15 Books for 2015

15 books for 2015

15 books for 2015

The past few year's I've been pretty slack at reading in my spare time. I've always loved books and took English Literature at A Level which I really enjoyed, but aside from holiday reading (I remember even as a child spending my summer holidays reading on the beach all day), I guess university sucked a lot of my enjoyment out of reading for leisure. This year I'm determined to change that. Although my job requires me to read a lot of material, I want to get back into reading for pleasure, so I've set myself a small task of reading 15 books in 2015. Whilst 15 books may not seem a lot to many people, as my job surrounds research, in my downtime I quite like to do anything but pick up a book. However with this small list I'm pretty determined to get a few books under my sleeve this year.

I've chosen a mix of books based around my interests- some about travel and about areas related to my job, some books to learn and understand more about my anxiety, some books I've been meaning to read since forever and some I've heard about from fellow bloggers. I've actually just finished reading Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham (fyi I wouldn't recommend it), so i guess technically it'll be 16 in 2015. I'm hoping by having a list i'll be able to keep myself on track with reading this year, and although I've just read one so far I found it really helped take my mind off everything which was great after a stressful day, so fingers crossed i'll get into the habit of reading before bed more often.

What books have you been reading recently? Do you have any recommendations? I'm always looking for some books to add to my 'to read' list.

Hervey Bay Mini Break | QLD

Hervey Bay Mini Break

As Valentines Day was quickly approaching, me and Mr. Nomad looked for somewhere we could explore and get away to for a few days. After scouring Booking.com we found Apartment Five 3 Five right on the main road next to the beach in Hervey Bay. We'd heard great thing about Hervey Bay from friends, and thought it looked like a good deal so booked it. With the promise of clear blue water, fish and chips, a pier we could walk out on and the calmness a lazy seaside town had to offer, we were pretty excited for our little road trip.

Hervey Bay is about a 3 and a half hour drive from Brisbane, but it didn't feel that far away due to the serene countryside roads. If you're thinking of heading up North to Hervey Bay, don't forget to have a photo with the massive Ned Kelly figure in Maryborough (it's just on the side of the road).

Ned Kelly Statue Maryborough
I couldn't resist this sneaky shot.

When we arrived at Apartment Five 3 Five, we were pretty impressed. It definitely wasn't to our personal taste with all the antique furnishings (which didn't feel all that antique to me from the UK!), but it was comfortable and nice to be somewhere a little different. We had a shared balcony with two other families, but there was plenty of space for all of us, and we all had our own tables and sun loungers. The rooms were modern but with these old furnishings had the perfect mixture of old and new. We also really liked the bathroom as it had a massive show with an above shower head which is nice when you've become accustomed to a shower over a bath.

Apartment Five 3 Five Hervey Bay

Apartment Five 3 Five Hervey Bay

Apartment Five 3 Five Hervey Bay

The thing we liked most about the accommodation though (apart from the air con and the fact it was so clean and well looked after) was the availability of kayaks, pedalos, bikes, fishing rods and body boards (to name a few). Although Hervey Bay is more of a relaxing destination, these things made it so fun.We went kayaking in the sea which we both really enjoyed as the water was really calm (and by the way, the beach was literally a 2 minute walk away across the road) and we also utilised the multitude of bikes and went on a lovely bike ride down the pier at sunset and watched fishermen catch a massive fish.

Apartment Five 3 Five Hervey Bay

Hervey Bay Pier

Hervey Bay Kayaking

We also explored the botanical gardens and took photos of a controversial shark and whale visitor centre (Vic Hislop's Shark Show). We didn't visit here due to the awful reviews on Tripadvisor (check them out, they're pretty crazy!) but it was quite fun to take photos of as it looked so tacky. We also stumbled across a bright yellow house on the main road which intrigued us and after a little research we found out a couple had painted everything (house,fence, washing line and balcony) yellow in protest of the local council building underground car parks and buildings close to residential properties.

Vic Hislop's Shark Show

Hervey Bay Botanic Gardens

Hervey Bay Botanic Gardens

Asbestos Manor Hervey Bay

Whilst we were only there for two nights, we still seemed to pack quite a few things into the trip and we would both really recommend the accommodation and Hervey Bay in general for those wanting a little R&R. Next time we hope to visit the famous Fraser Island and go whale watching which unfortunately we didn't have time for. I also can't finish this post without mentioning a little gem of a cafe we stumbled across called Or2Bee which was AMAZING and the chef was such a lovely woman that has a wealth of knowledge about dietary requirements (coeliac and vegetarian over here!) and the Hervey Bay area in general. I tried a raw, gluten free lime cheesecake which was so, so good you'd never guess it was raw, and then at breakfast we went back and had organic peanut butter on gluten free toast with halloumi whilst Mr. Nomad had a organic ham burger which was apparently equally as impressive. They cater to gluten free, organic, raw, vegan and vegetarian people and even make coconut milk coffees (tasted so good), so definitely recommend this little joint.

Big Pineapple Sunshine Coast
Mr. Nomad taking a good ol' bite of the giant pineapple.

On our way home we visited the Sunshine Coast and the Big Pineapple which is a heritage-listed tourist attraction. Sadly everything seemed shut down, but we still had a little explore and an obligatory photo with the giant pineapple.

Lastly, thanks so much for your comments on my previous post, it means a lot and things seem to be getting easier. Time and perspective is such a great healer.

What did you guys get up to for Valentines Day?

A Toast To My Grandma & The Lows of Being An Expat

This post was supposed to be about mine and Mr. Nomad's pre-Valentines getaway to Hervey Bay, but unfortunately these past few weeks have been a little all over the place. Our getaway was more sad than anything else with the news my beloved granny had passed away. Unfortunately a week or so ago my grandma fainted in her garden and ended up in hospital. She'd had a long battle with cancer and ended up being transferred to a hospice. My uncle here in Australia quickly flew back to the UK, but I knew it was the beginning of the end of the road. I had to make a snap decision if I was going to fly back (and spend a lot of my savings which I can't really part with at the moment). I actually decided not to go... aside from the fact it was a lot of money, before I left the UK to move to Australia in November I had in my mind, already said goodbye. I spent an afternoon with her and told myself that would probably be the last time I saw her. And with that decision, me and Mr. Nomad rushed out to get some photos printed and framed to give to my uncle to take back with him so he could put them up in the hospice room so it felt like we were there and she knew we were thinking about her.

Saying that, it's still been very upsetting for me being so far away. The problem with living half way across the world is that it's so difficult to keep up to date with how things are due to the time difference. There's also the small problem of when things get really bad, you can't just drop everything and be there within a few hours. After working it all out, even if I had decided to head back to the UK I still wouldn't have seen her. One thing that has comforted me a little is that I'd been an avid postcard and letter sender. Even though she never replied as it was too difficult for her to get to a postbox, every time I went to see my grandma when I no longer lived in the same city as her, she would tell me how much she loved the postcards and letters I sent her updating her on what I was up to. I continued this throughout our move to Australia and she had received a lengthy letter from me just as she went into hospital, so my mum was able to read it to her. 

My grandma was one of my best friends. Whilst this may be a cliche thing to say, I knew her so well and we were incredibly close. I actually went to University in the same city she lived in so became her main carer whilst I was there for 3 years. I took her shopping, on days out, cooked meals for us together and would spend a lot of time with her, helping her with her day to day jobs. Over this time she became pretty dependable on me, but she was great company- we did many crosswords together (her absolute favorite thing to do) and had so many laughs. Not only this, but I learnt so much about her and her adventures throughout her life; living in Sri Lanka, being pursued by a handsome Italian man whilst she was in the WRENS (ooo err!) and the WW2 dance parties she attended where she mingled with men from all over the world and where herself and her colleagues were considered the cream of the crop (the WRENS were regarded pretty highly at the time). Then when she left the services, how she pursued a career in teaching and was one of the first women she knew to get a car (an old mini to be exact!) and how much she loved driving. Whilst doing this she had three children, all one year apart- crazy!

One thing I will never regret in my life is the effort I have made with my grandparents. When my granddad died 2 years ago I was completely heartbroken but at the same time I felt so lucky I got to spend so much time with him. When he became too old to take care of himself properly we moved him up to Yorkshire near our house so we could keep an eye on him. During my gap year and the years I was around at home prior, I spent a lot of time with him too, also taking him shopping and helping him around the house. He was also a great rock to me at a time I found really difficult when my parents split up. 

If I could give one lesson to any younger people growing up it would be to make time for elderly relatives and cherish the time you spend together. I find it so infuriating the way many people do not have enough time for older people (including my own relatives). I cannot imagine being old and having no one remotely interested in talking and spending time with me, and really hope my future grandchildren have a relationship with me as I have with my grandparents. With that being said, here is an article the paper did on my grandma and some of the amazing things she did throughout her life.

How To Stay Intellectually Aware In Everyday Life

How to stay intellectually aware

Ever feel like your job is killing off the brain cells you once exercised throughout university or school? I often felt like this throughout all my part-time jobs, and found it incredibly difficult to stay 'on top of my game' in terms of my intellectual interests. It's infuriating- you need money so work at any job to bring in the cash, but feel almost worthless in an environment that refuses to recognise any of your particular intellectual skills. I found my coping mechanism was to surround myself with intellectually inspiring tasks whenever possible, and to make the most of my part-time jobs by improving some of the transferable skills I wasn't so good at like public speaking. Here are the tips I have for rejuvenating my intellectual skills when working in an irrelevant field.

Read and read
Reading is honestly one of the best things you can do to inspire and 'open your mind'. Other people's insights and creativity often provoke topics issues in your own mind. Whether it's fiction or non-fiction, you're expanding your imagination, understanding and knowledge. I used to find reading journals and articles for essays to be tiresome after a while, but switching to non fiction was refreshing often gave me a new lease of life. I also recommend reading shorter articles online if you are pushed for time to switch up your day-to-day routine. I check news websites on a daily basis, and often read tweets by people from across the world and their opinions on the news. And if you don't enjoy the written word, how about podcasts and YouTube channels? Here are a few platforms and channels I recommend:

Go to somewhere completely different and absorb the atmosphere
Going on trips out to different places can be surprisingly inspiring. Just getting out of the house can be extremely refreshing, and something which I did a little more of during my Masters degree. Me and Mr. Nomad would make an effort to go for an evening walk when I'd been working all day just to get some fresh air which would give us a chance to talk without being preoccupied with anything else.

Debate and discuss with those around you
I often ask Mr. Nomad 'so, what do you think about this?' and we often discuss our difference of opinion on things. Surrounding yourself with people who you admire or who have opinions can really progress your own personal thoughts around issues as well as practicing your communication skills. Previously Mr. Nomad would refuse to talk about politics claiming he knew nothing about it apart from the news he read, but the more I've talked to him about it, the more apparent it is that he has strong views about issues and actually has an active interest in it. Now he actively engages in conversation about politics with other people which always surprises me (and pleases me as i'm a political science graduate). 

Set yourself a challenge
Challenge yourself to something that requires some mental ability. It can range from running a mile to remembering your shopping list or to practice positive thinking. Whilst these might seem like everyday and mundane tasks, they can help you keep you on the ball. You could also try something completely new to challenge yourself. Learning something like cross stitch or how to change a tyre on a car will contribute to you expanding your knowledge and using different parts of the brain that can often be neglected in day-to-day routines. 

Play games
Something my mum and her friends (who are a smart bunch) do is play scrabble weekly. Now it's one of my mum's favorite things to do, divulging in the game several times a week. It's fun but also educational as it really helps expand your vocabulary (especially good if you're in any kind of industry that requires writing). I highly recommend buying a scrabble dictionary (with the meanings) to use when playing the game as it introduces you to new vocabulary.

How do deal with working in a job that doesn't utilise your university degree or skill-set?

DIY Valentines Map Photo Frame

DIY Personalised Map Photo Frame

I actually made this little DIY craft project as a present for Mr. Nomad at Christmas, but in the spirit of Valentine's Day decided to show you how I made it as a possible last minute gift for a loved one. It's an especially good present for any fellow travellers out there who have met their partners abroad. It's super easy, budget friendly and can be made for any kind of special occasion, be it a birthday or even a wedding present.


1. Find suitable maps. This was actually the most difficult part of the project as I found it difficult to find a detailed enough map of the UK here in Australia to display the village I grew up in. In the end after scouring charity and op shops, I found one in a charity bookshop. After looking through all the books and failing to find anything suitable, I asked the owner if he by any chance had a road map of the UK lurking in the back. He rummaged around and produced one he had got in that morning... such perfect timing! I had a quick look at it and although it was battered and had some scribbles on it, I thought it gave it a lot of character and a more 'vintage' look. The guy actually wanted to give it to me for free but I insisted on paying him $5 due to the troubles I had finding one. The other map was easy to find as Mr. Nomad is from Tasmania, so I just cut out a page from an Australian road map.

2. The next step was to find a cheap frame to suit the size of the figures I was going to cut out of the maps. The best place for these are dollar stores, pound shops and reject stores. Another good place to look (which is where I got mine from) is at Daiso where everything is $2.80. I got a bold black frame to really make the picture stand out. I also bought some backing card in a grey-blue colour from Officeworks to go behind the figures. I went with this colour to make the figures stand out, but you could choose any that matches an interior of a room you intend to hang the picture in.

3. Find the correct shape figures you want online, and size them suitably to fit into your frame. This involved me measuring the frame, and making sure I had measurements that would fill out the frame nicely, whilst also leaving room for a border around them. Then print off the outlines of the figure shapes you want and cut them out so you have a template to draw around on your map.

4. Use the templates you have created of the figures and place them on the maps, ensuring the point of interest (in my case it was West Yorkshire for the female figure and Hobart for the male figure) is in the middle of the template so people's eyes are drawn to the correct area.

5. After carefully drawing around your stencils in pencil, cut these out of the maps. After you've done this, make sure there are no pesky pencil markings left on the map and if so use an eraser gently to remove them.

6. Using a ruler, measure the backing card and draw some small dots in pencil where the figures should be placed to ensure that they are equidistant from each other and the frame. The best way to do this is to measure the height and width of the frame and work out where the centre point is, then work out where the centre point is for both the figures.

7. Using a glue stick, gently stick down the figures ensuring they are in the correct position. Once you're happy with the positioning, press down to make sure they stick securely onto the backing card.

8. Put the frame onto the picture and admire your new piece of personalised artwork! 

DIY Personalised Map Photo Frame

Mr. Nomad actually said this was the best present he received at Christmas, so i'm really happy with how it turned out. I'm really looking forward to hanging it up when we eventually move into our own place. 

Let me know of any DIY presents you've created for a loved one. I always like creating personalised gifts and know I struggle to think of things to give others, so let me know!

Helene in Between

ABCs of Travel

I saw this tag-style post by Kaelene and decided to give it a shot myself and think about my travel history.

A) Age you went on your first international trip:
I was 1 year old I think when I first went abroad to France with my Mum and Dad. Originally we were heading to the Pyrenees, travelling from the North of France down through the Dordogne to visit some friends on the way, but my parents fell in love with the Dordogne region so much that they ended up putting an offer on an old farm house. This was to become our holiday house ever since!

Me (eating the duplo) and my childhood best friend in the denim dungarees and her brother and sisters. The VW van was the one we went to the South of France in every holiday. Sadly when my parents split they sold it.

B) Best foreign beer you've had and where:
I actually can't drink regular beer as i'm a Coeliac, but i'm partial to a bit of cider. The best cider I've probably had was in a bar in Tasmania called Dickens Ciderhouse but I can't for the life of me remember (even after researching) what it was called- sign of a good night clearly!

C) Cuisine (favorite):
I love spicy food but my absolute favorite it Pakistani cuisine. Coming from a city where there is a significant Pakistani population, I was spoilt for eating out when I was growing up. I really miss it now living in Australia- I can't find a decent curry here anywhere. I love pakoras, poppadoms and yogurt mint sauce, aloo gobi, paneer, dal tadkha and burfi sweets to finish off. As you can see I love it!

D) Destinations- favorite, least favorite, and why?
This is such a difficult question! I think my favorite place will always be the Dordogne as it's stunning and I have so many happy memories there. I actually can't think of anywhere that I've totally hated, but I found Amsterdam a little disappointing. Whilst the canals were pretty and I loved how many bikes there were, I found the whole Red Light District a little much (and disturbing when I did some more research) and I think it tainted my perception of it. Maybe one day this will change if I ever go back!

E) Event you've experienced abroad that made you say "wow":
The gorgeous beaches here in Australia are pretty amazing and I love how relaxed they make me feel. I've also been stunned in Barcelona at Park Guell which is one of my all-time favorite places in the world.

F) Favorite mode of transportation:
Either a combination of car and foot or boat. Being able to drive somewhere far away from your stomping ground and then being able to explore is pretty amazing. But having the wind in my hair and being among the sea is also amazing. I only enjoy flights when I have multiple seats to stretch out in.

G) Greatest feeling while travelling:
Exploring and not knowing what you're going to stumble across around the next corner.

H) Hottest place you've ever traveled to:
That would be right now, living in Queensland. It gets to the stage where it completely knocks it out of you and you're forces to drive to a local shopping centre just to utilise their air con. #FirstWorldProblems.

I) Incredible service you've experienced and where?:
The guy at our local petrol station is pretty damn friendly. We've had plenty of great experiences, for example when we went to stay at Freycinet Lodge in Tasmania where I was probably the illest I have ever been in my life and they refunded our stay when we had to leave the next day and provided me with a sick bucket, yummm. That was pretty good. Aside from that though I can' think of any times when we have experienced outstanding service.

I was so ill I have no recollection of this..

J) Journey that took the longest:
When I was travelling from Manchester to little old Tasmania, Australia. My flight itinerary went a little something like this Manchester > Dubai > Singapore > Perth > Melbourne > Hobart. It was pretty grim. This might explain why I was so ill (as mentioned above!).

K) Keepsake from your travels:
I actually keep a lot of things from my travels like plane tickets, tickets to places I've visited and random bits and bobs from along the way. However I would say Mr. Nomad was probably the best keepsake from my travels!

L) Let-down sight, where and why?:
I think just Amsterdam in general. There just wasn't much there to spark my interest.

M) Moment where you fell in love with traveling:
Probably when I was old enough to appreciate going to the Dordogne each summer holiday where I found escaping from everything in the UK to be really therapeutic for me. There's something nice about going to another place and no one knowing you or your life from back at home. I felt calm and grounded among all the natural landscape, and spent pretty much my whole time there swimming, cycling or building tree houses with my French best friend communicating in Frenglish.

N) Nicest hotel you've stayed in:
Hmmm, this is a difficult one. I've never really stayed in a massively fancy hotel as we usually use AirBnB as it tends to be a lot better value for money. Freycinet Lodge in Tasmania was an amazing place we stayed in but I honestly can't remember any of its beauty due to being so sick. A few other honorable mentions would be the Lancaster London (London), Village Inn (Scotland) and The Mussel Boys (Tasmania).

Our amazing cabin at The Mussel Boys, Tasmania.

O) Obsession- what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?
Two words: food & drink. Although they're all pretty much on my phone so don't have too many to hand!

Sipping wine in Bruges.
Eating vegetarian food at El Piano in York.

My favorite breakfast in Paris.

Eating Michelin food in Birmingham's Simpsons Restaurant.

P) Passport stamps- how many and from where?
I recently got a new passport but the main ones have been Australia a few times and the USA. A European passport means minimal stamps when travelling in Europe!

Q) Quirkiest attraction you've visited and where?
The hands down weirdest place I've been was the Frites Museum in Bruges. Picture a potato mobile and an old guy playing a musical instrument he had constructed out of potatoes. I think it's also one of the times I've laughed the hardest in my entire lifetime.
I'm clearly impressed...

R) Really frightening: where's one place you've visited where you felt unsafe or uneasy?
Walking in Montmartre when I went to Paris with one female friend was a little intimidating when a girl tried to scam us. After researching afterwards it's a pretty common problem, but I know my travel buddy was pretty shaken up by it. It basically involved a girl pretending she was deaf and trying to get us to sign a petition for a deaf and blind charity. As soon as you obliged to write your name, a flock of these women came running towards you trying to pickpocket you (which they did not succeed in as I pushed them away). However as soon as we carried on walking, they chased us down the street and pulled our jackets etc which was scary. We ended up running into a shop knowing the locals would not allow these girls in (they are well known to the locals- so they prey on tourists). As soon as the police started patrolling the area, they flocked. It was around the Sacre Coeur and the streets around it, although I know it happens all over Paris.

S) Splurge- something you have no problem spending money on while traveling:
I wouldn't consider myself a splurger in general when travelling as we always try and travel on a budget, but we do try and prioritise value for money which sometimes means booking a more extravagant accommodation if it means better value for money. This is where AirBnB is great as you can get amazing rental houses for much cheaper than you would a hotel, but with amazing facilities. This means we have a bit more money to play around with when eating out etc.

T) Touristy thing you've done:
Went to the Heineken museum in Amsterdam because we literally couldn't find much else to do. It was a complete waste of money and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.

U) Unforgettable travel memory:
Travelling to Australia knowing I would see Mr. Nomad again. Cringe.

V) Visas- how many and for where?
The only visa's I've had to get are the ones for Australia. I've had a tourist one twice, a working-holiday one that i'm currently on and a partner visa we are currently applying for (nightmare).

W) Wine- best glass while traveling:
The wine in France is pretty damn good, and the price is amazing.

X) Excellent view and from where?:
For my mum's 50th birthday she got a Virgin hot air balloon flight which was amazing. She got to take one person with her, and whilst I encouraged her to take a friend she ended up taking me. You don't normally get a photo at the top, but the balloonist had a camera set up on a pulley system in which he could take a photo and sold them at the end- such a great idea! Another excellent view I've had was when I went flex-wing flying with Mr. Nomad. We got this as a Christmas present from my mum last Christmas and we both really enjoyed it.

Y) Years spent travelling:
My family has been travelling as I already mentioned since I was born, but my first trip outside of France was to Belgium and Germany on a school trip. My solo travelling started when I was 18 and went to Australia on my gap year.

Z) Zealous sports fans and where?
Hmmmm... I would probably say tennis fans at Wimbledon every year cheering on Murray. There's something about the tennis that seems to get everyone on board! Maybe it's the British summer heat and the lure of strawberry's and cream...

I'd love for you to choose a letter and share your travel experiences!

Bunker Specialty Coffee │Brisbane

Bunker Specialty Coffee Milton

Quite literally, a hole in the wall, Bunker Specialty Coffee boasts a unique setting to get your caffeine fix nestled among the streets of Milton. Set into an old WW2 air raid shelter climbing with vines, the bunker was made as part of 200 constructed by the Brisbane City Council. Not only is the setting unique (and something reminiscent from living back in the UK), but the coffee was also good. I got my usual flat white ($4.50) whilst Mr. Nomad got the full-cream triple shot iced coffee (also $4.50 and all made and bottled by themselves of course). Wherever possible they use organic products and offer Bonsoy for lactose intolerant customers with the option of agave nectar as a natural sweetener. It’s a simple formula- quirky location, good coffee and locally and organic sourced products where possible. We’d definitely go back and plan to take our fellow coffee connoisseurs with us.

21 Railway Terrace
Milton, QLD 4064

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What's the quirkiest coffee joint you've been to?