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A Duckinwilla Drive

For a two day and night sleepover I decide to visit my brother, BIG JIM out on his property, 15 km west of Howard not far from Maryborough. In the 2011 census this town called Duckinwilla had 10 people. who lived in the Fraser Coast district – scrubby Chad Morgan country.  Now, the bush can be dry and dusty at any time, however, at present there’s been very little rain so Bill and I journeyed out with our supplies and sleeping bags to greet my junk- minded, practical, ebay enthusiast and retiree brother.

The BIG railway shed was the first surprise. Back in the olden days this shed carried 6 locomotives. Spacious, airy and filled with all sorts of collectibles and junk, I was impressed with the dozens of small holes in the corrugated sheets that allowed sparkling stars of sunlight to filter through. MAGIC! An inbuilt galaxy of stars.

The first evening also displayed the beauty of night stars shining brightly. AWESOME!

There’s the dunny – Frank’s dunny. Who gets to use it first? Bill or Jim. There’s the old rusty car waiting for a photographer like me.




And the tractor.


Bowerbird Jim likes to buy things. On ebay, gum tree or in the sales yards. He really gets a kick out of finding the right thing for his farm and considering its vital use. Take for example, his cane crusher, extracting fluid out of sugar cane.


Then there’s the old cast iron bath tub that was carefully lifted onto plastic drums and rolled into position. A clever tactic.



In his vast shed or place of refuge, lies many interesting items of junk – a crane hook, potters wheel, fish and animal traps, trommel ( mechanical screening machine used to separate materials), old rusty lanterns, a fish smoker, bottles, etc ” everything is useful” Jim says. I love his solid old dining room table, his old dart boards, and bottle collection.


Up in the attic, there’s extra room for sleepers. You do need to climb a very tall ladder to inspect the mysteries of the heavens – here’s Bill on a quest to reach the stars, only to find nothing up there. He did lower a bucket down with rope.



As the day wore on, Jim showed us around his 57 hectare property that used to boast a market garden of vegetables ( tomatoes, pineapples, pumpkins, zucchini, sugar cane) lime trees and bamboo. The beautiful dam was the thing that sold him to purchase this land. And even though I didn’t canoe on the water, we did walk around the dam noting the bird calls, vegetation and beauty of lily pads and trees.





The clumping golden bamboo stood tall and erect in the dry vegetation. The mango trees were in flower but the limes were dead, sad because 5 years ago they were plentiful. Unfortunately Jim cannot spare the time he needs to effectively allow these trees to thrive. We walked around and noticed the small pine trees growing together. James, Jim’s son likes to grow cactus. So there were unusual cacti growing in specific areas. And as you know, cactus thrive on neglect.

I gathered a bag of pine cones and we lit a fire to cook our lamb chops. Neighbour Stuart joined us for a beer. He’s a good mate who lives close by. salt of the earth, quiet listener in contrast to my brother’s loud, intense voice. Jim likes to debate, discuss, impart knowledge, instruct, give opinions, lecture and in between his reports, says, “right”… “right”. At times I love his vulnerability and tears.

Add the F…. and shit words to his stories, my brother likes to be heard. Our conversations centre on family, the earth, success, farming, traps, computers, engineering, Chinese superstition, children, wild cotton, money, bedding, technology and forests.



You know you are out in the bush when you see this shower and boil the billy three times before lunch.


And in between, sleeping, eating and talking in the bush, I like to take my books and catch some reading time – what better way than in a hammock! Bliss!


Until next time dear family and readers, enjoy a different sort of escape. You might look up the name Duckinwilla. And you might ponder my brother’s wisdom or thoughts – Life is like driving on a highway. Some people change lanes and crash! Some people pass by comfortably. Some stop and some take risks. BRAVO Jim! Love you.



Bananas, Bottles and Bubs Love and Beyond!

Well the little ones have arrived – twins Annabel Elizabeth and James Mark have made their entrance on the morning of September 7. They were a healthy weight ( 3kg and 2.7kg) non- identical and are a blessing to their parents and little sister, two year old Matilda.

When you look into a baby’s face you really do see a miracle – velvet soft, cheeks, button nose, wrinkled slender fingers and the blackest of hair. So three days in hospital and now home again, my daughter is happy to be in her own space.  I stayed in Brisbane to help out. Yes, it’s a tough job having fun with a beautiful toddler who charms the pants off anyone – bubbles, bananas, The Wiggles, cubbies, hide and seek, walks in the park and picking mulberries in the garden- not a bad pastime.

However, add to the mix, very emotional parents, a few sleep deprived nights ( and I do mean 1 or 2 hours of sleep), endless bottles to sanitise, medicines to take, crying to soothe and new routines to navigate, it’s hard work. I watched my daughter and her husband as they tested all the new ways of folding baby wraps, juggling arms and bodies, multi tasking etc. and coping with new challenges.


AH!! Asleep at last. Don’t they look cute and innocent, pure and perfect?

Annie and James are wrapped up and placed side by side like birds in a nest, two peas in a pod.



Here’s me nursing James at the hospital.


Watching his little face twitch and flicker, eye lids gently open and close, knowing in the future this little boy will kick a football, master the ocean sailing, or climb a mountain – it’s amazing. For the time being, I cherish the peace and beauty of this magical moment.

And look at the intimate bond between mother and daughter when they reunite.


Love and beyond is the way I see my grand children. Beyond their problems and imperfections; beyond the confines of school and classroom; beyond their disbeliefs and questioning; beyond their wildest dreams!

So over the next month, I know that my daughter and her household will be turned upside down in a frazzle of feeds, fatigue and fast eating ( they have fantastic meals coming from friends and family) preparation, organisation and beyond all this, a gratitude to God that they are learning what family life is all about.

Are there any tips out there to manage twins?

Here’s a twin JOKE!  What did the Mexican fireman name his twin sons?


Until next time, stay calm and enjoy Spring.

Letter to my Teenage Self

No matter how you are feeling right now – overwhelmed with school, fitting in with friends and coping as a new Christian – exciting and unexpected opportunities are waiting for you. Never forget how loved you are.

I wish I could travel back in time to tell you that you are worthy and artistic, intelligent and resilient. I know that your time spent at Corinda High school with your friends Jenny and Julie were both testing times and fun. You liked having good friends to ride to school with, sharing secrets and swapping study notes. You had found your passion in art with a great teacher who inspired you with her positive smile and quirky sense of humour.

I know that at times you struggled with your “skinny, flat chested” body especially at swimming carnivals. Even though you were attractive, deep within, you were lacking in confidence with boys. The first kiss came at 16 and the warmth of romance with a Welsh boy called Julian. Even this was hard for you.

Now I would like to be able to tell you that at times you were stubborn and quick to anger at your father who always insisted on punctuality. You were threatened by his strict ways with your boyfriends and his blunt comments about sex.

Your world changed when you became a Christian at school, and with this faith came some criticism and tormenting from friends. But you were always so kind and generous with your time able to speak from your heart.

One of the great adventures and successes in your life comes from your openness to people and your hard work. Even at 16 you knew you wanted to become a teacher, helping and inspiring others. You loved writing poems. I know this creativity to be good at school with your contribution to the magazine Koondoo.

At seventeen your life changes with the Brisbane flood and the impact of this disaster on your family. Your sister and brother are always close by even if you are different from them. It’s a time when your grandmother comes out from Scotland to stay with you and this really tests your father and mother. Regardless of your Senior year being challenged with these extra pressures, you do follow your passion into teaching and studying at University.

Now some advice from me. Be organised as it helps in so many areas of your life. Develop your passions and enjoy them. Keep the contacts with your friends and nurture these for they will strengthen you along the way. Remember to send gifts, birthday cards and special messages. Travel because it will broaden your outlook and perspectives in life. Take some risks to toughen your spirit.

Family and friends and a faith in God are vital. Make sure you give generously to others.

There will be tough times ahead, because everyone struggles. Do not compare yourself to others but be thankful for all that you have.

You are a busy person and need some time to relax. I think that your mind over thinks things so try and pray more, be still.


You will grow from a self conscious teenager who always tries her best to be a grandmother one day surrounded by little ones. Just remember when life gets you down, stand up again, count your blessings and walk an hour at a time. You’ll be heart broken, depressed and sad but this will shift as you forgive.

So Margaret, try not to worry too much. Be brave, thoughtful and loving. There is so much I want to tell you. Be yourself and find your own way. Chances are you will make mistakes along the way and I wish I could comfort you. I can tell you that second chances are real and gratitude is a great remedy for sadness.

And lastly Margaret, learn how to be your own best friend.


Kindness kisses the sky

Lately the skies in Mapleton have been beautiful – misty mornings with thick blankets of fog or golden pinks in an early morning sunrise. It truly makes one stop and appreciate the day. Even though it can be hard waking up especially when you are cosy and warm under the covers, the sky calls you to begin in a positive way. Soft sweeping clouds, the glow of the sun emerging on the horizon and a simple beauty that most painters copy onto their canvases.

Here are a few sneak pictures of such natural beauty.

Ah! serenity at its best. It got me thinking about kindness and how warm hearted it makes you feel, like looking up at the sky. That spontaneous gesture of goodwill, kind act or behaviour that shows someone you care. I believe generosity and kindness go hand in hand.

Is kindness hard wired into your brain? How do you respond to someone showing you kindness? Is it something that you practise daily?

One of the last things my mother said to me before she died was to be kind. How true!

Your words and actions stick with people long after you’ve forgotten them, and it’s up to you to what kind of impact you want to have.

There are countless stories about random acts of kindness or inspiring messages that reflect the tender hearted nature of people – giving away your boots, helping to carry luggage, cleaning a car, buying a gift, driving someone to work, cooking a meal and so on.

Poet Sylvia Plath wrote these lines in the last few weeks of her life.

“Kindness glides about my house

Dame kindness, she is so nice!

The blue and red jewels of her rings smoke

in the windows, the mirrors

are filling with smiles…”       there’s more

Sadly this poem reflects the insecurity and isolation the poet felt, her utmost desire for love. Kindness is personified as a woman who is kind on the outside but not on the inside.

So, dear readers, my challenge to you is when you see a gorgeous sunset or wake to a soft sunrise, imagine your day being brighter and more sparkly when you show someone kindness.

I would love to hear your experiences with this.

The Day after my Birthday!

Joyeux Anniversaire! That was the message from my French dinner party and the memories made soon after my 60th birthday. I am so lucky to have shared in 2 special occasions – the first with my family and grand children picnicking in a beautiful park in Montville; the second a French dinner party with friends.

Sitting here in the living room surrounded by gifts and gorgeous cards, I don’t think I’ll forget how special it is to commemorate another year of living.

Firstly the park experience. Fun, Sack races, Flying things in the sky. Crashes! Bike rides, a Margaret Quiz, The cake and sparkler, climbing, running, chasing and more.

The picnic table was decorated, food organised, drinks chilled and open spaces for the children to enjoy with nearby swings. I was presented with a crown, the royal goblet, arm tattoo, and fun things in a gift box by my daughter. A hoot! and a grandma hand printed canvas, a massage voucher and the most beautiful family portrait that would bring joy and tears to my eyes. Little did I know that this gift had been planned to a fine art with many “photo shoots” taken until the best one appeared.

My son-in-law composed and read aloud a poem – very insightful! The cake was cut and singing followed. The sun was shining, what more could I ask for? How magical to spend time outdoors with the ones you love.

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My beautiful daughter surprises me
relaxing in the winter sunshine

Fast forward a week to the next celebration when I planned for my own dinner party at home.

The travelling experience abroad set the scene for a French theme so the house was decorated with a banner of black and white French Paris postcards, Eiffel Tower, glasses of lavender on the tables ( and the lemons picked off my trees) signs and menu boards.

Friends gathered wearing something French. Ooh La La! The berets, moustaches, stripes and even a string of onions. Here’s Monsieur Phillip.

Voila! This was our delicious entree – salads nicoise and onion tart. The waiter, Nicholas, a student from my school served our hungry guests and entertained them throughout.

Guests mingled, sipped champagne and enjoyed the sunset views over the mountains.

My happy band of helpers worked hard to serve the meals – ratatouille, boeuf bourguignon, and coq au vin, ( Marg, Phillip, Bill and I had fun making these) and the poppy cake made by Libby was admired by all.

This white mud cake was inspired by the fields and roadside poppies in Provence.

My birthday party had a few extra surprises too. A Margaret Quiz ( that my sister Kim organised and a little one from me too – sisters do think alike!!) From French words, to words to describe Marg, to movies released in 1957, there was something for everyone to answer. Some of my friends knew my interests and travel plans, others failed miserably.

Bill organised a trivia quiz on French cuisine. Nicholas sang a beautiful French song. Music blared. Gifts were opened. Photo board was examined. Conversations. A little dancing. And the chocolate and lemon tarts served with ice cream. So delicious.

A wonderful celebration of good friendships and as my younger sister Kim said, a slightly older audience. My peers are now closer to 70!

I really enjoyed the conversations that people shared; the speech my sister delivered from the heart and my brother’s BIG stories.


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Is that really Father Christmas visiting?

Here’s a photo of my siblings – Jim, Kim and me. Thank you to everyone who made my 60th event so special. Thank you for the generous presents from near and far.


Planning a Party – My own!

Have you ever ticked off items on your “to do ” list? Been rummaging through cupboards to find a few things? What about a dinner party of your own theme? Well, this month I am celebrating my 60th birthday. And I thought that a French dinner party would be the way to go.

Since returning from Provence early July my head has been brimming with ” French things” – recipes, fabric, books, candles etc. You just need to look at my book shelves to see that French is the new flavour of the month.

So a party it is. I have given it some thought. My own family of 4 children and partners and grand children are meeting me tomorrow at the Montville Park for a picnic lunch. I am so looking forward to this celebration. We will all help each other out by adding some food to the lunch table. Yes, I have some decorations – banner, balloons and whistles! I also have some hessian sacks for the kid’s races and a few surprises for the children. Mind you they will probably choose to climb the frames and swing on the swings.

More about that next time with photos.

Planning a French party needs a guest list, invitations and a menu. And I love the planning.

I have practised making a boeuf bourguignon until it tastes as good as the real thing. Not sure. It needs a sprinkle of herbs.

It’s good to know that I can count on my Irish friend Marg who will cook with me too. My friends in Mapleton are so generous with extra seats, glass ware and tablecloths. As I am planning for 20+ the house spaces will need changing, but that’s a job next week.

I am having the dinner on Saturday 15 July – my real birthday is 17 July.


The wine glasses are being washed. The wine and champagne is being bought. And some decorative touches will add to the atmosphere of “tres chic”. I have written down set jobs for the night. I have found an Eiffel Tower, and some signs. The menu is sorted. RSVP list is happening. Back room more cluttered. Shopping still to do. And a hundred things in between, not to mention going back to school to greet and teach my students.

The cake, well, a friend who lives down the road is making me one as a gift. Libby is very clever with decorating and hand painting.

More than the creative part of me that enjoys putting something together, is the sharing of food and conversation, laughs and stories that romancing with grandma brings. 1957 was the year I was born. My special school friends also turn 60 this year. As a way of remembering, I hope that this event will be lovely. I can’t go wild like sky diving or bungee jumping, but I can have fun capturing the French essence of a joyous anniversarie. Will post some photos soon to show you how it went. Until then, stay well and happy.


HOME – Happy and not so happy distractions!

Coming home is always good, isn’t it? Leaving Europe behind and looking forward to a BIG flight does take stamina and a good state of mind. I guess getting enough sleep was my main priority. On the second leg from Singapore to Brisbane I did manage 3 hours sleep. Arriving in the evening at Brisbane airport is a first for me, so the first happy distraction was the greetings of 3 of my children. They popped out of the blue as I made my way to the driver who would take us back to Mapleton. Lovely smiles, proud ME! and big hugs. It was wonderful to have a 10 minutes conversation with them as they all came together.

The next happy distractions came when I turned my mobile phone back on and watched the “Welcome back” messages hit the screen. As I navigated my way through the next 5 days of unpacking, filling the refrigerator, checking the mail and paying bills etc, my body did play tricks on me with the day and night time cycles. Some jet lag and waking in the early hours of the morning is natural after a 21 hour flight home.

After adjusting from summer to winter, outdoor to indoor ( raining in Mapleton) , to sleeping in hotels to sleeping back in my bed, from quiet to noisy ( grand children), life has changed rather abruptly. It’s dark earlier and I am remembering the beautiful walks at Lake Como and Aix-en Provence around 8-9pm. Coming home there are more distractions that muddle your brain, test your energies and surprise your senses.

Like visiting all the little grand children in one week and testing yourself again to see if you are “sane”. There’s the phone distraction from my brother who rings as I am about to put Matilda in the trolley at Coles supermarket. The phone ringing when driving one of the children home from school. The constant attention to the road, then the distraction when one of them drops a toy on the floor and you cannot do anything about it. Well, what happens, is you miss the exit and end up driving the long way home.

I enjoyed going to my grand daughters sport’s carnival – a happy distraction from sleeping in.

See how excited my son and her are as they race with each other. The ball games, relay races, long jump and egg and spoon. Little competitors having fun in glorious sunshine.

Go Simpson go! A flash of blue and gold.

From the sports day to school pick up and Audrey shows me her shell collection from Dicky Beach, Caloundra. There’s nothing sweeter than a child showing you their treasures. Wrapped in soft tissue in a container, the shells and coral were reminders to me about the simple joys of life. It also reminded me of Nice and the smooth, white pebbles on the beach.

Another happy distraction was Tilly and her dress ups! In a cane basket there are hidden costumes to try on. Watching her put them on is hilarious.

A Spanish dancer in the making!

Coming home from a trip away also brings some unexpected interruptions like when I backed the car out of my son’s drive way and hit a screw in a post resulting in my back tyre going flat. That took place after loading the kids and all the gear in the car ready to leave for a trip up the coast. Calm, my daughter-in-law was calmer than I felt. A kind neighbour and an hour later we were off driving.

The other not so happy distraction came the day before when I left my handbag with phone and important items behind. After a stressful discovery that my hand bag was not where I thought it should be and memory loss, it worked out with my son tracking down the location – the op shop!! not before I involved another neighbour and phoned from her mobile. This distraction caused me panic and some tears when I was convinced that I really left my blue handbag behind at a garden nursery. Perhaps, the jet lag had robbed me of my clarity – or maybe I was doing too much.

Anyway, now I am back home with the other grand children playing pirates! AHOY me hearties! Until next time, thanks for reading. Provence seems a life time ago! Venice vanishing fast.