That’s a Wrap: November 11, 2018

The week in photos

What I read…

I giggled my way through Richard Glover’s The Land Before Avocado – a wise and funny look at Australia in the 1960s and 1970s. As one of the review states, “The Land Before Avocado explains why this was the cultural revolution we had to have.”

It also, in my humble opinion, should be required reading for shock jocks the likes of Ray Hadley and Alan Jones and anyone else harking back to the good old days…but don’t get me started on that.

I also requested and received an advance copy for review purposes of All The Tears In China, the latest in Sulari Gentill’s Rowland Sinclair mysteries. Keep an eye out for it – it’s fabulous.

What I wrote…

It’s November so I’m deep in nanowrimo territory. As I write this blog I haven’t yet done today’s words, but am currently sitting at 18605 words – that’s on target. Just.

What I blogged…

With just a week to go until the official release date of Happy Ever After, I’ve been posting a photo a day from The Milford Track to Instagram. Why? Because Milford Track and Queenstown feature as locations in this novel.

I even wrote a blog post on my Milford experience. You can find it here and if you’re after a preorder for Happy Ever After, you can get it here.

I also popped up something new on my very neglected Sunny Coast blog. More on that below.

Finally, I even managed a couple of posts on my astro site – something I’ve neglected for the last few months. Yep, with this much procrastiblogging I must be in first draft mode.

What I cooked…


I had one of “those” days yesterday – where I was tired to the bone and to the brain. Like my brain had run out of space and important things were beginning to leak out of it. So I hit the kitchen.

I had an aha moment a few weeks ago about why I enjoy baking even though I don’t eat sugar – although I drink plenty of it in its fermented form. When I cook I like to take the recipe as an indication only, but when I bake the measuring and weighing actually helps my brain calm down and find a semblance of focus.

So, what did I make? Piccalilli, for a start. We love piccalilli at Christmas. It’s the perfect accompaniment for hams and cheeses and given that it’s tough to buy a good one I decided to make it..

I also made a berry-topped no-bake cheesecake slice and strawberry ice cream. It’s a really bad photo of the ice-cream – it really is quite creamy.

If you want the recipes, you can find the cheesecake here, the ice-cream here and an approximation of the piccalilli here.

Where we lunched…

A new (to us) Mexican at Alexandra Headlands. Juan Fifty. The food was great, the decor bright, and the vibe Sunday sessiony.

The best part? Locally brewed craft beer on the drinks menu. This one is the Larry pale ale from Your Mates brewing company.

So, that was my week…how was yours?

Happy Ever After and the Milford Track


Next week marks 2 years since I hiked the Milford Track in New Zealand. It is then, perhaps fitting that Happy Ever After will also be published next week. Why fitting? Because the Milford Track and Queenstown feature quite heavily in this story.

Over 100 years ago the Spectator magazine declared Milford “the finest walk in the world” – and although I have limited experience of these things, they weren’t wrong. It is way more than fine.

My Milford experience wasn’t an entirely happy one even though the track itself was as wildly beautiful as everyone says that it would be.

The finish line

This tramp – 54km or 33.5 miles (all the distance markers are in miles) – over glacier-fed rivers, through luxurious beech forest and up and over the alpine crossing that is the MacKinnon Pass – is a truly beautiful one. Yet while I finished the Routeburn Track only a couple of years earlier feeling as though I could do anything I set my mind to, there were a lot of moments on this one – particularly on day 3 with the Mackinnon Pass crossing – where I felt as though it had broken me.

It wasn’t just the rain – although it did rain steadily for the first 3 days. I’d gone with the guided walk option so even though we were soaked through by the end of each day, drying rooms and hot showers soon had us toasty and warm. Besides, rain is part of the landscape down here – and its beauty is even more dramatic in the rain.

No, my experience was marred by a lack of adequate training. This is rated a moderate walk and doable for most people with average fitness. I, however, had not prepared as well as I could have and should have.

2016 was a horror of a year with nasty unexpected surprise on top of nasty unexpected surprise. One after the other. Friends, jobs, finances, losses. We don’t need to get into the unpleasant detail. Between a daily 3 hour commute and all the other stuff that was happening, getting into a regular training pattern was difficult and my head was not where it needed to be.

As a result, I’d trained for the distances and the flat, but not for the uneven ground and certainly not for Mackinnon Pass. After the year that I’d had it felt as though the Pass had broken me into bits. I’m glad now that it did feel that way as I was able to use the experience when I was writing Kate’s story in Happy Ever After.

Day 1

Day 1 involved mostly getting to the start of the track. After waking to news of an overnight earthquake in Wellington, we left Queenstown on a bus for Te Anau Downs (with a stop at Te Anau for lunch) and then a boat ride to Glade Wharf and the official start of the track.

Day 2

Day 2 was an easy tramp – 16kms (10 miles) over relatively flat ground in the pouring rain. The amount of rain meant that the waterfalls sprang from absolutely everywhere.

I tramped most of the day alone and it was immensely gorgeous and peaceful and all of those words I was hoping it would be.

That afternoon back at the lodge the keas – large and extremely cheeky alpine parrots – kept us amused with their comical antics – and an active demonstration of why you shouldn’t leave hiking boots outside your room to dry!

Day 3

Day 3 was different. Although the distance was slightly shorter than the previous day, it was a steep uphill climb to Mackinnon Pass and an even steeper descent.

Going up was physically tough and my lack of preparation showed. I was slow and sore. Once we got above the beech forest, the views though, were magnificent.

At the memorial at the top, the clouds miraculously cleared and we could see the valley below – and just how far we’d come.

After stopping for some lunch and to use the toilet with the best view in the entire world, we made our way down – slowly, with my toes banging into the front of my boots and what felt like knives driving into my knees. Going up was hard, but I spent the entire 4 hours going down being scared of every step I took in case I fell and hurt myself.

Day 4

The longest of the walking days – 21 kms or 13.5 miles – the terrain was a little rocky, and there were a number of suspension bridges to cross, but otherwise nothing too challenging. It was, in fact, a glorious day to be tramping.

At (aptly named) Sandfly Point we boarded a boat to take us across to our accommodation for the night at Mitre Lodge and a final night dinner with a real party atmosphere.

Day 5 – Milford Sound

On day 5 we woke to a magnificent blue day and a cruise boat in at Milford Sound.

Before heading back to Queenstown we did a cruise of Milford Sound. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been on Milford Sound a few times – twice on a short cruise like this one and once on an overnight cruise that I’ll never forget.

Anyways, these are views that would never get old. And the rain during the week just made the waterfalls even more impressive.

Would I do it again?

I’m not sure. Even though I said that I’d never ever ever do another long distance walk with a mountain in the middle again, it feels a little like unfinished business. Having said that, I’m planning another long distance challenge for early 2020 – if I can ever get this flipping ankle right.

Would I recommend it to others? Absolutely. This truly is a magnificent walk with magnificent views – even in the rain…or maybe especially because of the rain.

I struggled – as did a few of the others – because I hadn’t prepared as well as I should have. Everyone else appeared to manage it very easily. I remain in awe of the group of Victorian hikers – all of whom were well into their 60s – who bounded up and down that mountain with relative ease.

As for my character, Kate Spence, will she do it again? She doesn’t need to –  she got exactly what she needed to get from the experience.

Happy Ever After is now available for pre-order at a special price from Amazon and will be published in Australia on 17/11/18 and all other territories 18/11/18. This link will take you to the pre-order.

There’s a print version on its way, so watch this space.

If you want to read more about my experience on the track, the day by day posts can be found here.

It’s Lovin’ Life Linky time…

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look for our happy and share it about a bit. The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, DebbishWrite of the Middle50 Shades of Age,  and, of course, me.

Sentence a Day – October

I know that I say this every month, but where has October gone?

It was a month that had some pretty big highlights – a glamping trip to the Scenic Rim and a celebration for my father’s 80th birthday – and also a lot of business as usual. It was a month of serious rain – storm season has definitely arrived here in South East Queensland – and sunny blue skies and perfect beach weather.

Just a couple of lowlights – a chronic ankle injury and an attempted fraud on my credit card which has led to the cancellation of said card as I was about to get on a flight to Sydney for a week. Talk about inconvenient! #dontgetmestarted

Anyways, without further ado, let’s wrap this month up.

The month in photos…

The month in sentences…

1.Words at the Surf Club, some great finds at the 2nd hand bookshop and Careful What You Wish For (aka Book No. 6) finished. Plus it’s the Monday of a long weekend.

2. Walk, work, gym, work – just another ordinary Tuesday.

3. Ankle seriously sore – I’ve self diagnosed it as a tendonitis.

4. A big day in the office and more ankle pain.

5. Off to the Scenic Rim and glamping at Ketchup’s Bank. Lunch at the Scenic Rim Brewery and stroganoff cooked in the camp kitchen for dinner. Heavy rain outside, but we’re toasty and warm in our tent.

6.  More rain, unusual yet fun wine tasting, and more gourmet delight cooked outside in the camp kitchen.

7. Rain cleared to amazing views this morning. Home again.

If you want to know more about Ketchup’s Bank, check out my post…here.

8. Back to business – walk, whale spouts, work.

9. Hubby in Brissie for the day, massive storm this afternoon – the two aren’t connected.

10. Thunderbolts and lightning – another massive downpour and new phones all round. Wonder of all wonders we no longer have to take our calls on the front lawn.

11. Managed a walk before the rain started. Seriously messy stressy day work wise.

12. Rain, haircut…that’s all.

13. Torrential rain for most of the day – even the cane toads were sheltering on the back step. Spent the morning at the markets in the mud and the afternoon going through slides for Dad’s album.

14. Managed a walk before the rain started again. Spent the day working on Dad’s album – except for procrastibaking triple chocolate chocolate chip cookies.

15. Torrential downpours to start the day. there’s beginning to be a pattern here…

16. Finally a walk before work and there’s a strange colour in the sky – it could almost be blue.

17. The sun is out properly. Hooray.

18. Ankle pain almost unbearable on walk this morning – think it could be time to see someone about it.

19. Caught up on some strategy stuff this morning, podiatrist, lunch date with my daughter at moo-free burgers. And my diagnosis of tendon damage was spot on. Self congratulations all round.

20. Markets this morning and first mango of the year. Weird mushrooms growing in the rosemary.

21. Wander up Maple Street in Maleny, browse in the 2nd hand book shops and lunch at Brouhaha Brewery. Sunday done well.

22. Slow walk on my damaged and taped up ankle, but otherwise business as usual on this blue blue Monday.

23. Another cracker of a day. Happy Ever After sent off for formatting.

24. Ankle slightly better so I took the tape off – possibly a mistake. Fabulous morning that made logging of for work extra hard. Whales spouting away on the horizon.

25. Gorgeous day…and work. That’s all.

26. Happy Birthday to my long-suffering and wonderful husband. Love ya to the end of the blue and back.

27. Off to Sydney and overnighting at my old neighbours…and a rather large night it was!

28. A tad dusty this morning – I’m too old to be mixing drinks. Big family celebration for my Dad’s 80th.

29. Official happy birthday to the old man. Thanks for being the best dad ever. In the actual office for a change.

30. Lunch with my brother and drinks after work with a colleague.

31. Unexpected catch-up with an old friend.

What I read…

It was a light month on the book front. Aside from a few genre romances:

The Girl I Used To Know, Faith Hogan

Billy, Billy Connolly

The Man I Think I Know, Mike Gayle – one of the best books I’ve read this year.

What I watched…

The final episodes of Rake – I think this could actually be the end…

Pacific, with Sam Neill – I’ve really enjoyed this.

Pine Gap – the first episode was really disappointing, but then I got hooked in.

Unforgotten – Series 3…I’m just 2 episodes in, but it’s as good as the previous 2 series.

How was your month?

It’s Lovin’ Life Linky time…

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look for our happy and share it about a bit. The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, DebbishWrite of the Middle50 Shades of Age,  and, of course, me.

Cimetière du Père Lachaise


‘Hey you – Kangaroo…allons…catch up.’

We were in Pere-Lachaise Cemetary – the most visited cemetery in the world – and had managed to get ourselves hopelessly lost. Of course, we could have booked ourselves on one of the tours of the cemetery, but that clashed with being able to visit the Bastille Markets – and we really wanted to do that. Besides, booking a tour would mean we’d need to be there by a certain time and what if we saw something interesting on the walk on the way there?

No, a tour, whilst tempting, would be way too constrictive – we’d do it ourselves instead. How hard could it be? I’d uploaded a map – okay I’d taken a screen dump of the map showing the important graves – but nothing had prepared us for the sheer number of them – and the size of the cemetery.

Although Paris residency was the only qualification you needed to be buried here, among the notable are the writers Proust, Gertrude Stein and Colette; the composer Chopin; Edith Piaf. Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison; painters Seurat, Modigliani and Delacroix; and the dancer Isadora Duncan.

We quickly found Colette’s resting spot but from there we struck trouble and I had to admit the unthinkable – I had no flipping idea where to find Edith Piaf or Oscar Wilde, let alone Jim Morrison.

Just as we were approaching the first of the hills in the cemetery – which sits quite high over Paris – we come across a middle-aged man with long black hair and wild eyes holding a worn clipboard holding equally worn papers. He’s talking to an American couple outside Chopin’s grave and he reckons he has a shortcut to Edith Piaf and Oscar Wilde.

We tag along – him calling me Kangaroo the whole time. Of course, we know that he’s an unofficial guide and that he probably ropes people like us in all the time, but he’s hilarious so we don’t care.

Along the way, he points out graves of people of interest and tells us about the history of the cemetery. There have been a million people interred here over the years, but, he says, not that many here now.

‘You know what happens? Kangaroo, do you know?’

‘No, why don’t you tell us.’

‘Barbecued,’ he says, indicating his head towards the crematorium. As an aside, that’s not strictly correct – and not at all respectful – but we’re getting the idea that neither respect nor accuracy is that important to him. Besides, we’re too busy trying to keep up with him.

‘Allons Kangaroo,’ he says again. I wave his words away and continue to take my photo.

‘How much do you reckon this will cost us?’ asks hubby under his breath.

We see another American woman looking for Edith Piaf. ‘She died,’ our “guide” says, completely deadpan. She doesn’t smile.

At Monsieur Noir’s grave we all – except for hubby – rub the….okay Mum and Dad, if you’re reading turn away now….we rub the very worn stone at his, well, crotch. Apparently, it’s good for one’s sex life and fertility.

‘How many children do you want?’ our guide asks the American couple who he calls Chicago.

‘We want twins,’ says Mrs Chicago.

‘You both better rub very hard then,’ he tells them. They each place one hand on his crotch and one on his foot – no, I don’t know why either – and lean in to kiss each other. I hope their wish comes true.

Judging by the worn nature of the ahem area, plenty of other people have tested the theory. I could tell you a story about how the legend came about – it has something to do with when Victor Noix, a 21-year-old journalist, was shot through the heart by Napoleon III’s nephew in a botched duel, a certain part of his anatomy – but no, I won’t go any further because I suspect my mother is still reading.

Eventually, we find Edith Piaf and Bugatti – who has a seriously tiny headstone for someone who invented such an expensive car.

At Oscar Wilde’s grave – which has a glass screen around it now to protect against the lipstick –  he leaves us and heads back down the hill to find more tourists needing a shortcut to Edith Piaf and Oscar Wilde. He’s 50E richer (we gave him 20E) and we’ve laughed steadily for the last half hour or so.

As for us, we went looking for Jim Morrison…and found him.

Getting there…

We walked up via the Bastille Markets (more on that next time). It was an easy walk through a part of Paris we otherwise wouldn’t have walked through.

You can, however, catch the metro – Père Lachaise or Phillipe Auguste.

If you want to take the tour – a friend of mine recommended this one – it takes 2 hours, runs on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and costs around $25USD per person.

It’s Lovin’ Life Linky time…

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look for our happy and share it about a bit. The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, DebbishWrite of the Middle50 Shades of Age,  and, of course, me.

That’s a Wrap – 21 October 2018

Ok, it’s been a mad few weeks work wise – both in the day job and with writing projects – but I’m finally getting my head above water…I think.

Storm season is well and truly upon us – in fact as I type the sky has darkened again and my phone screen is full of severe storm warnings. We have, however, had some gorgeous blue in contrast to the rain – which, of course, we need. Check out this great pic of our local falls by @thephantomphotographer.

The week in pics

What was painful this week

I finally found my way to the podiatrist this week to attempt to deal with the ankle pain that has, of late, caused my morning walk to be more of a hobble – and a painful one at that.

At the moment it’s taped up and I’ve had to stay off it for a few days. It’s apparently a combo of:

  • underlying ankle weakness – my ankles have always been unsteady and hyper-flexive,
  • carrying too much weight,
  • my back and hips being out of alignment – as a result of me not finding a chiro or osteo since we moved,
  • trainers that have lost all their support,
  • living in thongs or bare feet, and

….well, my eyes began to glaze over at that point. Throw in a sustained effort to double my daily steps over the last 6-8 weeks and all of a sudden we have an overuse injury.

It goes without saying that I need to lose weight, but in the interim, I have to have some painful therapy on the affected calf muscle.

I’ve had this exact tendon issue in the same ankle/ lower calf a number of years ago when a booking under the influence led me to think that I could maybe learn to run. I got through it then, so will get through this one now – although I am, of course, 6 years older and nearly 10kgs heavier.

As far as wake up calls goes, it’s a good one.

What I wrote

Coming soon

I’ve finished the proof for Happy Ever After, written the blurb and acknowledgements so it’s now ready to go off for formatting – which, of course, is the point where I question myself. I am, however, very proud of this book. It’s a stand-alone, so not part of the series I’d been working on, and different to what I usually write. As I said, I’m super proud of it and hope you enjoy it too.

In the meantime, I have the structural edit back for Careful What You Wish For, so will get started on the re-write for that this week. I’m scheduled to start the draft for It’s In The Stars on November 1. It’s the last in the chick lit series that began with Baby, It’s You and will tie everybody’s stories together. Well, that’s the theory anyway.

What I cooked

I’m putting together an ebook of the recipes that I’ve used in both Happy Ever After and Wish You Were Here, so my daughter’s workplace is getting plenty of morning teas.

This week they got a plate of these chocolate choc-chip cookies.

Tomorrow they’ll be scoring this oaty ginger slice that Max cooked in Wish You Were Here.

What came out of the Sunday Lunch Decision Bowl

Brouhaha Brewery in Maleny.

We took a stroll up Maple Street and checked out the second-hand bookshops and then shared a pizza and some pork scratchings at the brewery. Perfect.

What I’m looking forward to

Hubby’s birthday on Friday and then Ms T and I are heading to Sydney to celebrate my father’s 80th birthday with the family.

Linking up with Denyse in Life This Week...

Why you should write a novel this November

November is around the corner…and if November is around the corner, so too is NaNoWriMo. Nano wtf? National Novel Writing Month. Get it?

Essentially the challenge is to, along with a few hundred thousand other people, get 50,000 words out of your head and onto a page – or a laptop –during the month of November. It’s a bit like a novel writing marathon.

By the end of November, our poor little novel writer’s wrists are burning, our eyelids need propping open, our body fluids have been gradually replaced by copious amounts of caffeine or alcohol, and most of us have hit a wall at some point through the process. In our case, the “wall” isn’t extreme physical exhaustion (although it can be) – more often it’s a blank screen or page.

The hardest part of the process by far is fitting writing in around life – because, as we know, it doesn’t stop just because we’ve committed to writing a novel. For those of us with kids, November is the time of the year where the end of year exams and end of year performances and presentation nights all start to fill up the calendar. In addition, most of us have jobs and other responsibilities. We don’t have time to add writing a novel to that list. Do we?

So, if it’s that flipping hard, why do we do it? To be honest, asking a writer that question is a little like asking a marathoner why they lace up the trainers to put their bodies through 42kms of pain or asking a climber why they do Everest. The answer is simple – because it’s a challenge and it’s there.

I’ve done it most years since 2009. Each of my novels has started life during Nanowrimo. Baby, It’s You and Big Girls Don’t Cry were both managed while I had a full-time job – with large chunks written in hotel rooms and airports during office relocation projects – and all the things that go along with being a Mum with a (then) school-age child. The bulk of Wish You Were Here was written during nanowrimo in 2015 – even though I was on a road trip through Britain for the 2nd half of November.

I Want You Back – which I’m yet to publish – was 2016’s project even though I was on Milford Track with access to no technology for a week of the month. As an aside, that year I only managed 30,000 words in the month.

Last year’s nano manuscript, Happy Ever After, is about to be published. And yes, that was also written while working 4 days a week. My point? If you want to do it badly enough you can.

Should you enter? Yes. Especially if:

  • You’ve been talking about writing a book someday forever and flipping ever
  • You’ve got a story in your head that needs to escape
  • You like a good graph

Need more convincing?

  • 50,000 words isn’t a full novel (unless you’re writing novellas, category romance or children’s books), but it’s a bloody good start.
  • It’s a great way to take a new idea for a test flight. By 50,000 words you’re going to know whether it’s got legs and, if it doesn’t, you’ve only wasted one month. In my view, that’s an efficient outcome.
  • It doesn’t need to be a novel. Perhaps you’ve been thinking about a non-fiction project, a memoir, a collection of short stories or poems, a screenplay.
  • You might get to the end of November and decide that even though you’ve always wanted to write, perhaps long-form isn’t for you. You might decide you’re more suited to more immediate or short-form writing eg articles, blogs. There is no right or wrong – or judgement – associated with this…and you have a whole month to find out.
  • It never needs to be seen by anyone other than yourself. The book I wrote in 2009 was vaguely semi semi-autobiographical rubbish. It will never be published – although I have used parts of it in everything I’ve written since. I’d had it in my head for so long that writing it down allowed all the other stories that had been waiting their turn behind it in my brain to come tearing out. As an aside sometimes I think my brain is a tad like an air traffic control tower. Anyways, that character – my runaway astrologer Alice – has her own story that I’ll be writing this year. And no, it’s no longer even vaguely semi semi-autobiographical. Except for the astrologer bit – and possibly not even then.
  • It’s one month where you can experiment with different genres, different voices. Again, if it doesn’t work, you’ve only wasted a month. The year I drafted Big Girls Don’t Cry, I experimented with writing as if it were a project plan ie from the end backwards. The year I wrote Baby, It’s You, I wrote each chapter using a pop song as a prompt. I wrote 3 different viewpoints in I Want You Back –  and then started all over again in December because it just didn’t work for me.
  • Because it is only a month, you can try out different techniques to get you through the wall, through the saggy middle, and to have a little fun with the process.
  • Even if you don’t get to 50,000 words, you’ll have more words at the end of November than you did at the beginning. In fact, it doesn’t really matter if you don’t get to 50,000 words.
  • It’s great training. To be a writer you have to get in the habit of writing – every day.
  • If you’re a plotter or edit as you go, this is a great opportunity to just let the words flow. See what happens. No edits – not until December 1.
  • You get to see the graph on the nano site. It’s a great graph.
  • With nanowrimo, there’s no escape, no catch-ups. If you’ve been struggling to establish a writing habit, I can’t think of a better way to do it.

Am I entering this year? Absolutely. I have Alice’s story to tell. It’s the last in my Melbourne Girls series and will tie up any loose ends – all the way back to Baby, It’s You.

If you’re up for it, you can sign up at the official site. You’ll find forums, events, cool widgets for your blog, emails of encouragement and a cast of hundreds of thousands of other people doing it with you. I’m Astrojo, so if you’re signing up, come follow me.

I’ll be keeping myself accountable with daily updates on my Facebook page, so feel free to play along there – the more the merrier.

This post first appeared here at this time last year…

Chateaux of the Loire Valley: Chateau Azay-le-Rideau

This was my favourite of the chateaux we visited. Built in the 16th century by Francis I, It’s not the biggest or the most opulent. It is, however, in my humble opinion, the most romantic. Perhaps it’s because it’s been built on an island, perhaps it’s the water mirrors (a fancy pants name for cool reflections) or the wisteria. Perhaps it’s the lovely little village of Azay le Rideau that’s built around the chateau.

Whatever it is, I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking.

The exterior

The water mirror – and some wisteria


The interior

Of all the chateaux we visited, this was also the most sumptuously furnished – although the furnishing owes more to the residents after the revolution than Frank the first.

Azay-le-Rideau, the village

Quite a bit of the village of Azay-le-Rideau was destroyed in the 15th century because the villagers were supporting the Burgundians. What this means is that the architecture is more recent and more modest than you see in some of the other villages. The Church of Saint-Symphorien is the most historic monument in the town and worth ducking in for a look.

The village itself has some seriously cute little interiors shops, art galleries and bistros. I had to lock my wallet away and remind myself that I couldn’t get the garden decorations that I adored home.



Ketchup’s Bank Glamping

I distinctly recall the last time I stayed in a tent. It was in a caravan park in Mallacoota – we were living in Bombala at the time – and I must have been about 13.

It was a 6 man tent and the 4 of us kids lay in our sleeping bags at the back of the tent, with a divider down the middle separating where Mum and Dad were. An annexe at the front held our kitchen stuff. I remember plenty about that experience:

  • How uncomfortable it was to sleep
  • How there was no privacy
  • How you had to climb over everyone and go to the amenities block to use the toilet
  • How uncomfortable it was to sleep

I also recall how when the wind came up we couldn’t leave the tent in case it blew away…but that’s another story that we all still laugh about.

We had camped before that trip – in sleeping bags on hard ground on a bush block outside of Merriwa – where we were living at the time. The toilet on that occasion was a spade with a toilet roll on the end. We still laugh about that too.

To say I didn’t enjoy the whole camping/tent thing would be a gross understatement. In fact, I vowed I’d never do it again – the camping or the tent thing – despite the laughs nearly 40 years later.

Age, however, mellows…or something like that… Since we’ve been in Queensland I’ve been flirting with the idea of both caravanning and camping – even though my husband has:

  • done a cost-benefit analysis on owning a van vs staying in country motels – including the fuel consumption of towing a van, site fees and…I could go on
  • pointed out how I need a bathroom under the same roof
  • pointed out how I sleep so lightly that a frog farting in a car on a highway 5 miles away is enough to keep me awake
  • pointed out that I have trust issues with regards to space, privacy and the ability to lock myself away securely.
  • pointed out that my hair has a tendency to go to dreadlocks when out in the great outdoors

Sure, he has a point – several, in fact – but I’ve pointed out:

  • how much fun it is to cook outside
  • how much fun it is to eat outside
  • how great it is to get away from noise
  • how the bush has its own sounds
  • how the stars are so clear in the dark
  • how amazing birds sound in the country
  • how much we both enjoy our Eucumbene trips
  • how we need to push boundaries every so often
  • how he keeps telling me he was a boy scout
  • life is too short to worry about dreadlocks
  • Adventure before dementia

The compromise? Glamping. And that’s where Ketchup’s Bank comes in.

The location…

Ketchup’s Bank is located in the Scenic Rim region of South East Queensland – just an hour from Brisbane and the same from the Gold Coast. The closest town, Boonah, is a 15-minute scenic drive away – longer if you stop for photos.

There are restaurants, pubs and a huge IGA supermarket in Boonah – for all your camp kitchen needs.

The Eco-tent

Take every preconceived notion you have about tents and throw them out of your mind. Are they gone? Good. This tent is certainly nothing like that brown and orange tent of my memory.

For a start, it has a bed – and a very comfy queen bed it is, with fluffy doonas and proper pillows. There’s a couple of chairs, a bar fridge for your supplies, a TV for DVDs only (thankfully no TV reception) and a small collection of DVDs.

Then there’s a bathroom – with a toilet that flushes and a shower that’s hot. You can leave the curtain and the tent flap open and shower with the bush, the birds and the wallabies. I chose not to scare the wildlife.

There was also a covered deck area that was obviously built just for me to do some copy editing from. As an aside, that whole business about writing drunk and editing sober is a fallacy…just saying.

The rain poured down on Friday night and we were warm, cozy and dry in our tent. I will admit to feeling a tad exposed without a door that could be locked, but I managed to get over that.

The Kitchen…

It’s a camp kitchen – but amped up. As well as a campfire with plenty of firewood and a few different sized Dutch ovens, there’s also a barbecue and most of the utensils you’ll need to whip up a great meal.

We prepared beef stroganoff on the first night, cooked up an incredible breakfast the following morning using the provisions in the breakfast hamper that we’d pre-ordered, and had pork chops with sauteed potatoes, green beans and a creamy pepper sauce on the second night. All prepared, cooked and eaten outside. You even boil the kettle for your tea on the barbie – or the billy. Don’t worry if you can’t do without your morning caffeine hit, Ketchup’s supply ground coffee and a plunger.

Somehow those eggs tasted even better knowing that we could personally thank the ladies who’d laid them for us.

Because we weren’t sure what we’d find in the way of nibbly things at Boonah, we’d also ordered an antipasto platter to accompany our drinks on Friday night. It was so generous we saved it for lunch on Saturday instead.

Around the property

There are a series of walks around the property – the scenery and birdlife are fabulous.

At night the stars are clearer than stars have a right to be, and in the late afternoon and early morning, there’s always the possibility of a visitor of the wallaby kind. As an aside, when driving into the property, keep an eye out – they have a habit of bursting out of the scrub and bouncing across the road.

Other bits and pieces…

Ketchup’s Bank currently has two eco-tents. The other was occupied on the weekend we were there, but we saw and heard little from our “neighbours”.

They don’t cater to children and there is no cellphone reception – although there is wi-fi, enough to allow you to post to Instagram or google the following days’ activities.

If you want more information, you can find it here.

Will we do it again? Yep. I’m a convert. Hear the serenity.

While in the Scenic Rim…

Scenic Rim Brewery

Don’t miss the chance to visit the Scenic Rim Brewery. With beers named Digga, Shazza, Fat Man and Phar-Que how could you not? We were there because we’d heard the bitterbollans (Dutch meatballs) were amazing – which they were.

They also have a loaded chiko roll on the menu…don’t ask!

Kooroomba Vineyard and Lavender Farm

I nearly didn’t mention this place – mainly because we rocked on up on Saturday (in the rain) and they were closed without explanation. So why am I telling you? Partly because it’s one of the main attractions in the area – seemingly with a humungous marketing budget and poor communications – but mostly because I wanted an excuse to post the pictures of the lavender that I got soaked taking. That’s why.

Bunjurgen Winery

This was a gem of a place – and possibly the most enjoyable and least pretentious wine tasting we’ve ever had. Dave pulled up a chair and a table and sat down and we chatted. There’s nothing sleek, posh or whatever about Bunjurgen – and that’s a great thing.

They grow 2 grape varieties – chambourcin and shiraz. When the climate does the right thing by them they make wine – rose, a mixed red, and a couple of ports – and when it’s too hot and wet to make wine, they make grape juice or verjuice. Too easy.

I reckon that I learnt more about winemaking in this climate than I’ll ever need to know – and so much more – but all via stories and good humour. We could have stayed and talked for ages.

It’s Lovin’ Life Linky time…

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look for our happy and share it about a bit. The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, DebbishSeize the Day ProjectWrite of the Middle50 Shades of Age,  and, of course, me.

Sentence a Day – September

Ummm was that September? Seriously? Why wasn’t I given warning?

September brought deadlines, plenty of work, and a few highs. I missed doing my morning walk just twice – once early in the month when it was (sorry Mum and Dad) pi$$ing down; and again last week – when I had to be on the 6 am train to Brisbane for work. Over the month I clocked up 339,523 steps. Given that’s an average of over 11000 steps a day, that’s a tick on my list of 101 things in 1001 days. Unfortunately, it’s also brought a return of an old Achilles tendon over-use injury which I’m now trying to manage while still keeping moving. That’s a whole other very boring story.

What passes for Spring here in South East Queensland is almost over – but the bottlebrush, other natives,and the flowers on the Thai (Holy) Basil have been lovely.

Ok, before we get into October – which is full of deadlines, birthdays and various other things – let’s wrap last month.

1.Markets, hair, homemade focaccia. That means another tick in the 101 things to do list.

2. Happy Father’s Day to the two best fathers in the world – mine and my daughter’s. Walk on the beach followed by curry pots of yum at Noosa Beach House.

3. Dolphins and a walk – is there a better way to kick off the working week?

4. Rainy start and some moody cloud action on the walk.

5. Pi$$ing down this morning so no walk. Doggy Day Spa visited Adventure Spaniel.

6. Walk in the rain and work. That’s all.

7. Sun’s back out today, and so am I – writing words at the Surf Club. (As an aside, I really think they need to make me the writer in residence…)

8. Markets, house-cleaning, and experimenting with a French menu for dinner – Cervelle de Canut and Poulet au Vinaigre.

9. Friends over for lunch on a gorgeous blue day.

10. Cracker of a morning. I have a colleague (and friend) here from the Sydney office working out of my home office all week.

11. Another blue day with whales doing their blowing thing not far off-shore.

12. Fabulous having a work colleague who wants to cook with you – we put together the aromatic stock for a home-made pho during our lunch break and she stayed for dinner to help us eat it.

13. Whales again this morning, the project we were working on completed, and pho even better second day. It’s been nice having someone else to talk to in the office other than Adventure Spaniel – who, I must say, always agrees with me.

14. Picnic lunch of fabulous Mooloolaba prawns eaten at the top of Alex Hill to celebrate Friday – and managed a few words.

15. Best whale viewing yet this season. I walked over to Alexandra Headland beach this morning and two whales were breaching and putting on a fine display of fin waving and tail slapping. Mesmerising. Made passionfruit pannacotta for dessert tonight.

16. Morning walk, coffee with a friend at the beach, lunch at Palmwoods Hotel (best beer garden so far), afternoon walk, homemade pizzas and some words in between. At the end of the rock wall this afternoon we watched a whole school of fish being chased by a dolphin jump out of the water.

17. Monday Monday – a few clouds, a few showers, and a long day in the office. Nothing more to see here.

18. Meetings and blue skies.

19. First cane toad of the season on the front lawn. Ugh.

20. Cover for Happy Ever After revealed.

Coming soon

21. Words, a picnic at Buderim Park, and a visit to the Garden Centre for a new bay tree.

22. Best ever smoked salmon salad for lunch – all from local produce bought at the markets.

23. Catch-up at the Apollonian Hotel at Boreen Point with some fellow bloggers.

Apollonian Hotel, Boreen Point
Apollonian Hotel, Boreen Point

24. Monday. Nothing more to say.

25. Some action of the whale breaching kind off the end of the rock wall this morning, seriously cool clouds, plenty of torrential rain and single ingredient dinner at Jimmy’s at Warana – pineapple, in case you’re interested.

26. 6am train to Brisbane for the day job.

27. Ummmm….

28. Catch up with a writing friend and some actual words.

29. Extreme procrastibaking – chocolate cloud cake, choc chip cookies, Tibetan momos and lamb rogan josh from scratch. Oh, and whales.

30. Thunder and lightning, boom crash opera, Beerwah Hotel for Sunday lunch and draft for book no. 6 declared done.

Photo a day

Pics from our morning beach walk…

What I watched

It was sad to see the end forever of 800 Words. I loved that show – and was satisfied with how they finished it off.

The best show by far of the month was The Split on ABC. This was so addictive that I was wishing I didn’t discover it until I could binge watch the whole lot in one go.

On Foxtel, I’ve been watching Sam Neill’s fabulous Pacific – In the Footsteps of Captain Cook and Tony Robinson’s Coast to Coast about walking the path that goes across the middle of England.

I’ve also been procrastiwatching (again) The Hollowmen on ABC – classic satire by the best in the business and spent a very pleasant couple of hours reacquainting myself with the Kerrigans and The Castle – by the same production company.

Finally, I spent some time that I’ll never be able to get back on Wellington Paranormal on SBS on demand. It started off a tad spoofy and pretty much went downhill quite quickly.

What I read

Not much this month – just 5 books with the highlights being:

  • Belgravia, Julian Fellowes. This is by the guy who wrote Downton Abbey and I got it in the 2nd hand bookshop in Armidale. As an aside, Fellows also played Lord Kilwillie on Monarch of the Glen. Remember that show?
  • A Paris Christmas, John Baxter. I bought this one in the 2nd hand part of Shakespeare & Co when we were in Paris. It was sitting on the shelf just outside the toilet and was marked 5E. A great read.
  • The Turning Point, Freya North – no spoiler alerts, but I read this one with an impending sense that it wasn’t going to end well – normally enough for me to put the book down. Despite that, I couldn’t put it down.

Ok, that was my month – how was yours?

Chateaux of the Loire Valley: Chateau du Clos Lucé

Details make perfection and perfection isn’t just a detail.

Leonardo Da Vinci

Chateau du Clos Lucé was Leonard Da Vinci’s home in Amboise. Francois I (who I will from now refer to as Frank the first) set him up here for the last three years of his life. Frank gave him a pension and a title, Premier Painter and Engineer and Architect of the King. Impressive, hey?

Frank even had a tunnel built between Clos Lucé and Amboise Castle so neither of them had to walk the 400 odd metres in order to have a chat. There is quite a steep hill to climb from Amboise to Clos Lucé, so maybe that’s why.

Anyways, Leo’s main role at this point in time was to design, invent and generally impress Frank – which he seemed to do successfully.

There are rooms here devoted to his designs. He envisaged the helicopter, parachute and car jack, but was also consumed by designs for weapons of mass destruction like the catapult, the cross-bow, the machine gun, the armoured tank and the fortress. He even formed opinions on health and medicine. This guy seriously was smarter than anyone else at everything he turned his hand to.

The gardens outside were just as interesting and we spent ages wandering around.

Scattered throughout the gardens are replicas of his drawings and designs brought to life.


After we finished with Leo’s house we wandered down the hill into Amboise, the town.

Along the way we passed a number of troglodytes – houses cut into the slopes and rock faces.

We’d seen a lot of these from the road – some really elaborate. Many are open for tourists to visit.


The chateau here is so big that you have to go a reasonable way down the street in order to fit it into the frame. So we stopped for beers instead – which were also huge.

Next time – our final, and my favourite chateau…

It’s Lovin’ Life Linky time…

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look for our happy and share it about a bit. The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, DebbishSeize the Day ProjectWrite of the Middle50 Shades of Age,  and, of course, me.