Magical moments…beautiful words

As you know, my lovely readers, I’m rather partial to curious expressions, particularly those that capture the essence of something quite extraordinary in one single word. This week? Rain.

I love getting caught in the rain, don’t you? The wind driven kind that renders your umbrella obsolete. Squalls that result in straggly hair, running mascara, clinging shirts, squelchy shoes. Downpours that inspire an urge to jump in puddles, splash along gutters, swing from lamp posts singing; well I don’t quite go that far (unless fuelled with fortification). But I do lift my face to capture raindrops on my tongue, pause to inhale the earthy fragrance of damp soil, wet Tarmac, the essence of ozone. Mindfulness, being in the moment, call it what you will, just one of life’s little indulgences.

 

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    Why thank you!

    Hello my lovely readers, I bet you’re just starving for more career hints huh? Well, although this post applies to all areas of our lives, today a focus on ensuring you are memorable when in the job market. We’re talking the power of a ‘Thank You’.

    Call me a nag, but while coaching my clients to build targeted personal branding, social media marketing and job search strategies to land their next job with speed, the one thing I tend to hammer home is the simple art of sending a ‘thank you’. Post network meeting, after an interview, in response to skills endorsements on LinkedIn, a network connection, a favour. ‘Thank you.’ So easy, so oft overlooked, yet oh so valuable.

    You see, the human brain is programmed to compress experiences into three phases: The beginning, the peak and the end. In the case of a networking conversation or job interview, we tend to put more focus on creating a fabulous first impression, yet how we follow-up can play a critical role in how we’re remembered afterwards. In this era of e-communication, a thoughtful thank you note matters more than ever and costs us nothing but a couple of moments. Here are a few tips on how to make the most of a post-interview thank you.

    Five steps to crafting the perfect thank you note…

    Put it on paper

    It’s easy to send a quick thank-you note via email right after you leave an interview or network chat however if your inbox is anything like mine, that email is apt to get lost in the pile of electronic communications, especially if it’s not urgent. Why not cut through that clutter by sending a small paper note? Writing on paper will also have the benefit of forcing you to be more thoughtful about what you’re writing.

    Make it personal

    A thank you note can be forgettable or memorable. Instead of a generic “thank you for your time,” why not tell the person what you specifically appreciated about your meeting. Were there particular qualities in the encounter that stood out in your mind? A moment that demonstrated why you would want to work there? Something you’d like the interviewer/networker to know you took away from the conversation? Assume others are also sending a thank you note, and personalise yours, so it stands out as unique. Oh! And if you’re sending more than one thank you note, take the extra time to make each one unique for we can easily sound disingenuous if our recipients compare notes and realise we took the easy way out and copied/pasted.

    Be real but be neat

    Writing out your note in longhand is a small window into your personality. Penmanship may be a dying art, therefore ensuring your writing is legible and neat will help put your best (type)face forward. I pride myself on my handwriting however when in a hurry, have been known to write in brail. Hurried chicken scratch writing won’t reflect well on you. Take care especially to make sure your signature is readable, so they know who sent the note.

    Anyone you missed?

    A thank you should not be reserved for the people with the loftiest titles. Who else helped you? A receptionist who worked on the meeting’s scheduling? Current employees with whom you privately chatted to get a sense of the workplace culture? Take a moment to thank these people as well. Such sweet gestures can often lead to these connections putting in a good word for you. Sometimes it’s people on the periphery that can make all the difference in a close decision. Case in point – the first person my old boss used to turn to for an opinion on someone he’d just interviewed was our Receptionist, followed by the Personal Assistants.

    Still in doubt?

    I recently read a debate between recruiters in a LinkedIn group where one had asked the question ‘What methodology do you use to help make the decision between two perfect candidates?’ The overwhelming response was ‘The first one who bothers to send me a thank you for the interview.’

    Oh! And thank you for reading this post! Have any fabulous ‘thank you’ outcomes of your own to share? Why not drop them in the comments box?

     

     

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      Let’s talk Bucket Lists baby

      Hello lovely readers, on a lighter note, dated a guy recently and talk turned to Bucket Lists where we discovered that No.1 on his list might possibly be solved with No. 72 on mine. Talk again turned to Bucket Lists over a luncheon I was hosting yesterday where my guests found themselves revisiting their own. For each accomplishment, the perfect excuse for a toast! I wrote the below post back in 2015 and, given we’re all determined to continue making the most of what this life offers, thought I’d inspire you by re-sharing: 

      What’s the one thing you dream of achieving?

      And what are you doing about it? I’m talking Bucket Lists ladies and gentlemen – have you developed yours? And are you steadfastly ticking those goals off?

      A friend recently gifted me a fabulous little book for recording my Bucket List and, list lover extraordinaire that i am, I did exactly that. Rewarded myself by reliving and recording the goals I’d already achieved, then noted the things I’m planning to do next. A smattering below – four achieved, two in the queue – a tad of guessing for you…

      • #34 Learn to dive
      • #96 Sing at Burning Man
      • #53Learn a language
      • #16 Dance at Rio Carnival
      • #66 Explore Europe
      • #70 Skydive

      “What’s one thing you dream of achieving? You know  – what’s on your list?”

      A question posed by Sebastian Terry a ‘professional list-ticker’ key note speaker, motivator and adventurer. And has that guy kicked some classy goals! For example:

      • #23 Deliver a baby
      • #27 Minister a wedding
      • #43 Volunteer at an Orphanage in Uganda
      • #58 Skydive naked
      • #79 Live with a tribe for one week
      • #98 Crash a red carpet

      The more adventurous items mostly ticked, Sebastian’s list now has a more philanthropic core and, as Ambassador for Camp Quality, Alzheimer’s Australia and Make-A-Wish, he’s already helped to raise more than $200,000 for them (originating from #4 – raise $100,000 for Camp Quality).

      Thing is, everyone has at least one thing they have to do before they die. Some even have a list. But how many goals and dreams on this list are actually achieved?

      According to a UK poll, 53% of us want to travel the world (with one in four hankering for a safari trip and one in five busting to trek Peru’s Inca Trail), 31% want to learn a new skill, 30% a road trip and 24% a new hobby. Something you’ve been itching to do but never got around to?

      One day I would like to…

      My Mum often pre-empts with ‘one day I will…‘ but never does. I say to her it’s never too late! A 92 year old man recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s just skydived; an 85 year old woman made history as the oldest person to scale Mt Kilimanjaro; a 91 year old debuted her flying skills and piloted a plane. Makes a bus trip around Tasmania look like a mere doddle now doesn’t it?

      So what about you? Whether your goals are as tame as mine or as adventurous/philanthropic as Sebastian’s, why not commit them to paper…then commit to action. You might even indulge yourself with a My Bucket List book to record your goals. Still easier said than done? Dr Alice Boyes, author of The Anxiety Toolkit recommends the following:

      1. Surround yourself with people who are actively pursuing their bucket list
      2. Make a list of goals you’d like to achieve this year
      3. Mix big and small goals, and include harder and easier variations
      4. Put a little time aside each week to work on your bucket list
      5. Let your bucket list reflect your own personality, quirks and interests

      Oh and did I tell you, Sebastian has a website and app 100things where you can share your goals, communicate with each other and do things together. He also organises trips to help you achieve the more challenging – trip to the Antarctica anyone? Now go for it!

      What’s on your bucket list? What are you most proud for accomplishing so far?

      Bucket List

      And no, I didn’t satisfy that #1 with my #72…not this time 🙂

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        Dear Kent…

        My lovely readers, humour me as I bring a piece of my soul to the blog today. You see, ten years ago on this day, the man with whom I’d spent 30 years of my life died. His Spirit continues to speak to those whom he held most dear, and I feel the need to respond. Raise a glass and giggle, cringe, relate or let my thoughts simply wash over you as we drink a toast to the late great ‘Telly’.

        Dear Kent…

        A heart attack, swift and sudden. Sadly, you didn’t go out in a blaze of glory in the sack as you’d always hoped. A relief though! Might have been a tad awkward given you’d just met your new love. A beautiful woman, shame you didn’t get to explore her potential.

        What a life we had ‘eh? Franz Josef flirting at 19, married at 21, growing up together; years of pure joy, the last few not so as I found my voice and you fought for yours. The search for mutual ground too hard, a sad parting, both of us mourning the loss of our closest friend. Me. You. Twelve months later, you died.

        Impressed with your timing? We lost your sister Beth in 1977, Poppa ’87, your Mum ’97 and you, at the tender age of 52, in 2007. Smarty pants! Does this trend only apply to blood relatives? Much too young; should have seen our older friends scrambling to reform their drinking, smoking and dietary habits!

        We promised we’d never go to sleep on an argument and I’m sad that we didn’t fulfil that agreement. But hey! While this earthling struggled with her guilt, her fears; courage won, desires lost, you sir moved on to that ethereal place. I know this for we felt you all around us.

        Bloody cigarette smoke for god’s sake! None of my neighbours indulged yet after you passed you heralded your presence by filling my home with the damn stuff. I’d pat the sofa and make space for you, and you’d stay awhile or for a fleeting moment; the only time Patou our little Burmese miaowed. She was blind, but didn’t need sight to feel the spirit. Those visits are rare these days, but that’s ok.

        And what’s with the boating knots huh? Jenny and Ross continue to untangle those suckers from their timber louvre cords over permanently closed windows. Keep at it though for it amuses and keeps you close in their hearts. We’ve since travelled Europe together, a coin in the Trevi fountain for you; candles lit in remembrance in every goddamned cathedral. Citing your ‘It’s beer o’clock somewhere in the world’ as we supped first drink of the day. Religiously toasting you at sunset as you asked me to, knowing you’d be thinking of me too. Oh! And Rossie’s now a granddad! I know right? Makes the coolest one! A total bruiser that kid is too!

        You’ll be chuffed to know I sold your beloved Bay Cruiser boat the ‘Sea Imp’ to the Tasmanian Maritime University where they restored her to her former glory just as you’d hoped to do. Funds went to your nephew. Wasn’t what our wills requested but I knew that’s what you’d want. The gesture thwarting his attempt to sue me for our house. Bless!

        And dear sweet Bret, fellow skipper who helped you sail Sea Imp to Brisbane. The man became my rock during the tougher times and, 17 years my junior; poor devil consistently fought the ‘cougar’ label on my behalf. We made a good team for five years before finally casting off our own anchors. Reasons, Seasons, Lifetimes. He’s happily married now.

        You’d also be proud of me for finding the courage to live on the coasts of Italy and France, our favourite countries, for six months. Alone. To grieve, write, reconcile; each evening, finding a spot to observe that sunset and think of you. Without fail, there was always a yacht on the horizon. Cheeky man, we always knew you were sailing the high seas.

        More candles lit, plus one for John Mac, another for my friend Moo whom we also lost in the year of my sabbatical. Putting a flame to a candle for you in London’s St Paul’s Cathedral with your cousin David and Helen, my long-standing moroseness finally lifted, and I was ready to come home.

        Ten years on, so many frogs kissed, a few with whom I fell a little in love, one providing my ‘forever person’ benchmark. Ironically a cheeky, fun, loving, true gentleman. A replica of you, my Tarzan, sans the habits that tore us apart and that Tom Selleck look you totally rocked.

        Poppa Lyons passed, but not before we witnessed the septuagenarians renewing their wedding vows. The love in the room was palpable that day. So too our beloved mentor Trevor, ‘Mon Capitaine’ now with you on the high seas, Beverley and Heaton as well.

        Knowing how much you loved your technology, you’d be seriously annoyed to know you’re missing out on the rapid advancements in this space too. Watson, IoT (Internet of Things) the font of all knowledge and connectivity; movies, TV programs and music now streamed directly to our ‘smart’ devices. Phone books, maps, nah! Remember how I’d call you from random parts of the city where I was usually hopelessly lost asking for directions? Google Maps is now our friend. Minuscule button phones now pocket-sized computers driving our connectivity and with apps catering to our every whim. The Dick Tracey wrist watch on steroids. Everything you imagined and would now be relishing.

        Social Media too! Web sites where we talk, share imagery, create discussions and obtain instantaneous global awareness and opportunity to help or intervene. Suspect you’d have been king of Facebook!

        A female Prime Minister, a Black American President, Donald Trump currently in the seat (yes seriously!). Gay Marriage legalised (given you championed LGBTI rights, you’d be furious to know our Government is holding back). Items and artificial body parts being 3D printed, genetic re-engineering, artificial intelligence rapidly advancing, the first driver less car due for release next year.

        But most importantly dear man, you continue to be loved; our close mutual NZ and Aussie friends and family remain a huge part of my life, the stories we share now legendary as we toast yet again, the anniversary of your departure. We miss you, sir. Your humour, your compassion for the underdog, the love you bestowed upon your closest and dearest. And the love you had for me, for us. In memory xx

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          Happy Mama’s Day!

          To my lovely Mummy (so British but that’s my Mum for you), to all who have endured burnt waffles, cold coffee, sticky fingers and big wet kiddy kisses…and to those whom we’ve lost yet remain right there beside us in spirit… 

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            Sparking F**king Joy here…

            Lovely readers, 12 months ago I embarked on an attempt to declutter my home and my heart. The urge always strikes when I’m desperate for change, for a new beginning. Conversations of late indicate a whole raft of you are also in need of a mental and physical purge. Well read on, giggle and possibly be inspired as I re-share the robust argument my head and heart had while acting on that aspiration…

            ‘My book will help you transform your home into a permanently clear and clutter-free space’ claimed Marie Kondo. Your book will transform my brain into a permanently traumatised cluster-f**k’ I retort.

            I’ve been standing in my wardrobe holding each item of clothing one by one, asking my heart IMG_9825‘Does this spark joy in your life?‘ while my head’s responding ‘You paid good money for that girlfriend so it damn well better!’ I’m already exhausted, and I haven’t even started perfecting the art of folding the remnants into sweet little ‘stand-ups’ for easy viewing yet. I need fortification. Pouring a glass of red while cranking up my fave Spotify playlist, I give myself a stern pep talk – you’ve got this girl! 

            Marie Kondo’s ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ has so far seen crates of excess clothing, kitchenware, and office detritus make it’s way to charities, recycle depots and the brilliant folk at ‘Dressed for Success’. Pretty pleased with myself for according to Kondo, ‘The KonMare way of curating your space to represent what’s important to you will clear your mind and make you much happier’. Wait? Curated space, yes. Clear mind? Nope! Still traumatised.

            I turn to Sarah Knight’s ‘Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k’ a beautiful parody of Marie Kondo’s work. Self-help with an edge. Seems that wasting my time worrying about giving away that item I paid good money forIMG_9826 is taking up a lot of mental energy I could be using elsewhere. Taking her advice, I put said energy to good use by curating the content in the ‘F**k Barn’ that constitutes my brain.

            Yep! I’ve now scripted polite ways of letting you know I no longer give a F**k – about your fund-raising requests or your incredible kale chip recipe or your horrible boss. Nope. I may just give one about your theory on John Snow’s resurrection, but definitely no F**ks given on your passion for Kardashians or the volume of Instagram followers you might have. Nein. Non.  Nada. Not a single one.

            Sooo…am I concerned about that Gollum-like voice in my head whispering ‘nobody will like you‘? Nope. No F**ks given there either. As the subtitle states, this book’s a primer on “how to stop spending time you don’t have doing things you don’t want to do with people you don’t like”. Sorry-not-sorry Gollum. I’ve now prioritised the F**ks I do have to give – and I’m giving them to the people and things that matter most, direct from the sofa in my zen-like clutter free home.

            In need of a declutter yourself? Both books a damn fine starter kit.

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              In honour…

              Been thinking about what this day means for us all as we commemorate the fallen today, my mind drifting back to the time my travel buddy and I visited the war fields in France in 2013. I wrote about that day in honour of our ANZACs in 2015. The memory still tears at my heart. Here’s my story:

              I hadn’t wanted to come. It was bone chillingly cold, drizzle fell from burgeoning grey skies and a biting wind whipped mercilessly at my inadequate jeans and jacket. Feet, wet and cold, were screaming chilblains, a dread I’d endured during long NZ winters, and I’d used my last tissue on a streaming red nose.

              Bloody marvellous! A fine way to start a holiday in France I muttered as I wandered across the lush manicured lawns striated with row upon row of headstones.

              Many of the headstones bore names, still more were marked ‘Unknown Soldier’. The 1918 battlefields at Villers-Bretonneux. An imposing Memorial commemorating nearly 11,000 Australians who died in France but have no known grave, formidable against bleak skies. I ran frozen fingers across the names etched into chilled marble. Andrew, Horatio, James, Clive, so many innocents.

              Eric Hill from Boston, MA, USA - Poppies in the Sunset on Lake Geneva Uploaded by PDTillmanFrom there to Pozières, then the Thiepval ‘Memorial to the Missing’ honouring over 72,000 British and South African men, followed by Beaumont-Hamel and the Newfoundland Memorial Park where zig zag trenches can still be seen almost a century on. In the distance, the yellow rapeseed covered tracts of land soldiers had been fighting relentlessly to retain. A weak sun caressed my icy cheeks as I took stock of the surrounds. So peaceful. Once so bloodied.

              Meandering through the trenches behind our guide as she described the unimaginable conditions the soldiers experienced there –  the stench of the dead atop, dysentery, lack of food, fresh water or shelter, month upon month exposed to extreme weather conditions, from searing sun to death rattle snow – I struggled to remain composed. Choking on a crust of humble pie will do that. Wet feet and a sniffle indeed.

              Each site respectfully tended regardless of nationality interred, the Germans distinguished by grey crosses within a quiet field of their own. They too were just young men sent into the same bloody battles. All of them heartbreakingly young; seeing, experiencing and succumbing to horrors we can’t begin to imagine. But you probably know that anyway, a part of our ANZAC history…a raw, gut wrenching sacrifice of human life. Today, 100 years on, we honour that sacrifice.

              (Image – Eric Hill from Boston, MA, USA – Poppies in the Sunset on Lake Geneva)

               

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                Super Slutty Spaghetti alla Puttanesca


                Good news folks! My urge to play in the kitchen has returned, and, given the blog needs a top up of tasty coupled with a spot of scintillation, here’s the perfect combo – Spaghetti alla Puttanesca. It’s my ‘when‘ dish. When there’s a chill in the air, when time is poor, when a robust red deserves a tasty counterpart, when loved ones suddenly lob and need feeding. Been a number of ‘when’s lately. Wins too. A friend recently exclaiming ‘this recipe’s going straight to the blog’! Right said I, for who can resist a quick and tasty, easy on the waistline dish that can be knocked up in 10 minutes from mere pantry staples when one’s too lazy to trawl the supermarket?

                ‘Slut’s Spaghetti’, ‘Working Girl’s Pasta’, ‘Prostitute’s Pasta’ – so what’s in a name?

                Puttanesca has a sauce base of capers, olives and tomatoes and is usually served with spaghetti in a dish known as ‘whore-style pasta’. Nigella calls her version ‘Slut’s Spaghetti’, Jamie’s recipe titled ‘Working Girl’s Pasta’. ‘The name ‘Prostitute’s Pasta’ originating from folk-law claiming the savvy Puttanas (prostitute in Italian) made the quick and easy pasta sauce to minimise down time between clients. Others say the robust aromas of the dish were designed to entice clients into the house of ill repute. A less audacious version indicating the sauce was created by a chef who had a volume of guests arrive at his restaurant late one night just as he was about to close and, not having enough of any one ingredient to make a meal for them all, pulled everything from the kitchen together to make this legendary Italian pasta sauce.

                My favourite theory? Tongue in cheek, LV Anderson (Prostitutes have nothing to do with it) says Italians use puttana (and related words) almost the way we use shit, as an all-purpose profanity, so pasta alla puttanesca might just have originated with someone saying, “I just threw a bunch of shit from the cupboard into a pan.”

                The origins of its name might be debatable but one thing’s for certain – it really does make an easy, quick, cheap and delicious pasta sauce! And seriously, who can resist a dish with such a shady title? Here’s my version. Enjoy!

                Need:

                • 400 g dried spaghetti (or linguini)
                • olive oil
                • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced (avoid using a garlic crusher for finely crushed garlic will burn before absorbing the aromatics)
                • 3 anchovy fillets, roughly chopped
                • 1 small Chorizo sausage, roughly chopped (optional)
                • tablespoon tomato puree
                • a small handful of salted capers, rinsed and drained; or brine version, drained
                • 1-2 fresh red chillies, sliced (seeds in if you like it hot, hot, hot, out if you like it mild)
                • a small handful of black and/or green Sicilian olives, de-stoned
                • 2 handfuls very ripe cherry tomatoes, halved
                • a small bunch of fresh basil, leaves picked
                • Parmesan cheese, to serve

                 Do:

                1. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, then add the spaghetti and cook according to packet instructions.
                2. Meanwhile, place a large frying pan over a medium–high heat. Add a good lug of olive oil, followed by the garlic, anchovy, chorizo, capers, chilli and tomato puree. Tear in the olives and stir for 2 minutes, or until the garlic starts to turn golden and the anchovies start melting.
                3. Add the cherry tomatoes, a good splash of pasta water and cover with a lid. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the cherry tomatoes start to cook down slightly.
                4. Drain the pasta, reserving a cupful of the cooking water.
                5. Add the basil to the sauce along with the pasta and a splash of the reserved cooking water, to loosen.
                6. Taste and season if needed.
                7. Transfer to a serving platter and top with a good shaving of fresh Parmesan and Basil leaves.
                8. Reap accolades while smiling to self ‘prostitutes be damned’
                Recipe based on Jamie Oliver’s Gennaro’s Spaghetti Alla Puttnesca
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