This month in books, film, theatre and food

Life lately: 

I’ve read four great books over the last month or so.

First there was Unbearable Lightness – a story of loss and gain, by Portia de Rossi. I’ve never been exposed to so much self hatred so this was certainly an eye opening read. At times, reading about how hard Portia was on her body made me feel physically sick. But I love that she came out and also got over her eating disorder before she met Ellen. It wasn’t like Ellen came along and saved her, but rather that Portia went through a whole journey of self discovery and healing all on her own. Only after she was whole again, did she meet her love. A happy ending :)

 The Bone Man of Benares – a lunatic trip through love and the world, by Terry Tarnoff. This is one of the best travel memoir’s I’ve read and it’s certainly the most amusing! Terry travelled for 8 years back in the sixties and he had some hilarious experiences. My favourite scene in this book was when he got wasted on magic mushrooms. I was lying on the couch reading this, laughing so hard that I could hear the people on the balcony underneath our flat start to laugh too. I probably sounded like I was the person enjoying the mushrooms!! Oh this was great – I recommend it!

Before I die, by Jenny Downham. In a word – SAD! When I read The Bone Man of Benares I laughed almost the whole way through. With this book I cried almost the whole way through. It’s a novel about a young girl who has leukaemia and has only a few months left to live. She creates a list of all the things she wants to do before she dies. Her final, fun adventures are juxtaposed against the agony she feels as her body slowly starts shutting down. Reading about her final day reminded me so much of my Grandmother’s final day that I think this is going to have to be my last cancer book. I sobbed till it hurt.

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett.
This has without a doubt joined my list of favourite ever books. It’s such a sad, beautiful, inspiring story about maids in Mississippi during the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Usually with books that are made into movies, I’ve read the novel long before the movie comes out. And then I never, ever, like the film. However I saw this movie a couple of months ago which meant that when I was reading the book, I was imagining the characters from the film. I think it actually made it better. I love stories about people who triumph over snooty, racist, biatches. I learnt a lot about kindness from this book. And also that you should never eat a chocolate pie if it’s baked by someone you’ve pissed off.

I’ve also watched two great films in the last few weeks.

I know Atonementhas been out for ages but I’ve only just got round to watching it. I loved the book so was of course nervous that Hollywood would bastardise  Ian McEwan’s fine work. But they did well. In fact it was really quite beautiful and I thought Keira Knightley was ah-mah-zing. As always. But then I do have a fairly large girl crush on her and all her rib bones. Anyhoo, I digress.

The story of Atonement is actually centered around Briony, the younger sister of Keira’s character. On a hot summer’s day in 1935, she misinterprets something she sees happen between her sister and the garden boy, Robbie. This leads to the total destruction of so many lives that it makes you furious with Briony. But at the same time, you can’t help but feel sorry for her, because as a child, she truly believed that what she saw was real. She spends the rest of her life trying to atone her sins. It really is amazing how one little thing that someone does can have sooooo many repercussions.

Made in Dagenham
was a DVD I picked to watch at home one evening with my parents. Choosing something my Dad will like is always a challenge but he really enjoyed this – and that’s saying something!

This film tells the story of the Ford sewing machinists strike in 1968 at the Dagenham plant in England. The female workers walked out and almost sent Ford broke when they demanded equal pay. Their strike was what led to the Equal Pay Act of 1970. The whole way through this movie, I kept thinking about how at the time, it was considered such a ludicrous idea for women to be paid the same as men. And it amazes me that this all happened only 40 years ago. I would find it ludicrous now if I wasn’t given equal pay and most of the time I don’t even think about how hard women had to fight for this right. Those poor ladies gave up a lot and this film reminded me to be grateful.

I’ve seen a couple of weird things at the theatre lately.

There was Cabinet Fever at Newtown Theatre which was amusing but random. It’s a play set in the future, after climate change has led to a massive flood in Australia that’s almost wiped out the entire population. In parliament house, a couple of politicians have survived physically but are mentally losing the plot. They while away their days by pretending to have question time, and by reminiscing about past events. They are in complete denial that they are no longer in power.

One of the actors was fantastic and made me do a whole lotta belly laughing. However the rest of the cast was a bit weak and it always feels awkward to watch actors who aren’t so great. It also kind of ended abruptly. Rosetta (my lovely work friend) and I walked back to the car afterwards wondering whether we had actually seen the end of the play or whether maybe we weren’t meant to have left. Weird.

I really like how intimate this theatre is though – we saw Closer there with the Williams a couple of years ago and that was certainly a good, confronting play for a small space!

, at Riverside Theatre in Parramatta was, I have to say, the worst dance performance I’ve ever seen. I feel sort of mean saying that because it was done by young girls from across Western Sydney. It’s just that when you’re used to seeing Sydney Dance Co or Bangarra, anything less amazing is really just not worth it. Dancers from both of those Theatre Company’s are ridiculously fit and strong, and ridiculously graceful. But  4-tell was the opposite. The girls were trying hard to lift people with the same body weight as themselves and there was nothing graceful about it. In fact I’m not even sure if it’s physically possible to do that.

There were also some random narratives from each of the dancers, in between the dance acts. I think they were meant to be clever. Or maybe just funny. But to be frank –  they were neither.

It was a nice idea to have a night out with work friends, at a place to close to the office. But the reality was painful. And clumsy.

Now as for food, I’ve eaten a few particularly nice things lately.
I made the cupcakes above for Leigh and David’s Mad Hatters Afternoon Tea. They’re Magnolia Bakery’s vanilla cupcakes. I alternated pink and yellow frosting and also topped them with a sprinkle of Persian fairy floss. I think next time I’ll pipe the frosting rather than dolloping though.

The pizza was pumpkin, pesto and prosciutto with some ricotta blobbed on top. I sneakily took a photo of the recipe from a kid’s cook book called Ready, Steady, Spaghetti  before I gave the book to my nephew for his birthday.  And as a side note, I just have to say that I find kneading dough so cathartic. I think I could do it all day.

I’ve also been devouring some healthy fruit popsicles.These ones are from a book Lis gave me called Pops. You can find the recipes here.

There’s rockmelon and mint pops and also honeydew melon pops. Perfect snack on a hot day! And my nail polish is Opi’s Dutch Tulips (in case you were wondering. I would be. It’s fab!)

And that’s what I’ve been up to. You?

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