Tag Archives: family

May 2019 Be Kind To You All

Another Christmas and New Year have been and gone. I’m always amazed at how quickly time flies. The lead up to Christmas is hectic, the holiday season is fun and the wind-down enjoyable. But now we have to pick up the threads and get stuck into this brand new year.

I love this old postcard with a traditional Scottish toast wishing everyone well for the coming year. Here it is for friends and family. I wish you all well and every happiness in the year ahead.

It will be a full year of teaching, writing, book launches (others, not mine because I’m still working on my 3rd book ) and attending writing groups, giving workshops on How To Write A Memorable Memoir, and attending conferences etc. The passion is still there.

  

Marketing is always a problem. There are so many books now available on Amazon and Kindle that my two books, Pickle to Pie and Something Missing are now well down the ladder and I simply don’t know how to breathe new life into them. However, I am eternally grateful for all they have given me and my academic journey means I am alumni to Monash, Melbourne and Swinburne Universities. Fantastic.

However, at this brand new start to this new year my horizons are broader. I am optimistic that as the world gets smaller so our hearts will get larger and we will embrace people different to us and wish them peace

Family is very important to us. Our eldest son and wife left for a snowy Christmas in the USA and Canada and sent photos and texted often. We have the grand-dogs for company while they are away. Our youngest son, wife and two grandchildren drove down from Queensland for a great Christmas get -together. He did all the cooking and we had a lovely time. We played Uno and swam in the canal. The memories will keep me warm during our cold winter months but for now I’m simply enjoying life and taking advantage of every moment of sunshine, warmth and Summer living.

Patterson Lakes comes alive during these warm days. People have barbecues, sit on their deck drinking coffee (or something stronger) and watching the kayaks paddle past on the waterway outside our doors.  The birds are a joy to watch as they swoop and play. We see pelicans, sooty terns, swifts, ducks…even the laughing duck and the ever present seagulls squabbling for anything left over. The plover’s call at night lulls us to sleep.

May you all have a wonderful year filled with happiness and joy

  

Our Australian Christmas 2016

Christmas was filled with sun, sand and happiness and lovely gifts.

We caught up with so many family and friends and Jason, Karen, Tahlia and Caxton were here for a very special Christmas morning.  A night boat trip around the canals to see the Christmas lights was a highlight.
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 Christmas morning the sun shone through the window and the seagulls made a racket hoping there would be some interesting treats later in the day. They were not disappointed. Santa bought bikes and under the tree were toys and games. Wrapping paper was quickly torn away to reveal hidden treasures.

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Boxing day both our sons and daughters -in-law were with us plus Alan’s sister, Betty, John , Carol-Anne and Margaret.

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We cut the cake from my Book Launch. At the book launch on the 11th December Wendy Dunn presented me with a fantastic book-shaped cake with the front cover of Something Missing proudly displayed on top. I couldn’t bear to cut it so froze it to share with my Queensland family.gold-coast-family

New Years Eve we were caressed by the last rays of the evening sun and joined other families sitting on the sand to watch the sun slowly sink beyond the blue waters of Port Phillip Bay. Later, jet skis dashed past, well out of the way of the many swimmers enjoying the welcome coolness of the water. Children played cricket until it was too dark to see the ball while others enjoyed the swings, slides and other activities at the beach-side Keast Park foreshore playground.

In the darkness at home we lit a brassier filled with pine cones, ran along the sand waving sparklers in either hand and popped party poppers. The multitude of  colourful streamers covered our outdoor deck.

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How wonderful to start a brand new year. It feels like opening a special new book with empty pages just begging for some interesting events to be recorded.

May 2017 be a year of fun, good health and happiness.  With fingers crossed we all made New Year resolutions. Hopefully they will last…at least until February.

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Happy New Year to all fellow bloggers.

May all your writing dreams come true in 2017.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

PUMPKIN SOUP AND CRUSTY DAMPER

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PUMPKIN SOUP

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

AUSSIE DAMPER

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.

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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

DRUNKEN BERRIES

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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)
Blueberries
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.

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ANZAC Day 2015: The Solitary Soldier

One hundred years of memories.

Recently I was approached by a 97 year old friend, Margaret who wanted me to help her collate extracts of letters, photos and artefacts from WW1 for a book for her family. I thought she may have a couple of letters etc. When she arrived with a bag filled to the brim with faded letters, diaries, photos, cartoons and coins I realized she had an invaluable record of what life was like for the everyday Australian foot soldier during World War One.

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Margaret managed to print several copies of letter extracts and memorabilia at Officeworks to give to the family on the 100th Anniversary of the ANZAC landing. It was a labour of love.

Writers are always trying to see things from another’s perspective and as I read the letters, some written in pencil, others in fading ink that Margaret’s father sent to his mother I found myself asking the questions that nag all writers: How, When, Where and Why? But the biggest question of all was,  ‘What if … What if Margaret’s father had not returned, like so many other men… How would Margaret’s mother (a young fiancée at the time) have felt after losing him.’  How did all those women, forever bonded by the loss of a loved one in a universal sisterhood  feel year after year? The result was the following story.

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MY SOLDIER

 ANZAC day. The last post has long sounded. The plaintive call lingered in the early morning mist and slowly died as the first flush of dawn lightened the sky. The speeches are over, marchers gone. I bend to touch the delicate blossoms placed at the base of the tall granite column. Blossoms that will soon fade and die. Red roses, bright camellias and a handpicked bunch of hardy daisies that will outlive the others by a mile. How many years have I come to this spot? Too many to remember. Beauty Spot, it is called. An integral part of Carrum, right on the mouth of the Patterson River. A place where mothers bring their toddlers to play and fishermen sit on the low stonewall dreaming of the catch of a lifetime. There is the fresh clean smell of salt and spray: a fitting place to close the eyes and dream of what might have been, to remember the handsome face, coiled puttees, kaki clad faded figure in the ornate frame over the fireplace.

The diamond you slipped on my finger that wintry night in June flashed promise and hope. The dream of manly boots next to my fluffy slippers. A line full of nappies and a cradle to rock. The joy of a family to cook for, a family to love.

That last night we danced and clung to each other before we hurried home to the rented two-roomed flat. The next morning the gate squeaked and I wept into my pillow.

I quietly read the words forever-inscribed in stone. To the imperishable memory of the soldiers of this district that gave their lives… Simple heartfelt words from a grateful community. I am always surprised at his simplicity. This is not an ostentatious crowded statue with flags flying and rifles raised in anger.

Here is one solitary soldier standing upright and alone, hand gripping his rifle barrel, the butt resting on the ground. At ease, but ready and waiting for…, what?

I have never known war, but when I gaze at him I can smell the acrid smoke, hear the whistle of shells and the cries as mates fall. I have lived my life under sunny skies and yet I can identify with his quiet sadness, his overwhelming sense of loss. The telegram read, ‘We regret to inform you that corporal T K Wells VX1068 of the AIF Infantry…’ I thought of planting a tree. At least then there would be something living and growing.

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Recently I drove in heated comfort past an Avenue of Honour where row upon military row of silent trees flashed past in the kaki haze of a misty morning. Tall old trees, some over fifty years, planted when young soldiers fell. They no longer stood at the edge of endless paddocks. Ballarat was running out to embrace them, to include them into the teeming life of what is now a city. There were so many trees. Each one a son, daughter or husband and I saw the ghosts of their kin stretching back as far as the horizon. Like a stone in a pond, so may lives caught up, like mine, in the far-reaching circles of the wars to end all wars.

I was shell-shocked for months until it finally seeped into my unwilling brain that you would never again be by my side, your arm around my waist as you kissed everything better. But life goes on and I have known love. Not your love but the worn tartan slippers beside mine in front of the dying fire are comfortable.

I shiver as I gaze up at the long list of names etched into cold stone and run trembling fingers over the rough rock. So many did not survive to witness this new millennium, to drink in the beauty of spring blossoms, or to come here year after year. I gaze up at his strong young face and wonder what he would think of my knotted veined hand pressed against my heart. Time shall not weary them…

The glow in the west bathes him in gold as I sit and dream. And there’s talk about moving him. Some people want a car park, others, townhouses with sweeping bay views. Cart him away to some easily forgotten spot? Over my dead body. I’ll not let them take my soldier. Not this time.

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