Reindeer,Elves and Decorations

XmasAAAAh! ‘Tis the Silly Season!

Now, I have to admit that I’m not religious in any ‘orthodox’ religions. In Australia we tend to think of kangaroos instead of reindeer, and heat and flies instead of elves and snow, but there is still the decorations all over the place.

How incongruous to be giving cards with snow and snowmen on their covers, how silly it is to feed a family a full roast dinner with a flaming fruit pudding with all the trimmings in the middle of our summer – pity the poor cooks in the kitchen! It isn’t unusual for the day’s temperature to soar into the forties, and there has been the odd time that firemen guests have been taken away from the festivities by the siren call of a fire in the bush.

I really don’t like what the celebration of Christmas has become – commercial codswallop to make you spend money, and ever more expensive gifts that the children and young people of today lust after.

Where are the joys of handmade gifts, made with love throughout the year? Why does Australia continue to glorify the birth of Jesus, when it is fairly widely known that He was born in the Arabian Summer?

I found it even more amazing, when visiting the Buddhist country of Cambodia, to see Christmas paraphernalia every where. When asked why, the general population didn’t know the significance, and just thought it was all ‘very pretty’.

Still … I don’t want to be considered a sad sack, so here is a menu for a summer feast – salads and ice-cream to enjoy.

Watermelon salad:

lettuce (any type – your choice), Watermelon, cucumber, feta cheese or similar, pickled onions and dressing ( mayonnaise mixed with olive oil and salt and pepper.)

You may notice I haven’t given any quantities – it depends on whether it is intended for one or a crowd! For one:- A small handful of lettuce leaves, broken  into small chunks, a slice of watermelon cubed (If you want to get fancy, try cutting with cookie cutters into wmelonhearts, stars or Christmas tree shapes), 1/2 cup of diced cucumber, a handful of crumbled feta and several small pickled onions, sliced. Mix together a tablespoon of mayo with a slurp of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle over, then mix into the ingredients all tossed together in a bowl.

For a crowd? – just multiply the ingredients!

For omnivores – a lovely cold roast chicken or leg of lamb or cold whole prawns (or all choices for a crowd) sliced onto a self-serve plate are great accompaniments to salads.

For vegetarians? Add a main meal of :-  Mixed vegetable Quiche.

Take a handful of any vegetables you have on hand and cut them into small cubes. This could be carrot, capsicum, onion or leek, and zucchini. you can add a small tin of corn kernels, tiny florets of broccoli and cauliflower, as well as anything else you desire.

Add the vegetables to well beaten eggs. Use 2 for a small quiche, and 6 to 8 for a large one. Pour into a pastry case (bought or made by you) and cook in a moderate oven until eggs are firm and golden. Grated cheddar cheese can be sprinkled on top if you wish. Pop it back into the oven for a few moments to melt the cheese. Allow to cool to serve.

Top the meal off with a lovely dessert. ANYTHING with home-made ice-cream (see recipes in archives – I think May?? ). An Australian specialty is Fruit Pavlova.

You can buy the meringue base from the supermarket (try minis meringue shells if you are on your own) and add lashings of sweetened whipped cream topped with seasonal fruit – whatever is your favourite.Pavlova.jpg

P.S. Remember to look at my second and third pages for children’s books as gifts, and original art and limited edition prints for someone special.FLOW

readeatdream.net/sweetfields-products-and-mykelcee-designs

readeatdream.net/free-childrens-picture-bookBookcover2

 

 

Re-format, Edit and Design.

Now that I’m back from Cambodia and my body has managed to settle back into a fairly normal routine, I can now concentrate on re-formatting my books for the new company that will do print on demand in Australia.

Be aware – Amazon and KDP no longer send paperbacks books to Australia – so it was necessary to find a new place to print my books. My publishing house is Sweetfields Publishing (message me if you need anymore information). 

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Yay! I’m so happy. After years of designing and editing my books for the Amazon market – and paying an arm and a leg for postage, the convenience of a company in Australia is worth the extra cost in printing.

Amazon has actually done me a favour! My books are still available to the world in general from the KDP platform as well as Amazon. But because Amazon won’t post to Australia, I’d lost my local market. Now that is being put to rights.

It will take a bit of time (and frustration from me as I learn the new company and its rules) but it will be worth it in the end. I have counted up – I have 38 books to changeover – and another couple in the pipeline. Whew!

The re-format really is only to change the sizing, but that requires a bit of tweaking in the design of the books, and, while I’m at it, I might as well edit as well. It is the illustrations that are causing me the most headache, because, in the beginning of my journey, I did not understand how to get the correct dpi requirements for the images. Also, my first three books were illustrated by international visitors, and I haven’t got the originals to re-scan.

On top of that, the story-telling by myself has improved in leaps and bounds, so I need to look at some of the clunky sentences and re-word a little.

This means that I will be bum on computer seat, eyes on computer screen, fingers blistering at the keyboard and the brain squishy with all the thinking I will need to do.

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Bear with me – everything will sort itself out in time.

With Kindness

Maureen.

P.S. In the meantime, my second page ( readeatdream.net/free-childrens-picture-book )  includes my catalogue, and a new short story for your reading pleasure. Let me know what you think of the story.

My next children’s chapter book to be launched is ‘Rosferado – Wizard Extraordinaire’. The tagline could probably be – ‘but he isn’t’!!

There are two more books in the works, too. ‘Larry Lyrebird Laughs’ ( a picture book ) and ‘Rainbows in the Jungle – a Kathy Edwards adventure’ – (a chapter book for MA children).

If you would love to buy some original artwork – limited edition prints or originals – by a talented young artist – have a look at page three  ( readeatdream.net/ sweetfields-products-and-mykelcee-designs )

It’s good to be busy!

Retirement, Extract and Draft.

Back from Cambodia!

Back to my beautiful home! Back to the work of teaching music, making preserves for my market stall, gardening in my vegetable garden, writing and publishing my next books, and feeding and looking after my animals (that includes extracting honey from my bees – such wonderful insects).meandbees

Love it!

Do you think it is time I thought about a gentle retirement?

Never!! It is this lifestyle that keeps my brain going, and my health fine.

I have three books in draft form, two already being illustrated.

While I’m on the subject of books -:

In the last few weeks,, my program of choice for publishing (Createspace) has merged with Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Now … I understand that may be a wise Alphacoversbusiness decision – but I am NOT HAPPY!

Why?

Because now I cannot get my paperback books posted from America. This is the case for all Australian authors and customers, so it is not just me affected. Even though I had asked Createspace last year if this would be the case, and they said no, I now find I’m dropped like a hot potato!

I’m looking for a similar type of app that is Australian. Damn nuisance, as I have over thirty books involved. (unless I can find another way to get them).

So – back to basics – start all over again! Damn!

As I have been in Cambodia, and finally Australia got rain, (thankfully – I’m not complaining), I left a brown and desperate landscape and have arrived back to a lush, very wet, green environment. The garden needs tender loving care and some hard work.

I’ve already planted beetroot, and cucumber seeds – pulled out the lettuces that went to seed in my absence (the goat loved them) and weeded a bit of my raised garden beds. The ‘lawn’ will have to wait until it has dried out before I can run the ride-on lawnmower over the two foot high grass!!

I have made tomato sauce (ketchup to Americans), peanuts are in my bowl ready to make peanut butter, and egg mayonnaise is next. Also going through my recipe cache – what about I add lip balm, vanilla extract, Christmas decorations and beetroot relish to my stock pile? I love to make something as little different to most other stall holders. (Need some recipes? Contact me!)

Aah! Life is full and couldn’t be better.

Retirement?

No way!

With Kindness.

Maureen

P.S. – my ‘In Search of the Elusive Panda’ book is now up for sale. Check out the chapter on the next page ( readeatdream.net/ free-childrens-picture-book ).  If you want to know how it finishes, you’ll have to buy the book!img312

Mean of me, I know! Just let me know, and for $15AU I’ll send it to you (you will have to add $3AU for postage in Australia – $5AU if you live overseas).

I will be giving you a range of my short stories to read next before I put out an anthology of same – starting from next post.

I will also have more artwork, from my talented son’s brush, for sale.

( readeatdream.net/sweetfields-products-and-mykelcee-designs )

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Repeat, Experience and Decision

Well, I’ve done it! I have booked my ticket to Cambodia.

I was there 2 years ago – teaching English in a small village called Anlong Samnar. Then I would travel up to Siem Reap once a week in order to teach a handful of high school students from the village that were now in the ‘big city’. I was taken to the famous Angkor Wat, had a picnic in the huts beside the moats and drank pure sugar cane juice in the shadow of the temples – fantastic.Angkor

I really enjoyed the experience, and promised the students I would come back in two years and catch up with the friendships I had made. I am so looking forward to seeing them all again.

So the decision has been made – I am going to repeat the experience.

I have to admit, the travel leg is still daunting – doing it by myself, as age creeps up on me, is no small feat. I have to take my courage in hand and just DO IT!

When I went last time, I was having trouble with my eyesight, and the ticket included the request for special treatment. The airlines that I traveled on were fabulous, and I was looked after with kid gloves. Now my sight has continued to deteriorate, so I will be asking for help once more. This time, I know I will be looked after.

So … if you have a problem with a disability, or a fear that feels insurmountable, push through those fears and go and have an adventure – it is well worth it.

Life is short – the number of people I have loved, or known, or been in awe of, have left us. Death has no favourites – it can happen at any time. Be brave – live your life while you have the ability to really enjoy it.

I haven’t wasted the two years between. I have written and had published one adult drama novel (my pen-name is Marguerite Wellbourne OrdealbyIa) as well as 5 children’s picture books Bookcover2(‘Frank Frog Feels Foolish’, ‘Giddy the Galah’, Iggy Ibis is Important’, ‘John Jabiru and the Jolly Jam tin’ and ‘Kathy Koala’s Kerfuffle’ – all in the ‘Alphabet Animals of Australia’ series) – with two more already in the pipeline. A middle school age-group chapter book ‘In Search of the Elusive Panda’ has also been published. img312(See my second page  – readeatdream.net/free-childrens-picture-book ) for the serialization of this book – now up to chapter 11. Still more are being written.

I always try and give my readers a little something to try – either a recipe or a craft idea. Today, because of the awful drought the farmers are experiencing in the outback of N.S.W. Australia – here’s a little something you can knit and send to me to help the lambs whose mother’s have died. Lamb jumpera

If you can knit a few – let me know, and I can pm you my address so you can send them to me.

With Kindness

Maureen

Don’t forget to check out my second page for free reading ( readeatdream.net/free-childrens-picture-book ) and my third page ( readeatdream.net/sweetfields-products-and-mykelcee-designs  ) for original art work to buy. If you can’t afford the originals, Mykey is offering a limited edition run of framed prints at $35AU (plus postage).

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Sparkle 40cmx40cm

Rosemary, Elderberries and Desserts.

Before I start – let me tell you that chapter 5 of my children’s chapter book is on my second page ready to read for FREE. There is also a picture book FREE if you request it through my email address – maureenlarter@gmail.com. The link for my second page is readeatdream.net/free-childrens-picture-book

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There is also a third page. readeatdream.net/sweetfields-products-and-mykelcee-designs

The art work for sale is original – not prints. The artist is an Australian living in N.S.W. Anyone in Australia will get free postage if you buy.

***

Now that I’ve done my ‘selling’ – I would like to tell you about the beauty of herbs and berries.

I don’t particularly like herbs in cooking – I’m of the old-fashioned school of eating and enjoying vegetables and fruit just as they are – why disguise the taste I wonder?

However, herbs aren’t just to cook with. They are fabulous for making all sorts of things. One of my favourite ‘old-fashioned’ ideas, is drying lavender and making a bag to put it in. That then goes into my wardrobe and drawers to give my clothes a subtle perfume.

Drying basil, rosemary, mint and sage make for great additions to your cooking if you desire, and it also keeps the herbs for later use. Dried mint scattered into cupboards help to minimize pests,too. Of course, fresh herbs are even better.herbs

These days, there seems to be a plethora of ‘diets’ – always stated to be ‘for your own good’. There’s the gluten-free bandwagon, no sugar chariot and low carbs, high fat bus! Everyone thinks they have the answer.

Personally, I think the best way to go is to keep away from processed food – even the so-called ‘healthy’ ones. Eat in moderation and eat fresh produce. A tasty dish with lots of different colours will give your eye pleasure, your taste-buds a party and your body plenty of nutrients.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but fruit should be used sparingly – it has secret sugar! Berries of all kinds are tasty and full of bright colour. Strawberries, raspberries, mulberries, elderberries, blackberries, blueberries, and loganberries are brilliant for mixing with plain yoghurt, flavouring ice-cream (see last week’s recipe for a delicious home-made recipe.) Even a compote of mixed berries served with custard makes for a lovely dessert.

Did I mention smoothies, mixed into home-made muesli, any number of cakes, as a sauce for pancakes, and amazing popsicles for summer?popIn other words, they are AWESOME and so versatile.

Mixed berry frozen compote.

Any and all berries (strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries – etc) you can find! (#freezerstash)berries

Wash berries and pat dry. (De-leaf the strawberries) Mix all together and freeze. An hour before you wish to eat, thaw in a small bowl. The freezing will soften the fruit and a small teaspoon of caster sugar sprinkled over (optional) as they thaw, will bring out the juice. Warm if desired.

Growing your own is not difficult either. Be aware, however, that they can take over, so I often recommend planting into large pots. That way you have more control, and can even grow these in a small garden or on a balcony of a flat/apartment. There is always an answer, if you wish to follow the dream.

With Kindness.

Maureen

P.S. The last blog post has a recipe for condensed milk and ice-cream – I updated this after making my own. https://readeatdream.net/2018/05/27/recycling-edam-and-dollars

 

 

Recycling, Edam and Dollars

Woohoo!

Back to some more of my loves. Last week I spoke about my love for ‘Classical’ music – from Beethoven to the Beatles, and Bach to Bacharach! Now let’s look at some other wonderful interests.

I love making things from scratch.

I think it is a lost art – or almost. I hate the way we have become used to buying our food in supermarkets. We race in, grab some processed food and don’t think of the way it is made. We also don’t think of the poor farmers at the bottom of the ladder, who do all the work and get the least praise and appreciation for it.

Gradually people are becoming conscious of the additives in food, from preservatives to chemicals, not only in every day food stuffs, but in cleaning products, personal products and snacks. The manufacturers have to make sure that products – even the humble apple – must stay fresh and appealing for a long time in transit to outlets, then onto shelves for display.

I love to make everything I can.

I garden organically to grow my own fruit and vegetables. I have chickens for eggs, cows for milk and bees for honey.

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I know not everyone can do these things, due to lack of space (I have 12 acres – you may live in an apartment!!), lack of time ( I’m now retired, but belonging to the workforce takes up a great chunk of time.

In my last 18 years on my property, I have grown everything from peanuts to plums, elderberries to eggplant and much else besides.

I have made soft cheeses (haven’t yet made hard cheeses like Edam, and Cheddar – isn’t it wonderful that there is so much more to learn), yoghurt, butter, cakes, ice-cream, ghee, and more.

I recycle everything I can – I have shelves of empty glass bottles that I fill with jams, relishes, sauces and pickles. I pick up old unsold papers from the local newsagent and shred them for compost and litter in my chook ( an Australian slang word for chickens) pen. I ask anyone who has old fridges and freezers that no longer work to bring them to me and I make gardens in them. And, with all this activity, I manage to stay healthy and busy – not bored and lazy!

To top it all off – it helps me to save dollars in my budget, so I can occasionally treat myself to some useful farm clothes from the op shops as well as brand new underwear from a couple of local businesses.

Perhaps this recipe might be something you are looking for:-

Home made ice-cream.ice4

Ingredients – milk, sugar and cream.

(Flavours can be added – only limited by your imagination – try crushed honeycomb, or blueberries, or chocolate chips or simple vanilla essence or crushed up after dinner mints or ….. you get the picture!).

First – make your condensed milk.

(1 litre of full cream milk – 2 cup of white sugar – 1/2 tspn baking soda) – I don’t use the baking soda – my son is allergic to all preservatives and extras – I have to be careful to use ‘pure’ ingredients!!

Heat the milk to boiling point, then add the sugar. Stir continuously (BE PATIENT) until the mixture starts to thicken. This can take some time – 15mins or more. Watch it all the time – it can boil over very easily. Add the baking soda if desired. Continue cooking and stirring until the desired thickness. Take off the heat and allow to cool. (this can be kept in the ‘fridge for about 3 weeks.) From this recipe I made approximately 600ml – the equivalent of one tin’s worth.

Now whip the cream until light, thick and fluffy. Fold in the condensed milk (if you haven’t time to make the condensed milk – one 600ml tin will be the option) and any flavouring you desire. Freeze. Serve.

Simple, isn’t it?

Enjoy.

With Kindness

Maureen

panda2P.S. The next chapter (4) of ‘The search for the Elusive Panda’ is up on my second page (readeatdream.net/free-childrens-picture-book ) If you missed the previous chapters and would like to read them, email me at maureenlarter@gmail.com and I will send them to you. Let me know which chapters you need.

On the third page (readeatdream.net/sweetfields-products-and-mykelcee-designs ) are the stunning original art works by Mykel. Unfortunately simple pictures don’t do the works justice. They are vibrant and beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Records, Editing and Dishes.

If you have been following my blog, you should know by now that I do many things. I am an organic gardener, I teach music  (piano and violin) and I write. I write and publish my own and other author’s books. I will do editing, but prefer not to.

Writing books is a strange thing. The words you write flow onto the page from the brain. You call the first writing, the ‘first draft’, then when you have finished all your first draft, you read it again.pen

And again.

In the process, you pick up some mistakes via errant fingers (typos) the occasional spelling mistake, and a clunky sentence here and there.

On your second or third reading, (after a time lapse), you often wonder what you meant with the words you wrote. Hopefully you fix that, add more details or take out unnecessary sections.

THEN – you get someone else to do the editing. Invariably they will find more mistakes.

You think to yourself – how did I miss that? – but – because you know what you meant, every time you read your work, your brain rides over the mistakes. Seems, impossible I know – but it happens all the time.

That’s why I prefer not to edit, either my own words or those of others.Alphacovers

It’s times like that that I feel like giving it all up.

My writing is not good enough.

I should go back to being a housewife, do the dishes, cook the meals – in fact, I’d even go on record as saying to myself –  ‘Give it all up – just stay in bed and hide!’

Every author feels that way at some point – so don’t imagine it is only you.

I’m here to set the record straight!

DON’T give up.

DON’T allow the doubts to win.

ALWAYS persevere.

You WILL improve.

REMEMBER – if you like the story you have written and have done the BEST you can do, then there WILL be someone out there in the world that loves your story, too.

KEEP WRITING.

KEEP BELIEVING.

KEEP FOLLOWING YOUR DREAM.

With Kindness

Maureen

P.S. As promised last week – the first chapter of my new book ‘In search of the Elusive Panda’ follows – on page two of this post. (click on the three bars on the left and follow the Free children’s book heading). It is ‘A Kathy Edwards Adventure’, aimed at 8 to 12 year old age group. Read and enjoy. Let me know what you think.

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An art work From Mykel is also available on the ‘Sweetfields and Mykelcee Designs’ page.