The Katy Diaries – Entry #2

 

In the grand tradition of starting my dairy entries with a quote, I’m going to open with my new favourite from Rent:

The opposite of war isn’t peace, it’s creation.

I’ve never thought about this before, but it just makes so much sense. If war is tearing things apart, then of course the opposite is making them again. And I have missed creating things so, so much. I miss writing, building worlds from the ground up. I miss cooking, creating something bigger than what I was given at the beginning. I even had to miss dancing on Monday, thanks to a rather frustratingly timed cold. So with new found determination, I picked up the camera and started taking photos. I only got a couple of good shots, but it’s quicker than finishing a recipe and easier than smashing out a chunk of a story.

However, the midst of exam week is not really the time to be having a sudden desire to act upon my creative urges (which, psychology fact, come primarily from the right side of the brain), so I tried really, really hard to settle down and study.

I was mostly successful in studying the soundtrack of Rent very intensely. Hence the opening quote.

It’s really hard to motivate myself to do something I’m not particularly interested in. I love learning, but I detest the way the school decides to measure the way we learn and determine our intelligence based on who can cram the most information in their heads. Standardized testing achieves very little, apart from placing insane amounts of stress on students. As someone who places a fair amount of stress on herself anyway, it’s enough to make a person go insane.

I have found, eventually, that studying with someone is much more effective, so I spent the rest of the afternoon watching Friends on and off and quizzing psychology content back and forth with a friend.

I am still frustrated. I’m still not even remotely looking forward to doing these exams, and I’m already dreading getting the results; not because I don’t think I’ve tried hard enough, but because it has gotten to the point where there are subjects I am forced to take that I just don’t understand. It doesn’t matter how much I try, I am not ever going to understand mitosis and meiosis, or sex linked cells, or velocity vs time graphs.

Okay, so my issue is mainly with science, but it’s also with the fact that in the end, whether or not I get into my first choice university will be based on exams just like these. It won’t matter that I know a lot of things that can’t be tested, or that I might have had a really bad cold on the day of the exam (just like this week). The only thing that will matter is whether or not I can use information that I’ll have crammed tightly into my head, that I’ll also promptly forget when I walk out of the exam room.

So really, I wish I had more time to dedicate to creation. I wish I had more time to take a thousand bad photos to get the perfect one, or write a thousand useless sentences until I have the wording just right, but I don’t. Because I’m too busy trying to remember logarithmic laws (something I’m sure I’ll use all the time when I leave school).

It’s war trying to drag myself through these exams, and I can’t wait to get to the opposite.

 

25 Things To Do Before I Die

I recently watched (and read the book) A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks, in which a trouble-making student, Landon, falls for the terminally ill Reverend’s daughter, Jamie. One of my favourite scenes in the film is when Jamie mentions the some of the items on her bucket list, and on their first date Landon helps her achieve them.

As a result, I was inspired to make my own bucket list of 25 things I want to do before I die. Some of them you’ll find are taken directly from the film, as I thought they were worthy ambitions, but most of them are my own.

  1. Write a book
  2. Visit New York
  3. Graduate high school
  4. Be in two places at once
  5. Be a mum
  6. Work for a charity
  7. Build schools in a third world country
  8. Protest for something I’m passionate about
  9. Visit Harry Potter World
  10. Have something named after me
  11. Swim with dolphins
  12. Buy macarons in Paris
  13. Wear a ball-gown
  14. Sleep under the stars
  15. Dance in the moonlight
  16. See a Broadway show
  17. Visit Euro Disney
  18. Go on a roadtrip
  19. Have my own apartment
  20. Get to the end of a rainbow
  21. Make a wish on a shooting star
  22. See a meteor shower
  23. Go cliff jumping
  24. Learn another language
  25. Learn to play a musical instrument

Some of these are overly ambitious and some of these are simple, but they’re all things I hope to accomplish in my lifetime. Whether it’s something poetic or noble or simple, I think it’s incredibly important to have something to aspire to, and I can’t wait to achieve mine.

The YA Chronicles Unboxing

I have decided that the 19th day of the month is my favourite, because it’s the day that my YA Chronicles box comes! This month’s theme “Summer Days Driftin’ Away” was very well suited for warming me up after the cold days we’ve had here in Melbourne, and everything in the box was perfect for relaxing after a week full of tests.

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In the box this month was…

The Unexpected Everything

A jasmine bath bomb

A fairy bread scented candle

A magnetic ice cream bookmark

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My fairy bread candle from Nook and Burrow smells like birthday parties and looks adorable, with real hundreds and thousands in it.

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I have wanted a magnetic bookmark for so long, as I found that my old metal clip on one was damaging pages out of my books, so this cute-as-a-button ice cream was a welcome surprise.

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I cannot wait to read in the bath with my candle burning and my jasmine bath bomb from Allbody Soaps.

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And last, but not least, is the book from this month’s box – The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson. Amy and Rodger’s Epic Detour, by the same author, has been on my wishlist for months, so I’m certainly looking forward to reading this one.

Next month’s box is Pride Week, and I can’t wait!

FODMAP Friendly Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

A member of my family is currently on a low FODMAP diet. It’s something few people have heard of, but it’s extremely restrictive and makes it very, very difficult to make anything to snack on. For those of you interested, there’s more information here.

However, I have managed to find a fantastic chocolate chip cookie recipe and tinker with it enough to make it FODMAP friendly, but still with the crucial elements for the perfect cookie; crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside and filled with pockets of rich chocolate. I’m here today to share it with you all.

You Will Need

125 g butter, softened
½ cup brown sugar
⅓ cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla, essence
1½ cups plain, gluten free flour
½ cup cocoa (30% or more cocoa solids)
¾ cup dark chocolate chips

What To Do

  1. Cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Whisk in egg and vanilla. Sift and then stir in flour and cocoa, then fold through chocolate Chips.
  2. Place teaspoonsful on greased baking trays. Bake in a moderately slow oven 160°C for 10-15 minutes or until cooked. Cool on a wire rack.

Tips

  • It can be tempting to just throw the flour in without sifting it. DON’T! Gluten free flour is more coarse than normal flour and to get a nicer consistency you will definitely need to sift it.
  • To get the best chewy center out of these cookies, focus your efforts on creaming the butter and sugars. At least five minutes will get the best result.
  • Bring the eggs and butter to room temperature.
  • Use an ice cream scoop when dividing the mixture to create evenly shaped balls.
  • Make sure your oven is properly preheated before putting cookies in them.
  • You should take your cookies out of the oven when they’re very very slightly underdone. Leave them on the tray to cool before transferring to a wire rack. The cookies will continue to cook through when taken out of the oven and if you leave them in until they’re cooked all the way, they become slightly overcooked and crunchier.
  • Store in an airtight container.

These are a huge hit with my family, and I hope they are with your’s too!

Why Doing Nothing is Easier than Doing Anything

I am an amazing procrastinator. I could probably win an Olympic medal, if I ever got around to it. I procrastinate and procrastinate and procrastinate and then panic at the last minute and rush to get it all finished.

This is because I have an intense fear of failing, and I think that if I don’t do the thing I can’t fail the thing, before realizing “OHMIGOD I MUST DO THE THING OR ELSE I’LL FAIL!”

It’s something I do constantly, and while I know I do it, and understand why I do it, I continue to procrastinate. There is actually science behind this though – there is a reason it is easier to do nothing rather than do anything (nothing usually being a pointless activity and anything usually being what you’re meant to be doing in the first place).

When you’re procrastinating, there are essentially two parts of your brain battling it out.

The first is your pre-frontal cortex. If you point a finger at the center of your forehead, you’ve found it. This is the part of your brain that makes decisions and does logical thinking, so the part of your brain telling you that you really need to get some work done. It is also the part of the brain that develops last (usually around the time you’re 20-25 years old), hence teenagers find it difficult to avoid procrastination (and make terrible decisions but that’s a different story).

The second part is your limbic system. This part of the brain is wired to your pleasure center, so looks only for immediate satisfaction.

The pre-frontal cortex can see the long term benefits of studying for a test or doing your maths homework, whereas the limbic system wants to watch TV or check your emails. The problem is that the pre-frontal cortex gets tired a lot more quickly and easily, as opposed to the limbic system which is a lot more powerful.

The way to combat this is to reduce your temptations.

This may sound like a really obvious and simple solution, but the limbic system becomes more powerful the more tangible your distraction becomes. So if you always feel the need to check your emails, turning off the little sound notification you get will reduce the tangibility of the distraction and potentially mean you don’t feel the need to leave your productive work.

Obviously I can’t sit and type out all of the things you need to do to beat procrastination, because everyone will have different distractions. The key is to identify your distractions, reduce the tangibility of them and inhibit your limbic system!

So go forth! Stop procrastinating and get the work you set out to do done!

The Fifth Wave

On Saturday night, I convinced my action movie loving family to watch The 5th Wave. “It’s an alien invasion movie!” I told them. “You’ll love it!”

At that point I had read, according to my Kindle, 32% of the book. So far, everything had been about the first four waves, the different ways that the aliens were trying to take over Earth. It had real potential and I was so excited.

Look, in hindsight I probably should have read the blurb. Or watched the trailer. I had bought the book based on a friend’s recommendation, and she isn’t usually one for romance.

You can probably guess where I’m going with this review.

I was severely disappointed in this movie. In fact, I read another review that summed it up very, very well.

Everything that comes after the confident, dangerous first half-hour just makes you pine for what could have been as this devolves into ten-a-penny teen-lit sludge.

The first half an hour focused solely on the first four waves, and where Cassie is now. It focuses a little on her life at high school, but mainly to contrast with her life now. There is a mention of a crush, but it’s quickly announced that he’s probably dead (spoiler alert: he isn’t), like the billions of other people who didn’t survive the first three waves. You found out that the aliens were inhabiting humans, and I got really, really excited. It was going to be something a little different from your average alien invasion movie, but was still going to include the action and guns and pure adrenaline that makes them so enjoyable.

Then she gets shot. Evan, a different boy, saves her. And everything goes downhill from there.

Incredibly quickly, The 5th Wave turns from an edgy, exciting, alien invasion film to a sappy, sludgy, chick flick romance.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against chick flicks. I love ‘em. But when I was promised aliens and I don’t get aliens, I get a little annoyed.

Things I Enjoyed

  • They focused on Cassie’s family relationships. She was more concerned with her younger brother’s safety than anyone else’s, which was a nice change.
  • The first half hour, with the descriptions of the first four waves, was exciting and really enjoyable. It was darker and more detailed than most other dystopian films we’ve seen recently, with much more structure and comprehensiveness than say,

Things I Didn’t

  • Evan Walker. Evan Walker was a walking cliché. Over-compensating for misplaced guilt? Yup. More complicated than we could have possibly imagined? Of course! We even get to see him bathing in a lake and chopping wood while Cassie sighs over him.
  • All the terrible tropes this film fell right into.
  • The corny, trying-too-hard dialogue that attempted to be heartfelt and came off as awkward and clunky.
  • The slightly confusing plot.
  • The stereotypes. All the stereotypes.
  • My absolute pet hate – disregard of what would have been a serious injury (bullet wound) and lack of research on how the injury would have healed, combined with a completely unrealistic tiny little scar with perfect stitches (despite being done by someone with no medical training). Also she does that “I’m going to yank out my own IV” thing. As someone who has had multiple surgeries, scars don’t work that way. Neither do stitches. Or IV’s. Please try to be a little bit realistic.
  • It was an alien invasion movie, and at no point do we actually see any aliens.

Surprise, surprise, this film is left wide open at the end, with the audience guessing whether or not Evan is alive. There is no real conclusion, because the movie just isn’t good enough to draw people into a sequel without the need to find out what happens next.

If this movie comprised only of its first half hour, I’d give it five stars. However, having witnessed the rest of this movie (including the line “I wasn’t human, and then I saw you.”), I have to leave it at a generous two.

Second Hand Book Haul

I live in a fairly rural area, and one of the farms near my house (which is open to the public as an educational center too) had a second hand book sale the other weekend. My friend and I decided it was definitely something we wanted to check out and I’m really glad I did, because I picked up the above books, all in excellent condition, for only $10!

Books Pictured

Perfect Match – Jodi Picoult

I have always loved Jodi Picoult stories, especially those concerned with parent/child relationships. My favourite book of her’s is definitely Handle With Care.

This is a book about a mother who shoots the man who sexually abused her son, and the implications this has. I can’t wait to read it, and I’m interested to see how Jodi Picoult handles a sexual assault, considering she’s an author that is prolific at doing her research.

Between Shades of Grey – Ruta Sepetys

Not going to lie, I picked this up because I adored the cover. However, after reading the blurb I’m certainly looking forward to reading it.

It’s about a girl called Lina, who is living her life happily until the Soviet secret police invade her home and forcibly remove her, her mother, and her brother.

The Hypnotist’s Love Story – Liane Moriarty

This was picked up with the intent to read in Thailand when I go later this year, so it’s a bit of a cheesy read as, suggested by the title.

The Game of Love and Death – Martha Brockenbrough

I picked this one up because the title intrigued me and the blurb did even more. It’s four sentences long and reads:

Love and Death choose their players in an eternal game. Death has never lost and Love will do anything to win.

Henry and Flora find each other, not knowing they are players. Can their love be enough to keep them both alive?

Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason – Helen Fielding

I have just finished the hilarious Bridget Jones’s Diary. It only made sense to pick this up too.

I’m looking forward to reading all of these books and I’m still overjoyed that I got to get them all so cheaply. Keep an eye out, some of these might be reviewed on here too!

Good Oil

Cover image from Goodreads

If you’re anything like me, you’re staring at the title above thinking what an odd name.

That was certainly my first thought when I picked this book off the library shelf, but it wasn’t long before I was thinking many other (not positive) things about it.

First of all, the blurb (found on Goodreads);

‘Miss Amelia Hayes, welcome to The Land of Dreams. I am the staff trainer. I will call you grasshopper and you will call me sensei and I will give you the good oil. Right? And just so you know, I’m open to all kinds of bribery.’

From the moment 15-year-old Amelia begins work on the checkout at Woolworths she is sunk, gone, lost…head-over-heels in love with Chris. Chris is the funny, charming, man-about-Woolies, but he’s 21, and the 6-year difference in their ages may as well be 100. Chris and Amelia talk about everything from Second Wave Feminism to Great Expectations and Alien, but will he ever look at her in the way she wants him to? And if he does, will it be everything she hopes?

You may also know the book by it’s original title Love and Other Perishable Items (which had to be changed due to copyright infringement). But I picked this book out with the title Good Oil, which I then found was actually Australian slang  for something good and desired at that particular moment. Apparently I am bad at my own country’s slang.

I so wanted to love this book. It’s by an Australian author about an Australian girl who is my age! I was so ready to relate to this book and to Amelia and her problems. While I may not have a crush on anyone at my job, I hoped she would talk about the other issues that come with starting a job – customers who yell at you, being totally overwhelmed, not wanting to screw-up but not being confident enough to ask questions – but that was my problem with Amelia. She only talks about Chris. The whole novel, that’s pretty much all she discusses. I mean, the poor girl is obviously besotted, but she must have some other interests. I also found her incredibly whiny and I hated the fact that at the end of the book, she leaves Woolworths because Chris does.

Although, admittedly, my issues with Amelia were still fairly minor. She was a little whiny; that I can deal with. She made some bad decisions; so does everyone. She has an all encompassing crush; that bugged me the most, but again, I can deal.

My main issue was with Chris.

Ugh. Talk about a man-child.

First of all, he mentions alcohol in pretty much every. Single. Diary. Entry.

We get it. You’re a 21 year old. You’re probably going to drink rather than deal with your problems. But the amount you’re drinking is definitely a problem at this point. It’s beyond ridiculous.

Also, nothing says “responsible adult!” like buying a six-pack of beer to share with a 15 year old that technically you’re the superior of where you work.

Secondly, he acts as though he’s the perfect example of a feminist, discussing second-wave feminism with Amelia and pretending to be a responsible person because despite the fact that he’s totally attracted the 15 year old he works with, he doesn’t act on. Except then he does, because his ex called him and mentioned she was engaged, so he got drunk, kissed her on the bathroom floor and then turned her down with a rehearsed speech. Oh and let’s not forget the time she almost was raped (after no consent was given and she was drunk) and Chris proceeds to make an announcement about it across the entire store.

To add to the ‘Things Chris Did That Bugged Me’ list;

1) He does cocaine and then sleeps with a 16 year old. “It’s totally legal,” he says. “It’s totally not,” I say.

2) He has a list of “perfect women”, including Amelia if she was “just a few years older”. Surprise, surprise, the only one who wants anything to do with him is the 15 year old who doesn’t know any better.

3) He moves to Japan because he’s basically running away from all the stuff he screwed up in Australia.

4) He refers to his crush as the Kathy-virus. Because every healthy relationship starts with the other thinking of you as a disease.

I don’t know. I just felt that Chris really grated on my nerves with his angsty diary entries that were borderline pretentious. I also found it very hard to be sympathetic for him, because in my mind he abused the fact that Amelia was young and vulnerable and easy for him to manipulate. After a week of ignoring her and poking fun at her for an incident that she’s embarrassed about, when she stands up to him he dismisses her on the grounds of “aww cute, she can get angry”, takes her out for pizza and beer and she’s magically no longer mad at him. It frustrates me that he uses the fact that he’s older and well aware of her crush on him to take advantage of her.

I was thoroughly disappointed in this book. I was hoping for so much more, because usually I absolutely adore Australian YA Contemporaries. Unfortunately though, this book left me frustrated and grossed out by Chris.

I give it 1.5 stars.

 

Paper Crown Magazine

Recently I had a piece of my writing published in an online magazine called Paper Crown. They have a Facebook, which you can find here, and a Tumblr, which you can find here. My piece is called Mirrored Skirts, and it can be found here.

It’s a lovely magazine that can be instantly accessed, for free I might add, so it would be really nice if you could check it out and support both them and me.

Katy

Newsies

A couple of weeks ago I watched the movie Newsies for the first time. It was released in 1992 by Disney and by critic’s standards, it was a disaster. I, however, absolutely adored it. I liked it so much I went out and bought the Broadway soundtrack for my phone and I have searched high and low for my own copy of the DVD (to no avail).

I liked it because the idea that a group of kids can stand up to someone who was doing them wrong, and win, was really inspiring to me. I loved that, and so I decided to research the real kids who managed to pull it off.

Those kids blew me away more than the movie did.

In 1899, Newsboys lined the streets of New York, distributing papers such as The New York Evening and The New York Journal. They paid 50 cents for a bundle of 100, and sold them for a penny a paper. They would make a profit of about 25 cents, once they put aside the 50 cents they would need for the next day’s papers. Any papers they didn’t sell became a drain on their finances, as they would not get reimbursed for them and would not be able to sell them the next day. They would often live on the streets, and just about scrape by on their meagre salary. Then, Pulitzer and Hurst, owners of the New York Journal and Evening, raised the price of the papers by 10 cents a bundle.

The newsboys weren’t standing for this. They were furious, and under the leadership of someone they called Kid Blink (so called because he wore an eye-patch and was blind in one eye) they decided to strike.

Together, the boys would fight anyone who refused to strike, hold rallies and work together to reverse the injustice that had been done. They were determined, and managed to go as far as blocking the Brooklyn Bridge for five days.

Pulitzer and Hurst tried to convince adults who were out of work to distribute the papers instead, but they refused, stating that they stood with the children.

And they won. Eventually, Pulitzer and Hurst had to change something. While they didn’t reduce the papers to their original price, they agreed to refund the newsboys any papers they didn’t sell.

The reason I love Newsies so much is because I find the story behind it so inspiring. History is full of stories like these, of children who decided to stand up for what they believe in. The newsboys inspired hundreds of other child labourers to strike, and sparked a change around the world.

The movie is fantastic and the musical is great, don’t get me wrong. But I think the best thing to come out of the newsboy strikes of 1899 is the real life story.