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.
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’ve been fascinated by mazes since a child. The first time I discovered what they were was at a botanical garden and I wandered through the maze, unable to see over the hedges as I found my way through it, discovering hidden areas along the way. A section with interesting paving and another with a seat at a dead end. I spent hours exploring it and would have spent hours more if I’d been allowed to. I was able to revisit that particular maze as an adult and was extremely sad to find that the hedges were only tall enough for a child. Luckily, over the years I found other mazes, ones with hedges that were tall enough I could wander through them without seeing over the top.
There have also been the mazes I created. When my children were younger, I let the grass in the front paddock grow so it towered over my kids and was well past my waist. I then planned out a maze and used the ride-on mower to create the paths. After making sure there were no snakes hidden in the long grass, I showed my kids the maze and we spent hours running through it, our laughter ringing out in the late afternoon, shadows from the mountains deepening as we played.
There are some things in life that we remain fascinated by them no matter our age or the amount of years that have passed. I doubt I’ll ever lose my fascination with mazes. They encompass some of my favourite things. Puzzles, exploring and discovering. And it’s very rare I can bring myself to go past one. I always have to enter so I can wander the many paths and see what I can discover.
Here in Australia, it is Father’s Day tomorrow. For some of us, who have lost their father, it can be very easy to let it become a day of sadness. There are so many times throughout the year that something reminds me of my dad or something happens that I would have loved to share with him. But that is no longer possible and hasn’t been for years. All I have is my memories and I’m grateful there are so very many of them. Ones that make me smile and even cause me to laugh.
Quite a lot of years ago, I was visiting my dad, staying with him for a few weeks where he lived at one of the beaches north of Townsville, Queensland. I told him I was going into town, asking him if he needed anything.
“What are you going in for?” Dad asked.
There was a moment of stunned silence before dad demanded, “Who are you calling fat prick?”
I burst out laughing, trying to say the word ‘material’, tears streaming down my cheeks before I finally managed to get it out. My partner, who was also there, laughed just as hard as me.
Dad laughed when he realised what I’d said and over the years we regularly called him ‘fabric’, resulting in more chuckles as we remembered the moment. It still brings a smile, even though my dad passed away years ago, and is a memory that reminds us of the many wonderful moments we had with him.
To all those celebrating Father’s Day, happy Father’s Day. And to those who are missing their father, I hope that this Father’s Day you can focus on the good times. The ones that bring a smile to your lips and a warmth to your heart.
There is a myth that authors live on coffee and can’t resist chocolate. Well, I don’t drink coffee, or even tea for that matter, but I can’t resist chocolate. So for those of you who love both, here’s a great way to combine them.
You will need:
A block of chocolate (I’ve used white to make it easier to see)
A handful of coffee beans (depends on how much coffee you want to add)
A tray/mould (I’ve used a water bottle ice tray)
Melt the chocolate either over low heat or put boiling water in a large bowl and place chocolate in a smaller bowl that you sit in the large bowl.
Scatter coffee beans across the bottom of a tray.
When chocolate is melted pour it over coffee beans.
If you want the beans more covered, use something such as a cocktail fork to mix the chocolate around them thoroughly. For less covered beans, just pour in the chocolate.
Put in the fridge and when set turn out of the tray or mould.
Growing up, my family had a variety of pets, mostly only one or two at a time. When I was in primary school, my dad had a blue cattle dog that he gave the highly original name of Bluey. My brother and I spent so much time playing with Bluey who had a special bark when he heard Dad’s vehicle in the distance. Which always gave us at least a good five minutes warning that Dad was nearly home. Dad was his favourite and he was always excited to see him.
On warm summer evenings, the year I was ten, my brother and I would play hide and seek outside. To make things a little more interesting, Bluey would help the one searching. He was good at hide and seek. You would tell him who to find and he would sniff around until he’d located them. So I not only had to outsmart my brother when choosing a hiding location, I had to outsmart Bluey too.
We lived in a high set house, a tall timber cupboard under the stairs where Dad kept his tools. There was a small gap between the landing of the stairs and the cupboard. Just enough of a gap for me to hide in. I would clamber up the side of the solid timber cupboard and squeeze into the small gap and stay perfectly still. Bluey would lead my brother straight to the location, pacing back and forth in front of the cupboard. Sometimes he’d go up the stairs and sit on the landing, waiting for me to come out of hiding. But until my brother found me, I wasn’t moving.
It was the best hiding spot. Each time my brother gave up, I’d wait until he’d left the area before I came out of hiding. There was no way I was going to give up the location. It helped that I was extremely skinny or I wouldn’t have fit in the space.
Some of my favourite childhood memories involved our pets. The four-legged and feathered members of our family. My childhood wouldn’t have been anywhere near as much fun without them. What are some of your favourite memories that involve a pet?