Raising Awesome Readers

A Fun and Educational Journey.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Imagination and Realism Combine for a Fabulous Learning Opportunity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summer Fun, Adventure and Learning.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

About Cat Michaels :-

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

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

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

Website/Blog  |  Facebook |  Twitter  |  Pinterest  |  Instagram

Find Cat’s books on Amazon and iTunes 

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

 

Blog Tour Giveaway

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

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

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

What if we are not alone in the Universe?

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

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

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

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

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

mischievous little alien.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He met echidnas and emus and a baby crocodile,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Four Reasons Whales May Accidentally Beach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

Part 7

Part 6

Part 5

Part 4

Part 3

Part 2

Part 1

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.

http://www.sandrabennettauthor.com/a-land-of-sweeping-plains-and-flooding-rains-part-4/

http://www.sandrabennettauthor.com/a-land-of-sweeping-plains-and-flooding-rains-part-3/

http://www.sandrabennettauthor.com/a-land-of-sweeping-plains-and-flooding-rains-part-2/

http://www.sandrabennettauthor.com/a-land-of-sweeping-plains-and-flooding-rains-part-1/