New Zealand

Two festivals and nine months after our fabulous wedding, Blake and I finally got our honeymoon! We spent 12 days driving around the South Island of New Zealand, and absolutely adored it.

monday. 26 june
We flew Sydney to Christchurch and had the most incredible views of the mountain ranges as we went across. Then straight out to the shuttle bus, picked up our car, and manoeuvred through the worst road works ever to get to our hostel. The work not only out by the airport but the rebuilding still taking place of Christchurch itself meant that getting around in a car was awful. We were also out searching for food in the awkward limbo between lunch and dinner, but ended up finding amazing cookies that got us through.

tuesday. 27 june
Straight on the road and off across the country (an adorable 3.5hr drive) with a very exciting photo op at a large roadside donut in Springfield. We stopped off around halfway through at Arthur’s Pass where a leisurely bush walk turned into 30 minutes of stairs. Thankfully a well-placed family was able to advise us that we were at the highest point, and gave us the will to continue, before we finally reached the pretty views and waterfalls in the national park.

Back on the road and we were in amongst beautiful mountain ranges, then into Greymouth where we toured the Monteith’s brewery, and stayed the night at an airbnb with lovely host Jean.

wednesday. 28 june
Our first big expedition of the trip was the Taniwha Blackwater Cave Rafting & Glow worms ZIP-IN OPTION. Looking at it now, it’s easy to see that there is tube rafting involved, but in my organisation I had entirely failed to mention or note this, so Blake and I were quite surprised when we ended up having to put on layers of thermals, wet suits, gum boots, and abseiling style harnesses when we were getting ready at the home base. Thankfully though, we were the only two booked on the group tour that morning so had not only two guides to ourselves, but free reign of the change rooms, gear, and a practically private tour for the standard price. It made the horrid-looking wetsuits all the more bearable that nobody else was there to see it.

Although it was a bit of a surprise I actually really enjoyed this tour. The zip line was everything I’d hoped for, slowly getting rigged up and lowering yourself down on the edge of the cliff, then swinging down through the trees, and catching the pole on our way back across. The worst part was how freakin’ cold the bar you had to hold on to was while you were being de-rigged, but we were out in NZ in mid-winter, so that’s probably on us. After the zip line we were ushered by our guide down to the river and alternating some lovely floating along with a lot of rolling over, getting up, walking across slippery rocks where the water was too low, then “gracefully” sitting back down on our tubes to float a little more. Our guide was lovely and patient, and it was very appreciated that there were not the 15 other people you might have had on another day. We spent the vast majority of the 3hr tour floating and walking down the river bank, learning a bit about nature and learning that absolutely nothing in New Zealand is even going to try and bite you. Coming from Australia it was an odd but greatly reassuring acknowledgement.

Once we hit the end of the river – and after a brief break as our guide was feeling unwell (we were more than happy to wait as long as he needed!) – we rode down a piece-of-barrel toboggan into some brown still water and were at the mouth of the glow worm cave. Again we tubed along for a little while, slowly heading into the darkness and led by his torchlight, then hit the point that we leaned the tubes against the side of the cave and walked ahead. This part was certainly not for the claustrophobic or nyctophobic (fear of the dark, thanks Google!) as we were guiding with our left hand on the wall and heading straight into darkness for some time. Then we reached the proper point and were directed to look up.

Glowworms aren’t actually a type of worm at all. They’re the larvae of a flying insect similar to a mosquito, and they actually spent 9 months in the lavael state building enough energy to create a cocoon, molecularly change into the flying creature, and need to survive on this energy alone for 2-4 days as they are created with no mouths and thus spend their short life breeding and quickly die. As “glowworms” they catch insects in their sticky webs by appearing like the night sky along the canopy of caves, louring their prey and devouring it. Ironically, the flying insect itself can be tricked and caught in these webs, and they are known to be carnivorous in this way.

After our tour we made a quick pitstop back at Jean’s, to tell her about our tour, but mostly to collect some of her neighbouring farm’s raw milk that she had kindly fed us and offered to collect. We would have done it ourselves but her other neighbour had advised that they were often running out by lunchtime and she didn’t want us missing out, especially when Blake was so keen on it. Then we were back on the road and heading to her highly recommended stop, Hokitika Gorge. An absolutely beautiful stop of that we would never have otherwise seen, the crystal-clear blue water which comes down from the glaciers, was just spectacular. Then we were on to the glacial mountain ranges and at Franz Josef Glacier in time for dinner.

thursday. 29 june
We had a bit of a false start on our Franz Josef Glacial tour. This was one of the first things we’d booked, the big investment that won out over sky-diving because it meant we could walk on a freakin’ glacier. But when we got to check in we discovered a weight limit meant that Blake would be unable to do the climb – understandably of course, as it involved ropes tied to other party members and if someone goes down they need to be supported by the ropes or the rest go down with them. This was obviously not an uncommon issue with visitors, based on the fact at least 3 others were given the same news while we were there, and the process of handling it was perfect. While originally super disappointed that we wouldn’t be able to get up on the glacier, it was explained by both the super helpful front desk woman and the guy responsible for explaining to us (and everyone it seemed) that they were above the limit, we discovered that rather than having to actually hike across the glacier for three hours, we could book any of the scenic helicopter flights and get some time on the top to play in the snow. They were also able to issue a full refund of the original tour and we were able to book onto an alternate scenic cruise for later that morning. So props to Franz Josef Glacier Guides for their great customer service! We even got to keep our complimentary hot pool access which made for a lovely relaxing evening after our helicopter tour. So good!

friday. 30 june
We woke up Friday morning to rain, making us even more pleased that we did the helicopter tour the day before. We were able to just hit the road and take our time driving along to Wanaka, the perfect way to spend a day full of rain. Especially when the natural waterfalls that lined the road were just spectacular. I’ll never get over how much wetter New Zealand is. We had a pit stop at a very interestingly decorated restaurant, continue in more rain for the rest of the 3hrs and hit Wanaka. There we explored Puzzleworld, a winery with the most incredible view, and drove around incredible lakes. The rain did not stop for the entire drive, nor it turned out, for the two days following. But even then it was surprisingly wet. Our Airbnb hosts that night turned out to be some of our favourites. Fran & Frankie (actually caretakers for Gill’s property) told us all about their B&B they’re building, proudly showing plans and details, being known as the ‘tent people’ when they spent 6 months after selling their house living on their land before starting to build, and they were really just excellent people. We are definitely planning to visit their B&B in Luggate one day, maybe for an anniversary.

saturday. 1 july
In the morning we went into the city to visit lovely Fran’s shop Glowing Sky, where I treated myself to a lovely marino cardigan, did a quick explore of the town, then hit the (still wet) road. We stopped off at Cardrona Distillery, a baby at just 2 years old, we were shown the entire process of making their gin, vodka, and their ‘new made alcohol’ – which in 8 more years would grow up to be whiskey. You could even pre-purchase a barrel for just $10k, ready to be opened in 8, 18, or 21 years time. It was an interesting tour and very insightful, ending in a tasting, though unfortunately Blake and I don’t particularly like either vodka or gin so that was a bit wasted on us.

Then back on the road where we stopped off for a little cheese tasting, and headed into Queenstown. As we suspected the abundance of tourists, and the rain ruling out the gondola ride (the only real attraction I was interested in) meant we only stopped off in QUeenstown for a quick lunch before heading back out to our Arrowtown Airbnb. This was our most independent stay, not even meeting our hosts, but with a lovely little room and ensuite, a TV, AND Netflix, it was the perfect little stop off for the night. We also treated ourselves to a fancy dinner (as recommended by our cheese tasting guy) at a tapas restaurant with incredible cocktails. A very nice romantic night out in a beautiful little town. Way better than all those lame tourists in Queenstown.

sunday. 2 july
With yet another day of rain, we were back out into it and driving slightly inland, before heading west to Te Anau. The scenery was, of course, incredible, and we stopped off at a lovely little “beach”, perfect for skipping stones. Then we were in Te Anau in time to dinner at The Ranch and doing some laundry at our YHA. We also had enough time to see what else we should do and ended up booking in an additional tour for the next night, exploring more caves to have a better look at glowworms, as Blake was unsatisfied with what we’d done so far.

monday. 3 july
On Monday we were picked up for our next big tour, Milford Sound. Annoyingly we were waiting out front of our hostel for about 20 minutes, only to be picked up and driven a single block where we were to wait at a cafe for our coach departure. But once we were on the road we had beautiful stop offs at scenic sights, great views of the mountains, went through the first tunnel we’d seen in NZ, and arrived at the harbour of the Sound for our boat cruise. After three full days of rain, it was blue skies and sunshine so we were on the top deck as we learnt all about the Sound – technically a Fiord – and saw the seals, dolphins and birds, not to mention some great waterfalls.

Then we were back in time for some gift shopping, a quick dinner (again at The Ranch which was delicious again) overindulged in dessert, then onto a different boat to head up stream to the caves. This one was a much more exciting and educational glowworms adventure, with some incredible caves on the way. We saw gushing waterfalls and a single eel, plus the tiniest little stalactite in the cave system, before going with our group onto a small row boat, out into the darkness where you would quietly lean back and enjoy the constellations of glowworms. Blake had the prime seat at the back of the boat, so ended up directly below lots of the low rocks as we weren’t taken in and turned around. It was a really incredible journey and definitely satisfied Blake’s bug curiosity.

tuesday. 4 july
This one was literally a travel day. There are no exciting photos, no great stories, we just spent a good few hours driving along in the rain from Te Anau to Dunedin. It was quite boring to be honest, but our adventures so far meant we had plenty to talk about. We also did discover as we approached Dunedin that all the hills we thought were missing, having gone from the flat farmland to the mountainous ranges, were all in fact on the east coast, specifically in Dunedin itself. Once we got there we also checked out the Cadbury Factory. It was okay… but with Blake not liking marshmallows and that being their specialty, plus the much more theatrical than educational focus of the tour, it was less impressive than we’d hoped, especially when the free chocolate didn’t appeal.

When we got to our Airbnb though, it was like coming home to a friends’ place. Our host, Abbie was lovely, and we watch some NZ Survivor, just as it was getting interesting and into the finals. We were also inspired by her cooking magazines and planned to get onto that, planning our weekly meals and maybe subscribing. It was a very pleasant stay and being yet another wet one, we were glad not to have anything major on.

DSC_2475.JPG

The view from our Airbnb in Dunedin. The most exciting thing we saw that day.

wednesday. 5 july
Following Abbie’s recommendation, we went into town and had breakfast at a very cool little cafe where we played scrabble while we had a great feed. Then we explored Dunedin’s iconic “Tunnel Beach”, which turned out to be not just an incredible tunnel carved through rock into a private little secluded area of rocks and water, but also a bloody steep walk down and, most painfully, back up. But, it was beautiful, and being on the edge of the water like that was pretty impressive. I just nearly died a few times, and had to stops for break, in order to make it back up to the top. This was the second point in our trip where I really wished we’d gotten fit as preparation.

Then we were on the road and out of town, stopping off along the way at some incredible natural wonders, the Moeraki Boulders. These incredibly round concretions which once lined the base of the ocean floor, around 60 million years ago. They were pretty awesome to see up close, and incredibly high. The tide was coming in as we were there which meant Blake was hilariously trapped on top of one he climbed on top of, waiting for the wave to drift back out.

When we hit the small town of Oamaru, where we met our Airbnb host, dumped our bags, and headed down the road for the penguin sanctuary. We learnt a few things, beyond the fact that blue penguins are freakin’ adorable; seals don’t eat them – that’s sea lions; seals smell really bad, and occasionally vomit in their sleep; blue penguins sneak up warily then run leading with their heads, and fight over who gets into the sanctuary first, in the most adorable way. It was everything we wanted and more. Save for the rude tourists in front of us letting their kid stand up (even though she had the front row seat) and occasionally even standing up themselves – rude. But the penguins – awesome. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take photos because we might frighten the penguins, so we just snapped a few shots of the seals and incredible water views, plus massive waves coming over the barrier. It was a gorgeous, though freezing, night.

thursday. 6 june
After a lazy morning getting to know our host and having a nice breakfast, we checked out the local wonder, Steampunk HQ. Apparently steampunk is a big hit in Oamaru, with annual conventions and a large complex, which turned out to be more of a mixed media museum than actual steampunk gallery, but was entertaining nonetheless. We also checked out some little shops and second hand book stores, then hit the road for the very short drive to our next Airbnb in the tiny town of Ashburton, about halfway between Christchurch and Oamaru.

Unfortunately for us our Ashburton Airbnb was the least equipped at all, and since there’s was nothing much at all in the ‘town’ we ended up having a very relaxed night with no WiFi, TV, or even reception, and got a lot of reading done. It was still an nice night, in a little cabin on a farm, but we were starting to feel a little technology-deprived by the end of our stay. The outdoor toilet got a little rough too, being in the middle of winter and all.

friday. 7 june
For our final day in NZ we did a spontaneous trip to Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, their gorgeous zoo featuring native, introduced, and international animals. We even did a special lemur encounter which meant we could feed them their lunch and hang out for about 20 minutes, which was more than enough time for them to eat and get bored of us. The entire park was a pretty quick tour, but the perfect way to kill time before our flight. Some terrible road work and laps around the block later and we returned the car, headed to the airport and said farewell to an incredible holiday. The best part was that just a few short hours later we were back home with a full weekend to recover.

Love Always,
Alana

Cloud Nine [Sydney Theatre Company]

Writer: Caryl Churchill
Director: Kip Williams
Creatives: Elizabeth Gadsby [Design], Alexander Berlage [Lighting Design], Chris Williams [Composer], Nate Edmondson [Sound Design]
Cast: Matthew Backer, Kate Box, Harry Greenwood, Anita Hegh, Josh McConville, Heather Mitchell, Anthony Taufa

This gender-bending period piece set in Africa (at least for Act 1) was a unique exploration of generational damage through gender, infidelity, solitude, and created very mixed and confused emotions in me. The absurdist comedy was completely played up by the gender-bent characters, particularly the wife being played by a man, making much of the otherwise infuriating chauvinistic text bearable simply due to it being delivered by a man in a dress. The story is actually quite a tragic one, of abuse, infidelity, distrust, control, and the eternal struggle of position which prevents any of the characters from truly being themselves, free, or happy.

Act 2 is a strange shift, almost being from a different play altogether. Set in the 70s in England, it takes us entirely out of the era of Act 1, though seemingly picks up on the same characters lives just 25 years later. Adding to the confusion is the complete role reversals, lending itself to further skilful gender-bending, and bringing in even more questions regarding sexuality and position. The damage of parents is evident as we watch the now-grown children seek out love and affection in obscure places.

The set was incredible. Featuring simply a large clear box in the upstage area, the otherwise open stage was covered in dirt for the African setting and grass for the Act 2 garden. There was some incredible reveals made using this box, particularly at the opening of Act 2 when the previously bare set turned into a lush garden full of plants in unbelievable time. All production elements were fantastic, and the actors stretched perfectly into the roles of all genders, but I still left wondering what the purpose of the play was, beyond the need to be free.

Love Always,
Alana

The Village Bike [Cross Pollinate Productions] + SLUT [Edgeware Forum & Rue De La Rocket] [Red Line Productions]

SLUT
Writer: Patricia Cornelius
Director: Erin Taylor
Creatives:
 Isabel Hudson [Design], Nate Edmonson [Sound Design]
Cast: Julia Dray, Bobbie-Jean Henning, Jessica Keogh, Danielle Stamoulos, Maryann Wright

THE VILLAGE BIKE
Writer:
Penelope Skinner
Director: Rachel Chant
Creatives: Anna Gardiner & Martelle Hunt [Production Design], Nate Edmondson [Sound Design & Composition], Hartley T A Kemp [Lighting Design], Lillian Hannah U [Stage Manager], Shell McKenzie [Production Manager], Joel Horwood [Assistant Director], Sophie Pekbilimli [Lighting Assistant], Linda Nicholls-Gidley [Accent/Dialect Coach]
Cast: Kate Bookallil, Sophie Gregg, Jamie Oxenbould, Rupert Reid, Gabrielle Scawthorn, Benedict Wall

Seeing these plays as a double bill at the Old Fitz Theatre meant they can’t be reviewed or recounted separately, the presence of one so informing the messages of the other. It was an excellent pairing, and made for an excellent night of excellent theatre.

Opening the evening with SLUT by Patricia Cornelius, a biography of a young girl, bluntly named Lolita, told through shared monologue of herself and her friends. From Primary School friends recounting their first memories of each other, to the day when Lolita first develops breasts at just nine years old, to high school where the teacher pays her a little too much attention, to the separation of friends after the ‘incident’. The broken timeline and style in which the story is told places you at the centre of their lives, experiencing both their passion and love for their friend, their jealousy and betrayal of her. With no shying away from the too-hard topics which are avoided with girls, or the polite quiet that’s inflicted on growing young women, it’s incredibly disheartening the complex connection I, as a young woman, felt with each character on stage. I knew those girls. I was those girls. I experienced year 9 bitch-fest and could completely understand, if not entirely relate, to the slippery slope Lolita’s friends watch her go down. It moved me greatly, and made me fear for the innocence of my future teenage daughter, but it was so true and so necessary that I think it’s a show that needs to be seen.

After stepping out for a well needed break and debrief, plus some nice pub food, we were back in for an alternate exploration of female sexuality.

Following a pregnant woman and her mild-mannered husband as they settle into life in the country, The Village Bike is a unique take on a woman’s passion, sex drive, and consequences. There’s certainly infidelity, uncomfortable situations, and some naivety on the husband’s part that is simply laughable, intercepted with incredible wit and comedy. It was definitely the lighter side of life, even when things were going wrong. It also carried a message of warning to husbands to ensure they satisfy their wives during that precious time, for those urges are seemingly uncontrollable.

This play also featured the best set I have seen in this venue. Re-building the incredible balcony level and creating a townhouse in this intimate space was an incredible achievement. Every area was utilised, with running water on-set, and it’s practicality was really shown when it was seamlessly used for SLUT too.

Love Always,
Alana

Sydney Festival

It’s been a long time coming but here are my highlights from the wonderful blur that was Sydney Festival this January:

Imagined Touch
This was a show created by artist Jodee Mundy, the only hearing member in her family, alongside two real deaf-blind women who share their stories. From their slightly awkward retelling of how they met and became friends at a deaf-blind support group, through to the participatory goggles and headphones, this piece really opened my eyes (I honestly could not avoid that pun) to the life and experiences of a disability I was not previously aware of. I was lucky enough to attend the dress rehearsal of this show, and was so touched by the stories shared. It was a really incredible experience and a definite highlight.

Nude [Live]
A collaboration between the AGNSW, Sydney Festival, and Sydney Dance Company which placed nude dancers in front of nude art and made magic. The connection between the artworks and the shapes, bodies, and poses of the dancers was just incredible, and really connected me to the artworks in a way that I hadn’t been previously. Using the entire space of the gallery I can imagine seeing it multiple nights in a row and engaging in it in unique ways each time, following difference dancers in the various rooms and experiencing something new. This was another incredible opportunity to witness an (un)dressed rehearsal and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to go along.

Moses Sumney
The only true music I saw at the festival, Moses was an enchanting master of gospel/loop/electronic beauty. Being in the second row in the Spiegeltent was just magical, and the whole performance was dynamic and engaging. I loved it.

Briefs: The Second Coming
A wild and wacky night of beautiful boys, Briefs was a great night out on the town. Another spiegeltent show, featuring drag, cabaret, acrobatics, sketch, and hilarity, it was so much fun to see.

Home Country
Performed throughout a carpark in Blacktown, this 3hr saga was an incredible journey and exploration of ‘home’ for all kinds of Australians. Featuring a wonderful interval feast where you were encouraged to really get to know your fellow audience members, incredible music by the evening’s host, and progressive story-telling literally leading you up the levels of the carpark. The sound and management were so incredible, with the whole intricate event running smoothly, and the narratives were interesting and unique.

The Encounter
This was one of the shows I was most looking forward to, and it did not disappoint. An incredible aural experience, using individual headphones, an onstage mic, pre-recorded and live recorded sound, and a huge amount of imagination, it took you to the heart of the amazon, created characters right beside and behind you, and was simply the most incredible piece of theatre I remember seeing. The combination of technology and performance was so unique and so perfectly formed, that it was a thrill and adventure, and I was just sitting there watching the show.

The Beach (pictured)
The biggest installation of the festival, The Beach was an incredible massive ball pit of frivolity and fun. My highlights were actually helping to drop in and pack up the 1.1 million balls that made it, as well as sitting out the back listening to the incredible laughter and fun of the families.

Hopefully I’ll get to see some more incredible shows next year, because seriously, this one was amazing.

Love Always,
Alana

52 Books

In 2015 we recorded the books we read and taught ourselves to love reading once again; in 2016 we aimed to read books that fitted into specific categories, though mostly found creative loopholes that kept us reading what we wanted; this year we will be attempting a new challenge, with free choice of the books we read.

The aim: 52 books in 52 weeks

We’re also tracking and reviewing on Goodreads – you can check out Blake’s profile here and mine here.

ALANA

1-3. Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare (last 3 books as I started the series in 2016)
City of Fallen Angels
City of Lost Souls
City of Heavenly Fire

4. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

5. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

6-7. Red Queen series by Victoria Aveyard
Red Queen
Glass Sword

8. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

9. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

10-11. Mind Dimensions series by Anna Zaires and Dima Zales
The Thought Readers
The Thought Pushers

12-13. Don Tillman series by Graeme Simsion
The Rosie Project
The Rosie Effect

14. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

15-17. The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare
Clockwork Angel
Clockwork Prince
Clockwork Princess

18. The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

19-22. Dorothy Must Die series by Danielle Paige
Dorothy Must Die
The Wicked Will Rise
The Yellow Brick War
The End of Oz

23. Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor

24. Landline by Rainbow Rowell

25. The Girls by Emma Cline

26. Antigoddess by Kendare Blake

27. The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon

28. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

29. 1984 by George Orwell

30. All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

31. To All The Boys I Loved Before by Jenny Han

BLAKE

1. Life or Death by Michael Robotham

2. Animal Farm by George Orwell

3. Look Who’s Back by Temur Vermes

4. A Life In Parts by Bryan Cranston

5. The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R Carey

6. You’re Never Weird On The Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

7. Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

8. Razor Girl by Carl Hiaasen

9. Paycheck by Philip K. Dick

10. Bossy Pants by Tina Fey

11. We Were Liars E. Lockhart

12. The Girl in 6E by A R Torre

13. Strings by Kendall Grey

14. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

15. Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut

16. The Martian by Andy Weir

17. Choke by Chuck Palahniuk

18. Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

19-21. John Cleaver series by Dan Wells
I Am Not A Serial Killer
Mr Monster
I Don’t Want To Kill You

22. Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak

23. Held by Kimberly A Bettes

24. Every Dead Thing by John Connolly

25. Looking For Alaska by John Green

26. Not That Kind Of Girl by Lena Dunham

27. Game of Death by David Hosp

28. Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

29. The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero

30. Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell Jnr.

Love Always,
Alana

(Useful reference for weeks in 2017 to keep us on track)

2016 Book Challenge

A new year a new challenge. Blake, Mum and I are all having a go at reading as many books as we can this year that meet the below criteria. Each week Blake and I will put aside $10 and the winner between us receives that amount at the end of the year for an ultimate Christmas present.  ->So we had a wedding, and I was unemployed for a while so this hasn’t happened as at the end of September, so now we are in it purely for the challenge and personal gain.

Mum will be challenging herself, because she is way too likely to kick our butts. Exhibit A: she has been reading a few series on the side while between categories. Seriously.

Read a book that is/has:

  1. Young adult fiction
    LISA – Wildlings Trilogy by Charles de Lint
    ALANA – Beautiful Disaster, Walking Disaster, and Beautiful Wedding by Jamie McGuire
    BLAKE – An Abundance of Katherine’s by John Green
  2. Non-fiction
    BLAKE – So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
    ALANA – So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
  3. Auto-biographical
    BLAKE – Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming
  4. Male Author
    BLAKE – The Humans by Matt Haig
    LISA – The Alchemist by Paul Coelho
    ALANA – The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta
  5. Female Author
    ALANA – All My Dangerous Friends by Sonya Hartnett
    LISA – Sebastian by Ann Bishop
  6. Series
    LISA – The Artifact Hunters Bundle by A.W Exley
    ALANA – Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
  7. Based on a fairy tale
    LISA – Red Riding Hood by Sarah Blakely-Cartwright and David Leslie Johnson
  8. One you read in high school / university
  9. Children’s story
  10. Feminist literature
  11. True crime
  12. Crime
    BLAKE – The Death Sculptor by Chris Carter
  13. Translated into English
    LISA – The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  14. <150 pages
    LISA – Tiger by Tash Aw
    BLAKE – Hell Island by Matthew Reilly
  15. >600 pages
    ALANA – American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  16. Turned into a movie
    BLAKE – Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  17. Science fiction
    BLAKE – 14 by Peter Clines
    ALANA – Spark & Stray by Rachael Craw
  18. Fantasy
    LISA – Fever Series (8 books) by Karen Maree Moning
    ALANA – The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
    BLAKE – Time and Time Again by Ben Elton
  19. Horror
    ALANA – The Passenger by Lisa Lutz
  20. Short stories
  21. Poetry
  22. A blind date with a book
  23. A blue cover
    LISA – Anne McCaffrey’s The Dolphins of Pern
    ALANA – Little Girl Lost by Brian McGilloway
  24. Published in 2016
    LISA – Spider Game by Christine Feehan
  25. Written by a celebrity
    BLAKE – How To Make Love Like A Porn Star by Jenna Jameson
  26. Classic romance
  27. Penguin classic
  28. At least 100 years older than you
  29. Dystopian novel
    ALANA – The Outliers by Kimberly McCreight
  30. Set in Australia
    LISA – Almonds and Raisins by Kerry Greenwood
  31. Australian author
    LISA – Urn Burial by Kerry Greenwood
    BLAKE – The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  32. Female protagonist
    LISA – Flying High (Phryne Fisher Series) by Kerry Greenwood
    ALANA – Guilty Pleasures & The Laughing Corpse by Laurell K Hamilton
  33. About animals
    LISA – Beautiful Joe An autobiography of a Dog
    ALANA – We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
  34. Coming of age novel
    LISA – The Walker Saga (books 1-7) by Jaymin Eve
    BLAKE – Paper Towns by John Green
  35. Award winner (Booker, Pulitzer, NY Times Book of the Year)
    BLAKE – American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  36. By an author whose surname starts with A
  37. By Steven King
  38. By Agatha Christie
  39. Written by 2 co-authors
    ALANA – Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
  40. Involving food
  41. Erotica
    BLAKE – Snatch by Scott Hildreth
  42. Historical – fact or fiction
    BLAKE – Seven Ancient Wonders by Matthew Reilly
  43. An author’s debut book
    ALANA – Book of You by Claire Kendal
    BLAKE – Seven Deadly Sins by Corey Taylor
  44. “Best” in the title
  45. Takes place on an island
  46. Comedy
  47. Political + social science
  48. Travel
  49. Gay & lesbian
  50. Graphic novel
    BLAKE – Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore / Brian Bolland

Happy reading!

Love Always,
Alana

our wedding part 3: the big day!

Go back to the beginning with Part 1 here or see Part 2 here.

Getting Ready
The morning of my wedding I dropped the car at our hotel so we were ready for our wedding night sleepover; was fed a wonderful breakfast by my parents; and waited for my remaining bridesmaids to arrive so I could give them their awesome presents – personalised robes and small gold heart necklaces. I got Mum and I matching robes too, and they were perfect for getting our hair and make-up done, and chilling in while we awaited the photographer – thanks Kmart! Our gorgeous hair and make-up was all done by Blush Boutique. There was much laughter and quality girl time, some breathing and relaxing, posing for photos, and a good half hour or so spent perfecting the timing of the wedding march – in our case the beautiful sounds of Nota D’Amore.

In the car ride to the venue I felt a little like I was going to be sick. The 20-30 minutes felt like forever and while I knew it was just excitement it was one of the longest rides of my life. Of course, having the girls in the back and my Dad at the wheel was reassurance enough that we were on our way to something wonderful.

The Ceremony
With my mother as our celebrant, and the wide world web, a lot of thought had gone into what we wanted to say in our ceremony. Plus the insight of attending a friend’s wedding the month or so prior to clarify what we did/didn’t want. While a lot of the options were super cheesy and didn’t appeal at all, we knew we wanted a ring exchange, to say our own vows, and to slip in a few personal notes here and there to make it really special. One key feature was to have my family dog as a bridesmaid, she was walked down the aisle by Blake’s sister and a wonderful part of our special day. We also wanted to introduce those standing beside us, rather than just leave people guessing about who they were.

You can read the full ceremony here.

Really though, the perfect elements were the ones that weren’t in the planned script. Listening to Shanul Sharma (formerly of Sobrusion) sing me down the aisle. The band held significance as one that I had shown to Blake (a rare feat as he’s the musical genius), that we listened to on repeat on our road trips, and that we saw a stage adaptation of a few years ago.

Ceremony highlights include: Mum came and handed my maid of honour the wrong ring, starting the music before we’d done a final tighten of my dress, and coming in from the rain while trying to hide from the guests standing at the back of the cellar door. The fire was left on and my poor groom was melting in front of it in his full suit; and as we were pulling into the driveway I reapplied my lipgloss only to drip the smallest drop on my dress and be chided by my bridesmaid. Our acknowledgement that we look forward to the day that marriage would soon be for more than just a man and a woman received a cheer and applause from all of our guests; I couldn’t resist kissing Blake on the cheek when I arrived at the end of the aisle; giggling when I repeated his mispronunciation of “persons here present” and having him tell me to shut-up mid ceremony; the shake in my voice as I was reading my vows; and the interruption of Blake’s younger sister breaking into a sob behind me halfway through our vows.

All of these separately, together, and in front of all the people we love were what made the day perfect.

The Photos
The rain had stopped us from holding the ceremony outside, forcing us into the cosy and warm cellar door, but it wasn’t going to stop us from having our photos out in the vineyard. Blake and I were keen on going out, even if it meant getting a little (or a lot) wet and of course our bridal party, and our amazing photographer, all got behind us! With the boys on umbrella duty and the girls handling flowers and the dog, we were out in the rain, jumping puddles and having fun. The photos definitely show that!

We stumbled across a tennis court and let ourselves in, jumped rivers, nearly fell into the mud, teased a groomsman for remaining perfectly dry while his bridesmaid was getting drenched, twirled under a massive tree, crowded around a lovely swing, had laughs, got soaked, and got some of the best photos ever.

The Reception
After running around in the rain we were bundled inside, I let go of my drenched cardigan, and we posed for photos with family, pseudo-family, friends, and family friends for all the beautiful posed shots you have to have on your wedding day. It was a tedious but lovely process. Once we were finally free of that it was time for Evan to drive a few of our guests, and very sick Ishta, home. He unfortunately wasn’t well after sitting in the heat of the cellar door and had to abandon his post as MC. So, in as the trooper she is, Mum stepped up to do the speech introductions and keeping the night going.

It was then the time to be ‘received’ and we were welcomed back to the front of the room for incredible speeches. First up was our Best Man, Zac, notably mentioning the fact that Blake telling me to shut up during the ceremony, alongside the bouts of laughter, told you everything you needed to know about our relationship. Maid of Honour, Liza, regaling us with tales of our friendship over the years, our relaxed nature meaning we were stranded on the side of the road coming back from Melbourne and only as an afterthought requesting a ride, and the time we blew her mind by sharing with her our favourite comedian Russell Howard. Then a brief and teary speech by the Mother of the Groom, Michelle, featuring much love and acceptance of me, and a glowing pride of her son. All topped, as we had expected, by my father’s speech. Having witnessed his beautiful speeches in the past, we knew that it was the one to end on, and we were right as he brought both mother’s to tears crediting their hard work. We also didn’t want to be the ones to follow Dad’s speech so we opened it up to the crowd. An idea that came about when the crazy and entertaining Robbie McGregor had asked Blake whether he’d have the opportunity to perform a sonnet. It completely lived up to Blake’s expectations, both in crazy and entertainment, and he was even beaten to the stage by Blake’s childhood friend and one of our groomsmen, Jake. He said lovely things about how happy he was and how perfect we were, and he wasn’t a bit scared to follow Dad’s speech. Good on him!

The night continued with games, pizza, good times, and laughter. Josh and Zac ensured that every single game we had was played, from the jumbo cards on a collection of tables they pulled together, through to the Marvel puzzle I’d brought along for the ‘kids’. The night was perfect, and wonderful, and so very, very US.

Love Always,
Alana