Discovering Shinrin-Yoku

Whenever we visit my husband’s family in England I really look forward to walking in the nature reserve near their home.

Formerly a farm, the nature reserve is now 33 hectares of wildflower meadows, woodland, ancient hedgerows and ponds. While we are visiting I walk there most days. I refer to it as my “happy place”.

Continue reading “Discovering Shinrin-Yoku”

I’m a student, again!

This week marks my return to university study.

It’s been a long time since I studied at university. Put it this way, Facebook wasn’t even invented when I went to uni. No-one I knew had mobile phones and only a few people had personal computers. I remember typing up my assignments late at night in the uni computer lab and printing the results on a dot matrix printer!

I’m going to be what they call, a “mature age” student. I remember those people – they were serious, focussed, and knew so much more about the world. I remember the 23 year old mature age student in one of my lectures. He seemed so old and knew everything. He even had in depth conversations with the lecturer about the state of Australian politics when I barely knew who the opposition leader was!

This time I won’t be sitting in lecture theatres or even seeing my lecturers face to face. I’m entering the world of online learning. My lecturer lives 7,600 km away. And my classmates will be all over Australia and some, like me, living in other countries. Not only do I have to make my lecture on time, I have to figure out the time zones and plan accordingly.

I’ve put off studying for a long time. There have been a lot of reasons (excuses?). I don’t have time (or want to make time). I don’t know what I want to study (not that I looked all that closely). I have other priorities (raising a child, a social life). I’m scared of failing…… hmmmm.

I’m still scared but I’m also looking forward to the challenge. I’ve worked for so long in the marketing and communications area I’m actually excited about the prospect of learning about business law, managerial finance, international business, ethics, governance and sustainability.

So why now? I’ve found myself in a position where I have time available to commit to the course work. And for regular readers of this blog, you’d be aware that I have been questioning my life goals and my career path. I believe that studying will expand my knowledge and experience, and perhaps open up new opportunities for me to pursue.

Wish me luck!

(Photo by J. Kelly Brito on Unsplash)

Summer Reading Frenzy

This summer I went on a reading frenzy.

Holidays, long flights, sport on the television gave me the opportunity to indulge in my favourite pastime.

Over the past 12 months or so I have been focusing on books that furthered the purposes of my sabbatical. Books that I could blog about on my journey of discovery.

Well, I have discovered that after a while these books can get boring. One reason why I haven’t blogged in ages is because I was working my way through another book of discovery. However, I got stuck halfway through. I felt guilty because I wanted to read other books but hadn’t finished this one for my blog.

Then I remembered my earlier discovery; there are too many good books in the world to waste my time on one I am not enjoying.

I am pleased to say after reading 12 books in eight weeks I have rediscovered my passion for reading for pleasure.

So what were the books that took me on my reading frenzy?

Cedar ValleyCedar Valley by Holly Throsby – Coming from rural Australia I have an interest in stories set in the Australian countryside. It sometimes helps with my homesickness. I’ve read Holly’s first book Goodwood and liked it. Cedar Valley didn’t capture my imagination as much possibly because it came to quite an abrupt ending. However, it was still an enjoyable read, especially as it was my first fiction book in some time.


One hundred yearsOne Hundred Years Of Dirt by Rick Morton – Another one based in rural Australia. This time non-fiction. I was somewhat disappointed by this book as I was expecting the author to focus more on his mother’s battles raising her children alone in the outback. However, I still found it quite interesting, especially his perspective on the lack of diversity of journalists (from a socio-economic point of view) and the implications this has on media news and reporting.


The Virgins LoverThe Virgin’s Lover by Philippa Gregory – My other area of interest is historical fiction and Philippa Gregory is a champion of this genre. I’ve read quite a few of Philippa’s books (as you’re about to find out). The Virgin’s Lover was an easy escapist read which lead me to…..




The last tudorThe Last Tudor by Philippa Gregory – After reading about Queen Elizabeth I, I thought I’d follow up with the story of her cousin, Lady Jane Grey and her sisters, Katherine and Mary. I’d read this book before so it was an easy read and included more on Elizabeth from another woman’s perspective.



The other boleyn girlThe Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory – To continue the focus on Elizabeth, I then read more about her mother, Anne Boleyn, and aunt, Mary. By this time I’d had enough of the Tudor England and returned to 21st Century rural Australia.




Year of the farmerThe Year of the Farmer by Rosalie Ham – Again I went with a known author (Rosalie also wrote The Dressmaker) and wasn’t I disappointed. This “love” story was set around farmer’s access to water and government bureaucracy. Having lived in both New South Wales (somewhere in the middle of the Murray Darling basin) and South Australia (at the end) I’m particularly interested in the differing and competing perspectives of water use in this region.


Girl with a pearlGirl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier – As I was spending a few days in The Hague, Netherlands, I wanted to read a book set in the area I was visiting. I’d not read Girl with a Pearl Earring, so this was the perfect opportunity. It really added to my visit and was topped off by the chance to see the painting by Johannes Vermeer.



Dirt musicDirt Music by Tim Winton – Back to rural Australia and Tim Winton’s book Dirt Music was one I’d been wanting to read for a while. I almost didn’t read it due to a review of the book by someone who totally didn’t understand the background of the characters (perhaps he/she wasn’t from Australia?). Anyway I very much enjoyed it and now want to go back to the Margaret River area.



The tattooist of auschwitz.jpgThe Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris – Back to Europe again, this time the mid 20th Century. This book has been on the top of many reading lists and I was interested to read an account of someone who had lived though the horrors of Auschwitz. However, as I read the book I felt a certain sense of incredulity, that what happened to the characters was a little unbelievable. When researching the book further I found out that that some of the story, which read as factual, has been proven as incorrect or dramatic licence taken. This lead me to be somewhat disappointed with the book. I think if I’d known this before reading the book I would have taken a slightly different approach in reading it.

The kissing seasonThe Kissing Season by Rachel Johns – This was a random read. I woke up during the night and couldn’t fall back to sleep. I’d just finished the above book and needed something to distract my mind which was running at a million miles an hour. I’ve read the Kissing Season a few times, it’s a quick easy read, a love story set in coastal Western Australia. After two hours I finished the book and fell asleep.



The nowhere childThe Nowhere Child by Christian White – While this books starts in Australia most of the story takes place in the US. This is Christian White’s debut novel and I really enjoyed the twists and turns. Just when I thought I’d figured it out Christian throws in a curve ball. The Nowhere Child is definitely one book I will read again and I’ll be on the look out for Christian’s next novel.



Ask again yes.jpgAsk Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane – I found this book through The Bibliofile’s blog. The Bibliofile said “This type of book, with its detailed character sketches and focus on family relationships, is not going to be for everyone, but if you think it sounds interesting, you’ll probably love it.” It sounded interesting so I thought I’d give it a go. It definitely was interesting but I felt like there are a few too many unanswered questions, like why Peter’s parents didn’t like Kate? The big reveal about Peter’s mother’s past should have elicited some sympathy but didn’t really help her character. Did I love it? No. But I kind of liked it.


(Main Photo by Dan Dumitriu on Unsplash)

Busy, Stressed and Food Obsessed! by Lisa Lewtan (Part 1)

I am a work in progress and I know I’m not perfect. But I’m OK with that.

My blog post today falls somewhere between a book review and a diary entry.

I have just started reading Busy, Stressed and Food Obsessed! by Lisa Lewtan and am working my way through the “assignments” at the end of most chapters. Rather than review the book as I usually would I thought I would share my progress as I work through the book.

Chapter III: What is my story?

I grew up in a family where we were told to “eat everything on our plate” and to “not waste food”. Growing up in a family of five siblings with not a lot of money or opportunities to eat out our main meal was the basic meat and three vegetables. Treats really were sometimes foods. And if you had something delicious (bacon, chocolate or lollies) you ate it quickly so no-one could steal it.

Fast-forward to now; I can eat what I want, when I want. The trouble is I want to eat everything all the time. I think about food often. What am I going to eat next? When am I going to eat next? I eat when I am bored, stressed, sad, happy, relaxed. I eat to reward myself. Hunger is rarely in the equation but when it is, the feeling is magnified 100 times. If you look up the word HANGRY in the dictionary there is a picture of me.

Many of us get caught in the pattern of over-scheduling our families and ourselves. Your to-do list is your map. Your cell phone is your compass. We say we hate it yet we just keep doing it. We rarely give ourselves permission to sit down and reflect, think abut our choices and our true desires and schedule our lives with our dreams and long-term goals in mind…. So we just keep going and going, getting more stressed along the way. Rather than slowing down, we turn to prescription drugs, wine and food.

Chapter IV: What is keeping me busy in my life? Is it satisfying or draining?

  • Work, which comprises roughly 35% of my waking hours = Mostly unsatisfying (sorry boss)
  • Household administrivia (cooking, shopping, tidying, helping my son with his homework) = Mostly unsatisfying
  • Exercise and meditation = Satisfying (but only 1.5% of my waking hours)
  • Obsessing over what are we / what am I going to do next = DRAINING
  • Socialising with friends and family = Very satisfying (but this often revolves around food!)

Just like watching porn works to excite its viewers to want more sex, food porn excites its viewers to want more food! As a result, we are thinking, planning, and dreaming about food all day long. Is it any wonder we are all food obsessed?

Chapter V: Start paying attention. Start noticing conversations about food, pictures sent to you, billboards and commercials, and how often you find yourself thinking about food.

A snapshot of my day

Wake up: flick through social media posts from friends about meals they ate last night and recipes for cakes and chocolate. I’m thinking what am I going to eat for breakfast. Do I need to put something out to defrost for dinner tonight?

Busy stressed

On the way to work: I’m tired. I need caffeine, I need a cup of tea.

Mid morning: Hmmm I need a break from work. Maybe a snack. No I’ll resist and have another cup of tea.

Late morning: Lunch is coming soon. I’m getting hungry. I need to make healthy choices.

Lunch time: (in the cafeteria, lots to choose from) There’s the healthy choice, a salad. Oooh no, there’s dumplings for lunch. Yum I love that. I’ll have that. Scroll through social media and see what my friends are having to eat (see below).

Screen Shot 2

Mid afternoon: Hmmm I need a break from work. Maybe a snack. No I had too much for lunch. I’ll resist and have another cup of tea.

Home from work: Arrgh! I’m exhausted. But I have to start making dinner. I’ll just have a snack while I’m getting dinner ready. I’ll make it a healthy choice. Fruit! Yeah, fruit is good.

10 minutes later: I need to taste what I am making. Yum, not bad if I do say so myself. I need another taste (repeat, repeat, repeat).

After dinner: I’ve had a hard day. Scroll through social media (see below). I deserve a treat. Chocolate and a glass of wine. Some more chocolate. It’s almost all gone, I better finish it off…..



Busy, Stressed and Food Obsessed!: Calm Down, Ditch Your Inner-Critic Bitch, and Finally Figure Out What Your Body Needs to Thrive, Lisa Lewtan, Healthy, Happy, and Hip, 2015,  ISBN: 978-0-692-50051-4

Food obsessed

I’ve been reflecting on my eating lately. I have been really struggling. Some days I’m OK but other days I become food obsessed and want to eat and eat and eat. I lose a little weight then gain more and more.

Last year I lost 10kg, mainly through exercise and watching what I eat. Over the years Weight Watchers (oops I mean WW) has been the only program that has helped me to consistently lose weight. However, that is only when I diligently track my food intake. It controls what I eat and stops me from over eating. BUT once I stop tracking I lose control and start gaining weight again. It’s like I have learned nothing.

So much of my eating is emotional eating. I eat when I’m bored, I eat when I’m stressed. I eat when I socialise and I eat when I am alone. I eat when I am happy. I eat when I am sad. I eat because I love food and how it makes me feel.

Lately I feel like I am out of control. Recently I reached a low point. I felt like I simply could not stop myself eating. I felt unhealthy and unhappy. A few days later I reflected on that evening. I have recognised that a big part of my issues have been mental strength, something I blogged about 12 months ago.

I’ve decided I need to take action. I need to tackle my emotional eating, otherwise I will continue to fall back into bad habits time and time again.

I have found be book called Busy, Stressed and Food Obsessed by Lisa Lewtan. I am going to give it a go.

Watch this space…

Photo by Sandrachile . on Unsplash


Book Review: Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales

We are each as vulnerable as the next person on the planet, and that was both a terrifying and enlightening fact.

Having recently read and reviewed Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant, I was looking for a new book to review for my next blog post. As I searched for options I kept being drawn to Any Ordinary Day: Blindsides, Resilience and What Happens After the Worst Day Of Your Life by Leigh Sales; a book that was very similar to Option B that I disregarded it. In the end I realised that there must a reason why I kept coming back to this book, so I should just go ahead and read it.

And I am glad I did. To some extent it is very similar story; a high profile woman blindsided by events beyond their control, reflecting on what happens after the worst day of their life and how we can all build resilience to work through life-changing events.

However, while there are many similarities and take-aways both give different perspectives. As an Australian Leigh’s examples, the Lindt Cafe siege, Stuart Diver and Thredbo landslide, the Port Arthur massacre, all resonate with an Australian reader and may not have as much meaning to those who have not lived in Australia in recent decades.

Leigh is also a journalist and gives her perspective on the media’s role in a victim or surviour’s journey. (Something I would have been interested in hearing from Sheryl given her position at Facebook.)

This was probably the part I read with most interest, as I believe that often the 24 hour media news cycle can make things worse for someone who has just experienced the worst day of their life.

Maximum public curiosity and therefore maximum media harassment coincide with the peak vulnerability of the people involved.

It was interesting to read how Leigh justified her role in this by it being “in the public interest” and if she didn’t do it someone else would.

Journalism has a culture that values and rewards breaking news, fresh angles that keep stories on the front page and juicy details that make people talk. From day one in journalism school, you’re taught that while you must behave ethically towards the people on whom you report, ultimately you serve the public above all else.

Coincidentally, I studied journalism at the same time as Leigh but moved away from it as a career pathway as I felt uncomfortable with the process. I feel that it is unethical to turn people’s suffering into “news” for public consumption and make money for the media owners and advertisers.

Another factor I found interesting was how many people she interviewed believed that faith helped them through.

This was something that also surprised Leigh.

Louisa’s positive attitude, born of her conviction that God has a plan for her, is admirable but I still have a hard time thinking the way she does.

This lead her to speak with a priest about his role in supporting people as they work though their experience.

Religion is an extraordinarily helpful tool at times of grief and loss because it offers both an explanation for the inexplicable and a supportive community.

Ultimately, whether it is a religious community, family and friends, people where you live or even people who live on the other side of the world, community is important.

Like Dunblane in Scotland and Port Arthur in Tasmania. Walter Mikac, who lost his family in the Port Arthur massacre, found support by connecting with a network of fathers who had lost children in the Dunblane school massacre.

Prior to that, I was thinking, There’s nobody in the world who really knows how I feel. Being in their company was a really healing thing.

Like Sheryl, Leigh also focuses on how friends and colleagues react to survivours and victims and how important it is to let go of our own concerns and insecurities to be there to support the person.

The fear is you’re going to do something that makes it worse. But I know now that the worst thing you can do is ignore it or pretend it’s not happening and not be there for them.

This reinforced to me how important it is to confront my fears and insecurities and to genuinely be there to support my family and friends during difficult times.

I completely understand that compulsion to look away, and so it seemed strange to me, as I embarked on this book, that I was choosing to do the opposite, to walk towards the pain and suffering, particularly when there had been a modest measure of it in my own life. Now that I know more about how our brains work, I think perhaps it was an effort to impose control. If I could understand the things that rattled me, perhaps I could harness my own rampaging fear.

Hmmm, perhaps this is why I was drawn to this book……

And the quote which resonated with me most?

All that I can tell you is that life is richer, kinder and safer than the news would have you believe. People are more decent. The things you think you wouldn’t be able to survive, you probably can. You will be okay. There’s really only one lesson to take from all of this and that is to be grateful for the ordinary days and to savour every last moment of them. They’re not so ordinary, really. Hindsight makes them quite magical.


Any Ordinary Day: Blindsides, Resilience and What Happens After the Worst Day Of Your Life, Leigh Sales, Penguin Random House Australia, 2018, ISBN 978-1-760-14417-3