Thursday, May 08, 2014


Mother's Day Cards given by my brother and me to our Mum when we were very young
Nana at 18 years

Mum at Yeppoon Beach and at Rockhampton Circa late 1930s-early 1940s
Kirbys' Staff Party...Circa late mother at rear slight to right of wall plaque..pen-marked on her neck to point her out...probably done by her!
A letter of thanks from Kirby & Co. to my mother for one of the fashion parades
Letter of Reference for Elma, my mother
Mum Circa 1966
Nana, Easter 1967

My mother, 18 years of age


                                                 A mother’s enchantment at baby’s first cry
                                                 Is a thrill no lavish amount of money can buy
                                                 Contentment absolute as it suckles her breast
                                                 Its grasp of her hand as she gently lays it to rest
                                                To experience baby’s smiles; its tremulous steps
                                                Indescribable exhilaration at baby’s first word 
                                                Excitement trying to decipher what was heard
                                                Gentle caresses while wiping away tears shed
                                                Anticipation of the future; of what lies ahead
                                                A mother’s love is complete and unconditional
                                                'Tis a love never-ending; love so inspirational
                                                                           (Poem written by me)

Songs are composed; portraits painted and poems written in praise of mothers; and deservedly so. 

My mother with her blue eyes, fiery auburn hair and quick temper to match was a character in every way.  Her Scots-Irish heritage didn’t let her down. Her deep-rooted Celtic ancestry served her admirably in times of adversity; as it did her mother. 

Nana (“Nana” with a single “n” in the appropriate spot is of Scottish-Gaelic origin) was never one to be taken lightly, either. Those so lacking in judgment to be fooled by Nana’s quiet, soothing manner quickly learned if they stepped out of line they faced a formidable foe. Nana’s calm demeanour once stirred by wrongdoing or misbehaviour flared in reaction. She was a loyal supporter of her daughter and of we children. However, she was never so blinded by her love for us not to reprimand when needed.  The values taught by Nana and Mum have lasted long through the years; no “use-by date” applies. Good manners and respect were instilled from an early age.

My older brother and I were raised by our mother and our grandmother.  An early example of “same-sex-parenting” one could say.  Our mother and father separated before I was born.  

I’m writing in honour of my mother and grandmother…for Mother’s Day….this is for Ivy, my Nana.... and her daughter, my mother....Elma.

There was no money to spare or to waste in our humble childhood home, but there was little we did without; if there was anything, we probably didn’t need it in the first place. We certainly didn’t sit around pining and groaning. 

Mum and Nana never tried “to keep up with the Joneses”; nor did they covet or envy what others had. I doubt they had a materialistic bone between them; more smart lessons for children to learn.

Independent individuals, Mum and Nana were generally self-sustaining.  They were each other’s best friend; their bond was unbreakable. Whatever life tossed at them they faced head on, together. They dealt with their own problems conquering each hurdle that hindered their way.

For only the briefest time in their lives were they ever apart. They stuck by each other through thick and thin; through the good times and the bad.  Nana’s strength of purpose helped her daughter, our mother, conquer some of the darkest, bleakest episodes in her life.  Nana, like a lioness, protected her family…her pride of whom she was very proud.

Nana and Mum minded their own business, never the business of others. Rarely did either whinge or moan; when they did it’d be about trivial matters of no import. Figuring it was a pointless waste of time they just got on with it believing there were enough complainers in the world already without them joining the mob. Complaining wasn’t in their vocabulary; neither was blindly following the deeds or thoughts of others.

They had their disagreements; it would have been abnormal not to have had opposing opinions on different matters; but they soon got over whatever stirred the pot; and life continued on; sometimes not as before once the air had been cleared.

I argued with Mum; but never with Nana.  I probably knew better than to step over Nana's line! 

The arguments I had with my mother never lasted for long; and our verbal stoushes were never nasty. We didn’t carry things on. Our disagreements were over and done with quickly, and we moved forward, putting whatever caused the angst behind us.  

Perhaps the words oft repeated by Nana stuck with us – to never let the sun go down on your anger”.   

My older brother Graham and I were more fearful of Nana’s ire, than our mother’s.  We knew immediately just from “the look” on Nana’s face we’d gone too far; we quickly learned to pull our heads in, back off and start behaving ourselves before it was too late.  Surrender was the best course of action!

In our childish ignorance we thought we were clever enough to get away with more when around Mum, than with Nana.  We probably weren’t! Our mother just had a different way of dealing with us. 

I can’t remember ever being slapped by either Mum or Nana.  I remember the threats; the promises. They were enough for me.  I believed being hit wouldn’t be much fun. It didn't take me long to recognise where the demarcation lines were.

Mum’s pastimes when not working were gardening, fishing and crabbing.

She always looked her best when going out; whether to work or for pleasure - except when going fishing, of course!  

Graham and I frequently teased Mum about how long it took her to get ready to go out.  Her vibrant shoulder-length hair was always immaculately styled by her own hands. She always wore it up in a style befitting what was in vogue at the time. I can’t remember her ever going to a hairdresser.  She was adept at creating her individual styles. Her long fingernails were carefully manicured and polished; and her clothes always stylish, freshly-ironed and worn with grace.

My mother was born in Gympie, but when she was a toddler the family moved to Rockhampton; and it was there my brother and I were born years later.  A few years after our entrance into the world our small family unit moved back to Gympie. I was three years old and my brother, six years of age.

After leaving school Elma, my mother, worked for A.W.  Kirby & Co., Pty. Ltd., a fashion store in Rockhampton for a number of years.  She commenced in their employ on 28th July, 1933; and the date her employment ceased with Kirbys was 22nd April, 1941.  The reason she left was because the company retired from business.

Mum was also one of the company’s in-store mannequins, modelling the new season’s clothes in the fashion parades. Kirby’s was a major business in Rockhampton in those years.

Decades later, well into the Sixties, members of the Kirby family were still in contact with our mother at different intervals. Obviously, they held her in high regard.

Nana was the story-teller in our home.  My brother and I loved hearing her stories, over and over again. When we were young we would urge her night after night to tell us her stories of “the olden days”.  It never mattered how many times we heard those wonderful stories, they never ceased to delight us.

Nana was born at an area in Gympie called “The Dawn”. Shortly thereafter, Nana, her siblings and their parents moved to Goomboorian, 20ks (12 miles) outside of Gympie where they spent their childhood and teenage years. My grandmother's father, my great-grandfather worked at the Scottish Gold Mine, at Monkland, Gympie.  In 1918 he was killed in an accident at that mine.  (In a previous post I wrote in some detail about this part of my history/heritage/ancestry).

Our grandmother had a wealth of stories from Gympie’s early days; and of the areas surrounding Gympie. As there is only me grandmother, mother and brother have passed away...I'm the only one left who knows these stories.  My late brother's adult children don't appear to be interested in learning about their forefathers/mothers, which, in my opinion, is sad....but that's their loss and a loss for their children. 

In awed astonishment we'd sit in silence listening to Nana tell the story of how fastidious our mother was about her appearance when she was a young, stylish girl-about-town working at Kirbys.   My brother, Graham and I listened intently to all of Nana's tales, interrupting only to ask questions here and there.

The headstrong young woman who later became our mother would go home during her lunch hour to change into a second outfit for the afternoon; and always, after taking an already ironed dress, blouse or skirt from her wardrobe would iron the garment again before donning it! 

Thankfully, I never inherited that trait from her.  I hate ironing!  Having to iron an item once is more than enough!  

When we were children often Nana proudly told my brother and me how our mother was the first young woman in Queensland to model the first two-piece bathing suit. If that was entirely true or not I really don’t know; perhaps she was the first young woman in Rockhampton to model such a bathing suit.  Nana wasn’t prone to lying or exaggeration so the former could very well have been the case.  Elma, our mother, was tall, slim and very attractive; she carried herself well.

In Gympie when Graham and I were attending primary school, Mum modelled in the local fashion parades on behalf of various local dress salons.

Home-body Nana enjoyed cooking. “Love” might be an over-statement; maybe she liked it more than loved it. However, preparing our meals never appeared to be a chore for her. I learned so much about cooking from my Nana.

Both Mum and Nana sewed; making their own clothes and mine; and sometimes shirts for Graham when he was younger.  Our sturdy Singer treadle sewing machine rattled along busily and often. 

It’s the simple things I miss most with my mother and grandmother no longer in my life.
I miss the “in-family” jokes. Our fooling around about nonsensical things others would have had no appreciation or understanding of; our silliness was unique to us; to our sense of craziness.

Mum was quick to take the bait; much to the delight of my brother and me. We loved to tease her. Mum bit quicker than our dog; or any of the fish she caught!

Often over the washing and drying up of the evening dinner dishes Nana and I played a game wherein we’d adopt personas; we’d put on false voices and accents.  Our silly, over-the-top conversations allowed our imaginations to run free. I think at times we almost believed we where the characters we were playing.. Both of us would end up in stitches; it was always such fun.

Of one thing I’m certain - Mum and Nana loved Graham and I very much; and we loved them equally in return.  Love costs nothing; but love is everything.

Happy Mother’s Day to Mums and Nanas.  It’s Mum’s day to take the load off – her day to be treated royally…

Cinnamon Oatmeal Pancakes: Combine 2c rolled oats and 500ml buttermilk. Set aside an hour or so until liquid is absorbed and oats are soft; overnight even. Stir together 1/2c whole wheat flour or oat flour, 1tsp each baking powder and bicarb soda, 1/4tsp each cinnamon and salt; add to softened rolled oats; add 1/2c buttermilk along with 2 eggs, 1/4c canola oil and 1tbs honey or maple syrup. Stir with rubber spatula just until well combined. Heat large, heavy pan over med-high heat; spray with oil. Cook 1/2c batter at a time; spread out to about 10cm in diameter; turn heat to med-low; cook until edges appear dry and bubbles begin to break on surface; flip; cook until golden; repeat with remaining batter. Serve with berries or bananas and honey or maple syrup.

Crab Benedict: Muffins: Whisk together 150g plain flour, 100ml each warm milk and warm water, 25g melted butter, 1tsp salt and 1x7g sachet of yeast; cover; leave in warm place, 1hr. Grease 8cm rings with butter; place in pan; spoon in muffin mix; cook gently on both sides, 3-4mins. Hollandaise: whisk 2 egg yolks with 50ml white wine vinegar in bowl over simmering water; slowly add 250g melted clarified butter or ghee; whisk continuously; then add a squeeze of lemon juice; keep warm. Have 800g cooked spinach handy. Mix 400g crab meat with 1tbs crème fraiche and a little lemon juice. Split and toast muffins; top each with some crab; then some spinach; and another lot of crab; top with hollandaise; sprinkle with chopped chives.

Nana & Mum’s Lemon Bars: Preheat oven 175C. Grease a 9-inch baking pan. Whisk togeterh 1-1/4c plain flour and 1/4c icing sugar; cut in 1/2c butter with 2 flat-bladed knives, your fingers or pastry blender to make coarse crumbs. Press into prepared pan. Bake 18-22 minutes until crust is light brown. Meanwhile, whisk together 2 large eggs, 1c white sugar, 2tbs plain flour, 1/2tsp baking powder, 1/2c fresh lemon juice and 1tbs lemon zest.  Pour filling over crust as soon as it comes out of oven (don’t wait for crust to cool). Return to oven; bake 20-25mins or until lemon bar is set.  Remove from oven; cool 5mins; dust with icing sugar.

Strawberry-Rhubarb “Mumosa”: Combine 1/3c each sugar and water, 1/2c each diced rhubarb and strawberries and 2tsp freshly-chopped ginger in saucepan; bring to boil; simmer 10-15mins; cool. Place in processor; add 1tbs lime juice; if too thick, add 1tbs hot water. Process until smooth; strain; pour 1tbs into champagne flutes; top with champers; garnish with strawberries.  


  1. A gorgeous tribute to both your mother and your Nana.
    I knew knew any of my grandparents and we didn't celebrate Mothers' Day (described by her as a day to try and make up for a year of neglect). I miss her still though. Despite our rocky relationship.

  2. Families are funny things, EC. They are full of weird and sometimes wonderful characters; with a few odd ones thrown in just to confuse us and keep us on our toes.

    As the saying goes - "We can choose our friends, but not our family"...and it is so true.

    In many instances, EC...the rocky relationships; the difficult times make us stronger. And what I've learned about you since we've become blogger are a strong, kind and wonderful person; one can't ask for much more than you can hold your head high.

    Thanks for coming by. :)

  3. My Mum lives in Rocky. She moved us back there to be near family after my Dad died. I married a Rocky boy but left after things broke down. First to Brisbane, then back to Townsville and now Cairns. I would never go back to Rocky to live and it disturbs me that I cannot live closer to my Mum. I admire how she held our family together before and after my father died. She has always been there for me and understands more than anyone how difficult sole parenting is. I will obviously call her over the weekend. This was a lovely tribute to your mother and grandmother Lee and really lovely to share their lemon bar recipe. Thank you xx

  4. Lovely memories and lovely recipes to share too.
    I'll give my 92 year old Mum and ring on Sunday as neither of her kids will be there with her. Will have to try to be there next year as we seem to always travel at this time. Miss my kids too.

  5. Hi Carol...I left Rocky when I was a baby/toddler and have only been back a couple of times for a brief visit both times.

    I, too, like you, grew up in a time much, much different to now...a time when it was a rarity not to have both father and mother in the home raising the children...but that's life; and nowadays sole parenting is so often the case...

    You're lucky you still have your Mum around...if not directly with you close by you still have her to share your thoughts and life with...cherish what you have and I hope both she and you have a wonderful Mother's Day. :)

  6. Hello Helsie...I hope your trip is going along great...I'm sure it is.

    Your Mum will be glad to hear from you and to hear about all the latest tales your travels.

    She's a good age...I hope she keeps well.

    Thanks for popping in from the other side of the world! :)

  7. Lovely tribute to your mum and your nan.

    I don't celebrate Mothers Day, but I hope you have a nice one :)

    Oh, and nice recipes - per usual!

  8. Hi Wendy...I don't celebrate Mother's Day, either. I never had children...and both Mum and Nana are no longer here.

    I've tried my hardest to train Remy & Shama, my two four-legged furry rascals how to prepare breakfast...but to no avail.

    Thanks for dropping in. :)

  9. What a beautiful story of your family, Lee, and told with such love I feel quite teary. Maybe you could write your Nana's stories down...your brother's grandchildren may appreciate them when they get older.

    I can see why you have such a fondness for Gympie. Your family has a lot of history there.

    A wonderful post, Lee. Thank you.

  10. 'Tis a wonderful tribute.

  11. Hey there, Robyn...thank you. I appreciate your kind words. :)

  12. G'day, Jerry...thank you. :)

  13. How awesome for you that you grew up with these incredible women - and then became one.

  14. You are too kind, RK. Mum and Nana did their best for us; it wasn't always easy.

    They had their "moments", too! ;)

  15. A very heartfelt tribute to two very strong women, Your Mother was a beauty and I can believe it when the letter said most of the clothes she model were sold. BTW Kirby is my maiden name. Thanks for sharing your love of these women with us. Peace

  16. Your Nana and your Mum, wow they were so beautiful! Now we know where you get your good looks!
    I really like your poem.

  17. Hi Lady never know you might be part of that Kirby family tree. Mum and Nana always talked about Mum's bosses with like and respect. They were very nice people from what I gleaned.

    Mum did "wear clothes well" it is said in the fashion circles. She attended ballet and tap classes for years as a child, so I guess dance helped a lot in the way she carried herself.

    Nice to see you, Miss Kitty. :)

  18. Hello there, Kay...thanks for popping in; and thanks for your generous comment. :)

  19. mmm, pancakes. I usually make mine plain, just flour, eggs, milk, but the cinnamon oatmeal ones look interesting.
    Your Mum and Nana were really beautiful and beautiful people too.

  20. I love old pictures, so it was great to see the photo's of both your Mum and your Nana....They both sound like very formidable loving women....You and your brother were lucky!
    Those pancakes look so yummy....!

  21. I have no pictures like these - and seeing them makes the lack more clear. Migration never helps in the retain of "stuff" - and neither does a family that throws things away!

    cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  22. Hey there River - I think I'll have to make some myself soon. I love pancakes and haven't made them for a while.

    Have a great week with Angel. :)

  23. Hey there Naomi...Yes, both Mum and Nana were strong women...they had to be, I guess...they had to fight quite a few battles through the years...but always were able to maintain their good humour above the difficulties.

    I think I've kicked off a rush on pancakes.

    Take good care. :)

  24. G'day Stewart. It is sad that so much of one's family history is lost from one way or the other, but it does happen. Sometimes we hoard too much, but on the other hand, some things are precious and worth cherishing.

    Thanks for popping in. :)

  25. Wonderful post! My mother has lived with me and Jerry for around seven years now, and even though she drives me up the wall at times, I am sure not looking forward to when she is called home.

  26. Hi there Arlynda! What a lovely surprise to hear from you. :)

    Mum would come to stay with me for a couple of weeks holiday at different times...and we used both drive each other up the wall... often! lol

    Take good care, Arlynda...and thanks for dropping in...don't be a's great to meet Jerry's better half finally...(tell him I said that..."better half"....that'll stir him up)!!! ;)

  27. Lee, don't worry, I keep him stirred up. lol

  28. Our moms had impeccable grooming in common - my mother wouldn't walk out to the mailbox without lipstick.

    Lovely memories of your mom and grandmother.

  29. Does your immense culinary expertise help with stirring up trouble? (LOL?)

  30. Thanks, Lynn. I used to watch in awe when I was a little girl as Mum put on her make-up. I used to love going through all her bits and pieces in the make-up drawer/s of her mirrored duchess.

    Nice to see you, Lynn...thanks for coming by. :)

  31. Of course, Jerry! Of course! You should see the size of my wooden spoon! ;)

  32. I'm sure you do, Arlynda! Keep up the good work! ;)

  33. Nice memories and a wonderful tribute!

  34. Thank you, Dexter. :)