The House on Carnaval Street (Margarita Wednesdays) by Deborah Rodriguez – Review



A little bit Shirley Valentine, a little bit Eat, Pray, Love: a memoir by the remarkable Deborah Rodriguez.

A hairdresser and mother from the United States married to an aspiring warlord in Kabul, she has been forced to flee Afghanistan. On her return to the US she finds herself lost and floundering. At forty-nine she decides to move to Mexico, packs up her belongings, including her cat, and drives South. She purchases a tiny house in Mazatlan and begins slowly to get to know herself and her surroundings.

A woman who has always taken the road less travelled, Rodriguez allows us to live her exotic life vicariously. She describes the expat scene in Mazatlan, the locals and her new relationships and family with candour and humour.

I found the memoir inspirational. Rodriguez shows us that it is never to late to change course or start life over. Her first nonfiction book, Kabul Beauty School, tells of the beauty school she established in Kabul and again in Mexico she is driven to help make a difference in her community the best way she knows how.

Rodriguez is also the author of  The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul.


I received this book to review via Netgalley.

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Review: The Unknown Woman by Jacqueline Lunn

Book ReviewThe The Unknown Woman explores issues of modern motherhood: the challenges of juggling work and family, the mothering instinct, abandonment, choices and the secrets that people and families keep.

The central character of the novel is Lilith Grainger, 44, a Sydney Eastern Suburbs housewife who is dedicated to the smooth and efficient running of her home and family. In the process of growing her perfect family though, Lilith has somehow, inadvertently lost her way. She is beginning to feel invisible and to question the path her life has taken. Her family and friends are oblivious to her inner turmoil and largely take her for granted. Lilith’s  well-meaning actions all appear to be adding up to a purpose-less life. She grapples with her existential angst and her slightly bizarre way of dealing with her dilemma provides the novel with a quirky twist.

I found many of the novel’s characters to be unlikeable, which is perhaps the point. Obsessive stay-at-home mums focused on elevating their ordinary children to the extraordinary, women trying to make life feel purposeful by creating lists of busywork. Blonde pony-tailed women in exercise gear drive their European 4WDs to pick up their over-scheduled children from expensive private schools. Lilith’s  teenage daughter Olivia, is narcissistic and secretive. Her yoga friend Nikki is vacuous and unpleasant and Lilith’s mother or mother-in-law are unsupportive.

This is a great book to spark discussion for book clubs as it explores modern dilemmas, societal values and the choices that women make. Questions for bookclubs are provided on Random House’s website.

I received a free e-copy of The Unknown Woman to review from Random House via NetGalley.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Treasure

Daily treasures

I haven’t blogged for ages but I noticed this week’s challenge is Treasure. I came across this quote this week via A Design So Vast and it really resonated with me.  Lately I’ve been bored and restless so this is the reminder I needed to create the life I want. This photo is of my treasured husband and son. This week my son was accepted into the army and will be leaving us soon so I am mindful of how much I treasure him and how much he will be missed by us.


Top 5 books I’ve read this year

1. We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

This has replaced The Poisonwood Bible as my all time favourite book. The novel is narrated through the eyes of 11 year-old Darling, a Zimbabwean child who lives in grinding poverty. We see the world through her eyes, first as a child living in Zimbabwe and then as a teenager experiencing life as an illegal immigrant living with her Aunt in America. It is funny and grim and raw and enlightening.

2. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Nick and Amy are seemingly a perfect couple. Then on their fifth wedding anniversary Amy disappears. As the book progresses we discover that all was not well with the marriage and the mystery of Amy’s disappearance deepens. Without giving anything away there are some surprising twists and turns.

3. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Language of Flowers book cover

A novel about Victoria, a troubled young woman who has grown up in the foster system. Her story is intertwined with her gift  for understanding the meaning and language of flowers.  Beautiful and gripping.

“I’m talking about the language of flowers,” Elizabeth said. “It’s from the Victorian era, like your name. If a man gave a young lady a bouquet of flowers, she would race home and try to decode it like a secret message. Red roses mean love; yellow roses infidelity. So a man would have to choose his flowers carefully.”

4. Game of Thrones series by George R. R. Martin

You are either into this kind of fiction or you’re not. My family had to get used to me being absent until I had waded through all the books in the series so far. Total escapism.

5. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

The tragic tale of the beautiful and unhappily married Anna and her affair with the dashing Count Vronsky.

This novel was first published in Russia in 1873 yet it’s themes of morality, love and family still resonate tonday. It “explores and illuminates the deepest questions about how to live a fulfilled life.” from Goodreads.




This is my response to the Weekly Photo Challange: Eerie. It’s taken at Tamarama, Sydney and is part of Sculpture by the Sea. The park I like to walk the dog is taken over by sculptures and it certainly makes for an interesting dog walk. If find the people are almost as interesting as the sculptures.


Today my daughter turns 12. She is funny, interesting, smart, beautiful and sassy. This is for you Lily!


“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” K Stockett

This quote always makes me think of you. It reminds me of your new-found interest in social justice issues, our time snuggling up on the couch watching movies and that you are so kind, so smart and so important.

You are kind.

You have an uncanny knack in knowing when the someone is feeling down and when they need to know a friend is near.

When I have been sick you’ve made cups of tea and ask if I’m feeling better. Sometimes you quietly hop into bed with me and lie next to me to keep me company.

After the very first birthday party you attended, you came home and happily handed over your lolly bag without reservation to share with the rest of your greedy family and have continued to do that to this day. Always generous and always willing to share.

You are smart.

Sometimes you say you feel like you are dumb at school. What you don’t see is that the other academically smart kids don’t necessarily have the skills you have to make friends, get organised, take risks and make things happen. You have smarts that a lot of adults don’t have.

You can make new friends seemingly effortlessly. You know how people are feeling and can respond and emphathise with them. You can sense when someone is feeling fear, anger, joy or sadness.

You are super- organised. You have always know how to get to other people’s houses, what to pack for a dance concert and exactly how long it will take to arrive somewhere.

You are willing to try any new activity whether or not your friends are interested. Then you give it your all until you have mastered that new skill. You learned to ride a bike at 4, swim at 5 and to dance at 6.

You are fearless. You have ridden elephants, camels, horses and a yak. You have abseiled, jumped through canyons, trekked in Nepal and faced your fears riding rescue boards in the surf at Bondi.

You make things happen because you are determined and focused.


You are important.

Oh boy are you important! You are loved and admired by your family and friends. Having you in our lives makes the world seem a brighter place and and certainly a whole lot more interesting.

Now you are growing from being a girl to a young woman your gaze is starting to focus outwards. You have become interested in social justice books, people and films. You are interested in what happens to individuals in difficult circumstances and how they strive to overcome difficulties. You are fascinated about reproduction and soak up knowledge on that subject with enthusiasm.

This is the last year of your girlhood. Next year you will turn 13 and become a teenager and I can’t wait to see the brave, smart and strong young woman that you will become.

Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. A.A. Milne

With lots of love on your birthday xxx from your Mum

Weekly Photo Challenge: Focus

I am always amazed at people’s ingenuity and creativity. In Nepal on a trek we stopped for the night at a very small guest-house. Despite the signs that the owners had very little they had made efforts to make the garden and courtyard look attractive. They have hung up corn to dry to use for later in the year when it isn’t possible to grow it. They had also planted gorgeous flowers around the courtyard.

focus, corn, Nepal

Corn hung up to dry in Nepal

Flowers in Nepal;

Flowers in focus in Nepal


This is my response to Weekly Photo Challenge: Focus

Travel Theme: Play

The Importance of Play

Most of us know that children and babies learn through play. It is a universal and fundamental human right that all children have opportunities for free time and to play. I have always found delight in travelling to other countries and watching how children interpret their own environment and create games and toys out of what seems like very little.  These kids obviously didn’t have much but I love that they had created some toys using found objects and were playing happily when we met them.

play, Zanzibar

Local kids on the beach with toys they had created from stuff they found on the beach. Zanzibar, Tanzania

This is my response to Where’s My Backpack’s Travel theme: Play


Why our girls should know about Malala



This week Malala Yousefzi celebrated her 16th birthday. She marked her birthday addressing the United Nations, advocating education for all children and calling for peace. Shot by the Taliban at 15 for promoting the education of all girls she is an amazing role model for any young girl.

My daughter was preparing a speech for school this week about being a male miner in the Australian goldrush. Interesting to some no doubt but to an 11 year old girl, so not. I have been interning at UNICEF the past few weeks so I had Malala on my mind. I told Lily all about her, how she was from Pakistan and she had been shot for speaking up about giving all girls an education. I explained she had just given a speech in New York on her birthday seeking support to ensure that all children receive an education. Lily was fascinated, here is a girl only five years older than her that has not only done some pretty awesome public speaking but has also been brave enough to continue to call for action despite being shot and threatened.

Lily decided that for her end of year speech for “Night of Notables”she would be Malala. She rushed off to school the next day to quickly tell her teacher because they aren’t allowed to double up with another child and she felt Malala was such a great notable that she would be a popular choice. Unfortunately her teachers reaction to her choice was “Who’s that?”

That same day it was announced by the Australian government that all asylum seekers attempting entering Australia by boat would be sent straight to Papua New Guinea for processing and that no-one trying to enter Australia by sea would ever be settled in Australia. Full page advertisements were taken out in major newspapers announcing this new policy. I read today that as a result the Prime Minister’s voter support has increased.

The government’s new hardline stance made me think about how we are educating our children. We teach them Australian history – post settlement, we teach them how to do complicated maths and how to read and write good essays. Are we teaching them a global perspective and a compassion and empathy for others? Are we inspiring our girls with role models or super-models? I know that Australian children are fortunate in having free education but I think we have a responsibility as a developed country to do more. Currently our education system grows children that become adults that can applaud a decision to close our doors to people escaping war and persecution who are simply seeking a safe place to live and work and raise their families.

All I can do is try and teach my children that they are fortunate to live in a lucky country and to never forget that there are so many children unlike them that don’t have opportunities to thrive and succeed. I just hope there are other parents that feel the same way.