Monday, April 27, 2009

Home again

Thanks for the good wishes, everyone. Here's a pic (right) of Sophie in hospital, but I'm pleased to report that she's home again, and her happy little self again.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

say a little prayer for Sophie...

Poor little twin Sophie is in hospital with bronchialitis. She's had a virus for a couple of weeks and we thought she was getting better. But no. I went through the whole guilty grandma thing yesterday -- feeling bad about being up here at Tarzali and playing in my garden, when I could have been there in Townsville helping, but I'm reassured that she's doing well now. No need to panic.
Next weekend is the twins' christening and my daughters Emma and Vicki are both coming up from Brisbane because they're to be godmothers, so we're looking forward to a lovely family get-together. Granddaughter Lucy's coming too. She hasn't seen the twins yet and at nine years old, she's just dotty about babies, as you can imagine. It'll be quite a girly occasion with my two daughters and four granddaughters!!!
We have a christening gown that's been in Elliot's family for over a hundred years which one of the twins will wear. The other will wear the same one Lilly wore, which comes from her mum's family. I was terrified about cleaning ours, but I took it to the dry cleaners below our apartment with a tentative enquiry and they put it in 'safety wash' and ironed it and it's come up beautifully. Just gorgeous. So much better than anything I could have managed and it only cost $10!
Have to hope now that poor little Sophie is totally better by next weekend and that her parents have recovered enough to enjoy the day!

Friday, April 24, 2009

A little bit of country...

It's just so nice to be back at Tarzali, even if it's only for a week. When we turn off the highway just south of Innnisfail and start heading for the mountains, we always feel a step up in our excitement levels, and then there's a real lift to our hearts as we come up the Palmerston Range and at last reach the Tablelands, and see its green hills and dales rolling out in front of us. Usually it's afternoon when we arrive and the sun is making soft velvety shadows on the hills. Just gorgeous. We minutely inspect our plants, because even after a short time away, there's always something new to discover.
Oh, and I now have my revisions and they're light -- which is (believe me) a phew moment. I'll be working on them this weekend, in between stints of planting a new garden on the bank directly in front of the house. Thought I'd show you the views from my study here.

Looking ahead...

To my right, there's the lovely new dining room which we built last year, with all the recycled windows Elliot lovingly restored.

And then this is part of my view to my left. We haven't mowed the grass yet, so it's not the whole view -- looks untidy at the mo, so didn't want to show you that. Perfectionist? Moi?

Monday, April 20, 2009

City living...

I think I've already mentioned that we're back in the city this week, and I've also mentioned that I recently I read The Girl Next Door by Elizabeth Noble. I really enjoyed it because it’s about all the people who live in an apartment block in New York. Having lived in the suburbs all my life, until our lifestyle change nine years ago, I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of apartment living. I loved Helene Hanff’s book Apple of my Eye, which I read just before I visited NYC in 2003.
Life in apartment blocks, especially in New York, has always seemed so communal – almost like a grown ups version of boarding school (which is a scenario that fascinated me as a child. I loved boarding school books and used to pretend our modest, 3 bedroom weatherboard home was a boarding school. Fellow boarders helped me with homework, played netball with me in the backyard and shared midnight feasts – all imaginary, of course).
Anyhow – where was I? – oh, yeah, talking about living in apartments.
When we moved into our apartment in 2000, it was the first urban redevelopment scheme in Townsville and involved turning the top floors of the City Council’s multi-storey car park into residences. I was rather excited about the new life. I was sure there’d be all kinds of interesting people living on the different levels and we’d all become great friends.
Well, to an extent that’s happened, but inner city people do keep to themselves a lot, too. And you can’t peer out a side window, as you can in the suburbs, and see your neighbour drive home, talk to the dog, lug x numbers of bags of groceries inside, rouse on the kids etc. You can’t stick your nose over the fence for a chat, while you water the garden or take in the washing.
In the same way the real life is never (or rarely) as exciting as in books, I found apartment living a tad disappointing.
But you know… just this week (our one week in town this month) the interest level has inched a little higher for me.
The other afternoon, I was on my way back from the supermarket, which is on the corner of our block, and I saw a very presentable middle aged man parked just outside our front door, looking rather worried.
As I approached, he jumped out of the car and asked me if I could help him.
Naturally, I said, ‘Of course.’
Next minute, he hauled two huge bunches of flowers out of the car and asked me if I could leave them outside one of the apartment doors. He’d already tried on the intercom phone and the intended recipient of the flowers wasn’t at home and he was on his way to the airport and couldn’t hang around.
So, he stuck his business card in one of the bouquets, and I delivered the flowers – rather sad to have to leave them on the doormat, but as you can guess, my romance writer brain was ticking away madly…
Next day when I got in the lift (aka elevator), another guy came dashing through the foyer. I hit the ‘Doors open” button and he managed to slip inside the lift just before we started our ascent.

He gave a huge sigh of relief. “I’ve just managed to place a bet on the Doncaster,” he said. This is a big horse race in Melbourne and it was clearly very important to him – almost life and death important, judging by the intensely relieved look on his face.
I was intrigued and it occurred to me that if I spent a morning hanging out in our foyer (pictured right) and riding up and down in the lift, I’d probably fill a notebook full of story ideas.
I mean there’s the little soldier on our floor. There’s the hugely famous football star, who sometimes has “sleepovers” at an apartment here. There’s the mysterious, darkly handsome Russian actor…
I'm thinking I may yet have to write my own apartment book.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

We all love a fairytale...

If you've become an instant fan of Susan Boyle, as I have, you may be interested in hearing another recording of her voice. This recording was made in 1999 for a charity CD and she's singing Cry Me a River. What a voice!

Have to hope that her instant fame isn't too overwhelming. But I reckon she's up for it.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Australian flavour...

Her Cattleman Boss has been reviewed by Jayne at Dear I certainly didn't solicit this review, and it's not a rave, but it's quite detailed and thoughtful and I really appreciate the time taken to consider the book's merits. Have to admit I love it when readers seem to "get" a lot of what I'm trying to achieve in my books. After some discussion among visitors there, it seems that reviewers and readers appreciate authentic Aussie flavour in books, which is reassuring, cause that's what they'll get from me.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I'm refilling the well by reading...

I’m rereading The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea by Randolph Stow, and I’m loving his gorgeous descriptions and subtle humour.

First I should explain how I rediscovered this book. Yesterday we were driving back to Townsville from Tarzali (E has business, and son had been visiting, so he came with us too) and we stopped off for lunch at our favourite little lunching place, Off the Rails, at South Johnstone. It's the most out of the way little place in an out of the way street in an out of the way town, but you can buy the most amazing cheese and spinach pie there and their pot luck platters are to die for! And it's called Off the Rails because sugar train tracks run right down the street past the cafe. You can see them in the photo.

Anyway, I always browse their shelves of used books for sale and invariably I buy...
So last night, tucked in bed with a scrumptious read, I came across this passage about roses…

The white roses had taken over one side of the veranda. They engulfed shrubs at the front of the house, and clothed the dead stump of an old palm. The fragile scent of them was everywhere, mixed with citrus and eucalyptus. The flowers, the dark neat leaves became the boy’s image of perfection.
He held the flowers in his hand: small white flowers, opening up on a small green heart. The petals were faultless, crisp with life. They were almost too faultless to be real flowers, too alive: faultless as china or marble, alive as a painting. The flowers were a scented painting he held in his hand

And then, further down on the same page…

Didi was about nine months younger than the boy, which was a vast gulf, but not unbridgeable; and although she had golden curls and long white socks, she was as good as a boy any day. Not that Didi would have wished to be a boy. Her ambition rose higher: she wanted to be a horse.

Sinking into the work of incredibly gifted writers who "speak" to me is the best way I know to inspire and lift my own writing.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

This will make you feel so good...

I haven't worked out how to share Youtube, but please check this out. I swear you're going to love it.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter

To add to our Easter mood, we've strung these coloured lanterns on the veranda. Hope you're having a happy time.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

One a penny, two a penny... hot cross buns

This year, I forgot – for the first year ever – to buy hot cross buns for Good Friday, probably because none of my children is here to eat them. But I’m not comfortable with broken traditions, so I decided I had no choice this year. I had to bake my own buns.
Slight problem – actually, a few slight problems…
a) I have very little experience in baking buns
b) I didn’t have scales for measuring ingredients properly
c) No currants – so had to use sultanas
d) No mixed spice – so I mixed ground cinnamon with ginger and freshly grated nutmeg

Nevertheless, I started off bravely, but… it’s just as well my deadline is behind me, because baking buns is rather more time consuming than I’d realised. The dough had to be kneaded for ten minutes to start with – and then set aside for 1 to 1 ½ hours.
I re-potted some plants while the dough was rising – and the poor things were rather grateful, as they’ve been desperate for bigger pots for years now. Some of the plants we’d brought from our suburban garden when we moved to the apartment, and they’ve been struggling on our balcony in Townsville. They’re looking happier already in their new pots.

OK, hands scrubbed, gardening clothes off. Back in the kitchen, the buns had to rise a second time – and then there was the whole fun of making the crosses (using a ziplock bag with the corner snipped off), and glazing – I didn’t have a brush so I improvised with makeup remover pads. That sounds dreadful, but they work quite well, and they were hygienic, I assure you.

And after all that, the buns weren't quite the same as the ones you buy in the shops, but quite edible… too edible, to be honest.

Parrot botherers R Us

We have a wonderful variety of birdlife here. Earlier this week, we had currawongs and magpies making quite a (musical) racket and as they chased each other and found insects in the newly mown grass.

At other times, white cockatoos have invaded our citrus trees. At night an owl calls softly in the valley below.

But today a flock of white headed rainforest pigeons spent an entire morning in one of our satin ash trees, quietly tucking their heads under wings and trying to keep out of the rain. Gorgeous, aren't they?

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Best Bosses

With my book delivered, I had visions of a full week's gardening before I got my revision suggestions, but it's raining...
I've already changed clothes twice today, because I hate gardening in a raincoat, and now I've given up.
At least I can take the time to tell you that Blind Date with the Boss is available in ebook fromat in a Best of the Bosses 2008 pack at eHarlequin.
If you like ebooks and bosses, this would be a good great opportunity, as there are terrific books by Kate Hardy and Cathy Williams as well!
Meanwhile, I'm hunting for nice recipes with rhubarb. We hardly ever have rhubarb in Townsville, but last week in Sydney, I ate it every chance I could -- and then I found it in Malanda yesterday.

Poor Elliot... we've had rhubarb for dessert last night and for breakfast this morning and now I rather like the sound of these rhubarb muffins , recipe courtesy of the New Zealand foodlovers website.
2 cups flour4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar100g butter
1 cup milk
1 egg1
1/2 cups finely chopped rhubarb
1 tablespoon raw sugar1 tablespoon cinnamon
Sift flour, baking powder, salt and sugar into a bowl. Melt butter and mix with milk and egg. Stir rhubarb through dry ingredients and make a well in the centre. Pour in milk mixture and mix lightly to combine. Spoon into muffin tins to 3/4 full and sprinkle with mixed raw sugar and cinnamon. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden and springy to the touch.

Monday, April 06, 2009

a week away...

I really did mean to warn you that I was about to disappear for a week, but I was extra, extra busy with my deadline right up to the moment I jumped on the plane.

Story is, this past week I’ve been retreating with several of my wonderful author mates in beautiful Coogee Bay, which is – believe it or not – a suburb of Sydney (only a short bus ride from the city centre.)

I admit I’m biased (I was born in Sydney and lived there for the first five years of my life) but Sydney has to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Where else can you find that gorgeous harbour – and then, close by, such amazing surfing beaches as Bondi or Coogee?

Then there are the amazing restaurants… the walks along the cliffs…

But I have to tell you, this was a working retreat.

We’ve been doing this now for three years and the pattern is always the same. We retire to our rooms to write every day, sometimes starting before breakfast. The only times we get together are for meals/ talks after meals – oh, and pre-dinner drinks – and well, after dinner chats (on that gorgeous balcony) that might go long into the night. At the beginning of the week we draw up a list of topics we’d like to discuss – all related to our work – and we approach the whole thing very professionally. you'd be proud of us. Truly.

Writing ( as has often been said) is a very lonely job and for us this retreat also serves as the staffroom, the water cooler, coffee club – it represents all those places where colleagues usually congregate to exchange information, or ideas and give each other support. This is especially fabulous for me because I live in such a remote part of the world. The nearest published author to me is as far away as the distance between London and Moscow.

But the biggest bonus of all is that we’ve become very good friends along the way…