Eucalypts, Dads and Recession

The beginnings of Spring were making the mornings crisp and the days bright and sunny. I live in Australia, and this time of the year is lovely. The gum trees (otherwise known as Eucalypts) had not shed their leaves in winter, but now they seemed to have lost the dull olive green of Winter, and added a flush of bright green or red new growth. It seems appropriate that we forget the difficulties of the past few months, and embrace the birth of another season.

Talking about birth, this month we also celebrate the fathers of our society. Father’s day falls at the beginning of the month and we remember our Dads with love and a certain amount of longing. In my case, my Dad has been gone a long time now, but I miss him and his wisdom, every day. He was English and lived through a war while he studied in the local cathedral, sure he was safe from the bombs. He lived through the recession that always seems to hit after the horror of war. He lived to migrate to Australia with his new wife and daughter (me) and he always held hope and excitement for the future. He was a great man in my adoring eyes.

The story below, reminds us that even after terrible troubles, life is what YOU make it. Hope you read and enjoy.

***

The tree.

Pam dragged herself out of bed and trudged to the kitchen.

It was raining … again! She was over it! Her wellington boots had become a fashion statement, and every time she walked outside, her feet sank into the ground, instantly filling with water as she went across the yard.

The mud squelched and stunk sour. The plants in the garden were actually drowning. Waterfalls of water gurgled along the edges of the garden edging, as it dug into the dirt and created trenches that grew deeper every day. It seemed to have been raining forever.

What was the point! Life was so miserable.

Then she remembered the drought of two years ago. Dead plants, brown and withered grass. The cows being hand-fed and looking downright depressed as well as thin, ribs clearly apparent. Then the bush fires, eating up the dead undergrowth and roaring through the nearby forest like a disgruntled dragon, scaring the living daylights out of her, and destroying friends’ homes and properties.

Nature was cruel. Thank goodness she didn’t depend on its vagaries to earn a living!

She reached up without thinking, took down a mug and turned on the electric kettle, all in one automatic action. Subconsciously she shuffled to the cutlery drawer for a spoon then put sugar and coffee in the mug in front of her. She stared at the noisy kettle while it boiled.

Each day was the same. Each day she felt unloved and alone. Each day blended into the next. Each day she wondered what she had done wrong with her life and why she was in this predicament. Each day she started with a cup of coffee and no-one to share her day with. Each day was the same – hadn’t she already said and thought that.

She sighed.

She glanced out the back door as the rained dripped from the gutters. It was a silent, drizzling, misty rain, fogging the landscape and adding to the misery of the day.

Suddenly a shaft of sunlight made its way through a tiny slit between the clouds.

It lit the drooping leaves of the tree by the chicken shed.

For a few moments the leaves shimmered and sparkled in a slight breeze and the day, at once, became enchanted. She stood, coffee forgotten, as she experienced the thrill of a moment of pure happiness at the scene.

She smiled as the kettle finished boiling, so she poured the water into the mug. Picking up the cup, she walked to the back door.

This was where she was meant to be. Life was good after all.

***

Now to have something to eat! This is my grandmother’s recipe, from England, when families had to make do with what they had. They were very inventive!

Grandma’s Baked Bread Pudding

½ loaf stale bread

2 eggs

1 tblspn butter

1 tspn mixed spice

2 tblspns sugar

2 tblspns golden syrup

1 cup sultanas

½ cup SR flour

extra mixed spice and sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 180 – 200°C.
  2. Soak bread in warm water, then squeeze well.
  3. Add rest of ingredients. Mix well
  4. Press into a greased baking dish.
  5. Sprinkle top lightly with a mixture of spice and sugar.
  6. Bake for about 1 ½ hours.
  7. Cut into slices. Serve with cream, ice-cream or custard. Serves 8-12.

***

One of the things which war, recession, disasters and hard times do, is bring together families as never before. The community comes together and neighbours help neighbours. We see it happen after bush-fires, as in Colorado in the US at the beginning of the year, and when the bush-fires ripped through Australia two years and a half ago. I have written a picture book for children, to tribute the firefighters of those times, as well as a couple that highlight the importance of family. They are AU$18 each and I can post them anywhere in the world, if I have your address. email me at maureenlarter@gmail.com for more information.

My facebook pages are:

https://www.facebook.com/BooksByMaureenLarter

https://www.facebook.com/AlphabetanimalsofAustralia

https://www.facebook.com/Sweetfields-Publisher

Linkedin : MLarter

Instagram : lartermaureen

Twitter : @MaureenLarter

Rosferado, Endangered and Destruction

Now that we are nearing the end of our southern hemisphere winter, we can start to look forward to Spring. The shortest day of the year has passed, and now, minute by minute, we see the days getting longer.

I can see you are wondering what Rosferado in my title means. Well, that’s the name I came up with for my Wizard in my chapter books for children – ‘Rosferado – Wizard Extraordinaire’ and ‘Rosferado – Wizard Banished’. I am now writing book three – ‘Rosferado – Wizard Challenged’ which I hope to publish before the year’s end.

As far as ‘Endangered‘ and ‘Destruction‘ -the environment of Earth and the creatures that inhabit it, have always been at the top of my mind. Most of the books I write are about animals, and, just like my Wizard series, the Kathy Adventure books ‘In Search of the Elusive Panda’and ‘Smugglers and Dragons’ feature an animal that is endangered, usually by the unthinking destruction of their habitat.

Humans have been particularly selfish about the Earth and its resources for a long time, and it is nice to see some of the new generation realize that without our planet, we would have no-where, as yet, to survive. I often wonder if the space explorations that are being financed by the rich of the world, are merely to look for another planet to escape to when this planet is of no use anymore.

***

However, we are still here, and we still have to survive. Here is a recipe to add flavour to your next stir-fry:-

Tammy’s Sweet and Sour Sauce.

1 cup Pineapple juice (with water)

2 tblspns cornflour

¼ cup vinegar

¼ cup brown sugar

2 tblspns soy sauce

2-3 tblspns tomato sauce

1 cup chopped onions

1 ¼ cup of pineapple pieces

2-3 drops of red food colouring (optional)

other chopped vegetables as desired. (carrot, cabbage, broccoli etc.)

  1. Blend cornflour, pineapple juice and vinegar in a saucepan.
  2. Soak onion in red colouring for a few minutes.
  3. Add everything to saucepan except pineapple pieces.
  4. Bring to boil, stirring constantly. Serve with rice. Serves 4.
  5. Veg can be par cooked if desired.

***

My little story for today:-

A new beginning.

Nadia spread the blanket over the sand and sat down. It wasn’t long before an inquisitive seagull arrived and regarded her curiously. She didn’t take any notice, and the bird soon flew away, as there was no handout of food from the lady.

The sea was calm and the temperature pleasant. The monotonous sloshing of the waves soon lulled Nadia into a mesmerized stare.

“Hello!” a male voice said, causing Nadia to startle.

She turned and then smiled. It was so nice to see the man. He looked concerned.

“I saw you from my holiday home up there,” he explained, waving his hand in the general direction of the street above. “Are you okay?”

Nadia nodded.

“Just enjoying the peace – even the seagulls are leaving me alone!”

The man laughed.

“They know you have no food!”

“Thank you for checking on me,” Nadia added. “I only arrived this morning and I couldn’t wait to come down here and enjoy the calmness.”

“Yes,” The man agreed. “I love it here, too. By the way, my name is David.”

“Nice to meet you,” Nadia replied. “I’m Nadia.”

“Mind if I join you?” he asked.

Nadia shifted slightly and patted the blanket. “Please do.”

David sat and they both stared out to the ocean for a while. David quietly reached for Nadia’s hand and she shifted just a little closer.

It was going to be hard, but Nadia and David had to do something to revive their marriage, and this get away seemed the perfect answer.

***

Besides the tangles of human relationships, and the crisis on our planet, one of the best things we should all strive for, is peace – of both mind and body. violence in any size or shape – in my humble opinion, doesn’t solve anything. I know it isn’t always easy to find, but peace of the soul and of the beauty around you on this planet will only help. The books I’ve mentioned at the beginning of this blog are chapter books for children aged between about 8 and 10. I also write picture books for younger children. They are all priced at AU$18 (plus postage), so if you are interested, please email at maureenlarter@gmail.com for a catalogue and more information. The books below touch upon both peace of mind and the adult fiction tells of the dangers of violence in a relationship. (I write under the pen-name Marguerite Wellbourne for topics that are not for children)

My facebook pages are:

https://www.facebook.com/BooksByMaureenLarter

https://www.facebook.com/AlphabetanimalsofAustralia

https://www.facebook.com/Sweetfields-Publisher

Linkedin : MLarter

Instagram : lartermaureen

Twitter : @MaureenLarter

Reasons, Easy and Dress.

Winter! Brrr!

A story of a little black bird in the midst of a Canadian Winter

Where I live, the winters are not bad. We occasionally have a severe frost – but that is about it. It is a good life – I can grow my food – both tropical and cold weather crops. Those are the reasons why I picked this area in which to live. I live on the eastern coast of Australia, known as the lower mid-north coast and I am in easy driving distance from both Sydney and Brisbane.

Now that the weather is cooler, I dress accordingly. In the tropics one seems to always be in summer clothes – in the south of Australia, winter clothes are worn for much of the year. Here – I can get the best of both worlds – dresses even in Winter, but scarves, beanies, gloves and heavy sweaters can be worn sometimes, particularly this month. My knitting and crocheting skills still get used. Next year I will share some of my patterns with you all, as in the Northern hemisphere you have the reverse seasons to us. As my blog is Read, Eat Dream – I have a short story for you to read, a delicious recipe to make and hopefully eat, and a dream to follow. Enjoy.

***

Looking her best.

She rummaged through the clothes in her wardrobe, trying to figure out what she would wear. It seemed important to her that she looked her best today.

She picked out the black jeans, and the olive green sweater, and went off to the bathroom to shower.

Afterwards, she stood in her underclothes looking at the jeans on the bed. Why had she picked black! That might be an omen. Surely she could have thought that through a bit better. Colour was what she needed. Be gregarious. Be cheerful! That was the ticket.

She tossed the black jeans aside, and went back to the cupboard.

She had NOTHING to wear!

What was she going to do?

She threw out the brown slacks – too boring. She tossed aside the woollen dress that always fell wrongly around her hips. She discarded the fair-isle jumper that scratched her skin. The long skirt at the back, all scrunched up and wrinkled, just wasn’t right for the day! She grimaced at the tweed jacket that always made her look fat.

Eventually, after various other outfits were rejected, she decided on a simple blouse, cardigan and blue jeans. She tugged on a pair of socks, and did up her runners. She felt good.

She looked in the mirror – tomorrow she would be different, but today she was finally satisfied with her appearance.

Johnny didn’t say a word as she got in the car. He was only the chauffeur after all, but it would have been nice if he had complimented her. This visit was important. She sat in the car, muted by stress. The journey seemed to take forever.

When she finally got to the hospital, they ushered her into the ward.

“Right,” the nurse said. “Strip off and put on this theatre gown.”

So it hadn’t really mattered after all – the clothes just sat in a plastic bag at her feet as she waited for her cataract surgery.

Barabrith – Welsh Tea Bread:

250g mixed dried fruit of choice

125g raw sugar

250g SR flour

1 egg

½ tspn mixed spice

1 cup cold tea.

  1. Soak fruit overnight in the tea with the added sugar.
  2. Next morning, pre heat oven to 180-200°C.
  3. Add egg, flour and spice to the fruit mixture. Mix well.
  4. Place in 2 greased loaf tins or one large square cake tin.
  5. Bake for approx 45mins.
  6. Serve cool, sliced with butter. Serves 8-12.

***

As I get older and am living on my own, I have discovered that friends are an important part of life. We all need human contact and someone that we can talk to, to share out innermost thoughts or to discuss the days news items. The thing I miss most about being on my own, is the companionship of another my age, with my standards and similar, if not the same, views. The number of times I have felt like turning to someone to laugh or comment about an item on the TV, only to discover an empty chair, is too many to count.

Even my children’s books tackle this topic – friends are important all through life.

My books are available from me for AU$18 each plus postage. If you are interested, please contact me at maureenlarter@gmail.com and I will be able to give you more information.

My facebook pages are:

https://www.facebook.com/BooksByMaureenLarter

https://www.facebook.com/AlphabetanimalsofAustralia

https://www.facebook.com/Sweetfields-Publisher

Linkedin : MLarter

Instagram : lartermaureen

Twitter : @MaureenLarter

Rebel, Enclosed and Dirty.

Now that this year is into Winter, we have to admit we can start to see a light at the end of the tunnel of Covid 19 and the lock-downs we have had to endure. The pandemic has lasted over two years, and I understand that people are tired of it. Many people have become rebels, not wanting to get vaccinated, not wanting to wear masks and not wanting to be watched by Big Brother all the time, wherever they go. The feeling of being enclosed in our homes is reminiscent of so much that happened in the past, with the Jews, Romanies and homosexuals in Europe, the women of Middle Eastern countries and the past injustices meted out to many of the native populations of so many different countries. I could mention many of these, but let us hope that we can learn and scrub clean the dirt of previous beliefs and actions.

The story that follows shows that there are always inconsiderate people in any colony and yet, there is also a contradiction, in that we should stand up for our rights, too.

***

Painting by Patsy Seager

Revolt!

Freda followed Georgina up to the highest point of the nest.

“What are you going to do?” she asked her best friend.

Georgina snarled. “You know it’s time to stand up for ourselves! I’ve been telling you for ages! We work, work and work, and the freeloaders in our home just take advantage of us. Surely you realize I’m going to call all the workers in our nest to arms!”

Freda swallowed. “Do you really think that’s a good idea?” she said timidly.

“If you can’t stand with me, then why did you come up here? Don’t think you can change my mind.”

“But, Georgie …”

Georgina frowned and her antennae waved furiously.

Freda looked out over the nest. Just what was Georgie so upset about? Sure, there were a few grubs and other sundry things taking up some space, but they weren’t doing any harm. She tried again.

“Georgie – why can’t you just leave things be. The grubs aren’t doing any harm.”

“I agree, Freda – but are they helping our nest and the rest of our ants? Are they contributing in any way? What if they decide to breed up and take over our nest? Then what will you think of them?”

Freda nodded carefully.

‘Yes, I guess you are right … but what if we nurture them and help them? Won’t they be grateful? And then they may help us.”

Georgina shook her head with disgust.

“You’re just like all the others – ignoring the threat and hoping to lead a cushy life without doing anything about it. I think things are going to get out of hand – we have to do something!”

‘Okay,” Freda said, looking around at the nest and her relatives all scurrying around doing their jobs. “Let’s see who agrees with you.”

Georgina nodded with satisfaction.

“Right!” She turned and shouted to the rest of the nest, but no-one took any notice.

Freda quietly turned away and went back to her work.

Georgina grumbled to herself as she thought of new ways to get everyone’s attention.

“I can’t believe they are all just like sheep – following along without thinking of the consequences.’

And then she went back to work with the rest of them!

***

Joyce’s Pumpkin Soup.

Ingredients: Half a reasonable size pumpkin; 1 cup of well mashed potatoes; I finely chopped small onion (optional); 1 small bottle (250ml) thickened cream.

1. Skin pumpkin and chop into cubes. Cook in a saucepan until soft.

2. Drain, but keep the water it was cooked in.

3. Blend the cooked pumpkin well, then add the mashed potato and onion.

4. Blend well.

5. Slowly add the thickened cream.

6. If too thick, add a little of the pumpkin water until you reach the consistency you like.

7. Serve.

8. If you have a larger pumpkin, or use it all, double the ingredients. If you have a smaller pumpkin, halve the ingredients.

***

Following on from the above story, most of us dream of having a wonderful family, but we are not always so lucky. Many of us come from homes where there may be violence, or excessive drinking or arguments as well as only one parent as the parents have separated. There is always help out there … so don’t be afraid to ask for support. Life can always (even in a happy family) be improved upon. Keep your head up and look around you, and always strive for happiness.

Some of the children’s books I write talk about that. They are AU$18 plus postage each and can be bought from me. If you are interested please email me at maureenlarter@gmail.com and I can give you more information. I have written about 40 books – even I have lost count!

My facebook pages are:

https://www.facebook.com/BooksByMaureenLarter

https://www.facebook.com/AlphabetanimalsofAustralia

https://www.facebook.com/Sweetfields-Publisher

Linkedin : MLarter

Instagram : lartermaureen

Twitter : @MaureenLarter

Rocking-chair, Everyone and Death.

My recipe for this month is inspired by Mother’s Day.

Mum’s Chocolate self-saucing dessert

80g butter ; ½ cup sugar ; 1 cup SR flour ; 1 egg ;

2 dstspns cocoa ; ½ cup milk ; ½ tspn vanilla essence

Sauce:

½ cup sugar ; 2dstspns cocoa ; 1 cup hot water

  1. Preheat oven to 180-200°C.
  2. Cream butter and sugar.
  3. Add egg and vanilla and mix well.
  4. Fold in flour and cocoa, alternately with milk.
  5. Put into a greased casserole dish.
  6. Mix sauce sugar and cocoa and sprinkle over the top of pudding.
  7. Pour the hot water carefully over the pudding.
  8. Place casserole onto a baking tray and bake for 35-40mins.
  9. Serve with cream, ice-cream or custard. Serves 6.

***

In Australia, May is the month we put aside a Sunday to appreciate our mothers. Everyone has a mother, although not every woman becomes a mother. Some mothers are great, some not so wonderful. Some mothers leave us to seek another life, and some are taken from us by disease or age.

Over the years of human and animal existence, mothers have always been with us. We call the Earth – Mother Earth. The faithful in convents have a Mother Superior. Women in some societies who excel in the use of natural herbs and medicines often have the moniker ‘mother’ and are revered by all. Sometimes, like in the Salem trials in the 17th century, these women were considered witches, and persecuted, although this has been greatly exaggerated over time. (That was the assumption of the play ‘The Crucible’ by Arthur Miller – one of the husbands of screen star Marilyn Monroe.)

As an aside, the nursery rhyme ‘Old Mother Hubbard’ apparently had its origins during the reign of Henry the 8th, and had nothing to do with cupboards, dogs or bones. Google tells me that Mother alluded to Sir Thomas Wolsely trying to get an annulment from the pope so Henry could divorce his out-of-fashion wife!

A painting of ‘Old Mother Hubbard’

So my story for you to read this month, is inspired by those brave women, now and in the past, who continued to help the uneducated, even under the threat of death.

***

THE SLIP.

Jane stood on the top of the cliff overlooking the wild sea. The wind tore at her hair and the ends of her scarf fluttered furiously as if trying to escape. She sighed as she wished that she hadn’t lost her baby and the scene blurred as tears flooded her eyes. If only she could go back in time and stop the fall that caused the miscarriage. She had so wanted to become a mother.

When her vision cleared, she turned to go back along the lonely track to the comfort of her home. She was surprised to notice a cottage that she hadn’t noticed before. Smoke spiraled from the chimney and Jane noticed that the wind had died away. For some unknown reason she shivered, and her breath puffed in small spurts from her mouth.

Without conscious thought, she wandered towards the cottage and, just as she was level with the gate, the front door opened.

“Hello, Jane,” said the old lady at the door. “Please, come ye in out o’ the cold.”

Jane stood, confused. How did the woman know her name? Who was she? Had she lived here long? With hesitant steps, Jane approached and the old lady stepped aside to let her in. Jane peered around her as she entered.

Inside, the cottage was small, cozy and very basic. A large wooden table had a old plate in the middle of it, filled with a concoction of strange items. The room was so small that the fire and a rocking-chair at the far end of the room was the only other obvious furnishings. An old-fashioned cauldron hung over the flames, and a satisfying smell wafted throughout the room from the liquid that was bubbling therein. Jane wondered where the old lady slept. No doubt there was a lean-to out the back for her other needs.

The old lady pulled Jane towards the chair.

“Sit down, m’dear,” the old lady said, pointing to the chair. “You must get warm again after running from those soldiers. They won’t find you here.”

“Soldiers?” Jane didn’t understand.

“Och,” The old lady shook her head and grimaced. “James the 6th of Scotland is fighting the bastard English.” She spat into the fire in disgust and Jane’s eyes widened as the hiss made the flames leap.

The lady ladled some of the hot liquid from the cauldron into a bowl and handed it to Jane.

“Here, get this into ya’. It’ll do you the world of good,”

Jane relaxed and smiled, and as she drank, the old lady tucked a blanket about her shoulders.

Jane felt the cold, sadness and loss trickle out of her bones, and, before long, her eyelids drooped and she slid into darkness.

When she opened her eyes later, she sat at the top of the stairs at home. Jane frowned. How had she got there? She couldn’t remember coming back from the walk on the windswept cliffs above the house. what had happened? Would she ever find the cottage again? Was the old lady a witch? A phantom from the past? A figment of her imagination? She slowly stood, gripping the handrail and carefully made her way down the stairs. Her other hand touched her newly pregnant tummy bump.

This time, she didn’t fall.

She would be a mother after all.

***

I hope you enjoyed both my recipe and my story. Some of us may dream of being a mother some time in the future, just like Jane. Or we may have a family that is warm and loving already. Whatever your situation, remember to continue to dream and to hope for the best life will give you.

I write children’s stories, and have picture books that mention the importance of family. One is called ‘Betty Bee’s Birthday Bash” and another is ‘Giddy the Galah’. They are available for AU$18 plus postage each. If you buy one, you receive a signed copy and a free bookmark. If you buy them both, the price is AU$35 and you get an additional surprise gift. Should you decide to look up my Facebook page and want any others, you are more than welcome. PM me for further information and my catalogue.

My facebook pages are:

https://www.facebook.com/BooksByMaureenLarter

https://www.facebook.com/AlphabetanimalsofAustralia

https://www.facebook.com/Sweetfields-Publisher

Linkedin : MLarter

Instagram : lartermaureen

Twitter : @MaureenLarter

Ramadan, Easter and Dogs

One of the amazing things about Australia is our mixed cultures.The native Australians have been on this continent for around 60,000 years and yet the white ‘conquerors’ dismissed them as savages. This is slowly being rectified.

Now, we also have a large contingent of peoples from other countries and religions. Even though we are recognized as a Christian country of British roots, we have accepted into our country Buddhists, Muslims and Judaism as well as other religions.

This month sees both the religious events – Easter and Ramadan. The whole month is a fasting, praying month for the follows of Islam, (Muslims) while Easter is a Christian event with Good Friday falling on April 17th this year. (Easter is a move-able event, ruled by the full moon – so can be anywhere from March to late April).

One of my pet hates is the referring of Christians by Muslims, in the past, as ‘dogs‘. Perhaps that is a compliment? Domestic dogs are known to be loyal to their masters and generally caring. Of course, it depends how a dog is treated – if cruelly treated it will become vicious. Our children are also influenced by our parents and our surrounding society. We are all victims of our upbringing and environment.

So – in conclusion – please learn to be caring and understanding of people’s actions and beliefs. If you had grown up in another country or a different age, your beliefs and personality would be different. It is fortunate that human beings are capable of compassion and love, and also have the outstanding ability to adapt. For example – in ancient Egypt, there were many gods, and cats were worshiped instead of dogs! Funny how we change. With that in mind – enjoy my short story! I hope it gives you a bit of a giggle.

***

The cat.

The cat hid behind the shrubs in Veronica’s garden, waiting to pounce.He loved this game. When he saw Veronica walk past, he would launch himself and wrap his paws around her leg. She was always surprised and jumped around and yelled. The cat thought it was funny.

Sometimes, he would catch strangers, and they tended to be angry – he didn’t understand why. It was only a game!

What’s worse, Veronica didn’t seem to enjoy the presents he offered her either! He had tried so hard to find something she would love – a frog, a large cockroach, a mouse – even a sparrow or a wren – but she screamed and would pick up the prize between her thumb and finger as if it was something quite disgusting – and then she would throw it away! He couldn’t believe it. He had worked very hard to find such a tasty morsel.

He decided then and there to show her who was boss!

When she wanted to cuddle him, he just turned his back and ignored her.

When she wanted him to go outside he went, then immediately wanted to come back in and yowled at the door until she surrendered and let him back.

When she was cozy in bed and nearly asleep, he scratched at the door and wanted to go outside again … then inside … then outside … the inside. So much fun!

Next time he would bring her a rat and see if she thought that was better! He knew it wasn’t – even he didn’t like rats!

When she was ready to go out, he would curl up on her bed and pretend to be fast asleep.

If she decided to take him to the vet, he would scratch and hiss and claw her hand until she gave up and tried other techniques. It didn’t take him long to work out ‘Here, kitty, kitty,” said in a sweet voice meant trouble, and he wasn’t going to be hood-winked. The time he climbed up the curtains, shredding them with his claws and ending up on top of the wardrobe where she couldn’t reach him, still made him smile.

Of course, it couldn’t last. Veronica began to make noises that she would get rid of him.

The ultimate betrayal was when she brought in a boyfriend.

The cat found out that he could use that to his advantage.

By curling up and purring on Barry’s lap, Veronica was beaten!

***

And now for something nice to eat!

Lachlan’s Lunchbox Muesli Squares:

3 ½ cups quick oats

½ cup sunflower seeds

½ cup pine nuts

½ cup diced dried apricots.

½ cup sultanas

2 tblspns sesame seeds

2 tspns ground cinnamon

80g butter

1 cup honey

2 tblspns brown sugar

  1. Soak apricots and sultanas in warm water for 1 hour before starting.
  2. Preheat oven to 170°C.
  3. Lightly grease a slice pan and line with baking paper. Make sure paper hangs over edge of pan on long sides. Lightly spray grease on paper.
  4. Place oats, seeds, soaked and drained dried fruit and cinnamon in a large bowl. Mix well.
  5. Place butter, honey and sugar in a saucepan and stir over a low heat until combined. Cook for about 3 minutes on simmer, stirring consistently until thickened slightly.
  6. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and mix well.
  7. Place in prepared tin, and using damp hands distribute mix evenly.
  8. Bake for 25 – 30 mins.
  9. Cool in tin. Cut into squares but don’t remove from tin until completely cold. Should make 20 squares.

***

One of the dreams of today’s generation, is hoping the politicians and those powerful people in big business will work towards a better environment. We, as a race, have squandered the commodities of our planet to the point where our planet is dying, and it is fighting back. During the last few years we have seen cataclysmic floods, fires and disease. We have observed glacier melt and volcano eruptions. (Of course, the media has been there to make us aware of all that,too)

Two years ago, Australia and America experienced huge bush fires. Many blame Global warming for that. However, the firefighters are, in my opinion, heroes! I wrote this little picture book as a tribute to their work (hopefully it also highlights the danger of fire to our wild-life.) It is AU$18 (plus postage). If you would like to know more, please email me at maureenlarter@gmail.com and I will send you a catalogue of my books FREE.

Helen Heron checks out the Helicopter. What does she find? (A picture book for youngsters)

My facebook pages are:

https://www.facebook.com/BooksByMaureenLarter

https://www.facebook.com/AlphabetanimalsofAustralia

https://www.facebook.com/Sweetfields-Publisher

Linkedin : MLarter

Instagram : lartermaureen

Twitter : @MaureenLarter

Rice, Earth and Days

March – already into the third month. Days of Autumn – in the words of a well known poem by Keats – the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. The time for the Earth to bliss out after the heat of Summer and before the cold of Winter. In my humble opinion – one of the best times of the year. Lazy days of relaxation and meditation.

I also use the time to garden. Getting my vegetable beds ready for my winter crops – cauliflower, cabbage, silver beet and broccoli. I love experimenting with my vegetables, and last year tried clumping onions and leeks. This year I’ll try red onions and English Spinach. Living on a farm I will plant out some wheat in the paddock, too. Although this last summer has been very wet, I don’t think I’ll bother creating a paddy field of rice though. I saw the work that went into that when I lived, for a short time, in Asia.

The rice paddies show a flooded paddock, and boy! have we had some flooding this last month! Hope everyone is coping, and those people that have lost so much, my heart goes out to you. I live on the eastern seaboard of Australia, so I, too have watched and dreaded the rise of the water. I also must put in an apology as I omitted 1 cup of sugar in the last month’s recipe of Diane’s biscuits. Asking you to cream the butter and sugar, when there was no sugar included in the recipe was just a tad confusing. Again – Sorry.

This time – here is a recipe that is tasty, and includes rice.

Griffin’s Rice Slice.

½ cup brown rice

1 carrot, grated

1 zucchini, grated

1 small can corn kernels, drain, wash

¼ cup chopped chives

1 cup cheese, grated

extra grated cheese for top

¾ cup SR flour

4 eggs

½ cup milk.

¼ cup sweet chilli sauce

  1. Preheat oven to 180-200°. Grease and prepare a slice tin
  2. Cook rice to instructions on packet. Allow to cool.
  3. Combine rice, carrot, zucchini, corn, chives, cheese and flour in a large bowl.
  4. Whisk eggs, chilli sauce and milk together in a jug.
  5. Add to rice mixture and mix well.
  6. Spread in tin, sprinkle with extra cheese, then bake for approx 35mins, until cooked through and lightly browned.
  7. Stand in pan for 20mins then slice and serve hot or cold. Serves 8.

***

Noises.

Gary always loved living on his farm … until tonight. He had an urgent call to make in town, and his car had decided not to start.

After calling a friend, he wandered down to the gate near the road and proceeded to wait.

The sky was ablaze with stars – so bright in the blackness. No moon yet – it hadn’t risen, and the trees were silent as well. No breeze to sway the leaves, or rustle the long grass in the long paddock*. It couldn’t have been a nicer evening.

slowly, Gary became fidgety. Stephen was taking his time. Where was he?

That’s when the noises started. A scrabbling sound in the grass near his feet. A croak from a frog that felt like it was near his ear. A slither on the gravel that might be a snake. A clicking of a beetle. A whirring of wings across the sky.

Then it got worse.

Was that a footstep behind him?

He twirled around, but couldn’t see.

He fumbled around in his pocket for his mobile phone and flipped it open. The light of the screen dazzled him for a fraction of a second. He looked around again. Were the footsteps still coming towards him?

He stood quite still and listen. Everything was silent. Suddenly there was not a sound at all.

That made Gary even more nervous.

He turned on the phone torch and swung the light in an arc.

He saw nothing. He took a breath and told himself to settle down. Stephen would be here shortly. would he turn off the torch? Yes – he was fine. It was just his imagination.

Just as he saw the lights of a car come around the bend in the distance, he felt a wind pass his ear, and he shuddered.

Immediately, he flicked on the torch. On the gate post in front of him sat an owl, eyes large and unblinking.

Damn! Those birds flew so silently, he wondered if that was the reason all the other night noises had stopped. Had they sensed the presence of the owl and gone to ground – out of the way of the predator’s talons? He turned back to the road as the car slowed down.

Stephen came to a halt in front of Gary.

“Sorry, mate,” he ducked his head to look through the passenger side window. “Hop in.”

Gary turned and looked at the post. The owl was gone.

“No worries, Mate,” he said as he opened the car door and folded himself into the seat. “You weren’t long. I didn’t mind waiting at all.”

(* In Australia, the long paddock is the area by the side of the road that belongs to the council/government before your own property starts at the fence line. Often, in a drought, farm animals are tethered along this area.)

***

I hope you enjoyed the previous little bit of flash fiction. As my blog is called Read, Eat and Dream, each month I will include a short story, a recipe and a dream. One of the dreams of many of us is travel – to places exotic and exciting. Of course, over the last two years this has been an impossibility. So, perhaps we can only travel these days through the Images on T.V. or on the Internet. For many of us, it has become a fantasy – as the risk of travel seems to outweigh the actually enjoyment. Staying at home, as also meant we have hopefully had the time to kick back and relax and do some reading. Maybe the parents have also had time to read with their youngsters, or given their primary age children books to improve their reading.

Here are a couple of my books that might fit your children’s likes. They are AU$18 each. If you add postage for your particular destination, and send me an email ( maureenlarter@gmail.com ) with your address, I can organize to send you whatever you like the look of.

My facebook pages are:

https://www.facebook.com/BooksByMaureenLarter

https://www.facebook.com/AlphabetanimalsofAustralia

https://www.facebook.com/Sweetfields-Publisher

Linkedin : MLarter

Instagram : lartermaureen

Twitter : @MaureenLarter

Rainbows, Everywhere and Doubt

February – normally the hottest month of summer for me, but this year has been very wet. I wonder whether this Earth will ever get back to ‘normal’. Everywhere is suffering from one tragedy after another. I doubt, in my lifetime, that the world will ever be the same as before the Covid pandemic came to disrupt everyone’s life – not just here in Australia, but everywhere in the world. Maybe the climate will soon calm down – Autumn is approaching and we can look forward to cooler days, brisk mornings and, just maybe, rainbows and balmy days.

Talking about rainbows – it is a Christian belief that a rainbow is a promise from God – but I think the scientific explanation is just as wonderful. Surely the sun refracting light through rain drops and creating such a beautiful sight is just as marvellous.

Well, now that we are actually into the new year, the other thing I notice, is time. I remember thinking in the late 1990s that it was going to be wonderful when the year 2000 ticked over. Of course – it was just another day really. The planes didn’t fall out of the sky and computers didn’t crash as the doomsayers predicted. But, boy – doesn’t time whizz by as you get older! The clocks definitely get faster. 22 years have gone by since then!

With these thoughts in mind – here is a short story :-

At the Hairdresser’s.

Julie glared at the mirror. She always thought she looked great in the mirrors at home, but these blasted hairdresser’s mirrors didn’t agree.

Where did all the wrinkles come from? And all that grey hair? She had heard of the portrait of Dorian Grey that aged while the portrait-sitter stayed young. Were these mirrors like that? Were they magic?

When Julie commented these ideas to the hairdresser, Sue just laughed.

“Actually,” she said. “Your hair colour is lovely.”

Yeah, right! Julie pressed her lips together as she wasn’t convinced.

Even the clock on the salon wall and those at home were traitors. They lied! The hands zoomed around the numbers so fast that she wished, at times, that she was Samantha from the TV show ‘Bewitched’. Then she could wriggle her nose and slow down time.

Or perhaps, in a fit of temper, she could melt the clocks and watch them slide down the walls, never to bother her again. Didn’t Dali paint a picture like that?

As she sat patiently waiting for the haircut to finish, she drifted into the days of her youth. She was attractive then, but now – how would she find someone who was attracted to her, with all the wrinkles, that gray hair, and, of course, the saggy breasts and the flabby tummy. She inwardly sighed. Mind you, the men in her age group looked decidedly worse!

She finally left the hairdresser’s in a bit of a bubble of depression and headed to the local supermarket.

After parking the car, she struggled out of the car, her knees screaming with the pain of arthritis.

“Oh, hello, Julie,” a cheerful voice said. Julie looked up and saw her friend, Amy.

“You look great today,” Amy continued. “Have you had your hair coloured?”

Julie frowned – why would she colour it grey, for goodness sake?

“No.” She shook her head. “This is just me.”

“Well it looks lovely,” Amy said then got in her car and waved cheerfully goodbye.

Julie smiled carefully, and mouthed ‘thank you – bye.’

By the time she got home, she was decidedly grumpy.

She stomped into the kitchen and put away the groceries, glowering at the cupboard as if it was at fault. The tins of spaghetti didn’t move. Then she clomped outside and checked the post-box.

A letter address to her in handwriting she didn’t know, was in it.

She nearly threw it in the bin, but, intrigued, she decided to check the contents anyway. Inside was a lovely card with a heart on the front. She opened it cautiously. Inside was a message:-

“Sending you my admiration, and thought we could meet for coffee later. You look lovely.” Signed ‘From an anonymous admirer’.

Julie glanced around as if she thought she was being watched. She felt her heart skip a beat and she allowed herself a small sliver of hope. She wondered. Who would send her something like this? Was it a stalker? And, anyway … Why?

Then she realised it was February the 14th. She smiled, and almost skipped inside. Life wasn’t too bad after all. She would find out who sent the card – what an exciting development.

And … it was the first time in her life she had ever been sent a Valentine Day’s card!

***

Diane’s Biscuits.

Ingredients :- 500gm softened butter; 1 can condensed milk; 5 cups of SR flour; Any extras – sultanas/choc chips/coffee/ vanilla essence/passionfruit/lemon/nuts etc – use your imagination.

  1. Cream butter and sugar
  2. Add condensed milk and flour.
  3. Mix until the mixture comes together.
  4. Divide dough into three. Add a different ‘extra’ to each section.
  5. Take the first section. Roll into walnut size pieces and flatten onto a greased baking tray.
  6. Bake in a moderate oven (180C) until golden brown ( approximately 12 to 15 minutes.)
  7. Roll 2nd and 3rd sections into sausage shapes and wrap in waxed paper and freeze for later.
  8. Each section should give you approximately 30 to 35 biscuits.

***

As this blog is called Read, Eat and Dream, I have now given you a short story to read, a recipe to try out, and now I’ll talk about a dream we all aspire to – the dream of being FREE!

This can take the meaning of travel, or being able to move around freely in an open society. It can also mean you should be free to be yourself. Sometimes your environment may not be friendly – prison and war, an unhappy marriage, or even an inability to do things because of bodily dis-functions. All of things are not easy to overcome – but your mind can be free if you have the right attitude. So much is possible, that life should be a joy, even in adversity.

I have middle school books and picture books that help children (and adults) see that life can be exciting, if you only allow it to be. Please note – I write under the pen-name Marguerite Wellbourne for books with adult content (not suitable for children).

These books are AU$18 each, with postage extra. I can post anywhere in the world if I have an address to send to. Please contact me through my Facebook pages or email if you are interested.

My facebook pages are:

https://www.facebook.com/BooksByMaureenLarter

https://www.facebook.com/AlphabetanimalsofAustralia

https://www.facebook.com/Sweetfields-Publisher

Linkedin : MLarter

Instagram : lartermaureen

Twitter : @MaureenLarter

Rain, Enjoy and Dance.

Aaaah! A New Year!

Let’s hope it is better than the last couple! I don’t know about other people, but I think it is time we got down to ‘living’ again. We seem to have had one disaster after another – from bush-fires, floods, disease, volcanoes erupting … you mention it, we’ve had it. I also realize these things have been with us forever, and the human race is still here and with more of us than in any other time in history. Let’s put everything back into some sort of perspective without the media channeling fear, drama and over-exaggeration. Only last month I listened to a news report that used the word ‘scare’ several time – no wonder people are brain washed into worry!

With that in mind, the following short story is inspired by a child-like innocence that we need to tap into and re-discover.

The Puddle.

Emily kicked at the puddle and watched the muddy water trickle over the toe of her yellow rubber boots.  There was a certain satisfaction of fracturing the reflection that had been caught in the mirror of the water.

She bent down and stuck her hands in the mud, feeling it ooze delightfully through her fingers. Mummy wouldn’t be happy – she had got mud on her dress. She flung it off and sat down in the puddle. It was not cold.

This summer had been a wet and hot one. The paddocks were green and the rain constant. It was so much fun and she often danced in the cooling showers. At night she would lay in bed and listen to the frogs calling to one another. There was a small frog living in the down-pipe near her room, and it’s voice boomed out into the darkness. At first she had been frightened, thinking it was huge, but one day she saw it – all of five centimetres long! So cute.

Now she sat and enjoyed the sensation of mud in her knickers, and coolness against her skin.

Over the rustling of the gum tree leaves above, she heard her name called. She closed her eyes and stayed for a few minutes more, appreciating the joy of being at one with nature. but the call from her mother grew louder and more insistent.

“I’m here,” she murmured, as she stood up and let the mud and water run down to her bqare feet. She stepped over to the pile of her sodden dress that she had draped over her boots, and wandered back in the direction of the now frantic calls.

When her mother caught sight of her, she rushed over and clasped Emily, mud and dripping water and all.

“Why didn’t you answer me?” she asked her daughter.

“I’m okay,” Emily looked puzzled. “I was just enjoying the moment.”

Her mother smiled. Oh! if she could only do the same!

Recipe – Maureen’s Scrumptious Boston Bun.

Ingredients : 1 and a half cups of mashed potato; 2 cups SR flour; Three quarters of a cup granulated sugar; 1 tspn salt; 1 cup milk; 1 and a half cups of sultanas or mixed fruit.

  1. Preheat oven to 180-200C
  2. Place mashed potatoes in a bowl and add sugar. Mix well
  3. Add fruit and mix.
  4. Sift flour and salt together and add to poato mixture alternately with milk.
  5. Place in two greased loaf tins, or one greased large cake tin.
  6. Bake for approximately 45 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven, cool slightly then ice while still warm.
  8. (Icing – 1 cup icing sugar; 1 tspn vanilla essence; 1 to 2 tblspns Lemon juice or water or a mixture of both: 2 to 3 drops of food colouring if desired). Mix these ingredients to a stiff consistency and spread over bun.
  9. Cut into slices and serve If desired, it may be spread with butter.
  10. Serves 6 to 8 people.

Please try the above recipe, and enjoy!

Now that the new year has arrived, perhaps you are thinking to change your life-style. If your dream is to make more money and be financially more stable, it night be the time to start a new sideline or business. The booklet below is available from me for AU$8. It could be the thing to start you off. Be aware, some of the rules are for Australia – so check with your local country representatives if you start a business.I will send anywhere in the world, so if you are interested or would like a catalogue of my other books, just email me at maureenlarter@gmail.com and I can get a copy to you.

A guide to getting you started in business. Available for AU$8 straight from me.

If you want to check me out, or look at my credentials – these are my social media contacts:-

My facebook pages are:

https://www.facebook.com/BooksByMaureenLarter

https://www.facebook.com/AlphabetanimalsofAustralia

https://www.facebook.com/Sweetfields-Publisher

Linkedin : MLarter

Twitter : @MaureenLarter

Instagram : lartermaureen

Red, Entertaining and Drinking

December is once more with us – the American festivals of Halloween and Thanksgiving now behind us. Hopefully, this year, with the restrictions forced on us by the pandemic, we will be able to see an easing of the rules and we will enjoy a family get-together. In Christian countries, we look forward to a joyful Christmas and then a fresh and happy new year, when, if we are lucky, we will enjoy a year of wonder and excitement, love and merriment and, for some, the ability to start towards a dream of their own.

Needless to say, as the year draws to a close and another begins, we will all have seen our share of sorrow, disappointment and even tragedy. But this month we should look forward, not back. Remember the bad times, by all means, but learn from them and strive for something better in the future.

Next year my blog will consist of a nice recipe, (For the eat part of my blog), a short story to read, and a dream to hold and try to pursue. After all, my blog is called ReadEatDream! I will continue to use the R.E.D. titles.

I hope you have enjoyed the art work I have presented throughout this year, and the short stories they have inspired. This story, for the festive season, is inspired by my friend, Annie Gabriel’s painting. She has also illustrated many of my children’s books.

Double shot 25 x 30 -$65

There was laughter around the table as Judy lifted her glass and said “Some more please!”

Judy wasn’t known for drinking, but it was Christmas, and she had let her defenses down. Besides, after a year of feeling sorry for herself, the new year was coming, and it was a perfect time to make a fresh start.

Judy knew that her smile and her conversation hid a mountain of heartbreak. Her Mother had passed away during May, and she had felt so helpless as she had watched the life drained out of her. Cancer was such a horrible disease. Then her father had succumbed to a broken heart in September – he just couldn’t face a life without his wife.

To make matters worse, Judy had lost her job and her long-term boyfriend all in the same month as well. Dennis had said that he couldn’t cope with her depression, her constant tears and the way she had pushed him away in her grief. The fact that she had had so much time off at work caused the boss to suggest she take a long look at herself, take an extended holiday, and look for another job.

The party noise lifted to the next level and Judy sipped at the red wine, not particularly enjoying the taste. Entertaining and being entertained wasn’t within her comfort zone.

But she tried.

But Judy was amazed. Although she hadn’t forgotten, and never would, the traumas of the past year, she discovered that she could move on. She could be happy. She could enjoy life. That it wasn’t a betrayal of all that had gone before, but a celebration of her parents, a celebration of her life.

She knew that there would still be hard times ahead, but she decided as she smiled and raised her glass to the joy of the Christmas season, that she would learn to live again.

She felt a tap on her shoulder. A male voice interrupted her thoughts.

“You have such a nice smile.”

***

My chapter books for middle school children often have the theme of not giving up in them. For example ‘Petey’ tells of a bird left alone by jealous siblings having pushed him out of the nest. The environment is hostile, yet he has the will to survive.

Even my fantasy series about a wizard, Rosferado, tells of the re-education and hope of a bright future – more so in the 2nd book of the series – ‘Rosferado, wizard – Banished.’

These are available for $18AU plus postage – feel free to give me a message with your details so I know where to send it.