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.

Troglodytes

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.

Amboise

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.


That’s a wrap – September 23, 2018

Apollonian Hotel, Boreen Point
Mooloolaba Mornings this week

Down on Mooloolaba Spit, there’s a telegraph pole that was placed there to allow the resident eagle pair (although technically they’re kites…whatever) to build their nest. Each morning when we walk we look for them. Just lately there’s been a lot more activity in the nest and this morning all four residents of the nest were up and standing proud. Yes, they’ve managed to raise two chicks who now appear to be ready to leave the nest – at least mum and dad appear to be ready for them to leave the nest!

Anyways, enough about the eagles…

Where we explored…

Apollonian Hotel, Boreen Point
Apollonian Hotel, Boreen Point

Sunday lunch was at the Apollonian Hotel in Boreen Point – about an hour drive north of where we live on the Sunshine Coast, but just 20 minutes or so from Noosa.

The Apollonian, first licensed in 1868, is a fabulous place for a bit of a Sunday sesh, but we were meeting some fellow bloggers and their husbands: Jan from Budget Travel Talk, Jan from Retiring Not Shy and Sandy from Tray Tables Away.

Food, wine, beer, sunshine and lots of travel talk. Is there a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon?

What I announced…

Coming soon

The cover for Happy Ever After. I love this cover and I truly love this book – and can’t wait to get it out into the world. If you want to know more about it, check out this link.

What I wrote…

I’ve finally finished drafting my 6th book – snappily titled Book No. 6. It’s no. 2 in my Careful What You Wish For mini-series. I’m now in the process of going through it making sure that the dots are joined and all the scenes run the way that they should. I write by the seat of my pants so there’s usually quite a bit of re-working through that I need to do.

I also blogged something about strawberries.

Buderim Village Park

Just up the road from us with great picnic and barbecue facilities and a pretty impressive outlook.

In the kitchen…

Ten acres spelt bread, Gympie fresh goat’s cheese, Noosa Red tomatoes

We tried out a new laksa paste from a local producer. The next best thing to making it ourselves – except of course, that it’s quicker. Super yum.

Oh, the green on the top of the soup is sliced snow peas because I don’t like bean sprouts but wanted some crunch.

We also took the kitchen to Buderim Park on Friday and prepared Bun Cha – Vietnamese pork noodle salad – outside.

 

There was also this salad I put together on Saturday using produce we’d picked up that morning at Kawana Waters Farmer’s Markets:

  • Smoked salmon
  • Noosa Reds cherry tomatoes
  • Cucumber and leaves
  • Avos from the organic avo man
  • Yoghurt from Maleny Dairies
  • Lemons

What made me go eeeeuw…

The first cane toad sighting of the year on the front lawn.

That was my week…how was yours?

Happy Ever After – The Cover Reveal

Here it is – the cover for my next novel, Happy Ever After.

Do you only get one chance at a happy ever after?
Kate and Neil met at a protest march in Sydney in August 1985 – Kate was marching, Neil wasn’t. It was love almost at first sight.
Over thirty years have passed, their children have grown, and Kate and Neil have gone from being happily married to being happily separated. That is until Neil asks for a divorce – and another wedding brings up feelings they’d both thought were long gone.

Kate and Neil fall in love all over again, but the repercussions are unexpected and far-reaching. Will Kate be able to overcome a whole new set of challenges to find her happy ever after?

What’s it about?

Happy Ever After is a love story, but more than that it’s a story about love. It’s a story about how love changes, grows and is challenged over the years. It’s about the curve balls life throws us just when we’re ready to begin realising our dreams. It’s about living the better or for worse and richer and poorer thing and it’s about coming out the other side. It’s about family, friends, second, third and even fourth chances for a happy ever after. Mostly though, it’s about love.

When is it out?

It will be available for pre-sales in the next week or so and for sale in the usual places at the beginning of November.

Watch this space!

Strawberries

I was going to tell you about another chateau today, but there are more pressing matters at hand. Instead of long-dead French nobles with too much time and too many resources at their disposal, we’re going to talk about strawberries.

Aussie farmers are doing it tough at the moment with widespread drought. In the past week or so, though, we’ve seen a $500 million (or thereabouts) industry be brought to its knees by a few idiot saboteurs with sewing needles –  the Queensland strawberry industry.

What you might not know is that South East Queensland – and predominantly the Sunshine Coast from Caboolture and up through to Bundaberg – supplies Australia with its winter strawberry crops. The season runs between May and October. We’re talking hundreds of thousands of punnets of the best tasting strawberries you’ll eat.

The supermarkets may have pulled their strawberries off the shelf, but we’re still buying them from the markets. The alternative is to watch them being dumped – and the farmer’s livelihoods with them.

Radio stations and newspapers here on the Coast are imploring people to get behind the strawberry farmers and still buy strawberries – to cut them before eating if you’re concerned – and to share favourite recipes. Here are mine.

Check. Chop. Consume.

No recipe recipes…

What are we doing with them? We’re eating them – for breakfast with yoghurt and granola and passionfruit.

We’re freezing them – for smoothies and trifles. And we’re macerating them in creme de cassis for a little bit of France in a bowl.

You can, of course, also use them to make jam, top a pavlova or a Victoria sponge cake, or stir them through lemon curd and spoon it into little pastry cases for a quick and tasty dessert.

Need some more ideas?

No-Churn strawberry ice-cream

This comes out of the food processor looking just like a strawberry soft serve. It’s just 500g frozen strawberries, 1/2 cup icing sugar and 1 egg white all blitzed in a food processor. Job done.

Strawberry Frozen Yoghurt

An alternative to ice-cream is strawberry frozen yoghurt – although this one does need to be churned in an ice cream maker. The principle is similar. Take 500g strawberries and hull and dice them. Pop them in a bowl with 1/2 cup caster sugar and leave it for a couple of hours or until the sugar has dissolved.

Pop the strawberry mixture into your food processor, add 1 1/2 cups Greek-style (full fat) yoghurt and process until smooth. Then spoon it into your ice cream machine and let it churn for however long your machine needs to churn for. Then freeze.

Strawberry Cloud Cake

Anyone who spends any amount of time in the kitchen will have a party favourite in their repertoire – you know, that one dish that you pull out every time you have a crowd to feed.

This Strawberry Cloud Cake is mine. It’s impressive, it’s pretty, it’s seriously easy to put together, it tastes good and it’s pink.

Just what is a cloud cake? Aside from having a delectable name, this creation is a feather-light, frozen cross between an ice cream and a mousse, with none of the faffing around that usually goes with these. It’s also a piece of scientific mastery as this

photo-15 Becomes this,

photo-16

on the way to becoming thick and pink and fluffy

photo-17

And then, this.

photo-18

I won’t reprint the recipe, the link to the recipe is here

Strawberry Trifle

In our house, trifles are hubby’s domain. He makes one once a year – for Christmas. He uses aeroplane jelly mix and cut up sponge cake. It’s a bit of a Christmas classic, and this one represents no attempted takeover of the Christmas trifle. For a start, there’s no powdered jelly mix in sight.

To make the jelly you’ll need:

  • 500g strawberries.
  • Juice and grated rind of an orange
  • ¼ cup caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 3 gelatine leaves. I used titanium strength – it’s a lot, but you need the jelly to be firm enough to hold the sponge fingers, custard and cream.

Place everything except the gelatine in a saucepan and bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer – for about 5-6 minutes. While the berries are simmering, soften the gelatine leaves in cold water. This should take about 5 minutes.

Squeeze the excess water out of the squidgy gelatine and add it to the hot berry mixture. Stir until it’s dissolved, and set aside to cool for an hour before pouring into your trifle bowl – or bowls, if you’re being fancy schmancy. Put into the fridge to set for a couple of hours.

Once the jelly is set arrange some sponge fingers across the top, drizzle with sherry, and top with custard. Of course, you can make your own – but it’s easier to buy the dollopy sort from the supermarket. Then it’s just a matter of spooning on some whipped cream and decorating with more berries.

Do you have any favourite strawberry recipes?

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.


 

Chateaux of the Loire Valley: Chenonceau

Day 2 and Chateau No. 3 – the other chateau on most tourist’s must-do lists. And this one is truly beautiful – even if we did visit on a Sunday morning on the first rainy day we’d had all trip.

Henry II bought this place for his long-time mistress Diane De Poitiers. At 20 years his senior she was apparently the love of his life.

Diane created the fabulous gardens here and also built the bridge across the river so she could go hunting on the other side.

When Henry died his wife, Catherine de Medici took back the chateau – even though she had apparently no legal right to it.  It was all part of a revenge that she’d waited a long time – her whole marriage – to take.

It was Catherine who built the gallery over the bridge – creating a long ballroom that needs to be seen to be fully appreciated. I tried to picture it full of fabulous people in fabulous finery instead of the rabble of tourists – it didn’t work.

Inside the chateau, it’s a sumptuous as any chateau has a right to be and much more richly furnished than Chambord was.

As for the flowers…oh, the flowers…

The grounds are also beautiful – and more extensive than we were able to cover in the rain.

We visited on a wet Sunday morning in May and it was absolutely packed. I’d hate to think how busy it gets in the summertime!

 

That’s a Wrap – September 16, 2018

Wow, I haven’t done one of these for ages and, with the amount of other work I have on at the moment, I probably shouldn’t be procrastiposting now either. Not to worry – on with the week.

How’s the weather?

Sunrise is now well before 6 am and Spring is definitely in the air. On my walk yesterday morning I watched some whales breaching not far off the Headland. They’re on their way back down to Antarctica, but seeing them is always a sign that the weather is warming up. What amazed me was the number of people watching their phones rather than the whales – and trust me, these guys were putting on a show and a half. Aside from the breaching thing, there was quite a bit of tail slapping and fin waving going on.

The banksia is in full colour and is full of birds every morning.

In the herb garden the Thai, or Holy, Basil is also in flower and attracting huge numbers of bees.

In the Kitchen

I’ve been experimenting with different noodle salads at least once a week – all part of the trying to eat a little bit healthier thing. This week it was Bun Cha – little Vietnamese pork patties with vermicelli noodles, a herb salad and a spicy dipping sauce. Very yum.

I had a colleague from Sydney working out of the Buderim Office this week, ie our home. We had a ridiculous amount of work to get through so booked out the meeting rooms for the week ie the dining table.

On Wednesday we cooked pho bo from scratch. We put the stock on during our lunch break – using a heap of beef short ribs and bucketloads of spices. We loved it on Wednesday night and enjoyed it even more for lunch on Thursday.

At the markets this week I bought a bag of passionfruit and turned them into passionfruit and vanilla pannacotta.

And yes, we’re still buying strawberries – direct from the farmer – despite what is going on in the supermarkets.

Using some of the berries we had in the freezer – a mix of strawberries, blueberries and raspberries – I blitzed up this instant ice-cream that I heard about on a Gary Mehigan podcast. It’s 500g frozen berries, 1/2 cup icing sugar, 1 egg white all in the blender and blitzed. It comes out like soft serve.

Where we picnicked…

On Friday we took some fabulous Mooloolaba prawns, salad and bread rolls up to the Headland and looked for whales. We didn’t see any whales, but we did have the best lunch!

What I wrote…

With all the policy writing that went on last week, I’m running a few days behind in finishing my draft of the Tiff book for my editor. To say I’ve struggled with it would be an understatement.

In other news, I have the copy edit back from my editor but won’t start on that until I’ve finished with Tiff. The way that I’ve been struggling with the Tiff book even a copy edit seems preferable to work on at the moment!

I’ve also got a few concepts back for my cover for Happy Ever After. My faves are:

My pick is No 1 – I love the colours – but I’d love to know what you think.

Ok, that was my week – how was yours?