Wednesday, May 25, 2016


Grasstree Beach

Although some might think I’m full of hot air, they’d be incorrect in their thinking because I’m not. With that being the case, you’re safe. I won’t be blowing your house down, nor will I be climbing down your chimneys any time soon.  However, The Three Little Pigs won’t be exempt from my future visits.  I’ll re-enter, not via the chimney, but through their front door.

You see - I’ve been outed; my cover has been blown.  I’ve been dragged out of hiding.  Who knows what mayhem I might cause now that I’m running wild and free?  I won’t be entirely to blame for my future behaviour.  Old friends and The Three Little Pigs play an integral role in what unfolds from here on in.  The latter - The Three Little Pigs - have to shoulder a certain amount of the responsibility for my being let loose upon the world.

From the moment Michael, the bistro’s most hospitable, genial host greeted me to when I stepped through the doorway I sensed all was well within the world.  Michael welcomed me before I’d put a toe (which was attached to my foot) in the restaurant.   

An alert I was at large had preceded my arrival. 

I’ll explain why I was roaming the streets unrestrained.

 No respect for my desire to be a hermit has been awarded me lately. Word somehow spread amongst some of my old friends for a couple of them to step forward and yank me out from my hideaway. 

Two weekends in a row I was visited by mates of the good old kind. 

In the second instance The Three Little Pigs was the chosen venue.  Is this an omen?  It is said – “Good things come in threes.”   Who’s next? 

Out of the blue, my friends Trevor and Gwenda contacted me.  We three have known each other forever it seems. They’ve been married 51 years.

Gwenda I’ve known since the late Fifties. Born two years before I was, Gwenda, along with her three older brothers and sister was raised on a dairy farm at Cedar Pocket, a farming area approximately 16 kilometres east of Gympie.   Often, when I was attending high school I’d stay with a school friend at her home.  She also lived on a dairy farm at Cedar Pocket.    

In those years Cedar Pocket seemed to be miles and miles from town.  When the children from that area were old enough to go to high school they boarded in “town” aka Gympie. 

On the Saturday nights of the weekends I stayed at the farm my friend, her younger sister, brother and I would accompany their parents to the country dances held in the Cedar Pocket Hall.  

Country dances held in the timber community halls were so much fun.  Through those years of the late Fifties and early Sixties my friends and I attended many country dances held in the areas surrounding Gympie.

Two of Gwenda’s brothers, Don and Ian often asked me to be their dance partner for the different dances during the evenings.  I always felt flattered (and dumbstruck) two handsome young blokes who were much older than me were interested in asking me to dance with them.  I was a shy kid, so I probably didn’t add much to the conversation! 

I discovered many years later, from Gwenda, that both her brothers had a bit of a crush on me at the time of those dances.  I was too innocent and naive to realise it was so.  I just loved to dance...forget all the other nonsense!

Trevor and I met in 1961 when he landed in Gympie as a raw, young 17 year old eager to flood the airwaves as a 4GY radio announcer.  I was 16 years of age when he and I met.  Prior to positioning himself in front of 4GY’s microphone and turntables Trevor had been a panel operator at Brisbane’s 4BH, one of Brisbane’s top radio station at the time where the announcers were led by one, DJ Bill Gates.  It was Bill Gates who discovered The Bee Gees when they were just young kids playing their music around the Redcliffe area  Redcliffe a northern beachside suburb of Brisbane.

From our first meeting Trevor and I struck up a friendship, one that’s lasted long.  

When he first arrived in Gympie he boarded in a home up behind from where I lived.  My Nana, in particular, took him under her wing and he often shared a place at our dinner table.  Both Mum and Nana thought the world of Trevor.  I very much doubt anyone who knows or has known Trevor feels otherwise about him.  He’s that kind of person.

In 1964 Trevor absconded from Gympe to become a radio announcer at 4MK, Mackay. 

Mum and Nana left Gympie around late 1967.  They moved up to Slade Point, Via Mackay, to be closer to my brother Graham who by then himself had started having his family.  When both my mother and grandmother passed away, Trevor was present at their small, intimate farewells.  Through the years, his path crossed with theirs while they lived within the same area.  Whenever I visited the Mackay area to see Mum, Nana and my brother, Graham I always visited Trevor and Gwenda while there.

After four years behind the mike at 4MK, Trevor expanded his talents to become the station’s sales manager and account executive.

In 1990 Trevor left 4MK to help Channel 10 set up in Mackay, but he returned to 4MK nine years later.

Since his retirement from the world of radio and TV, Trevor and Gwenda have resided on the beachfront (in a house, of course) at Grasstree Beach, east of Sarina.

Trevor and Gwenda have three children – two girls and one boy.  When Kym their first child; their daughter was born I happened to be in Mackay visiting my brother and his family at the time.   Scott, their son is in the Australian Army. Scott is due back home here in Australia (Brisbane) in the middle of June when his second tour in Iraq is completed.  I can't even imagine the concern his parents feel while he is away in such countries.  I can, however, imagine just how proud they are of their son.  I've not seen him since he was a little boy, but I know I'm proud of him.

In 1968 I was in Mackay visiting my brother and his family.  One morning I was up out of bed bright and very early before the others had begun to stir making a cup of coffee for myself when suddenly a face appeared at the kitchen window.   

It was Trevor with the broadest of smiles beaming across his face.  He’d raced from the hospital to spread the news to me.  I was the first person outside their immediate family he told about the birth.  He was over the moon, and so was I.  Naturally, I invited him to come inside. We sat around the kitchen table barely able to talk.  The smiles on our faces made it difficult to do so. 

Over the past years email contact between us has been regular, but until the other day we’d not had face to face contact since a fleeting catch-up on a Saturday afternoon when I was cooking at Gympie’s Gunnabul Restaurant in 2000 or thereabouts.  What was it about me, Gunabul and old friends? 

While visiting Gympie relatives they decided to pop in to see me, too. Unfortunately, at the time of their unannounced visit I was running around like the proverbial chicken with its head cut off because I was in the middle of service, catering for a wedding.  I could only spare a brief moment.

Our lengthier rendezvous at The Three Little Pigs on Friday last was fantastic, absolutely fabulous.  Tears filled our eyes when we first met up again; and we, at times during the course of our lunch became misty-eyed.  There must have been something floating around in the air!

When it came time to part, we made our parting farewells brief because more tears threatened to flow.  I shed a few on the quiet, in privacy of my car as I drove home.  As I commented during lunch - one of Nana’s observations of our little family group – one she often repeated – was – “Us lot pee out of our eyes!”  Trevor and Gwenda appreciated the humour in Nana’s keen monitoring of our habit.  They both liked my grandmother and my mother; the admiration was mutual

At lunch on Friday the three of us talked our heads off, naturally.  We had so much to talk about...and we still do have much more to discuss.  So much to say; to share...and so little time...but we certainly did fit a lot into the three and a half hours we had.  Barely a breath was taken between us!

Our lunch, too, was fantastic.  I was expecting “good”, but what we received both in service and food was excellent.

Samantha, the lovely, young lass who looked after our every whim deserves high praise as do Chris and his kitchen team.   Michael, who looks after front-of-house, as I mentioned earlier, was most gracious. He was/is a very pleasant fellow. As we talked...I arrived before my friends, Michael and I discovered we had a few things in common (within the hospitality industry); and after I’d introduced Michael to Trevor and Gwenda, the three of them discovered they had mutual friends, too!  The “six degrees of separation” syndrome once again was in play.

I’m still salivating at the memory of my delectable prawns.  Gwenda ordered the prawns, too. She enjoyed her meal as much as I did mine. They were as fresh as if they’d just come out of the ocean. The mouth-watering medium-rare steak Trevor had, with a side dish of prawns, remains clear in my mind, as well.  His steak looked delicious.  We shared a dessert of hot, crunchy apple crumble with home-made ice cream (Three Little Pigs-made ice cream) and Chantilly Cream.

I’ll order steak next time I pay The Three Little Pigs a visit; or perhaps the pork belly, or...... 

And there will be a next time; no huffing and puffing about that!

Ginger Garlic Chicken: Pat dry700g chicken drumsticks with paper towels. Peel and chop 2-inch piece of ginger and chop 5 garlic cloves; add to the chicken; gently rub onto chicken skin, To chicken add, 1-1/2tbs soy sauce, 1/2tbs oyster sauce, 1tbs honey, 1tsp sesame oil, 3 heavy dashes of white pepper, pinch of salt and pinch of Chinese Five-Spice powder; stir to mix well so the chicken drumsticks are nicely coated with all the ingredients. Set aside to marinate for at least 30mins or, better still, 2hrs in the fridge. Place chicken on paper-lined baking tray; cook in preheated 190C oven, middle shelf, until chicken is golden brown; slightly charred won’t hurt: serve warm.

Surf & Turf Deluxe: Sprinkle 2x150g fillet steaks on both sides with salt, crushed pink peppercorns and cracked black peppercorns. Also sprinkle 6 large sea scallops on both sides with salt and the peppercorns. Heat 1-1/2tsp olive oil in large heavy pan over med-heat; add steaks; cook 3mins per side (for med-rare). Transfer to platter; cover; keep warm; add 1-1/2tsp olive oil to pan; add scallops; cook 2mins per side; transfer to platter; keep warm. Add 75ml champagne or dry white wine, 1-1/2tsp fresh lemon juice and 1tbs finely chopped or minced shallots to pan; bring to boil; simmer 3mins or until reduced to about 2tbs; remove from heat; add 3tbs chilled, 2cm-cubed butter, one at a time, whisking constantly until butter is well-incorporated; season; top steak with scallops; pour over sauce. 

Roasted Pork Belly:  Preheat oven 160C. Rub scored rind on 2kg piece of boned pork belly with sea salt flakes and 1tbs white vinegar, massaging well. Tumble 2 peeled, quartered and cored Granny Smith apples, a handful of fresh sage leaves and 1 chopped onion into roasting dish; pour over 1-1/2c alcoholic apple cider. Place rack over apple mix; lay pork belly on rack, skin side up.  Roast for 3 hours.  Roast Vegetables: After 1-1/2 hours, spread 4 small parsnips, halved, 1 bunch baby carrots, 3 desiree  potatoes, each cut into 6 wedges, ½ bunch fresh thyme and 12 unpeeled garlic cloves on baking dray; drizzle with 1-1/2tbs olive oil and 30g melted butter; season with salt and pepper to taste; toss well to combine. Place vegetables on lower rack of oven; cook with pork, tossing occasionally. After the 3 hours, increase oven temperature to 230C; cook further 20-30mins, until crackling is crispy and vegetables are golden. Remove from oven.  Place vegetables in a dish; keep warm. Rest pork on board, 15mins.  Remove rack from roasting pan’ mash apples with 1tbs wholegrain mustard, using a fork so that it comes together but is still chunky.  Pour sauce into jug; serve pork sliced into portions, with the vegetables and the apple sauce.

Chilli-Salt Prawns: Preheat oven, 220C.  Grease oven tray; line with baking paper. Make a yoghurt dipping sauce – combine 1 cup natural yoghurt, 2tbs quality mayonnaise, 1tbs finely grated lemon rind and 1tbs lemon juice. On the baking tray, combine 1kg shelled, deveined, tails intact uncooked medium king prawns, 1tbs olive oil, 2tsp sea salt flakes and 1/2tsp dried chilli flakes. Spread prawns into single layer. Cook about 10mins. Serve the prawns with the dipping sauce.

This was the delightful Rose we shared over lunch

Thursday, May 19, 2016


Burnie at Hinchinbrook Island...on the "Reef Venture" - circa 1986
Me fooling around during my Hinchinbrook Island days....I'm the clown on the right
Photo taken by Burnie on the weekend of the lane upon which I live

Photos above - from my laneway to the final one above are a few examples of Burnie's photos.  Some taken during his trip to the West Coast of the US last year; one taken in New Zealand last year; the last three are of rural countryside around Gympie

'Tis true!  True good friends are hard to find. However, once found, true good friends are never lost, even if some go missing in action for a while due to the course life takes. Sometimes years pass before get-togethers occur.  This is usually the case with me because all my very good friends, those who I hold dear; those who know me well, and vice versa, don’t live here on the hill.

Like a pair of comfy old slippers or shoes, when good friends  meet up again, no matter the length of time that’s transpired, everything slips into place as if no time whatsoever has passed by.  An unspoken, mutual understanding of the finer nuances of each other’s sense of humour, character, beliefs etc., remains.  . No judgments exist; acceptance triumphs. You are liked and acknowledged for being you, not for your possessions; not for what you own or how much money you have in the bank – or how little.

The friendship between me and my friends of longstanding is true blue.  Over the weekend just past a friend who fits in this category visited me. 

We first met 30 years ago in early 1986.  Burnie (correct spelling) became a valued staff member when I managed the resort on Hinchinbrook Island.   His jobs involved the maintenance and running of the “outside” areas of the resort i.e. carpentry, construction work, generator care etc., etc., et al. 

Shortly after Burnie began working with me on the island I asked if he would make me a coffee table using the left-over timber from the sturdy tables that were set into the deck we’d erected to surround the resort’s pool. 

I described what I had in mind...its height and width, etc., asking him not to be skimpy when creating the table.   In my mind’s eye I pictured a sturdy table; one with “character and guts”.  I wanted to be able to sit on the floor at the table in comfort, and for others to be able to do so, too, if I had others to join me.  When relaxing, I preferred the floor to sofas or chairs.   For me, when bean bags were created and became the “in” seating craze they were one craze that suited me down to the ground – for sitting on the ground/floor (not the ground floor)!.  I think whoever designed bean bags in the first place had me in mind.

There was little else better than resting upon bean bags while leisurely listening to music when discussing the meaning of life or just talking dribble.  (In my book, to be able to do so is still the ant’s pants, but these days it would probably take me a month of Sundays to get down there; and then a year of Saturdays and Sundays to get back up again)!

Shortly after I moved to Hinchinbrook Island I organised for a couple of very large cushions to be custom-made for me.  Their removable zipped covers were made from quality sarongs, chosen and ordered from a Noosa store, especially for the purpose. I wanted the table and large cushions to complement each other.  And the end products did.  I was never someone who pined after lounge suites, and I remain the same, but these days I do have a three-seater sofa (and rarely use it). 

I still have the table.  I love it.  It has pride of place as it always has done...these days in my cabin.  The cushions are out in the back area and when the mood takes hold, Remy, my male cat, claims them.

Like my coffee table, most of my island resort staff were solid citizens and were valued by me; but, of course, as in every situation in life there were a couple or so bad apples; a few who didn’t realise how good they had it until after I politely told them to leave.  For now, I won’t waste my time or yours by going into detail.  I’d rather cherish my good memories and give kudos to those who deserve to sit upon their respective pedestals.

Other than for a brief moment shortly before I came here to the mountain, just over 14 years ago, my old mate and I had not seen each other since 1987 - a lot of water had flowed around the island and elsewhere since then. 

At the time of our fleeting, passing moment back in early 2002 or late 2001, I was cooking at Gunabul Restaurant in Gympie.  I’d run out of an ingredient. With no time to waste, at the pace of a female Usain Bolt, I was racing along an aisle in Woolworths, in a hurry to return to work when I heard someone calling out my name.  Braking to a halt, I turned. To my surprise I discovered it was Burnie, my island friend, who was doing the hollering.

During the four years I’d been living and working back in Gympie I had no idea he, too, was residing in the town.  A few hasty words were exchanged, but I had to be on my way, and that was that, unfortunately.  Shortly after our brief supermarket encounter I left Gympie to come here to Tamborine Mountain.

Our paths didn’t cross again until four years ago, around this time of the year, actually - in 2012.

To my dismay I’d discovered Bronnie, another of my staff members from Hinchinbrook Island days had cancer.  (I wrote a post.....” Saturday, August 04, 2012 – “EMBRACE LIFE...EMBRACE A LIFE WORTH HAVING KNOWN...EMBRACE THE MEMORIES...FOREVER”).

I’d met Bronwyn in Noosa when I was had my green-grocery/health food store in Hastings Street.  

Bronnie, who was 19 when we first met, worked in a cafe/take-away shop in the same complex/open arcade...the Laguna Arcade... that also housed my store.  A couple of times a day during her breaks and/or before she started her shift, she’d pop into my shop for a chat and for a couple of my homemade (shop-made) muesli cookies. 

Making the biscuits was a daily job for me. They became the “tiger by the tail” syndrome; once I’d started making them for sale, word soon got about and they became a regular feature!  I was continually making the tasty cookies in the little kitchen area of my shop to ensure the large glass jar on my counter was always full and my customers always sated. 

Upon learning of my pending departure from my shop and the Noosa area to take up the management of the resort on Hinchinbrook Island, Bronnie came into my shop, pulled up a chair and begged me for a job at the resort.  She pestered me, her brown eyes pleading at me like a sorrowful puppy!  Bronnie’s story is told in detail in my blog post referred to above.

Immediately I discovered Bronnie’s dire situation I donned my Sherlock Holmes’ deerstalker cap and cape to go in search of as many of her past co-workers from her Hinchinbrook days as I could find.  I let my fingers do the walking to inform them what was going on in Bronnie’s life.  Bronwyn had been well-liked by her fellow workmates.- and by me.  I’d taken her under my wing when she worked for me.  She was a good kid.

Within a couple of months of my heartbreaking discovery of Bronnie’s condition, Bronwyn, at the young age of 47, passed away.  It was a very sad time.

Burnie was among those I tracked down, and ever since then he and I have kept in regular contact via social media, and sometimes by phone.

Burnie was/is a brilliant carpenter.  He can turn his hands to anything he sets his mind on, and the results are always exceptional. He is a true craftsman.  It could be freely said, I suppose, he is a perfectionist at what he does.  The table he built for me would need a bulldozer and 10 large sledgehammers to destroy it...and still I have my doubts that it could be destroyed!   As he sat down on the sofa I drew his attention to the coffee table in front of him.  A broad smile spread across his face.

These days he has given up carpentry, other than doing a few jobs here and there for mates.  Now he is the owner/operator of a picture framing business in Gympie.  He works from home...from a workshop on his property.

He has also turned his keen eye to photography and he does have a very keen eye.  I keep pressuring him to have a showing of his stunning photographs.

Discounting the brief supermarket interlude, finally, after 29 years Burnie turned up on my doorstep Friday, just gone. I knew he was coming.  He didn’t arrive unannounced. He’d forewarned me of his imminent visit on the previous Sunday.  And, in case you’re wondering, I did invite him in. I didn’t leave him stranded on my doorstep, helmet in hand.

His well-maintained, highly-polished Harley alerted me of his arrival on the day.

(Oops!  I am aware I was only last week complaining about the noise made by motor bikes! I’m really not a hypocrite; but I do have a couple of old mates who are old bikers...not bikies...”bikers”; and both those mates are my ex-staff from Hinchinbrook!  David, who was my island chef owns a couple of bikes and during one of his visits to me here on the mountain he arrived by bike. David and his wife, Polly, live in Townsville. Polly has her own motor bike, too.  Now Burnie arrived on his Harley!  People will be talking)!  

From the moment Burnie arrived, the years slipped away as if they’d been non-existent. 

Grazing upon tasty. laden platters, we talked non-stop.  We talked, sipped on red wine; talked, grazed, sipped, laughed and continued the pattern for the next 20 or so hours, with only a short interval in between for some shut-eye.  

Remy and Shama are still getting over the shock of a STRANGER being in THEIR abode. Shama spent the majority of the time under my bed.  Remy spent all the time on my bed (their bed...I rent it off them).   To tell the truth, I think I’m still getting over the visit, too...and all the lead-up to having a visitor.  Expecting a visitor is always a good excuse, I guess, to stop procrastinating and do some housework.

On Saturday morning when Burnie woke he grabbed his camera and went off for a walk.  As soon as he left the cabin Remy went out to the back area to check out the bed Burnie had slept in and his overnight bag.  Shama poked her nose out from under my bed.  Both had a lot to say, but as soon as Burnie returned, Shama once again fled off to her sanctuary, and Remy stood guard on my (his) computer chair not taking his eyes off the interloper.

It was wonderful to catch up in person.  Burnie and I covered lot of territory during those few hours on the weekend; many stories were related. We shared a host of memories of a special time in both our lives...the halcyon Hinchinbrook days. 

I hope another 29 years don’t pass before we meet up again.  If that occurs, a  couple of things are certainties, though - I’ll still 15 years older than him; and he will still be 15 years younger than me. 

Like good friends - nothing changes – except my voice.  Saturday morning I woke croaking like Freddo Frog – unavoidable evidence of all the talking I’d done!

From all the talking Remy and Shama did after Burnie’s departure I reckon their miaows were croaky, too!  It took them...and me...a couple or more days to get back to normal again. We three aren’t used to socialising!  Like me, they, too, are hermits...and like me, they like it!

There is an addendum to this story...I must have lost my camouflage outfit; I'm no longer incognito...I received a phone call today out of the blue from old friends of mine...good friends from long, long ago.  The husband of the team I've known since 1960; and on the distaff side, since the late Fifties.  We're meeting up tomorrow, and I'm looking forward to it.  Again, it's ages since we've caught up, face to face.

I'll post more next week after Friday's cover has been blown!

Focaccia: Combine 900g plain flour and 100g semolina. Mix 35g yeast with a pinch of sugar; add 15g salt, 30g olive oil and 500ml water. Add this to flour; mix until soft but not sticky dough (add a little more water, if needed).  Cover bowl; place in warm place until doubled.  Oil a tray; sprinkle with semolina. Spread dough out; oil and salt top; sprinkle with rosemary leaves. Prove in warm place, 10-15mins; bake in preheated 220C oven, 10mins or until sounds hollow when tapped; drizzle all over with olive oil; cool before slicing. You can top with fresh herbs, olives, a variety of vegetables etc., etc. 

Grilled Vegetable Antipasto: Mix together, 2/3c olive oil, 1/4c lemon juice, 2tbs red wine vinegar, 3tbs fresh basil, 1tbs Dijon mustard, 2tsp each crumbled fresh thyme and fresh tarragon, 1tbs minced garlic, 3tbs minced parsley, salt and pepper. Trim and slice lengthwise in ¼-inch thick slices – 2 small zucchinis, 2 small yellow squash, 2 small eggplants, 2 med firm tomatoes, 1 red capsicum, 1 yellow capsicum and 1 large red onion. Place in shallow baking dish; add marinade; coat well; cover; let stand, at least 4hrs or overnight. Stir occasionally. Before cooking drain; reserve marinade. Heat grill pan over med-high heat; then add vegies; grill in batches, 3-4mins each side, or until tender. Transfer to serving platter; drizzle with the marinade; sprinkle with minced parsley, pitted black olives and Parmesan cheese shavings.  

Antipasto Skewers:  Cook cheese tortellini per directions; once al dente, drain; set aside. Place in an assembly line –tortellini, 1 cup cherry tomatoes, 1c bocconcini, 1 jar pitted black olives, 125g thinly sliced salami and ¼ fresh basil leaves; piece each ingredient onto the skewers; slide down to bottom of skewer; do it in order of colour and shapes to complement each other. Fold the salami in half and in half again to make a triangle. Stack skewers on platter; drizzle with balsamic before serving.