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Tuesday, 26 August 2014

A Very Fortunate Week

The first rainbow I've seen since I moved here.

I've been extremely fortunate this week with two exciting events happening.  The first one was when I received a message from the archivist at the State Library of Queensland asking for permission to add my blog to their archives.  Wowee!  I was rapt, as you may imagine.  A friend of mine, also blog writer, had that happen to her a couple of years ago and I remember being very impressed when she told me about it.  It never occurred to me that my blog would one day also be chosen.  As well as being archived with the State Library, it means the National Library of Australia would have access as well.  Apparently they look for blogs depicting life in Queensland and like to have these for reference.

The second exciting event was that a short story I had written was placed second in the annual short story competition held by the writers group to which I belong.  It will also be included in the 2014 anthology "Your Story Makes You Special".  I'd submitted two entries and the one I'd written about my grandmother was the successful story.  The anthology will be available in November.

The above, combined with my book launch last month, have given me a real's quite exhilarating at the moment! 

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There was a chain of events yesterday which caused some mild mayhem for me and the cats. although Bella wouldn't agree that it was mild.  I was sitting at my computer, Mitzi was on the bed snoozing and Bella was sound asleep in the recliner, her usual spot.  As I mentioned last week, we've been having very blustery winds and being on the first floor with the balcony facing south, I've been feeling their full force.  Consequently, there have been allergens blowing around which often trigger a bout of sneezing.  This one extremely loud and forceful sneeze, however, caught me and the cats by surprise.  Mitzi shot under the bedclothes in alarm while poor Bella leapt straight into the air and landed on the floor.  Just as all this was happening, there was a loud knock on the door.  I jumped up, tripped over Bella who let out a yowl of fright then banged into a small occasional table, knocking it over with a crash.  Cursing roundly I righted it and hobbled over to the door to be confronted by my rather startled neighbour from upstairs who was very kindly delivering a parcel which had been left at the office by the postie.

I'm now sporting a lovely bruise on my shin and a sore muscle in my back as a result of all this. I'm not sure why the muscle is sore, but I noticed it once all had calmed down and I'd regained my equilibrium. Bella and Mitzi escaped unscathed with only their dignity ruffled.  As for the neighbour, he probably worried there's a houseful of nutters who've moved in downstairs and are doing their best to wreck the place.

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Book Review:

Hey True Blue, autobiography, John Williamson (Penguin 2014)

For Aussie readers of my blog, John Williamson needs no introduction....I think every Aussie knows the words to "True Blue".  For others outside our island continent, he's Australia's No 1 country singer and passionate lover not only of the unique Australian bush but of all things Australian.

His autobiography tells of his beginnings as the son of a wheat farmer from Quambatook (Quamby), a dot on the map in the southern state of Victoria.  It's written in typical straightforward, down to earth prose about John's life as a singer...the pubs, clubs and other venues where he's performed along with the bushies, characters and celebrities he's met during his performances in the cities as well as the Outback.  John makes no attempt to hide his Aussie accent in his singing and it's because of this he has become Australia's true blue Mallee boy.

I found it a thoroughly enjoyable and interesting book, written in a flowing easy to read narrative. Highly recommended for an entertaining read with John's sometimes larrikin personality stamped on every page.

The book is very new as evidenced by the library stickers on the cover.  No holds, no renewals and return in seven days!

I hope the week is kind to you.  Until next time...

Thursday, 21 August 2014

A Very Rare Post!

There are no cat photos today...they went on strike and refused to cooperate!

The subject of the first part of this post is about food.  It's rare for me to post about food because as much as I love eating, I don't really like cooking.  I had to learn to do that when young, my mother was determined to teach me by getting me to cook dinner for our family one day a week.  Although I think my dislike actually stems from my years married to a farmer and having to cook three two or three course meals a day plus making sure there was always something in the cake tins as no cup of tea or coffee could be drunk without an accompanying slab of cake or half a tin of biscuits!  It became a chore because there were all the other things that had to be done as well.  Never mind, they all got done and no one died of food poisoning!

Yesterday, I went for my weekly shop.  It was one of those weeks where I'd run out of everything...toilet rolls, cat food, shampoo, laundry liquid, name it, I'd run out.  

I needed fruit and stopped off at the greengrocer in the shopping village where I found a most unusual fruit.  It was a melon called piel de sapo, which translates to "toad skin".  I looked it up and it's one of Spain's most popular melons.  I'd neither seen it nor heard of it before but there was a plate of sample pieces.  I like sampling new things and tried a piece.  It was beautiful! My taste buds shouted "halleluja!" so...I bought one.  I sliced it in half and here's what it looks like.

Piel de sapo..."toad skin" melon.

The flesh is very sweet yet tangy and much tastier than a honeydew melon which I find rather bland.

To my delight I also saw mangoes for the first time this season.  They were two for $5 which is really cheap for early fruit.  They weren't huge but certainly a reasonable size.

A plate of diced mango to which was added muesli and Greek yoghurt for breakfast this morning.  Ummm yummm!

The next food item I bought was a pack of four RSPCA-approved chicken breasts for $13.  I bought them from Coles because I find their chicken breasts aren't plumped up with saline or whatever is used by some supermarkets.  What you see is what you get.  I once brought some chicken breasts from another supermarket, nice plump ones, so I thought. Once cooked, they had shrunk to half their size with 1.0 cm or more of fluid in the bottom of the dish.  I couldn't believe how small they actually were. I was wary of buying Coles' chicken breasts at first but as the chicken meat supplier I normally purchased from was no longer at the farmers' markets, I decided to try Coles and was pleasantly surprised.

I bake one chicken breast for 30 - 40 minutes in a 180 degree C oven, after brushing with oil and seasoning with garlic salt, in an oven proof dish, turning it halfway through the cooking time which will depend on the type of oven you have.  Apart from the oil brushed on at the start, I add no more to the dish.

I had about half the chicken breast for dinner last night accompanied by a mixed leaf salad, tomatoes, red capsicum, avocado and cottage cheese as dressing.  Today's and tomorrow's lunches will be cold chicken, salad and avocado on rye.

The above will probably be the first and last post I write on food...

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Now for bit of a whinge and moan about the weather.  Oh, it's sunny enough and we had some lovely rain last weekend which, with 75% of Queensland drought declared, was extremely welcome with more rain due in the next day or so.  No, what I hate is the wind and have we been having wind!  For about the last fortnight or maybe a bit more, it's been blowing a howling gale.  We've had one or two days with no wind and it was beautiful.  I could have the door onto the balcony, as well as all the windows, open without being blown inside out.  Unfortunately, the next day the strong winds would be back.

Today I did my washing.  Being in a unit complex we have no washing lines but every unit has a dryer.  With the energy costs going through the roof, I only use mine when I absolutely have to.  I have a large clothes rack on wheels which is ideal for hanging washing on and I can bring it inside if it starts to rain.  Today, the winds appeared to be even stronger with one powerful gust sending my laundry to the other end of the balcony.  I looked up in time to see the rack go sailing past the floor to ceiling window, coming to a crashing stop against the railings which fortunately, being metal, are very strong.

I decided to wheel the rack inside but when I tried to do so, the wind was so gusty I had a real struggle.  Eventually, I managed and shut and locked the door with relief...then started straightening everything inside which had been swirled about by the wind.  I do hope it dies down soon, I think everyone's heartily sick of been blown around...I know I am!

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Book Review

The Final Cut - Catherine Coulter and J T Ellison (Penguin 2013)

There is or was (I think she may be deceased) an author of historical novels of the same name, but this Catherine Coulter writes crime novels, and does so very well, too.

In this particular instance, she has teamed up with J T Ellison, a thriller novelist in her own right. Together they've crafted a fast paced, page turner in which we are introduced to Detective Chief Inspector Nicholas Drummond of Scotland Yard.

Nicholas flies to New York when he hears that colleague, Inspector Elaine York, has been murdered.  Elaine was the guardian for the "Jewel of the Lion" exhibit of the crown jewels of London featuring the infamous Koh-i-noor diamond from the Queen Mother's crown.

He teams up with Savich and Sherlock, FBI agents whom readers of Coulter's novels will know from her previous books.  Someone is planning to steal the Koh-i-noor and they need to stop the theft.  They discover The Fox appears to be cleverly dodging their traps meanwhile setting traps and false trails for Drummond.  He needs all of Savich's computer skills as well as Sherlock's gift for reconstructing a crime scene to chase The Fox to ground. The big question plaguing them though is the identity of The Fox,

With twists, turns and bodies on nearly every page, I couldn't put this book down until it's very surprising end.  This is Coulter at her best and I thoroughly enjoyed every tense moment.

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As always, I wish you a pleasant and happy week and weekend.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Of Plumbing, Advertising, Wine and Other Things

But first of all, the obligatory picture of cats!

Just checking before going out onto the balcony...a.k.a. spying on the neighbours!

Russ, the complex manager, caught up with me the week before last and asked if I'd noticed any leaks anywhere.  You know, wet patches in inexplicable places.  No...he wasn't insinuating I was incontinent; apparently there was water leaking through the ceiling of the unit directly under mine.

Consequently, a plumber arrived a few days later and one of the valves on my hot water cylinder was leaking.  I don't know how long it had been going on but the tray on which the cylinder sat was completely rusted through.  

On Monday of last week, the cylinder was emptied, pulled out and the extent of the damage was laid bare.  It had been leaking for so long (long before I moved in) that water was actually going right through the unit below to the basement carpark!  

After a couple of hours the rusted tray was removed, the faulty valve replaced and arrangements made for a replacement tray to be made up and installed later in the day.  Fortunately Russ had warned me the day before that the water would be turned off so I was up early to have a shower and get a load of washing done.  Oh, I also made sure the jug was filled as I'm not nice to know without my morning coffee.

Now that's been all fixed up I'm hoping my power charges will drop.

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As you may or may not know, I had the launch for "Old Age and Villainy" last month.  It went very well and there was a gratifying number of attendees a lot of whom kindly bought copies which they then asked me to sign.  I felt a little bit famous.  Nerida, the facilitator of the event and our writers' group, said nice things about me and also presented a bottle of wine.  She knows me well.

As I have booked a table at the Carnival of Words being held in November, the proceeds from the launch were invested in some advertising material, shown below.  The annual event is to showcase Gold Coast authors and their work.  This year's theme is multicultural and as well as book sales and author talks, there will be various activities including multicultural group displays.  It runs from 9 am to 3 pm and will be a great positive energy day. 

I plan to wear this T shirt on the day.  I wanted a picture of the book cover but I couldn't upload that onto the particular graphic supplied for the T shirt.

I also designed the banner for my table. Again, I wanted the cover of the book, but the printing on the banner went right across it, as you can see with the Phyreupp logo.  I ended up using that as my work will be published under Phyreupp Books, to keep proceeds separate from my everyday banking.  Makes it easier at tax time.

When I say I designed the banner, I had my printing done through Vistaprint, an online printing company who have a large range of templates for users to design their own advertising and merchandising products or for an extra charge they will do it for you. They were recommended to me and I must say they are very good.  Reasonable prices, timely delivery of goods and generally easy to deal with.  Very important for us Indie authors!  Unfortunately, I found limitations as with the T shirt and the logo but in general, I'm reasonably satisfied with the results.  

Oh dear, I've just noticed the blog URL is should be oldageandvillainyv2, rather than just "2" at the end.

I haven't done a lot of writing although I managed to get my two Winter Snap competition entries in, two days before the comp closed (you may remember both stories I submitted last year were successful, one being a finalist and the other gaining second prize), and I wrote another short story for our annual anthology, which comes out in November.
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Last week I made my usual trip to the our local shopping village for groceries.  I also needed some facial moisturiser but saw some anti-ageing serum and bought that too.  When I tried to use the serum that evening, the pump top wouldn't work.  I retrieved the packaging and receipt and a couple of days later went to exchange it for one that worked only to find there were no more.  With the refund I bought a bottle of wine instead.  Priorities...or moisturising from the inside.

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Book Review:

A Father At Last by Julie Mac  (Escape Pub 2013)
I love a book which causes a strong emotional reaction and this poignant story did it for me.  A contemporary romance set in Auckland, New Zealand, A Father At Last tells of Kelly's shock when she has an unexpected encounter with Ben, her childhood sweetheart.  She tries very hard not to succumb to the familiar strong attraction as she has a secret that she doesn't want Ben to know.  Ben, however, has his own dark past and because of this Kelly feels she can't allow him back into her life.  There are other issues causing Kelly anguish and it is during the resolution of these that I found myself reaching for the tissues.

I thoroughly enjoyed this's a good one for a lazy weekend or holiday reading.

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That's all for this post, it's time for my second and last coffee for the day.  Enjoy what's left of the weekend and have a great week!