Monday, February 24, 2014


Arlington Esplanade, Clifton Beach...I lived on the corner of the Esplanade and Clifton Beach Road
Smithfield Shopping Centre, Northern Beaches, Cairns
Smithfield and surrounding areas

Yorkeys Knob

Chillagoe Smelters

Chillagoe Marble

Ant Hill Hotel, Mareeba

Mareeba (A) to Chillagoe (B)

Chillagoe Landscape
Chillagoe Limestone Outcrops
Brolgas in the Mareeba-Chillagoe Wetlands

Out of the blue one Saturday morning a number of years ago – early 1990, to be more precise - when I was living at Clifton Beach I received a phone call from a friend I’d not seen for a while.

At the time I was working in a real estate office ”Inner Circle Realty”. My position was receptionist/secretary/property manager for rental properties on the northern beaches area of the tropical city of Cairns in Far North Queensland. Our Northern Beaches' office was situated in the Smithfield Shopping Centre, Smithfield.  My hours were Monday to Friday, 8.30 to 5 pm or thereabouts; and Saturday mornings until noon, or thereabouts.  The head office was in Lake Street, the city proper.
Shortly after 11 am, I received THE phone call from my friend, “Sprocket”.  I was surprised to hear his voice on the other end of the line.  I’d not seen nor heard from him for quite a while until his phone call that Saturday morning. I had a suspicion Sprocket may have been a distant relative of the Scarlet Pimpernel - "They seek him here, they seek him there..."

Warren was his given name, but he was rarely called anything other than “Sprocket”.  I’d met Sprocket a couple of years previously when I was living at Yorkeys Knob. Mutual friends who had known him for a long time asked me if I could put him up for a couple of weeks or so because he was homeless until the finalization of a property he was in the process of purchasing at Alligator Creek, south of Townsville.  At different stages Sprocket worked on a contract basis within my friends’ road building/airport tarmac construction/engineering company, so I trusted their judgment on his character. And he proved my trust was worthy.  He was a good bloke; and I enjoyed his company.

Sprocket drove a gleaming Kenworth Prime Mover. It pulled a rig equipped with around 12 axles and 8 tyres, or thereabouts. I really had no idea the exact number; suffice to say it was a lot - and it was a big monster!  

At the time of his surprise phone call Sprocket was hauling tanker-loads of lime to mines surrounding the township of Chillagoe on the Atherton Tables. The particular load of lime he toted that weekend was from an area a little south of Chillagoe to the Red Dome Mine, just north-west of the town.  The Red Dome Mine produced gold, silver and copper, along with myriad minerals that included, naming only a few, sulphides, oxides, fluorides, tungstate, silicates and carbonates. Stunning crystallized malachite and glorious quartz and azurite crystals joined the endless list of remarkable deposits.

With little preamble, Sprocket asked me if I’d like to go with him to Chillagoe that afternoon.  If I agreed to his invitation I was to meet him at Mareeba, another small Atherton Tablelands’ town, at a prearranged spot.  There I would park my car and jump aboard the Kenworth for the trip of my life.  Without hesitation, I accepted the plan presented to me.

“Yes!  I’d love to! What time will we meet up?”

I’d never been in a huge prime mover before; and I believed such an offer may never come my way again.  It sounded like an exciting adventure to me.  I’d never been to Chillagoe before, either.  The invitation I’d received sounded far more thrilling than the piece of corned silverside I planned to cook for myself that evening.

We agreed to meet at the corner opposite Mareeba’s Ant Hill Motel at 1 pm.  It didn’t leave me much time. Fortunately, it was a quiet morning in the office. After sharing my excitement at the thought of the adventure that lay in wait for me with my fellow workers, I bade them farewell. And then, sparing no horses, off I raced home to Clifton Beach to attend to my two cats, Pushkin and Rimsky; setting out enough food to cover them during my absence, which would only be 24 hours or so, but I wanted to ensure their needs were attended to. I packed a small bag of toiletries; changed my clothes and hit the road. 

The distance from Clifton Beach to Mareeba is approximately 60 kms (37 miles).  Being a stickler for punctuality I didn’t want to be late. I wasn’t, and neither was Sprocket. Within five minutes or so of my arrival at the pick-up spot he slowed to a stop slightly ahead of where I was parked.  The brakes sighed loudly as the compressed air applied pressure to the pads as the big rig came to a gentle stop. A fire-breathing dragon wouldn’t have been more impressive. At the sight of the Kenworth, my adrenaline increased.  I almost needed a ladder to climb aboard.  I felt like a kid on Christmas morning.  I couldn’t disguise my excitement, or my smile; nor did I care to do so.   

In the words of Willie Nelson, we were “On the Road Again” within minutes; Chillagoe, west of Mareeba, approximately 14kms (87 miles) away, our destination.

Shortly after leaving Mareeba the landscape changed quite drastically.  The lushness of the Atherton Tablelands very soon became a distant memory in the rear vision mirror. 

The landscape between Mareeba and Chillagoe is dry, tropical woodland with limestone outcrops.  The soil is pretty poor and the majority of times, other than during the December to March wet season, parched.  During the monsoon season the wetlands become alive with birds of all kinds that flock there drawn by their natural instincts; or the tom-tom drums.

Chillagoe, itself, has an interesting mining heritage, starting in 1870, but the smelters closed down in 1943, mainly due to the lack of manpower during the Second World War. Pastoral endeavours also played a large part in Chillagoe’s history. 

One thing that Chillagoe is famous for is marble from the extensive cave systems south of the small township. Marble quarries still operate, but in a smaller scale these days.  Chillagoe’s population at present is around 200; back in 1990 it was around 500; in 191 it was a raging 1497!

Travelling along in the big rig was seeing the world around me through different eyes…heightened eyes. I was so high up off the road!  I could see for miles and miles, much more than if driving along in my own car that was a little three-door Hyundai Excel Hatchback at the time.  I could see more than if I was cruising along in any normal vehicle, for that matter.  I felt I was on top of the world….a glorious new world!

We passed a little boy somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Obviously, he was  off a nearby cattle property; the road was his bicycling highway. He stopped pedalling and watched in awe as the big truck loomed down the road.  Sprocket blew the horn as we passed him (I’m not sure if he pressed a button or pulled on a lever); but the sound echoed loudly across the landscape.  I’ll never forget how it made that little bloke’s face light up.  If it had been night time, lights wouldn’t have been necessary.  I reckon the little kid would’ve told all his friends at school on the Monday about the special salute he received that afternoon; and it was something he’d never forget.  I’ve never forgotten that moment of witnessing the pure joy on a young lad’s face.

A little further along the road, Sprocket pulled off onto a side track.  After travelling along the track for about 15 minutes we finally came to a stop.  I can’t remember the name of the area, but it was deserted.  The dusty old sheds showed no signs of life other than us.  I discovered, when we came to a halt, it was where he intended loading the tanker with lime.  No wonder all the old shacks were dusty!

I remained in the cabin while Sprocket leapt to the ground.  I could see him fiddling about with large hoses and other paraphernalia; nothing that I could help him with – or so I thought!

He appeared at the driver’s side door.  “Move across to my seat…behind the wheel.” He said.

A little bemused, I did as I as I was bidden.

“Now, what I want you to do is…” continued Sprocket. “...I’m going to climb up on top of the tanker and control the hoses.  Watch me in the rear vision mirror, and when I signal and call out to you, I want you to reverse the truck so I can then put the hose into another outlet…and so on until I’ve completed filling up with the lime.”

“What?”  I exclaimed in shocked horror.  “You want me to operate this thing…this monster?  You must be joking!  This is the first time I’ve ever sat in one of these…these…things…and you now expect me to drive it…to reverse it!  That’s even worse!”

“You have to be bloody joking!” I repeated. “Or you have a death wish!”

“Nahhh! Don’t worry…it’s easy!  Here…all you have to do is this…it’s simple!” And Sprocket proceeded to show me what I had to do. 

I doubt I took a breath, but I did watch and listen diligently, not missing an instructive word he uttered.  He had faith in me.  All I had to do was find some within myself!

No breath was exhaled until I finished my delegated chore.  I kept a keen eye on Sprocket in the rear vision mirror as he climbed aboard the tanker.  With diligent, unwavering care, I followed his instructions to the letter…and more!  I didn’t want to lose him!  I was out in the middle of I knew not where.  

 If I lost him down one of the outlets on the top of the tanker, he’d be buried in lime; and I’d be stuck with a giant Kenworth prime mover and rig!   

The scenario was too scary to even briefly think about; so I blanked all negativity out of my mind. Determinedly, I gritted my teeth, and did what I had to do.   

The outcome was successful.  

 Sprocket neither became buried in lime, nor did I run him over.  Having not caused his demise, I felt very proud of myself, and considered a possible career change!

With a tanker loaded with lime, Sprocket climbed front of the steering wheel...ready to hit the road again; and me, feeling chuffed, back on the passenger seat. 

 We headed for Chillagoe…..

Sunday, February 16, 2014


When someone says “I’ll call you ahead” – does it mean they’re calling me a “head”, or are they giving me notice about an upcoming event? 

If someone says they’re keeping abreast of things, dare I ask what they’re really mean?  While on the subject of birds; why is a bird in the hand worth more than two in the bush? How much are two in the bush worth?  Has anyone ever bothered to find out? You’d think that two birds are worth more than one. 

If you have sore eyes is there really a sight that’s capable of fixing the soreness?  The only site that would remedy sore eyes, as far as I can see would be one that housed an optometrist or a doctor.  The cause of the soreness could be, of course, beauty…because it’s often said beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You know how irritating it is when something gets in your eye. It would be impossible for anyone, male or female, if topless or wearing only a singlet, to have an ace up his or her sleeve! 

Airing one’s dirty laundry, in my opinion, is a total waste of time.  Why would anyone want to do that when it’s commonsense and much simpler to toss the dirty items into the washing machine? Not only is it more time efficient, but it gets the job done.  Clothes, sheets, towels etc., come out clean, meaning the end result is one’s laundry is no longer dirty, which is a far better method than airing it, in my opinion.

I’m not sure about you, but I have no skin on my teeth, so how can I “make it by the skin of my teeth”?  For that matter what is “it” – what is it that I’m making with the non-existent skin of my teeth?

And just so you know right from the start, there are no skeletons in my closet.  I’d really freak out if there.  However, to make sure I did check them all again this morning.  That was after I spent hours and hours poring over a new, unused notebook consisting of 200 lined pages.  I tried and tried to read between the lines, but as I’d only bought the notebook yesterday it’s still in its new state, not unlike a blank slate.  I couldn’t find anything between the lines other than expanses of white nothingness!  It has been said you can’t judge a book by its cover, but when there’s nothing between the covers what is there to judge?  Furthermore, the cover on my new notebook clearly defines what it is. In large colourful print it states it’s a 200 page notebook; and that’s what it is.  I haven’t, and have no intentions of doing so, counted the number of pages.  I’ve accepted it at face value. A leaf may have been taken out of it, but I doubt any pages have been removed.

I’ve found it much easier to look in my sewing box for a needle than to go looking through a haystack.  I’d have to jump in my car and go try to find a haystack first.  To me that would be a needless and pointless exercise when my sewing box is right here within arm’s reach.

Years ago I was told to save my breath.  Diligently I followed the advice; now I have jars and jars filled with my saved breath, but I don’t know what to do with them, or it!  I suppose I could keep it all for a rainy day, but I’m not sure what good that will do.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy…what about Dave, Mike, Tom, Dick, Harry, Will, even, and all the rest of the boys? Do the same words of so-called wisdom apply to them, too; and to you, Jill and me, for that matter? 
If you were happily married to a doctor you’d never eat apples, would you?  Not if they’re supposed to keep the doctor away; but if you wanted an out you’d present him with cartons of apples, daily. 

On the shortest days of the year does it mean you’re not as honest as you are when days are long?   

It’s risky saying “any friend of yours is a friend of mine”.  What if you can’t stand that person?  It is not necessarily always true that it’s better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.  The one you don’t know could possibly be far better than the one you do know.   

I heard somewhere or other that if you sleep with the devil you wake up horny.  I’m not sure if that’s true or not. A few years ago I bought a bright red, fluffy stuffed devil from the RSPCA Op Shop. As I never slept with it I can’t give a conclusive answer. 

How can the cat have my tongue? The only time that would apply is if I prepared pressed tongue and the cat leapt up on the table for a stolen taste; but I’ve never had a cat that stole; not tongue or anything else. I tried dangling a carrot in front of one of my cats once, but he tossed me a “What does that have to do with the price of Whiskas in China?” look before he went back to sleep. 

Often we’re told we can’t have our cake and eat it, too. What a silly thing to say! Obviously, if we don’t have any cake, we can’t eat it; but if we do have a cake of course we eat it before it becomes stale, or the ants get to it.  

 Nowadays digital clocks make the saying “the clock is ticking” redundant. You might think me cuckoo asking this, but is the cuckoo in a digital cuckoo clock silent, too?

By the way, I never get out of the wrong side of the bed.  It’s impossible for me to do so as  there is only one side of my bed I can get out of, the right side – because the left side of my bed is flush up against the wall.

One has to be a contortionist to survive. 

Constantly we’re told we have to “buckle up”; “knuckle down”; “tighten your belt”; “put on the brakes”; ”bounce right back”; “toe the line”; “keep your head down” (or “pull it in”); “brace yourself”;  “bite the bullet”;  “keep your eye on the ball”;  “keep your chin up”; “keep your nose to the grindstone”; “pull your socks up”;  “put your best foot forward” (I don’t know which is my best foot – they both look much the same to me and appear to do similar jobs); “broaden your horizons”; “keep your head above water”; “sink or swim”; “take a deep breath; “exhale” (I wish they’d make up their minds!); “don’t jump into the deep end”; “think twice before you leap”. 

Personally, I prefer to think more than twice before taking a leap.  If we attempted to do all the above tasks, we’d have no time to spare, not to mention the total confusion trying to follow so many commands.

Perhaps it’d be better to go out on a limb and play it by ear!

Maybe it would be best to twiddle our thumbs to decide if it’s thumbs up or thumbs down while taking one step forward and ten back, all the time rolling our eyes, raising our eyebrows and shrugging. 

Of course, we could spin in one spot and go nowhere. It’s important to remember, however; if you can’t jump that pesky hurdle, go around it, or dig a hole and crawl under it is to just bypass it all together - take another route!  Better still, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Finally, if you don’t have a horse, how can you get back up on it?

Whew! I’m cashing it in for now.  I need to catch 40 winks and have a cat nap, but before I go, here are some ideas to chew over; but don’t stew on them too long, I’ve lots more for you to sink your teeth into…at a later date.

Curry-crusted Lamb Breasts with Basil Yoghurt Sauce: Preheat oven 150C. Rinse a 1.5kg to 2.25kg bone-in lamb breast; place in oven dish; season well with salt and pepper; then with ginger powder, garlic powder, cumin, paprika and a little turmeric; then a little less cardamom and coriander; a little less cinnamon and crushed cloves; and then cayenne, to taste. Flip breast over and repeat process. With fat side to the top; cover pan with foil or lid; cook approx 3hrs; flip lamb halfway through. Basil Yoghurt Sauce: Whisk 1c Greek yoghurt, 2 to 3tsp chopped Thai basil, 1tsp toasted cumin and salt when you put lamb in oven. Chill while lamb cooks. Serve the cold sauce with the lamb.

Grilled Sheep Tongues with Beetroot-Yoghurt Salad: Put 6c chicken stock, ½ knob garlic, cut horizontally, 1tbs fresh thyme sprigs, 1tbs fresh rosemary leaves and 1 bay leaf in saucepan; bring to boil. Reduce heat; add 8 sheep tongues; simmer, covered, 1-1/2hrs; when cooked peel off skin. Thinly slice lengthways; place in single layer on tray; season; drizzle with 2tbs x-virgin olive oil. Heat grill; cook slices 1-2mins each side or until they have grill lines and are heated through. Place on top of Salad: Place 1c yoghurt onto serving platter; top with 16 small cooked beetroot; sprinkle with watercress; drizzle with oil.

Summer Brawn: Place 2 knuckles veal, 250g pickled pork, 750g gravy beef in large saucepan; add 8c water. Add salt, 3 cloves, 1 bay leaf, 1tsp mixed herbs, 1/2c vinegar and 1tsp Worcestershire sauce. Cover; simmer gently until meat breaks away from bones, about 3hrs. Drain, reserve stock; remove meat from bones; dice finely. Pack into greased 23cm by 12cm loaf tin. Sprinkle 1tsp gelatine over 1tbs water; strain stock; measure 3 cups; dissolve gelatine in hot stock; pour on meat just to cover. Chill until set firmly.

Macaroni Tuna-Cheese: Cook 250g macaroni until tender, drain; rinse. Melt 4tbls butter in saucepan; add 2 chopped onions and 1 small chopped capsicum; sauté over low heat 3-4mins, until tender. Add 2tbls plain flour, salt and pepper; cook, stirring, until smooth and bubbly. Add 1c milk and 1 can of mushroom soup; stir over low heat until smooth and thickened. Add cooked drained macaroni, 250g canned tuna, drained, 1/2c thawed frozen peas and 1/2c grated cheese to sauce mixture, stirring constantly. Pour the mixture into buttered casserole; top with grated cheese and some buttered, soft bread crumbs; bake at 175C about 40mins.

Chicken in Puff Pastry: Cook 4 bacon rashers until crisp; drain; crumble; set aside. Drain pan; don’t wipe out. Add 1tbl olive oil to pan; add 3 boneless, cubed chicken thighs and 1/2c chopped onion. Cook together until chicken is no longer pink. Remove with slotted spoon to a bowl. Add 125g softened cream cheese and bacon to chicken; mix well; add some chopped fresh herbs. Cut a sheet of thawed puff pastry into 4x6-inch squares. Divide chicken between squares; fold in half. Seal edges; press with fork. Place on baking tray; brush with beaten egg. Bake in preheated 200C oven 20-25mins.

Seven-Layer Casserole: Layer thinly-sliced potatoes, carrots and onions in buttered casserole. Sprinkle 1/2c uncooked long-grain rice over vegetables. Add 2 un-drained cans of peas; arrange 500g pork sausages over peas. Dilute 1 can tomato soup with water; pour over sausage; season. Cover; cook in 175C oven, 1 hour – then uncovered a further hour.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


Have you ever looked quizzically at a couple and wondered what on earth attracted one to the other? Of course you have!  I’ll own up - I’ve done so many times; and, no doubt, will have cause to do so again in the future.

Unfortunately, the pathway to true love is not always smooth sailing. Passengers who survived the “Titanic”, (both the actual trip and the movie) would’ve willingly testified to this sentiment.  Jack and Rose aka Leonardo and Kate wouldn’t have boarded the ship; taken that route if they’d been warned of their tragic outcome. You can be sure Romeo and Juliet weren’t the first star-crossed lovers. However, they did prove in a pitiable way that sometimes it’s best to stay on your own side of the fence, if you know what I mean. Often our hearts rule our heads; or we’re brushed by the hot flush of lust. Overwhelmed, helplessly we become consumed to the point of blindness to reality and sensibility. Too frequently, in such instances, heartache, disappointment and disillusionment are the only rewards.  No matter how much we try to convince ourselves otherwise, if we become a player in a relationship of this kind the harsh truths eventually have to be faced. Putting it bluntly, the end result is inevitable; and, nine times out of ten, more than one party gets hurt.

It’s come to my attention over the past couple of months an illicit relationship is going on in my rather small neighbourhood - right now.   

I don’t know what to do about it; whether or not I should butt in; stick my beak in and say something.  Who do I say it to?  If I choose to intrude, which one of the participants involved should I approach? Or should I turn a blind eye; do nothing; mind my own business?  I’m sure they both have partners nestled away at home living in total ignorance of what’s going on.  I have no idea how far the relationship has progressed, but it looks very suspicious to me if body language is an indicator.  I’m no prude, but I really can’t ignore what’s happening daily right under my nose.  Blatantly, showing no shame, they flaunt their flighty relationship.

They’re out there now as I write! What am I supposed to do or say?  Their conduct is making me feel extremely ill at ease; it's very embarrassing.  They are embarrassing! 

I do try to turn a blind eye, but their unabashed, brazen public displays of affection make it very hard for me to ignore them.

I don’t know if they go home to their own beds at night, but during the daylight hours they’re inseparable, spending every waking hour together from what I see and hear. 

I’m not a sticky-beak, but, barefacedly, they kick up such a noisy song and dance I can’t fail to notice. They carry on not far from my kitchen window,commanding my attention whether purposely or not. They’re exhibitionists!  Like Kim and Kanye they want the whole world to know about their affair. 

I’m not sure if anyone else around here has picked up on it; but I certainly have. 

There are only four houses in this laneway aka “court” where I live, and then there is my cabin.  I have no neighbours to my left or my right (depending which way I’m standing/facing).  It’s just bushland with no dwellings upon it across that way.  I have no neighbours to the front of me. On the other side of this three acre property I’m a part of, the neighbours’ parcel of land consists of six or more acres.  Their home, built on the escarpment is well out of my view.  Most years I only ever catch up with them at the annual Christmas party hosted by my landlords.

Unashamedly, these two beguilers are disconcertingly very closely associated. They don't seem to care who notices them.

If I asked the status of their relationship you can guarantee I’ll receive that well-known and oft-repeated Hollywood reply: “We’re just good friends!”  Yeah, right!  Pull the other one - it’s made out of feathers! 

These immoral transgressors are a Butcher Bird and a Noisy Miner. They spend each and every day together, side by side like Heckle & Jeckle (or Romeo & Juliet; or more inappropriately, adulterous lovebirds).  Almost day long, every day, while perched on a post a metre or two from my kitchen window, feathered-shoulder to feathered-shoulder they chat animatedly; or alternatively, they sit in intimate silence. 

It’s disgraceful, I tell you! They ruffle their feathers; mine are ruffled, too!

Have they no shame?

Are they confused; or, are they, after all…just good friends?

While on the subject of love - clandestine, glaringly conspicuous or otherwise - I thought I may as well continue the trend. 

Today I’m talking about Valentine. You remember Valentine, don’t you?  Saint is his first name

It is Valentime once again!  Friday, 14th February is Saint Valentine’s Day, in case you’ve forgotten.

I wonder what I need to do for a day to be set aside annually with my name on it. How come old Valentine gets a special day and I don’t?   I’ll consider this thought for a while to see if I can come up with a suitable deed and date. I might change my first name to “Saint”; that could work. "Saint Lee"...that has a familiar ring to it!

Talking of dates, I don’t have a date for Friday, other than it is 14th February, 2014. 

The only dates I’ve had lately have been stoned; each and every one of them. I often pick them up, neatly packaged, as I cruise the aisles at the local supermarket. 

All is not lost! I’ll have a date on St. Valentine’s Day. I’ll have a few because I’ve got a jar full of them.

If I was asked out on a date I’d be all fingers and thumbs and totally tongue-tied. I wouldn’t know how to behave. Do people still go out on dates?  

Maybe I'll just go and hug a date palm tree, instead!

There are some who scoff at St. Valentine’s Day, cynically criticising it as being a commercial, money-making bit of nonsense.   

What’s wrong with a bit of harmless fun; and what’s wrong with making money?  There's nothing wrong with it, in my opinion.

Isn’t making a profit the desired aim when in business? If businesses enjoy boosts in their sales because our dear old softie Saint Val stirs up romantic notions on his one designated day of the year as he goes about sprinkling showers of love, how can that be wrong?  If businesses reap the benefits from St. Valentine’s Day…good on them!

I hope all the card sellers, florists, chocolate sellers, restaurants etc., have a whale of a time in the lead up to and on St. Valentine’s Day.

I hope the shopkeepers’ tills keep ringing till the end of the day!  Love isn’t the only thing that makes the world go ‘round; money makes the world go ‘round, too. 

The physicists out there are shaking their heads at me in disagreement, but I don't care.

Lighten up - you know what I mean!  Shed your inhibitions!  Be aware all is fair when love is in the air; and you don’t have to be a millionaire to show you care. 

I once received a rock for St. Valentine’s Day.  It wasn’t a diamond, if that’s what you’re thinking. It was a rock from a creek bed at Cedar Pocket, a dairy-farming area not far from Gympie. 

Friends and I were swimming in a local, tree-fringed creek.  We were around 13 years of age at the time. The little brother of one of my friends had a primary schoolboy crush on me; prepubescent puppy love personified. My young admirer waded across to me; a shy smile on his freckled face. Gingerly he extended his hand to present me with a small round rock.

Over countless years the flowing waters of the creek had smoothed the stone’s rough edges. I should have stayed in the creek longer; it may have smoothed away some of my own rough edges.

My junior Romeo selected the special stone for me as proof of his heart’s longing.  The rock is long gone, but the memory of the gift remains. Not wanting to hurt his tender feelings, I graciously accepted his token.  A simple yet memorable gesture; it was the first gift I’d received from a boy. It didn’t matter it was merely a water-washed rock from a little kid. His pure offering was from his heart.  Perhaps I was the original cougar!

 Whatever you have planned for St. Valentine’s Day…whether it be grandiose or simple…enjoy the celebration of love.

And if you have no one to share it with…treat yourself. 

Remember the sage advice given by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young way back in 1970: “Love the one you’re with!”
Pistachio-Stuffed Dates: Carefully slit 9 large mejdool dates; remove stones. Put 75g pistachios, 30g honey, 30g water and a few strands saffron in pan; cook briefly until pistachios absorb the moisture. Blend to a coarse paste with 1/4ts orange flower water (optional). Stuff dates with the paste.

Date & Honey-Glazed Chicken Thighs: Preheat oven to 200C. Lightly spray baking dish. Glaze: process 1c apple juice, 12 pitted dates, coarsely chopped, 6 garlic cloves, 4tbs honey, 4tbs olive oil and 1tsp salt; pulse until fairly smooth. Coat 8 large, bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs with glaze; coat well; put into baking dish; bake 35-40mins or until cooked.

One Nutty Date: Preheat oven, 190C. Beat 1c packed brown sugar, 1/2c softened unsalted butter, 1/2c smooth natural peanut paste and 1/2tsp cinnamon at medium speed until well mixed. Add 1 large egg and 1tsp vanilla; beat until well mixed; reduce speed to low; add 1-1/2c plain flour, 1/2tsp baking powder and 1/2tsp baking soda and 1/2tsp salt; beat until mixed. Stir in 240g chopped dates and 1/3c chopped walnuts. Chill at least 1hr. Use a small scoop to drop 1-1/2-inch balls of dough 2-inches apart on ungreased baking sheet. Press gently to flatten slightly; bake about 8-10mins. Cool completely on rack. Melt 240g white choc chips with 1tbs canola oil added. Dip fork in chocolate; then wave over the biscuits to create a lacy finish; let chocolate set for an hour or two; sprinkle with chopped walnuts if you like

Wednesday, February 05, 2014


17 Fern Street, Gympie...showing middle and rear flat.
17 Fern Street, Gympie Circa 2014
17 Fern Street Circa 2014

Each and every one of us has habits, some good, some bad, and some, perhaps, that are better kept secret!  All right then…if you don’t wish or want to own up, that’s okay with me. 

I’m a creature of habits and traditions.  Traditions of my own making, that is; just my own little personal traditions that have grown throughout the years; so there are quite a few of them because I’ve been strolling, and at other times running along the pathways of my life for a number of years now.  No…I’m not confessing how many years; not today, anyway.  It is enough to admit I’ve not yet reached “three score years and ten”. Whether I confess when, I shall ponder upon over and over again – so until then, I refuse to be browbeaten, and it shall remain unwritten!  

Pondering is habit of mine, too.

Have you noticed a lot of people have the annoying habit of “knocking” everything and everybody?  They’ve done it for so long it becomes second nature to them.  So easily they’ve slipped into the habit of rarely having a good word to say about anything or anyone.  It’s not a very nice trait to have. 

With "rehab" being the word of the day, I wonder if there is rehab for bad habits!

“Tall Poppy Syndrome” is alive and well, unfortunately.  No antidote has yet been found to counteract its venom.  It’s like a vicious virus that can’t be eradicated. Instead of admiring, and perhaps doing one’s best to aspire to the achievements and talents of those who have genuinely accomplished greatness in their chosen fields there are far too many others who prefer to tear down like rotting undergrowth or white ant-infested walls those who have succeeded .   

Envy comes to mind as one of the reasons; a feeling of personal inadequacy is another.  The “knockers”; the “tear-downers” enjoy a false feeling of power when they rip apart those who do well in life. It's a shallow way of behaving, in my opinion; and it’s probably the only thing at which they’ll succeed in doing! That's not much of an achievement...

Sure, we love the “underdog”. We admire humility in a person.  We should also cheer for greatness.  Who knows, some of it might rub off on us!

Jealousy/envy is a wasteful emotion; and it's one that can lead to much destruction, personally and to the welfare and lives of others.

Negativity is very frustrating, but let us not dwell upon it, or we, too, will succumb to the habit! 

When my brother, Graham and I were kids growing up in Gympie we had a neighbour, Mrs. Weller. Mrs. Weller had a habit of adding “you know” after everything she said, whether it was a question or a statement, you know!

We lived in a block of three flats. They weren’t flash. It was a highest construction at the front; and the land levelled out at the rear of the block. From the street it looked more like a single dwelling rather than a set of three flats. The building’s exterior was clad in weatherboard; the interior walls were unpainted tongue and groove. Linoleum covered the floors. 

The premises are pictured above, as it is nowadays.  Some changes, naturally, have been made since we lived there. The two bedroom windows at the front when it was my most modest home (for a period of 17 years) were adorned with window boxes bearing colourful portulaca. 

Along the wall beside the front stairs, my brother, Graham, having caught the gardening habit erected a shelf there; and upon the timber shelf he placed many pots filled with various cacti and ferns (the latter being appropriate, now that I think about it...after all, it was "Fern Street).

A couple of palm trees grew down the side of the property beside the garden path; and a fence separated our dwelling and the house on the lower side. 

The neighbour to whom I refer herein lived in the rear flat with her husband, Mr. Weller – “Audie” to the adults. However, they were always “Mr.” and “Mrs.” to my brother and me; as were all adults, without exception.

Our flat was at the front of the house/buildimg.  To reach the front gate and letter-box our back neighbours had to walk down the garden path that ran down the side of our flat. However, as our front flat was high off the ground there was no chance of them seeing into our home because we actually looked down upon the concrete garden path from the height of our verandah/sleep-out. We didn't look down upon our neighbours, though, other than physically if standing on our verandah!

Sometimes, when passing, Mrs. Weller caught us out on our front verandah and a conversation would ensue before we had a chance to escape…you know!   

We were trapped…you know!

Kids being kids, every time Mrs. Weller stopped for a chat on her way to or from the letter-box Graham and I fell into the habit of uncontrollable giggling fits. Covering our mouths with our hands, we'd almost smother ourselves trying not to be heard, or our mirth be seen. We’d duck down behind the wall on the verandah, out of sight.  While we were collapsed on the floor in hysterical, silent laughter, Mum or Nana or both kicked us (not in an abusive manner) in an effort to shut us up; all the while themselves trying valiantly to keep straight faces,

And every time Mrs. Weller dropped a “you know” into her conversations no amount of kicks from our Mum and/or Nana could stop our muffled laughter.  Poor Mrs. Weller - she didn't have a bad bone in her body.  She meant well; she was a simple soul.

Any time Graham and I went a bit too far with our mischievous behaviour, Mum and Nana, of course, got into the habit of glaring at us and/or kicking us under the table, out of the eye range of others, in an effort to control our childish behaviour.  Graham and I always knew when we’d gone too far; stepped over or gotten too close to the demarcation line; when it was time to pull our heads in and behave ourselves.  

I don’t recall ever being slapped or spanked.  I remember the threats; they were enough to stop my brother and me in our tracks, quick smart. I do remember the glares and the nudges under the table, too!  It became a habit of mine, and, no doubt, Graham became similarly afflicted, as well, to do some under-the-table-kicking, too!  It was a family trait.  It was part of our DNA.

Immediately after finishing dinner, Nana had a habit of asking us “what do you feel like for dinner tomorrow night?” 

In reply, our habit was to groan loudly while rubbing our full stomachs!

Querulously, I ask the following questions –

When does a habit become a tradition?

When does a habit become an addiction?

When does a habit become piece of clothing? 

Of course, not all habits are bad. However, the habit of having cream doughnuts for breakfast every day is – I guess!

Doughnuts can easily become a holey habit, you know!

Basic Doughnuts: Beat 2 eggs until creamy and lemon-coloured. Add 1/2c sugar, 2-1/2tsp baking powder, 1/4tsp salt, 1tsp hot melted butter, 1/2tsp nutmeg, 1/2tsp ginger, 1/2c milk and 1-1/2 sifted plain flour. Dust surface with flour and a little ginger; roll out dough to ½-inch thick; cut with cutter. Let stand 1 hour, covered with tea towel. Deep fry at 185C; drain; shake in a bag full of cinnamon and caster sugar.  

Sour Cream Doughnuts: Cream together 1c sugar and 3/4c thick sour cream. Beat 3 eggs with a fork; add to mixture. Sift 1tsp each baking powder and baking soda; add a small bit at a time to 1c sour milk.  Sift in 3c plain flour; and then add about 1c or amount necessary to make soft dough. Chill a little, then roll dough out on floured surface; cut with floured cutter. Don’t handle dough more than necessary because it will become tough. Fry in hot oil. Drain; roll in sugar. 

Honey-Dipped Doughnuts: Sift together 3-3/4c plain flour (sift before measuring), 2tsp baking powder, 1tspn baking soda, 1tsp cinnamon, 1/2tsp nutmeg and 1/4tsp salt. In bowl, beat 1c sugar, 2 eggs and 3tbl butter with hand-held mixer at med-speed. Blend in a little milk; stir in dry ingredients until well-blended to a soft dough. Wrap; chill 2 hours. Place dough on lightly-floured surface; roll to ½-inch thickness. Cut out with floured cutter. Drop doughnuts 2-3 at a time into hot fat. Fry, turning once, until golden; drain.  Heat 1c honey to just boiling point. Dip doughnuts, one at a time, into hot honey, coating well; then dip half of each doughnut into flaked or shredded coconut. Place on racks to dry.  

Apple Cider Doughnuts: Make a glaze from 2c icing sugar and 1/4c apple cider; put aside. Boil 1c apple cider until reduced to 1/4c; cool. Beat 1c sugar with 1/4c solid vegetable shortening until smooth.  Add 2 large eggs; mix well; add 1/2c buttermilk and cider. Stir together 3-1/2c plain flour, 2tsp baking powder, 1tsp baking soda, 1/2tsp cinnamon, 1/2tsp salt and 1/4tsp nutmeg in another bowl. Add to liquid ingredients; mix until just enough to combine. Transfer dough to lightly-floured surface; pat to ½-inch thickness. Cut with cutter.  Fry doughnuts a couple at a time, turning once, until golden. Dip doughnuts, while warm into glaze; serve warm. 

Spudnuts: Put 3pkts dry yeast into enough warm water to cover; let activate.  Combine 1c sugar, 1c butter and 5 eggs; add 3c mashed potatoes, 1/2tspn nutmeg, 1tsp salt, 1tsp lemon juice, 4c milk and activated yeast; mix. Add enough flour to make a soft dough; let rise. Roll out; cut; let rise; then fry.