Monday, December 04, 2023



As I have done for the past number of Christmases I'll be flying under the radar once again during the Holiday Season.  Gone are the days when I catered for the 'masses', whether privately or in restaurants/resorts...thank goodness!  Often I wonder how I did so!   Nowadays I seek a peaceful, relaxed Christmas, alone with me and me.

The last year or so that I lived in Cairns, I wanted a break from the hospitality industry, so I gained work in a real estate office in Smithfield, a northern beaches' area of Cairns. Therein, I was employed as receptionist, secretary, and property manager.

A couple of weeks prior to Christmas, tenants, a young family of five, came to me in search of cheaper accommodation. The 'thirty-something' father, an upright, gentle man who was, obviously, a hard worker and, who obviously cared dearly for his wife and young children, had run into a few difficulties on the work-front. I hated the thought of losing them as tenants as they took very good care of the rental property in which they lived, and they always paid their rent on time, if not a day or two earlier. They were a very nice young family.

I tried my utmost to find alternate housing for them, but I had nothing suitable on our books. The whole situation saddened me deeply. It was the week before Christmas. Their lives were being turned upside down and inside out. I was losing a lovely family, decent, good tenants. I felt for them. They were battlers trying vainly to do the right thing. They may not have had much, however the children were loved, always clean, well-mannered, dressed simply, but immaculately.

With cap in hand, the father came to me one day, saying he had found a house through another agent. Apologetic, he said he hated having to go to someone else but he could see no alternative. I understood. As hard as I tried to help him, it was out of my hands as I didn't have a property to suit his needs. Our mutual dismay and disappointment was clearly visible to anyone who may have witnessed the drama as it unfolded.

Feeling glum and defeated, I rang the owner of the rental property to inform him of the situation. I had never met the owner of the house face to face. He lived way out in Weipa, situated far up north on the west coast of Cape York, on the Gulf of Carpentaria. In detail, I explained what had been happening with the tenant and his property, leaving nothing out of my report to him. In silence he listened.

Finally, he said to me. "Lee...thank you for keeping me informed. Here's what I'd like to do. Has the family moved out yet?"

I answered, "No, but, they are in the midst of packing their possession etc., and will be moving out tomorrow."

"Okay," continued the owner of the property. "You ring him, or go around to see him, and offer him this. I hate to lose good tenants, and from what you have told me these are good, worthy people. I'm prepared to forego his rent for four weeks. And, I will not raise the rent in the foreseeable future...and that could be a far distant future. I would rather take care of worthy tenants than have a vacant property. That might help them out a bit."

When I found my voice, I thanked him profusely as we completed our conversation. Grabbing my car keys, without wasting a minute, I raced out of the office. As I drove up to the rental property, the father was in the process of loading up his vehicle. He looked surprised when he recognised it was me leaping out of the car. Breathlessly, I related the conversation I had had with the landlord. As I passed on the offer to the tenant, I couldn't stop smiling. I will always remember the look on the father's face.

Overcome with emotion, he reached out and hugged me. I returned the favour. Both of us had tears running down our cheeks.

Now, that's what I call a 'Christmas present'!

The family remained in the house and were still tenants when I left Cairns to live on Newry Island. I can't remember the name of the landlord, but what a generous, wonderful, empathetic man he was. I hope Karma treated him well.

Friday, November 24, 2023





This time of the year, every year, I’m in awe at the beauty that surrounds. I offer no apology for, once again, sounding like a broken record by describing the joy I always feel when I drive along to and from my local supermarket at this time of the year.  As is my choice, I’m not one to be out and about much.  Mostly, I prefer to stay at home, not only to my own delight, but, probably to that of everyone else, too.

At this time of each year the blooming jacaranda trees never cease to enlighten, and brighten my spirits when I do dare venture forth.  Like purple raindrops, the brilliant blossoms fall. Rich purple carpets enhance the roadsides and walkways.  All too soon jacaranda season comes to an end. Appreciating every possible moment during their brief, colourful performance, I give thanks to each and every one of the beautiful, blossoming tree I see.

Overcome by the intense splendor of jacarandas in full bloom, tears often well in my eyes (where else?).  Certain childhood memories enjoyed during jacaranda seasons flood my mind.  Playing on the swings, seesaw, and slippery slide in Gympie’s Memorial Park surrounded by the purple brilliance; playing “chasey” around the rotunda, the well-kept lawns and the rose-filled garden beds, were frequent, much enjoyed childish pleasures.

Julie Andrews made a boo-boo by incorrectly singing the lyrics, which actually are; “The hills are alive with the colour purple.”  This hill, also, is alive with the colour purple at present. For too brief a period each year, this beautiful area we’re fortunate to inhabit is covered in a purple haze.  Surrounded by the stunning lavender array, one may not be far off the mark in thinking jacarandas were the inspiration behind the music of Jimi Hendrix and Prince.

I guess, too, my ever-lasting love of jacarandas was one of the reasons, the “Singing Cowboy” aka Burl Ives’ version of “Lavender Blue (Dilly Dilly)” from the 1949 Walt Disney film, “So Dear to My Heart” was so dear to my heart when I was a kid.  You youngsters out there (that means anyone younger than me…which is just about everyone)…do a Google search on Ives.  He was a well-loved character of many shades.

In past years, life wasn’t always a bed of roses, nor was life a magic purple carpet ride, but it’s better for one’s equilibrium to preference joyful memories over upsetting ones.

A chilling moment, the memory of which never failed to make me laugh once I’d calmed down, occurred when my brother, Graham, our Nana, and I were sitting at the top of our front stairs late one afternoon,  The previous evening Graham had watched the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock horror movie, “Psycho”, which starred Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh.  During Graham’s purposely dramatic, detailed, sombre, nail-biting relating of the movie’s storyline, engrossed, Nana and I soon became lost within the scary story.  Without prior warning, Graham bellowed loudly. His unexpected, loud outburst frightened the hell out of both Nana and me, causing us to almost fall down the stairs!  Having the reactions he’d aimed for by his Oscar-worthy performance, Graham laughed his head off.  Instead of an Oscar, I presented him with a thump on the arm!

I’ve many happy memories from past jacaranda seasons.  Nana was a Scorpio, as am I.  A couple of days separated our birthdays. When I was still quite young, I decided to surprise her by making her a birthday cake.  It was to be the first cake I’d ever made without adult guidance. The way it turned out, it was a miracle I ever made another.  With little forethought, I chose to make a sponge.  It would’ve been a far better plan to have purchased a bath sponge, smothered it in icing, and stuck a few candles on top!  My sponge was a disaster from go to whoa. I used too many eggs – our bantams were prolific producers that year - and not enough flour. My future catastrophe rose to the high heavens. To my dismay, once removed from the oven, it collapsed flatter than the flattest pancake, as did my confidence and mood. As time passed, through the ensuing years, that particular episode…my valiant, well-intended effort… also caused us much laughter.


Purple Grape Cake: Preheat oven 175C. Grease and flour 23cm round cake pan. In bowl, mix together 1-1/2c plain flour, 1-1/2tsp baking powder, and 1/2tsp salt. Set aside. In large mixing bowl, cream together 1/2c softened, unsalted butter and 1c sugar until light and fluffy. Add 2 large eggs, one at a time; beat well after each addition; stir in 1tsp vanilla. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, alternating with 1/2c milk. Begin and end with the flour mixture, mixing until just combined. Gently fold in 2c fresh purple grapes. Pour batter into cake pan; smooth top. Bake 50-60mins, or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven; let cake cool in pan for 10mins; transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Nana’s Easy Sponge (Obviously not the one I used): Preheat oven 160C. Grease and flour 20cm cake pan. In bowl, sift together 100g plain flour and 30g cornflour; set aside. In large bowl, add 4 room-temp eggs and 100g sugar; beat for 15mins; add 1/2tsp vanilla; beat another 2mins. Gently fold half sifted flour into beaten eggs; combine; then add remaining flour; gently fold until smooth and completely combined.  Pour into pan; bake 30-35mins. Cool in pan, 10mins; move to wire rack to cool completely.  Go wild…decorate to your heart’s delight!     

Sunday, November 12, 2023



Kookaburra...graphite drawing I did a few years ago


Butcher Bird

Noisy Miner

Pied Currawong

Constantly I’m under surveillance by a group of tuxedo-clad spies, and by others of various sizes, dressed in outfits of varying designs and colours. They’ve bugged my place with hidden cameras of that I am certain.  I strongly suspect they’ve buried periscopes out and about in the yard.  My every movement is being monitored. No matter how quiet or stealthily-made a movement I make, out of nowhere they appear at my screen door, peering inside, blatantly letting their presence be known.  How do they know what I’m up to if not for hidden scrutiny devices?  Sometimes the spies even tap on my closed, sliding glass door to ensure I won’t ignore them.  That’s how determinedly persistent they are. Every step I take….I can’t get away with anything!

For the 20 plus years I shared my life with my two beloved furry best friends, Remy and Shama, every afternoon, when cutting up meat for their dinner, I gave the neighbouring birds the meat scraps. I can’t let them down. The magpies, kookaburras and the cheeky, fearless, little spitfires disguised as butcherbirds are not dependent on me for their food, but they do know that every day I have special treats for them.  Frequently, currawongs visit, too.  Lately, a few noisy miners have quietly joined the gang.  I wonder how much the joining fee is. 

I’ve no fears of being swooped on by the magpies.  They know I’m their mate, and am not a threat.  I call the magpies “Maggie”, the kookaburras, “Kooka”, and the butcherbirds, “Butch”, or…“Tommy Butcher” (when I was a child one of our neighbour’s name was “Tommy Butcher”.  He was a cop). The noisy miners, I call “Digger”. 

To my delight, the maggies introduced their babies to me a few weeks ago.  The “babies” are no longer small. They are as big as their parents, but they’ve not yet graduated to suits similar to those of their elders. The young ones are still clad in their murky grey-coloured rompers. No doubt they’ll soon don tuxedos, spread their wings, and fly off in search of new adventures, forgetting me.

While unloading groceries from my car the other day, one of the magpies, in a world of his own, was wandering down the yard, grazing as he strolled.  “G’day, Maggie! Whatcha doin’?”  I called out to my feathered friend. 

Without fear or hesitation, the bird turned, and walked across to me, coming to a stop a couple of inches from my feet. His plucky, confident behavior gifted me a joyful start to my day. If I could have picked him up and given him a cuddle, I would’ve done so.  He was probably checking out my shopping bags to make sure their meat was among my purchases…it was….

When I was a little girl, often, as a form of affection, my mother called me, “Maggie”.  Why she called me so, I have no idea, but I liked it. Maybe it’s the reason I’ve a close affinity with the maggies!   Just a thought!  Don’t run and hide! I’ve no intentions of swooping on anyone. Dive-bombing isn’t a habit of mine.

Daily visits from the birds, the beauty of jacaranda blossoms, and mango season, all help lighten, a little, the burden of today’s troubled world. I love having the birds around...hearing their calls.  They're a chatty mob!

With so much beauty surrounding us, why do many humans fail to see it…to appreciate it?  Too many humans don’t want to recognise and appreciate what they’re part of - what they have.  The innately inhumane behavior of some, their lack of compassion, their cruelty, is never-ending. When will humans learn?  I wish I had a positive, ever-lasting answer. There’s too much violence, prejudice, hate, sorrow… let’s restore empathy, goodwill, respect, kindness, love, caring, laughter...

Ticks tick me off. They receive no empathy from me.  A couple of weeks ago, one little pest buried into my neck, nestling in behind my left ear lobe. For a few hours, after I’d successfully dislodged it, I eased the irritation it caused by applying - laying my head on - a cold pack of frozen blueberries. My head was still attached to my neck, by the way.  Almost freezing the affected area was/is an assured, quick way to rid the annoying after-effects of a nasty tick.  Maybe I’ll send a call out to the 18 rowdy Guinea Fowls that woke me one morning a while back to come and do their job. Guinea Fowls are supposed to be eradicators of ticks

Mango-Blueberry Smoothie: Blend until completely smooth, 3/4c Greek yoghurt, 3/4c milk, 3/4c frozen blueberries, 3/4c frozen mango chunks, 1tbs honey and splash of vanilla.  Add more milk if too thick.

Mango-Blueberry Cake: Preheat oven, 177C. Butter and flour a 23cm/ 9-inch square or round pan. In bowl, whisk together, 2c plain flour, 2-1/2tsp baking powder, zest of lemon and 3/4tsp salt.  Cream 1/4c softened butter and 3/4c sugar until fluffy.  Add 3/4c coconut milk, regular milk or favourite non-dairy ‘milk’ and 1 egg; mix well. Add the flour, zest, etc; mix well. Gently fold in by hand, 1c diced mangoes and 1c fresh or frozen blueberries.  Make crumble topping:  Combine 1/3c softened butter, 1/2c sugar, 1/3c flour, 1/2tsp cinnamon, and pinch nutmeg. Spread cake batter in pan; sprinkle crumble topping over batter. Bake for 20mins. Lower heat to 163C; bake another 25mins, or until toothpick comes out clean.

Mango-Blueberry Parfait: Grab 1 finely-diced mango, 1-1/2c fresh blueberries, vanilla yoghurt and some granola. Place layer of berries on bottom of glass dish or large glass, then granola, then yoghurt; add layer of mango, granola, and then yoghurt again. Repeat layers until dish/glass is full. Garnish with some berries, mango and granola. Chill until ready to devour.  


Wednesday, November 01, 2023



Guinea Fowl


                                                    Freshwater Creek, Hinchinbrook Island





Many years ago when I was a child, a neighbouring family had eleven kids. Not quite a dozen, but taking into account the parents, the family was a baker’s dozen.  The father was a lineman with the PMG aka Postmaster-General’s Department, which was originally established in 1901. In 1975 it was split into two to become Australia Post and Telecom.  Later on, Telecom morphed into Telstra.  So far, there it has remained…end of today’s history lesson.

For a couple of years the family lived in a large house on the upper side to us, but when their paternal grandmother died, she left her home, which was situated a couple of doors down the street a bit, to the ever-growing family. Without haste, lock, stock and barrel, into it they moved. To this day I still wonder how they all squashed into that house…and, I do mean “squashed”.  The house had only two bedrooms and a very small sleep-out!   For various reasons, we never became playmates.  The kids were younger than my brother and me. They also attended a different school to the one we did. The boisterous family reminded me of the popular Clifton Webb movie of the early Fifties; “Cheaper by the Dozen”.

At various stages of growth the kids scaled our fence to enter our yard, uninvited. Upon successfully infiltrating the barriers, the temptation to nick the small, brightly-coloured “fruit” from the dozen or so plants in our garden was too great to ignore. Within seconds, they’d discover the punishment for their mischievous felonious activity was painfully over-powering. 

To their distress and agony they realised what they’d ingested were very hot Bird’s Eye Chillis.  Loud, wretched cries reverberated through the air.  Glasses of cold milk were swiftly dispensed by our mother or grandmother to help alleviate their suffering. The kids’ brief attempts at a life of crime rapidly came to an end, as did their desire to ever again devour Bird’s Eye Chillis. There was no need for a guard dog to keep uninvited children out of one’s yard when the very hot chillis unfailingly did the trick.

An equal number of the round, colourful, small Cherry chilli peppers also grew in our yard.  Looking like little lollipops, they, too, were temptations not to be ignored by wandering fingers. They’re not quite as hot as their fiery cousins, the Bird’s Eye, but still have a bite to them when bitten.

One morning a few weeks ago I was rudely awoken, not by a dozen, but by a dozen and a half… i.e. 18…loudly-honking Guinea Fowls.  Yep! I counted each and every one of the raucous, feathered critters after they’d hatched.  Rudely shattering the peace, they strutted down the yard close to my bedroom window not giving a damn who they woke.  If I discover where the rowdy intruders roost, I might do similar back at them to see how they like it!

Living in North Queensland had many advantages.  One such benefit occurred on a sunny Sunday a few days before re-opening the resort at Cape Richards on Hinchinbrook Island to visiting holiday-makers.  For a couple or so hours my staff and I took a well-deserved break away from our daily slog. By boat we visited Freshwater Creek, one of the island’s meandering waterways.  

As we approached the jetty upon our return to the resort, I cut the boat motor to allow us to wallow in the wonder of a rare occurrence.  The boat, with us still in it, was surrounded by half a dozen or more inquisitive dugongs. Apparently, they, too, were enjoying their Sunday outing.  It was a unique moment in time.  One I’ll never forget. 

Another memorable dugong moment I experienced occurred one day when I was sitting on the foreshore at Cardwell, the township on the mainland across from Hinchinbrook Island. Lost in a world of my own, I sat appreciating the stunning surrounding area when suddenly a herd of a dozen or more dugongs cruised by. Another cherished rare moment in time....

When I was a kid 12 pence allowed entry to Saturday afternoon matinees at Gympie’s Olympia Theatre, with enough left-over pence to purchase a packet of Jaffas (one had to roll at least a dozen Jaffas down the theatre aisles), and a cold drink. Actually, I preferred delicious Fantales to Jaffas.  I loved reading the stories about the film stars printed thereon. Sadly, in July just gone, Fantales have gone. Fantales  no longer exist…at least, not the chocolate-coated caramel variety.  Allens/Nestles decided to discontinue making them.…

All too soon we’ll be doing the 12 days countdown to Christmas.  Out comes the abacus. Now, where did I hide it?

Vegetable-Bean Chilli: Heat 2tbs olive oil in pot over med-heat until shimmering. Add l large chopped onion, 2 chopped large capsicums, 2 diced carrots, 2 diced celery stalks, and 4 minced garlic cloves. Cook, stirring, until just tender, 8-10mins. Add 2tbs chilli powder, 1tbs ground cumin, 2tsp oregano. 2tsp salt, 1/2tsp ground black pepper, and 1/4tsp cayenne. Add 800g canned, un-drained tomatoes, 227g un-drained, canned, roasted green chillis, 3 cans beans (pinto, black, kidney, cannellini, or garbanzo; drained and rinsed). Add 1 to 2 cups veggie stock. Bring to boil; then simmer, uncovered, 20-40mins. Stir in 425g canned, drained corn kernels.

Sweet Potato Chilli: Heat 1tbs oil in large pan on med-heat. Add 1 chopped, large onion; stir occasionally 4-5 mins. Add 4 finely chopped garlic cloves, 2-3 finely diced fresh chillis, and 2 large sweet potato cut into 3cm cubes. Cook a few mins; season. After a few minutes, stir in 2tbs tomato puree, 400g canned tomatoes, 400g canned black beans, 1tbs Vegemite, 2tbs red wine vinegar, 1tbs cumin, 2tsp smoked paprika, 2tsp oregano, 4 bay leaves, and 1c veggie stock. Break tomatoes apart with a spoon; mix well; bring to a gentle simmer; cook on low-med-heat 20mins. Then stir in 4-5 cups of fresh spinach and small bunch of chopped coriander.. Simmer for another few mins. Once the spinach has wilted and the sweet potato cubes are soft, adjust seasoning; serve.