Welcome to Life at Number Eight! My monthly series that lets us recap the month and catch up with everything that has been going on.
The final month of the year is usually pretty hectic, but I feel it has been even more so this year as my calendar has been super full. At one point I took 6 flights in the space of 2 weeks! I also only spent 9 nights of the month sleeping in my own bed…
So here is a run down of what’s been going on.
I mentioned it in my last update but I started December in the Philippines. I travelled over on Saturday the 1st flying Brisbane > Sydney > Manila, then 2.5 hours in a car to Clark.
I was on a work trip and our team are based in Clark which is a former US Military base turned growing business city. After the extreme culture shock that is Manila airport and the chaos of people everywhere, we headed out with our driver into the traffic. I had been warned about the traffic but still I was not quite prepared.
Basically, if there is a space then a vehicle will fill it despite other cars or road lines. At one stage I looked over and there was the front of a bus about 30 cms from my window in the backseat. I tried to not show my alarm and instead just watched the traffic as if it was some television show that I was not actually in the middle of.
I am glad we landed in Manila as the drive through in the night was exciting as we went past all the colourful stalls that lined the sides of the road. At traffic lights men carrying bananas would approach the car trying to sell their produce. People hung out the back of Jeepneys (the public bus transportation) that are decorated with bright colours, neon lights and everything else you can imagine.
After a short nap in the car, we arrived after dark in Clark and after a long travel day I went straight to bed without even eating dinner – probably the first time I have ever missed a meal!
In the morning I flung open the curtains of my hotel room to reveal an open landscape with lush green mountains surrounding the city. While it was a work trip and there was not much time for anything else, I did get to go on a drive around the city to see how it is growing and developing and boy did I eat.
I find the best way to get to know a new destination is through its food and the Philippines is a country that has such as mixed influence. Being heavily influenced by the Chinese, then the Spanish occupation, then the Americans – it becomes uniquely multicultural. One of my favourite dishes was from a pizza and pasta place called Yellow Cab Pizza Co. called Charlie Chan Pasta which is a sweet spicy peanut and chicken pasta. I am going to try and make it myself!
I also tried the local fast food chain Jollybee’s and had the spicy fried chicken and sweet tomato pasta which was weird but I kind of felt I needed to try it. The chicken was really good though.
We also went to an Italian restaurant in nearby Angeles City in which I had local live oysters that were the biggest I have ever seen. One was the size of my palm, I couldn’t believe it! They were so fresh and delicious. I also had a seafood pasta which contained a lobster tail, mussels, fish and prawns and only cost Australian $26. So cheap to eat compared with Aussie prices.
Overall, the trip was really good and I enjoyed getting a little taste of another new country. On the Saturday we began the journey home with a flight from Clark to Hong Kong, then after a 6 hour layover, boarded an overnight flight from Hong Kong (pictured below flying into land) to Brisbane. Getting home at 6am I climbed into bed ready to sleep finally.
Bathurst & The Blue Mountains
Getting home on Sunday, I had a few nights in my own bed before Jarryd, mum and myself flew back down to Sydney jumped into a hire car and drive to Bathurst. We were going down for Jarryd’s graduation having spent the past few years completing his Masters Degree.
On the first afternoon, not long after we had arrived and checked into our accommodation, we decided to go and take a drive around town. Being able to see the big Mount Panorama sign on the side of the mountain, we turned to drive that way to take a look to see how close we could get to the famous race track.
Before we knew it, we were at the start line about to take a lap around the course. Turns out it is just a normal road and is therefore always open to the public. We enjoyed the drive around looking at the landmarks that we recognised from watching the race each year on tv. What took me by surprise was just how big the mountain was, and the view from the top was spectacular. It was a lot of fun and just a pretty cool experience.
After finishing up in Bathurst, we drove back through the Blue Mountains towards my cousins house in Penrith, snacking on local cherries purchased for just $5 a kilo. We stopped for morning tea at the Hydro Majestic in Medlow Bath and a look around at all their local goods. After picking up a few delicious souvenirs to take home, it was time to keep on going and catch up with the family.
Before long we were back at the airport ready for our flight..which was delayed. And then delayed again. Storms in both Brisbane and Sydney were having an impact, and finally, 4 hours late we boarded our flight.
On take off I felt the wind push the plane from side to side and I knew then it was going to be a rough flight. We had turbulence most of the way with the worst of it rocking the plane from side to side before suddenly dropping. By this stage I had just had enough of flying, looking forward to getting my feet on the ground hoping my churning stomach would hold on. We got down, I wasn’t sick, but I was glad that my flying was done for the year.
Holidays in NSW
After another week back home and finishing up work for the year, it was time to again pack our bags, this time taking of on a road trip around NSW. First stop was at mum’s house for a couple of days by the beach, resting and recharging and of course eating.
We enjoyed a delicious lunch from Three Blue Ducks at The Farm in Byron Bay, and battled the traffic through town to take a drive up to the lighthouse and lookout at the spectacular coastline below.
After a relaxing couple of days, we took off again this time just down the road to Jarryd’s family in Evans Head to spend Christmas. After a few days of eating a lot of seafood including a fresh and very large mudcrab all to myself, we enjoyed even more beers and beach time.
We then said goodbye and took off on a 5 hour drive inland to a friends house where we would be spending new years and just generally chilling out.
That is where I am writing to you from now having spent a couple of relaxing days doing just the right amount of not much. We will be heading home before the end of the week, giving ourselves a couple of days to settle in back home before starting back at work on the 7th.
New Years Goals
I am very excited to start a new year, and with it I hope to follow through on my mantra of happiness. I want to take the time to look at what really makes me happy and make sure that I am looking out for myself ensuring I am only focusing on the important things that make me happy rather than the negative.
After a year that has tested our resilience, these last two weeks have given us some time to rest and recharge and going into 2019 I want to make sure that this is a priority. Looking after ourselves may not guarantee that nothing bad will come our way this year, but it will ensure that we are once again ready to deal with it if it does.
Also please let me know if you have any tips on improving energy as this is something I am wanting to work on as well.
Most Popular Blog Post
Finally I felt I found my way back to this blog and was able to deliver on every post I intended to write. My goal for the new year is to keep up with this sort of consistency delivering 2 new posts per week.
Chocolate Peppermint Brownies (Gluten-Free) – I’m not surprised that this was the most popular new post this month because you can never really have too many brownie recipes. Perfect for the Christmas season, this is a variation on a favourite brownie recipe. These brownies are quick and easy and just so good that I get flooded with compliments every time someone eats one or tries them at home.
Classic Ginger Snap Biscuits – another classic Christmas favourite.
Chai Spiced French Toast Casserole – the best thing i’ve made for a while!
Reflecting on 4 Years of Blogging – celebrating a little achievement.
The Top 10 Recipes of 2018 – the posts you all have been loving this year!
My Favourite Books of 2018 – your summer book recommendations sorted.
What I Read This Month
It’s been a really good month for me in terms of reading with 5 books completed, bringing my total to 27 for the year. Last week I published my favourite books of the year post but unfortunately I was yet to read Stay With Me, as that should have been on the list as well. But that’s ok, I read a varied mix this month so let’s get into it.
Beartown by Fredrik Backman (2017)
From the author of A Man Called Ove, this book came up on my Amazon recommendations and I was intrigued by the review by Jojo Moyes that said ‘I wasn’t sure I would love a novel centred on hockey – but as with Friday Night Lights this is actually a story about people – about strength and tribal loyalty and what we unwittingly do when trying to show our boys how to be men.’
Because I am a huge fan of Friday Night Lights I could not ignore the comparison so I decided to give it a read. From the first few pages I was hooked. I could tell instantly this was a deeply character rich story. One where every person within this small community has a role to play.
Beartown is a small town on the edge of the forest in Sweden, and at its core it is a hockey town. The book lets you learn about the history of the town and its people through the sport and we follow the events of the town leading up to the Juniors final.
Like Friday Night Lights, the game is just the centre for the events to unfold around. This story is about the youth, coming of age, and about moral responsibility. A novel that continues to the very end, I just couldn’t put it down.
You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth by Jen Sincero (2017) Audio
After listening to Sincero’s first book, You Are a Badass, earlier in the year, I decided that I needed a bit more of her brand of mindset insight. I love listening to these books as the way Sincero speaks adds to the motivational nature of her books.
This book is about confronting the hang ups people have towards money and breaking down those walls allowing in positive thoughts surrounding wealth. I really enjoyed the way she spoke about changing mindsets and felt there are a few lessons to be learnt just about the way we feel in general about our ability to think that we deserve the money to achieve our dreams.
Becoming by Michelle Obama (2018) Audio
Michelle Obama tells the story of her life from a young age growing up in a working class family in Chicago through to the White House and now sitting back and reflect on all of it. The book is broken down into three parts, ‘Becoming Me’ where she talks about her childhood; ‘Becoming Us’, where she speaks about meeting Barack, shifting the focus of her career and starting a family; and ‘Becoming More’ where she talks about being First Lady and their time in the White House.
I found it fascinating how she was able to make conscious decisions to not put her own ambitions on hold for those of her husband, and when it came to it she found a way to use her position to give back to what she was passionate about and create her own legacy. I loved learning about her relationship with Barack and how they formed a family strong enough to survive life in the White House and of course what White House life was actually like.
Overall I really loved getting to know Michelle in more detail, and I particularly loved her comments (albeit subtle) on what it was like to feel so much progress within a country, only to hand it over to a racist and misogynist white man set on undoing everything.
Normal People by Sally Rooney (2018)
I only picked this book up because it was on a list of recommendations that I was using as a guide when thinking about what to read next. I also was looking for a bit of light summer reading.
This is a story about relationships, both intimate, and with friends and family. Connell and Marianne grow up in the same small town in rural Ireland with nothing really in common. Connell is from a single parent home, on the wrong side of town while Marianne is from a wealthy family. While they do not speak at school, Connell and Marianne form a relationship in secret.
After leaving school and finding places in the same University in Dublin, Connell and Marianne find their way back to each other. Their relationship is so infuriating because they both are never able to actually communicate to each other how they truly feel.
There is a lot of pain and suffering in Marianne’s life and I think through everything her constant is Connell, even when they are are in separate relationships. Overall, it is a story about codependency, abuse, mental health, and sex. Rooney does a good job telling the story though and while I didn’t like either character, I still found myself wanting to get to the end to see if they got their happily ever after.
Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo (2017)
After the previous book I realised that I am not great at looking for a light summer read so I picked up Stay With Me, which I have been hearing incredible things about. They weren’t wrong. I only wish I hadn’t yet published my best books for 2018 list because this should have been on it.
Set in 1980-2008 Nigeria, amidst a backdrop of political turbulence this is a story about the fragile nature of married love, the pressure of family and the pain of motherhood.
Yejide and Akin have been married since university but when Yejide continues to struggle to fall pregnant her mother-in-law arrives on her doorstep with a younger woman who her husband has married in secret. This second wife begins to unravel Yejide but while Akin does not wish for a second wife, he does not speak out.
This book is heartbreaking and highlights the power of grief and the lengths someone will go to to protect their love and relationship.
What’s Coming Up?
Welcome 2019! As we start a new year I will be looking forward and while I don’t technically like to set resolutions as such, I will be setting myself a few general goals to work towards.
While I don’t really have any plans yet, I am hoping to enjoy the summer days outside as much as possible and hopefully fit in a few more trips to the beach.
Until next month.