April Update

Retired coming up to three and a half years ago and I still have a need to “achieve”. Small achievements are quite acceptable, but I don’t sleep well if there hasn’t been something successfully completed throughout each day. Mopping floors does not count yet mowing lawns does. Strange, isn’t it?

So where did April go?

Successful completion of #A-ZChallenge. Look out for Errol Flynn Trivia in 2023.

Attended a Soap Making Workshop. Attempted to repeat my efforts at home and nearly blew the house up. (Does that count ?)

Attended theatrical performance, a cabaret about Depression which was littered with humour.

Completed Harry’s Book Cart though after a few heated discussions it evolved from a bus to a fire engine. I just need to paint ladders on the sides.

Successfully mastered scones. Only took 45 years. Rosemary, Pecan Nut and Parmesan Cheese – to die for…….

Attended a concert : Troy Cassar-Daly and Ian Moss. Loved the former, the latter thinks he’s Brian May. Still, soaking up live music was wonderful, especially without a mask.

Mastered Egg Plant Lasagne. Still picking 6 or 7 aubergines a week so all new recipes are welcome.

Finished 2 books for the Gaia Reading Challenge, 2 for the Books That Made Us List, and 3 for Book Club. Reviews to come.

Planted pumpkins and tomatoes in vege garden. Bonus points because they are ALL still alive.

Painted patio and fence without any paint splatter on brickwork. Now that deserves a Gold Star!🌟


Most importantly, enjoyed my pots of tea watching those around me go to work. Boy, do I love retirement……


A Walk On The Wild Side

I have suffered mightily this week from a debilitating dose of midge bites that I collected during an early morning walk along a local tributary. I point this out because I could have stayed in bed eating honey on crumpets with a pot of tea, reading a trashy magazine focusing on Meghan Markle’s latest shenanigans or the breast enlargement/reduction of a so-called celebrity.

Instead I opted to walk in nature, smelling the Eucalypts, listening to bird song, and admiring spiderwebs. It’s all about mindfulness, being in the moment, and taking responsibility for your own health. A stupid mistake for which I am still paying. Look at my arm….

So what is a midge? Also known as no-see-ums  they are tiny flies, about the size of a pin head, and their bites can cause severe reactions. Only the females bite, using the blood they obtain as a protein source to develop their eggs. So much for the sisterhood. And yes, I had sprayed with insect repellant though I’m obviously more allergic to bites than others.

The itch factor during the nights has been horrendous. For two nights I spent every two hours under cold water in the shower hoping for relief which provided plenty of time to ponder on why tummy bugs, toothaches, and itchy bites tend to affect us more at night. Any clues? 

Dr Google provided information with regards to reducing the irritation and discomfort of midge bites though keep in mind that I also suffered bites to my scalp, my face, and inside my ears.  Imagine if you will three nights without sleep resulting in dark rings around the eyes and red blotches all over my face and arms. I looked like an ice addict.

So here are my Top 5 Tips to ease Itchy Bites : 

  1. Vinegar rubbed all over effected areas works well and after the third application you wont notice that you smell like a fish and chip shop.
  2. Aloe Vera Gel is soothing though not recommended if you haven’t vacuumed the house for a while as it picks up all the fluff and pollen floating in the air.
  3. Perfume seems to calm the itching immediately, although only the $200 a bottle kind, not the cheap stuff you spray into your lingerie drawer.
  4. From personal experience, the antibacterial kitchen wipes that sold in huge numbers during the height of the pandemic do a great job in calming irritated skin. When I visited Uncle Dan’s, the local bottle-o, ( or grog shop for non Australians) to restock they were amazed to see me rubbing myself down with antibacterial wipes at their point of entry instead of wiping down the trolley.
  5. You know all that hand sanitiser you purchased in bulk in readiness for the next Lockdown? Marvellous for calming bities. Who knew?

Thank goodness I was able to pick up a few cheap books at the local Rotary fundraiser to ease me through those long, disturbed nights.

Disclaimer : I am not a medical practitioner, nor a health expert, or anything even remotely close. I drink too much coffee, will kill for dark chocolate, and will do the same for a good sparkling shiraz.

A Parenting Mistake Of Sorts

When my youngest daughter was transitioning from Primary to High School I made a massive mistake in gifting her the book, 1001 Books To Read Before You Die.

Why was this a mistake? Because both our lives became book-centric involving visits to book sales and secondhand outlets in search of the books on The List. It became our” thing”. My child is the one you see lugging a suitcase on the train to enable her to bring purchases home from the Lifeline Bookfest. Her greatest joy comes from spreading her purchases on the floor all around her, similar to how we emptied the contents of our Easter Showbags all those years ago and sat enthralled as we surveyed all that was on offer.

She’s been home these last few days and is still chasing books from The List. Plus, thanks to the ABC television program of late last year we are now also chasing the books from The Books That Made Us.

Cat Balou’s time in Qld went all too quickly and we’ve cooked together, chatted non stop, laughed, and drank coffee ( as well as lots of bubbly things). Walking home from a Cafe one morning she spotted a table on someone’s front lawn with a sign advertising Free Books. Move over Cathy Freeman – I’ve never seen anyone move so fast! Another twenty books for the Little Community Library. Excellent work.

We walked up to the Little Community Library one afternoon where she of course insisted on alphabetising the contents. She also located another entry from The Books That Made Us compilation which she celebrated like a medal winner on the Olympic podium.

The local Op Shop was another adventure (because Mo, I need a book for the plane ) where said child, 34 years of age, located yet another read from The List. WOW, this is turning into an exciting holiday, she says. Only 300 more books to locate.

This is one happy daughter.

Until she spots a lone book on a display shelf.

Mo, have you been donating any books here, she asks. Yes, Cat Balou, sometimes I do that. Books are meant to go round.

Mo, she says, Mo, is that my book that I lent you and asked you to return before Christmas? And is that my copy of the Booker Prize winner you were supposed to send to my sister for Christmas?

An expensive little visit to the charity store as I was required to buy back many of the books I had donated in recent months.

My payback came when reminding her that a new edition of the 1001 Books had been recently published adding almost an extra 100 newer novels since her copy was released twenty years ago. More books to collect, kiddo, said with a smirk from mother.

The house is quiet once again and we are living on pots of tea, cheese and biscuits, and left over San Choy Bow. Cat Balou has returned to her 1 bedroom, 1 reading room unit in a trendy pocket in the nation’s capital and my Wizard Of Oz jigsaw puzzle which scares the bejesus out of her is back on display.

Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where your backbone ought to be.”
– Clementine Paddleford

“Miss you heaps.”
– Mo

Traditions : New & Old


When I was a child the dinner table was the source of good food for nourishment of the body as well as the venue to share the days events, whether they be local, national, or international, as nourishment for the mind. That hasn’t changed any with a number of visitors sharing my table over the past few weeks to celebrate and commiserate the last 12 months. We’ve been able to solve the problems of the world over Turkey Pies, play Trivia over Ham Croissants and to solve each and every crisis in the world over Sweet Potato Casserole ( courtesy of blogger Murisopsis).

No Christmas seafood this year as the thought of queuing for three hours in the middle of a Pandemic held no appeal. Cross that Christmas tradition off the List.

We were sharing our earliest memories of Christmas one night and my brain went back fifty years to making White Christmas with a cousin on Christmas Eve. Never ate the stuff myself – far too sugary – but the memories of mixing, taste testing, and family are vivid. It was a tradition throughout childhood.

With the arrival of the first grandchild the mother was interested in instigating such a tradition for little Harry Kilom for next December when he is more human and less  “pooh-and-spew.” A tradition is “a belief or behavior passed down within a group or society with symbolic meaning or special significance with origins in the past.”

The child’s aunt, Cat Balou, last year instigated a calendar featuring said child with a new meme for every month which was distributed amongst the family.

It seems we have a new family tradition with the creation of another calendar with a monthly meme for the coming year.

Here’s to Family, Fun and Tradition, both new and old, for the New Year. Blogging Family included.

Salute!

How To Make Gravy & Granita For Xmas

It’s December 21st which means that it is time “to make gravy”.

It is also time to watch the best ever Christmas movie ever : Die Hard. I ‘m going to order this decoration for next years Xmas tree.

The house is spic and span and has been totally rearranged to avoid any accidents and collisions. Smashed wine glasses on a toddlers head conjures up such awful visions. Likewise I don’t fancy a trip to the vets so the garden too has been organised so that the grandfurbaby is unable to munch on chillis.

I will however be making a canine version of a croquembouque using meat balls and peanut butter to occupy the pup and I also have an oversupply of palm fronds for him to chew. The only issue is that he likes to play with the possums during the night which means I’ll be getting up three or four times a night with him. It’s harder than having a newborn in the house.

Meet Paulini and her joey

It remains wickedly hot here. Argghhhh, the memories of Christmas’ Past when the paper hats from the bonbons disintegrated on your head through perspiration…….

Not a sweets cook, never have been, so the Lychee and Coconut Granita sorely tested my skillset. I served with mint leaves, though my guests suggested berries or passionfruit as an accompaniment.

Blend together : 1 x tin of lychees including juice
1 x tin of coconut milk.
Pour into a metal tray and freeze.

( Tip: I froze over night. Do not serve immediately to anyone with dental issues. 3 hours in the freezer is probably sufficient. )

Dessert complimented my Xmas Placemats beautifully.

Merry Christmas and remember…..

My Home Town

Cleveland was the traditional territory of the Koobenpul clan of the Quandamooka.

European settlement of Brisbane and surrounding areas was banned from 1824 until 1842, due to the Moreton Bay Penal Settlement ( where convicts were detained on an island named St Helena, infamous for its barbaric cruelty) though the area to become Cleveland was first surveyed in 1840, and in 1841, was recommended for a maritime or seaport.

In 1847 the Government planned for the new town, and on 13 December 1850, Cleveland was proclaimed a township. The first land sales of the new township took place a year later, with early purchases primarily around Cleveland Point, at the time an early candidate for a major port to replace Brisbane. 

Low Tide and The Lighthouse Restaurant, famous for its fish n chips.

However, when Governor Sir George Gipps visited Cleveland in 1842, it is reported that upon disembarking his boat, he immediately sank into the mudflats up to his waist. He was so annoyed by this that he changed his mind and suggested an alternative site.

The views across Moreton Bay to North Stradbroke Island and the sandy Moreton Island are spectacular and attract many visitors, local and otherwise.  Movies filmed using this stretch of water include Unbroken ( when gossip had Angelina Jolie staying at the local pub and eating chicken schnittys) and Narnia’s “Dawn Treader” was built and located at the end of “the Point”, only to be dismantled at the end of filming much to the chagrin of locals.

In 1852, the first large buildings were built in Cleveland including what is now known as the Grand View Hotel, which just just happens to be my local. On a hot humid summer day nothing beats the beer garden of The Grandy.

Many of the traditional “Queenslander” homes have been retained and renovated and command big bikkies which adds to the Point’s charm.

And then there is “progress”.

There is a secret development application in the works for Toondah Harbour, where the ferries depart for the Islands, which will encroach on the Moreton Bay Marine Park and a Ramsar wetland of international importance that provides important habitat for: 

  • Threatened migratory shorebirds 
  • Dugongs 
  • Whales and dolphins 
  • Sea Turtles 
  • Koalas 

The area is also used by the Critically Endangered Eastern Curlews to feed and fatten up to prepare for their 10,000 km trip to their breeding grounds in the Arctic Circle.  

This development of 3,600 units and harbour facilities including mooring for private seafaring vessels will mean the loss of beautiful parkland at Cleveland Point and the mangroves will be reclaimed for high-rise apartments.

Ferries travel across the channels
Photos taken from the Beer Garden.

I guess it would be churlish to hope that they all sink……..

Some Anniversaries.

It’s coming up to 3 years since I retired and 4 years since  I downsized to my pocket handkerchief sized home.

Do I miss working? Not on your freakin’ life! I’m busier than ever pursuing my own interests. The Pandemic may have played havoc with retirement travel plans but my appreciation for my own country and its history gained from travel around my home state has more than made up for any disappointments.

Even my weekly evening walking group has me learning about new nature reserves and parklands within a 10 km radius of my home which I never knew existed previously.

Three Paddocks Park and Mangroves

My only issue with retirement is that the cycle of waking up with the chooks continues. I’ve stopped fighting it and now just tend to enjoy the mornings with an early pot of tea and listening to birdsong. Btw, have you met Max?

I had a skip bin over the weekend to help with the decluttering. Four years and I already needed to offload 4 cubic metres of “stuff”. Whatever….

So now I have a Craft Room/ Sewing Room as is expected of retired ladies, except that I neither craft nor sew. Whilst I was in Mary Kondo mode I came across some cute jars that I had been hoarding, possibly one of the kids school projects, I’m thinking.

They are now the vessels for homemade Rosemary and Garlic infused oil which I think will go down nicely poured over fresh baked bread and a glass of dry, crisp white.

Does that count as a Craft?

Spring and Gratitude

We are almost one month into Spring and I am loving all the colour in gardens and bushland, the sound of birdcall as the fledglings prepare to leave their nests, and the baby possums clinging to their mothers’ backs when they visit early each evening for sliced fruit. The wallabies have joeys in their pouches and my tomato plants are bearing enough fruit for weekly charcuterie boards, bruschetta and to be thrown whole into pasta dishes. Tomatoes go so well with a chilled chardonnay, don’t you find?

A new friend

Last weekend I sold passionfruit saplings to raise funds for Wounded Heroes, an organisation that assists veterans at a grassroots level. I’ve been dining alfresco which is simply delightful and the feel of sun on the old bod is just so good.

Spring means a weekly morning walking club where we investigate new parklands, nature reserves ……..and coffee shops. The morning air is fresh and it is a time to be reinvigorated.

With all the negative media insinuations about an imminent Lockdown – after a football grand final on the weekend ( can you detect the dripping sarcasm?) – I have to remind myself of all for which I am grateful. I can deal with Lockdown, I can deal with the prospect of no ham for Christmas ( really, Australia, this is just pay back for our own stupidity) and I don’t give a rats if boat loads of plastic toys don’t arrive from China. *

The local church turned an unused building into an Op Shop during the first Lockdown last year in an endeavour to create some “community” in the area. They have since added a coffee cart and hold monthly markets to support local creatives. I will walk up there shortly for $5 coffee and cake of the day and to donate some books.

I have no religious affiliations or convictions whatsoever, though do live by the ten commandments – you just do – though fully support the efforts that this non-mainstream group go to in order to bring people together at a time when their is so much isolation. And so much fear.

I picked up a DVD from there for 50c last week, an Australian flick I wanted to see in the cinema but masks indoors ruined that idea. Palm Beach is geared to the Baby Boomer set and tells the story of three aging boomers, all in a rock group together back in the day, who reunite for a birthday weekend in Palm Beach, on Sydney’s northern beaches.

The movie stars Palm Beach and if you’re interested in checking out the lifestyle that Aussie’s aspire too this alone makes the movie worth watching. Actors include Bryan Brown, Richard E Grant, Sam Neill and Greta Scacchi.

I adored Bryan Brown in A Town Like Alice and The Thorn Birds. He was tall, laconic, and blokey and looked damn fine in a singlet. ( I digress, but what happened to singlets?) He lived only a few kms from me though from ” the wrong side of the tracks” as my mother would put it. Only a few years older than me loved him, loved him, loved him.

Finally, this movie reminded me that I am ever so grateful to still have my own teeth. ( Sorry, Brownie, but your Dentist owes you a refund.)

*I’ve been collecting the fallen paper bark from local bushland, soaking it, and using it to line hanging baskets. This weekend I will plant up the baskets with herb seeds and/or baby tomatoes. Children are being gifted books and clothes and for their parents a gift voucher to keep a local business alive, such as a hair salon, dinner at the pub etc. How bloody hard is it people?

Darby O’Gill and the Little People

It was only months ago that the entire world awakened to the news that 90 year old actor Sean Connery had passed away. Connery, tall, dark and with a Scottish accent as soothing as butterscotch was the first actor to portray fictional British secret agent James Bond on film, originating the role in Dr No and going on to complete a further six titles in the series. To be honest I was never a fan of Agent 007 and his Martinis. Nor was I hugely impressed with him in most of his other films though as he aged and gained that slightly grizzled appearance and opted for more quirky roles I tended to warm to him. Roles such as Indiana Jones’ eccentric father and as the political prisoner in The Rock. Unlike many I didn’t mourn Connory’s death, preferring to reflect that he seemed to have lived a good life.

A few days afterwards I suffered one of my manic decluttering sessions. These are slap hazard events and generally occur when I’ve been advised to expect house guests. It meant that the complete contents of all storage units, shelves and the book case in my lounge room were dispersed across the floor with no space available to move. With no room to walk the cloud of dust was thick and played havoc with my sinuses as I began to fill a cardboard box with items for the charity bin.

Amongst the Neil Sedaka cassette tapes and a Playschool CD, I came across an old Sean Connery DVD that I had purchased when DVDs were the latest big thing when my daughters were both just toddlers over thirty years ago.

Darby O’Gill And The Little People is a Walt Disney movie released in 1959 when Connery was still fresh faced and well before the statement moustache. It tells the story of an irishman, Darby O’ Gill, with his taste for liquor and tall tales, including his encounters with King Brian of the Leprechauns. It is a movie full of whimsy, rollicking irish music, a scary-as-hell banshee and the proverbial pot of gold. Young Connery played the love interest to O’Gill’s pink cheeked daughter with a decidedly odd Irish accent.

It’s funny how memories can be triggered from nothing, isn’t it?

I remember having been enchanted with this movie as a child, back in the days when television was new to Australia and the whole family would gather around on a Sunday evening to watch Disneyland.

My father must have enjoyed this movie too as he was forever reminding my sister and I to “keep an eye open for the Leprechauns who live at the bottom of the garden”. Along with the fairies of course.

Sometimes, early in the mornings or towards sun set, he would hold my hand and quietly walk me down towards the back of the family property just to look for leprechauns. This was an area which was less manicured with fruit trees and wild flowers in abundance. At times the vegetation was so wild that I was too scared to visit that part of the yard by myself in case lions and tigers were hiding in the long grass.

Television has a lot to answer for really……

My Dad was a hard man, a man’s man, who always believed in Luck. Although he never spoke of his time in Bomber Command and Pathfinder Force during World War 2 he often repeated that it was just good luck that had him survive flying over the night skies of Germany. Luck. The Luck of the Irish. A lucky leprechaun.

When my own daughters came along they too were introduced to the mysteries and beauty of the garden. Didn’t matter which garden, whose garden, or where the garden was located. There were always butterflies to watch, magpies to chase, leaves to collect and the ongoing search for the elusive King Brian and the Little People.

On odd occasions I still find myself daydreaming in my own garden and wondering if a leprechaun will present. It’s one of the reasons that I put the effort into the yard that I do. The results are well worth the effort and provide much pleasure.

I haven’t caught a glimpse of King Brian yet, though I regularly listen to Bing Crosby crooning Galway Bay whilst weeding. Or The Pogues.

This movie will not be going the way of surplus books and Conway Twitty albums. It is now destined for my baby grandson who can look for Leprechauns amongst the red soil and rock faces of Arnham Land.

And so a new generation of Sean Connery fans begins.

Hitler’s Brothel by Steve Matthews


Hitler’s Brothel is not just a fictional story about two young Polish girls separated by the tragic circumstances of World War 2. It is a tale interwoven with real historical events including some little known facts that had me constantly reaching for Google for clarification.

Yes, Auschwitz did have a brothel which was used as a reward for hardworking prisoners as an incentive to work even harder, and yes, the renowned fashion house Hugo Boss did make uniforms for the SS.

The story begins strongly in New Jersey USA in 2000, though it’s not until author Steve Matthews takes us back to Poland in 1940 that this reader became invested in sisters Ania and Danuta and the ghastly activities in which they became involved in order to survive on a daily basis.

This is no easy read thanks to the descriptive narrative. It is at times both bleak and brutal highlighting the ugliness of war and reinforcing that the Holocaust, that stain on humanity, must never be forgotten.

Although I have been a keen collector of Prisoner of War Diaries for many years I struggled with the details within this book. Was this because it is so much based on the female perspective?

Matthews states in his Notes, “ War is never over for those who experience it first hand. This story is for all the Anias who suffered in the concentration camps of WW2 – may your God bless you, and may you have finally found peace – whether you sleep beneath the ground or above it.” AMEN to that.

A copy of this book should be in every High School Library in Australia.

And another History Lesson:

Between 1971 and ‘76 I attended a High School in Sydney. Nothing special, nothing flash. One of the girls in the same form was dating a young apprentice plumber who drove a grey Vauxhall Velox. Another girl friend was dating his mate who drove a green Vauxhall Velox. Ugly old cars. That girl friend duck shovelled that fellow and started dating another of his mates, later marrying him and bearing two kiddies down the track.

Long story short: I started dating Mr Green Vauxhall and on weekends we would often have Vauxhall convoys, green and grey, and double date. Life in the Big Smoke, hey…..Another of my girlfriends was dating a bloke from our form who drove an ugly old Worsley. Is it any wonder I never had an interest in motor vehicles ?

Vauxhalls and why I hate them

The driver of the grey Vauxhall went on to marry a younger lass from the same high school and who also had a brother in my form. She had an older half sister who was my economics teacher in Year 12. ( It’s ok, I crushed economics). The teacher’s mother, who I met as an early teen and way before GDP and Fiscal Pie Charts, was the sister of my Dad’s best friend during World War 2 who was killed flying over the skies of Germany.

I knew little of Spud except for a couple of small black and white photos I found hidden in an old tobacco tin after my fathers death, though it explained my families connection to Spike, whom I later learned was Spud’s younger brother.

The author’s wife is the lass who used to be in the grey Vauxhall all those years ago. Like getting close to 50 years ago – gulp.

Mr Green Vauxhall? That’s another story.

I’ll go now and prepare a quick quiz for tomorrow to make sure you’ve all been listening ………