Throwback book review: Thirteen by Candice F Ransom

Thirteen - Candice F RansomI’m going to do a new thing where I review books from my childhood/young adult years once a month. Why? I don’t feel I need to explain my art to you Warren.

Let’s start with Thirteen by Candice F Ransom.

Here is how I thought all American beaches looked when I was younger: faded timber boardwalks, featuring amusements parks, and crowded stretches of slightly dirty sand with striped umbrellas.

This picture was created through a combination of watching the first scene of Beaches, reading the Baby-Sitter’s Club books where Stacey and Mary-Anne go with the Pikes to Sea City and reading Thirteen.

Internet, where were you when I needed you? This book would have made more sense if I could have googled back in the day. So this is a bass weejun. I feel a little let down...

Internet, where were you when I needed you? This book would have made more sense if I could have Googled back in the day. So this is a Bass Weejun. I feel a little let down…

Thirteen was published in the 80s, but set in the 60s. However, with the exception of not knowing what a few of the key cultural references (Bass Weejuns? I decided they were shoes) it still felt contemporary to me when I read it in the 90s and on a recent reread it held up exceptionally well. If I was in TV I’d buy the rights and start producing it as a less cheesy The Wonder Years immediately.

It starts with main character Kobie Roberts and her bestie Gretchen at Ocean City. They go every year for a week with the parents but this year is different. They’re 13, and Gretchen is already attracting attention from boys while Kobie is struggling to keep up. She spends an evening sitting alone on a splintered crate under the boardwalk while Gretchen ditches her to hang out with a guy named Dwayne. Personally I’d rather get a splinter up my butt then hang out with a guy named Dwayne (one exception made for The Rock).

The gap between Kobie and Gretchen keeps stretching throughout their school year. As Kobie says:

Lying back on my pillows, I reviewed the situation. It was, in a word, cruddy. Gretchen had a new madras jumper and fake Weejun loafers and three new friends. I had a dress even an orphan would scorn, a shrimp who slammed my locker shut, and no friends, except for Gretchen, and I suspected she was moving on to greener pastures.

Kobie is a fun character to read. While she’s smart and sarcastic, she’s also a social disaster and not in the She’s All That-she-was-beautiful-all-along way. There’s no shining moment of grace for Kobie; she just keeps getting everything wrong, and she’s keenly aware of the mess she’s making, but she can’t stop.

While the book puts her relationship with Gretchen under the spotlight I actually like her interactions with Stuart Buckley (the aforementioned shrimp who slams her locker shut) and her mother much more. Stuart’s mission on earth seems to be to make Kobie’s life even worse than it is and because she’s not attracted to Stuart there’s no pretense in their relationship. With him she’s at her dry, witty best.

And Kobie and her mother are locked in the cold war that happens to all mums and daughters during the teenage years. There’s nothing new about the tension in their relationship but it’s real, and in this book, it’s funny. There’s a pretty great scene where Kobie chucks a tantrum while they’re shopping because she wants cool clothes that rang true for me.

My mother stood a little apart from me, clutching her black plastic pocketbook and the prescription bag, and looking as if she wished she had switched babies in the hospital. I turned away, feeling a gritty sort of triumph that I had made her buy all those things she hadn’t intended. I had a certain power over her, I realised for the first time. I also felt that an invisible barrier had suddenly sprung up between us and that we would be on opposite sides for a long time. 

Poor boy sweater

A poor boy sweater. I really don’t get the name.

Kobie might have been shopping for “poor boys” and “madras” (? I mean what? What did people wear in the 60s?) but it could have easily been me in 1992 in a surf store begging for a Stussy t-shirt.

Madras. These seem like strange articles of clothing to lust after...

Madras. These seem like strange articles of clothing to lust after…

(Why did we love surfwear so much? We lived more than 200km away from the closest beach.)

Anyway. I really loved this book when I was younger and was so happy that I enjoyed it in my 30s. I also had Fifteen At Last, which I liked too. Kobie gets even more slapstick as she gets older and spends a great portion of her time terrifying a male teacher with her irrational crush on him. Those were the only two books I had – although I’ve found out since through the magic of the Internet there was a whole series that starts at 10 years old. I think I’ll track them down. I’m not done with Kobie yet.

Have you read Thirteen or any of the other Kobie Roberts books?

Thanks Internet for saving a 15-year-old mystery. Now I know what Bass Weejuns are. Images via: oxfordclothbuttondown, retrowaste, and Pinterest.

Emmys 2014 best and worst dressed

It’s Emmys time! I just ate hot chips and I’m wearing jeggings so there’s never been a better time to pass fashion judgement.

First – a three way tie for the winner:

Julia Roberts, Allison Williams, Lizzy Caplan - best dressed

Julia Roberts, Allison Williams, Lizzy Caplan

I frickin’ love Julia Robert’s short flippy dress and how shiny it is. Everything about it – hair, shoes, legs, big Julia Roberts smile. A+.

Allison Williams looked like an impossibly stylish present. And Lizzy Caplan (or Janis Ian as she will always be to me) inspired big lesbian crushes everywhere with a stunning black and white frock. So elegant. Love.

Runners up:

Natalie Dormer, Melissa McCarthy, Sarah Silverman, Christine Baranski and Sarah Hyland - runners up

Natalie Dormer, Melissa McCarthy, Sarah Silverman, Christine Baranski and Sarah Hyland

A tick for the contrast and structure of Natalie Dormer’s dress. I watched the live coverage of the red carpet and this girl was really working her poses. It was very America’s Next Top Model, and it made me feel awkward and I don’t know why.

Hooray for Melissa McCarthy – her dress is flattering and I heart her.

Sarah Silverman bravely didn’t wear red or white and but went with bottle green. She and Giuliana Rancic had a strangely passive aggressive red carpet interview which left me unsure if they’re actually friends or really just hate each other legitimately and with passion.

Christine Baranski in Zac Posen. Have cape. Can fly. I like it.

Delightful Sarah Hyland combined this year’s top colours of red and white into one look so that makes her the ultimate Emmys trend champion. She’s kinda Sarah Michelle Gellar-ish in this get up. Like, if there was (and there should never be) a remake of Buffy she maybe, possibly, could get away with being Buffy 2.0.

So before the Emmys everyone got together and decided this year’s colour theme would be red and white. Here’s a selection of the red:

Claire Danes, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, January Jones, Minnie Driver, Kaley Cuoco, Heidi Klum, Giuliana Rancic - red

Claire Danes, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, January Jones, Minnie Driver, Kaley Cuoco, Heidi Klum, Giuliana Rancic

Favourites: Heidi Klum in coral and Claire Danes because of the lace and belt but everything else is a bit meh. Elaine’s dress is pretty but a bit safe and January’s hair looked like it needed washing. Everyone else: eh.

Onto the white:

Hayden Panettiere, Anna Chulmsky, Sofia Vergara and Taylor Schilling - white

Hayden Panettiere, Anna Chulmsky, Sofia Vergara and Taylor Schilling

Anna Chulmsky is my pick of this lot. And Taylor Schilling! I am obsessed with OITNB and she looks amazing. Sparkle is the new everything.

More white:

Michelle Monaghan, Kristen Wiig, Julianne Hough, Lucy Liu and Katherine Heigl - white

Michelle Monaghan, Kristen Wiig, Julianne Hough, Lucy Liu and Katherine Heigl

Heigl’s raided her grandma’s cupboard. I’m not a fan. I do enjoy the other white frocks and also if Kristen Wiig can be my new best friend now I’m available.

Debra Messing, Kerry Washington, Lena Dunham, Anna Gunn, Kiernan Shipka - worst

Debra Messing, Kerry Washington, Lena Dunham, Anna Gunn, Kiernan Shipka

Grace’s hair looks so pretty! But I don’t like the couch/curtain vibe I’m getting from her blue column dress.

Kerry Washington deserves better than an unfinished orange dress.

What Lena Dunham is wearing is bad. She knows its bad, that’s why she’s wearing it. It’s all just part of the Lena Dunham fun and how she subverts usual expectations and standards. But it doesn’t stop it from being bad.

Anna and Kiernan should go shopping with Kerry. They can all pick out better dresses together.

A special mention for Cat who has redeemed her sparkly saggy 2013 mess this year with a floaty, romantic number.

Cat Deeley Emmys 2013 on the left, 2014 on the right.

Cat Deeley Emmys 2013 on the left, 2014 on the right.

And the best dressed men:

Mario Lopez and Matt Bomer

Mario Lopez and Matt Bomer

Slater, still breaking hearts. Matt Bomer, yes. Yes, hello Matt Bomer. A dream that’s out of reach, but he’s still a dream.

The End.

V important: photos are not mine, no intention to claim copyright. From: Harpers Bazaar, NY Daily News, and E! Online

The sweet tooth’s guide to Brisbane

The Sweet Tooth's Guide to Brisbane

Cake! Donuts! All the sugar!

I like sugar. I’m not going to lie, and I’m not ever going to try and quit it. But despite what this post may lead you to believe I do try and curb my intake every now and then. I don’t eat cake and donuts every day, so when I do I want to know they’re going to be good. Like, why waste valuable calories on disappointing cake? After many years of research I’ve narrowed down a few firm Brisbane favourites for when I need a sugar fix.

And even though my friends tease me for not wanting to try something new I repeatedly go to these joints because I know it’s going to be goooood. So trust me on this. If you want sweet in Brisbane, here’s where you go.

5. Max Brenner – Brownie Sundae

With worldwide franchises Max Brenner isn’t exactly unique to Brisbane, but for that once a year (or maybe twice) hardcore chocolate fix it’s hard to go past. My select dish is the Brownie Sundae – for the fun of having a pot of pure melted chocolate provided to pour over the sundae and the super delish munchy texture of the crunchy waffle balls. Those crunchy waffle balls man, they make everything seem ok.

If you’re after something “lighter” the strawberries with a pot of melted chocolate are a delight. I’ll never line up for Max though – so I stay away from the busier South Bank venue and sneak over to Portside and Gasworks.

4. Jocelyn’s Provisions – cupcakes

Jocelyn's Provisions

Jocelyn’s Provisions cake cabinet

Jocelyn’s is a Brisbane institution. There’s not one office out there that probably hasn’t celebrated a birthday with one of their Chocolate Sour Cream cakes. However, as tasty as the full cakes are I find them slightly dense – that’s why I’ll take the cupcakes every time. Smaller, lighter, moister (is that even a word we can use in public?) they are the sugar hit you probably don’t need but will never regret.

3. Le Bon Choix – donuts

Le Bon Choix chocolate donut

Le Bon Choix chocolate donut never lasts long

Le Bon Choix has an enticing, gleaming display of pastries and cakes, but as good as they look I can take or leave them. But I can never enter Le Bon Choix without leaving with a chocolate donut. And as I used to live just around the corner from the Ascot location this started to become quite a problem for me and my pants. A puffy pillow of dough, crusted in sugar and filled with an oozy chocolatey custard, donuts never tasted so good. They do a caramel one too, and I hear it’s great, but I’m not wasting any donut-allocated calories on a non chocolate variety.

2. Botanica – cupcakes

Botanica cupcakes

Botanica cupcakes: so pretty, so yum. Image via

I like it when the bell jingles as I walk into Botanica, because I feel like I’m signaling to all around me: look, here I am to purchase one of these virtuous, delicious looking salads; I am the prime example of health and wellness.

But that’s all a lie because I’m there for the cupcakes alone. Freshly baked and gluten free their vanilla bean cupcake is almost the best cake I’ve ever tasted. When they’ve sold out of these lovelies my disappointment almost knows no bounds.

1. Vanilla Pod – vanilla cupcakes

Vanilla Pod

Vanilla Pod – the ultimate champions

The undisputed champions of my world my love for Vanilla Pod grows and grows. Their famous tray of colourful cupcakes has been the accompaniment to many a birthday, farewell, hello, and Friday afternoon. Their decoration and theming is totally on point – have you seen their Queensland and New South Wales cupcakes they make at State of Origin time? Fresh, light, spongey and delicious the Vanilla Pod cupcake are tasty morsels small enough you can fool yourself into thinking it’s ok to have two. (It’s always ok to have two.) They’re kinda just like your Grandma makes.

I have not yet been to their brand new specialty cake kitchen in Albion. I just think it’s better for my impending diabetes if I stay away.

Other great places to go for a sugar fix:

  • Brewbakers at Alibion – I had a sourdough brownie here and it was more than ok.
  • Dello Mano – brownie kings of Brisbane, super popular, super pricey, very delicious.
  • Cold Rock – yes, the franchise of ice-cream stores. When you say ice-cream I think Cold Rock, I think cookie dough.
  • Chester St Bakery – I had breakfast here and eyed off some nutella donuts in the cabinet. Mere seconds later when I decided I’d like to buy one for later they were sold out. So. Chester St Bakery nutella donut: challenge accepted. I will have you!

Hit me. Where else should I be going?

Four

fourIt’s late but I can hear her singing in her room: One, two, three, four, five…six, seven, eight, nine, 10…11, 12! It’s an old Sesame Street song and she knows it because I sing it to her.

Except, when she gets to four, she adds: “I am four” and then continues on singing.

One, two, three, four – I am four – five…six, seven, eight, nine, 10…11, 12!

And so she is. Four today and what a day it’s been with cake and presents and singing and smiling.

In early 2010 I was in Canada with a decision to make. On paper it didn’t seem like much of a decision at all. Although I had one more year on my Canadian working visa, there was nothing else keeping me in the country. Jared Padalecki and I hadn’t fallen in love. I hadn’t managed to find a good job and working for $8.50 an hour was wearing very thin. I’d made some good friends, some I still keep in touch with today, but my best friends were at home. It felt like everything was at home. My job that paid actual money, my family, friends, dogs, sunshine, not having to wear rain boots six months of the year.

On paper it didn’t seem like much of decision at all. I should go home.

And yet. I was undecided. I hadn’t made the best of things in Canada but I still had a year on my visa left. I could leave Vancouver, try Toronto or Nova Scotia or the Yukon. I could try and build somewhere else what I hadn’t been able to find in Vancouver. I felt stifled by the idea of going home, like going home meant it was time to grow up and buy a house and settle down and talk about negative gearing at parties. When I thought about doing that it felt like I was trying to breathe inside a plastic bag.

And then my brother and sister-in-law Skyped me and the minute I saw their faces, before they even told me, I knew I would be going home because I wasn’t going to miss out on being there when my favourite people in the world had their baby.

I’ve never been the kind of girl who wanted a baby. I’m still not that girl. I don’t have kids and I don’t know if I will ever. I’m not going to say that when my first niece was born four years ago all of a sudden my perspective changed and I was in love with the idea of having children, because it didn’t. The only thing I fell in love with was Mia.

As an Aunty I was a bit shocked by how I loved her immediately, immensely. I could see myself in her – my lips, my chin. That was weird. When she was a baby I would just stare at her face. Wonder when she was going to grow hair. What her first words would be. What her voice would sound like.

Seeing my little brother and my sister-in-law just simply ease into being parents was weird too. One day they were kids, the next day they were parents, like they’d been parents all this time.

As Mia grew it became clear that this love I had was mutual. When she was just a baby she used to snuggle into me, really squeeze me with those tiny fingers. When she could walk she’d toddle towards me as fast as those little legs could take her, arms outstretched. When she finally got the knack of running she’d greet me at full pelt, yelling my name. She still does this. I hope it never stops.

All of a sudden the things I did and said took on enormous importance. I remember casually trying to teach her how to count to five once, when she’d started to talk. I thought she was too little to really take in what I was saying. My brother told me the next day he took her for a walk in the pram. From under the hood he saw a little hand reach out and rest on the bar in front of her, and she counted out loud, tapping out the numbers on her fingers: one, two, three, four, five.

She remembers everything. It’s one of my favourite things about her.

She’s considerate. She takes extra teddy bears to teddy bear picnics in case other kids forgot theirs.

She has the kindest heart. I can’t read her Humpty Dumpty anymore because she was upset that he fell off the wall and hurt himself.

She likes it when I sing Lucy in the sky with diamonds and when she has a bath she likes me to play that 50s song Splish, Splash.

She likes routine. Three books a night and then mummy snuggles with her.

I introduced her to the Toy Story movies. She loves them, especially the second one.

She likes tomato and cucumber but she’s a bit off eggs right now.

Sometimes we like to lay on our backs on the trampoline and look at the stars.

She was born to dance. We watched So You Think You Can Dance last week and now she’s added a whole new range of entertaining dance moves to her repertoire.

She’s against pants at the moment. Strictly a dress and skirt kinda girl.

Orange used to be her favourite colour but it changes every day now. Today it was blue, like mine and her dad’s.

Today, for her birthday she had a blue cupcake. I gave her Jessie and Bullseye dolls and a sparkly blue dress (lots of glitter). She said thank you without being prompted.

In 2010 I had a decision to make. In the end it was no decision at all. I’ve never regretted coming home and leaving Canada and whatever it might have had for me. At home I found being an Aunty to be the kind of adventure that rivals anything the mountains and cities and lakes could provide. And when my partner in crime’s favourite activities are drawing, watching Toy Story and playing dress ups it turns out I didn’t need to be so scared of growing up. We have no time for growing up; we’re having too much fun.

Today she blew out four candles. In that four years I’ve learned more about love and adventure and how to make an orange play-dough cat than I ever thought possible. I’ve been privileged to be such a huge part of her life. I hope that as the years go on, whenever she needs someone she knows she can still run to me, arms outstretched, because I’ll catch her always. Happy birthday, Mia.

Weekend

This weekend I went to Brisbane. I ate lots of food. I read a book. My hair went frizzy when it rained. I wore thongs everywhere in the middle of winter. I stiffened in pain during a remedial massage. I coveted a pink chevron scarf but resisted it. I napped on the couch while a Zac Efron movie played in the background. I sat in the sun.

The Dirty South

Saturday was lunch at The Dirty South in Paddington. I had a burger but I’ll be back for wings.

The Dirty South

The Dirty South

 

The Dirty South

We Were Liars

Across the road from The Dirty South is The Black Cat bookstore. I went in twice. I bought this and read it within hours.

Ben and Jerry's

I got me some Half Baked.

Chester St Bakery Sunday was brunch at Chester St Bakery and Bar.

Chester St Bakery

Chester St Bakery

Chester St Bakery

Chester St Bakery

Chester St Bakery

I walked off brunch.

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And I failed to resist Jocelyn’s Provisions.

Jocelyn's Provisions

Toowoomba at night

Toowoomba laneway

I took my tripod for a spin in Toowoomba the other night.

I’ve had my fancy camera for more than two years now, but have also only just started taking photos in raw rather than jpg. I’ve been avoiding learning more about Photoshop because I really hate the idea of sitting on a computer for hours at a time editing photos but I’ve reached a knowledge plateau. So it’s time to learn more about it.

Toowoomba at night

Oh, and I’ve only just learned how to put shapes and text on my photos in Photoshop so be prepared for terrible photos with terribly designed text all over them while I have fun with that.

Seven winter reads

Before the Internet we lived in dark times in Australia. We knew there was a land out there called America, because our favourite tv shows were from there, although our television execs were very stingy about which ones they felt like showing us.

There was no Twitter, or Facebook or TMZ to tell us what our favourite celebrities were up to. We had to buy Smash Hits, TV Hits, Girlfriend or Dolly and scour the pages for evidence that Edward Furlong was indeed dating Soleil Moon Frye and crushing our hopes of being with him forever.

We were vaguely aware the northern hemisphere seasons were back to front to ours, but it didn’t really affect our every day life because the only time we were really exposed to this was when we watched the Christmas specials of our favourite shows. Watching all the characters prepare for their snowy white Christmases kind of lost its impact when you knew the episode had aired two years earlier in America and was being shown to us in April or some other random month. The only positive thing about having no internet were no spoilers, so we didn’t know what was going to happen in that epic 90210 Christmas episode where Donna and David kissed and Steve Sanders got on a bus to find his real mum.

But then the Internet came and everything changed and the world became this magical place where we don’t have to wait for the good shows to come to us and celebrities reply to us on Twitter and we actually know what’s going on in the world. Now, there’s no escaping it’s summer in America (and the rest of the NH) because my Instagram and Pinterest feeds are blowing up with tanned feet, icy drinks, salad recipes, ice cream cones, short shorts and summer reading lists. Meanwhile, I’m snuggled in my ugg boots and trackies feeling like I’ll never be warm again.

I had found myself being quite jealous of the summer reading lists. For some reason nothing sounds so carefree as taking a book outside to the beach or into a hammock and hanging out in the sunshine reading. But then I snapped out of my jealousy. Because in theory outside summer reading sounds great – but in reality it’s hazardous with sand, ants, dust, flies, and wind to contend with. Not to mention sunburn. In winter you can avoid all that by simply just staying in bed. Plump, cushy pillows, soft blankets, and an ant-free snack in reach. Doesn’t that sound better? I think it sounds amaze.

So my fellow Southern Hemispherians. Here’s my winter reads wishlist that’s worth staying in bed for. (They’re not all new books. Just books I want to read.)

1. Along For The Ride – Sarah Dessen 

Along for the ride - Sarah DessenAuden’s an uptight girl with no friends and a superiority complex. In the summer before college she stays with her father and his new wife in a small town where she meets girls, boys and finds out a bit about herself.  Sarah Dessen does YA coming of age so well – in someone else’s hands her books could be a bit trite and forumlaic, but she layers her characters and slowly reveals back stories to create a compelling read. I’m halfway through this one and enjoying where Auden is at so far.

2. We Were Liars – E. Lockhart

We were liars - E. Lockhart In a horrifying throwback to the dark days, according to Allen & Unwin this isn’t being published/made available in Australia until August 2014, while Americans have had their hands on it since May. Catch up book industry! I want my books ASAP!  With buzz like “haunting” “sophisticated” and “blisteringly smart” this one is firmly on my reading list.

3. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns) – Mindy Kaling

Is everyone hanging out with out me - Mindy KalingAnother book I’ve been unable to find on my local store’s shelves. Funny, relatable, smart, Mindy has found success without looking like Paris Hilton and I kinda like that about her. So I want to read about it. I also like to laugh out loud when I read, so here’s hoping IEHOWM(AOC) delivers, when I finally get my hands on a copy.

4. Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl - Gillian FlynnSo I have the first 45 pages of this as a sample on my iPad. I think I read 38 pages and then forgot about it. Doesn’t really seem like I should have this on my list of “must reads” this winter does it? But there’s going to be a movie, and I want to see it because: Ben Affleck, so I’ll stick to my rule of reading the book before the movie and suck it up and finish this one.

5. The Haunting of Lily Frost – Nova Weetman

The Haunting of Lily Frost - Nova WeetmanAn Australian YA ghost story, by a debut author. These are all things I like so much. I’m in.

6. If I Stay – Gayle Forman

If I Stay - Gayle FormanThe reviews say: tragic, hopeful, romantic, uplifting, this story examines love and life and why we keep breathing. Also, there’s going to be a movie, so you know my rule.

7. Harry Potter – JK Rowling

Harry Potter - JK RowlingI love re-reading my favourites. Disaster struck recently when I went to pull out all my Harry books for my semi-regular re-read and found I was missing the first two. DISASTER! Where are they? Lucky I was able to borrow them and am now happily halfway through The Chamber of Secrets. But that doesn’t solve the problem of where my books are…

What are you reading this winter/summer?

Images from goodreads.com