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!

A Fun and Educational Journey.

Join author Rosie Russell and Sherman the Shopping Cart on a fun and educational adventurous journey through a supermarket. In this delightful new picture book Ms Russell has incorporated a cute little story with bright, enticing illustrations and packed it full of educational learning opportunities.   https://www.amazon.com/Sherman-Shopping-Cart-Search-Find-ebook/dp/B076VZVW3G/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1509588811&sr=8-1&keywords=sherman+the+shopping+cart Kids enjoy books that encourage participation, this search and find story provides ample occasions on nearly every page  for children to be involved. Whether your little ones are just beginner readers or not yet reading, there is something for all to find. Early readers look for simple words while non-readers are able to find shapes and colours. This is a wonderful idea as it includes the whole family in the read aloud experience. The book is filled with language learning and vocabulary building, it is sure to be a winner in homes and pre-schools.

The story itself is brief but teaches children all the basics of each department category in the store as well as basic shopping etiquette, for example returning trolleys instead of leaving them in the car park. It allows for discussion topics on various food items, general household items and even pet food.

Provided in the final pages are extra learning activities for parents to extend their children's education opportunities by taking the search and find experience into the real world of a supermarket. Rosie includes games and suggestions again for both the early reader and non-reader. She also takes it one step further by incorporating maths activities along with the literacy based ideas.

All round this book has been thoroughly well thought through to provide as many learning experiences for young children as possible. While it is recommended for children 4-8 years, I believe Sherman could be used as a read aloud search and find from as young as 2 years as it is rich in colour and everyday vocabulary.

Sherman the Shopping Cart, a Search and Find deserves 5 out of 5 sparkling stars.

Rosie Russell has brought her many years experience as an Elementary school teacher into producing a series of educational books for young learners, "Engaging young readers one book at a time." You can learn more about Rosie and her books by visiting her website http://booksbyrose.com/index.html or meet her on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/BooksbyRose/

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.

Ready, Set, Jump into Summer 2017 C*U*R*R*E*N*T*L*Y SUMMER BLOG HOP

I know, what you are  thinking?  You may ask. It's not summer? Winter has hit with a vengeance this week! Some of my author friends are currently preparing for their SUMMER blog Hop, dreaming of sun screen. Kids playing Marco Polo in the pool and family road trips, I on the other hand am preparing for WINTER. That means snow men, bon-fires and cosying up in font of glowing embers at night with a hot cuppa and a good book.

My author friends to the north of us will be sharing their summer moments and inspirations in the C*U*R*R*E*N*T*L*Y - Summer Blog Hop to encourage you towards a great summer, however it is up to me to lead the way for those of us embarking on the depths of winter.. Please have a read and enjoy each of their #Gr8Blogs listed at the end of my post for Summer 2017 C*U*R*R*E*N*T*L*Y inspiration.

But for now, let me get you all nice and warm and toasty first off with my completely opposite C*U*R*R*E*N*T*L*Y - Winter Blog Hop 2017 .

*Loving
I am currently loving my early morning country walks with my dog. The fresh crisp air, frost underfoot and fog hugging the mountains like a cosy blanket. The remains of autumn leaves crunching underfoot while Snowy (my fluffy white Japanese Spitz) splashes in every puddle she can find. The cacophony of galahs, cockatoos, rosellas and magpies that protest their disturbance as we walk through their feeding frenzy. The alpacas and ponies that stop grazing and wander over to the wire fence for a friendly pat and I especially love the sight of kangaroos hopping through the paddocks and gracefully jumping each fence easily and naturally. The windchill factor has our temperature dropping below zero degrees celsius most mornings, but that's ok, it means we walk faster and burn more energy.
* Reading
 "Love Your Sister" by Connie and Samuel Johnson.
I have been meaning to read this for quite a while. My to read list is always a mile long. Now that winter is setting in, this means ample opportunity to rug up under thick, warm blankets with some great reading.  Connie has been an inspiration to women with breast cancer for years, her battle has been well recorded throughout Australian media as she has striven to raise funds for breast cancer research. Her brother Sam, put his acting career on hold and rode a unicycle around Australia to help raise attention to the need for breast cancer research and breast check/health awareness. This book is their life journey, their struggles and celebrations. Breast cancer has touched the lives of so many families, including my own, yet it was only a week or so ago when Connie and Sam mounted their final fund raising campaign here in Canberra that I finally managed to buy the book and started reading it. Connie's final wish was to raise $1,000,000.00 in 5c pieces in the shape of a huge heart. Australians really did open their hearts to her as the donations surpassed all expectations and reached over double anyone's hopes or beliefs. I'm finding the book to be quite moving, as Connie talks you through her courageous experience of surviving cancer not once but several times.  Her outlook on life is truly inspirational to anyone going through the stages of this traumatic disease.
* Watching
Dr Who and loving it! This season would have to be the scariest in a long time. There has to have been a moment in every episode where I have nearly jumped out of my skin. David Tennant is my favourite Doctor, but Peter Capaldi is fantastic this season. The story lines have been creative and intriguing.
I've also just watched "Anne with an E" on Netflix. There was only seven episodes in the series so it left me wanting more. The Canadian scenery was spectacular and naturally the story of Anne of Green Gables was portrayed magnificently. If you ever read the book as a child, you will enjoy this series.
 'The Crown" was another superb Netflix series. The early life and reign of Queen Elizabeth 2 and her family is fascinating. Winston Churchill is portrayed brilliantly by John Lithgow and Matt Smith has Prince Phillip's mannerisms perfect. The first season covers events in the Queen's private and political life from 1947 to 1955. I found the historical accounts quite compelling and am looking forward to next season.
*Listening To
I like to listen to a range of music styles and artists. At the moment I am quite enjoying a lot of Ed Sheerin's works. He reminds me a lot of my youngest son's best mate who also plays the guitar and piano. Mike is a rather talented young musician who is a super composer of music scores. He graduated from the Australian Institute of Music and is now completing his honours year at the Australian National University. I am sure he has a bright future ahead of him.
There's always a bit of the Eagles playing somewhere in the mix and this weekend we are off to a concert by a cover band  titled "The Ultimate Eagles" who I hear play all their hits brilliantly. I am very much looking forward to watching their performance.
*Writing
I am currently in the process of working on a number of stories. They are all in various stages of completion.
I have two short stories almost ready to submit to an Australian Anthology that will be released for Christmas. As such, I have written both stories with a Christmas theme. The first is suitable for children ages 8-12 yrs and is about a young boy who in helping a stranded pod of whales, he comes to realise the importance of helping others, while the second story is a fun little tale for children aged 3-6 yrs. It uses my alien character from my Bradberrie Brother's Alien Adventures. It is the aliens first Aussie Christmas and describes all the wonders that he sees and experiences.
I am also working on a middle grade chapter book where the Bradberrie Brothers have a bit of a Bali adventure. It is totally different from the rest of the series as it is for slightly older readers. The third book in the series "Alien Milkshakes" is sitting in the wings waiting for final edits and cover design to be completed.
Not to forget, several other Australian animal picture books I am ready to have illustrated and still working on writing more.
* Thinking About
 I'm always thinking about the never ending list of things to do. Whether it's on my writing list, reading list, study list (I am always learning more about this writing life), our company paperwork, housework, or helping to do more on the house building. The list never seems to end, but I enjoy it all.
* Anticipating
Moving into our house. This September will be ten years since we first moved onto our property. I am anticipating that by then, our dream might finally be complete. We have worked hard building it and each time we reach a milestone I am thankful and proud of our accomplishments, but I have to admit, I must be a very patient wife to wait this long!
I am also anticipating another good fall of snow this winter. We had one beautiful white day last year, but it doesn't take long to melt. I always promised my boys a "Snow Day" so that they could have a day off school. It never eventuated. Maybe this year now that they have all moved out of home it just might happen.
* Wishing
The house was already finished and we were moved in.  The shed is pretty comfortable but it's time we moved into the house.
* Making Me Happy
My family makes me happy. Seeing my boys happy, self-sufficient and successful in their chosen careers. I look at them and know hubby and I have raised three amazing sons that we can be very proud of. I love them, their gorgeous wives and my hubby "to the moon and back." :)
It also makes me really happy when I am asked to refill an order for my books at a gift shop or tourist centre. Knowing my books are selling and people are at home reading them to their children at night fills me with a wonderful warm fuzzy feeling. If a child is smiling because a parent has read one of my books to them, I couldn't be happier.
* Seeing in My Camera Lens
I love taking photos of the animal silhouettes in our fireball. One of the best parts of this time of year is sitting outside by our fire at sunset with a cheese and crackers plate and a glass of red wine. Neighbours, friends and family gathered all around to chat and laugh by the warmth of the fire.
What are you currently looking forward to this winter or summer? Please drop me a line in the comments below. Now that the cold of winter has set in, I am sure to be inside by the fire waiting eagerly to read.
Now that you have warmed your toes by the fire, be sure to take a peak and see what some of my author friends are up to this summer. Their links are listed below.  (Or will be in the next few days.)
Happy reading :)

A Land of Sweeping Plains and Flooding Rains (Part 8)

We have a map of Australia hung on our wall at home to which we have pinned all the places we have managed to visit throughout all the years we have been together. There's not much of this fabulous country we haven't seen, except maybe the Daintree Rainforest, located towards the top of the north-east coast of Queensland, that is next on our bucket list. Dorothea Mackeller had it so write when she penned the words to her famous poem "My Country" in 1908. Throughout this journey from coast to coast we had certainly experienced it all. After four fantastic weeks of road tripping and nearly 7 1/2 thousand km,  it was time to turn and head back home. We had seen sweeping plains, ragged mountains, far horizons and jewel-seas. We had driven through both drought and flooded country. All of it was beautiful to me. 

We were now driving across the sunburnt outback gold mining region of Western Australia. The red earth was quite distinct yet it still revealed stunning wildflowers and surprising goannas that appeared to enjoy sunning themselves on the open road.

 

 

 

 

Kalgoorlie was an amazing old mining town. Not sure what I had expected, but it proved to be rather inviting. The colonial architecture that adorned the streets was fabulous. The people were really friendly and the open mine pit was huge! We also spent a bit of time in the gold mine museum, which was lots of fun. We climbed monster trucks and watched a film that demonstrated a tour of the underground mining.

 

 

 

 

Eventually we found ourselves making our way back across the Nullabor.  This meant more opportunities for those holes of golf.  This time I can safely report no snakes impeded our game, just a few emu that wandered across the fairway. Back home we are used to waiting for the kangaroos to move off, so we happily waited for the emus to move on too. On our final night staying on the Nullabor we stopped just inside the South Australian border where we played yet another golf  hole and had a fun photo opportunity. 

 

 

 

 

One last overnight stay in Ceduna gave us a chance to walk along the pier in much improved weather conditions than we had encountered on the way over. Plus I was able to return to the Information Centre who kindly placed an order for both 'Emma the Eager Emu' and 'Frazzled Freya.' My children's books are beginning to spread across the nation. :)

Instead of heading straight home from here, we took one final detour. The Flinders Ranges are spectacular. They rise out of the flat open plains behind Port Augusta in stark majestic beauty. We spent several hours walking through magnificent eucalypt forests and up to the lookout on the rim of Wilpena Pound. Although it resembles a volcanic crater, Wilpena Pound is in fact made from sedimentary rock. The view from the top is amazing, but I admit the most striking thing to me was the grandeur of the gum trees. One of my favourite Australian artists is Hans Heysen who is famous for his paintings of the trees of this region. My mother-in-law used to say that looking out of the windows at our home was like living in a Hans Heysen painting. As we walked through these magnificent trees I wished she could have been here with us, she would have loved it.

 

 

 

Finally after five unbelievable weeks on the road we made it home. When asked what my favourite moment, place or experience would have been, I can't really answer. It was all so amazing! I truly do love everything about this sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains and flooding rains.

I hope you have enjoyed your tour across Australia as seen through my eyes as much as I have enjoyed sharing it with you. If you stayed with me through all 8 posts, thank you. If you missed any, the links are below.

What was your favourite tale from our journey? Was it finally seeing the majestic whales off the Western Australian coast? The dolphins or Emus? Perhaps all the beautiful wild flowers? Please drop me a line in the comments below.

Part 7

Part 6

Part 5

Part 4

Part 3

Part 2

Part 1