Monday, February 25, 2013

Carol Preston - Truly Free

Born Carol Stone in Lithgow NSW in 1948, Carol moved to the Illawarra at the age of five. When she left school at aged 15 she became a ladies’ hairdresser. In 1967 she married Neil Preston in Wollongong, where their two children, Tammy and Adam were born. Carol returned to study in 1976, when her children started school and completed a PhD at Wollongong University in 1986, publishing numerous academic articles in psychological journals during that time. She is now in part time private counselling practice. Carol enjoys spending time with her children and four grandchildren, as well as bushwalking, gardening and holidaying overseas with her husband. You can find Carol on her website:, on her Facebook author page:

Truly FreeWhen Betsy’s beloved grandfather dies in suspicious circumstances, she is determined to find out the truth about his final hours. Even when she uncovers long held secrets about his past, she holds onto her belief in his goodness. But the journey to truth evokes painful memories of her own path to love, and also reveals issues in her relationship with her father, from whom she has been estranged for many years. The path to freedom for Betsy and her family will come at a cost for them all.

And now some more about the author of Truly Free, Carol Preston. 

If I could go anywhere in the world tomorrow, it would be…To ‘The Abbey’, which is a retreat centre on Jamberoo Mountain, half an hour south of Wollongong, and which is run by a community of Benedictine nuns. This is a place I’ve often gone in the past to have a time of silence, reflection, prayer and restoration.  A day, or a week, or even sometimes two weeks, would be a beautiful gift to myself.

One thing I enjoyed today is…Watching the sun rise from my lounge room as I read and had my first cup of coffee.  This is my idea of a perfect start to the day. There was only the sound of few birds in my front garden,  the smell of fresh coffee, the gradual illumination of the trees outside my window, stimulating words and words on a page (my kindle actually), and time for them to germinate in my mind.

A secret pleasure of mine is…I think I’ve given away two of my secret pleasures already, but another would be a dark, nutty chocolate – all to myself.

A moment that changed my life is…There have been numerous of these, at different stages of my life, but certainly one of the early ones is when I was accepted into University as a mature age student and began my studies in psychology.  This set me on a path I could never have imagined.

When I was a child I wanted to…Believe it or not, one of the things I dreamed of doing as a child, was writing a book. I had no clear thought of what I would write about, but often sensed it would be something I would do in later life. I often wrote poetry as a child, and continued to do that in adult years, but a whole book was definitely a childhood dream.

I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but…Having read back over my other answers, I realise this would not be a surprise to anyone, but I am a very introverted person and sometimes I just don’t want to be with people at all. (I think I really need to add that there are a lot of wonderful people in my life who I love very much and wouldn’t want to be without for very long.)


If you'd like to win a copy of one of Carol's books, please leave a comment below. Tell us where you like to escape to. Do you have a retreat somewhere? A favourite quiet place where God meets you and revives your spirit? 

I'll announce the winner in the comment thread here on Friday. Good luck. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

52 Steps to Yesteryear - Walk With A Friend

Last night I chatted with three people at the same time, in different locations around the world, all from the quiet of my home as the day wound into night. 

I chatted with my Beloved in Sydney and swapped goodnight messages by text. I teased my cousin in Greece via facebook ~ some jabs in English others in Greek. And I poured my heart out to a sweet soul in New Zealand who really should have already been in bed, hours earlier. 

So many of my dear ones are to be found on the other side of a gadget and its tether of invisible communication. But there are days when written messages give way to real voices, and they rise when I need them most.

Today has been one such day. I walked with a favourite friend through late summer bushland and followed the Yarra River as it bent and streamed toward the city. Together with her dog, we ambled for two hours, speaking our dreams out loud, and whispering our darkest fears as only kindred spirits do. 

We formulated winning menus for the day we might enter a TV cooking show, planned the perfect family holiday, and nutted out a plot point in my current book-writing venture, until the midday sun  told us it was time to go home. 

While the afternoon slipped into the flurry of routine, and fresh words flew around me from those near and far, I still savoured the morning hours where, like our Victorian era counterparts, the face to face, shoulder to shoulder bond of friendship deepened once more. 

Photo Source - The Murmuring Cottage

We didn't follow the dusty rules of Victorian walking etiquette. Empty pleasantries were dispatched for the swift unpacking of the previous day's events. We had no walking attire to adjust. No bustle or corset to slow us down. Only Meli the dog, as she wove between us and forged ahead on her short leash. 

What a blessing to snatch a few hours for something so simple and so rich as a riverbank walk with a friend. A real balm to my soul, and needed diversion.

How about you? Do you have a walking buddy, or do you like to walk alone and meditate in the stillness of the moment? 

Blessings for a wonderful weekend, 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Ann Shorey - When the Heart Heals

ANN SHOREY has been a full-time writer for over twenty years. Her writing has appeared in Chicken Soup for the Grandma’s Soul, and in the Adams Media Cup of Comfort series. She made her fiction debut with The Edge of Light, Book One in the At Home in Beldon Grove series for Revell, followed by Books Two and Three, The Promise of Morning and The Dawn of a Dream. The Sisters at Heart series, beginning with Where Wildflowers Bloom, is her latest offering from Revell. Book Two in the series, When the Heart Heals, released on February 15. 

When the Heart Heals ~ Courageous and unconventional, Rosemary Saxon served as a nurse during the Civil War, a service that has caused most women in town to regard her as unfeminine and even downright vulgar. Although she would like to put that part of her life behind her, she needs to support herself. She takes a nursing position with Dr. Elijah Stewart, but whenever they are together they always seem to do or say the wrong things. When someone threatens Rosemary, will she find the courage to stand or will she leave town—and Elijah—forever?


Ann's book sounds great, doesn't it? Fancy being thought of as unfeminine and vulgar for serving as a nurse? Want to know more about the author?  Here's a glimpse and a few small secrets about Ann Shorey. 


If I could go anywhere in the world tomorrow, it would be... I'd love to go back to Australia. My husband and I spent three weeks there several years ago. We visited our daughter's host family (from when she was an exchange student), then toured Alice Springs, Ayres Rock, then up to Cairns and down to Sydney. Spent several days on an island in the Great Barrier Reef--I'd do that again in a heartbeat! 

One thing I enjoyed today is... watching baby lambs frisk around during my morning walk past their pasture. They are so adorable when they're little.

A secret pleasure of mine is... Staying in bed after it's time to get up. The covers feel extra-snuggly when I know I should be up and about.

A moment that changed my life is... When I gave my life to Christ thirty-five years ago. Nothing else can compare, although becoming a mother was pretty awesome, too.

When I was a child I wanted to...Write, but everyone said I needed to do something to earn a living! So writing waited on the back burner until my family was grown. Then I pursued my dream by taking classes and practicing, practicing, practicing.

I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but... I hide chocolate from my husband in a secret place in one of my desk drawers. If it's sitting out, he eats it all!


Oh, that's too funny about the chocolate, Ann. I'm sure we're all guilty of hidden stashes here and there. And as for the delicious staying in bed longer than we should.... we're kindred spirits there too. 


How about you? Are you an early riser, or do you like to linger under the covers longer than you should? Add your comment below and you'll be in the draw to win Ann's When the Heart Heals. I'll announce the winner here on Friday. Good luck... :)

Friday, February 15, 2013

52 Steps to Yesteryear - Write A Love Letter

I know there's a lot of scoffing on Valentine's Day. The slow head shaking as love-sick, hapless shoppers reach into their purses while merchants smile and collect their coins. 

I know most people either run a thousand miles away or embrace it with fondness each year. I'm one who looks forward to February 14th. It's the day I received my first love letter from the man I married a year later. Yes, thanks to peddlers of red roses, my Beloved had occasion to declare his affections a long time ago. And I thank God I've had occasion to respond every day since. 

This year, for the first time since Valentine's Day 1989, I woke up without him. He was away on business and didn't return until later in the evening. But I'd snuck a letter into his luggage when he wasn't looking, knowing he'd mark the day with his own brand of generosity later on. 

But I wanted to be first. So I penned my letter. Not just any letter. A secret love letter, written at my desk with real ink from my favourite fountain pen. Yes, very olde worlde of me. The only thing missing was the wax seal on the back, Victorian era style. And perhaps a lit candle. Oh, why didn't I light an candle? That would've been perfect. 

Love Letter - Crabapple House
Never mind... next year. I was probably too busy getting the words down before being busted at my covert scribblings. 

(And have you ever smuggled a love letter into a locked bag? The unzipping and zipping up again is enough to shatter a window. But I accomplished my mission and waved goodbye as my Beloved left with more than what he'd packed.)

He eventually found my letter, but it remained sealed until the day arrived for him to rip into to. Because if there's anything sneakier than slipping an envelope into someone's bag... it's making them wait to open it. 


Have you ever hidden a love letter for someone to find later on? Have you received a love message left strategically by an admirer?

Blessings for a wonderful weekend,

Whether you find yourself writing new... or reading old love letters. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Melody Carlson - A Dream For Tomorrow

This week I'm welcoming Melody Carlson back to Ink Dots for another visit. Melody's written 200 books for teens, women, and children (more than five million copies sold). She’s won several awards from the Romance Writers of America, the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, Christian Retailing magazine, and other national organizations. Melody and her husband have two grown sons and make their home in the Pacific Northwest.

A Dream For Tomorrow - Elizabeth Martin and her two children have made it through the easy part of their journey, but now their wagon train faces high mountain passes, dangerous river crossings, and decreasing supplies. Desperate circumstances bring out the best and worst of the travelers, including Will Bramford, the wealthy widower who is pursuing Elizabeth, and Eli Kincade, the independent and solitary guide who has stolen Elizabeth's heart.

As the group reaches the Oregon Country, the emigrants part ways to find their new homes. Elizabeth and Will and their families have made arrangements to board a ship that will take them south along the coast. Will Eli change his plans and accompany Elizabeth to her new and permanent home? Or will his mysterious past continue to keep them from love?


A Dream For Tomorrow sounds great, doesn't it? Want to know more about the author? Of course you do. Here's some more about Melody, including a secret or two. 


If I could go anywhere in the world tomorrow, it would be... Australia! No kidding. Considering it’s icy cold here and about to snow again, I’d love to go down under! A sunny, beachy spot with points of interest nearby would be lovely. Any recommendations? Great answer, Melody. I say start in Melbourne where I am, visit the beautiful Phillip Island (setting of my books) and make your way north where the weather gets warmer, and the beaches get sunnier. 

One thing I enjoyed today is... Coming to my writing studio to discover a nice fire crackling in my fireplace. As well as my mug of dandelion tea with ginger. Okay, I realize that’s not too exciting, but it’s still morning and I’m still getting over a bronchial flu.

A secret pleasure of mine is... Lately it’s been a candlelit soak in my tub with lavender infused Epsom salts. But that’s probably because I’ve been sick. And, after all, you say “secret” so I guess I’ll just have to leave it at that. J 

A moment that changed my life is... When I found God at the age of fifteen—turning my back on atheism. Nothing was the same after that—thank God! The next life changing moment was meeting my husband while working in youth ministry more than 35 years ago. Praise God for that awesome day and every day since!

When I was a child I wanted to... Go around the world. Fortunately I got to do this in 1974–1975 (right after college). And, yes, I did get to stop down under (Sydney) when I was on my way to Papua New Guinea, where I spent a year teaching pre-school for Summer Institute of Linguistics (Wycliffe Bible Translators).

I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but... Right now I’m about to go online and see how expensive it would be to book a trip to Australia! It would be so fun to take my husband to see your beautiful country. And to do it during your summertime would be perfect. However...I fear I’m just dreaming about it for this year. But maybe in 2014...? Oh no... don't stop dreaming. I'll be your tour guide this time and show you my Melbourne. 2014 sounds perfect!


I have a gift copy of Melody's A Dream For Tomorrow, for one lucky Ink Dots friend. To be in the draw, please leave a comment below. Tell us how you take your tea. Dandelion with ginger, like Melody? Peppermint with honey, like me? What's the quirkiest combo you've tried or would like to try. I'll announce the winner in the comment thread on Friday. Good luck.

Friday, February 08, 2013

52 Steps to Yesteryear - Week 6, Share A Recipe

Photo Source - The Murmuring Cottage
It's hard to believe two of our children are adults already, and gearing up for another year of university. For our middle child, it will be his first year of tertiary study, and I'm one of those mothers who wonders where the years went while I was busy blinking.

Thankfully there's one kidlet still in school. He may be the tallest in the family now, but he's the one I drive to high school each day, and this week saw us begin a new academic year. Gone are the lazy summer mornings where we pottered and came awake with the slow unravelling of morning. 

Now we're back to alarms and quick breakfasts... and the pulling together of lunch boxes. Well, one lunch box. For the first time in fifteen years, I'll only be packing one person's meal for when they need it, hours after I've kissed him goodbye. 

I confess, my lunch boxes overflow. I've a growing lad to feed and I don't like the idea of him getting hungry. And he tells me his box is well esteemed when 'trading' occurs. So I send him off with ample currency. A sandwich, a drink, something chocolate, a piece of fruit, a bag of something crunchy like chips or popcorn, and my best mother's touch - something homemade. 

Choc Chip Cookies - Crabapple House
This week, I baked a batch of choc chip cookies. I followed a recipe shared by a dear friend eons ago, and I know she passed it on from someone who took it from their sister, whose other sister found it at a cousin's house ... 

I've known cooks who won't share their prize recipes. They keep their secrets locked away and would rather no one attempt what their ovens deliver. Thankfully, the best of friends share their finds, and as a result I have a stack of scribbles I've put together over the years of treats for my family. And I love to share, just as my mother and her mother did before them. 

Here's my favourite choc chip cookie recipe. It's easy, delicious and quick. And a sweet way to tuck a kiss into a fourteen year old boy's lunch when he's not looking. 

Choc Chip Cookies

250 grams of butter
1 cup of brown 
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
tsp vanilla essence

3 cups of Self Raising flour
1 cup choc chips

Shape into cookies, and bake for 15 minutes at 180C. 


Do you have a stack of hand written recipes passed on from friends and family? Do you have a recipe you're asked for over and over? 

Blessings for a wonderful weekend, 

Monday, February 04, 2013

Kathleen Y'Barbo - Flora's Wish

It's my pleasure to welcome Kathleen Y’Barbo to Ink Dots this week. Kathleen's the author of over 40 novels with more than 1 million copies in print in the United States and abroad. A former literary publicist, she was recently nominated for a Career Achievement Award by Romantic Times magazine. A tenth-generation Texan, Kathleen has four grown children, seven bonus children, and her very own hero in combat boots. 

From bestselling author Kathleen Y'Barbo comes a brand-new series of romance, adventure, and hidden identity. 

Flora's Wish - May 1887 Flora Brimm is determined the fifth time is the charm. Back home she has a reputation as Fatal Flora, a woman whose previous four fiance’s died in untimely accidents. Flora is desperate to marry, because producing an heir is the only way she can keep her family's estate. She's confident this visit to Eureka Springs with her grandmother will help her land a husband.

Pinkerton detective Lucas McMinn is hot on the trail of Will Tucker, the thief who broke his sister's heart. When he discovers the slippery fellow with Flora, he thinks they are in on the devious plot together. Will Flora be able to convince Lucas of her innocence? Will Lucas catch the elusive Mr. Tucker?

And, more importantly, will Lucas survive if he pursues Flora's heart?

An engaging story of how God can move circumstances to bring love, joy, and lasting fulfillment to the most hopeless heart.


Oh, I like the sound of this heroine. I just love her name - Flora Brimm. Let's find out a little more about her creator, Kathleen Y'Barbo, and some of her secrets. 


If I could go anywhere in the world tomorrow, it would be...wherever I could get all four of my grown children to congregate at the same time. When my boys were very little, we visited the Taronga Zoo in Sydney via ferry past the Opera House and the magnificent bridge. I would love to take them there again along with my daughter and revisit that memory.

One thing I enjoyed today is...It's still early here, so I'll say that I enjoyed very much waking up next to my husband. We've only been married a little over two years, and God was very gracious in bringing us together after an absence of 35 years. So every day that I wake up next to him is not only a blessing but evidence that God does love me very much.

A secret pleasure of mine is... Bubble baths! I love to soak in a steaming tub of bubbles and read.

A moment that changed my life is...Oh so many! When I gave my life to Jesus, when my children were born, and when I married Robert all come to mind.

Sundays are for... Family and worship. I love being able to get my weekly infusion of the Gospel. It just sets the tone for the week to come, as does spending the remainder of the day with the man I love. We might go for a long drive or just grab books and read, but it's always something worth waiting for.

When I was a child I wanted to...spend all my free time reading. I still do!

I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but...if given the chance, I would move to Australia in a heartbeat. I absolutely loved my visits there when my family and I lived in nearby (sort of) Jakarta, and I would love to return and stay longer. The only problem would be deciding where to live! Oh, that's easy, Kathleen! You'd come to Melbourne, where I live. Can't get better than here :o)


I have a copy of Flora's Wish for one lucky Ink Dot's friend. If you'd like to be in the draw, please leave a comment below and I'll announce the winner on Friday. Tell us about your favourite zoo experience. Like Kathleen, I've been to Taronga Zoo in Sydney, as well as Melbourne's zoo right here in my hometown. A favourite stop is the Butterfly House, but the most memorable moment was watching young lions rumble, claw each other and draw blood. So much drama... How about you? 

Friday, February 01, 2013

52 Steps To Yesteryear - Week 5, Grow Hydrangeas

Hydrangea Bowl - Pinterest
I need a little blue. In every room and around every bend in the garden.  

After almost twenty years, my grandmother's pride and joy garden became mine, when she went to a far better paradise, and I took up where she left off. During the ten years I was blessed to tend it, it became the learning ground for a hobby I still love. Much of what I've planted in the small garden around Crabapple House, originally started off as slips from my granny's garden. 

My favourites lined the driveway. Blowsy hydrangeas almost reached the top of the fence in true hydrangea blue. And I've never loved a flower more. The first photo of my Beloved and I as a couple was taken along that row of show-offy blues. Cuttings made it to my mother's garden and spilled from there to my own. Some less blue than I'd hoped, as our soil tends to tint hydrangea petals pink and purple. 

Hydrangea Hedge - Pinterest
But blue will always be my favourite. I'm a firm believer a hint here and there with perhaps one long splash, brings calm and harmony. 

Victorian gardeners liked to think hydrangeas meant harmony too. Others thought them a symbol of friendship, devotion and undersatnding. (Those a little sour in the mouth tried to say they meant puffy with pride.) 

I like hydrangeas for what they bring. As the summer fades to winter, so does each hydrangea ball. They wither with splendid hues of violet, musk, sage and lilac, and sing a softer tune until it's time to deadhead them for winter. 

And then again in spring, they'll reappear as the stars of my garden with the promise to blend and fill the beds alongside many of my other favourites. 

As you'll notice... also blue. 

My Summer Hydrangeas, trying really hard to be 'blue' - Crabapple House

Plubago - Crabapple House

Agapanthus - Crabapple House

More  Agapanthus - Crabapple House

Do you have a favourite blue plant? Are you a lover of hydrangeas? Does a flower remind you of a loved one? 

Blessings for a wonderful weekend,
May you spy a little blue wherever you spend it.