A Bunch of Fives #16

Bunch of Fives Special Christmas Edition 2018

Merry Christmas lovely people!! Amber and I have put together a special Bunch of Fives that is our wrap up of our 2018 favourites, and some other bunches of fives with a festive theme. Read on for some hot tips, cool reads and some old tales.

From My Bookshelf:


My first pick of the year is Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. An awkward young woman with a tragic past discovers kindness in unlikely places. Funny, touching and uplifting. My bookclub loved this book and you will too.

Ottolenghi Simple. Brilliant cookbook that I bought recently and its filled with simple (derr) and delicious recipes with short ingredient lists. Great salads especially.

A Children’s Treasury of Milligan: Classic Stories and Poems by Spike Milligan. If you really want to laugh and make your kids laugh at bedtime stories, this is the book. So ridiculously nonsensical you won’t be able to keep a straight face. My kids favourite bedtime book.

Barefoot Investor for Families by Scott Pape. I am the last person in the world to read or take advice from old Barefoot but it actually works. My kids are saving money…and giving to charity, all on the simple 3 jobs a week system. No more yelling ‘Do yer chorrrres!!!’

The Working Mind and Drawing Hand by Oliver Jeffers. I have not even opened this book yet. I bought it in an excited rush when I first saw it online and am waiting until Christmas to open it. I have had a crush on Jeffers ever since I read ‘The Incredible Book Eating Boy’ when my middle child was born 10 years ago. I have bought all of his books and am obsessed with his stories and illustration skills, his collage wizardry and special touches of whimsy to every story. Simply genius.



Top 5 Books for holiday reading

Boy Swallows Universe - Trent Dalton. Great Aussie drama. I can see this being picked up and made into a film; a real Two Hands kinda vibe to it.

This is Going to Hurt - Adam Kay. Brutally honest account of being a gynae, mostly very funny but occasionally you will need a tissue handy

Hunger - Roxane Gay. Autobiography of a woman’s experiences of being larger than what society considers the “norm”, what led her to over eat and how she has navigated both mentally and physically through her everyday world since her childhood was taken from her.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North - Richard Flanagan. The best fictional war story I have read to date; It deals both with the effects of war and the many forms of love and you will cry. A lot. Just sayin’…

Cloudstreet – Tim Winton. Actually, anything by Tim Winton; they are written for summer holidays.

Top 5 for Christmas gifts cause they're filled with beautiful images and will look nice on your shelf

Before They Pass Away – Jimmy Nelson

Native – Kate Herd

Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls (1 & 2) Elena Favilli and Francesco Cavallo

Flowers Everyday – Florence Kennedy

Imaginarium – Sybella Court

Old Timey:


Five of the best Christmas presents (ones I remember the most anyway) I got as a kid. Seems as though my memory was it its freshest during the 1980s. All went downhill after that.

Pound Puppy Yuppies (1986) Matching little stuffed toy dogs with registration papers…every little animal loving girl’s dream.

Pink hair dryer (1987). For taking away to boarding school. I still don’t know how to use one.

Trampoline (1982). One of those rectangle ones. How did Santa get that all the way to Quandialla?!

The Mouse Trap Game (1983) Anxiety in a cardboard box. All based around hoping that cage would fall down perfectly over the mouse.

Straw boater hat with Liberty band (1989). Looked the goods at Quandi pool during the summer holidays, while Amber and I listened to (probably) Bananarama on her pink DOUBLE cassette player.



Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Christmas songs ringing out at any given opportunity in the lead up to the big day. Our tree trimming tradition is not complete without my old CD of Christmas songs blaring out the golden oldies –sorry; I just can’t come at the popular kids singing about Santa (Yeah I'm looking at you Bieber, Minogue and Spears. Just no, OK!) Here are my fave five Christmas tunes the family love to listen to (ok, not so much Adrian) in preparation for the main event.

Happy Christmas (War is Over) -  John Lennon

Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow! Frank Sinatra, B Swanson Quartet. I just love the old crooners. Nuff said.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Ella Fitzgerald. Perfection.

Do They Know Its Christmas (1984 ORIGINAL VERSION!)- Band Aid. Without fail this song makes me tear up and always inspires a conversation with my daughters about the less fortunate people in the world who won’t be celebrating Christmas for a variety of reasons.

How To Make Gravy  - Paul Kelly. Not necessarily the most uplifting song but a great Aussie Chrissy ditty nonetheless.

…and (drumroll please)… All I want for Christmas Is You - Mariah Carey. I really hated this one to begin with but I am afraid it is going to stick around for better or worse. We already know most of the lyrics by heart and the girls LOVE IT- much to their fathers chagrin. I have a theory that most people secretly enjoy belting this one out with Queen Diva MC but just don’t want to admit to it.

Art/Creative Stuff/Instagram:


@thegardencurator I am a late discoverer of this genius – paper collage with tiny pins and fine wire to make plants and insects. LOVE.

@stephaniecorkhill An old art school buddy living the true artists life with the biggest smile Ive ever seen on any IG account.

@zotheysay. Zoe Foster Blake – I know, get in line you say. She is the coolest chick on the block and her Zincredible moisturiser is amazing!

@yveblake I babysat this cutie back in the 90s and now she is a musical theatre goddess who has written and produced a show called ‘Fangirls’ which will be at the Belvoir theatre late next year. Cant wait!!!

@headovaryheels Felicity Loughrey writes a fantastic little newsletter which is probably one of the very few I actually open and read. Clever writing and excellent recommendations, plus funny pop culture flashbacks.



@countyroadliving on Insta for some beautiful Christmas inspo.

The Wired Lab A contemporary arts initiative based in rural NSW specialising in community and cultural development and experimental art forms (bio on their insta page). You can get involved in some of their upcoming workshops next year that include Shibori dyeing, willow weaving, jewellery making and taxidermy to name a few. Check out dates and details on their website http://wiredlab.org/ or on Instagram @thewiredlab.

Listening to my daughter play the piano. She started lessons at the beginning of the year and it’s a pleasure to hear her tinkling away with determination every day. I am still not allowed to watch her though, so every now and then I go into spy mode and steal a glance for a couple of seconds through the crack in the door before she realises I'm there and gets the huff. I'm pretty sure she is going to have her version of Jingle Bells down pat come Christmas day. If only I could convince her to play for us…

This time of year inspires my own creative side and I get my wreath weaving on. I’ve made a few this year for friends and family and love foraging around the farm, roadside and garden for foliage. I’ve kept them pretty simple this year (shameless plug: you can see them on my insta feed @rolesamber) but I am yet to make the big boy that will adorn our own veranda and hope to get going on it today before the branches and flowers I’ve scavenged dry out too much. I love seeing other people’s wreath creations on insta too; some are mind blowing but I have a soft spot for my fellow amateurs’ efforts.

Meadow Art Collective. I got on board way too late with this and now the lovely little gallery, The Locale, has closed its doors for good. I came across these beautiful handmade Australiana inspired ceramic chimes (pictured below) on her Instagram page and snapped them up. The best place to keep up with where to find her lovely Australiana watercolours, as far as I can gather, is on her facebook page under Meadow Art Collective.



Five good things I’ve watched or listened to in 2018

Liquid Lunch with Tim Rogers (ABC radio Fridays at 2pm). Musical tidbits and recommendations based on a different theme each week with my rock hero Tim Rogers.

Big Little Lies. TV adaptation of the Liane Moriarty book. Stellar cast and beautiful soundtrack.

Wish You Well – Emma Louise. My new fangirl crush. This is just the perfect song.

Dispatch To A Friend podcast. Really enjoyed listening to this one, it inspired me to write letters to old friends again. And they wrote back!

Love For You by Coda Conduct. Crank it all the way to 11!!! Best driving song of 2018.



Top five podcasts for the year

Chat10Looks3 with Leigh Sales and Annabel Crabb. Without a doubt my favourite poddy find of the year. I just love the easy, informed and self-deprecating friendship between these two women; I’ve also discovered some podcast and book corkers thanks to their recommendations and detailed show notes (see directly below).

The Dollop with Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds. I very nearly had to pull over when I was listening to the two part podcast on Donald Trump in the car from laughing so hard. These guys are hilarious but lots of swears so not for everyone. Thanks to Sales and Crabb for putting me onto these guys. In general this is American history at its absolute worst.

Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard. In particular the interviews with Jason Bateman and David Sedaris. Dax is just an easy going dude who happens to have an easy way of getting the best out of his interviewees.

The Adam Buxton Podcast. Episodes 49 and 81 with his old mate Louis Theroux. I really enjoy listening to podcasts that seem as though a couple of friends have got together for a catch up and have forgotten they’ve pressed record on the conversation. I also love hearing Louis being funny because he is usually putting in the hard, serious yards with his doco work.

The Teachers Pet – Hedley Thomas. Gripping stuff and playing out in real time with the arrest (FINALLY!) of Chris Dawson last week.



Clothes from Read & Bell. Ethically produced clothing in the coolest cottons and gorgeous prints. Shop front in Newtown, and available online. I buy a couple of bits every year when I see them at the markets we are at together.

Fried Chicken. Not that terrible song but actual fried chicken that my kids say is better than KFC using this recipe: www.onceuponachef.com/recipes/buttermilk-fried-chicken-tenders

Chooks (feels weird following the fried chicken recipe above) Like members of the family. Ours all have names and we even hatched 3 chicks this year (Salt n Vinegar, Elmo and Kanye)

Indoor plants. I am up to 6 now…new obsession with ferns, figs and aspidistras.

Kindness. From people who shop in little towns to help drought stricken communities, to those who donated resources to our school after the classroom fire, to seeing one of my kids today ask old man if he was waiting in line at the café instead of stepping in front of him. I keep telling my kids “try to be a little kinder than is necessary”.  I will try too.



Highlights and fun stuff that happened throughout the year

Seeing First Aid Kit at the Enmore Theatre with Sar after a delicious meal and cocktails across the road at Queen Chow’s. My love affair with these sisters, and cocktails, will continue till my dying days.

Watching my youngest daughter “graduate” from preschool. The end of an era and the beginning of much bigger and busier years to come.

Finishing painting my home. A lot of people thought I was mental for taking on such a big job but I found it therapeutic and it provided some great “me” time. I powered through podcasts, stumbled across new music and just enjoyed the silence and my own company as I prepped, puttied and painted my way around the house. I haven’t actually finished the WHOLE house yet, but I have done the majority of it, or as much as is possible until the deck and veranda are finished. Actually just “started” would be nice, but that’s an argument for me and Rolesy to continue on a daily basis- just hopefully not for another 3 years. But I digress. I am really proud of what I have done and it looks really lovely. Special shout out to my dad who helped on the downhill run; with his help he took the extra week it would have taken me alone to do the posts. Thanks Dad!

The XX gig in The Domain during the Sydney Festival, drinking Tyrells wine with an old friend under a summer sky. Bliss.

And finally starting this newsletter (OK…we started this time last year but who’s splitting hairs?). I am so glad Sarah got me on board for these fortnightly/monthly/whenever-we-find-the-time-to-get-them-out blogs. It has encouraged me to do what I love to do (write) and I thank you, Bunch of Fiver who’s reading this, for joining us for the ride. Merry Christmas. Catch you sometime in the New Year when I am older (eek!), full(er) of figure with holiday cheer and none really the wiser.

Merry Christmas to all our lovely subscribers and stay tuned for more stuff from us next year. Please let your friends know by forwarding this email on to them. Thanks!

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.