27 before 28 – birthday list review

One of my favourite things about my birthday each year is reflecting on my ‘birthday list’ and brainstorming ideas for my next one. I turned 28 earlier this month, here’s my review of my 27 before 28 list.

Things I completed:

Safari in Samburu

We celebrated our birthdays this year with a long weekend up in Samburu. And after four years in Kenya, we saw a leopard! Two leopards!

Start my Masters

Check! One year down, one gazillion to go:)

Send handwritten letters

Well, kind of. I sent a handful of handwritten postcards and cards. Forever a fan of real mail.

Read 10 books from the Rory Gilmore list

Is this totally cheesy? It was a fun way to find new books and read some classics I might not necessarily have made time from. I read 1. Year of Magical Thinking, 2. Heart of Darkness, 3. Living History, 4. The Secret Life of Bees, 5. Flowers for Algernon, 6. One Hundred Years of Solitude, 7. You Learn By Living, 8. How to Breathe Underwater, 9. House of Sand and Fog and 10. Pride and Prejudice.

And I absolutely loved Year of Magical Thinking, The Secret Life of Bees and Flowers for Algernon.

Print 5 new photos

I still haven’t printed a handful of travel photos we want to hang up, but I’ve got some great photos of friends up on our fridge now:)

Lasagna on the 18th

I don’t know if I can really count this one as done as I only made lasagna a few times, instead of twelve, and I think I only made it on the 18th once. But

Year 3 of the One Line a Day diary

One of the best little memory keeping activities.

Say yes!


Take a hot bath

And it was glorious!

Put myself out there work wise

I’ve been happily employed this past year, and that’s a great feeling.

Continue my ethical wardrobe

Most of my new purchases continue to be second-hand, more eco-friendly, or more ethically sourced. I say most, because there have been a few purchases that have slipped through, but even living in Kenya it has been possible to make my wardrobe better!

Long walks with Rum

More, but still not enough.

More cuddles with Will


Less Facebook, more email

No Facebook on my phone

Eat at five new Nairobi restaurants

Maybe the easiest item on the list? There are new restaurants opening up here every month, and everyone knows I love my food.

Get organized (outer order = inner calm)

This planner has been my lifesaver this year.

End our use of ‘one-use’ plastic

No more clingwrap, and no more disposable plates. Lots of recycling of take away containers.

Eat the Kengeles steak


Get rid of 30 things

I didn’t keep track, but I can be a fairly ruthless purger when it comes down to it.

As per every year, there were a handful of things that I didn’t get done. Too busy, too lazy, clearly didn’t want to do them enough! But every year there’s a new birthday list and there’s something thinking up new items for my birthday bucket list that I love.


June book report

This month I finished off the following four books. I enjoyed each of them in their own way – Better was my favourite (let’s face it, Gawande books will always be my favourite!) but I also really appreciated The Sleep Revolution. Did you know Roger Federer gets between 11 and 12 hours of sleep per night? I know 9 hours is the magic number for me, but I so rarely get it. I’m going to focus on that for the second half of this year.

Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance

After You

Lean In (reread)

The Sleep Revolution: Transforming You Life One Night at a Time

Head here for Jan – May 2016 book reports!

May book report

I felt like I spent every waking moment of May with my head in a textbook as I prepared for my exams in early June! But I managed to get some ‘for fun’ reading in as well, mostly thanks quick spurts of reading in the taxi to and from work.

In an effort to save some cash and capitalise on all the books I already own, I leaned heavily towards ‘rereading’ this month. I know some people never reread, but there is something really lovely about revisiting a book you already know you will thoroughly enjoy. I often find I enjoy a book even more the second time around – you pick up little things you may have missed and are reminded of all the reasons you enjoyed the plot the first time around.

Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence (reread)

Well, I got halfway through this. Ironic that I couldn’t focus on a book about focus? It was good the first time, and I’d love to reread the whole thing soon, but I just didn’t have the brainpower this month.

Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (reread)


Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity (reread)


Travelling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith (reread)

Thought provoking.

When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself

I’ve heard various people talk about this book, and finally read it for myself. I was hoping for some fresh insight, but it was a good refresher on a number of concepts/ideas/notions that are so key to good ‘development’ work.

Previous reports: January, February, March, April

April book report

As always, I’m amazed at how quickly this year is flying by. How is it already mid-May?

I read a lot in April (a streak which has not continued into May, I will confess!), so here’s a quick round up:

My Beloved World

I picked this book after it was mentioned in The Triple Package (which I read in March), and also because the Supreme Court was all over the news for a while after Scalia died. And while Sotomayor doesn’t actually write about her life after she was appointed to the Supreme Court, her early life is fascinating, at times heartbreaking, but also completely inspiring.

The Smartest Kids in the World: And how they got that way

After reading Finnish Lessons, this book popped up on my ‘recommended for you’ list on Amazon. It was less academic than Finnish Lessons and as such, perhaps more engaging, exploring a number of key issues in education through the eyes of three American students and backed up with interesting research.

Me Before You

I finally read this after reading rave reviews for ages. Perhaps it’s the rave reviews that lift expectations far too high? I enjoyed it, I wouldn’t rave about it, I felt like most of it was fairly predictable.

Pride and Prejudice (on the list)

How is this the very first time I’m reading Pride and Prejudice?? Loved it, of course, and already hunting down the 6 hour BBC film version on the recommendation of various friends.

The Importance of Being Earnest (reread)

Because it’s quick, light and funny, perfect for a dreary Nairobi commute.

The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House

I saw this recommended by Shauna Niequist on Instagram (along with The Big Short – below), which seems to be where I’m finding a handful of book recommendations lately. What an enjoyable read! Author Kate Andersen Brower brings together interviews with White House staff and former First ladies to give a glimpse into life in the White House.

First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies

Straight after The Residence, I dived into Andersen Brower’s second book on the White House, this time focused on the First Ladies who have graced its rooms. As a political science major, I especially appreciated reading some of the behind-the-scene action of major political events over the last couple of decades, from the perspective of the women who were most closely involved with the men making big decisions. Insightful and a pleasure to read.

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine

I didn’t quite understand all of the finance speak, but clever and engaging story telling that kept me hooked and up far too late one evening! I’m now also in the process of hunting down the film.

March book report

I read seven books in March: five non-fiction and two fiction novels, which seems to be my standard breakdown. I also finished my epidemiology textbook and all the required readings from my medical statistics textbook, but I’m leaving those off the list😉

Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul (reread)

The first time I read this, I was expecting a different angle and I  read it very quickly (too quickly!) and was perhaps disappointed. But the second time, I was able to read it for what it was and took a lot more away from it.

The Triple Package: What Really Determines Success

After rereading Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother in February, I was intrigued to read this next book by Amy Chua. Totally fascinating, totally the type of non-fiction I most enjoy – research and anecdotes and observations about social issues. I’ve been forever intrigued by Mormons and the longer I live overseas, the more interested I’ve become in American and immigrant cultures. This book was my favourite read in March.

House of Sand and Fog

A book off the reading challenge list I’m working through, I finally picked it up actually because it was mentioned in The Triple Package. It was a powerful story but it left me a depressed fog myself, and in hindsight I should of put it down and picked up something else a little cheerier rather than persevering through it.

Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife

What a title, right?! A powerful, shocking story about domestic violence – in the author’s marriage, but also in the wider church. I feel deeply that this is an issue that the church and the community needs to talk about more, to deal with so much better and to bring into the light. I have great admiration for Ruth Tucker for penning this book.

Finnish Lessons 2.0: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?

After 5 months working with an education NGO last year, I’ve been more and more interested in the field of education. I read an article on the Finnish system and based on this book a few years ago and it stuck with me – it was super interesting to then read about Finland’s success in much more detail. The simple logic of investing in teachers makes so much sense to me, and now I’m intrigued as to why other countries haven’t explored similar approaches.

The Nightingale

A beautiful, heart-breaking story and one of my favourite fiction reads this year. Recommended if you enjoy historical fiction set during the war years.

Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person

An easy and mostly enjoyable read, but I don’t think I’d recommend it. It felt rather self-indulgent and a little hard to connect to – many of the stories are very specific to the author’s life and lifestyle and I think it fell short when trying to inspire the wider audience.

Previous reports: January, February

February book report

I didn’t expect to keep up the reading streak after our January holiday, but our car has broken down and I’ve been taking taxis to work and suddenly I’ve found all this extra time to read (such a great silver lining!). I doubt I’ll keep up this speed for the rest of the year but gosh I’m reading some great books!

How to Breathe Underwater

This book is a collection of short stories. In reading it, I discovered I really like the’s writing style, but I’m really not a fan of short stories. As soon as they suck you in, they end. So short! So teasing! This was another one for my birthday list goal (read 10 books from this list).

Essentialism (reread)

I’m not sure what happened the first time I read Essentialism, but I got infinitely more out of the book reading it this time around. Practical and direct and wise, it had me questioning areas of my life and rethinking my routines and commitments.

When Breath Becomes Air

While Essentialism had me questioning my life, When Breath Becomes Air had me examining it to a whole new level. What would I do if I knew I only had ten, five, two years to live?

I wept through the final chapter of this book. Beautifully written, moving, challenging, inspiring. Highly recommended.

My name is Lucy Barton

I picked this because I saw it mentioned on a few blogs and instagram accounts I follow. I enjoyed it, but I wouldn’t rave over it. I didn’t ever make a strong emotional connection with the main character Lucy, and I think that’s where it fell apart a little for me.


Ah Atul Gawande. I will read everything and anything you write. I love his type of books – pulling together research and personal stories and clever ideas that give you a whole new insight into interesting topics.

You Learn by Living

Another book from the list. Wise words from a wise women.

The Invention of Wings

Sue Kidd Monk is quickly becoming my new favourite author. This book was amazing – I read well past my bed time a few nights in a row! It’s a moving and beautifully written fictionalised account of a true story, capturing the life of two young girl – Sarah, the daughter of a wealthy white family, and Hetty, an African-American slave girl presented to Sarah on her 12th birthday.

Brave Enough

A very quick, very easy read, picked because I enjoyed Wild and Tiny Beautiful Things, all by Cheryl Strayed. Probably better in a real book (vs. reading on a kindle)

Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence

After reading The Invention of Wings, I wanted to read something about the dark chapters in Australia’s history – a subject I shamefully know too little about. I picked Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence as it’s the basis of the well-known movie of a similar name. I usually don’t read book reviews before reading a book but happened to see a few were reviewers thought the movie was much better than the book (it’s usually the other way around, right?) I’m yet to see the film, but while the book captured the basic details of a profound and inspiring story, the writing was not equal to the subject matter and the book fell short for me and I found myself agreeing with most of the other reviewers!

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (reread)

Thought provoking and insightful and really rather funny if you catch on to the author’s self-parodical humour. I took away much food-for-thought on the idea of expectations – for ourselves, our families, our children.

Previous reports: January