Tuesday, 10 May 2016


I am nearing the end of the Diploma program now, and graduation is on the calendar for 26th July. How cool? Just found out that I got in for the Study Abroad tour to Hong Kong for 10 days in October. I'm thrilled. Part of the trip prep is 2 months of cantonese lessons, so, not being anything of a whizz in languages, I'm a little hesitant about the prospect of getting some basic travel style greetings down pat! Thought I'd google for some basic sounds to listen to in the car, and came across a great intro lesson. Called 'LearnChineseEZ' and I reckon it's a great intro. I want to use it some more, so I'm mentioning the site in this blog because then I'll be eligible for free access to download more to use in the car. Thanks guys!

Wish me luck people!

Tuesday, 10 November 2015


Please don't be disappointed as this is not an expose about any real life experience in a shark tank with actual swimming sharks. We've been asked to complete a blog entry with our notes from a group presentation this morning in class where we presented our tourism business - the concept, our product, how we plan to market and what's on the website. Like the show 'Shark Tank'.

I introduced our group business and explained the genesis of the business idea. We are filling a gap in the tourism offerings in Brisbane by offering a matching set of simple low-impact tours. I explained the visual merchandising idea that is the power or the lure of the 'matching set' which our brochures will use - matching theme, similar names etc. Then I handed on to Katie, Dannielle, Shuto and Pinar. It went well and we ended up winning, but unlike Shark Tank, there's no promise of any cash funding! Oh well, we did know this was all a fictitious exercise. But oh, so very fun (really, I jest?). Thanks Sabine - I did enjoy it!

This morning was also a mini-graduation for the end of the semester and completion of the work for Sabine's subject (of which this blog has been a part). And so we had a party with lots of crazy unhealthy food. I made caramel slice and boy, was it ever a hit. Here's a small taster of my homemade treat that I am betting you so wish you could actually taste.

Monday, 9 November 2015


Our lovely daughter had a 16th birthday party yesterday, complete with a fruity tropical theme, light drizzly rain that wasn't really in keeping with the bubbliness of the 'party customers' personalities (or the theme), and as always, a home-made and most wondrous birthday cake. If our kids have a home party, then I will always make a celebration cake. We have a range of well-thumbed Women's Weekly Birthday Cake cookbooks, with various scribbled notations indicating for which child and which age or year each cake was made.

I know some other mums who have always coughed up the home-made special and continue to do so, but I do believe that sadly, we are a dying breed. Every year, when the mums and dads come to drop off or pick up from one of our parties, the comments they give on my cake works of art astound me. You would think I had re-created the Mona Lisa. You know, birthday cakes are not actually that hard to do. Once you have a reliable cake mix, you just stick with it. You have to be able to cut and shape it without excessive crumbling, and you just need to make the cake the day before, so it's not too 'fresh'. Then the design, if it's a Women's Weekly option, is usually well-described, with the steps to creating all explained with pictures. It's a 'follow the words and pictures' type exercise. Seriously people, how hard can that be?

Simple it sounds, and pretty simple it usually is, but time-consuming it can be too. Just allow several hours alone in the kitchen in the morning before the party kicks off. Never start a party before 11am, and all will be ready in time!

I wish I had kept a gallery of my cake works of art in a more easily locatable place, because it would be so cool to be able to pull them all up at once to really wow the party-comers. But, for you, I will dig out a few from iPhoto. I am known far and wide for 'awesome' icing so drool away, feel free to comment, and be inspired to step up to the plate next year when your kids ask for a 'special' cake. I look back on these and am so glad I put the effort in.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015


Christmas means something different to everyone, but every time decorations get unboxed and they start lining the department store shelves in September, or even earlier in late August, I am torn between excitement and disgust. Excitement, because in recent years, we have as a family, really discovered the joy of spending time together doing something we all love. But the disgust with the commercialism and the loss of what Christmas should mean always hits me. I'm not loving the inundation of toy catalogues, the massive expense of all those toys, the relentless nagging from kids about what they really think they 'must' have, the pressure of just how much should be spent on each person, and all the warnings from the financial advisers about not ending up with a massive credit card debt in January. Is all this spending really in the spirit of Christmas?

In the past when our kids were small, we'd have ridiculous piles of presents under the tree for each child, and Christmas day itself was actually quite embarrassing to watch the grandparents faces as our children just kept unwrapping and unwrapping more and more all day long. It was so obvious that the number of presents was insane. There is no other word for it. We had to make a change. And that change we found a few years ago.

The change for us is being in Sun Peaks in Canada. We have been going to ski since our youngest was 5, not every year, but in the past few years, I have to admit, we have been going for Christmas every year. When we first made the trip we made sure our kids knew 'this trip is Christmas'. The holiday is our gift. We no longer do multiple presents and no-one misses them, no-one expects them. We have our family holiday, we have each other and we are much happier with the simplicity than we ever were with all the multitude of presents. Santa still visits of course, with just one small gift for each of our kids, but we always take a new big jigsaw puzzle as a family present. Another thing we can work on together.

I tell you, kids don't need the commercialism that we're sold here in Australia. And I'm sure you don't have to go to Canada to find this either. But it's where we've learnt it. And what better place than in the snow to rediscover the joys of family togetherness and having fun doing things we all like together. It's moving away from normal home life, chores and regularity and rediscovering family roots. Christmas at Sun Peaks is 'the white Christmas' that makes all the carols and songs make sense. The beauty of Sun Peaks in winter is incredible.  There are very few shops in the ski through main 'street', and it's so refreshing for me to be completely isolated from all shopping. Selfishly, I'd like to keep just how awesome it is under wraps, so it remains just as it's been for us, but I'd also like to share Sun Peaks' awesomeness with you, because if you get there for Christmas, you too may have the same revelation about the true spirit of Christmas that we have had. And the more people who do, the better the world will be. Christmas is about family time, sharing our time together, not about buying expensive gifts and one-upmanship, Boxing Day sales and credit card overload. Find it, people, in Sun Peaks if you have the opportunity to get there.

Saturday, 24 October 2015


We are in the throws of the Christmas holiday or summer holiday job search for the returned home uni student son. So while he's trying to track down pretty much any summer job, I have been reflecting on holiday jobs of my past, both good and less so. Which has brought me to thinking and reminiscing about a fabulous year I had on a working holiday in Vancouver in the mid 90s. The job was a means to an end. We only wanted to ski, and ski a lot we did that year. So much did we want to ski, that with the teeny tiny wages we earned, it was being able to afford to eat that lost out to being able to ski. Priorities huh?!

That short-term job was in a killer beautiful location in West Vancouver, right on the harbour in the little village style hamlet of Ambleside. I sold high end French and Spanish children's shoes. They were the most lovely shoes for kids I have ever seen, and I have craved the likes of them ever since. Although my days were dull, I was the only staff member there, my few and far between moments of actually fitting and selling the shoes were fun. Time ticked by very slowly, but I decided to join the local library and it was in that year that I read all the north american classics. I think I read the entire John Updike shelf from the West Van library that year. I also took out every cookbook for dinners on a budget.

Ambleside is picture perfect with a seawall running along the harbour's edge, making about a 20 minute walk to the little beach village of Dundarave. Walking there and back, I'm guessing it's a 6km walk that is so picturesque - views across to the classic lines of the Lion's Gate Bridge, which joins the north shore to downtown Vancouver through Stanley Park. In summer, the harbour welcomes and sees off cruise ships most days, and it'll stop you every time to watch those giant ships sail under the Lion's Gate Bridge as the sun is setting. Vancouver is the postcard perfect city - snow-capped mountains, harbour, boats, seaplanes, Stanley Park, driftwood logs, and pebbly beaches. Strap on the the sneakers and take to the West Van seawall when you make it to Vancouver, you may see a bald eagle or a sea otter or two. You most certainly will not be disappointed with the walk or the vistas. And stop by in Ambleside and have a look around. Can you not see why I had the gold medal winning location for that shoe shop sales job? I was being paid to spend my time reading the classics in the most beautiful little spot on the north shore.  And I got to ski Whistler on weekdays in that epic early season that November back in 1994 without any crowds.You most definitely can't do that anymore. 

But you can go see Ambleside and Dundarave, and you absolutely must.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015


How on earth do you compare the talents of a master like Dr Suess to a non-poet like myself? The quality and life direction you can absorb by reading a Dr Seuss gem like 'Oh, the places you'll go'! Nothing compares to Dr Suess. I've gleaned so much positivity from quotes out of this book, from "Congratulations! Today is your day. You're off to Great Places! You're off and away!" to the final page, "So....be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ali Allen O'Shea, you're off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So.....get on your way!"

My sad effort at creativity in class today, goes like this, with credit to Dr Suess for its similarity of style, but I'm sure he wouldn't thank me for that, or even agree to any style similarity. For your information, we were asked to have fun with our writing, and using our dream goal that we wrote in last week's class, create a piece of poetry. Be kind, we only had 20 minutes to pull together our creative masterpieces.

Come on, get going,
It's time to use it.
Use what, you ask?
Well, before you lose it,
And get so damn old.
There'll be no point,
Go now...and write some gold.

I think Dr Suess's place on the kids shelves is very safe for many years to come. There's no threat from this little black duck.

"You have brains in your head, You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose." Yes, Dr Suess I have brains in my head, and I am steering myself in the direction I choose. But poetry, I will leave to you.

Friday, 16 October 2015


I gotta punch out another blog entry almost immediately after publishing the last one - this has never happened before. But what I have to share is so good you absolutely must see it right away. The very same younger daughter who so bravely took on the 800m yesterday, has turned out a batch of honey jumbles to give your left arm for. The breadth of her talents never ceases to amaze! For the uninitiated, the honey jumble is a gingery spice flavoured biscuit, a little like gingerbread, but shaped like a rounded corner rectangle, not as flat as gingerbread, and iced with pink or white royal icing. You get a good one, and trust me, you will return to the source again and again and again.

Come in close, and drool over these little beauties!