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 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

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 1)

These last couple of weeks I have been concentrating on writing my short story for the Creative Kids Tales Anthology due to be released in time for Christmas this year. The story is about a young selfish boy who through rallying his small country community together in order to save a pod of whales, comes to realise the importance of helping others. My inspiration for this story came from the wonders of whale watching along our amazing coastline during our drive across Australia last year. In December 2015 my husband and I drove the incredible dry hot outback from Darwin to Canberra, of which I wrote about in my blog "We Drove a Sunburnt Country, " parts 1, 2 and 3.




Last September- October 2016, we drove across from Canberra to Perth and back. It was a dream come true, to drive across the Nullabor had been on my "bucket-list" for years. This at last, is my story of that amazing journey. To continue my quote from Dorothea MacKeller's famous poem "My Country,", we certainly discovered Australia really is a land of contrasts, "A land of sweeping plains, of ragged mountain ranges, of droughts and flooding rains." During this journey we  experienced it all!

First stop was only an hour from home, the country town of Yass, their information Centre was waiting on a delivery of my books. Not a bad way to start a holiday, and a great sign for the opportunities that were to come.

This is where the adventure really began as we drove further west across NSW into the Riverina district. Before departing home it had been raining pretty much non-stop for weeks, particularly in this farm region. I knew there was more rain predicted, so this was our only window of opportunity to cross before major flooding set in. Sure enough roads were only just re-opened as we drove through and closed again within the next few days. It must be so difficult to make a living on the land, if our country is not in severe drought, it's in major flood, there's never a compromise. Not sure which is harsher,  seeing first hand starving cattle and sheep, even kangaroos, desperate for a blade of grass along the side of the road in outback Queensland, or fruit and wheat crops that farmers were ready to harvest (and desperate for payment to feed their families) all destroyed by massive floods. My heart and thoughts go out to the many people in townships suffering after the aftermath of cyclone Debbie in all the current flooded regions of northern NSW and Queensland.

We made it into Hay after dark, lesson learnt, never drive across the wheat plains at dusk. We live in a rural community, so are aware and always cautious of kangaroo hopping across the roads at dusk, but nothing prepared us for the amount of bugs!  Hubby used so much windscreen water to clear the vision that we ran out of water. We could barely see the turn-off on arrival into Hay through the amount of bugs smeared on the car's screen in front of us. First stop in the morning consequently was a car wash.

Hay is in the western part of the Riverina district of western NSW, with the surrounding farm regions being either vegetable, cotton and rice crops or sheep and cattle. It is the home of "Shear Outback," a museum dedicated to the history of our wool industry. It is definitely worth a visit to learn all about the history behind the saying that Australia is known to have 'grown up on a sheeps back!" Get to read about some of the characters that were shearers, their lifestyle, and their tools of the trade. Learn all about the early pioneers, their present day shearing counterparts and into the future. If you have never seen a sheep being sheared, then watching a sheep shearing demonstration is an opportunity not to be missed. The shearer is very informative and handles the sheep with the utmost  care. The coffee shop is great for a snack or lunch and of course there is a gift shop with plenty of choices for woollen apparel. Thanks to the manager, Kathy, Shear Outback gift shop now also stocks 'Emma the Eager Emu' and 'Frazzled Freya' too. We enjoyed spending time at Shear Outback so much that we only made it as far as Mildura (just inside the top of Victoria,) that day.






The next morning we woke to beautiful clear blue skies, but were assured all that was about to change in a big hurry. A massive storm was approaching from South Australia, exactly where we were headed next.

Have you ever driven across Australia? Share your experiences below. 

Is the drive across this magnificent country on your bucket-list? Why or why not? Share your comments below.

Next week :- The havoc of the storm, a surprising find and much more!

In Honour of all Things Green on St Patrick's Day!

Green has never been my choice of colour to wear, it has never really suited me but I do love the Emerald Isle, shamrocks, Leprechauns, Fairies and rainbows. So on this day, March 17, I thought I would celebrate St Patrick's Day by sharing a few of my wonderful memories of this special place that is close to my heart. Those that have known me for a long time, also know my maiden name is "Branigan" so even though I am proudly Australian, there is no denying my also proud Irish heritage. In 2010 my husband and I spent part of an amazing 5 week holiday in the UK, on a road trip experiencing some of the delights of my (and his, he is Scottish) "home" country. 

I discovered the delightful architecture around Dublin via the open air double-decker bus. In so doing  also discovered that Dublin is probably the coldest place on Earth in October! We wondered why we were the only silly people sitting "up top" until I was so frozen I couldn't move! The Trinity College Library was the highlight of Dublin for me. It felt like entering another magical world filled with inspiration, dreams and so much knowledge! My mother-in-law had always talked about the Book of Kells, on seeing it I understood the grandeur and magnificence of this gospel book written and illustrated so delicately and intricately by Monks over 1200 years ago. I was in awe of this library and could have spent hours just sitting soaking up the ambience.

The Ring of Kerry filled me with wonder and creative writing ideas. As we walked through bush tracks to the lake I had visions of fairies and Leprechauns dancing at every turn. My dream is to return one day and spend time there completing longer walks and writing more stories. I have already built my fairy house for our garden and have story ideas in various planning stages. As for the Leprechauns, they are coming too. More on them in my alien adventure series in books 3, 4 and 5 still to be released. I do feel a trip back to Ireland may just be what I need to finish this series. We didn't spend near enough time in this gorgeous corner of Ireland, it did rain most of the time we were there making it difficult to walk and see things. Next time I plan to go more prepared with raincoat and gumboots.

We explored ancient castle ruins and stayed in renovated castles that were filled with history, Medieval  ornaments, (including complete Knight armour) and beautiful portraits. We met some fabulous Irish folk that made us feel welcome and right at home. So much so, one night we stayed up talking to 4:00 am with one amazing couple. We had the bar all to ourselves, no waiter or bartender, just us to help ourselves and leave the money on the bar when we left.

I tried to find out where "Branigan's" hail from? It appears they were fairly wide spread throughout the Isle. I was given answers from Dublin, south to Killarney or Kilkenny  as well as north to Kilkeel and beyond. They certainly seemed to get around, no wonder the name is said to be synonymous with Ireland.


In true "Bennett" style, we spontaneously decided to head north into Northern Ireland even though this was unplanned. Meant changing return flights to be able to stay a few extra days, but was so worth it. We drove up to County Antrim to explore the Giant's Causeway Coast. In a word...stunning! The Giant's Causeway was amazing, Dunluce Castle hauntingly spectacular and the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge terrifying yet awesome. We walked till we dropped most days, there was so much picturesque scenery to see.



Sadly all good things must come to an end and so we caught the ferry from Larne across the North Channel to Scotland. I leave you with this warning - be sure to catch the ferry not the fairy, for if you catch the fairy across, upon arrival in Scotland your bags will be checked for Leprechauns. The Scots do not want uninvited guests.

These are a few of my special memories of Ireland. What are some of yours? Happy St Patrick's Day and may the luck of the Irish be with you.


My Favourite Books for all ages.

February has been all about spreading the love of books. Did you enter our Giveaway? A HUGE thank you to everyone that did. The response was amazing!

Congratulations Mary and Stephanie who both won a copy of Emma the Eager Emu. I hope she has arrived safely on your doorstep.

I thought I would continue the love of books for one last blog, (even though most of my posts are about books in one way or another).

Below are my all time favourite books that I have loved to read and share. They are all well worth considering adding to your collection if you don't already own them.

Picture Books

I can't go past the "Diary of a Wombat" series by Jackie French. I know I've said it many times before but these are simply adorable and can be read to all ages, from birth to adults! I have used them in the classroom from Kindergarten to year 6. Everyone loves them!  Packed full of fun, mischief and a massive dose of cuteness!

Diary of a Wombat

Baby Wombat's Week

Christmas Wombat

The Secret World of Wombats

Chapter Books for Middle Grade and Tweens.

Harry Potter. What can I say, I am a huge fan! J.K. Rowling brought reading  (and magic) back to a whole new generation when she released these. They will always be popular, in the classroom as well as on my shelf at home. I loved reading these aloud each night as my boys and I snuggled in bed together. They were so keen to hear the next absorbing chapter (or three).

The Philosopher's Stone   

The Chamber of Secrets

The Prisoner of Azkaban

The Goblet of Fire

The Order of the Phoenex

The Half-Blood Prince

The Deathly Hallows

Adult Books

The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon. It took a couple of years to read through this marvelous series. Gotta love a Highlander in a kilt! Add history and romance and you have an unputdownable series. When I finished the final book it was like saying goodbye to two well known friends. I missed Jamie and Claire Fraser. It took me sometime to feel I could enjoy another series as much.


Dragonfly in Amber


Drums of Autumn

The Fiery Cross

A Breath of Snow and Ashes

An Echo in the Bone

Written in my Own Hearts Blood

Then I stumbled across a local Australian Author, Liane Moriarty. Her novels are contemporary mysteries set in the northern suburbs of Sydney. Since I grew up Sydney, I  really enjoyed reading these as the scenes are very familiar. They depict everyday suburban life with a twist. My favourite was Big Little Lies, (I couldn't predict the ending it was a real wow moment for me!) I wrote a review on it, if you are interested the link is here -

Great characters amazing plot fabulous setting

By the way it is now being shown as a mini series on Foxtel. My only disappointment is they made it in California not Sydney, however having seen the first episode, I'd say, so far, so good.

Liane has also written children's books however they are still on my "to read" list.

The Last Anniversary    

What Alice Forgot

The Hypnotist's Love Story

The Husband's Secret

Three Wishes

Big Little Lies

Truely Madly Guilty

Before I go, one last recommendation, if you like a story with environmental issues along with adventure and romance in a unique Australian setting Annie Seaton has it all in her recent series with -

Kakadu Sunset      


My review for Kakadu Sunset is here -

Hold onto your akubra and take a wild ride around the top end

Some books mentioned are missing from my photos, I have leant them to friends and family.

I could of course, mention many others, but then we would be here for a very long time. I enjoy reading many genres including autobiographies.

Anh Do's "The Happiest Refugee" was particularly moving, insightful and funny. He takes you on a  memorable journey from war torn Vietnam, escaping in a leaking boat to be raised in the Western suburbs of Sydney and finally becoming a successful comedian. I have now just started "Mao's Last Dancer" by Li Cunxin. It is a memoir I have wanted to read for a long time. My husband and I saw one of his productions of The Nutcracker over Christmas by the Queensland Ballet Company. Li was sitting only a few seats in front of us. The ballet was superb! I was even more determined then to read his life story.

What are you reading at the moment? What would be on your all time favourite list of suggestions? I am always looking for more books to read and welcome any ideas.

Love is in the Air! - International Book Day Blog Hop

"Love is in the air everywhere I look around  Love is in the air every sight and every sound And I don't know if I'm being foolish Don't know if I'm being wise But it's something that I must believe in And it's there when I look in your eyes"

Sorry I'm not about to break out into John Paul Young's song, Have you started singing it in your head yet?

I'm not about to start ballroom dancing either, even though I loved "Strictly Ballroom" (maybe I'll watch that again tonight)!

Now that I have your attention!  Valentines Day is just around the corner, a day to remember our loved ones. Valentines Day is also International Book Giving Day!  Why is International Book Day held the same day? It is a day devoted to instilling a lifelong love of reading in children and providing access to books for children in need. For this reason I decided this year as a special treat I would focus on my love of reading and sharing that love with children.  

How am I doing that? In case you haven't heard by now, I have joined a group of fantastic Indie Authors to help spread the love in a Blog Hop  devoted to the love of books and a giveaway of some of their 's (and my) awesome children's books. More on that later, for now, please read and enjoy, then read the other #gr8blogs listed below for more fun loving book inspiration. Don't forget when you finish reading to be sure to enter the rafflecopter competition for your chance to win one of 14 amazing picture books and ebooks so that you too, can help share and spread the love of books with children everywhere!


Reading - How do I love thee, let me count the ways - 

  1. I love the smell of opening the pages of a freshly printed new book.
  2. I love snuggling with a child and sharing the wonder and surprise of what they find inside the story.
  3. I love that stories can take you on adventures to far off places and unknown worlds of discovery and imagination.
  4. I love that books are filled with endless opportunities to learn.
  5. I love that you can escape everyday reality for awhile inside the pages of a fantasy, mystery or adventure.
  6. I love the fact that sharing a book with a child is time well spent, a bonding time and memory building time.
  7. I love reading a book to an eager class of wide eyes, and watching the anticipation on their faces as I reach the climax.
  8. I love reading a book that inspires a child to write their own imaginative story or draw a wondrous illustration.
  9. I love hearing a child ask to hear a favourite bedtime story read aloud "just one more time!"
  10. I love it when they fall asleep clutching their favourite story and you know they are dreaming of that special world.

Can you think of any other reasons to love reading? I'm sure there are plenty more. Leave a comment below, I would love to know what you think.

Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing a bit of the reading love of International Book Giving Day. Don't forget to read these other #gr8t blogs from my fab author friends.  It's not too late to join our Rafflecopter competition either. Entries close 15th Feb so you still have time to share in the love of our book giveaway. While you're reading these blogs check out these authors awesome books you might like a chance to win!


Cat Michaels, Cat’s Corner - goo.gl/QctwSl   
Julie Gorges, Baby-Boomer Bliss -http://babyboomerbliss.net/celebrating-international-book-giving-day-free-book-giveaway/
Carmela Dutra, A Blog for your Thoughts - http://bit.ly/2kUcH1F
JD Holiday: JD's Writers Blog http://jdswritersblog.blogspot.com/...
James Milson - http://wp.me/p3RsfU-151 
Terms and conditions: There is NO purchase necessary to enter or win. Eight winners (still to be determined exact amount) will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget within 48 hours and notified by email once the giveaway ends. The winners will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner(s) do not respond within 72 hours, a new winner(s) will be chosen. This giveaway is open to all who live in and outside of the US. However, as there are several sponsors of this giveaway who live both domestic and international. Print books are available only for domestic country of author origin; ebooks offered outside author's country of origin at their discretion.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

International Book Giving Day Coming Soon!

It's almost here! International Book Giving Day is the same day as Valentines Day, Feb 14! 

What does this mean?

Spreading the love of books to children everywhere!

It's such a wonderful idea I decided to jump onboard and join in the giveaways this year.

I'm trying a lot of new things this year. I started my email list, (finally), now have to start writing my first newsletter. So exciting. :)

I even joined the scary world of the twittersphere. (Wish me luck on that one, I'm a bit nervous about that).

One thing I am really excited about though is joining my author friends from all over the world to bring to you the chance to win free copies of all our gorgeous children's books. This is your chance to get books into the hands of children you love and read aloud with them some fabulous new stories. Sharing the love of books and reading on Valentines Day, has to be a great idea, don't you agree?

International Book Giving Day is a day devoted to instilling a lifelong love of reading in children and providing access to books for children in need. It falls each year on Valentines Day and what better way to say I love you than by giving your loved ones something they can enjoy reading over and over again. What better way to tell our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews we love them than with the gift of a book!

Books are a small gift that can last a lifetime and make a huge impact! You could inspire a future author, a journalist, a scientist, the possibilities are endless. Never underestimate the power of giving a book, you never know where the imagination and creativity may lead.

So, now you know what Book Giving Day is all about and you love the idea too! What do you do next?

  • You can take a loved one to the library and share a book with them.
  • Read aloud at home with a special someone, maybe even a neighbour's child
  • Donate a much loved old children's book to a family, charity or hospital in need.
  • Visit a bookstore and buy a book for someone you love.
  • or you can join our giveaway.

I am so pleased and excited to be sharing in my first giveaway with some of my special author friends in this Book Giveaway Extravaganza! In total there will be 14 signed copies of our books as well as ebooks all ready to giveaway with love especially to you. The Giveaway starts Wednesday 1st February and runs through to 15th February 2017.

Marianne Dubuc – creator of the 2017’s official poster – has also created these beautiful bookmarks. Print one out and add to your book when you give it to someone you love. Don't forget to write a few special words of love in the inside front cover. The receiver will love and treasure it.

Join the Giveaway - entries open 1st Feb 17

For more information on how to enter for your chance to win see the details below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms and conditions: There is NO purchase necessary to enter or win. Winners will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget within 48 hours and notified by email once the giveaway ends. The winners will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner(s) do not respond within 72 hours, a new winner(s) will be chosen. This giveaway is open to all who live in and outside of the US. However, as there are several sponsors of this giveaway who live both domestic and international. Print books are available only for domestic country of author origin; ebooks offered outside author's country of origin at their discretion.

Now you know how I plan to spread the love on Valentines Day, how about you?

Let me know in the comments below.

How to Make a Magical Fairy House for Your Garden

Do you have fairies at the bottom of your garden? Do the fairies help clean your house? Pick up after the kids?  Or perhaps hide the odd sock or two? 

Have you ever thought about building a house for the fairies in your garden?

A few weeks back I began to embark on a new project for our garden. Little did I know at the time that it would become a joint project between my husband and myself. He became so excited about my little project that he almost took over and before I knew it, my little magical fairy house was an enormous family project bigger than "Ben Her!"

My advice before you start, plan your strategy wisely. If you want to build something as grand as ours then be my guest and follow my instructions. You can always choose to simplify it and build a fairy house with not quite as much decoration. Whatever you decide, it will still be magical and delight all who set eyes on it. That is, friends, neighbours, and family with imagination. But be warned- be prepared to put in quite a lot of time! It is worth it in the end and we did have a lot of fun and laughs along the way. So worth every minute. It is a great way to spend quality time together and after all, shouldn't everyone have a little magic at the bottom of their garden?

Note: Most of the materials we used were gathered from around our house. So the fairy house was made at very minimal cost.

Step One: Select a suitable plastic container of a size you would like the basic structure to be. We chose an old bucket that had a split in the bottom, useless for water now, but ideal for a fairy house. Use a felt tip pen to draw a plan on the bucket then cut out the windows and door.

Step Two: Cover the bucket with a collection of flat stones. River stones work well, we collected ours from the beach. (It was a great excuse for a day out at the beach by the way.) They are in a variety of sizes, shapes and colours. You can use craft glue to stick them on however this takes awhile to dry and they tend to slide if you don't hold them long enough. I found the best tool was a hot glue gun, just be careful not to burn your fingers while manipulating the smaller stones. I admit I had a few blisters!

Step Three: We added an entryway. This is an additional feature of our choice. You can choose to leave off and keep things simple. My husband screwed timber walls to the bucket before adding the roof.

Step Four: Add a roof to your fairy house. Again we used left over timber from the construction of our house. We are lucky to be owner builders so have plenty of material available. We then added packing timber to the roof and spray painted it dark grey to look like shingles.

Step Five: The walls of the entryway are made from paddle pop sticks to resemble timber. I painted them brown.

Step Six: We added a door with a miniature hinge to be able to open and close it.

Step Seven: Cover the windows to help make the inside weather and spider proof with plastic. The plastic is glued on from the inside.

Step Eight: Add any desired additional ornaments. In our case we added a weather vein, spray painted gold. A crooked pipe chimney and a silver satellite dish. To complete the look I added tiny flowers under some of the windows to give the illusion that the fairies had planted their own garden and sprinkled gold fairy dust across the roof. We also found some tiny items from a model ship we had never found the time to construct, so added the lantern, windows and shields. It is amazing what you can find around the house to use to decorate if you have a bit of a rummage. 

Step Nine:  Make sure it is sealed from the weather by spraying completely with a varnish.

Step Ten: Add a couple of fairies, select a position in your garden and enjoy the delight on visitors faces.

Here is the finished magical fairy house in our selected spot under our Chinese Elm near my bird house and emu statues. One day I will have the rest of the garden completed around it and hopefully it will be filled with lots of fairies including some of the blue fairy wrens that currently nest in the garden near my kitchen. Perhaps when there are enough small shrubs in this garden they will feel safe to move across.

Do you have a spot to put a fairy house in your garden?

If you build one, send me a photo and I'll add it below. Maybe we could start a collection.

I'm thinking about writing a story about an Aussie fairy family. If you would like to hear more or have any ideas, join me in my awesome readers newsletter group. I'd love to discuss any idea you might suggest.