Sunday, January 22, 2017

Sunday's Seven Snapshots vol.107

Y'all hear me talk about Book Challenge by Erin quite a bit...well, another reason that this group is fantastic is the idea that Megan presented to our group ~ a book exchange!  If a reader is in search of a particular book, and another reader has a copy of the book (and they are willing to give it up), that book goes to its new home for free.  Just the recipient is responsible for cost of postage.  Bev in Switzerland and I are exchanging books (as seen in this photo...she gets an Aussie bookmark too!)  If you are interested in books that I have on offer, check out the list in our goodreads group.  You don't have to be a challenge participant to request a book from me. 

It was raging hot again earlier this week, so there were more indoor doggie naps with doggie snuggles.

What's going on in this picture?  Well, if you've ever gotten inked, you probably recognize this look.

The results!  My dad married my 1st stepmom when I was 16, and sadly, fourteen years later, she was taken from us after a courageous battle against brain cancer.  They had a big cactus on their back patio of their lakehouse...a very special place to them...a special place for all of us.  The only time I ever saw a flower actually bloom on that cactus was last visit to see her before she passed away. 

Then...I got case you missed my update on instagram...I went to the doctor expecting strep or tonsillitis based on the nasty activity going on in my throat.  Instead, the doctor sees a fever, my throat, and swollen glands and diagnoses me with glandular fever (which I later learned is a fancy way to say "mono" in Australia.)  No blood test was done, so no confirmation of that diagnosis, but needless to say, I've pretty much been in bed the rest of the week.  Luckily, I have sweet cuddle partners to keep me company.

They know that mama is sick.  These boys barely left my side the rest of the week.

Even though Ricky is our most mischievous, he can be awfully sweet and cuddly when he wants.

I'm on the mend (I think), so hopefully I'll be back to normal in the next day or so!  Hope you've had a fabulous week!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tuesday Topics: Favorite Characters

My friend, jenn at quirky pickings, and her friend, Lauren at Life.Love.Lauren, are hosting a weekly "Tuesday Topics" link-up.  I thought I'd jump in the game this week with "Eight Favorite Characters from Books/Movies".  Stop by Jenn's and/or Lauren's and have a look.  Or participate in future Tuesday Topics.

I know what y'all are thinking.  You think I picked book characters, right?  Well, I'm here to surprise you.  I picked movie characters.  Why?  Because I'm throwing this post together rather quickly and for some reason, the favorite movie characters solidified into a nice, little list much quicker than book characters would/could.

In no particular order:

Stephanie Zinone - Grease 2 - played by Michelle Pfeiffer...  Okay, when I said "in no particular order", I lied.  Stephanie Zinone is #1.  She is soooo much cooler than her predecessor lead female character in the original Grease, Sandy.  In the first Grease, Sandy had to change to get her guy.  In Grease 2, the guy had to change to win Stephanie's heart.  After all, she's tired of "being someone's chick". 

Penny Lane - Almost Famous - played by Kate Hudson...  She was sweet, yet strong; damaged, but not broken; a dreamer, a lover, a music fan; full of adventure and wanderlust; in love with a man she shouldn't be.  I could relate. 

Darrel "Darry" Curtis - The Outsiders - played by Patrick Swayze...  Folks that are fans of this movie probably love Pony Boy, or Johnny, or bad boy Dallas Winston.  And, a lot of folks that fall in love with Patrick Swayze did it during Dirty Dancing.  Not me.  I fell in love with Mr. Swayze as Darry, older brother to Soda Pop and Pony Boy, who quit school to start working and take care of his younger brothers when his beloved parents died in a car crash but could still lead a rumble when necessary.

Doc Holliday - Tombstone - played by Val Kilmer...  This is one of those movies that I can watch over, and over, and over again, and mostly it's because of Val Kilmer's portrayal of Doc Holliday.  So many good lines, and his delivery is fan-freakin-tastic.

Christian - Moulin Rouge - played by Ewan McGregor... He's a writer and a dreamer; he's in love with a woman knowing that she has a less than stellar profession; he sings songs, writes plays, and has a "ridiculous obsession with love".

Ouiser Boudreaux - Steel Magnolias - played by Shirley MacLaine... One of the beauties of this near-perfect movie is that all of the cast and the characters are stellar.  Superb.  Irreplaceable.  But, I get more laughs and more love from watching the antics of Ouiser. 

Jenny - Forrest Gump - played by Robin Wright... I admit when I first brainstormed and wrote my list, the character of Forrest was listed.  He's a wonderful character.  So heart-warming.  But, as I think more about the movie, the character that is the driving force for me is Jenny.  She is so, so flawed...but we pretty much know that her childhood trauma messed her up, and she tried all she could do to escape the pain of her past.  I think the ugliness of what Jenny experiences, the pain she endures, and the hurt she causes creates such depth to the overall story. 

Sean Maguire - Good Will Hunting - played by Robin Williams...  First, applause to Matt Damon and Ben Affleck for writing this character, and Robin Williams plays it brilliantly.  So real.  So genuine.  So many little bits of life lessons.  So much "good stuff".  This movie wouldn't resonate the way it does if this character hadn't been written and portrayed so perfectly.

Honorable mentions that almost made the cut:  Carl Lee Hailey from A Time to Kill, Wooderson from Dazed and Confused, Bud or Sissy from Urban Cowboy, John Bender from The Breakfast Club, Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Rayon from Dallas Buyers Club, John Creasy from Man on Fire

Do you agree on some?  Disagree on others?  Quickly, list your 8 favorite characters.  Or...create your own post and let me know.  I'd enjoy reading it.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sunday's Seven Snapshots vol.106

In case you missed it, Sydney was boiling this week.

The stepkid loves himself some legos, and just quietly, I enjoy going to these lego exhibitions with super impressive structures built.  This particular one was titled "The Wonders of the World" and had buildings, bridges, paintings, sculptures, and more, all made of legos.  (see this photo I posted on ig)

There were several interactive stations encouraging visitors to build whatever they wanted from legos.  We built houses.  Yes, I was singing "little pink houses for you and me..." while building mine.

We took the kid to a churrasco, you know, those Brazilian-themed restaurants with 15+ different types of meat from beef, lamb, pork, and chicken.  The kid loves meat, but he also loves animals.  On this particular outing, he decided to start thinking about and discussing "what if the pig wanted to watch her little piglets grow up and not die to feed us?"  You know, those fun kinds of questions.  Believe me, I encouraged his compassionate side.  I'm thinking the pig roasting on the spit (that you can sorta kinda see in the left of this photo) didn't help matters.

Back to the heatwave...the dogs received some special treatment this week.  Coming indoors and taking naps in the a/c, plus our Saturday outing included taking them for a swim to a local river.  No pictures taken because I didn't even try to take my phone while wrestling with these two big buffoons in the water (so, you just get this picture of them riding in the car on the way.)  They loved every second of it, and we did too.

Sunday cooled off a little, and by cooled off, I mean it was possible to be outside without diving into water immediately.  So, we went on another local bush walk and hike.

I'm enjoying getting out more and finding secluded spots like this so close to home. 

Hope you had a great week and are staying warm, or cool, wherever you live!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Aussie Author Challenge 2016 completion

 Yea, yea, yea.  2016 is over.  But, I forgot to post when I completed the Aussie Author Challenge, and it didn't happen unless I blog about it, right? 

Out of the books I read this year, the two I'd recommend the most are Resurrection Bay by Emma Viskic and The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood.

The authors that I will continue reading: Michael Robotham, Geraldine Brooks, Emma Viskic, Liane Moriarty, and I am willing to give a couple of others another try.

Goodreads shelf for reviews and ratings.

And, I know in a previous post I mentioned that I was going to shorten my list of book challenges this year, but this one isn't getting cut.  I've thoroughly enjoyed exploring, discovering, reading, supporting, and championing the Aussie authors, so here's my post for the 2017 challenge, in case you missed it.

It's the 7th year for the Aussie Author Challenge, and my 2nd year participating (click on the picture/link to take you directly to the site for more information).  My completed book list is as follows:

Female Authors:

Male Authors:

Authors New to Me:

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Hunter Valley

I like to drink wine.  I'm not one that does it every night, but I enjoy it.  I know nothing about it - the grapes, fermentation, aging, how to properly "taste" test - all of that just starts sounding like blah blah blah blah blah to me.  Just being honest. I said, I like drinking it, and I live in a country that likes to produce it.  So, when my friend Shelby came to visit me from Texas, and one of the items on her "to do" wish-list was to visit a winery, it gave me a perfect reason to knock off one of my "50 Before 50" items too. 

PLUS, as a bonus, my friend Stefan (who is South African but he's lived in Australia for 17 years) went to Texas a few months back.  I connected him with Shelby to show him around Austin.  He offered to return the favor and take us around the Hunter Valley, a wine region about an hour or so from Sydney.  He's a member of a few wine clubs, so we happily agreed to put ourselves in his capable hands.

First stop was at Peterson House - makers of all wonderfully bubbly things.  Our complimentary tasting consisted of whites, roses, reds, and sweet wine too...all sparkling.  Some of these, Shelby and I didn't even know you could get in a sparkling wine, and we were a little skeptical, but oh lawdy, were they phenomenal.  She and I both left with multiple bottles.  My purchases included a Semillon Sauvignon Blanc, a Tempranillo, and a dessert wine that I still can't pronounce: Botrytis Semillon.

This greeted us at the entrance of Peterson House.  Fortunately it was 100*F+ temps (40*C), so I was making the assumption that the snakes would be hiding somewhere to keep cool.

Our second stop was at Hungerford Hill Wines, a place that Stef recommended the reds. 

Shelby and I prefer reds, and since we had about 12 wine tastings already and had more stops ahead, we chose to just stick with reds at this stop.  We were not disappointed.

C'mon.  The wine's name is "Heavy Metal" (and y'all know I'm a rocker girl for life), the label is the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and it was a delicious red.  Of course, I bought this one.

Stefan joined their wine club, and Shelby & I bought some bottles.  They were happy to see us visit.

Our next stop was the Lambloch Estate, and we were greeted with this beautiful view.

One of Stefan's wine buddies praises their Shiraz, so, you know, I had to see what all the fuss was about.

Yes, this is a wine region, but other tasty beverages are concocted as well.  I'm a fan of the cider, so this was a pleasant surprise.  I bought a four pack - one of each.

Is that enough wine for you?  Well, we went to the Hunter Distillery too.  Didn't want any alcoholic beverages to feel left out.

This baby right here is a test tube of Caramel Vodka, and it is one of the most amazing libations to ever pass these lips.  Take all my money.

Supposedly, the founder of the distillery looks a lot like Santa.  So, every Christmas they create a raspberry and honeydew melon liqueur packaged these bottles using his likeness.  It was only a few days after Christmas.  Raspberry Santa needed to come home with me.  I like mixing it with Coca Cola and create my own version of a cherry-ish (raspberry) Coke.  This bottle will most likely last me all year.

Many of the wineries has lovely restaurants with exquisite food, but Stefan had learned that Shelby and I are big fans of the cheese platter, so he took us to The Smelly Cheese Shop for some much needed food.

Last stop, a brewery.  Actually, the Hunter Beer Co. located at Potters Hotel Brewery Resort.

I had an Ale Dorado...I know, I know, it's fashioned like an American beer, but I just loved the name, and in the heat, I didn't want anything too heavy.

Stefan tells me that we just scratched the surface of all the places to visit and sample.  He's already got a list for us to visit in the future.  Plus, it is a gorgeous, scenic spot that could make for a great weekend getaway someday.

If you visited Australia, would you be interested in visiting the Hunter Valley?

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

I show you my books, you show me yours... vol.24

Jana & Steph are bringing us book lovin' bloggers our favorite day of the month again - Show Us Your Books day ~ and, it's the first one of 2017 ~ and, it's my "vol.24", so I guess that means it's my official 2 years of participation.  Thanks to the hosts and to each and every one of you book lovin' bloggers that create this fan-freaking-tastic community.

Since the last link-up, I wasn't reading as much...I wasn't reading books, blogs, or social media as much as I normally do.  We all have those months.  But, still, let's take a look at what I did read...

Here's what I've read since the last link-up:

1.  Plan B by Jonathan Tropper - "You were majoring in sociology, which is pretty much the equivalent of majoring in unemployment."  This was on page 7.  I majored in sociology.  Yep, Jonathon Tropper hooked me again.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again...good-gawd-almighty, I love his books.  There were some absurd situations in this story, and as his debut novel, I can tell he has finessed his skills...but...I freaking love Tropper's writing and characters.  4/5

2.  The Broken Shore by Peter Temple - Oops.  I just realized that I didn't give an update to say that I completed the 2016 Aussie Author Challenge with this book.  A lot of characters. A lot of story lines. Some unnecessary. When it was good, it was great. Other times, I felt like I was wading through knee deep mud.  3/5

3.  The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd - I bought this book from a secondhand bookstore two, maybe even three, years ago.  It has been sitting there waiting for me to read it.  What took me so long?  An example of why I enjoy books challenges ~ I finally pick up books like this because they work for a category ~ it gives me the extra push I need to finally read delightful books like this.  These characters, the setting, the stories, they all made my heart so full.  5/5

4.  Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers - I have no idea how to rate or review this book. Teens being mean, nasty, hateful, cruel, and violent...that's what this book is about, and I feel a little dirty for gobbling it up the way I did. A lot of it seemed so far-fetched, but is it? After all, there are suicides by teenagers due to the emotional trauma and turmoil of bullying. I'm grateful that I did not experience the degree of this ugly behaviour firsthand. If my school had a "fearsome fivesome", I don't know who they were (thank goodness).  It is difficult to say I enjoyed it because it is full of that many hateful actions, but it is a well-written YA book.  3.5/5                 

Currently Reading:  The Girl Before by Rena Olsen

I've shown you mine, now you show me your........books........

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Sunday's Seven Snapshots vol.105

I'm making an effort to get myself up, out and about, spend time outside, because I do like the outdoors.  I like them a lot.  And, when I unexpectedly stumble upon these type of fun stairs while exploring a new walk, that's just a bonus.

I knew this was coming.  I commented on a picture of Megan and her fiancĂ© (y'all know she got engaged, right?!?!?) about a shirt he was wearing.  This shirt.  Megan picked it up after Christmas for me and sent it to me.  Big smiles.  Blogger buddies are the best!  Is it December yet, so I can start wearing this?

Friday, we met up with some friends in town from New Zealand.  Many margaritas and much sangria was had as well as great conversation and hearty laughs.

Speaking of getting out and guy and I jumped on the laptop this morning to look for a hike/bush walk that seemed doable for us that aren't in the greatest of shape.  Pretty scenery helps encourage me to get moving so I can see sites like this waterfall.  See those tiny people above it?  We walked all the way over to that spot.

We hiked, walked over rocky surfaces, through ferns and trees, and climbed up and down stairs to some magnificent look-outs.

Plus, we cooled off by putting our feet in the waterfalls and natural spring water.

Now, I'm trying to catch up, little by little, on my blog reading. I've got good company while I'm doing it. 

Hope you've had a great start to 2017!