Sunday, June 23, 2013


Gympie Civic Centre circa now (the site that once upon a time the Olympia Theatre sat)

In my post titled “Some Need Props; Others Don’t – They Just Peg Along” that I posted a couple or so weeks ago, I wrote about our laundry shed in the backyard of my childhood home. The time has come to elaborate on that laundry shed of days long past.

Some say growing old is wonderful. To be totally honest, I’m not one of those people. I don’t enjoy growing old. I wish I had a magic wand or, perhaps the nose of Samantha from the Sixties and early Seventies’ television series, “Bewitched”. I’d happily remain around the age of 40 years if given half the chance. Turning 40 caused me no reservations or fears. I enjoyed my time spent in that particular decade. I found it to be a time of awakening. I did many things I never dreamed I was capable of doing. I had many adventures I never imagined I’d have.

Contentedly, I’d enjoy remaining somewhere between the ages of 40 to 50 years forever; but as I have neither a wand to cast spells, nor a hocus-pocus twitching nose I have to be satisfied with my lot and accept that which I am dealt. In other words, just get on with it, Lee – no whingeing. Nobody is interested, and neither should they be. Well, perhaps I'm allowed just a little during my “off” moments; as long as I don’t bother others with it! And I don’t, because I’m pretty much a hermit, of my own choosing.

But that’s all by the by...I’ll get on with my tale without further ado.

Growing up in the township of Gympie during the Fifties was a time of innocence and simplicity. The primary school my brother and I attended was nearby in a neighbouring street; a hop, skip and a jump or three just up the road and around the corner from where we lived; within easy walking distance. Everything and everywhere was within easy walking distance when I was a little girl; which was just as well because we were car-less...not careless...but car-less.

Most school days my brother and I went home for lunch. Thursdays were tuck-shop days; and if the household coffers were flush, or maybe a little healthier than usual, or if my brother Graham and I had collected enough spare pennies and sixpences from our collection of empty soft drink bottles (soda bottles) and newspapers traded at the local shops we were allowed to remain at school and buy our lunches from Thursday’s tuck-shop. Oh! Glory days! Simple treats brought us much pleasure.

The tuck-shop’s limited menu was suffice, and eagerly anticipated.

On offer were delicious hot meat pies served with mushy peas if that was one’s desire; Cornish pasties of a taste unable to be found today. My memory of those delicious pasties lingers to this day. No one, meaning commercially, makes pasties like they did when I was a child. On the list of hot foods available sausage rolls held their place proudly, as well. If hot tucker wasn’t one’s choice on the day, rolls consisting of salad and corned beef or ham filled our empty stomachs. For those with a sweet tooth or two were tempted by apple pies made with puff pastry. The crisp pastry was the receptacle for the generous filling of semi-tart cooked apples. A round portion of pastry about the size of a fifty cent piece was cut out from the pie’s top to allow lashings of whipped Chantilly Cream to accompany the apples; the pastry round then sat atop the cream, and all was finished off with a liberal sprinkle of icing sugar. “Chantilly Cream”, of course, is simply just cream with caster sugar (or icing sugar) and vanilla added; and then whipped until thick and decadently irresistible!

Also, in those days, small bottles of milk were handed out to school children. The daily ritual was free.

My best friend through primary school was Rhonda Friend. That’s correct – Rhonda’s surname was “Friend”; and a good friend she was during those early primary school years. Rhonda’s father was the manager of the Gympie Gas Works. Rhonda and I shared many imaginative games during our childhood.

Today the old Gympie Gasworks no longer exists. Since 1977, a green space; a car park and the town’s Community Centre cover the area that once was home to the gasworks’ engine rooms and its giant holding tanks. The sloping sides on the heaps of discarded coking coal that, gradually, throughout the years became covered with determined vegetation created substitute ski slopes for us children, particularly the boys.

The gasworks was bordered on one side by Mellor Street, the main thoroughfare that meandered from the railway station at one end along and down into Gympie’s main street, Mary Street. I say “down” because Gympie is a town of hills and dales. On the opposite side closest to where I lived, diagonally across the road, was the short, dead-end McLeod Street. At the end of McLeod Street was the tar works. About once every six months, in the middle of the night the tar works would go up in flames. And every time the fire was successfully extinguished by the local Fire Brigade, but not before waking up the whole town and causing much excitement! The vision of the townsfolk rushing out in the dark of night in their pajamas, dressing gowns (if there was time to don them) and slippers to catch a glimpse of the unfolding drama was not taken notice of by fellow onlookers, who, of course, were dressed similarly.

There was no television in those days.

Most times when going to the picture theatre, we’d walk through the grounds of the gasworks as a shortcut; or alternatively, we’d go along McLeod Street; cut across the gully and up the rough banks beside the tar works. The latter route would also bring us out into Mellor Street, beside Jackson’s Feed Store (that also went up in flames a couple of times). The next door fish and chips shop went up in flames once or twice, too. There were quite a lot of fires in Gympie when I was a kid. The fire sirens were regular sounds in the night…always during the night, it seemed. Maybe over the course of time my memory has become warped a little, not from the heat but from the passing of the years!

I do digress…back to my friend, Rhonda…

Rhonda and I both had long plaits. Hers were blonde; mine brunette with auburn highlights.

Rhonda was my picture pal. Every Saturday around noon we met up and off we went to the matinee at the Olympia Theatre. We shared our heart-throbs. We didn’t get jealous over our mutual love of Tony Curtis, Rock Hudson, Audie Murphy, Gregory Peck, Gene Kelly, Cornel Wilde, James Dean, Marlon Brando, and the sensitive John Kerr, amongst others of lesser heart-fluttering ability.

Errol Flynn was always on our list of favourites even though so many of his major film roles were made before our “time”. In particular, his 1938 portrayal of Robin Hood was made years before we were born, but often reruns were rolled across Saturday’s silver screen, along with his other swashbuckling performance. Flynn’s screen presence was unmatched and indisputable.

Richard Todd’s depiction of Robin Hood, although good, was by far not as dashing and heroic in our young eyes and hearts as that of the scandalous, beyond handsome Errol!

Who wouldn’t want to be rescued by the rascally Aussie?

Errol Flynn put Hobart, Tasmania (and Australia) the place of his birth on the map! His parents, both Australian-born Aussies of Irish, English and Scottish descent married in Sydney on 23rd January, 1909. Errol must have been a premature baby; he made his grand entrance into the world on 20th June, 1909!

Swept away by the glamour and adventure at Saturday’s matinees, our loves were many; our beaus the most handsomest and bravest. Our imaginary adventures re-enacting what we’d been enthralled by every Saturday afternoon were played out the week following each viewing.

Our vivid imaginations were without boundaries; and we eagerly embraced them. Rhonda and I impatiently waited for the school day to end. We’d both race off to our respective homes to get changed out of our school clothes. In no time at all, she’d be seen running through the grounds of the gasworks en route to me; where I’d waiting, beating time!

Once Monday’s washing was done, the backyard laundry shed was our stage for the rest of the week.

Hollywood glamour and fantasy transcended all else. The shed was no longer a shed for the washing of clothes, bed linen and towels. Whatever the pictures were we’d been engrossed with the previous Saturday, they became our vehicles. Rhonda and I were the stars. In fact, we carried many roles. We were very adaptable.

Our laundry shed morphed into the Big Top after we’d seen “The Greatest Show on Earth”. We were mistresses of our imaginary high wire; we flew through the air with the greatest of ease, outmatching that daring young man on the flying trapeze. We tamed lions, tigers and leopards. Proudly and gracefully we sat and stood atop the lumbering elephants. We juggled; never dropping a ball, nor a baton! With unfailing agility we rode feather-plumed circus ponies.

After watching Moira Shearer in “The Red Shoes” we became Shearer/Vicki Page. We danced on the legendary stages of Paris, Monte Carlo and Covent Garden. “The Red Shoes” movie was one of our favourites. It was often re-run at Saturday matinees.

So, too, was Jean Simmons and Donald Houston's “Blue Lagoon”. Rhonda and I loved that movie. I still do love the 1949 version; not so much the 1980 Brooke Shields' enactment. The following week after our viewings of “Blue Lagoon” we discovered ourselves surrounded by water. We were marooned on a tropical island paradise. The laundry shed became our palm frond shelter.

Cowboy (and Indian) pictures, of course, featured often. They, too, were amongst our favourites. My horse was always a palomino named “Champion”; in honour of Gene Autry’s magnificent steed.

When I was young Autry was my hero. He won every fight and battle he was part of; and he never got dirty; nor did he ever lose his hat during a fight! On my bedroom wall when I was little girl I had an autographed glossy photo of Gene Autry. I'd written to him via Hollywood; and much to my surprised delight, I received the A4 size photograph in return. All my Christmases definitely had come at once!

"Pirates of the Caribbean" may not have been around back then, but we were not deficient in pirate movies; and they were such fun to re-enact!

Our backyard became the world. Nothing was impossible. We conquered all and everything. We were not limited in our imagination - everything came alive.

And then, out of the blue, without forewarning, came the day it all ended.

Rhonda came over to my house as usual. We went to the backyard; we entered the laundry shed, only to be greeted by a flat feeling in the air. I looked at Rhonda as we both stood there wordless. She looked at me and I shrugged. It didn’t seem right somehow.

Finally, I said exactly those words to her. “It doesn’t seem right today. I don’t know why...but it just doesn’t!”

Rhonda nodded in agreement. We chatted quietly for a very brief while. She turned, and then went back to her home.

We’d closed the final curtain on our world stage; on our juvenile imaginations; on our laundry shed. Rhonda went her way; and I went mine. Our friendship was never the same again after that day.

We’d grown up a little more, and hadn't realised it until that moment.

We were taking our first steps into the rest of our lives.

Monday, June 17, 2013


Do you ever feel like you’re a statue in a city square?

You try your utmost to be upright and stoic at all times, particularly in the face of adversity. You endeavour always to look the world and those who roam around on it directly in the eye. You do your best, but then you discover it’s time to get your sou’wester and raincoat out of moth balls. Out of the blue, when you least expect it, flocks of pigeons fly overhead, and proceed to dump their load on you – not literally, of course; but it does feel like it! You know what I mean without me using unnecessary descriptive verbs, adjectives and nouns.

And, how often have you felt like a mushroom? I don’t mean being overcome by a compelling urge to eat mushrooms. How often have you’ve felt like you WERE a mushroom – being kept in the dark - you know how it goes without me elaborating further!

In fact, it’s not too bad; particularly if you’re fed shiitake. There have been times I’ve felt like a mushroom, but it no longer bothers me. I’m grown past all of that these days. I could care less.

Many mushrooms are very cultivated, more so these days than ever before. Some are even morel; they may be morel, but they are toxic when raw! Don’t allow yourself to be hoodwinked into thinking all tan-capped mushrooms are portabellas; or those others of a pale brown colour are all of the porcini variety. There are little tricksters that pop up about the place with gold tops. Those little devils have magical powers. If you happen to fall victim to the magic of the gold top mushrooms it’s not much fun. Magic is best left to the likes of the late Houdini or David Copperfield, the Illusionist; or Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother. I speak from experience regarding magic mushrooms.
An accidental experience; and one I never want to go through again.

Often when we were kids we’d go armed with buckets to gather mushrooms that magically appeared in the lush green paddocks fringing the Mary River after spring storms. Our presence barely raised an eyebrow amongst the disinterested cattle nonchalantly grazing on the thick grasses. From our childhood frolics I believed I was familiar with edible, non-life-threatening mushrooms. I can still taste those richly flavoured field mushrooms in the delicious sauces our grandmother prepared to accompany steak or top toast. Mushrooms these days, in my opinion, don’t have the same distinctive flavour. To my taste, cultivated button and field mushrooms are pitifully bland.

Having a false sense of security regarding field mushrooms I had no hesitation cooking the three I found growing at the base my backyard orange tree in Glenden. They were a healthy-looking trio. They smelled like field mushrooms are supposed to smell; they looked like field mushrooms are supposed to look. They didn’t look suspicious to me; so I added them to a dish I was preparing for my lunch. Enjoying my meal, I went back for seconds; probably not my best decision! The afternoon was spent hallucinating. There was nothing fun about the trip I went on! I spent hours (days it seemed) lying on my bed feeling like I was on a rollercoaster; but I wasn’t enjoying the ride! I dared not venture outside. It was very frightening. It’s an adventure I have no desire to repeat any time soon; or later! My heart pounded as if I’d just completed a marathon. All about me was crystal clear. A powerful, brilliant white light lit up the area, it seemed. The sky was iridescent blue. All around me shimmered in the extreme brightness.

Be careful when picking wild mushrooms in the wild outdoors. Buckle your seat belts – you could be in for the wildest ride of your life – not an enjoyable one!

Wild Mushroom Soup: Place 1/2c dried porcini in a bowl, and 1/2c dried morels in another. Pour 1-1/2c hot water over each (3 cups hot water total); soak 30mins. Line strainer with paper towel; drain porcini liquid, reserve 1 cup. Drain morels; remove stems; rinse well under running water; discard morel liquid. Wipe 500g fresh mushrooms of choice; slice thinly; set aside. Heat 5tbs butter in saucepan; sauté 1/3c finely-chopped shallots with 3 finely-chopped garlic cloves about 3min. Add fresh mushrooms; cook a few minutes more; add dried mushrooms; place a round of buttered parchment paper over pan; sweat over low heat, 10 min; uncover; add 8tbs plain flour; blend well. If it seems too dry after a minute or so, add a small mount of butter. Add 4c chick or veggie stock and reserved cup of porcini liquid. Bring to a boil; lower heat, cover; simmer 20 min; season. Add ½-1c cream to taste, a splash of Madeira, dry port or dry sherry, chopped parsley and chives just before serving.

Snow Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms: To large frying pan or wok over med-heat, add 1tbs sesame oil; heat until hot. Add 2c snow peas, 1/2c sliced shiitakes, 1tbs each minced garlic and ginger; cook a few minutes until warm. In bowl, combine 1/2c veggie broth and 2tsp cornflour until smooth; add to pan; reduce a few minutes; add 2tbs Chinese cooking wine or dry sherry, 1-1/2tb soy sauce, 1tbs chilli-garlic sauce, 1tsp sugar, 1/8tsp five-spice, 1/3tsp red pepper flakes; season; cook until sauce thickens; add the snow peas-shiitakes; warm through: serve.

Baked Eggs in Portabellas: Line tray with foil; spray lightly. Wipe clean 2 large portabella caps; remove stems;s prinkle with pepper, salt, chopped chives and shallots. Crack 2 eggs into each mushroom; place on tray; sprinkle with grated cheese of choice if you like; bake in preheated 190C oven 25-35mins or to taste. Sprinkle with more herbs and ground pepper; serve.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


The Five-Ways, GympieTin Can Bay Circa 2013

The passing of Esther Williams a few days ago at the age of 91 years rekindled memories of an era long gone; memories of a time of innocence.

Williams was one of a kind. Her MGM extravaganzas were very popular when I was a little girl. Williams remained glamorous even when wet; a remarkable accomplishment not easily or successfully achieved by many!

When I was a kid growing up in Gympie, I never missed Saturday matinees; and I never missed an Esther Williams picture.

Around noon on Saturdays, my brother and I met our mates, separately, of course, at the little milk bar adjoining Gympie’s Olympia Picture Theatre.

Within easy walking distance from home, we’d shortcut either through the Gas Works or past the old Tar Works to get there. The Gas Works was across the road and over a bit from where we lived; and the old Tar Works that regularly went up in flames in the middle of the night was just down a little dead-end street. The Tar Works was a great spot to play. Many childhood adventures and imaginary games were held there; more of which I will go into detail about at a later time. Both the Gasworks and the Tar Works no longer exist. A community park and a carpark have replaced them.

Actually, we had a choice of three shops from which to buy our matinee treats. Along with the theatre’s adjoining milk bar, there was Condie’s Café. Condie's sat on a corner diagonally across the Five-Ways from the picture theatre. The area was, and still is, called the Five-Ways because five streets merge into one at that area.

Mellor Street, Lawrence Street, Carlton Hill, Caledonian Hill and Mary Street all meet up for a chat at the Five-Ways.

Condie’s Café, amongst other tasty delights, sold milkshakes, malted milk and large glasses of icy-cold orange juice that made the roof of your mouth ache painfully, but that never deterred us. In joyous sufferance, we forged forth, sucking on our straws to the very last drop.

Opposite Condie’s, on the other side of Mary Street, was Webster’s Corner Store. Webster’s sold a limited variety of groceries, along with fruit, vegetables, pies, pasties, sausage rolls, drinks, ice cream and confectionery…lots and lots of confectionery; enough to get a child’s heart beating excitedly! The best goodies Webster’s sold other than Harry’s Bakery’s pies and pasties, crisp green apples and OK Potato Chips were their shop-made fresh fruit salad ice-blocks.

To digress for a moment, OK Potato Chips were the first potato chips I ever tried. Delving into my mind's memory bank, I can still see the green, red and white packaging bearing the crunchy crisps.

Back to the fruit salad ice blocks – individually wrapped, they were laden with chunks of fruit, and at times, whole grapes. The fruit salad ice blocks cost tuppence each. The price rose to the princely sum of threepence when inflation hit town.

Those were our choices of shops in which to spend our precious, hard-earned pocket money. Brazenly tempting young customers, packets of Fantails, Minties and Jaffas sat on the shelves alongside Maltesers, salted peanuts and chocolate-coated almonds. We succumbed without putting up a fight; which one to choose was the difficulty, but we somehow managed to shove indecision aside. Part of our pocket money was spent on a drink or maybe, two depending on our cash flow; and, of course, the ticket to get into the pictures. The balance of our pittance was spent at “half time” aka “interval” when refreshments were needed to see us through the rest of the afternoon.

Tom & Jerry, Mr. Magoo, Droopy or Heckle & Jeckle, along with an episode of the weekly serial, starring J. Carrol Naish as the “baddy” (of course) entertained the audience before the second feature began rolling. Extra sustenance was necessary to get us through the ensuing couple of hours; not to forget the energy needed to roll Jaffas down the aisles!

One weekend we went to Tin Can Bay, a small fishing village 53kms (33 miles) from Gympie. It wasn't an unusual occurrence for our little family unit. We visited Tin Can Bay often. Our mother loved fishing and crabbing; mud crabs. While she was occupied with those pleasures, Nana would take my brother, Graham and I oyster-collecting. We'd each be armed with oyster knives, a large container each; and off we'd go. I drool at the memory! Oysters straight off the rocks...there's little else more delicious. We ate as we went along; and always arrived back to where we were staying with our large jars filled to brim with fresh oysters. We may not have had a lot of money, but we certainly ate well on fresh fish, mud crabs and oysters!

Back in those days, Tin Can Bay's housing/accommodation wasn't flash by any shape or form. It was all very simple and humble. Most of the houses were either made out of fibro and/or corrugated galvanised iron. And in most of the places we stayed lighting was by means of hurricane lamps and kerosene lamps. Mosquito coils were a must!

On the particular weekend I'm discussing here, Mum went fishing as was her wont. Nana remained with my brother and me.

Tin Can Bay’s open-air picture venue was a few yards (and a couple of house yards) over the back from where we were staying for the weekend.

On the Saturday night Graham and I sat outside under the stars on a blanket. Beside us a 44-gallon drum filled with smouldering cow manure kept the mozzies and sandflies away while we watched Esther Williams in “Dangerous When Wet”.

Tin Can Bay's sandflies, in particular, were vicious little beggars; and they just loved me! The feeling wasn't mutual!

The next day in the Bay’s netted salt-water swimming enclosure that was then situated not far from where the dolphin feeding is conducted nowadays we emulated Esther Williams’ feats; perhaps not as gracefully!

Chive-Parmesan Potato Chips: Grab a large potato…a red-skin would be good. Scrub the spud. Using a mandoline slicer cut potato, lengthwise into very thin slices. Combine slices with 1tbs oil in bowl; add 3tbs each grated Parmesan and minced fresh chives and 3/4tsp salt; toss gently to coat. Arrange slices in single layer on baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake in preheated 205C oven, 18-20mins, until golden. Some chips will cook quicker than others; just remove those as you go along.

Jaffa Fudge: Line a small brownie tin with baking paper. Place 300g dark chocolate and 395g condensed milk in glass bowl; microwave 1min. Stir mixture until chocolate dissolves; microwave again for 30secs, if necessary. Stir through 1 cup of Jaffas; pour into prepared tin; chill until set; slice; enjoy!

Jaffa Fudge Cake: Preheat oven to 160°C. Line two 25cm x 7cm bar tins with baking paper. Put 1/4c baking Cocoa, 1-1/4c S.R. flour and 125g butter in processor; process until combined. Add 1c sweetened condensed milk, 2 eggs, 2tbs orange rind and 1/2c orange juice; process until combined; spoon into prepared tins; sprinkle 1/2c chopped pecans over the top; bake 30mins until cooked. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool. Melt ½ c milk chocolate bits, 25g butter and 1/4c condensed milk until melted. Spread over cakes; cool a little; decorate with ½ packet of Jaffas (eat the rest or roll them over the kitchen floor)!

Spiked Coconut Milkshake: Blend until smooth, 3c caramel ice cream, 1c unsweetened coconut milk, 1/4tsp salt and 30ml dark rum; add 1/2c toasted shredded coconut; pulse briefly. Line glasses with chocolate syrup; divide milkshake between glasses; top with whipped cream, shaved dark chocolate and toasted coconut.

Thursday, June 06, 2013


I’ve never been one for morning tea gatherings of the formal variety; or of any variety, if the truth be told. One reason being, for a woman, I have rather large hands compared to others of my gender. My fingers don’t comfortably or daintily handle the handles of fine china tea cups with the requisite finesse. Another reason is my pinkies are quite stubborn. They won’t curve daintily in a refined manner on command. With my pinkies being the size they are, it’s a good thing that genteel morning teas are off my list of social gatherings. The likelihood of my poking someone’s eye out is a realistic possibility.

Enjoying a cup of coffee with a friend or two once in a while is enjoyable; and once in a while I do so...but, I'm not one for regularly standing (or sitting) on ceremony with groups!

One day when I lived in Glenden, I was caught unprepared. Before I had time to evaluate the situation in which I found myself, I was blindsided into accepting an invitation to morning tea "with the ladies". Trapped in a moment of general chit-chat with the wife of the manager of the town’s one and only bank, she cunningly tossed in an invitation for me to join her and other ladies at her home for morning tea planned for a couple of days in the future. I began to sweat and squirm upon the realisation of my entrapment. Ignoring my discomfort, she granted me no sympathy whatsoever! I believe she actually expected me to curtsy and thank her profusely for inviting me into her inner circle. I didn't!

The morning of the grand occasion dawned.

Reluctantly I donned my finest finery and slipped on my high heels shoes.

Off to join the ladies I did go, dragging one foot after the other; or, rather, one foot placed lightly on the accelerator and my hand hovering over reverse.

I must add, if only to help paint the picture for you; the bank manager’s wife had placed her own self up high at the highest altitude on a pedestal, believing that to be her rightful position in the little township of Glenden. Not only was she self-appointed, but self-opinionated, too. She was, after all, the bank manager’s wife; a big fish in a very small pond.

With dread, wishing I was anywhere but parked outside her home, I approached her hallowed domain. Setting my best high-heeled-clad foot into her pristine abode, I inhaled deeply. Distracted by my entrance, a group of strangers momentarily glanced up from their perfectly balanced floral porcelain tea cups and saucers as introductions were made.

Like a deer caught in the headlights I was frozen to the spot. An urgent need to escape overcame me. I wanted to turn and run; to strip myself of my finery and replace it with a sarong. My desire was to return to my own sun-blessed verandah where I had no need to curl my pinky or make vapid conversation.

I wanted to be at ease within my own familiar surrounds where I could sit back with my feet resting on the railings while sipping on a cold beer, a red wine, or perhaps a Scotch or rum, depending on the mood of the moment; or, perhaps, with my large hands wrapped comfortably around my rustic, unrefined, earthenware coffee-filled mug.

That was my desperate desire; but I was cornered, surrounded by Stepford Wives, none of whom I knew (or met again), dainty porcelain objets d’art, lace doilies and lounge chairs with vintage, crocheted headrest covers.

To the rear of the celestial sphere a stylish dining table formally garbed in an ecru vintage lace overlay beckoned. Fine China and silver tiered cake stands and various other decorative platters bearing miniature, crust-less sandwiches, fairy cakes, cupcakes, pikelets and scones begged to be investigated and tasted. Crystal bowls, some filled with strawberry jam and others with whipped cream stood by to accompany the pikelets and scones.

With my good manners in place; shoulders back, head high, stomach in and pinkies un-crooked, butter wouldn’t have melted in my mouth.

I received no sympathy for the stress I suffered. My pinkies have never been the same! After a couple of hours spent privately agonising about where I wished to be, finally, I arrived back home again. As soon as I walked through my front doorway, I kicked off my heels (and kicked my bare heels in the air); tossed off my glad-rags and happily draped a colourful, tropical sarong around me. I raided my fridge for a cold, cold Crown Lager; and to the delight of the birds of the feathered variety, I joined them out on my verandah.

Ahhhhh.....the serenity!

Cucumber-Salmon Sandwiches: Spread cream cheese on prepared slices of bread; place thin slices of smoked salmon on spread. Slice seedless cucumber as thin as possible; pat dry. Place on salmon; top with bread slice; trim crusts; cut into fingers or desired shapes. Rare Roast Beef & Horseradish Cream: Thinly slice rare roast beef. For the horseradish cream, combine 300g sour cream, 2tbs horseradish and ¼ chopped chives; season. Grab 12 bread slices; spread one side of each slice with the cream; divide beef and rocket over half the bread slices; top with remaining slices. Trim off crusts; cut into quarters.

Cranberry-Almond Scones: Combine 2-1/8 cups plain flour (or 1c plain flour and 1 cup + 1tbs whole wheat flour), 1/4c sugar, 1/8tsp salt and 1-1/2tsp baking powder; cut in 1/2c cold butter, sliced. Stir in 3/4c dried cranberries and 1/4c chopped almonds. In bowl, whisk together 1/2c cream, 1 egg, 1tsp vanilla and 2tsp almond extract. Add to dry mixture; stir until just moistened. Knead a few times until dough forms. Don’t over-knead. On lightly-floured surface, form dough into circle about 1-inch thick. Place on ungreased baking sheet; mark out 8 wedges without cutting right through; brush with some cream; sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 176C, 30-35mins; serve warm or cold.

Double Cranberry Crumble Cake: Heat 1-1/8c water to just below boiling; pour over 3tbs cranberry-flavoured black tea (or other fruit flavours); steep 3-4mins; strain. Cream 2c sugar, 1c butter and 1/2c oil; beat in 4 eggs; add 1/2c milk, 1c tea and 1tbs vanilla. Add 1/8tsp salt, 3-1/2c plain flour, 1tsp each baking soda and baking powder; stir after each addition; fold in 2c coarsely-chopped cranberries. Pour into greased 9x13-inch baking pan. Combine 3/4c sugar, 1/3c softened butter, 1/2c flour, 1tsp cinnamon, 1/2c oats and reserved brewed tea leaves (if desired); sprinkle over cake; bake at 176C, 55-60mins.

Sunday, June 02, 2013


We all have them, of that there is no doubt. However, there are some who feel, for whatever silly, uninformed reasons, too guilty to own up to having enjoyable pleasures because they feel guilty about partaking in pleasurable activities; or, even non-activities for that matter. We all have moments or a day, or longer, even, when we feel unmotivated; but that’s okay…just go with the flow, guiltlessly. There’s nothing in the rule book that says we have to be “up-and-go” at all times. In actual fact, there probably isn’t even a rule book!

It’s my belief the sense of guilt some feel is born out of fear what others might think if they, the “others”, became aware of what pleasures one personally enjoys! But who gives a damn about what others think? It is no one else’s business if you devour a whole block of dark chocolate in one sitting. If you enjoyed it free of guilt, your pleasure is heightened! Continue doing so with no guilty pangs. It’s nobody else’s business but your own.

You can bet London to a brick, as the late Aussie horse race-caller Ken Howard said often, everyone has his/her own so-called “guilty pleasures”. You don’t need bookmaker Tom Waterhouse’s assistance to place your bets, either!

A “brick”, by the way, was Aussie slang for a ₤10 note.

If something gives you pleasure, go for broke, I say! To hell with all the detractors!

Enjoy the feelings that your pleasures bring minus the guilt and remorse that others gain morbid pleasure from throwing in your direction. There are some amongst us, unfortunately, who think it’s their right to dump upon others. Pitifully, there are those who hate to see others happy, if even from the most innocent, simplest of pleasures.

How can a pleasure be classified as a “guilty pleasure”? If our pleasures make us happy I can’t understand why anyone would feel guilty about doing what pleasures them.

Just to clarify my meaning – I’m not talking about illegal or sordidly twisted pleasures. I refer to the harmless, innocuous pleasures of life.

Personally I enjoy many pleasures; some of which probably wouldn’t be of interest to others; but they are my pleasures and that’s what is important – to me.

I give no excuses; I offer no apologies.

For years because of work commitments, I watched very little television. Often, in the various jobs I had, I worked 24/7 or similar hours. My free time was limited; and, more often than not, any spare time I did have, was spent catching up on sleep rather than enjoying pleasures; guilty or otherwise.

Nowadays, I have many favourite TV shows. I watch them without guilt.

For example, I get pleasure watching “Dexter”. I love dear old Dex, and the show’s dark humour.

The silliness of “Mrs Brown’s Boys” makes me laugh out loud. There’s nothing hidden about Agnes Brown’s comedy. It's as blatant as humour can get. At first, I didn’t think I’d fall under Agnes’ spell, but she caught me; and reeled me in, hook, line and sinker!

Ryan Murphy’s “Glee” and its talented cast give me much pleasure, too. As do talent shows such as “The Voice”, “Idol”, “So You Think You Can Dance”, “The X Factor” etc., etc., et al.

And I feel absolutely no guilt whatsoever admitting these weaknesses in my character!

Okay! I’ll lay it on the line. I’ll admit that I do enjoy “Celebrity Apprentice”, if only to drool over the drool-worthy Mark Bouris, I wouldn’t mind being Mr. Bouris’ apprentice.

And, while on the subject of “The Voice”… I also get a great deal of guiltless pleasure watching Seal.

Of course, there are many shows that give me no pleasure whatsoever, so I don’t watch them. It is my choice whether to, or not to; but I feel no guilt watching the ones from which I gain pleasure. Documentaries, reality, crime dramas, rom-coms, comedies, sport...whatever takes my fancy - I'm guilty!

I alone have sole control of the remotes. My two furry, four-legged rascals haven’t worked out how to use them yet…and the status quo shall remain so – if only to keep the peace in this small household.

If some programmes I enjoy are of the non-intellectual kind, it matters not to me; and it shouldn’t bother anyone else. I’m the one watching them. Sometimes the pleasure received from blanking out from the real world for a while is necessary and is what counts. I call it “dumbing down”. Of late there are many times I get so fed up with all the horrible things that go on in our world, here in this country and elsewhere. “Dumbing down” allows me much guilt-free pleasure. And I’ll grab that pleasure whenever I can; and as much as I'm able.

Reading gives me great pleasure. I have no feelings of guilt when my head is buried in a book.

I felt no guilt reading “The Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy. I’m a big girl now; been there; done that, paddles and whips aside, of course! Christian and Ana’s exploits caused me no embarrassment, nor did I feel any guilt from peeping in on their exploits. Like yesterday’s news, both have been forgotten these days; having become today’s fish and chips’ wrapping, as it were.

Readers have moved onto other pleasures; perhaps some gained from reading the trilogy.

As a teenager I was introduced to Anais Nin, the Marquis de Sade,Edgar Allan Poe, D.H. Lawrence amongst many others. I wasn't corrupted by reading anything that they wrote; nor was I corrupted by reading Enid Blyton when I was a child!

Swimming naked in the ocean or in a pool (preferably the ocean) is a pleasure I used to enjoy, guilt-free. Dancing beneath warm tropical downpours sans clothing was also a joy I more than once relished – once upon a time; and not once did I feel guilt when enjoying such pleasures.

No one should ever be made feel guilty when enjoying freedom; the freedom to be.

So…keep all those pleasures you enjoy…and toss all the guilt out with the dishwater, along with those who look upon you down the slope of their judgmental noses!

Slow-Cooker Rich & Creamy Guilt-Free Hot Chocolate – (For When Time Is of the Essence and You Have Other Things To Attend To in the Meantime): To your slow-cooker (if you have one) toss in 1-1/2c heavy cream, 1x14oz can of sweetened condensed milk, 6 cups of milk, 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, 1 cup milk chocolate chips and 1 teaspoon vanilla; stir and cook on low for at least 2 hours; stir occasionally. Serve hot with fresh whipped cream or lots of marshmallows (add a shot of peppermint schnapps before serving/drinking if the mood fits)! I don’t see why you can’t do all of this in a regular pot; cook up for about 20-25 minutes, I’d say. If it doesn’t work out the first time, just keep trying until you get it right! And don’t feel guilty about regular taste-testing!

Mocha Chocolate-Crepe Torte: Sauce: Place 90g dark cooking chocolate, roughly-chopped and 225ml thickened cream in saucepan; stir over low heat, 2 minutes or until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat; stir in 1-1/2tspns Tia Maria. Transfer to heatproof jug; set aside at room temperature for 1-1/2 hours; the sauce will thicken slightly. Crepes: Sift 1-1/4 cups plain flour and 1-1/2tbs cocoa powder together in large bowl. Stir in 2tsp caster sugar; make well in centre. Place 1/3 cup milk in saucepan; heat over med-heat for 30 seconds or until lukewarm. Add 1tbs instant espresso coffee granules; stir until dissolved. Combine coffee mixture, remaining milk and 3 room-temperature eggs, slightly whisked, in measuring jug; whisk with a fork. Pour about ½ cup of milk mixture into flour; use a wooden spoon to gradually incorporate some of the flour. Continue to gradually add mixture until all flour is incorporated and a thin batter forms. Add 2tsp melted butter; using a balloon whisk, lightly whisk until smooth. Cover with wrap; set aside at room temperature for 30mins. Meanwhile place 600g fresh ricotta, 200g mascarpone, ¼ cup caster sugar and 1-1/2tbls Tia Maria in bowl. Beat with electric beater, 3-4 minutes. Cover; chill. The crepe batter should be the consistency of thin cream after standing; if it’s too thick, add a little extra milk, about 1tbls. Measure 2tbls batter into small cup; heat crepe pan over med-low heat, 1 minute. Rub a little butter over pan. Pour measured batter into centre of pan while quickly tilting pan in a circular motion to evenly cover base. Cook for 1 minute or until crepe edges curl up slightly. Use a metal spatula to lift edge to check crepe is light golden and lacy underneath. Use spatula to loosen crepe from pan; turn over. Cook for a further 1 minute or until light golden underneath. Slide crepe onto lined tray, lacy-side up. Continue to cook remaining batter, rubbing extra butter lightly over pan as required. Stack cooked crepes, making small stacks on tray. Cover loosely with greaseproof paper. Set aside for 30 minutes or until cooled completely. To assemble, place a crepe, lacy-side up, on a plate and spread with 2-1/2tbls of ricotta mixture to completely cover (spread a little thicker on outside edge). Drizzle with 2 tsp of rich chocolate sauce, then top with another crepe. Continue to layer, spreading with filling, and drizzling every second crepe with sauce, finishing with a crepe. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in fridge for 30 minutes. To serve, use a large sharp knife to cut torte into 8 portions and place on serving plates. Drizzle with a little of remaining chocolate sauce; serve remaining sauce separately.