In these days of being mostly housebound, my thoughts tend to wander to places I’ve been. That soon has me remembering childhood holidays and the places we often went as a family. Living in North Queensland as a child, a lot of our holidays tended to be at a beach. Bowen was one of the places we often went to and we stayed there in a caravan park. I remember spending a lot of time combing the beaches for the perfect shells, gathering them up and examining them, thrilled when I found one I wanted to keep. There were spirals that reminded me of unicorn horns, long thin flat shells that we’d pretend to wear as fingernails and shells that we called kookaburra shells. When you held them on the side, with the opening facing you, they looked very similar to a kookaburra with a long beak and a rounded body.
Occasionally I’d find the perfect butterfly shells, delicately joined together with colours inside them ranging from purplish blues to soft pinks. These were rare since most times they were broken apart and even if you found two matching ones, it just wasn’t as special as finding them still attached in the middle. We would also collect cuttlefish bones for birds, either ours or other family members, trying to find the largest ones possible.
The beach we went to at Bowen had bright, white sand that as a child, seemed to stretch for miles and miles. I would walk along it, my gaze on the tidemarks as I searched for the perfect shells, the grains of sand warm beneath my bare feet and shifting and moving as I put weight on it. Occasionally I’d walk through the waves as they lapped on the shore, cooling my feet when the sand became too hot. But even then I’d be searching for the perfect shells, sometimes finding the perfect pebble instead.
At the end of our holidays, I always had quite a collection of shells to take home with me. Some I displayed, others I used in craft a few of them that had large enough holes, I’d hang from my earrings. A reminder of my days at the beach. Reminders of sand, sunshine, waves lapping the shore, the tang of salt and a long stretch of white sand.
For those who haven’t seen the post on Facebook, we have a new member in our family. Ace. The most adorable puppy who not only has tonnes of character, but is extremely intelligent and friendly too. We’ve been loving every minute of having him in our family and have been enjoying his many antics.
In case you were wondering why we called him Ace, the marking on his forehead reminded us of the ace of spades which reminded us of Cayde-6 from the video game Destiny. After checking out the name of Cayde-6’s son and discovering it was Ace, how could we have chosen any other name?
He’s very curious and when we’re in the workshed, he loves to see what we’re up to. But being so young, he does tire quickly so finds the best of places to sleep so he can be comfortable and have a good view of what’s going on each time he cracks an eye to check what we’re doing. Mostly he sleeps on the ride-on mower seat, but sometimes he sleeps on the footwell, depending on where in the shed we’re working. It is after all about the view.
He also likes to get up close to what we are working on, which currently happens to be a chook tractor. Or to those who don’t know our Aussie slang, a moveable cage for the hens so we can get them to clear the areas we want cleaned up rather than the ones they feel like scratching around in. A great way to not only clean up an overgrown area, but to fertilise it too. Ace walked straight in the open section we’re still working on and checked out the mesh at the other end. Maybe he thought he was the job foreman and needed to inspect our work.
Ace has his favourite in our family and it is my oldest son. He calls out mournfully if he’s away from him too long and my son has now discovered what every parents quickly learns. Bathroom breaks are not allowed because your child will cry pitifully at the door if you take one. On the other hand, Ace loves to play in water although he isn’t keen on baths, but will tolerate them with mournful looks to remind us that there is no fun to be had in having an actual bath.
We have taken a ridiculous amount of photos of Ace, but don’t worry, I’ve only choosen a select few to share rather than spaming you with an endless amount. We certainly won’t have a lack of pictures to look back on when we want to reminisce about his puppy years. And I know we will look back in the years to come as we have done with all our other four legged family members. Many of whom we can’t help thinking about as we enjoy welcoming Ace to our family and into our hearts.
As the weather grows colder here in Australia, I can’t help thinking of warmer months. Memories of summer quickly take me back to the ones of my childhood in north Queensland, when the heat didn’t seem to bother us children as we played outside.
The summer months were filled with swimming at local waterholes, days at the beach and being out on my bicycle riding around the streets with my brother. There were of course flies that seemed to be everywhere and they would try to slip inside with you when you opened the screen door during the day. Of an evening, there were mosquitoes that hounded you when you were outside, their loud, high-pitched whine letting you know they were coming in to attack. On the upside, there were mangoes in the later months of summer. It seemed like every backyard had a mango tree or two and every day I had a few mangoes. Well, maybe more than a few. Quite possibly mangoes at every meal and several in between meals. There were certainly enough of them that everyone could eat as many of them as they wished. There were also barbeques, the smell of steak on the grill hanging heavy in the air, making my mouth water as I waited for the food to be served.
Some things have changed since my childhood summers. Living in south east Queensland means that the heat is drier and it doesn’t feel like the air is filled with a dampness that clings to your skin as you move through it. We also don’t live as close to the beach these days and don’t visit it as frequently. But there are still mangoes and barbeques. Lots of mangoes from the row of trees up behind my house that I raid before the birds get them. And barbeques with family on warm summer evenings, the stars filling the sky, the smells of cooking food filling the air and laughter and conversation accompanying the meal.
So many memories to look back on and so many more memories to looking forward to making in the future.
One of my children is about to have a birthday and I can’t help but think of how different the celebration would normally be. We would have friends or family over. Or both. And there would be cake for everyone to enjoy. Not to mention we’d all sing ‘Happy Birthday’ really badly while the birthday person blew out their candles and cut the cake. There will still be cake and those of us who live he will of course sing ‘Happy Birthday’ terribly, but there won’t be anyone visiting. There will be phone calls and messages and birthday greetings, but those people who would normally visit in person won’t be able to do that. So it will be a day of mixed emotions. The joy of celebrating the day my child arrived in this world mixed in with the sorrow that some family members won’t be here to help celebrate the occasion.
It makes me think back over other birthdays and other events where my family has come together to celebrate something. It can be nice to share milestones and special events with those you care about. But as sad as it makes me that there won’t be extra family members here on the day, I’m also grateful that there have been previous celebrations where family members have come together and there will be more of them in the future. And no matter what else is going on, and how terrible some things might be, we aren’t about to let them overshadow what joys there are in life and we’ll make the most of those joys when they do occur.
It’s amazing how quickly life can change. I’m accustomed to life becoming completely different in the space of a short time, but not on a world level, so this has certainly been strange. Once upon a time, I could go to the grocery shops and buy a week or two worth of groceries, which I often did since I live out of town. Now, it’s a matter of going to four grocery shops, which is all we have in the town closest to where I live, as well as a handful of corner stores, and if I’m lucky, I’ll be able to buy enough groceries to feed my family for two or three days. Which, considering we’re told to go out as little as possible, makes it difficult to comply. So I spend hours hunting down the food we need, gathering bits from here and there, the task made more difficult because of how many food allergies we all have. At each shop I’m greeted with empty shelves and quiet aisles, the few people also out searching for food looking like they expect to be stabbed if they even glance at another person.
That’s the part I find the most difficult. As someone accustomed to smiling and greeting my fellow shoppers, and occasionally stopping to chat to random strangers or compliment them on something I like such as a stunning piece of jewellery or an amazing hairstyle, the tendency to treat those around you as the enemy is saddening. I get keeping your distance and I know everyone is worried, but we also have to remember that those around us aren’t the enemy, that they aren’t necessarily going to take the last roll of toilet paper or bar of soap. We’re all in the same boat. All facing the uncertainty of going out in public and not knowing what we might encounter when we go hunting for essential items.
Although there are people who take more than their fair share at the shops, it isn’t everyone. Another part of the problem is that those people who until now have shopped every day or two are trying to buy enough items for a week or more. If you’ve never done this before, it can be difficult to judge what you’ll need to cover that period of time. If you’ve always been able to pop down to the shop for whatever you need and never had to worry about what you’ll do when you run out, then this must be like being thrown in the deep end of the pool with no ability to swim.
Unlike some, we’re lucky in that we have our ‘flood supplies’. Since we sometimes get cut off from town by excessive rain, which we haven’t had in a while, we always make sure we have a few weeks of groceries stocked up. But that is slowly dwindling and eventually we’ll be looking at an empty pantry and eyeing the kangaroos that come visit of an afternoon, our mouths watering at the thought of roo stew and wondering what other recipes they’d go well in. Hopefully though, it won’t come to that and the shelves at the grocery stores will again be filled and our place will remain a haven for the local wildlife.
Before I started writing ‘Promise’, I reread all the books of the Dragon Blood series and Dragon Blood Chronicles. It was nice to return to Amber, Kade and Ronan’s world and add more to their story. It was like visiting with old friends and catching up with them and discovering what they’ve been up to since we last saw each other. And since dragons are involved, I knew a lot would have happened.
As always, I had a lot of fun discovering where the story was going and what would happen to Amber. If you haven’t already, I suggest reading Dragon Blood Chronicles 2: Betrayed before beginning Dragon Mage 1: Promise. Events in that book have an impact on ‘Promise’.
The story picks up not long after the end of Dragon Blood 5: Mage with Ronan once more trying to draw Amber into his plans. Ones that he’s wanted to put into place for a very long time.
Dragon Mage 1: Promise, is now available if you want to learn what happens next for Amber, Kade and Ronan.
In the time since Cooking For Families With Allergies first came out, Storm and I have continued to create and test new recipes. There have been some failures, some that took longer than others to create and ones we’re still trying to figure out. But there have been some successes as well and we’ve had plenty of fun discovering them. Not to mention enjoyed all the sampling needed to create and fine tune a recipe.
We have a list of recipes we’d like to recreate as gluten free recipes. Ones we’ve either had in a gluten form or ones we like the sound of. With how many recipes we have that we’d like to try and recreate, it should take us a few years to get through all of them. But in the meantime, we’re also likely to think of other ones we’d also like to try out. So, we have a lot more fun to look forward to in the kitchen with more recipes to test and enjoy. For now though, we’ve update the Cooking For Families With Allergies with the ones we’ve completed while we continue to work on other recipes.
We always try and research the ideas we come up with to see if they’re feasible. Sometimes, we need to get a little creative in how we go about researching those ideas. One of the scenes in Cursed Harp involved a character leaping from pillar to pillar in a dungeon, trying not to plummet into a pit below. To minimise spoilers, I won’t mention which character and I especially won’t mention whether or not they succeeded.
To create the pillar maze, we placed squares of white paper, cut to the correct size, strategically around our lounge room. Then proceeded to jump from paper to paper as we tried to cross the room. Somehow I managed not to fall to my death, but then I wasn’t under attack, and reached the other side of the room safely. I can’t say I was very graceful in my pillar jumping and there were a few close calls, but I did discover that it was possible to get from one side of the room to the other. And before you ask, no, we did not video my attempts because some things should never be shared and me flailing as I tried not to fall off the ‘pillars’ is certainly one of them.
If you want to discover who had to jump across a pillar maze and if they managed to successfully reach the other side, Guardians Of The Round Table 6: Cursed Harp is now available.
When it comes to traditions, they can be good or bad, depending on the person experiencing them, and of course the type of tradition they are. But the good ones, I find, are important as they can create ties between people over generations, throughout the years and into the future. They evoke a sense of permanency, create memories to cherish and can be something to look forward to. Nor do traditions need to have been around forever. They can be something you choose to start and continue with over the years, creating a tradition amongst the people you care about.
One of my favourite traditions is one I started when my children were young. Many people do advent calendars throughout the month of December, but I didn’t like my children having chocolates or lollies to start off each day in the lead up to Christmas such as were in the commercial advent calendars. So I made little cloth bags in which to put small items that were hung on a board numbered with the days of the month. Each morning my children would open one of the cloth bags to discover what was inside.
I always have so much fun choosing items to put into the advent calendar bags, finding little gifts for each of them as we count down the days to Christmas. It’s a tradition I’ve continued over the years and one I look forward to each year. What are some of your favourite traditions that you look forward to each year?
I had no sooner finished the third book in the Assassins Of The Dead series, when I was making notes for the fourth book. Which seems to be a habit when it comes to this series. When I finally had the time to start writing it, I regularly wrote over three thousand words a day and even as many as five thousand as the story flowed onto the page. At times it felt like King’s Request wrote itself, surprising me with the direction it took. New characters formed, more of past events for old characters made themselves known and I couldn’t wait to discover where Meikah would end up next. And what choices she’d make.
Although the first draft was quick to write, what did take time was naming a bookshop. It took me half an hour. But I wanted to get it right. For now, the shop has barely been mentioned and seems to be of little importance. But who knows where the story will lead and what might or might not become important. I certainly don’t know and I’m discovering everything as I go along, enjoying learning what Meikah will do next.
King’s Request is now available on Amazon. I hope you enjoy discovering where Meikah’s adventures take her this time.