Jessica Bialkowskilifestyle

October & November: In My Secret Life

Jessica Bialkowskilifestyle
October & November: In My Secret Life

Oh boy, life right now feels like I’m on a train going full speed ahead, with a series of deadlines coming at me faster and faster, and Christmas is the least of my worries! None of it is bad, and I’m not complaining, especially since it’s all of my own making, but that’s just where I’m at right now. I’m in full-on, high-alert, list-making, hyper-organised mode because that’s the best way I know how to cope when I have a lot going on. Luckily most of it is good and there is lots to look forward to, but in the meantime I’m doing an unholy amount of planning & preparation for the next few months.

In My Secret Life  |  LITTLE HENRY LEE

Moving Back to Australia

The time has finally come where I can say publicly that Mark and I are moving back to Sydney in 2019! I’m planning on doing a post reflecting on 2018 and talking about my plans for the year ahead, so I won’t say too much here and instead I’ll save it for that post. I’ve given my work plenty of notice because I really like them and want them to have enough time to find someone who is a good fit, so now that they know it doesn’t matter if I talk about it online. I’ll be working until mid-January, have a couple of weeks to finalise things, and then Mark and I are travelling for 6 weeks from the end of Jan and will get back to Sydney in mid-March.

There is SO much to organise when you’re moving overseas, obviously we knew that from the first time around, but when we moved here we only brought our suitcases with us. Because we’re travelling on the way home it makes more sense for us to send most of our belongings via sea freight and just take a suitcase each as we travel instead of lugging everything around with us. For the timing to (hopefully!!) work out and for our stuff to arrive in Sydney shortly after us, we’ve had to plan to send it off in mid-December. That means I somehow, unbelievably, have to try and plan out one suitcase worth of clothes (and toiletries and everything else that’s essential) that will last me from mid-December until mid-March (or later, depending on when our stuff arrives). That includes several weeks at work and ranges from -20ish Toronto weather, to positive 20s in Sydney in March. Pray for me.

In My Secret Life  |  LITTLE HENRY LEE
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In My Secret Life  |  LITTLE HENRY LEE

Travel Plans

So, about that 6 week holiday which I’m VERY much looking forward to! We’re spending two weeks in Mexico between Cancun, Tulum and Mexico City. After we told our best friends in Toronto about our trip they decided to tag along with us in Tulum (we’re there for 6 nights) so that’s going to be a highlight for sure! After that we’re heading back to the cold and doing Boston, New York and Philadelphia, then Denver, New Orleans (for Mardi Gras in early March), then LA and Honolulu on the way home because we got a layover there for free.

I’m not complaining because having a holiday like this is a huge privilege, but let me tell you it’s been a lot to organise on top of the move home. We’re going to have earned that holiday by the time it comes around! I also wanted to take advantage of the fact that we will both be unemployed and therefore can travel extensively, because that may not happen again anytime soon. Realistically if we just went straight home and didn’t travel we would be doing all the logistical work for the move and then have to go straight into looking for jobs, so at least this way we get to have some fun in between and relax a little! Philly, Denver and all of Mexico are new to me, while I’ve been to the other cities before, but if you have any tips or recommendations for anywhere we’re going please send them my way!

October & November In My Secret Life  |  LITTLE HENRY LEE

My First Tattoo

As you can clearly see, I got my first tattoo! And what else would it be but something for my one true love, Nick Cave! Although there’s a much bigger backstory to this particular design, part of it is because I wanted a Nick Cave tattoo that wasn’t super obvious (like his face, for example, lol). The actual imagery and the words and the song/album its referencing all have a huge amount of meaning for me, so I guess if that’s something you’re interested in let me know and maybe I could post about it in the future at some point. After thinking of this idea a few years ago and looking for inspiration online and picturing it in my mind for so long, it feels incredible to look down at my leg and see exactly what I envisioned – it’s absolutely perfect! I went to Mike Mendes at The Okey Doke in Toronto because he specialises in black tattoos and I love his more traditional work. I was SO happy with how it turned out that I emailed him two days after I got it to book another appointment before we leave!

In My Secret Life  |  LITTLE HENRY LEE

Washington DC & New York

At the end of October Mark and I went to Washington DC and New York for two extra Nick Cave shows (along with the Toronto date). Mark came to the NY show with me and I went to the other two alone. In my eyes Nick Cave is unparalleled as a performer and although I’ve seen him over 20 times now he just gets better every time. In his more recent shows in the last year or so he’s started letting people on stage for the last two songs before the encore, so at the two shows I went to by myself I got on stage at the end (along with about 50-100 other people) which was such an incredible experience. Some of the photos in this post are from this trip, but it went by so fast and we were only in Washington for one day so I didn’t really have enough photos or content for a post on its own, so I figured I’d just include it here.

In My Secret Life  |  LITTLE HENRY LEE
In My Secret Life  |  LITTLE HENRY LEE
In My Secret Life  |  LITTLE HENRY LEE

In DC we went to the Lincoln Memorial as well as the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and walked past the Washington monument on our way to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Some areas of the museum were under construction and to be honest it was a bit of a letdown, and in my opinion the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida is the best space museum I’ve been to the in US, although I do love the Rose Centre for Earth & Space in the Natural History Museum in New York too.

In My Secret Life  |  LITTLE HENRY LEE
In My Secret Life  |  LITTLE HENRY LEE
In My Secret Life  |  LITTLE HENRY LEE

Mark had a vegan Reuben and I had avo & tofu toast with tofu scramble
on the side at Fare Well in Washington.

 
In My Secret Life  |  LITTLE HENRY LEE
In My Secret Life  |  LITTLE HENRY LEE

Celebrated Our Anniversary

In November Mark and I celebrated our 3 year anniversary with a nice dinner together. We have certainly packed a lot into that time – I bought an apartment in Sydney, we moved in together, then we moved to Canada, got engaged, and next year we’re moving back to Sydney together and at some point will start planning how we’re getting married! We’ve also fit quite a bit of travelling in too. The last three years seem to have flown, but all in all I really can’t complain.

In My Secret Life  |  LITTLE HENRY LEE
In My Secret Life  |  LITTLE HENRY LEE

Winter Weather

Man, Canada really knows how to do winter, doesn’t it? It seems to have come more than a month earlier than last year since it’s already started snowing and we’ve had a -20 degree morning already (yes, that’s Celsius). Winter doesn’t technically start until December 21st so this is just Autumn! As sad as I am about leaving the life that we’ve built here, it’s probably going to feel like a pretty easy decision to fly to the warmth of Mexico at the end of January!

Apple Picking

In October we went apple picking with friends which was a super cute Canadian experience. We brought home a whole bunch of apples and I made a vegan applesauce bread (think banana bread, but not), which was really good warmed up with maple syrup, fresh berries or with cooked apple on top. I don’t tend to bake much because baked goods are my favourite food group and I’m powerless when they’re in the house, but it was nice to try something new. To be completely honest, vegan baked goods are pretty hard to get right but I found that particular recipe was really good and the texture came out perfectly!

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In My Secret Life  |  LITTLE HENRY LEE

Shows

Apart from the Nick Cave shows which I already talked about, Mark and I went with some friends to see a Minor Threat cover band recently and it was the fucking best. As someone who has been straight edge for half my life, hearing their songs live was incredible, even if it wasn’t the actual band playing. We also saw an Aussie band a few weeks ago – Rufus, who are called Rufus Du Sol in North America. I hadn’t really listened to them until the week of the show but Mark is a fan, and they were really good. I also went to the War Child charity gala dinner with people I work with and saw the poet Rupi Kaur do a reading as part of the evening. Not only was it a wonderful cause to support but it was such a nice bonus that I got to see her perform as part of it.

In My Secret Life  |  LITTLE HENRY LEE
In My Secret Life  |  LITTLE HENRY LEE
 

Music I’ve Been Listening To

  • Lester Young

  • Brew Moore

  • Thelonious Monk

  • Grinderman - Grinderman & Grinderman II

  • Anderson .Paak - Oxnard

  • The Cure – Disintegration

  • Otis Redding - Otis Blue

 
In My Secret Life  |  LITTLE HENRY LEE

Television

Mark and I have finished season 3 of the Wire and we’re still really enjoying it. I can see why people say this is one of the best TV shows of all time. I think there are 5 seasons all up so I’m looking forward to watching the remaining two.

In between The Wire we watched season 3 of Daredevil on Netflix. I fucking love Daredevil! I’m not a comic book person, but I LOVED season one, and although I thought season 2 was boring and a let down overall, season 3 was SO GOOD. I was on the edge of my seat for most of it. I think whether or not you care about superheroes, if you like a good drama I’m sure you’ll like this. Although Mark broke the news to me the other day that it’s been cancelled and I’m devastated! Apparently Disney (who own Marvel) are gearing up to launch their own streaming service, and it seems they’re going to take away some of the best shows on Netflix in the process.

For something quick and lighthearted we’ve been watching Kim’s Convenience which is a comedy about a Korean family who own a convenience store in Toronto. It’s fun seeing parts of the city that you recognise in the show, including the actual convenience store which is a real shop on Queen St East, and it definitely got funnier in the second season.

In My Secret Life  |  LITTLE HENRY LEE
In My Secret Life  |  LITTLE HENRY LEE

Birthday flowers from early October.

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Because I LOVED Call Me By Your Name so much, I had to see Beautiful Boy with Timothee Chalamet in it, and while I enjoyed the movie overall it was definitely a different take on a story of addiction. Large parts of it focus on the father’s perspective and it feels like the story is mostly about him and it would cut to Timothee Chalamet’s character without much emotional buildup around the situation he was facing. While any movie that prompts conversation on the difficult subject of addition is typically a good thing, in terms of my enjoyment of the movie there are others I’ve seen that I personally found more impactful. Mid90s is one I barely knew anything about before seeing it except that it’s Jonah Hill’s directorial debut, but I think it was a really strong movie and it’s one I enjoyed a lot. It’s about a 13 year old who makes friends with some teenage skater kids to escape his abusive home life, and it’s happy, funny, shocking and sad all in one. Plus the music in it (as well as in Beautiful Boy) was great!

In My Secret Life  |  LITTLE HENRY LEE
 

Movies

The bank we use in Canada has a partnership with the leading cinema franchise, so for every dollar we spend we accumulate points that allow us to see movies for free. There’s also a cinema a few minutes walk from our place, so we’ve seen a tonne of movies in the last few weeks because we’re trying to use all our points before we leave! Of the 7 movies I have to talk about, The Hate U Give was definitely the one that had the biggest impact on me. I haven’t read the book because I’m not generally interested in young adult fiction, but after seeing the movie I’m going to give it a read. Honestly I cried through most of it, it was so heartbreaking but so well done and if you see any of the movies I talk about I really encourage you to choose this one. I also didn’t realise the title was a 2pac reference until I saw the movie, and having been a fan of him since I was 13 that was an extra layer that I appreciated.

The next movie that really stood out to me was Green Book. We saw the trailer while watching another movie and thought it looked interesting, and it was even better than I was expecting. Again, it deals with themes of racism and prejudice, but in 1960s America during the civil rights movement. I didn’t realise it was a true story until they showed photos of the real people at the end, and I think they told the story in a very affecting way that was both terribly sad, but also quite funny in parts too, without making light of a very serious issue.

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When we lived in Australia Mark used to go rock climbing with one of his friends all the time, so we decided to see Free Solo which is a documentary about Alex Honnold and his attempt to climb Yosemite National Park’s El Capitan mountain “free solo” which mean without a rope or harness. So basically, if he makes one wrong move he will fall to his death. It’s a pretty intense documentary because unless you know about him already (which I didn’t) you genuinely don’t know what’s going to happen. I will say that putting aside his incredible athletic ability he is a very weird dude and his girlfriend is practically a saint for putting up with him, because I certainly wouldn’t!

Now onto two movies I frankly didn’t enjoy as much as I hoped I would. We saw First Man which on paper sounds like something I would love – it’s the story of the moon landing with Neil Armstrong played by Canada’s own Gosso (Ryan Gosling). The directorial style of this movie just isn’t really my thing, I didn’t hate it but I didn’t love it either. I felt like 90% of the movie was in extreme close-up and that wasn’t really necessary, and there were parts that were quite slow. I will say they did do a great job of building suspense as we all KNOW he makes it there and back safely, but it does have you on the edge of your seat at times, but ultimately it wasn’t a stand-out for me.

Lastly, against my better judgement we saw Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald which I had a feeling would be pretty shit, and I was right. Ultimately anything beyond the original Harry books & movies is irrelevant to me, and although I didn’t mind the first Fantastic Beasts movie, I didn’t think it was anything special so I didn’t have high hopes for this. The first 80% is perfectly fine, but the ending makes absolutely no sense. We went with friends and were all talking about it after and just couldn’t figure out what the point of the movie was other than to be a set up for the next movie. Also - enough with the stupid nifflers ~causing mayhem, it’s so predicable! Oh, and fuck Johnny Depp.

In My Secret Life  |  LITTLE HENRY LEE

As Ever: Collected Letters of Allen Ginsberg and Neal Cassady

The title of this is pretty self-explanatory, and although I know quite a lot about the writers of the Beat Generation, these was definitely some new information for me in here. I didn’t really have a full grasp of what Neal & Allen’s relationship was like early on, but reading their letters to each other was very helpful. I recently read a biography by Carolyn Cassady (Neal’s long-suffering wife) and several stories and quotes in her book were corroborated in these letters.

The Kerouac We Knew by John Montgomery

This was a very thin little book I picked up in a second hand store in Chicago. I didn’t know anything about this before I laid eyes on it, but it seems that several of Kerouac’s friends and drinking buddies during the later years of his life each wrote their thoughts about him and the friendship they shared. I’m sure this is very rare and there wouldn’t be many copies in the world (there’s not much of a market for this, believe it or not) but I really enjoyed it and I’m so glad I found it.

Good Blonde & Others by Jack Kerouac

I’ve read just about all of Kerouac’s books now, and was never particularly drawn to this one which is why I’m only getting around to reading it now. I’m not generally a fan of short stores or excerpts of writing (I much prefer novels) but I actually liked this collection of Kerouac’s works much more than I thought I would, and I wish I had read it earlier because it exceeded my expectations.

Books

Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman

I absolutely adored the movie when I saw it earlier this year (and even more the second time around), but I wasn’t entirely convinced that the subtleties that I loved so much in the movie could be translated into words. The movie just about makes you feel the warmth of the Italian summer sun, but it also has the unfair advantage of visuals that the book certainly can’t match. The book is also written from Elio’s perspective so we know what he is thinking the whole time, whereas the movie is told from the perspective of someone observing the events, so we can only imagine what is running through each character’s head. What I loved is that the movie was very faithful to the book and a lot of the conversations that were so poignant in the movie are taken word for word from the book. Between the two my heart still lies with the movie but I enjoyed reading this.  

Half of a Yellow Sun
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I didn’t know much about this book going in except that I like the author, but it was a heartbreaking and eye-opening read. Not only does it cover relationships, love, marriage and family politics, it also discusses the effects of colonialism in Nigeria, wealth and education divides, and most significantly, the character’s experiences during the Nigerian-Biafran War. Admittedly, this was a part of history I knew nothing about before reading this book, but it was devastating to learn about. The characters are very real and flawed, and the more I read from Adichie the more convinced I am of her power and skill as a writer. 

In My Secret Life  |  LITTLE HENRY LEE
In My Secret Life  |  LITTLE HENRY LEE

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

This book tells the dysfunctional and often sad story of each of the five members of the Lambert family, however it’s also very funny at the same time. It’s quite a conflicting read because several of the characters aren’t very likeable, but once you ready their backstory it’s much easier to see why they are the way they are (to a degree). I didn’t especially relate to any of the characters but I did recognise them, and really enjoyed Franzen’s writing style. This was my first of his books and he reminds me a lot of Jonathan Safran Foer, who is a writer I love, so I’d like to read more from him.

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In My Secret Life  |  LITTLE HENRY LEE

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Like Things Fall Apart this is one I had been meaning to read since high school. After it was made into a TV series recently (which I’m sure you’ve all heard about) it brought it back to mind for me and I decided to finally read it. Although I enjoy dystopian fiction it’s not a genre I go back to over and over again, and I’ve really only read the highlights (this, 1984, Fahrenheit 451). Obviously if you’re aware of the premise you’ll understand that story differs from others in the genre as it’s a very female-oriented story told from a woman’s perspective. The world the protagonist lives in (we never learn her real name) is particularly horrifying, and I found the story quite original. I’ve not watched the TV series yet because I wanted to read this first but hopefully I’ll find the time it watch it soon.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Abeche

This is a book I’ve been meaning to read since high school but have only gotten around to it now. It tells the story of Okonkwo, his family and their village. He’s very much an alpha-male whose bases his identity on his strength and masculinity, and is often cruel to the people around him. He’s not a likeable character, but that’s not really the point. This is considered one of the most important works in African literature because it was one of the first books to tell story of the colonisation and subsequent destruction of the lives of the Igbo people from an African perspective. Given the horrors of that particular part of human history, it’s very important to learn about it from an Igbo perspective, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who is also Igbo, has talked about how this book influenced her writing as well, so I’m glad I finally read it.

In My Secret Life  |  LITTLE HENRY LEE
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 Castro by Reinhard Kleist

Having loved Reinhard Kleist’s graphic novels about Nick Cave and Johnny Cash, when I saw he’d also written one about Castro I thought it would be fitting to read it since we travelled to Cuba this year. As someone who really doesn’t really many graphic novels or comics, I’m no expert, but I really love this writer and he’s definitely given me a greater appreciation for the form.

 Pretty Honest by Sali Hughes

This is a bit of an outlier for me as I don’t tend to read books about beauty, but I really like Sali Hughes and think she’s very funny, relateable and down-to-earth, so if I were going to read a beauty book it seemed fitting it would be one of hers. I think this would probably make a great gift for someone who doesn’t consider themselves a beauty expert but would like to learn more. It’s definitely not just aimed at teenagers so I think people in any age bracket could benefit from reading this.

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In My Secret Life  |  LITTLE HENRY LEE
In My Secret Life  |  LITTLE HENRY LEE