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Impressions of Papua New Guinea ... so far.

It took a lot longer than expected, but I'm finally here. Below are four of my impressions of living in Port Moresby as an expat as I see it at the beginning of this journey. Some things may change in the next three years, some things may not. Life goes on wherever we are and we make the most of what we are given.

1. No Hurry.

The first thing I have learnt about this nation is that nothing ever happens in a hurry. I think living in the tropics makes people more relaxed. With the constant heat there is no need to exert yourself. There is no sense of urgency to complete a task. I remember observing my maid in Thailand. Before then I had never seen anyone sweep a floor with such carefree abandon as she did. Khun Nong made sweeping a floor look so relaxing. The Papua New Guineans make it look just as easy, they do not put in the effort that we do. Time here is viewed in a similar manner to the Indonesians. It's all about 'rubber' time, flexible, easily bent and of little concern. It's a bit like learning to 'hurry up and wait.' You tend to do a lot of waiting here. It took us a lot longer for work visas to be approved than we anticipated. In fact, to sum up the life style here, the Spanish have a saying 'manyana' meaning tomorrow or some unspecified time in the future. Here in PNG the meaning of manyana is similar, but does not convey the same sense of urgency. Even the cars are driven around the city at a snail pace as if there is no where in particular anyone has to go. Consequently traffic jams are amazing, cars manage to find their way into gaps that no westerner would attempt, but when driven at a crawl, it is no problem. This photo was taken back home in Canberra at the PNG High Commission on one of our visits to complete our visa applications.

2. Safety.

I touched on this in my original post when we first visited PNG before signing the contract. The gap between the 'haves and have nots' is huge. Consequently crime is rife and staying safe requires vigilance. When driving through the traffic we have been told to always be aware of an escape route. Leave a gap where possible to allow to do a u-turn and drive away as fast as you can if a rascal comes racing towards the car. Keep the car doors locked at all times and always be aware of your surroundings. Never drive anywhere at night and certainly don't think about driving out of the city without a driver who is a PNG National. As for walking anywhere, that proves near impossible too. I have two choices, a) the treadmill in the gym in the apartment complex or b) the path around the inside of the gated community we are living in. As I am used to my walks around the valley I live in back home, I prefer to walk outside, therefore so far I have chosen option b. I have been told it is not wise to leave the gated community on my own at any time. I have lived in a guarded compound before, we did it for two years in Thailand. The only difference was that I felt safe to leave that one, catch a baht bus and head down to Beach Road in Pattaya to go shopping. That's not at all possible here. Life is going to be that much more restricted. However, I'm sure once I meet a few other expat wives, life will become more involved in the community. In the photo below you can see the car park to our apartment complex. There are two sets of security gates to drive through before you are in.

3. The People.

Even though there is an element that will choose to do harm for the chance to take a wallet, mobile phone or jewellery, the majority of people I have met have been nothing but friendly and courteous. Whether it's the guards at the gates, cleaners, gardeners or restaurant staff, they all say hello, and are keen to stop for a chat. We had a wonderful conversation with our waitress just last night at the Royal Papua New Guinea Yacht Club. Christine was a lovely quietly spoken young girl with pearls of wisdom beyond her age. When I commented that I probably shouldn't have had dessert as I couldn't really fit it in. Christine smiled and replied, 'dinner is for the stomach, dessert is for the heart.' I thought that was a beautiful comment. Although Pidgin English is their native language, they are all taught to speak English in school. It is with education that this nation will grow.

 

4. Tourism.

Would I recommend Port Moresby as a place to come visit? Probably not. It is pretty much a developing country on Australia's doorstep, desperately trying to elevate itself from poverty, but I fear that is still a long way off.  We did have a day out of the city on Sunday. A driver took us into the mountains to the Virartas National Park. The drive through the mountains was stunning. The road meandered through thick lush green tropical forest. The majority of the vegetation resembled the rainforests of far north Queensland. Our driver informed us that the road was built by the ANZACs during the war. He said WW1 , but I'm sure he meant WW2. If we had continued for another 35 minutes along the road, we would have reached the beginning of the Kokoda Track. One day I would like to walk part of the track, but it will be with security, or an expat tour, not just a driver. On our return down the mountain we visited the ANZAC War Memorial which was quite an emotional experience. Graves  of fallen soldiers from Australian and New Zealand Armed Forces were in lines too numerous to count. Many tombstones bared the name and age of young men too young to die, it broke my heart. Many still, were unnamed. Lost souls buried in another country for fighting for our freedom. There were PNG soldiers buried there too. We have much to thank them for. If you have loved ones buried here or who fought here and managed to survive the horror of Kokoda, then perhaps a journey here is worthwhile.  Port Moresby is only a 3.5 hour flight from Brisbane and if you appreciate war history, then this is a place worth considering.

Have you ever lived in a gated community? How did you find life there?

Would you want to visit Papua New Guinea?

Do you have any questions you would like answered? I will do my best to find out.

5 Reasons to Attend a Conference.

The thought of attending a conference on my own makes me shudder with fear. My husband can step into a room of unknown people and before you know it he has made friends with at least a dozen of them.

I'm the complete opposite. Born in July, I am a typical crab. I like to hide in my shell. build up my walls and observe while everyone else around me talks.

In social situations where I know all the people that are invited I'm fine, but put me in a situation where I am out there on my own I suddenly dry up. I  can't find anything to talk about,  and certainly can't begin to think about joining a group where they all seem to know each other and I am the odd one out.

Sound familiar? So why would you put yourself in this situation and attend a conference of like-minded people?

In the past two months I have done just that. The first was a writer's workshop in the beautiful Araluen Valley with the amazing Jackie French. The second was the Creative Kids Tales Writer's Festival in "The Shire." The place I grew up and called home for my younger years.

I learnt a lot from these events and I am so pleased I put myself out there on a limb, took a chance and dove into the experience.

Here are my top 5 reasons you should consider attending a conference in your field no matter how introverted you are.

Developing your Network.

This could be one of the hardest for me. Online, I have no problem connecting with other authors. In person, this is a lot harder. While at the festival I had hoped to introduce myself to other authors that had also been involved in the Creative Kids Tales Story Collection. I don't think I managed to speak to one of them, until perhaps the end of the day when this photo was taken. I did connect with other authors and illustrators that were new to this publishing journey and I hope I was able to help them with a little insight of my journey so far. It was a few small steps, but at least I have now met a few more like-minded people to continue along the road with. I encourage you to do this too. You are never alone, there are always other people in your field willing to share their experiences and wisdom.

Increasing your Knowledge.

The keynote speakers at the festival were amazingly generous with sharing their knowledge. I wrote copious pages of notes so numerous I don't know where to begin. A huge thanks to Georgie Donaghey, founder of Creative Kids Tales for bringing together these wonderful writers, illustrators and editors to speak to us. Also a massive thank you to Susanne Gervay, Wai Chim, Tristan Banks, Sue Whiting and Sarah Davis for being so willing to give their time to us novice writer's so that we may learn from your incredible experiences. A few of my take-home points from their advice is as follows -

  • Do your research, read a lot, rethink your work, rewrite, make it relatable.
  • Don't be afraid to write about hard topics, but soften it with highs and lows. Add laughter as well as tears and always finish with a happy ending.
  • Start with what you know, then lie. In other words, be creative, stretch the the truth, add a twist and see where it leads. Build on what you know to find an original story.
  • When marketing think outside the square, be unique, different but always be true to yourself.
  • Write the story that only you can tell. Look at it from different angles, make it topical, be brave, bold and write from the heart.

Improving your skills.

As a member of Creative Kids Tales we had the bonus of being offered a one on one manuscript assessment by either Clare Hallifax, Sue Whiting, Sarah Davis or Susanne Gervay. This was an opportunity not to be missed. Sure, you can pay for a manuscript assessment without attending a conference. You can email your manuscript off into the ether to someone and wait for a written response, but to meet and personally speak to the assessor makes the experience all the more personal and worthwhile. I truly appreciate all the advice Sue Whiting gave me for my junior chapter book. It has been a work in progress for many years. After speaking with her and listening to all her valuable advice I now feel I am on track to finally complete the story and begin the submission process with more confidence. Sue was able to guide me in the right direction where I could see I wasn't quite right but wasn't sure how to fix it.  Like anything, writing takes practice and is a constant learning curve. No matter how much you read or study, there is always something someone can teach you.

Build your resource library.

Conferences always supply goodie bags and the Creative Kids Tales Writer's Festival was no exception. There were two bags on offer, one for members and one for non-members. Inside among all the pamphlets and wonderful information were also a couple of books to add to your resource library. Inside my bag was the fabulous picture book 'I'm Australian Too,'by Mem Fox, (which is among the Children's Book Council of Australia's short listed books of 2018), and a YA novel 'The Things We Promise' by J. C. Burke. I also managed to buy for myself copies of Georgie Donaghey's PB 'Clover's Big Idea.'  Can't wait to start reading that to my 3 month old grandson. Susanne Gervay's JF,  'Super Jack' and Sue Whiting's MG 'Missing." I have already finished reading 'Missing,' it was certainly an 'unputdownable' irresistible story. You never know what fantastic things you might come home with. It goes without saying, I wore my CKT badge with pride on the day and hope to find other occasions to wear it too.

Opportunity to Challenge yourself.

As I said at the beginning I am by nature a rather introverted person. I overcame this to an extent as a teacher. Put me in front of a group of kids and I can read, teach, perform for hours, but put me in front of a room full of adults and I freeze. So the decision to enter the draw to 'Pitch Ya Book' was a biggie!  While introducing myself to people at an event is difficult, this was even harder.The idea was to prepare a picture book pitch, place your name in the box on entry to the festival and hope to have your name drawn out.  When the time came for the pitches, I actually sat there hoping my name would not be called out. My self doubt had overwhelmed me. Sure enough my biggest fear eventuated. Before I knew it I heard Georgie call my name. It felt surreal as I rose and walked to the front to take the microphone. My mouth dried up, I felt myself begin to shake as my face flushed. I opened my mouth and began to stammer. Before I knew it my two minutes to explain my latest Australian animal picture book were up and it was all over. I was left to hear the response from the panel. They gave some fantastic feedback and brilliant advice to take home to help with my edits. I always felt the story needed a different ending. I now have a new antagonist, Mr Fox is no longer. I have heard before, 'Don't be afraid to kill your darlings.'  The panel advised that a fox as an antagonist was too predictable. Foxes have been hard done by in children's stories, perhaps it would be better to find another option, preferably another Australian animal. Enter a Tasmanian Devil who brings a different slant to the story that is all the more stronger and improved. Armed with Tassie as my new baddie, my new ending became obvious to me, the story practically wrote itself. Challenging myself to attend a conference on my own proved far more worthwhile than I could ever have hoped. Who knows, I might even try to do it again one day.

So there you have it. This little crab is proud to say she has poked her head out of her shell, challenged herself and taken steps to move forward. Next Thursday night I will be attending the SCBWI ACT meeting here in Canberra. Who knows, I may even raise my hand to ask a question...but don't count on it!

Do you attend conferences? How do you feel about them?

An Expat's Life..... Again!

Here we go again, one last hoorah before retirement. Hubby and I are about to embark on one final adventure in a career that has taken us throughout South-East Asia and all around Australia. Last week we flew overseas to a neighbouring country to see where our next and final posting is most likely to be for the next three years. The new company wanted us both to have a look around the area before making the final decision to sign the contract. We have seen some incredible places during our working lifetime, yet nothing before had quite prepared me for this.  I can certainly say that being married to Mr B, for 32 years has never been boring. Life has taken us on a wonderful journey of adventure and cultural learning.

His first Expat job took him away to Indonesia for the duration of my third pregnancy. He departed when we had two point three children, yes I was just at the end of my first trimester with Alex, when he was asked to head to Jakarta and the Sumatran jungle. We made the joint decision that it was better for the boys and I to stay in Australia at that time. Our other two boys were only 2  and 5 years old.  Mr B finally managed to returned to us just days before Alex was born.

A year later, the Expat bug had nibbled his feet again and I found myself with seven weeks to pack up our house before hubby returned to help me move the family to Pattaya, Thailand for two years. That was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. The boys experienced growing up immersed in a fascinating culture while attending school in a multicultural melting pot of diversity. I was fortunate to pick up work teaching at the same International School which broadened my skills and knowledge to a level of experience I could never have discovered back home. We made many wonderful life-long friends along the way and made precious memories that will forever be in my heart and soul.

Since then, work has taken Mr B in and out of Indonesia. We both learnt to speak Bahasa Indonesia, He, while immersed in the culture, myself, during two years of intensive night classes which helped qualify me to then teach Indonesian language. after also completing my Grad Cert in ESL/LOTE. In the years since our travels through South-East Asia and study of this unique culture that is on our doorstep, I have written a chapter book set in Bali full of adventure, history, culture and language. After many revisions, I hope to finally publish it this year.

We've also had the opportunity to work all over Australia including Perth, Karratha and most recently two fabulous years in Darwin. Living in the Top End of Australia was akin to being an Expat. The tropical climate made it feel like Thailand again. The transient population of workers that flew in and flew out, or had short term contracts combined with the influx of tourists during the dry season all added to the vibrant and welcoming nature of the destination. We embraced the life-style, the people and the cultural diversity once again.

As I write this, I find myself at the beginning of the latest chapter of our expat journey. This should be our final chapter before settling down on our beautiful little country property just outside Canberra. Where am I? As I look out of my hotel window I see a beautiful blue bay surrounded by lush green mountains. Immediately below me in the foreground I can see and hear the busy work of construction as a city prepares four lane highways, lays down pipework, and re-seals existing roads. Cranes and trucks beep as they reverse busily erecting apartments and business centres. It is a city of massive growth and excitement. The new convention centre is well on the way to completion in time for the APEC summit in November. There is a buzz in the air as people go about their day to day business in a constantly developing nation. Yet, at any time of day, the nationals are happy to stop, say hello and have a chat.

It is a tropical climate once again, they are nearing the end of their wet season. by April there will be minimal rain then it will be dry until the rains start to arrive again in October.

The only downside I can see so far is the fact that I am used to walking at least 5 Km every day. This will not be possible here. With my fair hair and white skin I tend to stand out in a crowd somewhat, making it not advisable to walk the streets alone during the day or night. There is an element of danger that an Expat must be aware of at all times. While the people we have met so far have been so friendly, there are those on the streets that will take advantage. After all, this is a developing country, wages are minimal, poverty is everywhere. The gap between those that have a lot and those that have very little is quite obvious. Everywhere we have been taken, shopping centres, restaurants, apartment complexes, business buildings and hotel, have all been heavily guarded by armed security and gates. Hopefully as the country develops this will diminish as economic growth brings prosperity to the region.

Have I given you any clue as to where I am? Do you think you know?

We fly home tomorrow, then it's a waiting game. We wait for work visas, medical reports and Mr B has to be accredited as a member of the IEPNG, all before we will be permitted to return. All being well, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea will become our new home for the next three years. While Mr B will spend most of the time here, I plan to fly in/out, sharing my time here and home in Canberra. This Nanna can't miss out on the first three years of my new little grandson's life.

It should be an interesting few years, full of cultural learning and diversity once again, all of which we embrace with open hearts and minds.

Have you ever experienced life as an Expat? If so, let me know where and your thoughts on the experience in the comment section below.

If not, if you could work in another country, which one would you choose and why?

Looking Back at 2017: My Most Memorable Moments.

What sort of year have you had? Has it been a roller coaster for you or perhaps more smooth sailing? Were there any Milestone events? Let's take a moment to ponder upon our happiest times and consider maybe a few of those not quite so successful days. In general I hope 2017 has been a good year for you all.
I invite you to come along on a journey with me as my writerly pals and I  share our most memorable moments in the Looking Back at 2017 Blog Hop. Please have a read of each our most personal reveals. Read mine here, then visit the other #Gr8Blogs linked at the end of this post for more look-backs. We hope you’re inspired to gather round with your family for a look-back, too.
1. Surprising/Joyful
I'll never forget the moment my middle son and his wife presented me with a little surprise package.
It was a Friday evening in early May. They arrived home grinning from ear to ear and placed a small black cardboard box in my lap.
I had no idea what was going on or what to expect?
Inside was a card and several gifts. - The card read "Congratulations on becoming Grandparents! Here's your starter pack!'
Included were several tiny nappies, bibs and coveralls.
They had been wanting this miracle to happen for quite some time. We had stopped thinking about it being possible for now as they had appeared to take on a different direction in their lives and began to concentrate on work and buying a home.
You can imagine our surprise and delight!
We have spent the remainder of the year preparing for the joyful event, as the card reads, 'Womb departure date, 1st January 2018."
It's going to be one amazing New Year!
Update: The joyful news is he arrived on Friday 5th January 2018
The most precious gift of all, our gorgeous first grandson, and this Nanna couldn't be prouder. 
2. Exciting/Triumphant
We moved onto our dream piece of land in 2007, 13 acres of sheer bliss. At the time we moved into a shell of a shed, a caravan and a port-a-l00. Over the years we gradually made the shed comfortable, (probably a little too comfy) and slowly worked away at building our dream home.
Each year when someone asked when were we moving in? My reply was always the same, sometime before Christmas, but I never said Christmas of which year.
2017, ten years after the initial move, was finally the year. In October we finished enough of the house to be able to move in.
It was such an exciting and triumphant moment to move our furniture in and not have to go down to the shed to sleep at night.
A lot of hard work and love by all our family has gone into building our home, it feels amazing to finally be in! Yet somehow, so homely, just as I always planned, it also feels like we have always been here.
There is still much to be done to complete the finishing touches. We still have no cupboard doors in the kitchen, or skirting boards and architraves around some doors, but that's ok. I'm a patient woman. I've waited this long, I can wait a bit longer. 
3. Successful.
As far as my writing is concerned, 2017 brought me success in having two  short stories accepted for publication in the Creative Kids Tales Story Collection.
This was an amazing opportunity to be part of a collection of stories by so many wonderfully talented Australian authors and illustrators.
The stories are varied in style and length, some are prose, some poems. Some are light and entertaining, others are humorous or thought provoking.
The stories range from the really young reader to the young at heart.
One of my stories is a poem for ages 3 - 6 years while the other is a short story for ages 8 - 12 years.
As the collection was due for release in time for Christmas, both of my stories are Christmas themed.
"Aster's Aussie Christmas" is a little poem penned to delight children from all around the world as they travel with my little alien in Santa's sleigh and discover all the wonders Australia has to offer.
"A Whale of a Christmas Time," takes older children on a journey of discovery in a different way. As the maim character must learn to help save a pod of beached whales, readers will learn that giving is far more important than receiving.
4. Disappointing.
As I embarked on 2017, I had many plans when it came to my writing. I had stories set to publish, marketing plans, school fetes and visits to organise.
Sometimes life gets in the way and even the best intentions and plans don't always see the light of day. I'm OK with that, it's been a busy and amazing year in so many other ways.
At least it gives me time to ponder those stories a little longer, revise, edit, and revise some more.
Who knows, perhaps 2018 will be the year?
Thanks for stopping by! How was YOUR 2017? Please share in the comment section.
For more Look-Back moments, visit the #Gr8blogs below.
If you’d like to join us on this hop, add the family-friendly link to your blog in the comment section. We’ll visit and give you some blog love!

Tis the Season for Holiday Traditions

This is the season when memories are made and family is celebrated in unique, joyous ways. Whether your traditions are Christmas based or not, it's still a time to came together and share special moments together. What traditions make your holiday?

Perhaps it's hanging that special ornament made by your child years ago and brought out every year. to be hung  in pride of place,

Do you whip up a special recipe that Grandma taught you long ago?

While you ponder some of your fond memories please join me and my #Gr8Blog colleagues as we share a few of our Holiday Traditions That Ring In Our Season.

A Past Family Tradition.

When I was little we had a huge Pine Tree at the bottom of our backyard. Well, it seemed huge to me at the time. I always knew Christmas was almost here when Dad went down to select a branch to be cut and made into our Christmas tree.

He would plant the branch in a bucket of sand. (We collected the sand from the sandhills at Cronulla each year). That in itself was a fun day out as Summer was upon us and we could slide and roll down the sandhills for hours. Mum would then wrap the bucket in Christmas paper and the tree would stand tall in the corner of our lounge room where we would decorate it with shiny ornaments and tinsel. The angel was always last to be added, her special place was on the top of the tree, she was the finishing touch.

The scent of the pine needles permeating the house combined with the build up of Summer heat made it feel like Christmas was here.

Past Treasured Recipes.

When I was young, Christmas dinner was not complete without a traditional Christmas pudding. My Aunt continued the old tradition of hiding a handful of threepence in the steaming hot fruit pudding and covered it with a delicious port wine sauce. Once decimal currency arrived, she converted the coins to 5 cent pieces. My fondest memories are sitting around my Aunt's dining table being surprised by my father and grandfather as they each in turn pulled out larger coins from their serving of pudding. My sister and I would increase in jealousy and eat more of our pudding in hope of more money. Alas we were to only ever find 5 cent pieces in our serving. It wasn't until the stakes rose so high that Dad and my granddad began to raise one and two dollar notes above the table that we realised they were joking.

As I grew older, it wasn't the gathering of coins that made me eat Christmas pudding, but my Aunt's famous port wine sauce. We couldn't get enough of it. She always promised to write the recipe down "one day." Unfortunately "one day" never came, and try as she might, my mum never did quite manage to replicate it.

Today's Family Traditions.

While we are surrounded by trees since we live on a property instead of suburbia, we haven't planted any pine trees because they are not native to Australia and the native wildlife won't nest in them. As a result,  I don't have access to our old tradition. I could use a branch from a gum tree and have the scent of Eucalypt through the house, but I prefer my imitation tree that I can use time and time again without cutting anything down. It goes up on the 1st of December each year and sits in my bay window for all to see. Naturally, my angel sits atop my tree just like my childhood memory. Ornamental reindeer adorn every nook and cranny possible around my house, it's a bit of a joke between hubby and myself, they serve as a reminder to him to look before you throw things away. I guess you could say he learnt the hard way. Accidentally throw out one  favourite reindeer, find a dozen more every year since. They just keep multiplying!

Today's Treasured Recipes.

When my eldest son was old enough to start cooking, he began making a Gingerbread House for Christmas. Later, my nephew took over the task, then it was his brother's turn. Each year we look forward to seeing the latest creation and delight in cutting into the house and tasting the delicious treat. Of course Gingerbread Men are traditional favourites this time of year too. When our boys were younger they enjoyed a gingerbread man or two. This lead to my idea for my early reader series starring Gingerbread Aliens, after all, most boys like gingerbread and aliens, put them together and you have a recipe for a great story. Over the years I have made many batches of Gingerbread Aliens to the delight of lots of children. In the story the kids use sultanas and honey spread across the top of the head to represent brains, they cut up green jubes for eyes and roll up orange jelly snakes and stick them on the middle for the gingerbread aliens insides. Kids love it when the intestines melt and go all gooey! Disgusting! Sometimes I make life easier for myself and decorate the gingerbread aliens with green icing. Either way they look cool, are lots of fun and taste yum!

Here's the recipe if you would like to give them a try this Christmas,

Gingerbread Alien Recipe

Ingredients

125g softened butter or margarine

½ cup (100g) brown sugar

½ cup (125ml) golden syrup

1 egg

3 cups SR flour *

1tbs ground ginger

1tsp ground cinnamon

1/2tsp ground cloves

Snakes, jubes, sultanas, honey to decorate 

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.
  2. Line 2 oven trays with baking paper.
  3. Use an electric mixer to beat the butter, sugar and golden syrup together in a large bowl until creamy.
  4. Add the egg and beat until combined.
  5. Add the flour, ginger, cinnamon and cloves and stir with a wooden spoon until combined.
  6. Use your hand to knead until smooth.
  7. Cover and rest in refrigerator for about 15 minutes.
  8. Divide the dough into 2 portions.
  9. Roll one portion out on a lightly floured surface to about a 4-5 mm thickness.
  10. Use a 12cm gingerbread man pastry cutter to cut out shapes.
  11. Reshape head by pushing in the sides to elongate and make more triangular.
  12. Alternatively for those more creative, do not use cutter, use a blunt knife to shape by cutting freehand.
  13. Use a skewer to poke two holes for nostrils and draw a thin line for a mouth,
  14. Bake in oven for 10-12 minutes.
  15. As soon as gingerbread aliens come out of oven, decorate with sultanas and honey mixed together, snakes and lollies for eyes. Aliens need to be hot for lollies to stick while cooling.
  16. Repeat with remaining dough, rolling and re-rolling gingerbread.

*I used Gluten Free flour and it worked just as well as ordinary flour.

Snakes were also gluten free. You can also buy fruit salad gluten free lollies to use for the eyes.

If you've not read the story or shared it with a loved 4-10 year old child yet, I guarantee they will laugh from the beginning to the end. It is a great Christmas gift.

Why not read the story and and make a batch of gingerbread aliens today! Find out exactly what becomes of the disaster in the kitchen when the boys mix up the recipe?

Available in print here on my website or in ebook via Amazon.

What sort of Gingerbread man could you create? Let your imagination play. Make one and send me a photo. I'll add it to my list.

Thanks for stopping by! What’s your most-treasured holiday tradition? Please share in the comment section.
For more traditions to ring in your holiday season, find inspiration in the #Gr8blogs below. If want to tag onto this hop, add the family-friendly link to your blog in the comment section. We’ll visit and give you some blog love!

Spring is in the Air, Join us at the Fair.

Spring is in the air...... well almost! We had a glimpse of hope, then in true Canberra form, winter came back with a vengeance as snow has fallen twice within the first week of September. Don't let that keep you indoors this weekend, the weather promises to improve and no matter what else it will be a great Saturday at the fair.

Looking for something fun to do with the family? Why not take a short drive into the country and join us to enjoy a day at the Googong Field Day.This Saturday September 9, 2017 being held at St Paul's Church, 1290 Old Cooma Rd, Googong.

It promises to be a day full of fun,

with plenty to see and do for everyone.

While the kids pat the animals at the petting zoo,

Dad can view an exhibit of an historic engine or two.

There will be wheel barrow races, and tyre rolling competitions,

As well as sheep shearing and fencing demonstrations.

Listen to the Victoria Street Band play,

then wonder through the stalls, stop by and say G'day.

I will be there with my children's books,

come on over and take a look.

I'm sure you will find much, much more,

a day packed with entertainment to be sure.

Stalls are open from 9:30 to 2;30 so don't be late,

mark it in your diary, this Saturday, 9th Sep, save the date.

 

 

I look forward to seeing you there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imagination and Realism Combine for a Fabulous Learning Opportunity.

One of the great advantages of becoming a children's author, other than the obvious, which is kids reading my stories, is that I get the opportunity to meet other amazing authors from all around the world. I feel I am so lucky to be asked to read and review their stories and help spread the word about their wonderful children's books too. Last week I brought you 'Sweet T and the Turtle Team' by Cat Michaels. This week, I am pleased to tell you all about 'Doonsey Returns - The Great Rescue, Part 2' written and illustrated by Rhonda Paglia. It is summer in America and both authors have timed their new release perfectly for summer holiday fun reading at the beach. Down Under we can at least dream of lazy warm days at the beach and reading these stories with our children or classroom students to help keep those memories alive.

Doonsey Returns is perfect for the little ones in your family. We have all made sandcastles while at the beach, but have you made other sand sculptures? Rhonda Paglia takes this fun and creative idea to make "Beach Buddies" that are decorated with items that children find all along the beach. Seaweed, shells, even fishing bobbers (we call them fishing floats) are just a few decorations that enhance the buddies and help them come to life. While reading this cute and creative story children come to realise the importance of keeping the beach clean.

There are two basic problems to be solved. The first in finding the sand made beach buddies, the second in helping a very real, very different kind of beach buddy. I read this story with a neighbour's son who was delighted to find what arose out of the sand. No spoilers here! Suffice to say his face lit up when he realised what had been buried and then came crawling out of the sand. Keeping these little creatures safe is the second issue that needs solving. This idea brought a wonderful discussion of possibilities and a writing exercise during our tutoring session on what he would have done in the same situation. He was fascinated by the facts in the back pages, the glossary and the photos of sand sculptures.

The illustrations are simplistic but adorably cute for little ones. I thought the inclusion of realism along with the cartoon-like characters made for a fabulous way of relating the story with children's knowledge of beach settings. It opens up even more opportunities for discussion as children can relate their own memories of holidays at the beach. 

Another awesome story from author "Grammy Pags." Packed full of fun, imagination, creativity and learning. Teachers and parents couldn't ask for anything more. I recommend this book for children 3-8 years, as there is so much you can take away from it.

I give Doonsey and her Beach Buddies 5 out of 5 star(fish).

 Doonsey Returns, The Great Rescue, Part 2 is available on Amazon: Doonsey Returns

Summer Fun, Adventure and Learning.

Come dip your toes into the warm North Carolina coastal waters, smell the fresh salty sea air and taste a bit of southern hospitality in the new release by Cat Michaels, "Sweet T and The Turtle Team." It is summertime in the States and author Cat Michaels has timed her new beach book perfectly for lazy days in the sun. This is a great story for kids to read at the beach or to transport them there. Written for children ages 6 to 11 years this story is sure to engage both curious and reluctant readers.

Take a summer holiday to Gull Island and experience the wind in your hair and sand in your toes as you make friends with Tara, (Sweet T) her little sister, Jenna and Fuzzy, a blue stuffed rabbit that has a tendency to get lost. I'm sure most families can relate to this concept. Who hasn't lost a favourite stuffed animal at one time or another? It makes the characters so relatable as we read about their desperate search for Fuzzy.

Most kids on holidays seek to make new friends and T is no different. She is not happy to settle to play with her little sister (and Fuzzy if they ever find him), but why is the boy next door being so difficult? Cat Michaels was rather clever to bring into the story an issue that provides a learning opportunity for discussion of different needs. While the other children on the island are being bullies, it is Sweet T who finds a way to resolve the problem, demonstrating to the reader that there is always a way to help and make things right if you are willing to think about alternatives.

 

The story is also a delightful way to learn about Loggerhead turtles and their hatchlings. Included at the end of the book are quizzes, questions and even a few gorgeous photographs of these turtles, but first, you have to read the adventure and see if Sweet T and her turtle team can save them before the big storm threatens to devastate their survival.

The other unique learning tool Cat Michaels has included in the story is the way T and her older sister keep in contact throughout the summer. Like most kids these days they are allowed to text, (with supervision). Each interaction between the two is a short chapter that appears in the form of texting on a mobile device. I found this a rather clever way to move the story along, keep the pace interesting and link with today's younger generation. A glossary of texting terms is also included at the back just in case anyone needs to look them up.

Feel hungry? Aunt Mae, who Sweet T and her family are visiting, is always cooking up something yummy. I admit this Aussie girl has never tasted most of the treats Aunt Mae prepares, however Cat Michaels certainly makes them sound quite delightful. You'll have to read the story to see what I mean.

I recommend this short chapter summer adventure to all kids who love the beach, sea creatures and fuzzy stuffed animals. The story is not only entertaining, it provides ample opportunity to learn and discover through social interactions and environmental awareness.

I give this gorgeous new release 5 out of 5 star (fish)

 

 

Note: I received a PDF copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

About Cat Michaels :-

Author, blogger CAT MICHAELS, M.S., Ed., has more than two decades of experience helping students from kindergarten to college with learning disabilities and Asperger’s syndrome.

Her chapter books and Sweet T Tales series for beginning readers tell of every day life with a twist of magic and mischief.  Cat’s books encourage young and reluctant readers to use their imagination and solve kid-sized dilemmas as they enjoy reading.

Cat lives in North Carolina with her family, where she enjoys digital photography and graphic design, creates pocket gardens, works out as often as she can, and writes.  

Website/Blog  |  Facebook |  Twitter  |  Pinterest  |  Instagram

Find Cat’s books on Amazon and iTunes 

I'd like to take a moment to give a big thank you to Stacie Theis at BeachBoundBooks who put together the materials to add to this post and coordinated the blog tour for Sweet T and the Turtle Team. I’m so happy to join the fun and to present my Sweet T and the Turtle Team book reviewThis children’s book written by Cat Michaels and beautifully illustrated by Irene A. Johns was a pleasure to read and review. Both the story and the learning included in this book made it easy for this review to be written. The tour will run from July 12 – August 9, 2017.

 

Blog Tour Giveaway

Prize: One winner will receive a $75 Amazon gift card or $75 PayPal cash prize, winner’s choice Giveaway ends: August 9, 11:59 pm, 2017 Open to: Internationally How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook.

This giveaway is sponsored by the author, Cat Michaels and is hosted and managed by Stacie from BeachBoundBooks. If you have any additional questions feel free to send an email to stacie@BeachBoundBooks.com.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

What if we are not alone in the Universe?

The other day I saw a post on Twitter that it was #World UFO Day on July 2. I couldn't resist asking the question, do you believe in aliens? What if we are not alone in the Universe?  If you know me or my writing for children, you would know I like to play with this possibility. After all, with the size of our Universe or (Multiverse, depending on your point of view) I don't believe it could be plausible that we are the only inhabitable planet with intelligent life forms. I'm not here to delve into the specific science of it all, I'll leave that to astrophysicists that are for more knowledgeable on the subject than myself. Suffice to say, as a children's author, I kind of like the idea of friendly little aliens that come to visit.

If we are not alone, and if we were ever visited by aliens, surely they would be inquisitive and friendly. It makes sense that a life form that has evolved the technology to travel in time and space long enough to reach us, would also be a peaceful race. They would have to have evolved to a higher level of co-operation and understanding to reach such a level of intelligence far beyond what we as humans, know and understand today.

Obviously, many people are sceptical but that doesn't mean I can't have a little bit of fun with the idea. Part of writing for children is to engage them in reading through fun and exciting ideas. Take my first short chapter book for example, in Gingerbread Aliens we wouldn't have such a compelling and enjoyable story without the boys next door neighbour, Mrs Witherbottom being absolutely convinced she saw a UFO smash in through the school Principal's window. Her tale is so convincing that the police officer decides -

'I believe we need to call in the Scientific Research Team for Radioactive Meteorites and Asteroids. You can never be too careful with Unidentified Flying Objects from outer space.'

In book 2, Alien Shenanigans, I take the laughs up a notch with the idea of the boys trying to catch a

mischievous little alien.

'How cool is that?' agreed Brian. 'He's a chameleon, no wonder we couldn't see him. He keeps changing to blend into his background. ' Brian reached out to grab him but the alien was too quick. He slipped through Brian's fingers, danced across the science table and knocked over a packet of washing powder and red food colouring. David made a swipe to grab him but in the process he in turn spilt the bottle of vinegar. The reaction was instant, soapy coloured froth oozed and bubbled along the table and overflowed onto the classroom floor and out the door.'

Any budding young scientist will know the disastrous mess that would have occurred in this scenario. Not only does the book provide teaching opportunities for research into space topics but all sorts of amazing science projects.  My books may be full of laughter and imagination, but they also include great learning opportunities through STEM projects.

Both the alien, the idea of UFO's and Mrs Witherbottom return in the third book in the series, Alien Milkshakes. What has caused the crop circles on the school oval? Can the Bradberrie brothers keep the alien a secret and help him repair his spaceship before Mrs Witherbottom discovers the truth behind her missing vegetables from her garden? All will be revealed when the book is released later this year.

'The brothers were so busy helping Aster and listening to Simon's tale that they didn't hear the footsteps coming towards the side fence in Mrs Witherbottom's yard, or hear the little step ladder that banged against the fence. It wasn't until they heard an unexpected voice call out that they all jumped. The three boys turned to see who was there.

'Hiya, What's the news laddies?' A bright eyed, freckle-faced girl peeped over the top of the fence. All three brothers quickly shuffled together to hide Aster from her sight.'

In the meantime, I have also written a short story that has been accepted for inclusion in an upcoming children's story collection. I have taken the idea of my friendly and mischievous little alien and combined it with my Australian animal picture books, to produce a short story where my alien travels around Australia with Santa in his sleigh on Christmas Eve. He sees some incredible sights and meets a few amaing animals along the way.

'Aster waved to camels in the desert and whales in the Bight,

koalas in the rainforests, it was all an incredible sight.

He met echidnas and emus and a baby crocodile,

dingoes and dolphins and a shark with a huge scary smile.'

The possibilities of friendly little aliens visiting from other worlds are endless. My children's books encourage a fun enjoyment of reading and learning. Children have amazing imaginations that can be engaged in incredible creative thinking given the opportunity.My books are a gateway to discussions that may produce that critical thinking. It is up to us to foster their imagination and creativity so that they may become our future inventors who will develop technology far beyond anything we can produce today.

Kids love the idea of aliens, (especially little mischievous ones), do you?

Are we alone in this huge universe? What do you believe?

If you are interested in any of my books, you can purchase them here in print form

http://www.sandrabennettauthor.com/books/

The ebook copies are all available on Amazon except for Alien Shenanigans, sorry I've still not managed that.

I hope to have Alien Milkshakes released before the year is out, and my short story, Aster's Aussie Christmas will be in the CKT Story Collection to also be released before Christmas.

Four Reasons Whales May Accidentally Beach

Each year whales migrate up and down the length of our Australian coastline, both east and west, in their search for warmer breeding grounds. People flock to our shores during migration season in the hope to catch a glimpse of these magnificent mammals. I admit, I have been among them, both viewing from on-shore whale watching platforms and boats that take you further out to sea for a chance of closer encounters. I have watched a mother and calf at play in the safety of the bay at Warrnabool in Victoria and I have watched a pod migrating beside our boat from the far north-west coast off Broome, in Western Australia. In my recent blog journey I discussed our travel across the Great Australian Bight at the bottom of Australia as I searched for whales. They didn't disappoint, I found them off the south-west coasts of Esperance and Margaret River.

Unfortunately, every now and then we hear about a pod of whales that has beached on a coastline somewhere around Australia or New Zealand. Then the nearby community subsequently spend hours in frantic attempts to rescue as many lives as possible. This gave me the idea for a story about a young boy living in such a community and his realisation of the importance of lending a hand.

While writing my short story 'A Whale of a Christmas Time' which will be included in the upcoming CKT Story Collection, I researched possible reasons whales may find themselves beached. I discovered several surprising possible reasons. No one can say for sure which one is correct or if they are all true. However, it is worth being aware of all of them, just the same.

  1. A whale may have trouble detecting a sloping sandy beach with their sonar and before they know it they have come too close. In this case the whale would panic and accidentally beach themselves as it would be too late to turn back in the ocean current. Other Whales would subsequently beach themselves when trying to come to the aid of the first whale who has already made the mistake and would be sending out a distress signal.
  2. A whale may be sick, have some kind of disease or be injured and may come into shallower water for refuge to heal and then become trapped in the changing tide. As social creatures, the rest of the pod will follow as they refuse to leave their sick or injured family member.
  3. The pod could be foraging for food or chasing prey and come too close to shore, then find themselves stuck in the incoming tide.
  4. Seismic underwater activity ie  earthquakes, change in weather conditions, disease, unfamiliar underwater topography or magnetic field irregularities in which the sea floor spreads,, are all possible causes of disruptions to their sonar and would surely cause confusion.

No matter the reason whales find themselves caught on-shore, as long as communities continue to do everything humanly possible to prevent these horrific events as well as help these magnificent creatures when the inevitable does occur, we can't ask for anything more. Watching whales majestically swim safely out to sea unharmed is one of the greatest sights I have ever experienced. 

Have you ever had the opportunity to witness a whale and her calf playing in a bay, breaching the water as if waving to you? It's a beautiful sight. Tell me in the comments below where you were and how it made you feel?

If you are interested in reading 'A Whale of a Christmas Time,' subscribe to my newsletter for up to date information on the release date.