It’s late on Sunday night when I’m typing this. I’ve been packing boxes today but didn’t get as much done as I would have liked to. Fatigue just creeps up on me and even though I’m not moving fast I’m breathing hard like I’ve been running. However, with frequent rest breaks, I’ve managed to pack a whopping eight boxes filled with books, study notes and financial records. They’re labelled and taped up ready for Thursday—moving day. But there’s still a lot more to do.
In my head I thought I knew exactly what needed to be packed, it would just be a matter of setting aside some time. But once I got into the garage I discovered sooooo much more. I have three boxes filled with ornaments! How did that happen? I guess my sister was right when she said I like to have my treasures around me. I have a lot of treasure.
Minimalist I’ll never be. I like a decorated nest. I need beautiful things to look at and I need to be able to change them out from time to time so I don’t get bored. Lucky I have a lot of boxes. I’d been thinking there were too many, but now I think I might need a few more before I’m finished.
I’m moving in with my sister for a couple of months until our renovations are completed at the new house. It’s very exciting seeing it slowly transform but as site manager my head is full of the many decisions that have to be made and what is on tomorrow’s to do list.
A quick update on our progress includes the tiles having been chosen for the kitchen and ensuite. I’ve posted pictures of the tiles for the new ensuite on Instagram and Facebook, also last week the kitchen design was finalised. We chose our carpet and had the rooms measured up and got a quote from a floor sander/polisher for the pine floorboards in our living areas. I’m waiting on the Tiler, Plumber and Blinds man to come out and give us quotes and I’m looking for a carpenter who can pull out the old kitchen and ensuite in the next two weeks.
While I’ve been packing, I’ve discovered a couple of tricks to share with you.
Once you’ve done a complete cupboard wipe it out and then put the packed boxes back in the cupboard. Squat boxes fit into normal kitchen cupboards but are also easier to pack and they aren’t as heavy to carry around once they’re full.
If you have a box that isn’t quite full, use your plastic containers as packing filler. This picture shows a box of saucepans that would rattle and shake when being moved because they don’t come all the way to the top of the box. Instead of using newspaper I found the right size plastic container. It reduces the amount left to pack from the overflowing plastics draw too.
If you have any packing tips you can share with me I’d love to hear them. I’ll be doing very little else for the next couple of days.
The season for romance is creeping up on us. It's in the shops, mugs with hearts and Teddy bears holding messages of love are waiting to be purchased and given to celebrate a special bond.
I've been watching Valentine's Day craft You tubes videos. My favorite one is a shadow box with hearts in it. I've also written romantic short story to be released in A Taste of Romance Anthology on Valentine's Day.
This year I'll be moving out of my home the day after Valentine's Day so it will be a challenge to think of something special for my parter, Sam. I have to make a conscious effort to think about what I'll be doing so it doesn't get lost in the exhaustion of packing up a house. Last year I gave him a framed photo of the two of us. I know he loves red so I'll be on the lookout for that colour. We've been together for three years so I might go for red boxershorts this year. Is that too soon?
Because it's Summer in Australia, I'd like to have a picnic by our local lake at dinnertime. The menu could include his favorite bottle of red wine and some chicken and salad followed by chocololate cake. I think it's important that I plan something to take us out of the moving day clutter and give ourselves a breather and some time to chill out together.
Even before I met Sam, I made sure I celebrated Valentine's Day. Sometimes with my girlfriends in a dinner out or if I was at home alone that night, I bought myself flowers earlier in the day, watched a favorite romantic movie and ate chocolates. No calories counts allowed.
What are your plans this year? If you don't usually do anything I have something to give you a little push to put your romance thinking cap on. It involves taking the cap off your camera or swiping the icon on your phone. But more about that in a minute.
It's connected to my short story, being released on Valentine's day in the MRWG's Taste of Romance anthology. Brave in Love is an unusual story for me because it fit's into the suspense subgenre. But this is a stalker story with a difference. It's a shark stalking Portia while her beloved yacht is slowing sinking.
How does that fit into getting in the mood for Valentine's Day? To celebrate the Taste of Romance going live on Amazon for pre order, the contributing authors (me included) have a contest running. All you need to do is post a picture of what you feel inspires romance or you think is romantic on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook with the hash tag #tasteofromanceread and you could win a $50 Amazon voucher. The competition is running for another two weeks and there's a winner each week. Click here to go the MRWG competition page for all the details and conditions. Don't forget to include the hashtag #tasteofromanceread so we can find your photo and include you in the random draw. Also if you preorder the Taste of Romance Anthology it is only 99cents for 16 short stories. After the 14th of Feb it goes up to $2.99US. So that's a good reason for getting romantically inclined early.
Also I'd like to invite you to sign up for my inaugural newsletter. I'm going to be sending out my very first one on the first of February so I hope you'll find it entertaining. I have a little story about Sam's and my first Valentine's Day date that I'll only share with my subscribers. I'll also give you a sneak peak of my next book The Rinaldo Heir which won't be released until April. There will be a recipe, updates on my new home, which we're renovating.
I'd be grateful for your feedback and would love to hear what you'd like me to include in future editions.
Wishing you the best of luck and a very happy, romantic February.
So It's our first Christmas together and Sam and I have bought a house. We're thrilled and can't wait to get into our new bigger place but we'll have a little while yet to wait.
We don't settle until January and there are renovations needed so I've been driving myself crazy with a Pinterest addiction. I can't stop my fingers from wanting to scroll on my phone through the many possibilities that I could use to decorate our new home.
If you follow me on Facebook you'll already have that news along with my extended family that my house has sold. My family had our once a year catch up/Christmas party last weekend and everyone was thrilled for us having read our news online. After the excitement of my auction was over, we moved Sam's furniture in to my house. It went from spacious luxury to cramped elegance. But it's worth it. We now have two TV's. That is heaven. I love watching home reno shows that are on at the same time as Sam's favorite Sixty Minutes or Sunday Night.
We decided as it's out first year living together we'd like to do a combined family lunch so we will be setting up tresle tables in the loungeroom and serving Turkey and Ham buffet style. It feels strange to be having Christmas in a house I've sold. It's a kind of limbo land, living in a house that won't be mine for much longer. It's promised to another family and I feel like a caretaker on some level.
I'm finding a way to decorate in a more restrained way this year, going for red and white mainly, Pinterest is full of inspiration and motivation. Sam and I have collected a few ornaments during our excersions to Christmas shops and they are on a smaller tree than I usually have. So the house feels a bit different this year. But once the family arrive and the bon bons are snapped it will have the feeling I love.
Not all our loved ones will be at the table this year. Some have other places to be and one very special person has gone to heaven. But I know that the love we have stays constant no matter where our loved ones are. We'll drink a toast to absent family and enjoy the company of those who can be sitting at the table with us.
I don't know if we'll be hosting next Christmas in our new home or who will be able to join us but I know one thing for sure, I'll be spending it with Sam and some of our family somewhere, and that's what Christmas is all about. Because I love it so much I couldn't help putting a Christmas scene in the epilogue of 'A Dance with the Laird'. There's something about family coming together to give to each other that makes me happy and want to cuddle someone. Even though I'm having Christmas in limbo land, I'll have the company of people I love and it will be just fine.
The last few weeks, spent getting my house ready for sale, have been a huge challenge. A feat completed through a lot of help, determination and frequent rest breaks. I’d paint a panel of fence and then lie down for an hour and then go and weed the garden for half an hour and then lie down again. Having a problem with energy levels due to long standing health issues means I can only accomplish a certain amount in a day. Planning has been a major help. Week one was getting the fence painted and weed the garden.
Week two I focussed on decluttering the inside of my home, removing unnecessary furniture and setting up the study as a double bedroom and moving my desk to the third bedroom with a single bed. I completed an artwork for that room and hung it up. My sister and brother in law were a great help moving heavy furniture out to the garage. Sam helped me move the lighter pieces like Kmart bookcases and my antique dressing table. Together we made lots of trips to the charity shop and donated a lot of linen, pictures and books.
Week three I focused on cleaning. I had the windows washed and have general maintenance around the house completed and dress the garden and home. My sister was amazing. She helped me clean out the crystal cabinet and washed all the crystal. She went over the antique timber furniture in the house with cedar oil giving it a deep rich lustre. She helped me in the garden too. She planted some daisies in the front yard and moved an Azalea from the back of the bed to in front of the pond where it could be seen. She also lent me her gorgeous red wingback chair to add character to my otherwise neutral colour scheme. Sam vacuumed the house meticulously. I love to watch that man vacuum. He also decobwebbed the entire house inside and out. I washed all the curtains and spring cleaned the bathroom, laundry and kitchen. In the garden I spread mulch on the beds and resurrected a climbing rose archway that had blown down in the gale force winds Melbourne had last week.
Sunday was the last day before the photographer arrived. The courtyard was swept; the pots moved to the garden bed. It opened up the space and filled the beds creating a lush oasis. The pillows in the loungeroom were carefully chosen and the master bed was dressed with enough pillows to please a princess. The house was ready.
Now the photo’s are done and I have little more to do other than a little general tidying up for open for inspections, I have time to enjoy the results of all the hard work. I wake in the mornings and walk around my home and love the way it feels. I hope the next owner is able to love it as much as I do. In making this home lovely for them it’s helped me accept it's time to pass it on. The house is all dressed up and ready to go, and I am ready to go too.
Walnuts and banana are a favorite raw snack of mine. Cooking them together takes it to sweet, nutty heaven. No wonder I've always loved the banana and walnut Pancake Parlour sweet stack. But I've missed it so much since having to eat a strict gluten free diet. It seemed the perfect thing to replicate for breakfast, when I needed something to sweeten my morning before tackling the paperwork that goes with Sam and I moving in together.
I went to the pantry and pulled out the ingredients that I hoped would do the trick. It has to be said that not all of my creations are a success, but I'm happy to say we were both surprised with how enjoyable the end result was. So nice, in fact, that I felt I really should share the recipe that I concocted, with you. Because you never know when only pancakes will do.
Pancake Parlour style GF Banana and Walnut Syrup Pancakes
1 cup gluten free plain flour (I used the Free From brand)
½ cup buckwheat flour
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon GF baking powder
½ cup low fat milk
½ cup water
1 tablespoon melted margarine ( you can use butter if you prefer)
Extra margarine for greasing frying pan
Banana Walnut Syrup
1 ripe banana sliced
½ cup walnut peices
2 tablespoons margarine
2 tablespoons brown sugar
¼ cup maple syrup. (Add extra if needed )
Mix all the pancake ingredients together in a medium sized bowl until well combined. It should be a thick batter that doesn’t readily pour and needs to be spooned out. Set aside to rest.
Place two frying pans over medium heat, one larger one and a smaller one. In the smaller one combine all the ingredients for the syrup and bring to a simmer. Cook until the banana is cooked through and melting into the syrup.
In the larger one, grease with margarine and, using a large serving spoon, dollop one spoonful of pancake batter. Using the back of the spoon spread to 12cm (or 5”). Leave to cook for a minute or two. When golden underneath, lift the pancake with a serving slide. Re-grease the pan and flip to other side to cook through. Remove when other side is golden. The mix should make 4 pancakes. My frying pan only fit 2 pancakes so I needed to cook them in two batches but they kept hot on a plate.
Stack two pancakes on each plate. Pour the thick and bubbling syrup, direct from the frying pan, evenly over each stack.
If you have a go at making these, let me know how you get on or post a pic on my Facebook page. It would be great to hear what you think of them.
I've had good reason to ponder these questions over several years. Major life upheavals have resulted in me having to move away from the home I'd created and built precious memories in.
After my divorce there was a devastation that left me rootless. I drifted like a floating log in a stream of events that pushed me forward.
It's true that once you've lost something you're acutely aware of what it meant to you. I longed for my home and believe it or not, doing the dishes while the vibrant pink blooms of the Crepe Myrtle, I'd planted, nodded to me through the window. Living in a one bedroom flat, I keenly missed my family, running in and grabbing a banana from the two tier fruit bowl that once lived on my kitchen table. The emotional pain was intense but I needed to start again.
When I found this cottage (pictured above) I sensed a place I could begin to recreate the home I'd lost. I wanted to get back a family home that would be my sanctuary, safe, sure and filled with love. This little cottage with it's faded charm felt like the perfect place. In doing her up and bringing her back to new I might also patch up myself and begin to feel new again.
My instincts were correct. I've had family birthdays and Christmas dinners here, the house has been painted and the kitchen and bathrooms updated. New floors and curtains. She's so very pretty. She's my sanctuary and is filled with love. My new partner comes to stay and is loved by my parents and children. But now we have decided to make a life together and I need to say goodbye to my home once more. This time it's a happier reason, to begin living with the man I love.
I know I'll be sad about leaving my little cottage but I'm so grateful to her that she's helped me heal. She's also taught me that I can do it again. When Sam and I find a house to share, I'll plant a Crepe Myrtle in the back yard and hang some pretty new curtains. Then we'll have a house warming and make it feel like home with new memories of happy times with family and friends. I'll have a new sanctuary to retreat to, but I won't be alone, I'll have Sam there with me.
It's happened! My first novel, 'A Dance With The Laird' has been released.
I'm so happy to be able to bring you a story that I'm very proud of because it won the best unpublished manuscript in the Romance Writers of Australia's Emerald Award back in 2013.
A lot happened to me since then, a serious illness that took almost two years to recover from and a new relationship. Writing romance and my involvement at the Melbourne Romance Writers Guild has been the constant in my life when everything else was changing.
I related so strongly to Natalie and Angus, who each in their own way have to rebuild their lives. It's kind of spooky that this is a story I'd written before needing to rebuild mine. It provided inspiration for piecing my life back together and taking a chance on love even when I still felt broken. Although I have other completed novels in the Baxter Sister series, this is the one that demanded to be published first.
Natalie and Angus's story.
Forbidden passion begins in a dance with the Laird. Australian, event organizer, Natalie Baxter, is on assignment in the UK. She’s striving to build a new life after losing her husband and unborn child in a horrific car accident. Unable to conceive again she’s organizing fundraising events to help the world’s most vulnerable children. This is to be her future life’s work but her philanthropist client, Lord Angus McLaren, stirs her heart once more in a dance which undermines her new life plan.
Angus needs to keep his heart on ice. His last attempt at making a life with his brother's widow ended in divorce. This time around he'll marry for practical reasons and produce a blue blood heir for his family estate. The work of his Foundation for orphans in the third world must be secured for the future, but Natalie, the only woman he can think about spending his life with can’t give him a child of his own. Can he put aside a succession that goes back five hundred years, find a way to secure the future of his foundation, and have his heart’s desire?
Available now on Amazon.
Since becoming an avid reader of romance novels, I always wanted to visit my favourite author Jane Austen's house. I waited for someone to travel with me but it just didn’t seem to pan out. If I wanted to go I’d need to do it on my own but the idea terrified me. Looking back I can see how I gained the confidence to travel alone to the other side of the world. First I got up the courage to travel to the other side of my home country, Australia.
I live on the south east coast in Melbourne but the cousin I grew up with had moved to the Pilbara in Western Australia. So when her daughter was being married down in Perth, I needed to plan a trip that covered the entire country including a very wide sandy desert. Was I up for driving across the Nullarbor Plain? Nope, but determined not to miss out I booked a flight.
The time came round for me to pack my fine clothes and some not so fine and get a lift to the airport. I arrived in Perth and with jangling nerves. Adrenaline clouded my thoughts but I managed to find the hire care and set off for the B&B. After a couple of wrong turns I found it and from there headed over to the party house my cousins rented. Whew.
We were all meeting in Perth because all the guests, except for a few, were flying in from various parts of the country. The house, rented for a couple of weeks only, became known as the 'The Big Brother House' as it served as a hub for us out of towners.
The wedding took place in a lush green garden. The bride and groom looked adoringly at each other and we had a feast and lots of fun speeches. It was an inspiring celebration but too soon it was over and the group was breaking up. I decided to drive down to Fremantle for a mini holiday. I got lost, badly and it ended up taking an hour more than it should have to drive the short distance from Perth to Fremantle but I decided, so what, I just saw more of the country side.
I walked around the town visiting the many designer shops and the craft market. Later, I splurged and stayed the night at the very grand Esplanade Hotel and the next morning ate eggs Benedict in my room with a stunning view of the Fremantle Harbour. A long road running along the spine of the spit protecting the harbour called to me. So after breakfast I drove out onto the narrow stretch of road and wound down my window to breathe the fresh ocean air. On either side of me water slip/slapped against the rocky base. Bright sunshine and warm, wind driven fluffy white clouds enchanted me. My heart pumped up into my throat from the excitement of adventure. I kept going till I reached the very end.
An emergency block of chocolate from the glove box got eaten with the door wide open, as I sat surrounded by water and as far away from anyone or anything than I'd been in a very long time. In that moment, the self made chains limiting me from experiencing the parts of the world that had called to me for so long dissolved. It didn’t matter that I got lost. It didn’t matter that I was completely alone. This was fantastic. The idea bloomed that I could do anything. My dream of going to England to see Jane Austen's house became a real possibility.
Heroines in romance novels seem to be always beautiful and slim, right? Bertrice Small’s Sky O’Malley, had perfect skin unmarked by a single blemish. I loved that book but I also love it when an author goes against the trend and creates a less than perfect body type in a heroine who’s perhaps past her prime or has a plump figure.
In the book ‘Where The Heart Is’ by Billie Letts, the heroine, Novalee Nation, is overweight. I know, the movie version cast a tiny actress for the role but its heart and soul was born from the book that had had a less than perfect body heroine. Hero, Forney Hull, sees her inner beauty. He’s fascinated by Novalee when she visits the library to find out how to save her sick tree.
There is no perfect body, of course and beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. As in Anne Gracie’s ‘The Perfect Rake’, hero, Gideon shows us. He falls in love with plump (by Georgian standards) Prudence; he admires her figure a number of times. She’s his kind of beautiful. She has a “mother hen” nature in taking care of her sisters that he loves too. He’d sworn off marriage but in Prudence he finds the kind of woman he could spend a lifetime with and it’s his brand of attractive.
My favourite reunion-story, ‘Persuasion’, by (I don’t need to tell you but I simply must give her credit) Jane Austen, has heroine, Anne Elliot, a faded version of her younger self. Poor heroic, heartbroken Captain Wentworth claims to barely recognise her she’s so changed. If this isn’t proof that she’s not the prettiest girl in the room, he drives it home by giving all his attention to the pleasing Miss Musgroves. So much attention that by the time he realises Anne is the only one he could ever love, her status as more attractive than any other has returned, but he’s created expectations in one Miss Musgrove that may divide him from Anne forever. That his foolishness costs him a few sleepless nights is his just deserts.
All heroines have an inner beauty. They’re understanding and compassionate but flaws are fine, even physical ones. I’ve read lots of Mills and Boon Sexy and Desires with heroines who’ve been scarred or suffered burns, but their hero isn’t put off by them. For me it makes the HEA all the sweeter because I want life to compensate her for her pain and I’ve become so invested in her worthiness of being loved by a good man.
Let’s acknowledge that most of us have something we feel a bit insecure about even though we know we shouldn’t. Fiona Lowe’s Ruby and Rita winning ‘Boomerang Bride’ has a secondary character who is dealing with physical disfigurement. I became so deeply invested in her journey and felt sad for her, but it was a joy to watch her find courage to deal with real life issues and be valued and loved.
I guess we all want acceptance, so seeing a heroine who’s not beautiful in the traditional sense find love, reassures us that each of us is just as worthy of happiness as these heroines are. Christina Aguilera summed it up. “You are beautiful, no matter what they say.”
Inspiration is different for everyone, I imagine. It's the question I'm asked most often when I tell people I'm a writer. Lucky for me, I don't have any trouble answering them. I've been able to corral the plethora of things that inspire me into three categories. Travels, Real Life and Rescues and Fate Steps In. If you're interested in hearing about these, read on.
Travel and Holidays
I guess I've been a traveler since a very young age. All of us travel a massive orbit around the sun on this planet every year. That's a lot of miles or kilometers to clock up when you've just been born! No wonder we all hanker for a look at foreign places.
I've been fortunate to travel to distant lands and experience the richness of their culture. But long before that I did it through documentaries on TV and reading.
I guess that's why I like to use the escape of a foreign land or travels within my home country of Australia to help me craft a story that takes me away from my ordinary world and puts me into someone else's.
I set "A Wife for the Orange Farmer" in Mildura, a border country town situated on the grand Murray river. Its Orange Groves are watered by irrigation from that river and are the major produce for the area. During a caravan holiday at Mildura, I sat in the shade of a River Red Gum, rocking my baby daughter to sleep reading a Mills and Boon romance novel. So romance and Mildura were already a connection for me long before I was rescued by a real life hero who was an orange farmer.
Real Life and Rescues
No wonder when I was rescued by an Orange Grower during a thunderstorm at the Melbourne International Flower and Garden show I vowed to create a story for him. Such a charming handsome man, he entertained me and my mother with his easy good nature as he held a golf umbrella over the three of us.
Another yet to be published story was inspired during a self drive holiday in England. I was out of my comfort zone and then got lost. I needed directions and, you guessed it, a handsome man in a shiny silver Mercedes guided me back to the freeway.
Fate Steps In
I like these kinds of stories, soul mates who take a whole story to work it out. What if that woman lost in the car wasn't me but a grieving widow and this man was here to guide her back to a real life full of love and family? A novel was born.
What if that Orange Farmer with his easy manners and caring nature was taking care of his grandma who had grown so frail she needed a Personal Care Attendant? In country towns they're not easy to come by but a woman who's lost everything might go somewhere like that to find community and belonging and ends up finding a family as well.
I've met so many interesting people and been so many places and have such a romantic heart that I can't help but put them all together to create a story that gives it all meaning. Inspiration is drawn from everything I've ever read seen or done. It all gets put into a big bag and I play lucky dip I suppose. I also like to let my subconscious help out with meditating for writing and letting the words flow without questioning them and see what comes out. Later I sift through what has been mined for the gems. The results, well you've got to be the judge of that. Me, I love doing it.
Romance is my life. I love writing about romance, talking about romance writing and living my brand of a romantic life.