person.

This year I’ve done a lot of travelling: I went to South Africa in April/May with my mom (to see family) and then went travelling for 4 months with my friend from July-November. My trip was incredible (I did a series of blog posts if you wanna read about it); and I can’t wait to go on the next one.

Being away from home for such an extended period of time with only Skype and Instant Message to keep in touch forced me to figure out how to manage with problems by myself. I think I became more confident overseas, and learnt more about myself as a person and how I interact with others.

Once again I have summed up my year using numbers. Have a look down below to see the number of books, films and TV shows I have spent too much time on this year:

BOOKS:
61 books in 2016 (same as last year!)
932 since I started recording in 2/3/2008

TOP 5: 
– Summer Skin (new favourite) – Kirsty Eager (I did a review on it – NOT spoiler free, so read at your own risk)
– Frankie – Shivaun Plozza (#loveOzYA represent!!)
– The Unexpected Everything – Morgan Matson
– Saint Anything – Sarah Dessen (My favourite Sarah Dessen so far <3)
– Pieces of Sky – Trinity Doyle (this has been on my TBR for about 2 years, and I finally read it and really loved it!)

  • Once again the books that I listed at the end of last year’s summary are still there for me to read (excluding Pieces of Me):
    – Carry On – Rainbow Rowell
    – Friday Brown – Vicki Wakefield
    – The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B
  • I’m still behind on reading 2016 releases (as usual), but I went to the Centre for Youth Literature’s 2017 #YAshowcase, and heard about so many incredible 2017 releases. You can hear about my Top 5 (and Diem’s) from our Bookish Friends podcast episode where recapped the event.

MOVIES:
64 films overall (11 more than last year!)

TOP 5:
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (definitely my favourite of the year – hilarious, very clever and beautiful cinematography)
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them (I loved loved loved being back in the Harry Potter universe – with everything magic. The beasts were incredible and Eddie Redmayne as Newt was spectacular)

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La La Land (Excellent music, acting and storyline. It was so whimsical and lovely and I could watch it over and over (I have seen it twice and am listening to the soundtrack as I type this))
Standford Prison Experiment (If you get the chance to see this I highly recommend! It stars Ezra Miller and is based on a true story (from Wikipedia): “The Stanford Prison Experiment was an attempt to investigate the psychological effects of perceived power, focusing on the struggle between prisoners and prison guards“)
False Flag (this was 8 episodes of a TV show shown back to back. I saw it at JIFF*, and it reminded me of HTGAWM – you didn’t know who was going to betray whom next. From Wikipedia: “It involves five ordinary Israelis who wake up one morning and discover that their names, faces, and personal details have been splashed across the world’s media on suspicion of involvement in a high-profile kidnapping.
Honourable mentions: Spotlight, The People Vs. Fritz Bauer and Room

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From Room

TV SHOWS:
Currently watching: 
Homeland
(Started already)Waiting to come back:
– Bones (one more season to go!),
– Please Like Me,
– How to Get Away with Murder,
– Chicago Med/PD/Fire,
– Sense8 (
The Christmas episode was excellent),
– Orange is the New Black,
– Marvel’s Jessica Jones,
– Grey’s Anatomy,
– This is Us (n
ewly started)
– Top of the Lake (newly started and finished, but apparently they’re making another season which is exciting!)
Waiting: Chicago Justice
Finished: House (finally!!) and Castle (where I wrote a thank you post to the show)
Need to finish: Winners and Losers

Next year I start uni, which I’m pretty excited for. I’m doing a Bachelor of Arts and my chosen subjects are: Human Geography, Media and Society, Bioethics and Journalism. They’re all English-arts related (which I love), and I’m so ready to start learning again.

Here’s to an excellent 2017!!!

 

 

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2016: a poem

We lost Willy Wonka, Snape and Mohammed Ali,
David Bowie, Prince, Dolly mag and Harper Lee.
There was Brexit, Trump elected and terror attacks –
Orlando and Bastille Day the worst of the acts.
Goodbye George Michael, Princess Leia, and Zsa Zsa Gabor,
Debbie Reynolds, Nancy Reagan and deaths from the war.

World wise, it’s been a bad year,
But personally, it’s way up there.
I travelled to Israel, Europe and the UK;
To Abu Dhabi and British Broadway.

Physically and mentally I battled the heat,
trying my best to care for my feet.
I managed (with the help of a few),
And (mostly) successfully made it through.

I saw sights and sounds I’d never before,
We ate till we were full and ate some more.
I cried and laughed and took so many snaps;
We were lost everyday and loved Google maps.

Travels aside, I discovered more of me,
Who I am as a person, what I’d like to be.
I chose my uni subjects, and I’m excited to start –
It’s a mix of what I like – a degree in ‘arts’.

2016, we have survived,
And ready or not, next year’s arrived;
We are armed and ready to go;
To live and party and dance and grow.

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Travel Update #11

The flight wasn’t delayed, the food was good and the whole thing relatively painless.

I had no seat in front of me and no-one next to me. I watched two and a bit movies: Now You See Me 2 (again), Money Monster (which wasn’t bad), and a little bit of Deadpool (which I had seen, and I knew I’d run out of time so I started it).

We got picked up from the airport by A’s aunt, L and her daughter, Av (A’s cousin). We drove to their (very nice) house, got the tour (and our own rooms!) And ate very delicious dinner (pho), made by T, the husband.

We chatted a bit with L and T and then I had a great shower and went to bed (a bit late, but my body was still on UK time).

Day #2 we used as a relaxing day. I woke up early, turned the air conditioning on and then went back to sleep.

I woke up at about 9.45, chatted to the family, had breakfast and then used up a few hours by doing not much (the internet seems to suck up time like no-body’s business).

I had 2 flatbreads, a boiled egg and hummus for lunch.

T took A and I for a drive around the island, showing us the main sights of the city.

It was super weird not to see people walking around – it seemed quite barren and lonely. I’m not sure if there were no people because of the weather (although there’s people walking around in Melbourne weather like this), or the places we were driving.

We picked the kids up from school and came back to the house. I did some hand washing and wrote a little bit (something that might be coming up here soon).

L came back from work and I joined her and A downstairs. We chatted for a bit and then had Sheppard’s pie, with sides of broccoli and cabbage, for dinner. It was really good!

L and Av follow the UK X-Factor so we watched it after dinner. We ate some lemon and like cheesecake, made by Av, which was really good! We also watched multiple Leona Lewis videos, courtesy of L’s love for her.

Showered and went to bed (late again).

Day #3, had a little bowl of gross cereal and a piece of toast with peanut butter for breakfast.

T took A and I to the shops – we needed an ATM and a pharmacy. We got what we needed and wandered into the supermarket to look around.

Suddenly loud music starts playing over the PA system. We find the source – members of staff had choreographed dances as a celebration for their 21st anniversary. We watched for a bit, found T and then went back.

For lunch I had flatbread, hummus and olives.

Packed my bag, got ready and left. One minute in, T asks us what we’re wearing in our feet (thongs and sandals) – and he says to do quad biking, we need closed shoes. We turn around, race back inside and grab what we need.

He drops us off by the bus – and we find our leader – Glycer. She was a very excitable and happy person.

We spend the next 2.5 hours picking people up and driving towards the place.

When we arrive, Glycer gives us a quick rundown of all the activities we can do and we’re off!

First things first: we pour karak tea, get a free soft drink out the fridge (I have sprite); and then I sit down to get henna-ed.

My henna!

We chatted while it dried and then it’s our turn for the dune bashing, aka sitting in the back of a 4×4 whilst being driven through the dunes like a maniac.

We stopped on one of the high dunes for sunset photos.

The dunes at sunset

Me on the dunes at sunset

It was fun, although the combination of the heat and the constant turning (kinda like a rollercoaster), made me feel a bit sick.

Once we arrived back, we had more tea, and sat down for a falcon show.

They had a dead/fake (not sure), falcon tied to a fishing rod; and they rode a (live) falcon on a quad bike to the top of a high dune.

The man below – with the fishing rod falcon, starting waving it about and making noise. The live falcon flew to try and catch it. They’re pretty incredible birds: very swift and skilled and determined.

Falcon with cute hood!!!

Me holding the falcon ((with some others))

Next, we were going to go quad biking, but had to wait for a group of annoying Irish girls.

Instead we went sand surfing. It took us a little bit of time to find (because it was pitch black), but we eventually spotted the board (over the hill from the camel poo).

A went first and it was so slow. But he’d essentially made a path for me, so mine was fun, especially at the end. It was a bit of a struggle to climb back up the steep dune with this heavy board in my hand.

Next stop: quad bikes! They were super fun!! We rode up and down the dunes in the darkness, with only headlights to see about 1.5m in front of us. I accidentally went down a steeper dune – the quad bike was a bit nose first for my liking but it managed and I didn’t fall off!

QUAD BIKING!

Post quad biking, we had dinner, sitting on traditional cushions outside.

For dinner, there was a range of things, but I had little bits of: hummous, baba ganoush (so good!), fried noodles, tandoori chicken, battered fish, beef, yellow rice, vegetarian curry, pickled salad (with pickles) and Greek salad.

For dessert was this liquid with what tasted like bread and raisins and apple (cooked) in it. It was quite nice, except the liquid was very sweet.

Post dinner, we all sat around a big screen in the desert and drank karak tea (passed out by then this time), and watched a short video on how the UAE came to be etc.

Then we were invited to sit in a traditional tent (reminded me of the Bedouin tents in Israel).

Selfie in traditional seating area

We were bussed back to the drop off point and took a taxi back.

Day #4, I chatted to my sister for a bit and once again had peanut butter on toast for breakfast.

At about 11, we left the house – I had my bathers on and my phone and wallet in a Ziploc bag: we were going kayaking!

T dropped us off, we got life jacket-ed up, and the four of us (A, myself and a German couple) – plus our leader (Ernesto), were off!

We kayaked for about an hour and a half straight. It was pretty fun, although I bumped into everything and everyone, especially in the narrow channels.

I managed to get water everywhere, so by the end, I wasn’t only wet, but very salty as the water has a very high salt content.

Part of where we kayaked

T fetched us, and we went back to the house, via picking up his kids from school.

Once back, I chatted to my parents for a bit and then A and I went to the compound pool. I was feeling lazy and just lounged in the warm, but shallow pool.

Post pool, we went back (the long way), and showered and cleaned up from all the salt (and now chlorine).

We left the house at just past 6 and taxied to our destination:a Guy Fawkes celebration.

As a snack, we shared popcorn and chips (crisps), and then were moved, saying the fireworks were going to start. Forty minutes and a Sprite later, they did. They were quite incredible and I’d never seen some of the firework designs and noises that went off.

Fireworks #1

Fireworks #2

Post fireworks, A and I chatted to L and T, and then we had the ‘BBQ’ dinner: steak and chicken and Asian noodles and rice and potato gratin and corn and broccoli and bean salad and coleslaw and gravy.

We chatted for a bit more, and then at about 10.30 we left. A and I taxied home with L and T went with his children and the friend.

I had a headache from the sun and not drinking enough and my lenses being in for too long so I went to bed pretty quickly.

Day #5, peanut butter toast for breakfast (again).

I m didn’t do much in the morning, and at 12pm we left the house and Rove to the shops.

There, we bought lunch and snacks.

From the shops, we drove to the marina and sat in the members lounge whilst we waited for the boat (Mariah) to be refuelled.

Once it was ready, we all got in and we were off!

We had a very choppy section of water to begin with: lots of jumping up and down in the boat. We boated along the Corniche –  the left side of the island.

Cityscape across the water

We stopped the boat and ate our (pie) lunch – I had a steak pie that was very delicious.

We floated around a little, then headed towards Al Maya Island through one of the scariest/choppiest sections of water. It was like being on an insane rollercoaster and there was definitely a bit of fear there!

We arrived at the island and it was gorgeous! The boat was anchored and the kids (and a friend), and L, and A and I jumped off the boat. We swam around for ages – and covered the friend in sand (and pretended she was pregnant/having a baby); and helped M make a sand mansion.

Nose of the boat//island

We all then climbed back into the boat and ate the snacks we bought: sea salt lindt chocolate, billtong, grapes, watermelon, cantaloupe, olives, stuffed bell peppers, Cheetos (it was my first time trying them and they’re too spicy!), Fritos and artichokes.

Selfie on the boat

At 5pm/sunset, we tried to leave but the boat wouldn’t start! We tried again and again and eventually it turned on.

The path back was less rocky, and once back at the marina, we got off the boat, into the car and drove home.

For dinner, we had takeaway Indian: butter chicken, lamb Rogan josh, onion balls (I always forget the name but they’re so good), chickpea curry (so good), naan, roti and rice.

After dinner, we watched Tallulah – a film with Ellen Page and Allison Janney about a young girl that kidnaps a baby. It was quite good.

Another headache, another early(ish) night.

Day #6, L very kindly made us crepes do breakfast and I had mine with nutella and banana.

Crepes for breakfast!

I chilled and packed in the morning, and then L took A, Av, M and I to the top of the Etihad Towers.

Foyer of the Etihad Tower

It was very beautiful with all the sand and buildings and water.

View from the top

View from the top #2

We shared 3 cakes and had a drink each.

L-R: cheesecake, honey cake and caramel grand opera cake.

Red Velvet mocktail: strawberry and peach puree with fresh fruit

Post Etihad Towers, we went to Manarat and saw an exhibition about the development of Saadriyat.

We weren’t there for long, and drove from there to Emarat Park for the markets and food stalls.

Emarat Food Stalls

We walked along the craft stalls and I bought a cutesie chameleon felt pin for myself.

For dinner we had SALT burgers and chips. I had one of each kind of burger – L and I swapped.

Burger 1 – waygu beef, jalepenos, lettuce + brioche bun//Burger 2 – waygu beef, pickles, cheese and a brioche bun

We drove home, and watched Dear Frankie, a beautifully done film about a kid who receives fake letters from his father (written by his mother).

Day #7 (last day!!), I had yoghurt and banana and bits and honey for breakfast, dressed, packed my bag and our car arrived.

It took about an hour and a half to get to Duabi, and once there we wandered around for a bit trying to find the Gold Souk.

A was convinced it was the area we were in, but I thought it’d be more market-y. Turned out I was right when we eventually found it!

Apparently it’s all real (and reallll ugly)

We did the Gold Souk, continually being harassed – ‘Want a copy bag or watch? Louis Vuitton and Chanel?’ – where I bought a small bowl for my friend and beautiful Picasso-esque pillowcase (where I haggled and got the price way down).

The guys were both super annoying and kept asking if we wanted more more more.

Essential utensils

We walked to the Spice Souk (where, on the way, some guy heard up talking about trying to find it and led us there – but it wasn’t the souk, it was his store).

Pretty spices!!

After more annoying men, we took the abra (wooden boat) across the water and did the Old Dubai Souk, with the most annoying men of them all: those who put scarves on you.

They held onto one side because I had the idea to just walk off with them (instead I angrily shrugged it off).

For lunch, we went to a recommended restaurant: Bayt Al Wakeel.

I had a strawberry juice and mixed sambosek (mixed savoury pastries with cheese or spinach or meat in them) for lunch.

Strawberry juice

The sambosek were just a starter and I wanted something else, so I ordered the mixed Arabic pickles.

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Mixed sambosek

Lo and behold, it turns out THEY WERE NOT PICKLES, BUT PICKLED CARROTS AND PARSNIPS which were absolutely terrible terrible. I shoved some down, but couldn’t do more (and was in mourning for potential pickles).

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NOT PICKLES

We left, and I bought overpriced, but yummy camel milk ice-cream (because when in Dubai and also to cheer myself up after the non-pickles) and we abra-ed back to the first side.

We managed to find our way back to the main road (via A buying a bowl for himself), but we couldn’t find the shop we were meant to meet our driver at. We called him and walked around and called him again – eventually we found him! Turns out we went the wrong way at the crossroads – right instead of left.

Our driver drove us to Dubai Mall, the largest mall in the entire world with over 1200 shops. Insane, and definitely unnecessary (but we were there, so why not?!).

First stop: the aquarium! There is an aquarium – complete with a shark – in the shopping centre. Across from here, there is a rad and very delicious lolly store called Candylicious with incredible popcorn (Garrett’s), and sweets from every place you can think of. They also had the largest Hershey’s Chocolate, weighing at 2.26kg!!

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Me at the aquarium inside the shopping centre!

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Candylicious speaks true words!

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Section of Candylicious

We walked around for a bit: to Muji and Gallery One (super nice art store), and West Elm and past all the super fancy unaffordable shops. We saw the ice-rink, and the waterfall with the really cool sculptures.

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The waterfall and the diving sculptures (also inside the shopping centre!!)

We sat in the food court for a break, and then went outside to see the Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world!! It was quite impressive (and hard to get the whole thing in a photo).

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The Burj Khalifa

Once back inside, we went to the supermarket and I bought some Karak Tea sachets, and walked around a bit more. At 5.40pm, we went outside to wait for the fountains to start dancing. It was a bit hard to find a place, but at 6pm, all the fountains started dancing to loud music! It was pretty cool and quite beautiful.

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Dancing fountains

We squished our way through the crowds of people to go back inside and went back to Muji and West Elm for potential T and L presents. On the way to Galeries Lafeyette, A thought to get them Garrett’s popcorn, which I thought was a great idea. We went back to Candylicious and bought the popcorn (I wish I could’ve bought but they didn’t sell small packets and I was leaving the next day).

We went back to Waitrose, where I bought a zataar bread as a snack and flowers for T and L. We met our driver in the parking lot and drove back to the house. Paid and thanked him, and gave T and L their presents.

For dinner, we had really good lamb stew that T made us, and I said goodbye to Maddy. Av, L, A and I tried to watch the X-Factor (but it wasn’t working), so we watched Carpool Karaoke videos instead and Pink Panther clips. I said goodbye to L and Av and A and I drank Karak tea.

On my last day, A and I walked to the mosque in the morning – where I had borrowed L’s abiyah to cover up, and I had a sarong to cover my head. The mosque was incredibly beautiful and we were also allowed to go into the prayer room (not sure if it’s used) – to look at the stunning walls and floors and beams.

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Mosque from the outside

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Dressed for the mosque!

We taxi-ed back, and I finalised packing (aka stuffing my sarong in my bag), ate lunch and was dropped at the airport. A and I said a quick goodbye (and of course took photos).

I went through easily, and waited on the other side for a bit.

My plane flight from Abu Dhabi to Doha was 38 minutes – the stupidest plane flight I have ever been on (not even enough time to watch a movie – but I did start The Secret Life of Pets).

Doha Airport was incredibly boring (plus my phone was dying and none of the chargers were working). I did get a response from A (whom I’d written a letter to saying thanks etc.), which made me cry in the middle of the airport.

I bought hot chips at the only restaurant there (other places included a tiny duty free and a cafe and that’s it), and then spent way too long surrounded by small children whilst I was waiting.

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Good hot chips!

We had our bags scanned as we went through. I was unfortunately in a middle seat, but still managed to sleep (for 5 hours!!!) and watch a ton of movies. I finished The Secret Life of Pets, and watched: Bad Moms, The Shallows and Aquamarine. I also watched about 40 minutes of Deadpool.

My bag took forever to come through, border security was way easier than I thought it would be, and my parents were there to pick me up! After all that flying, I was very excited to be back home.

We took some time to find the car, but eventually located it, and drove home. Happy to see my sisters and my dog and my guinea pig!

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My sisters and her friends made me a sign

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