Monthly Archives: October 2015

Sails on the Bay and the Grill and Grape.

Two wonderful occasions, two excellent meals. Treasured memories of Alan’s birthday celebrations.

This birthday had not started out well. Alan had gastro, then the flu followed by a nasty cold. Paul and Marian had arranged for a special meal out at Sails on the Bay at Elwood and Jason and Karen in Queensland had sent an online voucher for dinner for two at The Grill and Grape at Hampton. Unfortunately both had to be cancelled. Alan was far too poorly to appreciate or savor a good meal at this stage. He was living on small amounts of home made chicken broth and dry toast. Not the sort of thing you have to celebrate a special occasion.

Later, when Alan’s tasted buds had recovered, Paul and Marian took us to Sails on the Bay. The following Friday evening we booked using Jason and Karen’s voucher at the Grill and Grape. The menus at both places were superb.

4 people (3)           grape

At Sails we had an entree of *Barramundi ceviche, jalapeno, coriander, lime & avocado followed by delicious, melt in the mouth, braised beef. At the Grill and Grape we enjoyed delicious Calamari with rocket and pear salad followed by a well cooked paella chock full of fresh ingredients. At both restaurants  we enjoyed an excellent shiraz.

food  sails   wine

I’m sure these uplifting outings ensured that Alan had a complete and speedy recovery. There is nothing better than an excellent atmosphere, fabulous surroundings, good food and wine to reassure you that you have returned to the land of the living and good times lie ahead. We feel incredibly fortunate.

sails 2       card

family                IMG_3429


A family is like a circle
the connection never ends
and even if at times it breaks
in time it always mends
A family is like a book
the endings never clear
but through the pages of the book
love is always near

Yesterday a special friend bought me a huge bunch of purple statice flowers. How wonderful to be able to spread the joy by giving others something to brighten their day



Wendy J Dunn: The Light in the Labyrinth

I am delighted to be able to showcase the inspiring books and successful career of my long time writing friend and colleague, Wendy Dunn.

Wendy J. Dunn is an Australian writer who has been obsessed by Anne Boleyn and Tudor History since she was ten-years-old. Born in Melbourne,  Australia, Wendy is married and the mother of three sons and one daughter. Her fabulous author website is well worth a visit .

Wendy J. Dunn

She is the author of the published Tudor novels,  Dear Heart, How Like You This?, the winner of the 2003 Glyph Fiction Award and 2004 runner up in the Eric Hoffer Award for Commercial Fiction, and The Light in the Labyrinth, her first young adult novel. Paperbacks are $16.99 at . They can also be downloaded as a kindle book.  Dear Heart How Like You This? costs $2.99 and The Light in The Labyrinth is currently $5.99. Both books would make excellent Christmas presents.

While Wendy continues to have a very close and spooky relationship with Sir Thomas Wyatt, she no longer wonders if she has been channeling Anne Boleyn and Sir Tom for years in her writing, but instead is considering the possibility of ancestral memory. Her own family tree reveals the intriguing fact that her ancestors – possibly over three generations – had purchased land from both the Boleyn and Wyatt families to build up their own holdings. It seems very likely Wendy’s ancestors knew the Wyatts and Boleyns personally.

Sir Thomas Wyatt (1) by Hans Holbein the Younger.jpg

Wendy tutors at Swinburne University in their Master of Arts (Writing) program. She also works as a literature support teacher at a primary school. Her credentials are inspiring. She has a BA Dip Ed Grad Dip MA and PhD in Creative Writing


The Light in the Labyrinth
Author: Wendy J Dunn
Publisher: Metropolis Ink
ISBN: 9780980721928

Pages: 340

A Queen fights for her life.

A King denies his heart and soul.

A girl faces her true identity.

All things must come to an end—all things but love.

“…The Light in the Labyrinth is quite the read – no matter the age of the reader. And yes, thanks to Kate, a new voice has been added to the well-known haunting melody – a voice that mellows and matures as the story evolves and yet retains a touch of bittersweet innocence right to the bloody, inevitable end.” – Anna

IN THE WINTER OF 1535, fourteen-year-old Kate Carey wants to escape her family home. She thinks her life will be so much better with Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife and the aunt she idolises. Little does Kate know that by going to attend Anne Boleyn she will discover love and a secret that will shake the very foundations of her identity. An attendant to Anne Boleyn, Kate is also swept up in events that see her witness her aunt’s darkest days. By the time winter ends, Kate will be changed forever.

At I was delighted to see that The Light in the Labyrinth had 52 customer reviews. The most interesting was a review by Anna B
          An Extract of  Anna’s Review
When The Light in the Labyrinth landed on my desk, I was somewhat hesitant. Yet another book about Anne Boleyn, this enigmatic lady who so enthralled the king that he broke with the Holy Church for her sake – what new insights could possibly be offered? One chapter into the book, I no longer cared about new insights. I cared about prickly, confused Kate, Anne Boleyn’s fourteen-year-old niece.Katherine Carey is a resentful, angry young girl. She considers her mother a fool for marrying beneath her, she is jealous of her new half-siblings, condescending of her commoner step-father and the only thing little Kate wants is to go to court and serve her adored aunt, Queen Anne. In Kate’s book, Anne is everything her own mother is not: fashionable, witty, powerful – and of course, extraordinarily happy, now that she has achieved her ambitions and become queen.

Kate’s mother, Mary, does not want her to go to court, but at long last she relents, even if her demeanour clearly shows Kate just how much her mother hates letting her go – or is it fear that causes her mother’s face to pale? Kate doesn’t care. She is going to London, to live with the queen and to finally see her brother, Harry, who for the last few years has lived at court, despite being younger than Kate. She vaguely recalls her mother’s distress when Harry was taken from her – several years ago – to be brought up elsewhere, and she doesn’t quite understand why her brother was so brutally separated from his family, but conveniently blames her mother for it. In Kate’s opinion, everything is her mother’s fault – a typical adolescent reaction.

It is rather fitting that Kate enters London via London Bridge, having to ride below the garish display of the rotting heads of the king’s executed enemies. She is entering a dark world, a labyrinth of conspiracies and undercurrents, and very soon Kate’s entire universe will be severely rocked as she uncovers secrets about herself – and about the court. Even worse, it does not take Kate long to understand that her beloved aunt is far from happy. In fact, Queen Anne is distraught, living her days on a knife-edge of fear and hope – hope that she might yet give the king a son, fear of what he’ll do if she doesn’t.

While it is Anne Boleyn’s subsequent fall from grace that is the main theme of the book, this is really the story of how Kate grows from a truculent difficult child to a very young woman of integrity and courage – brave enough to confront the king, mature enough to see in him a confused and angry man who no longer knows who to trust.

In Kate, Ms Dunn gives us a complex and credible character, one it is easy to love and care for, despite her initial despicable behaviour towards her mother and step-father. Forced by circumstances to take on far more responsibility than she is ready for, Kate more than rises to the challenge, even in those moments when all she experiences is suffocating fear. The story is told in third person, consistently from Kate’s perspective, but here and there the author has inserted Kate’s own thoughts, taken from her secret journal, and these first person passages add depth to Kate’s personality.

Had The Light in the Labyrinth only dealt with Queen Anne’s unhappy end, it would have made for quite the dreary read, no matter how much life Ms Dunn blows into her cast of characters. Fortunately, she has added a sweet and innocent romance between Kate and her future husband Francis. All that teenager angst that goes in hand in hand with first love is excellently depicted – and quite, quite timeless, causing this reader to smile in recognition.

Ms Dunn has obviously expended a lot of effort on her research. It shines through every casual description of rooms and gardens, clothes and pastimes. A myriad of characters populate these pages, but Ms Dunn does a good job of only properly introducing the truly important, while the rest blend into the colourful background of scheming courtiers and invisible servants. Even more important – and especially in a book aimed at a YA audience – all this information is expertly woven into the fabric of the tale, thereby avoiding any heavy-handed “info-dumps”.

All in all, The Light in the Labyrinth is quite the read – no matter the age of the reader. And yes, thanks to Kate, a new voice has been added to the well-known haunting melody – a voice that mellows and matures as the story evolves and yet retains a touch of bitter-sweet innocence right to the bloody, inevitable end. It is with regret I close the covers on Kate’s story, and I can but doff my cap and applaud Ms Dunn for a work most well done!


Glyph Award 2003 ABPA Dear Heart How Like You This

A woman who sees her destiny as England‘s Queen.

A King who destroys what he no longer wants.

A poet’s love that will never be forgotten.

May, 1536. The poet Sir Thomas Wyatt, released from imprisonment in the Tower of London, is in his father’s custody. From almost the beginning of his life, Tom has loved his cousin Anne Boleyn, content to sit at her feet while she sang her love songs to another, if doing so gave him just a moment in her company. Now he is heartsick and despairing, having witnessed her juridical murder by Henry VIII. Only wanting to escape from the recent memories now rending his heart, Tom recounts his story, a story which narrates too the tragic tale of Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII.

Dear Heart, How Like You This? ~ “Seriously one of the best books
ever written about Anne Boleyn.”

I know that Wendy is currently writing her third book and I can’t wait to read it. I wish her every success in her writing career

books quote

Aussie Damper, Pumpkin Soup, Drunken Berries and Goodwill

Writer’s possess a ‘writer’s eye’. We see the world as raw material for our writing. We also involve exercising our ‘writer’s muscle’ to unravel and decipher what we see.

I had no intention of writing a blog about recipes but somehow, when I sat at this computer and started tapping away, that’s what came out. This has been a week of coughs and colds, sneezing and  snuffling. Thoroughly miserable stuff, but my little pocket handkerchief garden and my journal are my life savers. When feeling low, or struggling with health issues or other problems they are my refuge. I don’t care that my vegetables will never amount to much or make it to any show. The sight of them uplifts and sustains me when I need them most. They make me get outside and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. They even give me a good laugh and we all know how therapeutic that can be.

A self-sown pumpkin decided to make my small suburban garden its home and quickly proceeded to take over. I’m sure it grew a meter a day and I felt like Jill and the beanstalk. After it had strangled a prized rose I decided it had to go. I raised the knife ready to slash and destroy but suddenly saw, hidden under the leaves, a multitude of baby pumpkins. It continued to thrive and we’ve had baked pumpkin, pumpkin pie, pumpkin scones but the family favorite is pumpkin soup served with damper hot from the oven. I hope you enjoy.


        flower                                   trail  pumkin 2


Sauté 3 rashers of chopped bacon
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic. Put to one side.
Cut up a whole pot full of pumpkin, just cover with water and boil until soft.
Add 1 tin tomatoes and sautéed bacon, onion and garlic.
Cook 10 mins.
Add a good pinch of nutmeg.
When cool, puree (in a nutri bullet, viamizer or stick beater/bamix)

Always heat gently with a lid on as it tends to ‘pop’ like a Rotorua mud pool and your stove will never be the same again.
Serve with a swirl of cream


Damper is a traditional Australian bush bread, that was once cooked over an open fire. It’s easy and has few ingredients. There are various versions available from the most basic (flour, salt, water) through to the later versions adding butter, etc. for flavour.

damper  damper 2

If you do not have a camp oven heating on an open fire you will need to preheat your oven to very hot.

In a large mixing bowl place
3 cups self-raising flour, and a pinch of salt.
Mix with milk (or water) until it is the consistency of a scone dough. (if you like a lighter consistency, add a beaten egg)
Quickly place on floured board and with just a few twists into the center of dough, knead into a round flat loaf shape. I like to score the top with the back of a knife into even wedges/segments. Place on the top rung in very hot oven for 15 mins. You know it is cooked when you tap the top and it sounds hollow
Break into pieces to serve.

The secret is to make this as quickly as possible, throw onto a floured tray and pop it into a very hot oven for a short time and serve immediately. I usually make it while the soup is slowly heating.

Damper is a traditional Australian soda bread prepared by swagmen, drovers, stockmen and other travellers. It consists of a wheat flour based bread, traditionally baked in the coals of a campfire. Damper is an iconic Australian dish. It is also made in camping situations in New Zealand, and has been for many decades.

Damper was originally developed by stockmen who travelled in remote areas for weeks or months at a time, with only basic rations of flour, sugar and tea, supplemented by whatever meat was available.[1]The basic ingredients of damper were flour, water, and sometimes milk. Baking soda could be used for leavening. The damper was normally cooked in the ashes of the camp fire. The ashes were flattened and the damper was placed in there for ten minutes to cook. Following this, the damper was covered with ashes and cooked for another 20 to 30 minutes until the damper sounded hollow when tapped. Alternatively, the damper was cooked in a greased camp oven. Damper was eaten with dried or cooked meat or golden syrup, also known as “cocky’s joy”.

Damper is also a popular dish with Indigenous Australians. Aboriginal women had traditionally made bush bread from seasonal grains and nuts, which they cooked in the ashes of fires. It also became a popular dish for recreational campers and has become available in bakeries. Many variations and recipes exist, some authentic, others using the name to sell a more palatable bread product to the urban public.

How to get the party going

Our family needed to discuss a serious issue and everyone came to our house. We were all on our best behavior. The roast dinner went down well but everyone was very formal and no one was prepared to broach the difficult subject. Later I was glad I’d decided to serve


strawberries        strawberries5        berries 5

On the morning of the day before my family arrived I marinated
2 boxes of fresh strawberries in
1 tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
1 cup strawberry liqueur.

Later in the day I added (fresh or frozen)
Blackberries and raspberries
Covered them with sherry and refrigerated overnight

Serve with vanilla or chocolate ice cream and, if you have it, a wedge of orange cake soaked in the marinade. Make sure to give everyone an ample serve using all the liquid.

Later, after we had all enjoyed several helpings of dessert the conversation became animated and everyone had the courage to speak his or her mind. Our problem soon turned from a mountain into a molehill and everyone went home happy.


Nothing Sacred

Nothing Sacred, a verse novel by Linda Weste was launched at Museo Italiano last Wednesday.

Nothing Sacred is a novel written in free verse poems. This imaginative work of fiction evokes the lives of characters including Clodia Metelli, Clodius Pulcher, Catullus, Cicero, Caesar, Caelius and Pompey during 66–42BCE, the final decades of the period of antiquity known as late Republican Rome. It can be bought from Scholarly Publishing for $24.95. Just follow the link.

Poems by Linda Weste have been published in Best Australian Poetry and Australian literary journals. She lives in Melbourne. Nothing Sacred: a novel in verse set in late republican Rome, is her first novel. The book was launched by Dr Paul Skrebels previously from Adelaide University and was attended by Associate professor Marion Campbell of Melbourne University along with many writing friends.

Dr Linda Weste holds an MCW and PhD in creative writing from the University of Melbourne, and is a recipient of the Felix Meyer Scholarship for Creative Writing. Her creative practice includes poetry and historical verse novels.

Linda read several poems and finished with WOULD BE SACRED on page 105.

‘He who ruminates on the entrails of birds

Has us by the balls’

Caesar rolls his eyes as he dismisses

The bevy of soothsayers from his pillared halls

Linda’s words evoke stirring images. We feel the work as we read it and the poetry makes the Roman experience a real artistic truth.

Lygon St Carlton was buzzing with people out to have a good time, eating, drinking, and catching up with friends. I’d traveled from Carrum to attend the launching of a book by writing friend Linda Weste.  I had never even heard of the Museo Italiano in Faraday Street and I couldn’t wait to find out more. From their website I saw that they are an Italian Resource Centre showcasing the Italian migrant experience.

Museo Italiano displays and interprets the experience of Italian migration, and the culture created by Italians in Australia. Italians come from many different backgrounds. with strong regional affiliations that continue to inform Italian-Australian identities. Italians departed from Italy for many reasons to seek opportunities in the New World. Italian-Australians have developed a unique culture by relating their traditions, knowledge and customs to local contents and values.

I noticed they had a photographic exhibition about the migrant camp at Bonegilla. Recently I’d stayed with friends who live on a farm at Wodonga and they had taken me to see what was left of the old Bonegilla  Migrant Camp. Only a few huts remain but volunteers were working to restore them. Unfortunately, when I arrived for the launch I was told that the Bonegilla exhibition had been taken down that day. Such is life. I’ll make sure I see it next time.

Wandering around the many rooms looking at all the photographs lining the walls my mind went back to how much Australia owes to these hardworking migrants who helped shaped this country. I remember many years ago sitting in the sidecar of my father’s belt driven Indian motor bike. We struggled up a steep the hill near Rowville and waved back to a line of Italian prisoners of war walking along the road. Years later it was Italian migrant, Guliano Maionchi and his unlimited hospitality when I visited his orchard in Sommerville. His Palamino sherries and dry ginger sipped under a cool grapevine arbor were legendary.  He gave my two boys a calf called Moosle who followed them everywhere they went.

Walking around the Museo Italiano, seeing the now familiar scarf covered heads of the women and hard working men I reflected on how much Australian culture had gained from the input of migrants such as these.

To attend Linda’s book launch was a highlight of the week. To see and understand the wonderful work done at the Museo Italiano to validate and promote Italian/Australian culture over the years was an added bonus.