Friday, August 31, 2012

A Farewell to Winter... and a little bit more

Winter comes and goes within a set of bookends, in this house.

June the 1st is my youngest son's birthday, while August 31st belongs to my eldest son. Two birthdays, either end of winter, like a pair of strong book ends, matched yet with their individual boyish charms.

Winter in Sovereign Hill - Ballarat, Victoria
So we celebrate today as my big boys turns 18. We look back on more than this year's winter, but eighteen years worth of cold weather birthdays and fun. 

Days of dirty football clothes and muddy shoes. Parties on the local sports oval in the rain, where boys gladly chased whatever balls we threw at them. Afternoons of chocolate pudding to warm bellies after school, and feather quilts - bought to remedy the shivers in gangly legs almost as long as the bed themselves.

And we look forward to the start of spring. For this birthday boy, it will bring his last term of high school. Many last days will fill the weeks to come, as this season of childhood ends for him... and me. 

I may cry if I start to list them here. So I'll duck the tears and save my handkerchief for when those last days hit me.

It pains me to think there's only so much left to squeeze in, on an already crammed shelf of adventures. That winter after winter has come and melted away eighteen times since I first held him, and I'm about to see the last spine of childhood mischief and drama slip in beside the rest.

Until I consider the shelf God's placed just above the one we've filled. Empty and shiny... with nothing but space for volumes of Tom's life and the stories he'll write. 

So my mother's heart warms and makes plans to embrace new beginnings. To not be too sad at the passing of time, but celebrate a new season and all it will bring. 

Still, there's always room for a few tears... right? Discreet and well mopped, so as not to horrify the child too much. Because a part of me will always think of him as the happy boy who tunnelled his way to adventure at every opportunity. And every story needs a great adventure.


Are you a sook (Aussie for crybaby) like me. Do you find it bittersweet when your children reach milestones?


Happy Birthday Tommy-Boy. 
I can't wait to see how God transforms you 
into a man after His own Heart. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Same Same ... But Different

Many thanks to those who wished me well as I jetted off to Bangkok last week. I hope you can tell from the happy snap of me with my Beloved -  we had a blast. 

Fourteen years is a long absence from a city where I once had a baby, and spent what felt like a lifetime. In reality, it was only 12 months, but each one was steeped in memories and experiences only Bangkok can offer. 

And I was keen to relive them. 

We retraced some of our days all the way back to Villa Supermarket, perusing shelves and remembering produce and brands we hadn't tasted since 1998.

We crossed busy Suhkumvit Road to Emporium Department Sore, and like a pair of homing pigeons, wound our way from floor to floor until we reached the exit to soi 24. Our old address. 

So, so the same. And so vastly different. 

Step by step we came closer to our former residence, President Park. And while the road held the surreal familiarity of street hawkers grilling fragrant meats, newly built apartment buildings and shops came into view. Regardless, I could almost hear the echo of my little children dive bombing into the water like George of the Jungle. (Favourite movie of '98) 

I couldn't wait to see the pools and outdoor lounge areas for myself after so long. Soon enough we smiled our way past the guard and entered the foyer. 

But no further. Sorry, Madam.... Visitors can no longer wander to the pools or lifts. New security measures kept us away, tighter since our carefree days there. (And the events of Sept 11)

Without a pass, I was not allowed to take the lift to where my heart pulled.... 
Oak Tower, Apartment 28B. 

But I was able to sulk reminisce by our old post box in the foyer. The little wooden treasury which once held links to my loved ones. How many times did I twist my trusty key in that lock, and pray someone had remembered to send news and photos from home? How many eager scratches did I add to the already scuffed door?

And just like that, bathed in memories and locked out of yesterday, my Beloved drew me away and back to the future. 

For some yesteryears are not meant to be lived a second time. They're there to remind us of what once was, and the lessons we've since learned. The people we've become since we walked away.

And sometimes, there really is nothing for us behind the door. 

So armed with a cold coconut to sip along the walk back to our hotel, I resolved to be satisfied with tender memories, some fresh and almost life-like, others a little faded with time. 

All saved and held in trust for days when I can't wander the dusty streets, but need a little Bangkok fix anyway. 

Have you ever had a door close on you?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Cara Lynn James

Cara Lynn James spent several years as a U.S. Naval officer and Navy wife before moving to Vermont. She began her writing career ten years ago and has had four books published, Love on a Dime, Love on Assignment, Love by the Book (the Ladies of Summerhill series) and A Path toward Love.

A Path toward Love 
Katherine came home to forget her past.
The last thing she expected is a hopeful future. Young widow Katherine Osborne returns to her family’s rustic camp on Raquette Lake in the Adirondack Mountains. She’s determined to live a quiet life, but her socialite mother is equally determined to push her into a new marriage while she’s still young. Andrew Townsend has known Katherine since they were children. An attorney who is successful, but not wealthy, he knows she is socially out of his reach. But he’s curious what changed the free-spirited girl he once knew into this private, somber young woman. Katherine has kept hidden the details of her unsuccessful marriage. When past sins come to light, she must turn to God for the courage to be honest. But how can she trust the God she feels has let her down? When she confides in Andrew, their relationship takes a dramatic turn into uncharted territory. Amid impossible obstacles, two young people must learn to trust enough to walk the path that God has cleared for them. A path that leads to healing and restoration. A path toward love.

Welcome to Ink Dots, Cara Lynn. Where are you from and who do you live with? I’m originally from Connecticut in the northeastern part of United States. I’ve lived all over the country and now I live in Florida with my husband, my daughter and five year old grandson.

Tell us how you came to write this book. My editor at Thomas Nelson suggested I write another book set in the Gilded Age, but change the setting from Newport, Rhode Island. So I chose a lake in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York and placed my characters at what is called ‘a great camp.’ I wanted to write about an area I’ve been to and love. The plot of the story was mine.

If you could have lived at another time in history, what would it be and why? Probably during the Gilded Age because it was an optimistic time with modern conveniences if you had the money to buy them. I wouldn’t have wanted to be poor since the living conditions were awful back then. I think I might have liked to live in England during the Regency period.

Have you been to Australia? No, I’ve never been to Australia, but I’d like to visit. When my husband was in the Navy he visited and absolutely loved it. He said the people were so friendly. If I got a chance to visit, I’d like to see kangaroos in their natural habitat and I’d like to see the beautiful beaches. 

How has writing this book changed you? It’s made me a better writer and definitely a faster one! I learned how to write under pressure and not panic when my deadline was looming. I also learned how to dig deeper into a character’s emotions.

Where can we find you on the internet? You can find me at my website and at

Cara Lynn has included the first pages of A Path Toward Love for us to enjoy. If you would like more, and I'm guessing you will, you can enter for a chance to win your own e-copy of her book. Tell us about the best camp adventure you ever had. Like Cara Lynn's heroine, you may have a favourite family camping spot you remember fondly... OR you may have a horror camping story you'd like to share. Leave your comment below and I'll announce the winner in the comment thread on Friday. 

Until then, here's peek at A Path Toward Love. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Land of Smiles

I'm taking a mini blogging break to fly into the Far East and meet up with my Beloved in Bangkok. He's been in Asia on business for a few weeks, and I get to join him, to play tourist in The Land of Smiles

Thailand was once our home away from home. We lived in the heart of Bangkok for twelve months when our family was much younger. So much younger in fact, two of our children were just past toddler-hood. And one was safely tucked in my belly. 

I've not been back since that wonderful year, and I'm thrilled for this opportunity to revisit a country which holds many of our precious memories. 

It's where I gave birth to our youngest, and where our daughter lost her first tooth. Where our eldest son had his first proper barber haircut and where both kids saw their first real cinema movie. (Mr Magoo) 

It's where they learned to swim, to read and how to salute. (At the guard, stationed at the gatehouse of our apartment building.)

And where we all learned the value of a smile, when words were not enough. 

So you'll excuse me while I sip a lime num-ma-now, ... and reacquaint myself with a sweet slice of my own family's history. 

Back soon.... Sawatdee Kha 

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Long Winter

I don't normally long for winter to end. Every other year I'm the last to farewell cold nights and miserable days, because to me they bring hours by the fire with a good book. 

But this year... this year we've had more rain than any winter over the last ten years. At least that's how it feels to me. And I am now, like many of my warm loving friends, looking for winter's tail. Not that I'd slam the door on her, but I will close it with a firm tap and hide the key. 

I am done with rain and slate skies. Tired of bare limbs on my favourite trees and the smack of air, heavy with the empty promise of snow. I want to linger when I visit with my chickens, not throw a hasty bucket of food their way and hightail it back to the house.

And while I welcome God's good rain after many years of Australian drought conditions, I also welcome relief from bruised skies and wet floors. But with one more month in her lease, winter will not take her leave so easily. 

So what do you do on a rainy day? What's your favourite wet weather activity?

Mine's to hide in a long book or fill the house with the rewards of a hearty baking session. Or perhaps, if I can be greedy and take two... read while my baking rises to a golden crust. 

What's yours? 

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

My Homemaking Essential

I opened the door to a tradesman yesterday who skipped the usual 'Good Morning' pleasantries and went straight to questions. Or rather one question.

Photo Source - The Murmuring Cottage
'Are you baking?'

Um... 'No.' I was not. 'Why do you ask?'

'Because you're wearing an apron. I though you must be baking.'

Oh. That's fair. I guess. 

I had been at the kitchen sink washing dishes, so he accepted my reason for apron wearing and stepped in to sort our hallway light problems. 

For him, the wearing of aprons equalled baking day. He told me about his Hungarian mother who was a great cook. And I'm guessing a faithful apron wearer. 

Much like me now. I can't tackle any kitchen chore without a twist of apron strings at my back. But I haven't always worn my stack of aprons so enthusiastically. Sometime in the last 10 years, I found myself reaching for them more and more. Just like my mother does, and grandmother always did. 

I'm not sure what changed, except I feel I must have one on when I'm working in the kitchen. It feels... right. 

Uniform? Maybe. But something more. When I wear an apron, I know I'm prepared for whatever task I work at. It's another tool, alongside good knives and fresh spices. My homemaking must have. A tightly wrapped essential, looped around my waist. 

Apron made by my Mum, for my little helper Honey-Girl
when she was two, and stood on the chair to wash dishes. 
Susanna Wesley famously raised 19 children in the 1700s. When she sought time with God, she carved out a 'quiet place' by sitting down and drawing her apron over her head. This secured a few moments of prayer and meditation, as her children knew not to disturb Mama when they spied the flipside of her apron.

How about you? Do you wear an apron? You might be one of a new generation of retro loving girls who hunt down vintage aprons for their collections. Or you may have one old favourite, reserved for when you're in the mood. 

Then again, you may be another Susanna Wesley. Content to find a hiding place in the everyday, and meet with God in the centre of your busy world. 

Monday, August 06, 2012

Ruth Axtell

It’s my pleasure to introduce Ruth Axtell, author of Her Good Name

Ruth Axtell has loved stories set in the 19th century ever since she read Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre and other 19th century classics. Like many romance writers, Ruth decided to write her own in order to read the kind of story she liked best.

Currently, Ruth lives on the downeast coast of Maine with her three children and two cats. She enjoys the challenge of vegetable and flower gardening in a cool, foggy climate, long walks, reading, watching British period dramas like Downton Abbey, and doing historical research for her novels. 

Her Good Name
Holliston, Maine 1892, 
No matter how striking she is, a fisherman's daughter doesn't stand a chance with Warren Brentwood, the heir of the local lumber empire. So in an effort to better her life and eventually catch Warren's eye, Espy takes a job at the local professor's home. But when the professor begins to tutor her, the rumors begin to fly.

Scandal turns Espy's world upside down and she flees town in disgrace. Alone and penniless, Espy has nothing left but her faith when she is rescued by a missionary family. Espy longs to return home freed from the lies that surrounded her departure. But will anyone--particularly Warren--believe in her professed innocence?

Welcome to Ink Dots, Ruth. Tell us who the most important people are in your life right now. My three children (boy, girl, boy, two in college, one in high school).
What inspired you to write this book?  I was writing another Maine set book years ago, and even though I never used the character Espy, I already envisioned her as a secondary character. She would be a poor, uneducated young woman who had a crush on the town's most eligible bachelor, and she'd have the spunk to think she could go after him.
How do you choose your characters’ names?  I have a file of clippings of a genealogy column from a local Maine newspaper. I also use the local cemetery which has headstones from the founding of this town in the 1700s. I also look online for lists of names for whatever ethnic group my character is from.
Have you been to Australia? No. But I had close Australian friends when I lived in the Netherlands. It seems there was a time when there was quite some emigration of Dutch to Australia. I would love to visit a town called Alice from the series, The Outback from the setting of many old Harlequin romances I used to read on my great-aunt's porch during my teenage summers, and Sydney and its Opera House.
What’s next for Ruth Axtell?  A regency romance between an Englishman spying on a Frenchwoman in London, to find out if she is a spy. It's called Moonlight Masquerade and it'll be out in March from Revell Books.
Where can we find you on the internet? Right now I'm in the process of creating a new website. In the meantime, I'm on Facebook ;
and I have two blogs:  and

Thanks for joining me today Ruth. Congratulations on the release of Her Good Name, I can't wait to read it and look forward to hearing more great writing news from you soon. 


If you would like to win a copy of Her Good Name, please leave a comment below. Tell us if you've ever had a tutor, like Ruth's heroine, Espy... or if you've ever been a tutor. I'll announce the winner in the comment thread here, on Friday. 

Friday, August 03, 2012

D ... is for Dorothy

Embroidered D - by my grandmother 1928

I'm sure I wore school shoes the last time I stood up for Show and Tell.  Yet somehow I found myself this week in the back row at the Phillip Island Historical Society, bag of goddies at my feet, waiting my turn for the microphone. 

Although I've had a membership for a few months, this was the first meeting I've been able to attend, and I'm sure I came along for the best one of the year. What could be more fun than sharing historical treasures with a room of kindred spirits?

And since I know many of you are also lovers of all things old and to be treasured.... I thought I'd share with you too. 

I brought along two handmade tablecloths. Heirlooms from my cupboard - family treasures I'm blessed to hold for a little while. Each were made by my dear grandmothers when they were teens and preparing their dowry, many miles from each other in Greece. 

Embroidered D - by my grandmother 1928
My paternal grandmother, Dorothea, embroidered her initial on this tablecloth, along with six napkins. Three of her granddaughters named in her honour have two napkins each.  I was also given the tablecloth when she passed away as I was the only married grandchild at the time. I love that she chose to embroider an English D, although I'm not sure why she didn't chose the Greek alphabet Delta

My maternal grandmother was a dressmaker. She embroidered and fashioned the delicate cutwork on her masterpiece. I can't imagine how many hours this took to accomplish and I'm so blessed to have these two pieces of artistry. 

Cutwork tablecloth by my grandmother - 1925

My new friends at the historical society were suitably impressed. As was I with their offerings. An antique sinker maker which belonged to a local fisherman and early pioneer, a tiny perfume bottle unearthed in the grounds of an old cottage by the sea, and an 1870s directory of early Melbourne and her inhabitants. 

It would've been nice to have something with the flavour of Phillip Island to show myself.  

But wait. I do. If colonial era love stories count. 

Cutwork tablecloth by my grandmother - 1925
Do you have an heirloom passed through your family to you? Isn't it a beautiful way to hold onto history? 

Cutwork tablecloth by my grandmother - 1925

Blessings for a wonderful weekend,

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

'Bruised on the Brush'

Cate Blanchett as Elizabeth I

On Monday, my guest author Jocelyn Green shared her love of Queen Elizabeth I. I invited readers to add a random fact they knew about this famous Queen, in the comments of the day. 
Jenny from Australia told us Elizabeth I had rotten teeth, and her servants did their best to keep mirrors away before she spotted the ugliness for herself. 
I guess in Elizabethan times there was little to be done when teeth rotted through. This made me wonder what those wrestling with toothaches did in later centuries. The characters I write about, from Victorian England and Colonial Australia. 
I’d always known people reached for cloves when aching teeth required home remedies. But what else did the Victorians rely on? I was surprised to read the following, from Etiquette and Advice Manuals - The Lady's Dressing Room, by Baroness Staffe, trans. Lady Colin Campbell, 1893 - Part II 
'For Toothache - When you suffer from toothache, mistrust the ordinary remedies that are recommended. Creosote, cloves, essence of cinnamon, etc. etc., may perhaps ease your pain, but they will destroy your teeth. Go at once to the dentist; and if you are obliged to delay doing so, use only such remedies as are evidently harmless. For example, roll some parsley with a little salt up into a small ball, and put it into the ear on the side where the pain is. Or, again, paint the cheek with lemon-juice, or apply a hot flannel to the face.'

'Tooth powders - In the summer, the most delicious and the best dentifrice is the strawberry. It cleans the teeth to perfection. It should be bruised on the brush, the teeth rubbed with it, and then rinsed out with tepid water.'
And one final tip from the Victorians...'Eat a small crust of bread at the end of every meal, after the dessert.'

So there you have it. A few dental nuggets and fixes for when you can't get to the dentist in a hurry. I'm not sure painting lemon juice on your cheek or stuffing your ear with parsley will help, but you may be game enough to give it a try. And if a strawberry worked for the Victorians...
Don't you love the idea there's solutions to some of our health needs, just outside the back door? I do. I love watering my kitchen garden, knowing it holds medicine as well as great flavours for my cooking. God's first-aid kit, sun kissed for just when I need it. And who knew strawberries could be a hurried replacement for toothpaste?
Do you have home remedies held in high regard by your family? What backyard cure did your grandmother promise when you needed first-aid?