Short Stories

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 .

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.
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 7)

How are you at navigating? Are you any good with reading maps? Do you use the sun to gauge direction? I'll admit navigating has never been my best attribute, yet as hubby is the driver that leaves me as the navigator. Sometimes that is not a good idea especially on the other side of the country. No matter how many times we have visited Perth, I can't get the hang of the sun setting over the Indian Ocean when I have grown up watching it rise over the Pacific. This seems to throw my sense of direction out every time. I know the sun sets in the west, but my brain tells me it rises over the ocean, so I have this internal argument whenever we are in Western Australia as I just can't determine north in my mind. It's an internal struggle that baffles me. I was in the midst of working through one of these navigational struggles when we departed Perth. Hubby as usual, just started to drive not waiting for my directions. He knew where we were heading. I'm glad one of us did. Our next planned stop was Geraldton, a 4 1/2 hour drive north if we didn't detour. Only problem was, I wanted to go via the coast road and it took me some time to work out exactly which road hubby had taken. We were further inland than I had hoped. After some discussion, (and convincing on my behalf) I found a road to take us across. An hour later we were back on track heading towards the Pinnacles.

The Pinnacles Desert is an amazing place that we have been to before, but I wanted to take the opportunity to visit the Information Centre in the hope that they might be interested in considering my books. We did take advantage of being there and drove through the site again. The Pinnacles are stunning limestone formations that jut out from the desert floor in a fashion similar to a termite nest. They rise from the yellow desert sands in various heights up to 3 m tall and number somewhere in the thousands. As you wind your way through the drive, there are places to pull over, allowing you the opportunity to walk around and take spectacular photographs. It is believed these limestone Pinnacles were formed from the shells of an ancient sea bed. At various locations you can see the superb aqua of the ocean as a perfect background. The visit did prove worthwhile, the manager of the Information Centre was delighted with Emma the Eager Emu and Frazzled Freya and to my excitement placed an order to stock both books. After all, if you are lucky and stay in the area overnight, you will be more than likely to see both emus and frill-neck lizards so my picture books are perfect for their gift shop.





Geraldton to my surprise was a much larger town than I had expected. My Grandfather had been stationed there during WW2 so I was interested to see what it was like. It is a very well maintained town with beautiful old federation architectural buildings down the main street, but there are also many new modern buildings around as well. The harbour is filled with an abundance of fishing boats and yachts. I thought it was really quite pretty. We only stayed overnight though as the plan was to reach Shark Bay and Monkey Mia the next day.

The drive from Geraldton to Shark Bay should have been easily done by lunchtime, but there was so much to see we didn't arrive until well after dark. We detoured off the main highway across to the coast to see the very small fishing village of Port Gregory and its amazing Pink Lake. The lake becomes pink at certain times of the year due to bacteria in the algae that gets trapped in the salt granules that cover the ground instead of sand. A bit of local sense of humour was on display, look closely at the fisherman in the photo. Everyone stopped to take a pic, myself included, I couldn't resist.

We continued along the coast road to be able to stretch our legs and do the Kalbarri Coastal Cliffs walk. This walk should come with a warning, it's not for the faint-hearted.  There are several walks to choose from, all along sandstone cliffs that plunge around 100 m to the ocean below. They do provide spectacular views and you can choose the short walks to some of the lookouts. However we decided to take a path between lookouts that leads along the edge of the cliff top. About halfway around I realised this was perhaps not a good idea. The wind felt like it was almost gale force and hubby is frightened of heights. The path was so close to the edge he was terrified. There are no railings to protect you from falling off the edge. He gripped my hand so tight I thought I would lose circulation. He was so relieved when we reached the end of the trail, until the moment he became aware he would have to turn around and make the trek back along the path to reach our car parked back at the opposite end. I should mention also, be sure to take plenty of water with you if you ever do this walk. The path is very exposed, there is no shade and it is quite hot, even with the wind.




To my delight, even though my son had said it was a bit late in the season for wildflowers north of Perth, we found many stunning examples. I couldn't resist asking to stop the car to take photos of wildflower displays the likes of which I had never seen before.

Swimming with the dolphins at Monkey Mia had been on my bucket list for years. On arriving at Shark Bay I was so excited, the time had finally come. To top things off, as we drove around the back streets of the small town we came across a couple of emus grazing in someones yard.  Unfortunately Monkey Mia did disappoint me a little. It has become too touristy. What was once a pristine wilderness area is now set up to make money. Be prepared to pay to enter the National Park, pay to watch the rangers feed a small handful of the older dolphins, pay to go out on a boat to see the dolphins. No longer are you allowed to swim with them either. In fact you are not allowed in the water at all if the dolphins are there. I understand the need to protect them as the place has become very popular and it would be far too much for the dolphins if everyone were allowed to touch them. Our understanding of protecting animals has improved so much and it is good to see them well cared for. An English tourist tried to wade into the water to touch the dolphin we were photographing, the park ranger appeared in no time to demand he step back and leave the water. Still couldn't help being a little disappointed, I had come so far and was so close, but could not join this magnificent creature in her watery world.




We had lunch at the Aquarium and had a fascinating tour by a marine biologist who shared so much knowledge of the marine life of the area. To complete our day we took an off road drive through the red sand dunes. Once again we came across emus, this time a whole family, with chicks as well. They were gorgeous. I loved finding them out in their natural habitat. 

My lack of navigation skills had proved not too much of a problem. We made a few unnecessary detours, but in the end, they proved to find some wonderful worthwhile places to see.

Have you managed to navigate a trip successfully or discovered amazing unplanned places? Where did you go?

Next week: The return trip begins. Gold mining towns and back across the Nullabor.


A Land of Sweeping Plains and Flooding Rains (Part 6)

Sometimes one of the best things about a road trip is the journey, other times it is the destination. In this case it was both of these and more, for it also meant catching up with family and friends. Two weeks after leaving the east coast of Australia we finally reached our destination on the west coast, Perth, the current home town of our eldest son and his wife. Perth is a beautiful city and I love any excuse to visit this amazing city on the Swan River, but most of all, I love the chance to spend time with Jason and Elisa. We walked in the nature reserve near their home and discovered an abundance of magnificent wildflowers. We did the same in the Botanical gardens in Kings Park which are in the heart of the city and display a fabulous array of native flowers from all the regions of Western Australia. Being late September was the perfect time, it meant the wild flowers were in full bloom. 








The Swan River wine growing region is on their doorstep, so naturally we always spend a day exploring a winery or two, the Margaret River Chocolate Factory and a coffee and fudge factory that were irresistible!

All the touristy things aside, it was great to simply catch up and spend precious time at their home chatting, seeing the improvements to their garden and patting my two 'grand-doggies' Peppa and Phoenix.

To my delight I also had the opportunity to catch up and have lunch with two amazing friends. One is a girlfriend I became very close to when we were both expats in what seems like another lifetime.  Back in the 90's we lived in Thailand and our husbands worked together. Bringing up an Aussie family in a foreign country very different from ours, produces a bit of a culture shock and tends to bind you together forever. Whenever I visit Perth we try to get together if possible. The other lunch was even more amazing as it was with a friend I had not seen since my wedding day some 32 years ago! He had moved to Perth for work and we had lost touch, thanks to the wonders of the internet we were now back in contact and hubby and I were able to enjoy a great lunch catching up on all the years we had missed in his life. It was wonderful! 

Next on the agenda was a couple of days down south in Margaret River, wine growing capital of Western Australia. Friends from Sydney coincidentally had booked a great holiday house and invited us to join them. We have been to Margaret River a number of times over the years, but like Perth, I never tire of visiting this beautiful region. The wildflowers were still in full bloom and we were lucky to spot whales not once but twice! The beach beside the mouth of the river is a well known surfing destination for the west coast and is also popular as part of the world surfing competition. It was great to see the area had been upgraded since our last visit. The local council had obviously spent quite a reasonable amount providing paved walkways and seated areas. We sat there and watched a number of whales breaching out beyond the wave breaks. In the evening we were able to sip Margaret River wine, taste Margaret River cheese while laughing with great friends on the balcony of the house, watching more whales and the golden glow of the sunset over the ocean. It was perfect. We had a day exploring boutique wineries we had not discovered on earlier visits as well as cheese and chocolate factories we had not been to before. There was no need to do the limestone caves, I think we have covered most of them on previous visits. This was a short stay after all and not the time to do any caving'





On the way back up to Perth we paid a visit to another long time friend from Thailand days. Lunch at their place meant more wonderful memories, great laughs and a fabulous walk along the beachfront at Mandurah. Returning to Perth we had one final visit to make, dinner with friends hubby worked with in Darwin and a special stop by the Whipper Snapper Whisky Distillery to pick up a few special purchases as we have a small interest in the company. It was time for a taste of the product. I admit I am not usually a fan of whiskey but found myself pleasantly surprised by the flavour. I can appreciate that it is becoming a preferred alternative for the palette of many young businessmen.





We then had one last evening with our son before heading north for the final leg of our journey. As usual it was heartbreaking to say goodbye but I know he has to lead his own life. After all it is part of the natural cycle of life for the young to leave the nest and venture forward on their own journey. It is now our time to continue our next chapter in life also. Life is itself a journey we should embrace and enjoy each and every moment we share with loved ones.

When you travel, is it the journey or the destination you look most forward to?

Next week: Geraldton, Monkey Mia, Dolphins and more wildflowers.

A Land of Sweeping Plains and Flooding Rains (Part 5)

'Are we there yet?" Sound familiar?  It is a constant question we here as a parent whenever we attempt a road trip. Games, activities, books, songs, everything a resourceful parent can think of is usually needed to keep the kids occupied along the journey.

Yet oddly enough, it had been a week since departing home and I had not been tempted to say it even once!

To say the scenery so far had been nothing but spectacular is an understatement and the experiences so far had been surprising and outstanding. We had still so much more ahead of us.

It had taken seven days to travel through flooding rains, across sweeping plains and even the treeless Nullabor with its incredible rugged cliffs that drop into the Great Australian Bite, but we had finally reached Esperance in Western Australia and I had witnessed my first whale sighting. You can tell Esperance is known for whale watching, there is a fabulous sculpture in the park on the beach.

Next on our agenda was picturesque Cape Le Grand National Park. However, on the drive around from Esperance came another wonderful surprise, a must stop and see. In the middle of a farmers paddock we found a full size replica of Stonehenge. It stood complete as it once would have, some 3,000 or more years ago. We had so much fun walking between the stones, unlike the original in Salisbury, England that is roped off from tourists. This replica invites you to touch and feel the atmosphere. It is designed so that it too, can catch the summer and winter solstice. Naturally, I couldn't resist, I had to press my hands against the stones just in case I could travel back in time. (Outlander fans know what I mean.) Not that my husband would have been impressed if he lost me. Then it was time to run for shelter as the inevitable storm rolled in across the plains. We chatted inside the tourist centre to the very friendly owner while we waited for the rain to abate before continuing our journey to the cape.





Cape Le Grand National Park was everything we had heard it to be and more. Pristine pure white sandy beaches stretched around every corner and nestled in little sheltered bays. Rugged rocky outcrops of massive granite peaks rose in spectacular formation among the rolling heathlands that include an abundance of amazing wildflowers. Western Grey kangaroos are said to roam the beaches but we didn't see any while we were there. My guess is you would have to stay overnight in a camp site to see them at dusk or dawn the same as we see the kangaroos at home. There were many bushwalking trails to take advantage of to see the sights, unfortunately we did not stay long enough to take in any of the longer walks. So I have added that to my bucket list, I will return one day to do some of these beautiful walks.





That evening we were expected in the little country town of Mt Barker. Friends of hubby lived there and we were due for dinner. We enjoyed their company so much, one overnight stay turned into two nights. They drove us around town and the surrounding countryside, pointing out which farms were owned by which family members. We were convinced by the end that their families must have owned most of Mt Barker and the surrounding region. They took us up to visit a private little chapel on a hill overlooking the town, that had been there since the 1800's. The gardens looked really pretty with the canola fields in bloom as a backdrop before taking us to lunch in a quaint little winery. Until then, I had no idea this was a wine growing region of WA. I must admit, both the wine and lunch were rather yummy!

While there, we popped down to the coast to the town of Albany. I had hoped to see Albany on a previous visit to WA, we came close, but didn't quite reach it. Albany is an old whaling town, also famous as the place where our troops were sent off to Gallipoli at the beginning of WW1. On leaving here, this was the last time so many of our young men saw their home land. There is a huge museum in their memory here but we spent so long at the old whaling station museum we didn't have time to visit both. The tour of the whaling museum was fascinating. I am so glad the Australian government decided to stop the cruel slaughtering of such a magnificent and majestic mammal back in the 1970's. They are continually updating the exhibitions, adding more 3D and interactive sites. It is very informative with so much to see, do and explore, be prepared to spend a full day there. Also be prepared for the unexpected, we walked into the coffee shop only to hear my name called out and a lady rushed over to embrace me. I couldn't believe my eyes, we were on the other side of Australia and ran into someone we knew from home! How coincidental was that!

After our two and a half day visit with friends in Mt Barker it was time to start making our way up towards Perth where we would finally be able to spend some precious time with our eldest son and his wife. As we have previously visited the Margaret River region several times, (and planned to visit a bit later in this trip) we bypassed it after an overnight stop in Denmark, (the town not the country) and only stopped to take the occasional photo of wildflowers. Arriving in the south-west of WA in late September meant all the wildflowers that the region is famous for were all in bloom. The splendour of colour was everywhere.





It had now been almost two weeks on the road and I was so excited with the thought of seeing my son, yet I still refrained from asking the proverbial question, "are we there yet?" I was savouring every moment.

Have you experienced that "are we there yet?" feeling? If so, where were you heading? Did you enjoy your road trip? Please leave a comment in the comment box below.

Next week: Perth, family, friends, Margaret River and more friends.

Don't forget, if you have missed any of the journey so far, and you would like to catch up, it's easy, just click on any of the links below.



A Land of Sweeping Plains and Flooding Rains (Part 4)

During the course of this journey I had so far not been all that successful in my attempts at whale watching. Would the next few days unfold better luck? The flooding rains had finally departed (for now) but there were still plenty of sweeping plains to navigate. After leaving the Head of the Bite we were truly crossing the Nullabor Plain. No trees in sight for as far as the eye could see. To my surprise I did find my first whale, all be it a sculpture, does that count? We were literally in the middle of no where! An area of sweeping plains that seemed far from any coastline. The whale took pride of place in front of the Nullabor Roadhouse. I guessed it was a sign I was on the right track. The roadhouse also had the original petrol station as a museum, a memory from times when the road was dirt and rarely travelled. It was good to see it all sealed these days, and frequently used. Although the one thing worse than being stuck behind a massive road train is being stuck behind a road train and a caravan! The road is single lane each way, and although reasonably straight, it surprisingly rises and falls quite frequently making it difficult to see to overtake. I was grateful we installed a CB radio into our car before we left home which enabled us to talk to the truckies and caravan drivers. I must say, they were all very polite and helpful letting you know when it is safe to pass.






We reached the other end of the Bite at sunset, a perfect time for photos as the sun hit the side of the cliffs. Still couldn't see any whales. 

Just when we thought we were reaching the other side of the Nullabor we came across this sign - Australia's longest straight road, 90 Mile Straight (146.6km). Finally we arrived at another roadhouse, a welcome rest stop after a long stretch of nothing and to our surprise this one held the museum for Skylab. Skylab was an American owned space station sent into orbit by NASA in 1973 and crashed to Earth in 1979 spreading debris across the Nullabor Plain and Western Australian goldfields. It made widespread news not only in Australia but worldwide. I was in my teens at the the time and remember watching the events unfold with fascination, so to visit the museum and read the history was amazing. To my delight I found and read a newspaper article that depicted our typical Australian sense of humour, On arrival to retrieve the debris, officers from NASA were handed a $400.00 fine for littering the Shire of Esperance with space junk. This fine has not been paid to this day, not that it was ever expected to be paid.






Three days after leaving Ceduna on the South Australian coast, we arrived in Esperance at the bottom of the Western Australian coast. Beautiful white sandy beaches, aqua blue clear oceans, rugged rocky outcrops, a picturesque coastline with a road that wound around providing magnificent scenic views, including a windmill in a rather unique spot. We stood in almost gale force winds while watching the surf  and rain roll in, then yes, my first real sighting of whales! A mother and calf were sheltering in the bay.  It was wonderful to watch them breach the water, here were the planting of seeds for my short story "A Whale of a Christmas Time."






My wish to see whales satiated for the time being it was time to settle into our B&B for the afternoon to watch Sharks. It was the NRL Grand Final, and our local Shire team, the Cronulla Sharks, were playing. It was a game not to be missed. In the history of 50 years in the competition the Sharks had never won a grand final. This was our year! I was already ticking things off my bucket list on this holiday and now to watch our team finally win was the icing on the cake we had all been waiting for. The Shire celebrated for weeks after the game, I admit there were moments where I would have liked to have been home. I phoned my mum at the end of the game. she was in tears with exhilaration. We made calls to other friends too that night, the excitement is a memory that will last a long time in our hearts.

What about you, do you have a memory that was so exciting the feeling will last a lifetime? Winning a Grand Final football match may seem  inconsequential to the birth of children or your wedding, but when you have followed a team all your life, your parents and grandparents also followed the same team, to see them finally win for the first time in history is an emotional  unforgettable experience.

Next week : Another unusual discovery, a whaling museum and wildflowers.

If you missed parts 1,2 and 3 and would like to catch up on the journey so far, here are the links -

A Land of Sweeping Plains and Flooding Rains (Part 3)

Do you have a bucket list? Have you managed to tick anything off that list?

I have been fortunate in my life, so far I can tick off a number of dreams from my list. In no particular order they are -

1. Sipped a glass of champagne while taking in the view of Paris from the top of the Eiffel tower.

2. Ridden a camel at sunset along Cable Beach in Broome, WA. 

3. Swum under a waterfall in more than one outback Australian waterhole.

4. Strolled around Monet's magnificent gardens in Giverny, France.

5. Slept in a haunted castle in Ireland.

I could go on but then this list would be far too long.

This journey,  was another memorable bucket list experience I was excited to finally achieve.

So far we had crossed through the wine and fruit growing regions of NSW, during massive floods (Part 1), the wheat belt of country Victoria and South Australia and had now reached the beginning of the Great Australian Bite. The Nullabor was in reach.(part 2.)

After leaving Ceduna we were amazed at the size of each wheat farm that stretched for kilometres.  Our first stop was Penong Windmill Museum, located in the tiny town of Penong on the edge of the Nullabor. The museum was officially opened only a week before we arrived, so it was all brand new. The towns folk were rather excited about their new exhibition. Since solar pumps are beginning to replace windmills across the Australian landscape, this community decided to salvage some of the most iconic windmills, restore them and place them altogether in an outdoor museum as a tribute to the way things once were. We had a wonderful time walking around and reading the information about them all. I was surprised at the difference in sizes of them. Included in the collection is the largest windmill in Australia that spans over 35 foot.

Just around the corner and across the road, we played our first golf hole. Yes folks, before leaving Ceduna we had paid a visit to the Information centre to pay our golf fees to play the Nullabor Links. Friends had told us about this and it seemed a great idea. The Nullabor Links comprises of 18 holes of golf that span from Ceduna all the way across the Nullabor with the final hole to be completed in the old gold mining town of Kalgoorlie,  situated in Western Australia, 1,388 km from Ceduna in South Australia. That would have to be the world's longest golf course! It is a brilliant idea to make tourists take a break along the long straight stretches of road. You will find a golf hole at each roadhouse, caravan park or town along the way. Most of them are pretty rough, dry, with a lot of dirt and overgrown scrub, but that makes it all the more fun as you tackle the unique obstacles that arise. A fair warning to those who decide to give it a go, while we had a lot of fun, be careful. I teed off at one hole and as I walked up towards my ball for my second stroke, a brown snake slithered across my path and attempted to take my golf ball. For my overseas readers, an Australian Brown Snake is one of our deadliest snakes, it will strike if it feels threatened. We decided that was enough golf for that particular hole. The snake won that particular hole that day!






How anyone can say the drive across the Nullabor is boring, I'll never know. We found it fascinating! There was so much more to stop and see than I could have ever imagined.  The word Nullabor comes from the Latin derivatives of Nullus - no and arbor - tree. It is a flat open ancient seabed with almost no trees to be seen for miles. That being said, on leaving Penong, we detoured along Point Sinclair Rd, across Lake Macdonnell all the way to Point LeHunt to find another long jetty ideal for whale watching, disappointingly, there were no whales in sight that day. There was however a great picnic spot with a shelter and wall covered in clever mosaic art pieces. I took photos of them all to show my neighbour as she is in the middle of a long term mosaic project, I hoped these might inspire her. 






On return to the Eyre Highway we continued our drive until we reached the next detour that took us to the Head of the Bite and the Great Australian Bite Marine Park for that first glimpse of whale watching. Due to the massive storms that had been through the area in recent days, the seas were churned up and it was rather muddy near the coastline. This meant the whales were further out to sea than normal. We did manage to spot one or two, but it was difficult. The boardwalk was well set up with several vantage spots to look for whales, including some sheltered areas from the inevitable biting winds and rain. That day though, my quest for whales was not satisfied. Undaunted, the search continued. 

Do you have a bucket list?

Have you ticked anything off it yet?

Be sure to add your list in the comments below. :) 

Next week : More discoveries along the Nullabor and we finally make it to Esperance, but do we find whales?




A Land of Sweeping Plains and Flooding Rains (Part 2)

Have you ever dreamt of driving across Australia? Seeing her vast open plains, massive wheat fields that spread as far as the eye can see over the horizon. Watching kangaroos hopping iconically alongside your car as you whizz along the highway.

I was born and raised in Sydney (on the east coast) and now live on the outskirts of Canberra, but my son and his wife live in Perth, (on the west coast). We have flown over to visit many times. The flight takes about 5 hours, but to have the opportunity to take the time to drive across was a dream come true. To drive across comfortably, you need to prepare for at least a week. Last week I began the story of our journey across this magnificent vast country of ours. If you missed it, here is the link to catch up -

We had just left the clear blue skies over Mildura and were headed directly towards South Australia and the biggest storm they had faced in decades! Of cause, I didn't believe it. That is, until the clouds inevitably rolled in across the plains. It grew darker by the minute. Eventually the rain hit. Thunder and lightning struck. The rain became so torrential it was almost impossible to continue to drive.  We did manage to drive through some gorgeous old country mining and wine growing towns, their architecture dating back to the early settlers of the 1800's. Not old in terms of most overseas countries I know, but great to see here. The plains and grazing lands gave way to rolling hills and winding roads.

Eventually the weather appeared to calm down and we came unexpectedly across an incredible find. In the middle of a farmers field was a natural wonder! A rock formation aptly named 'The Haystacks." Visitors were invited to walk around them after leaving a gold coin donation in the box at the gate. Mind you, we could still see more storm clouds on the horizon, so decided upon a brisk walk rather than a meander. The wind howled and buffeted our path but we had fun among the natural standing stones non-the-less. Then it was a race back to the car as the rain began to pelt down once again. I did make a quick stop on the way back to purchase a jar of the farmer's honey by leaving $5.00 in the box in place of the jar. I love the honour system of doing business in the country.

On reaching Port Augusta, our destination for the night, we discovered that the entire state was now in blackout! 'Don't worry" the hotel manager assured us. "it will be back on in a couple of hours. In the meantime we have the restaurant still open for dinner for our guests only." On the menu for the evening was curry and rice or curry and rice. They were only able to cook one dish on the gas burner. At least it was a romantic candle lit dinner for two.

By morning, still no power. a candle lit breakfast for two of bacon and eggs or bacon and eggs. Not even any cereal as they could not provide fresh milk, which also meant black tea or coffee! What a start to the day! Then the realisation hit, no power statewide, meant no petrol station open. Fortunately we were in our 4WD with two petrol tanks. Hubby assured me we had enough to make it to our next pre-booked destination. It was a bit of a gamble but we decided to give it a go!

We made a quick detour into the old mining town of Iron Knob. Very remote! Population of less than 200. It seemed like the entire town (6 people) were holding a meeting about the lack of power, in the General store. Couldn't offer us any hot food or petrol, (and it was rather cold, so a hot cuppa would have been nice.) Even the local museum was closed due to lack of power. We were offered a free tour on our return visit. Thank you very much, but I think we'll give it a miss!

A bit further down the road we encountered the tiny town of Kyancutta. To say the local business owner was not happy is an understatement. In fact, he pretty much summed up the feelings of most South Australians at the time. It is amazing how a power blackout after a storm can bring an entire state to its knees.

Fortunately we did find a small country town where the service station had a generator, so as long as you could pay with cash, he had a working petrol pump. He was doing a roaring trade. Cars, trucks and caravans were lined up the length of the street. The local bakery was also doing great sales, probably the best they had done in years. They were rushed off their feet unable to keep up with the demand. No sooner were meat pies out of the ovens they were all sold. It's amazing how successful a business can be if it has a backup power system and word of mouth.

Finally, we reached the coast and made our first sighting of one of many long jetty's that appeared at every coastal town along the bottom of South and Western Australia. Streaky Bay was a really pretty spot, very well looked after, obviously quite a holiday destination for South Australians. I'd be happy to have a quiet holiday there one day. It would be easy to fill the day with fishing, walking, reading and of course a bit of writing. 

We made it into Ceduna that evening to once again stay in the only hotel with power. Our room directly overlooked the jetty, which was amazing! Fortunately, South Australia awoke to electricity the next morning so it was back to business as usual. After topping up the petrol tank once again, and a visit to the visitors information centre we were finally on our way heading across the Nullabor.

Have you ever dreamt of driving across the Nullabor?

Or have you managed to fulfil a lifelong dream like this?

Please leave a comment in the box below, I'd love to hear about your experience or dream.

Next week : - an unusual museum, golf on the Nullabor? and in search of whales at last!


Inspire Kids to Read and Write Together.

November is a great month to encourage writing, (as is any month). It is Picture book month and NanoWriMo (National Writing Month). Why not combine the two with your class and enjoy a reading and writing session using your favourite picture books as stimulus. Reading and writing go hand in hand. One is always helped by achieving the other. Reading is improved when children read something they have written themselves just as writing improves the more they can read. Kids succeed with both these skills when brought together to share ideas, inspire, encourage and work as a team.  images

There is no need for a child to struggle alone in the classroom. As part of a team, they can develop their strengths as each member brings significant individual qualities to the group. One may have amazing creative ideas as a story starter, while it may take another to bring the story to conclusion. One child may be a great reader but need inspiration for ideas of their own.  Teamwork can supply the support and encouragement for all to succeed. Together they can find the confidence to write and read a story that they may not be able to imagine individually.

This is particularly useful with multi-age groups where younger children have amazing imaginations but need the help of older kids to read and write. In turn, older kids who struggle with the lack of creativity or imagination are stimulated by their younger group members to develop ideas further, therefore together they are able to create a much more interesting story.

When put to work together it is surprising what ideas a group of children will come up with to produce a diverse range of stories taken from the same stimulation.

Take for example a group of children in varying ages from 6 to 12, brought together to write a Fractured Fairy Tale.

We began by reading aloud together the very familiar story of The Three Little Pigs. Everyone loves a fairy tale and all the colourful pictures that go along with the book. As you read together, even those who can't yet read along, can still participate with the well known repetition. "I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house down!" download

After the initial story, we discussed the characters and stories of a few more rather familiar fairy tales - Goldilocks and the Three Bears and Little Red Riding Hood. Again, this allows all age groups to participate, it is not necessary to read all the stories as they are so well known.

We discussed the possibilities of what might happen should all these characters come together in one story.  As a guidance I helped structure a beginning and middle of their stories before sending the groups off to work and discuss how they might bring their fractured fairy tale to a conclusion. They drew story boards for their ideas to help reach a satisfactory ending that they all agreed upon. This requires a lot of chatter, but it is busy, happy talking as they draw, read, discuss and write down ideas.

Here is an example of a story that one group worked together to encourage each other to read and write. images-1

badwolfblowThe Wolf Attack.

In a little cottage in the woods lived three bears.

One day they invited Goldilocks and her Grandmother for lunch. Little Red Riding Hood was also on her way to visit.

Meanwhile, the Big Bad Wolf was hungry. He was trying to catch the three little pigs for his dinner. They ran to the house of the three bears for safety.

The big bad wolf found some other evil wolves to join him and they followed everyone to the cottage in the woods.

The wolves banged on the door but they could not get in. So they disguised themselves as pigs and tried again.

But their growly voices gave them away and unknown to them, the pigs also had security cameras  on the outside of the cottage.

The Three Little pigs, the Three Bears, Goldilocks, Grandmother and Red Riding Hood could not be fooled.

The bad wolves gave up and went away leaving everyone to enjoy their lunch.




What picture books would you use to help bring a group of students together to read and write?

We Drove A Sunburnt Country Part Three

DSCN0748Three days and 2068 km after saying goodbye to Darwin we finally reached Winton, dinosaur capitol of central out back Queensland. It had been three days of dry hot flat desert and I was keen to reach the museum first thing in the morning. Twenty minutes out of town we reached the turn off, an unsealed road not really suitable for our car. Now I admit that when one is travelling in the outback you really should be in a four wheel drive as we had learnt previously with our unexpected flat tyre, but we had come this far, I was not going to let this minor obstacle make me miss out on something I had anticipated for many years. We agreed to continue on, slowly and carefully, four wheel drives overtook us, billowing up great gusts of dust in their wake as they rushed to reach the museum to start work for the day. DSCN0749 DSC_0092The Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum did not disappoint! We booked into both tours. Firstly the tour of the working laboratory which is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. Here we were told, believe it or not, that they only go out on digs for three weeks a year. They find and collect so many bones that they now have a backlog collection to clean up and classify that will take at least ten years to work through! They now house the worlds largest collection of dinosaur bones and we were able to walk passed most of them! Throughout the tour the guide gives a wonderful and thorough explanation of how the first bone was discovered, plus the reasons behind why the area is prolific with dinosaur bones and why it was so important to build the working museum on the site. You are even given time to watch them clean debris from bone fragments.

During the second tour we were able to watch a film explaining the topography and changes in geology of the area from the dinosaur era to today. We were shown fragments of bones found in the area of the two main dinosaurs, Banjo and Matilda, that put Winton on the map and made fossil hunting so significant to Australian scientists. Research into these amazing creatures continues to fascinate adults and children to this day and at this facility everyone can come together to share their passion.

The museum stands atop a rocky plateau that overlooks the dry open plains where all the dinosaurs are dug up among the farmers cattle stations. Hard to believe that 65 million years ago this was once a lush rainforest and swampland. The view however, is spectacular. DSCN0791

DSCN0808Next stop was Longreach. A fabulous old country town and one not to be missed. Plenty of character and charm and of course the Stockman's Hall of Fame. An amazing museum in itself, too big to go into great detail here. Suffice to say if you ever want to know anything about the outback way of life, from stockmen, pioneers, shearers, pilots, teachers, miners, and the Royal Flying Doctor Service, it's all here. Plan to spend hours meandering through the galleries as there is so much to look at and learn. My favourite part of the exhibition would have to have been the swagman that came to life to tell a bush story of life in the saddle. His facial expressions were magnificent. DSCN0796

DSCN0798While in Longreach you can also visit the School of the Air. Our son assumed I meant a school to learn to fly. I didn't realise I had never taught him about this important place in Australian history. The school of the air teaches school by radio to children all over the outback that are isolated and cannot reach a school classroom. Unique and iconic in its day it is now taught through Skype. There is also the museum for the Queensland And Northern Territory Air Service, yes QANTAS was born here.

The drive from Longreach to Bourke the next day was a long one. Broken by capturing the odd shot of an emu or two that ran along the side of the road at sunset. 20151203_162638 One last day on the road and we finally drove through meandering country roads that rose through the mountains until we felt like we had reached home. Somewhat green rolling hills and rising eucalypts bent to greet us and present a little cool shade. As we turned off the highway and rolled through our valley kangaroos stopped grazing on the side of the road and stood to gaze in the window of our car. I gave a huge sigh, home at last!

We had driven nearly 4,000 km in 6 days. Seen some amazing sights. My conclusion, Australia really is a harsh dry wide brown land but I love her.

We Drove a Sunburnt Country Part One.

Stockman's Hall of Fame, Longreach Qld.For six days, three states and over four thousand kilometers we drove across a sunburnt country from Darwin at the top end of the Northern Territory south/east to outback central Queensland and down through the back of NSW to Canberra and home to our quiet little cosy country estate.. Along the way I couldn't help remember and recite a famous Australian poem that we were all taught at school (and loved) when we were young :- Dorothea Mackellar's "My Country."

I love a sunburnt country, A sunburnt country of sweeping plain and far horizons. A land of sweeping plains, Of rugged mountain ranges, Of droughts and flooding rains. I love her far horizons, I love her jewel-sea, Her beauty and her terror- The wide brown land for me!

We packed up the car and said goodbye to our view of the jewel sea, in this case the Arafura Sea as it enters Darwin Harbour. Within minutes we were in the harsh dry outback of the Northern Territory. Flat sweeping plains as far as the eye can see broken only by the occasional rugged mountains and an abundance of termite mounds so numerous it is impossible to count. First stop, Pine Creek, a tiny old gold mining town with nothing much open on a Sunday morning, so it was non-stop then to Mataranka for a promised legendary Mataranka pie. Another really tiny outback town, it's main claim to fame being the autobiographical novel "We of the Never Never" by Jeannie Gunn and immortalised in the 1982 movie with Angela Punch McGregor in the leading role. Set in Mataranka, the book was written about the authors life and experiences moving to such a harsh and isolated area in 1902 when women, albeit white women, were not seen to be on the land or help their husbands on outback cattle stations. The relaxing hot springs at Mataranka. A pleasant reprieve from the hot desert sun.If you spend an afternoon swimming in the local thermal springs you can then partake in a cool ale at the local watering hole while watching the legendary movie. We didn't stop long enough to do this as we had previously experienced the Mataranka hot springs in all their glory on another occasion. Over 1,100 km and and 12 hours after saying goodbye to Darwin we finally pulled in for the evening at Barkly Homestead, and yes, believe it or not, we were still in the Northern Territory! When travelling in air conditioned comfort it is easy to forget just how hot it is outside, (particularly as we approach the summer months in Australia and the "build up" in the NT) that is until you open the car door and step out into the furnace. It was 7:00 pm and yet still 45 degrees C with a formidable burning hot wind.

Avon Downs police station in the middle of nowhere.Day 2 we set of bright and early before the heat set in and began our journey well. We planned to cross the border into Queensland and reach Mt Isa in time for morning tea. Should have known all good plans always go astray. As the sun and heat rose and we cruised through the sweeping plains gazing at the wonder of the far horizon, we came around a sweeping bend in the road and over a "flood" bridge only to find a pot hole in the middle of the road almost the same size as our car. Too fast and too dangerous to swerve we hit the pot hole and hoped for the best. Sure enough we blew out the front right tyre. Not a problem! Just pull on over to the side of the road, unpack the bags from the boot, lift up the flap and look inside to where the spare tyre should be. Were my eyes deceiving me? We have a brand new car and NO spare tyre! Who would have thought? It may have seemed naive of both of us not to check before leaving Darwin but we both assumed a new car would come equiped with a spare tyre! There we found ourselves in the middle of the outback, heat rising every minute, and not a soul in sight for miles. "Not to worry" said hubby, "I'll wave down the next truck driver that comes along and get him to radio for help."

That was real successful! Turns out in the heat of the outback CB radio signals don't reach futher than 10 km at most. The nearest small town was 70 km away and Mt Isa was still 300 km ahead. Not to worry, don't despair, believe it or not, just 200 m further up the road was Avon Downs Police Station! Who would have believed it! In the middle of absolutely nowhere stood a police station! We limped the car up the road and found the local policeman just opening up shop for the day. His response, "So the pot hole has got another one has it?" He helped us organise a tow-truck into Camooweal, 12 km east of the NT border into Queensland, population 300 (on a good day when all the indiginous folk are in town to do a head count) so the tow truck driver told us.

What do you get if you cross a kangaroo with a buffalo? The Buffaroo at Camooweal. A buffaroo of course!

It stands proudly outside the Camooweal Roadhouse. The story goes that one evening a couple of truckies were having a drink at the local pub and began to discuss who were tougher, Queenslanders or Territorians! The more they drank, the more vocal they became, the Queenslanders insisting their kangaroos were tougher than the territories buffalo. It didn't take long before the idea came to pass that the strongest of all would be a cross between the two. It just so happened an artist was listening to the conversation and drew a sketch on a coaster. Before he left he showed the bartender and asked if they would like one? A few weeks later to the towns surprise a special delivery arrived. The Buffaroo now stands pride of place for all to see as you arrive in the sleepy outback town.

Instead of reaching Mt Isa by the intended morning tea break of 10:00 am we finally arrived at 5:00 pm, just in time to call it a day.