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). 

Alphacovers

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.

Bookcover2

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!

Rivers, Essentials and Detergent.

Warning – I’m on my soapbox! (Note the recipe at the end!)

soap

One of the hot topics at present is the way the human race is polluting the planet. In Australia we have a program called ‘War on Waste’ which is, hopefully, waking up an apathetic population. ( http://www.abc.net.au/tv/programs/war-on-waste )

Waste not only destroys our immediate surrounds, but affects so much more. The consumer mentality means we buy, buy, buy – and often for no more than to meet a greed not a need. The more we buy, not only is there more waste, but great swathes of land are cleared to make way for more product – whether it is a fad – like palm oil or some latest gadget – or a luxury, like toys that are bigger and better than the next door neighbours. This includes TVs, cars and jewelry, as well as children’s toys that are played with once until boredom sets in and we have to buy more, more, more. And yet in the poorer countries, even the essentials are hard to come by.

Have you ever watched a child play with a cardboard box, a wooden spoon and a great imagination? Basics can be better than all the luxuries in the world.garbage

I’m not asking that people go without, but to be more mindful of what they own, want and buy.

When plastics are finally outlawed, we will hopefully go back to more sustainable ways of wrapping food and products.

A lot of the rubbish ends up in pristine waterways (affecting the wildlife), rivers (affecting the eco-system) and oceans (affecting the fish and sea creatures.) I’m wondering if we will ever learn.

The destruction of the planet means the ultimate destruction of ourselves.

Let’s go back to having only the essentials – a home with fresh food in the cupboards, a couple of art works for aesthetics, and a few books for education. Clothes that are made by the industry of our own hands and tools that are used over and over, not thrown away after one use.

The problem with all that, is it is too much work for most people – much easier to go to the shop and buy goods that are laced with chemicals to give them more shelf life, or electronic games to keep ourselves amused.

Growing your own food seems to have lost its popularity, preserving the harvest is tied up with too much legislation, and making your own clothes is now frowned upon as unfashionable.

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Some of my gardening guides (for a temperate zone) that can give you the knowledge to start a garden.

zuc

We need to go back to basics. Do you agree?

Here is a simple and more healthy way of making a detergent to wash your clothes – it is cheap and easy to make, and gentle on your clothes and the environment.

clothesHOME MADE Washing Detergent.

Water, 1 grated cake of pure soap ( in Australia we have Sunlight brand) 1 cup of powdered washing soda, some eucalyptus oil or similar (for fragrance).

In a special large saucepan used only for this job, place 2 litres of water. Add the grated soap, and heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until it is dissolved. Bring to the boil. Add the cup of washing soda, stirring to dissolve. Be careful – it bubbles up.

Now tip this into a 20 litre container. Add hot water to half way, then about 5 litres of cold water to make approximately 15 or more litres of detergent. Stir in your fragrance oil. Allow to cool. Use two scoops per wash.

It will separate out into a solid sludge and water, but it is all useful. In your scoop make sure there is some solid soap as well as the water. This costs me about $2 per bucketful, and lasts about 3 months.

I love the challenge of making products to eat, use or wear, as well as budgeting – getting more for the few dollars I have, as I am on a pension. I find I can still have a good qualiity of life, and I eat healthy food. The other benefit? Because I’m always busy, I am never bored and I stay fit.

What more could you really want?

With Kindness

Maureen

P.S.  Don’t forget to have a wander through the second ( readeatdream.net/sweetfields-products-and-mykelcee-designs )  and third pages ( readeatdream.net/free-childrens-picture-book )to learn more about me and mine.panda2

FLOW

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).

panda2

Sparkle 40cmx40cm

Rocks, Echinacea and Disease.

Over the last weeks, we have all been on the edge of our seats as the boys in Thailand were trapped, then rescued from their prison beneath the earth.  It must have been terrifying for them all, in the dark and not knowing when or if they would ever be rescued. The wonder of a cave expedition would have lost its shine very quickly.cave

But, you know, that is what life is like. We all seem to be fumbling around in the dark, hoping we won’t hit the rocks and obstacles of depression, tragedy, violence, stress and disease. We all hope for the light at the end of the tunnel, looking for love and meaning in our lives, for happiness and success.

Remember though, never give up hope. Life can be wonderful, whatever the circumstances. Fight on – like those young boys, keeping each other lifted up with warmth and kindness. Be the coach, with your kindness to others, and your never ending gift of hope.

I commend all the rescuers and their dedication – it is wonderful what can be achieved with the will to help, and the strength of working together towards a common goal. It gives me hope for the human race when I see the energy of our psyches working together with love to better the world, and it certainly bettered the life of a team of boys and all their loved ones.

My condolences go out to the Navy Seal’s family, who lost a brave soul, and to the diver daisiesfrom Australia who put the boys lives first before his own family’s tragedy.

 

With that being said, my blogs are always based on the three words of my title – R.E.D.  today the Echinacea word has been left as a symbol of the effect of love over the cold of the caves that the boys experienced.

Let’s hope their lives will be lived out with happiness and gratitude for the beauties this earth gives every day.

With kindness

Maureen

P.S.Be sure to check out my second and third pages – free books and art to buy. Keep smiling – life can always get better.

 

Return, Ebooks and Determination

One thing you can say about me – I have determination!

Every time life knocks me over, I get up and, like the old song, dust myself off and start all over again.

Although you might not realize it, I’ve been on this planet for 7 decades, and I’ve learnt a lot. I’ve been married (twice), had two children, (lost 4 to miscarriage), been abused, been praised and been loved. But, whatever comes my way, I get up and face life again.

I have returned to the one thing I have loved, and wanted, all my life – the country.

I have 12 acres of beauty, on which I grow as much food as I can, keep chickens for eggs,  and pick the vegetables and fruit as fresh as possible.

I also have bees for honey and pollination and to save the wonderful creatures from the foibles of mankind and his destruction, with poisons, of their pristine flowers. A byproduct of honey ain’t half bad either.meandbees

I teach music and do the occasional market with my fresh produce.

Since I’ve been by myself, I’ve turned my hand to writing. Another love. (see viewAuthor.at/MaureenLarter as well as viewAuthor.at/MargueriteWellbourne )

I love to write for children because I believe every child has the right to the opportunity to learn, and books, I hope, prod their natural curiosity. One thing that annoys me though. Children’s books should be read while the child is on a parent’s lap. E-books just don’t have the same ambiance. And to further complicate the problem, picture books just don’t sit correctly on an e-reader.

Now, I self-publish – at my home. My books are all in print form as paperbacks. Something you can hold, love and smell. Just pop my name into the URL bar to have an idea of what I do. If you want one, don’t hesitate to message me.

Now that I’ve told you a bit about me – here’s something for you.

Did you know you can use mashed potato in a cake?

Yummy Bun:-

Ingredients:

1 ½ cup mashed potatoes, 1 cup SR flour, 1 cup wholemeal flour, ¾ cup sugar, 1 tspn salt, 1 ½ cup mixed dried fruit/sultanas, 1 cup milk.

Icing:

1 cup icing sugar, 1 tspn vanilla essence, 1-2 tblspns lemon juice and water, 2-3 drops food colouring (optional)

  1. Pre-bunheat oven to 180-200°C.
  2. Place mashed potatoes in a bowl and add sugar. Mix well.
  3. Add fruit.
  4. Sift flours and salt together.
  5. Add to potato mixture alternately with milk.
  6. Place in two greased loaf tins or one large cake tin.
  7. Bake for approx 45 mins.
  8. Remove from pan/s and allow to cool slightly. Ice while still just warm.
  9. Icing: mix all ingredients until it is a stiff consistency.
  10. Cut into slices to serve. Maybe buttered if you desire. Serves 6-8.

I hope you enjoy this tasty treat.

More from me in a fortnight.  Remember to check out my next two pages – the next chapter of my book is free to read on page two, and some art for sale on page three.

With kindness

Maureen

Recreation, Elephants and Drama.

It’s nearly time for me to bite the travel bullet and book my ticket to return to Cambodia. It doesn’t seem possible that it is nearly two years ago that I spent time there, teaching English. I am so looking forward to seeing all the students again.paddy

This time, however, I will be only going as recreation – a short holiday to catch up with everyone. The village where I stayed, was about 80 kms from Siem Reep and gave me an insight to the real lives of the people. After the drama of the previous despots and their regimes, the country is slowly poking it’s nose into the 21st century with the young people once more wanting education, and aiming for great things. This had previously been squashed and I could still feel the fear rippling below the surface with the older generation.

The fantastic Angkor Wat was amazing, and any photos you see, just don’t do it justice. I felt an awesomeness being able to touch history instead of only looking at museum specimens.Angkor

Several other moments were not so nice – seeing elephants used in the tourist trade was offset by seeing marauding monkeys taking their revenge on tourist handbags – abject poverty and people and children working in the hot sun, or scavenging for food contrasting with the opulent hotels for the tourist dollar – rubbish littering the streets and the smell of fresh sewerage compared to the sweetness of the interior of the incense in a village pagoda, were all a little off-putting.

But having said all that, I am really looking forward to returning to a wonderful people.

So what can I say about the food? My first meal of frog and morning glory vine will always make a lasting impression – and it certainly upset the bacteria in my stomach – but, other than the ubiquitous rice, the food was wonderful. The cooks at the Opportunity Cambodia ( https://opportunitycambodia.org.au ) sites went out of their way to make me comfortable and well fed.

I’d love to put a recipe up, but the cookbooks available bring you only the best – and I ate the village, homely food – and didn’t ask the cooks for the recipe!! In fact – even if I had –  they couldn’t speak English, and I couldn’t speak Khmer!mg

With Kindness

Maureen

P.S. just a quick reminder – chapter 6 (of ‘In Search of the Elusive Panda’ ) is now ready to read on my next page. ( readeatdream.net/free-childrens-picture-book ).

panda2

Also, page three ( readeatdream.net/sweetfields-products-and-mykelcee-designs ) has Mykel’s original artwork for sale.Sparkle 40cmx40cm