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.
This month was weird. There were moments of almost normal, of feeling like change was coming, and other moments of realisation that things are never going to go back to ‘normal’.
With restrictions easing across the country, this month’s major milestone was finally being able to see friends in person again. We still couldn’t go out, but we could gather together and laugh, and dance, and drink wine, and generally just enjoy everything we have missed over the last couple of months.
In comparison, there was also a particular moment towards the end of the month when the NRL started again and I was watching a post-match interview with a player and behind him were the cardboard cutouts of fans in the crowd. Watching this, it felt like I was in some alternate reality where as people we have been forced to stay indoors but the world goes on pretending like we never left it.
It was a confusing and confronting thought that made me feel like a character in a dystopian novel and so I tried to shake it off.
But the truth is our current reality is different than the one we have always known and these things that we have previously only experienced as fiction are finding their way into our daily lives. And we are just going to have to adapt to that.
When sitting down to write this post, everything else that happened this month suddenly began to feel insignificant. I know that you know. You’ve heard it on the news. You’ve seen it in your social feed. But I just can’t go on through the rest of this post without mentioning it.
On the 25th of May, an unarmed George Floyd was murdered after a white Police Officer in Minneapolis pressed his knee into his neck for 9 minutes while he was handcuffed on the ground facedown. Refusing to let the name George Floyd be just another name on a list, a nation, followed by a world, found its voice and would not be silenced.
People from all different backgrounds have taken to the streets, and to the internet, to demand justice and acknowledge that it is not acceptable that a system that is this broken through years and years of institutionalised racism can still exist in this way.
As an Australian watching the events unfold in the US it’s hard not to reflect on the issues of racism in our own country. Now is the time to learn, to listen and to educate ourselves on the issues that we face as a nation – this is not isolated to America, and we need to do better.
I share this here like many others because it feels like a time when we need to use any means we have to raise our voices as well and make some noise in support of the rights and the freedoms that should be entitled to the Black community around the world, just as I am entitled to mine through the privilege that I was born.
But I also do it to remember. This is such an important time and I want to remember what has happened over the last couple of weeks. We simply can’t forget. When I look through the archives of my posts I want to be reminded to stop and reflect, and through that may I continue to always be learning and always trying to be better.
I am not naive in thinking that my sharing this message means something without being followed by action. But while I continue to think about what this means to me and what steps feel right for my circumstance I can promise that I will keep working to listen to a variety of voices, most importantly from those with backgrounds, circumstances and life experience different to my own.
Most Popular Blog Post
This month was similar to last month in that there was a lot of time for cooking and baking but I was still trying to limit my trips to the grocery store so I focused on pantry staple recipes. I managed to produce 5 new recipes and give a much needed update to one of my older posts that was very deserving of a refresh.
And it seems as though that was a wise decision with the most popular recipe published this month being my tomato and capsicum chutney. I have been getting fresh fruit and vegetables delivered from a local business and in one order ended up with three green capsicums. This was the perfect way to make sure they didn’t go to waste as well as a fun cooking project for a Sunday. It had been a while since my last batch so it has been great having it on hand again!
Vegan Enchiladas – one of my favourite comfort foods made just a little healthier
Vegetable Fritters – the ultimate what to make when you don’t have much available recipe
Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies – FINALLY have a recipe for these classic cookies and they are incredible (pictured below)
Lentil Bolognese – rich, hearty and comforting but without the meat, this is one of my current favourite dinners!
Vegan Brownies – potentially better than the original, just saying!
What I Read This Month
This month was a mixed bag in terms of reading. I read one of the worst books of the year so far, alongside one of the best.
I have also been continuing to find routine with reading in my new normal day, which is currently looking like a few chapters in the morning over coffee and a few chapters in bed at night. I am at 20 books read so far this year which is on track with my goal without feeling overwhelming which is good!
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood (1996)
This is one of the books that I have had on my shelf sitting unread since I purchased it a year or so ago at a Lifeline Bookfest. While this book got off to a shaky start Atwood once again didn’t let me down as she weaved a complex and detail driven plot keeping me engaged until the very end.
The novel is a historical fiction telling the story of Grace Marks, a convicted murderess in the 1840s. It wasn’t until I was halfway through this book, I am embarrassed to admit, that I realised it was actually based on a true story. This made the start of the novel which is comprised of a series of news articles and letters make a lot more sense!
The cleverness in this story lies in the way Atwood tells Grace’s story. Is she just an innocent young girl or was she a cruel and cunning criminal capable of the horrific crimes she was charged with?
Atwood also explores mental illness in a time when many of the treatments would be considered barbaric if the story was set in modern times. This exploration of the mind by Dr. Jordan through the journey into her memories in order to attempt to uncover facts that had been lost was really interesting and his relationship with Grace continued to make the reader question everything that was known.
Overall, I am a huge fan of Margaret Atwood and this book is no exception. I am now going to go and watch the Netflix series!
Everything is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo (2019)
I honestly can’t even remember why I downloaded this book to my Kindle App. I think it may have been a combination of it being on sale, me wanting something light to read right at that exact moment, and a heap of positive reviews on Amazon. Whatever it was, I think it was not the reason Marie Forleo wanted it to be.
This book moves into the pile of ‘good for some, not for me’. It wasn’t a bad book, I just did not resonate with it. I think that I mainly couldn’t move past the continued use of the made up word – figureoutable.
Content wise, there was nothing too ground-breaking in the book. It was about listening to what you want and working damn hard to get it. Interestingly, one of Marie’s points in the book is that you should go forth and create what you are passionate about even if it’s been done before because even if it’s been said a thousand times before, there is always someone who needs to hear it from you. I feel that’s what’s happening here and it’s very clear that she has been able to reach so many people in a profound way and that is pretty amazing.
I did find that the book got a little like what I imagine a self-development seminar to be like, just without the people standing and cheering and at times I cringe to say it but in the interest of an honest review, it felt kind of salesy.
There are also A LOT of activities to do at the end of each chapter. And Marie calls you out if you are not willing to do the work, and I am just going to put my hand up right now and say that I was not willing to do the work. So that may have contributed to me not getting a lot out of the book.
Overall, I am going to have to leave this one up to you to decide if you want to read it or not!
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (1988) (re-read)
After reading Everything is Figureoutable, I needed something wonderful to sink into so I found my way back to this classic tale of travel and one of the most beautiful books that exists in the world.
Even if you haven’t read the book, you may still be familiar with this quote:
“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
This book follows a young shepherd Santiago, who sets out in search of treasure based upon a dream. Every single encounter Santiago has upon his journey carries meaning and influences how he interprets and understands the events that are unfolding in his life even if they appear as setbacks. He learns, he trusts, and he has faith that his journey will lead him.
I first read this in 2017 and I love it just as much as I did on the first read. It is a beautiful book about the mystery and joy of travel and the real meaning behind the phrase, it’s the journey, not the destination that matters.
Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid (2019)
I finished reading this book just days before George Floyd was murdered in an act of police brutality brought on by institutionalised racism within a system that is fundamentally broken. Little did I know that the themes of this book were just about to explode through the media around the world.
This book so cleverly speaks to this topic of racism within America as it tells the story of Alix Chamberlain, a white mother of two and Emira, her Black babysitter. The book begins with Emeria being stopped by a security guard and unable to leave a local grocery store after being racially profiled while babysitting.
The events that unfold explore racism within society, within relationships and even within our thoughts and actions. This is told through switching POV between Emira and Alix and their individual reactions to the events that unfolded at the supermarket.
What I liked about this book is that it talks about racism in a more subtle way in that it focuses on the smaller interactions, suggestions and assumptions that Emira faces throughout her daily life while also shining a light on issues of class within American society.
I could not put this book down. Reid has crafted a clever novel that moves at a quick enough pace that makes you want to keep reading but also slow enough that she is able to deep dive into the characters motivations. Cannot recommend this book more.
If you’ve read this book or are looking for others that speak to similar issues of race in America, I can also suggest the following that I’ve read (and loved) in recent years:
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (2018) – Looks at the prison system and the disproportionate incarceration of Black men for crimes they did not commit.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (2017) – This fictional story is a voice for Black Lives Matter and the events that unfold are chillingly similar to what is currently unfolding. A young unarmed Black man is killed by a police officer and the town erupts in riots and fights for justice and to have its voice heard.
I’ve sadly not read too much in recent years about race in Australia (something that I plan to change) but one I can recommend is:
Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia edited by Anita Heiss (2018) – A collection of personal essays that look into colonisation and the effect this is having today through the impact of the stolen generation, and the lack of understanding at the intersection of black and white within society, and what it really means to grow up Aboriginal in Australia.
What I Watched This Month
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist (2020)
This show really caught me by surprise and wasn’t at all what I had expected from the bright, colourful branding. Based in San Francisco, the main character Zoey is undergoing an MRI when an earthquake hits and suddenly all the music of the world seems to have been downloaded into her brain along with a ‘super power’ of being able to hear people’s innermost emotions as elaborately performed songs.
This concept is strange, and I’ll admit the random singing and dancing numbers where a lot to get used to BUT this show is so much more than the funny, colourful, singing and dancing show that it appears to be on the surface.
This show presents one of the most accurate representations of grief that I have seen on TV and the cast is refreshingly diverse. I loved seeing a leading female character work as a software engineer alongside a Black, genderfluid best friend (for fans of Glee you’ll be excited to see Alex Newell on your screens again!).
I cried in this show more times than I can count, it gets so real, but I loved it and can say it’s one of the best shows I’ve watched in a while.
What I Listened To This Month
This month was all about the chill vibes and making my home a relaxing environment through music. This playlist is perfect for that and is what I am currently listening to!
What’s coming up?
Things are changing rapidly again. The start of June has already seen further restrictions lifted. I am not really sure what June looks like yet, but it seems like it might be the first step to getting back into the real world.
In the meantime, I am loving this cooler weather and I will continue to embrace my days spent at home in comfortable clothes, with warm socks and hot cups of tea.
A Final Thought
I just want to end this post with a simple message to remember to be kind. You can never know how someone else experiences the world so it’s so important to practise compassion and take a moment to think before you speak, and acknowledge that sometimes simply listening is enough.