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.
Welcome 2020 and the beginning of a new decade!
I have seen enough memes on social media this month to know that it is not just me who thought that January went on forever! It was easily the biggest month I’ve had at work and despite getting a lot done, it felt like the weeks of January just kept coming.
I sometimes feel as though the new year really starts on Feb 1. Throughout January you are still in holiday mode and as the year starts to ramp up, it can be hard to focus on your new intentions. February 1st gives us another go at this.
It is also the hottest time in Brisbane right now. With constant over 30 degree days and lows of 24 if you’re lucky, and with an added 70% or higher humidity it’s just a horrible time to be outside if you don’t love sweating. I seriously think it was cooler in my hot yoga room the other day than it was outside. In this weather, it is easy to feel drained and flustered, but on the positive side, we have had rain and everything is looking green and lush again which is lovely.
What happened in January
I spent new years sick on the couch. With a nasty summer cold keeping me relegated to moving only between my bed and the couch for that weird period of time between Christmas and New Years I didn’t start feeling better until it was time to go back to work on the 2nd. Needless to say I enjoyed a quiet new years eve at home with mexican food and chocolate brownies.
Australia Day back home with friends. We decided to road trip back home to NSW to spend the long weekend with friends. We spent the Saturday driving and listening to the Hottest 100 countdown feeling way too personally attacked when songs we liked missed out and songs we didn’t made it.
It was so good though to just take some time and relax as I think with work feeling so busy, it was nice to take the time away.
FINALLY booking an overseas trip. This literally only happened at the very end of the month but we finally decided to book flights to Japan for October and I couldn’t be more excited. This is somewhere I have wanted to visit for a long time, so it will be good to start diving into planning to see how much we can fit into just a week!
The only small obstacle with this is that my passport is expired – so renewing that will be high on my priority list. The reason I have avoided it is because I changed my name when I got married, and because my old passport was issued before then in my maiden name, I have to go through the whole application again. It’s probably not going to be as much of a hassle as I am predicting by the time I actually do it, but at least I now have motivation to get it done.
Struggling to find balance in my routine. I started off this post talking about how difficult it can be to start January strongly with your list of good habits. As I mentioned as well, this month went on forever, so I feel like I had times when I was able to meal prep, eat healthy, make it to yoga, read before bed, and all the other things I want to be able to fit into my day. Other times, it was all a mess and none of the above happened. While I don’t expect every week to be perfect, I want to work on a more balanced approach rather than the all or nothing that was January.
Trying to cut down on coffee. This was an experiment that went pretty badly. I tried to see if I could wean myself off having a coffee as soon as I woke up in the morning (6.15 am), before anything else. Instead of this, I would have a green smoothie and then get a coffee when I got into the office at about 8.30 – 9 am. The result was headaches, crankiness, lack of energy and overall feeling terrible. I thought this was just the withdrawals, but after two weeks, I just couldn’t do it anymore. Turns out I need coffee and a decent breakfast to be able to function as an adult. At least now I know.
Most Popular Blog Post
I decided that this year, to help me plan out more relevant content, I would look at some broad themes to help me each month. For January this was to be classic Australian recipes. I got hung up on one particular recipe and made it so many times, each one a fail making it my official nemesis. For now in the interest of not wasting more ingredients, I have put that recipe idea away. Who knows, maybe I’ll come back to it later in the year.
The result is that I didn’t get as many new posts published as I would have wanted, and really only one that fit within the theme. But still, I liked the idea and found it helped keep me focused, even if the focus ended up being on something that will never make it to the blog.
This month, there was a very clear winner for the most popular new recipe with this 20 minute bow tie pasta (pictured above) having a very good month. This recipe is something I make for dinner when I don’t want to go shopping as I can usually find all of the ingredients in my house. I didn’t expect this recipe to be so popular, but I guess you really can’t beat a simple, healthy dinner.
Homemade Vegan Tim Tams (pictured below) – I can finally eat Tim Tams again! Can’t believe it took me this long to make these at home.
Dutch Pancake – A classic American breakfast, straight from the pages of my previously lost travel diary.
With February being the month of Valentines Day, stay tuned for recipes themed around this next month. Think recipes for two and a whole lot of chocolate.
What I Read This Month
This month I got through 5 books which on paper is excellent. What it comes down to though is audiobooks. I stopped listening to a few podcasts that I have been religiously listening to every week for the last couple of years because I found that they were not serving me as much as they used to. As a result, I had extra time in my week and found that allowed me to get through an audiobook a week during my transit to and from work.
I have also been continuing my habit of reading an actual book each night before bed and I found this puts me in a better headspace to be able to get to sleep. I am currently halfway through a giant, dense and complex book which I should have ready to review next month.
Finding Chika: A Little Girl, an Earthquake, and the Making of a Family by Mitch Albom (2019)
Chika was born in Haiti, just 3 days before the devastating earthquake in 2010. She spent her life struggling in poverty, and after her mother died in childbirth, and her father unable to care for her, she found herself at the Have Faith Haiti Orphanage, which was operated by Mitch Albom and his wife Janine.
This is the true story of how Mitch and Janine found themselves as parents, as they cared for the loud, brave and confident Chika. She made her impression on all of the staff at the orphanage, but there was a special connection with Mitch. And after she was diagnosed with a terminal disease that no doctor in Haiti could help with at age 5, Mitch and Janine decided to take Chika to America in search of a cure.
There is a reason that I will never hesitate when picking up a Mitch Albom book and that is the way he chooses his words so carefully to convey emotion. He tells the story slowly, acknowledging his emotion and his struggles to write the story, while also working through the love he had for Chika and how these events have changed his life.
I expected this story to be sad, and it was, but it was also so beautiful. This is a classic Mitch Albom story and all proceeds from the book will be funnelled back into the orphanage.
The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron (1996) Audio
Ever since reading Susan Cain’s Quiet last year, I have been looking for more understanding about what it means to be a highly sensitive person (HSP). This book is a great foundation as it explores not only the internal emotional responses but also the physical behaviour that is associated with this personality trait.
15-20% of the population is born as a highly sensitive person, however these people are often labelled shy or introverted and often go on with little understanding of why they feel differently than the perceived norm.
I know this because I am one of them and until recently didn’t understand why I seemed to have different experiences in situations that others seemed unbothered by. Highly sensitive people are more susceptible to sounds, smells, temperature, and other external factors and often find themselves deep in overwhelm when these factors are too stimulating.
This book takes you through these traits and teaches you how to approach them and deal with them in everyday life as a HSP as well as providing actionable advice for people who are dealing with HSP’s as either a parent, teacher, friend or partner.
I found this book really insightful and if you resonate with any of what I have mentioned here than I think you’ll find this book useful as well.
Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ by Giulia Enders (2014) Audio
The gut is often referred to as the second brain, and vital in how our body operates each day, yet we know very little about it when compared to our other vital bodily systems. It is often thought of as an embarrassing topic of conversation but not to Giulia Enders who clearly is passionate about sharing the little details of how the gut works so we can be better informed about what is actually going on inside.
This book was so interesting and I feel like I learnt a lot about how the body works. Enders goes through the entire digestive system, from the moment the food touches our lips right through the very end. In order to understand why eating a healthy diet is so important, you need to understand how your body breaks it down and I feel like this book was a great foundation.
Enders breaks down one of the most complex bodily processes into easily digestible language (sorry for the pun, but really I am not). She uses humour and analogies that are relatable which makes the book an easy read that is still packed full of information, rather than feeling like a textbook.
If you are interested in learning a little more about what goes on in your gut and how this impacts overall health, then I think this is a great starting place.
Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell (2008) Audio
What is it that makes people successful? Does it come down to determination, hard work and intelligence or is there more to it than that? What role does individual circumstance, culture and timing play in success. This book looks to explore this and argue that success has everything to do with the uncontrollable factors of time and opportunity.
Through the exploration of outliers in tech such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, through to the history of several elite Manhattan lawyers, Gladwell argues not that these people didn’t work hard for their success but that they reached this level due to being born at the right time when America was going through change thus affording them opportunities at exactly the right moment.
Apart from the obvious point of being born white, male and in America, Gladwell also speaks about the 10,000 hours rule. Nobody becomes a success overnight and it has been estimated that it takes approximately 10,000 hours of practise to reach this level.
The example with Bill Gates is that he was given unprecedented access to a computer as a teenager at a time when many universities didn’t even have this kind of access. Gates himself has even said in interviews over the years that he was lucky to be able to have this kind of access that no other teenager in the world had at the time. This access allowed him to get his 10,000 hours of practise in early so that by the time he was ready to drop out of Harvard and start Microsoft he had the skills needed to be successful.
I also found Gladwell’s discussion on culture important in terms of understanding, however maybe not in the way that was intended. The measure of success in this book was largely the American ideal and definition so this was the measuring stick that Gladwell used when looking at other cultures.
Overall this was an interesting book but I didn’t find it life changing in the way that many reviewers of this book have found. Maybe it was just that I didn’t find it relatable to my own experience. If you are interested in business and getting an insight into how people find themselves at the top of their field, then I recommend giving this one a read as it does present a different perspective than most books on the subject.
Bossypants by Tina Fey (2011) Audio
I have recently found in my new relationship with audio books that I really enjoy autobiographies read by the author. It is also nice to listen to something lighthearted and funny which is exactly what this book is.
Tina Fey is a powerhouse in American comedy having most famously been a writer on Saturday Night Live before moving onto 30 rock. This book touches on some of the key points in her career while bringing attention to gender inequalities within comedy and how she has spent her career pushing to shift this.
I have previously been fairly indifferent to Tina Fey but this month decided to go all in listening to this audio book and starting to watch the first season of 30 Rock. It was really fun to listen to Tina talk about the show as I was watching and it made me appreciate it more. I am looking forward to seeing where the show goes!
Overall when you pick up a book that is written and performed by a comedy writer, you know it is going to be entertaining.
What I Watched This Month
This Aussie drama produced for Stan has given me faith in Australian television again. Set in the not too distant future, this show explores the impact of climate change and the moral questions of motherhood when faced with an uncertain and dangerous future.
This show was really timely as I watched it while the bulk of our news was covering the bush fires in Australia, only to move onto the coronavirus. This show presents a very possible and not unlikely future and it was a little confronting to see it brought to life.
While I always struggle to stay engaged in Australian dramas, this kept me wanting to know what was next and with a stellar performance by David Lyons, I think this is a great example of a move in the right direction for Aussie TV. Also there was a solid cliff hanger so I do hope it comes back for a second season.
What I Listened To This Month
This incredible and well known cover of Heartbeats by José González auto-played on one of my Spotify playlists this month and gave me all the feels. This song most memorably for me was featured in Scrubs, however has also featured on favourites such as This Is Us and One Tree Hill.
The first comment on YouTube really sums it up: This song makes me feel nostalgic for the life I am yet to experience.
What’s coming up?
I am hoping that in February things settle down a little bit as we get stuck into the new year. I don’t really have too much planned which is nice for the moment, so will see where the month ends up.