Category: Uncategorized

Once upon a Time

“One of the magical aspects of writing stories is how you form intimate relationships with groups of characters… then when the book is published and goes out into the world, you hope that your characters will enter the hearts and minds of people you have never met.” These are not my words but the words from children’s author Morris Gleitzman.

Morris has had so much success with his sales of Once http://www.morrisgleitzman.com series, topping 1.5 million copies.

While recently in Brisbane I visited the Kenmore library for some quiet reading and reflection. There are so many wonderful events on where bookings are essential. Even though I could not attend the “Meet Kate Young” session, I was intrigued with her blog thelittlelibrarycafe.com, which has taken readers all over the world and is regularly featured in the Guardian. Kate has written a book called The Little Library Cookbook.

Browsing her website I discovered Book Indexes where she has used popular children’s books and matched them with food. Any food inspired literature fascinates me. There are countless books out there to entice adults into reading with the bonus of food, recipes and the aromas/ flavours of cuisine.

I would like to focus on my love of children’s books, and some picture books that use food in interesting ways. GULP! GOBBLE! GRAB something to eat, or drink while you read on.

The following books are a taste of delightful humour, quirky characters, a good plot and with a spoonful of food added to the mix.

Hard Boiled Legs – Breakfast Book by Michael Rosen and Quentin Blake shows the young readers what fun stories are all about. While writing this brilliant study of breakfast, Michael Rosen lived entirely on a diet of burnt toast, socks and eggshells!

Next we have favourites like Matilda where chocolate cake features. Oh what a mess this makes in the film with Bruce Bogtrotter gorging himself on cake to prove a point. Hazel Edwards, author of the popular series, There’s a Hippopotamus on our Roof eating Cake, shows her readers that having a great imagination is a necessary ingredient for a good picture story.

 

Published by Scholastic, Koala Eat Gum Leaves by Laura and Philip bunting uses a beloved marsupial as the main character. He’s had enough of eating monotonous gum leaves for his diet so when he spies an ice cream van, he’s immediately won over by its delicious sweet taste. It links nicely to Eric Carle’s Hungry Caterpillar where food is the message – perhaps too much excessive sugary food is to be guarded; a book that works well with toddlers through to the prep years.

I can imagine that Kate Young has whipped up some amazing recipes using cheese, ice cream and fruits. Kate lists other books like The Secret Garden, Winnie the Pooh, Green Eggs and Ham and Possum Magic, to name a few.


One of my favourite rhyming stories that I read to my grand daughter is Chocolate Mousse for Greedy Goose by Julia Donaldson. There’s the predictability of the rhyme in harmony with the illustrations. It’s a fun book to read aloud and uses animals and food to entertain. I think I have read this one dozens of times!

 

 

With New Zealand author Pamela Allen’s brilliant picture books, many children and parents find the stories enchanting and clever with their careful use of alliteration, onomatopoeia and rhythm. Her titles exceed five million copies. Pamela’s favourite food is stewed tamarillos ( tree tomatoes when she was little). And her favourite children’s author is one of mine too – Margaret Mahy who also features food in her stories.

Can you guess the words that come from the next image?

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The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear has captivated generations of children with its beautiful pea-green boat.

“They took some honey and plenty of money, wrapped up in a five pound note.

This nonsense poem published during 1871 can be read at bed time or outdoors, suitable for all ages.

And finally with Easter around the corner, who can resist a bunny story?

Happy reading.

And check out Kate Young who is an Australian born, London based food writer and cook.


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Heart of Country – how’s your quiet time?

 

Are you taking time to order your inner life? Are you standing still or racing around? As I drive away from Brisbane and the busy life with babies and toddlers, I find myself thinking about my week ahead back in the country, in particular the Australia Day long weekend.
Being at peace with yourself and finding a quiet harmony is something I strive for. So when Bill mentioned to me let’s go to Kilkivan, I was in. The heart was singing. Pack the car with absolute essentials. Esky. water, books and a pillow. Kilkivan is a country town 30 km west of Gympie. The Australian bush is right outside your door. There’s a unique frontier feel with rolling hills, open spaces, and it’s home to the Great Kilkivan Horse Ride, a spectacular sight attracting over 1000 horses, riders and horse drawn vehicles every April. You can look up the meaning of the town and more of its history.

Bill and I stayed in a shed on acreage. Bliss, peaceful with only the birds to disturb us. From the heat of the day to the cool galaxy of shining stars at night, we felt recharged. A walk into the town saw us buy a newspaper, sit and talk to the locals, browse the collectibles shops and read some signs. We also enjoyed a pub dinner with music and friendly locals.

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What are we reading that’s so important??

 

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Met in the hall by an old adventurer!
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Even Marilyn Monroe has her eye on YOU!

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There’s something clean and pure about country air that relaxes the heart. The wide streets, few cars, the pace. The sky. Even the large rain clouds looming.

Inside the Kilkivan pub there’s a different vibe. The local drinkers, the retirees listening to music and the pregnant dog scavenging beneath the tables, Ned Kelly armour, a portrait of vintage nude women on the walls and the pokey machines. Having a good old fashioned Angus steak meal with a tender silverside and white sauce/ veggies and mash also added to the charm of the place.

Later that evening we were to discover the fun at the Killy’s Ute and Boots at the Show grounds. Now if you want to see sunburn at its best, visit the ute muster events and mud gulley run – both entertaining and fun. Bill and I wandered around watching people and events, taking in the atmosphere and eaves dropping. The tattooed arms and legs, riding boots, Stetson hats and sweaty armpits, kids kicking balls, up on shoulders, were the scenes that stood out. Plus the mud!!

The mud bog run was marvellous to watch. Up on the stands Bill and I watched as the four wheel drives including jeeps flying the Aussie flag accelerated into the slimy mud to control their vehicle. They had to cross over an area to the other side in one piece. Of course some got stuck. Revving fast and hard, backwards and forwards, mud flying and drivers swearing and eventually relying on the four wheel drive tractor rescuing them. It was so much fun to watch.

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The filthy cars were worked hard – sometimes at a ridiculous level of persistence. I dread to think of the damage that some engines and gearboxes suffered in the groaning and clashing of the young drivers on the wheel. Water too! I imagine that cleaning the cars would take many litres of water.

As we drove out from the Show grounds smiling, I had to reflect upon this unique experience. Back to the shed, the sheep and a glass of wine, we settled down to the quiet star lit evening of solitude.

Handmade this Christmas

It’s a joy to receive a handmade gift – something that someone has made with their hands. A part of themselves. A token of love and thought. A creative idea. A cooking challenge. Something stitched or painted.

This Christmas I have noticed hand made tree decorations that look lovely not just the shiny baubles bought in the shops. Crafted with time and patience, these ornaments can add uniqueness to the festive tree. Wouldn’t you agree?

Then there’s the cooking. Well I haven’t done much in my kitchen this year, except make a date and walnut loaf to share, but recently I was invited to a ladies lunch where the dishes were delicious.

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Handmade stocking, toy or star biscuit is special.

My sister recently received the most amazing present for her small courtyard garden. I had to take a closer look to work out what her friend did to make this plant sculpture/ decoration. She’s used a recycled wire mannequin, brass mugs and plants that weave through the creation. It sits in the corner of a brick wall and begs to be investigated and adored. What fun her friend had in designing and making this gift. You cannot buy this in a shop.


A little bit of nature always looks good so when I had the opportunity with my grand daughter to make sand castles at the beach, I loved it. Matilda and I sat in the surf watching the waves “eat” up the moat and walls of our castle. So I asked her to find lots of shells. Together we made a big circle of shells and jumped inside it. This is part of our circle in the sand. And it costs nothing.

I love that children can make mosaics out of scraps of torn paper or owls from crayons and paint. There are so many possibilities to create with our hands.

So this Christmas, dear readers and friends, I hope that part of you is generously given to others. It makes me think that God’s gift to us, with no strings attached, is Jesus. His love is perfect for you. In His everlasting arms, he carries us through to all sorts of adventures and dreams. And with the hurried pace of Christmas upon us all, may we remember that there’s strength and beauty in the handmade.

 

The Wonder of Words

Words have a way of touching your heart. Moving you to tears or laughter. We speak them, hear them, struggle with them, write them, use them and choose them. Recently I attended the retirement farewell of two of my teaching colleagues including my own. There were speeches that celebrated the achievements and passions of these people; words that were uplifting and kind.

As I thought about words, I realised the power and beauty of them to heal, console and affirm. My colleague Jeannine Beaufoy delivered her heartfelt, farewell, thank you speech to a clapping audience. Her commitment and dedication to teaching is awesome and so with humility and pride she offered a beautiful speech to the staff. Several hugs, gifts and smiles later, it was my turn to stand up and be farewelled.

Jeannine’s speech

My friend and teaching partner spoke beautiful words to me – about my connectedness to others, my enthusiasm for my students, my passions and interests. It was a touching moment for me.

Words written on cards are special. Enjoy the time with family. Wishing you every happiness. Many thanks for your care and support. Your grace and kindness will be missed. All the very best for 2018 and beyond.

What words describe you? What are your 5 favourite words? Because I love children’s books, I wonder if you have read any of Glenda Millard’s most magical books like ‘Plum Puddings and Paper Moons’? The title of the book is a good example of alliteration; she uses words with punch and vigour. ‘tiger’s teeth and tails and toes’. Playful made up language like ‘ finny, scaly, gilly, salty sea sardines’. And her metaphor, ‘The sun was a hot yellow peach in a sea of strawberry sauce and the moon was a paper doily tossed up high.”

I have seen words on walls in rooms that stop you and make you wonder. Like these.

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Words on tea towels that amuse and delight.

Surprising words that reflect mood and emotion. Words in magazines like ‘ GET GRAPHIC’

‘Make your beauty kit a little edgier with geometric razzmatazz and bold shades.’

There are scribbled words and autographs on uniforms.

Christmas messages.

And then images of natural beauty that words are sometimes unable to describe. Take a closer look at this plant and tell me what words you would use to describe it.

I love that words can make you sing, cry and remember. My grand children play with words like favourite toys. They are word weavers, word changers, word architects. Even sharp quick words like ‘ No! Why? ‘Where’s lamby? roll off their tongues.

Did you know that emoji keyboard is on more mobile phones then any language keyboard worldwide? Future emoji candidates include a Hindu temple, oil lamp and snorkel mask. What does it take to get your attention folks? ‘The giraffe is the one people request the most,’ Jeremy Burge, world authority on the popular characters, said. ‘For some reason, people are wild about the giraffe.’

This Christmas, I hope that we can forget the words that hurt, disappoint and are cruel in favour of the words that bring love, peace and hope. Words that bless, empower and reach others. God’s words that say, rest in Me. Be still so that you can hear My voice.

Words to read in books, words in coffee shops and words that you hold dear to your heart like a cuddly teddy bear. Until next time, make a list of your favourite words and share them with me.

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Little Fig cafe in Buderim
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Aleesah Darlinson reading from Fox and Moonbeam

 

Writing to Graduation – the Learning Life.

Have you ever scribbled a message of love onto a shirt? Signed your name? Left your mark? Well the Seniors of 2017 at Matthew Flinders in Buderim where I teach finished their year in style and celebration with a magnificent dinner, entertainment and speeches. I was one of the lucky ones to attend the well organised event where proud parents sat amidst the decorated tables of Houses like Bradman, Mawson, Chisholm etc. Even the prep teachers were there to congratulate some students who began at 5 years and finished at 18 years – a whole lot of valuable learning.

 

The next day at the College saw the final gathering of the troops in the Quad for a hearty brekky where staff, Seniors and their teary eyed parents waved them farewell in the sports centre and through the tunnel. This rite of passage is something to watch. The shy ones leave first as they walk past hordes of younger students waving them goodbye. Then the momentum builds up as students hug, slap hands, cry and joke with anyone who has impacted their schooling. There were tears, smiles and relief etched on their faces. Friends embracing friends; good memories and a positive finish.

With their uniforms autographed, and their sights set on departure, the Seniors left the grounds ready for more adventure and schoolies, but that’s another blog.

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Prior to this special event came time for writing  – when like minded souls met for the Sunshine Writer’s retreat at Montville. As a day visitor, I was armed with my trusty notebook, super organised program, camera and a good dose of curiosity and expectation. Arriving at the beautiful venue, Montville Country cabins I was lucky again to be a part of a very special group of people who are committed and passionate about their writing goals, illustrating projects and getting published.

Time to connect. Time to grow as an aspiring author. Time to explore new friendships in a tranquil setting and listen to professional speakers share their tips and writing lives.

From Samantha Wheeler and Karen Foxlee ( children’s book authors) to Wombat publisher Rochelle Manners, “How to secure a Publisher and Preparing a Pitch” with award winning author, Aleesah Darlinson to the witty and warm illustrator/ writer, Flaxton father Peter Carnavas ( who inspired us all with drawing penguins, listening to music and finding “the blue page”, all the participants took home so much learning. A lot of learning that celebrates creative storytelling.

I learnt more about “show don’t tell”, rules and regulations of publishers, submission processes, preparing a writer’s CV, the magical mystery of a good book for children, humour. I learnt about narrative structure, openings and storyboards. I heard about rejection letters, animal characters and cost effective social media.

I came away inspired, happily overwhelmed and ready to edit my stories. I came away with some new picture books in hand, the one above by Michelle Worthington called The World’s Worst Pirate and met the author Tess Rowley who wrote a funny book about “bottoms” that my grand daughter loves to read ( see below left)

Thanks to the amazing and talented Aleesah Darlinson ( above right) and her vibrant volunteers and support network, this retreat was a marvellous success. Such enthusiasm is contagious. Spread the writing word!

November has this way of noticing things – the jacaranda blooms, the sparkle of Christmas tinsel, the strained look on teenager’s faces, the emotional pauses of writer’s block, the scent of natives growing in the gardens, home baked treats at a writing conference and the tiredness that creeps in when you are learning so much. I wonder if my head will explode – with new ideas, new projects and new expectations.

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Reasons to smile

I started reading about the power of a smile and soon found many interesting insights. How was your day today? Did it bring a smile to your face? a frown or perhaps you are not sure.

When our brain feels good and tells us to smile, we smile and tell our brain it feels good and so forth. I know that it’s important to be happy, yet the simple act of smiling sends a message to our brains that we are happy. Our faces look brighter, friendlier and more appealing. Smiling can make others happy, so when I recently looked at the art exhibition by students at my College, I noticed the uplifting, positive faces that were painted by teenagers smiling back at me.

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Now if that’s not a cheesy grin and wide smile, I am lifted in my mood instantly.

Seeing a friend smile can activate muscles in your face to make that same expression, without you even being aware that you are doing it. Crazy, right?

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Isn’t this a beautiful portrait of a mother’s love? She’s not holding back her smile. Nor should we.

Smiling helps you de-stress.

Smiling can lead to laughter. Even watching a comedy movie when you are feeling down can relax your whole body.

Well, there’s a lot of science out there to explain what happens when we smile. I don’t want to go into that, except to share with you this gem of a quote, ” smiling stimulates our brain’s reward mechanisms in a way that even chocolate, a well regarded pleasure-inducer, cannot match.”

These bright paintings reflect the girl’s love of colour, pattern and design. How gorgeous.

A more dramatic piece, this picture was done by a twelve year old. Amazing.

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I love the way he has painted the smile red. Eyes sparkle. No frowns. Positive energy.

Look at the angles, the wide mouth, teeth and eye balls! Makes you feel like dancing or celebrating. Hypnotic! Dazzling!

Now if we were to practise smiling in front of the mirror, it can invoke the emotion immediately of joy. I realise that some people are not comfortable with smiling and prefer to have less people drawn to them. Their faces are puzzled, sullen or sad. I like to think that what mother Teresa said is very true, that “we shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.” reaches probably even further than imagined.

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I find myself smiling and giggling a lot when I visit the grand children. They are cute and spontaneous, hiding in places that are obvious to see. Funny conversations we share bring smiles to my face. Sometimes during awkward moments, the little ones burst out with an unexpected phrase, and it makes you laugh. There’s beauty in a child’s smile, so much more than a threatening frown.

Imagine a day when you really concentrate on smiling at a stranger – it can have a real impact on their lives.

Now it’s the end of the day. Even though I am tired and ready to switch off from school things, I hope that you can be contagious when you are smiling tomorrow. Good luck!