Tag Archives: Animal Stories

5 Reasons Why Four-Legged Friends Are The Best People

Cathryn as a little girl with Mysty

Me with my beloved first horse Mysty

Anthropomorphise: 1. to ascribe human form or attributes to. 2. to ascribe human form or attributes to an animal, a god, etc. Macquarie Dictionary, 6th ed.

Okay, who’s guilty of doing this with their pet? Lots of you I bet. It seems that when it comes to our beloved animals we can’t help ourselves. They’re so integral to our lives we want to think of them as human. And I say rightly so. You know why? Because without a doubt our four-legged friends are the best of people.

Here’s why.

1/. They’re Joy On Legs

Is there anything as gorgeous as being greeted by an over-excited, thrilled-to-bits pet who misses us desperately even though we’ve only been gone for ten minutes? Sure, children can give this joy, but unless they’re sick, a pet will do it every time. No pouty bottom lips because we failed to bring that new toy or lolly home. No teenage half eye-meets from under long fringes followed by a grunt. But pure, unadulterated Hello-hello, Darling Owner! happiness that gives your heart an instant lift.

Feeling down? Never fear! Simply search ferrets on YouTube and wait for the laughs to start.

2/. They Don’t Talk Back or Tell Secrets

We can tell our pets anything. Anything. And be content that it’ll go no further. No double-crossing or back-stabbing in action here. Whether our pet’s a budgie or a pot-bellied pig it’ll be the perfect listener. Pour your heart out, your secrets are safe.

3/. Companionship

We’re never lonely when with a pet. Admittedly, it’s a bit hard to cuddle up with a goldfish, and I probably wouldn’t be keen on tickling a snake’s belly to see if I can make it wriggle, but they’re

Me and Ram Lamb as a youngster enjoying a rest.

Me and Ram Lamb as a youngster enjoying a rest.

still breathing creatures sharing life with us. That beats the rainbow sparkles off a plastic My Little Pony every time.

Pets are also great protectors against isolation. How easy it is to communicate with a fellow pet lover? Many a friendship or romance has been forged between dog owners out walking their charges, and I certainly have experience of equine-assisted romances. They’re an immediate shared interest and we have the bonus of knowing that if someone cares deeply for a pet, they’re less likely to be a serial killer.

Oh, and if there does happens to be danger, our pets might even be life savers. Google animal heroes and you’ll discover a thousand stories of animals coming to the rescue. Darling things.

4/. Pets Give Good Health

The RCPCA lists a number of health advantages experienced by pet owners, both physiologically and psychologically. Owners are more active and have lower blood pressure and cholesterol. The RSPCA also says that growing up with animals may strengthen our immune systems and that children who have pets are less likely to have days off school from illness. They’re also more empathetic, thanks to the care they must give another living creature who is solely reliant on them for food, shelter and often companionship.

Think also of the specialist animals out there; guide dogs (and horses, yes horses!), seizure-alert dogs, cancer sniffing pets, and animals taken around nursing homes to cheer up residents. Seriously, if all the health advantages of pets could be concentrated and bottled, they’d be marketed as the elixir of life!

5/. Unconditional Love

There’s no love like a pet’s love. It’s non-judgemental and constant. Our pets don’t care about the zits on our chins, our morning dragon’s breath, whether we vote one way or another or are jealous of our over-achieving siblings, or sometimes say bitchy things about the lady down the road. We don’t have to be perfect with our pets. Not even close. They’ll love us regardless.

Okay, so maybe it isn’t love. Maybe we’re being fooled and that adoring look is just so we’ll hand over that juicy scrap of beef or that sweet carrot. Whatever it is, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t feel good and right and real. Compared to the way people sometimes love, pets do a better job.

 

I think the above is why I adore including animals in my books as well as humans. Not only are they a wonderful foil for the occasional drama and conflict people subject themselves to, they can even play a role in resolving it. Combine animal characters with a deliciously heroic hero and a sympathetic heroine, and you have a romance guaranteed to give you that all important sniffle, sigh and smile. But in double dose.

In real life or literature, they’re the ultimate feel-good creatures. The best of people.

How do you feel about pets? Do they give good health and love to you too?

 

The Falls by Cathryn HeinNB. This post was first published on the blog Two Little Humans and Me as part of the promotional program for my rural romance THE FALLS. A book that features its fair share of naughty pets too, including a horny (in both ways) ram called Merlin, a bad breathed sphinx cat named Blanche and a stinky labradoodle called Saffron.

 

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2015 Sydney Royal Easter Show – Part 1: The Animals

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I’ve never been to the Sydney Royal Easter Show but last Monday I remedied that. And what a ball I had too!

There was so much to see, from all the fun of the animal pavilions to the woodchopping arena to the wonders of the indoor exhibits. Over-excitement had me going a bit silly on the photo taking front leaving me with so many pictures to share I’m going to have to do so in two posts.

First up, the animals!

I spent a very pleasant while watching the sheep judging. The pavilion seemed to overflow with Merlins, star ram from my soon to be released rural romance, The Falls.

2015 Sydney Royal Easter Show - sheep pavilion

2015 Sydney Royal Easter Show - sheep pavilion

2015 Sydney Royal Easter Show - sheep pavilion

2015 Sydney Royal Easter Show - sheep pavilion

Then it was across to the poultry pavilion where I spent a very joyful time. Poultry always cracks me up. They’re extremely vocal, rather weird and all round hilarious!

2015 Sydney Royal Easter Show - poultry pavilion

2015 Sydney Royal Easter Show - poultry pavilion

2015 Sydney Royal Easter Show - poultry pavilion

2015 Sydney Royal Easter Show - poultry pavilion

2015 Sydney Royal Easter Show - poultry pavilion

2015 Sydney Royal Easter Show - poultry pavilion

2015 Sydney Royal Easter Show - poultry pavilion

2015 Sydney Royal Easter Show - poultry pavilion

Off to the goat, pig and cattle sheds I went…

2015 Sydney Royal Easter Show - goats

2015 Sydney Royal Easter Show - goats

2015 Sydney Royal Easter Show - pigs

2015 Sydney Royal Easter Show - pigs

2015 Sydney Royal Easter Show - cattle

2015 Sydney Royal Easter Show - cattle

2015 Sydney Royal Easter Show - cattle

Sadly, there weren’t many horse events on the day I was there, and those that were scheduled weren’t until late afternoon and evening, but I did manage a bit of a horsey fix.

2015 Sydney Royal Easter Show - horses

The horses below are Percherons and they’re ENORMOUS!

2015 Sydney Royal Easter Show - horses

Again, there weren’t many dogs out and about but I spotted these. Poor things looked bored out of their brains.

2015 Sydney Royal Easter Show - dogs

2015 Sydney Royal Easter Show - dogs

This one looked like a stuffed toy!

2015 Sydney Royal Easter Show - dogs

Then to the absolute pandemonium that is the animal nursery…

2015 Sydney Royal Easter Show - farm nursery

2015 Sydney Royal Easter Show - farm nursery

They rotate the animals around so they don’t get over-stressed or overfed. It’s all very tiring!

2015 Sydney Royal Easter Show - farm nursery

2015 Sydney Royal Easter Show - farm nursery

2015 Sydney Royal Easter Show - farm nursery

This donkey was totally relaxed about the whole affair. Perhaps a tad too relaxed…

2015 Sydney Royal Easter Show - farm nursery

And that’s all the animal photos!

Stay tuned for the next instalment when I share the human side of the show. Some of the craftwork on exhibit was incredible.

FRIDAY FEAST with Jessica Owers

It’s Friiiiiiday, which means the latest instalment of Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf Weekly. I played well. Again. So well I dropped a stroke off my handicap. There is obviously something wrong with the universe…

But there is nothing at all wrong with this week’s Friday Feast guest!Author Jessica Owers

I can’t tell you how chuffed I am to host award-winning writer and renowned freelance racing journalist Jessica Owers on Friday Feast again. Jessica’s description of the delights of a simple cheeseburger on her last visit was truly wonderful, and I can tell you she won’t fail to charm this time around either. Her post fills me with gushy joyness, and more than a little bit of hunger.

Jessica’s 2011 release, Peter Pan: The Forgotten Story Of Phar Lap’s Successor, was a huge success, reviewed across the world and winning the 2012 Bill Whittaker Award for Best Racing Book in Australia. Now, Jessica has channelled her formidable talents into new story, and what a cracker it is.

Before Black Caviar, So You Think or Takeover Target, there was…

 

SHANNON

 

Shannon by Jessica Owers book coverThe Extraordinary Life Of Australia’s First International Racehorse

Wartime Sydney, a small and weedy racehorse was kicking his way through the top tier of Australian racing. He was Shannon, one of the fastest horses the nation had ever seen. Between 1943 and 1947, Shannon broke record after record with his garrulous jockey Darby Munro. When they sensationally lost the Epsom Handicap by six inches, they forever were stamped by the race they should have won.

Sold in August 1947 for the then highest price ever paid at auction for an Australian thoroughbred, Shannon ended up in America. Through headline-snatching pedigree flaws, acclimatization and countless hardships, he blitzed across the ritzy, glitzy racetracks of 1948 California. Smashing track records, world records and records set by Seabiscuit, the Australian bolted into world fame with speed and courage that defied all odds.

Long before Black Caviar, So You Think and Takeover Target, Shannon was Australia’s first international racehorse. Starring Hall of Fame trainers and jockeys, Hollywood lawyers and legends Bernborough and Citation, this is his tremendous story.

 

Another rousing horse tale from a master biographer and storyteller, and just in time for the Melbourne Cup Carnival too! Plus think what a fantastic Christmas present this would be for the horse or sporting mad person in your life. Signed copies are available for order from Jessica’s website, or you can buy from good book stores like Booktopia, Angus & Robertson, Boomerang Books, QBD The Bookshop, Abbey’s Bookshop, Bookworld and many others. For the ebook, try Kobo, Amazon (for your Kindle), Google Play, eBooks.com, BigW eBooks, iTunes or JB Hi-Fi.

Christmas stocking filled? Most excellent. Now enjoy!

 

Experience The Passion

 

I am two things. I am an author, and I am the wife of an Italian restaurateur. The writing life is pretty well documented I’d say… long, lolling hours in isolation, the solitude and dull buzz of the computer. But the restaurant life? Well, this edition of Friday Feast has invited me to open the kitchen door to our place, to put you behind the scenes of an industry you think you know pretty well. Welcome to La Spiaggia in Sydney’s Coogee Beach.

The interior of La Spaggia

The first rule of an Italian restaurant is the Passion. Watch my husband closely at 7.30 on a Friday or Saturday night and you’ll see the Passion heavily disguised as foul temper. There’ll be those moments when the ‘cazzos’ and the ‘porcos’ will pour out of his mouth like liquid honey, when he charges from the bar to the kitchen like the devil himself, the hands a-flap over calamari that was late to table eight, or the pizza that went out four minutes before the vongole. The Passion is a popular attraction with our regulars who know the spirited, tantrum-like atmosphere of senior management is all part of the package. After all, who doesn’t love a ranting Italian?

Making pizza at La SpaggiaMy husband has had his place for nearly 20 years, and I’ve lived and breathed it with him for a nearly a decade. In that space of time, I’ve learned more about human behavior than the average Joe. On a weekly basis, I deal with the rude, the ignorant and uneducated, the impatient and selfish and those that have watched Masterchef (don’t ask). It’s amazing what people will say to a waiter, as if somehow that person that takes your order, serves your food, isn’t quite worthy. Of course, a good floor team has a good laugh at the end of the night, spilling their nightmare customers over a glass of wine or Peroni. Our waiters are a tight bunch, and good friends.

Over the years, we’ve watched Sydney dining ebb and flow with the latest food trends. For a while back it was Thai, then it was churrasco, then it was the GFC. But we noticed that Italian food, simple Italian recipes cooked by Italians in an eatery owned and run by Italians, never went out of fashion. We hand-make all our pastas, our woodfire oven is in full view of the street, and we serve goat, maiale (piglet) and such things according to simple, southern Italian customs. Which brings me to the second rule of an Italian restaurant: simplicity.

The wood fired oven at La Spaggia

The Italians use the minimal amount of ingredients. Tomatoes are king, in casseroles, pasta and on pizza and bruschetta. Fresh tomato sauce, a dash of olive oil, some rosemary or basil and homemade pasta… simple but beautiful.  Their breads are unfussy (gluten free, what?), their pasta sauces irreplaceable (pesto, aglio olio), and they live by food rules – parmigiano does not go over seafood, and ketchup is the product of the devil. Of course, sometimes simplicity has its down side. Those nights when my husband tucks into a piglet’s face, straight out of the oven with nothing but crusty bread and a glass of Argiano to wash it down, are not such fun for me.

Gnocchi with pesto

The restaurant business is unique, tiring on the ego and an ill-perceived industry. Those that haven’t worked in it often think it is the bottom rung of adult life, the lifeline of the uneducated or backpacking. That hasn’t been my experience. I see Italians sweep in and show us how food service is done, and done with pride. Italians know how to cook, how to eat, and their energy for it is infectious. It excuses (most of the time) the Passion that can make the working night so, er, eventful.

As a writer, customers have taught me much about human behavior. Send any author into an apron and they’ll come away a week later with rich ideas for characters. Restaurant work is one of the few perfect ‘day jobs’ for authors, a flexible working life with odd hours, sociable shifts and free food and drink. And it beats the daily squash of office life. But this is Friday Feast, not Dr Phil, so true to the spirit of this wonderful blog I will leave you with a few little lessons that I have learned from my Italians. Buon appetito!

  1. Keep it simple. On pizzas, less is more, and that applies to the base. Stuffed crust? You must be joking.
  2. Good product. Italians source out the best ingredients at all times: the freshest vegetables, the world’s best olive oils, the crispiest bread.
  3. Hand-make if at all possible. Nothing is too much of a chore in the kitchen.
  4. Spare the seasoning. A little bit of olive oil, some rosemary garnish. Don’t kill it with flavour.
  5. Latte, cappuccino… not with dinner, not even after dinner.
  6. Chicken in pasta, on pizza… go across the road.
  7. Celebrate everything with food, drink and family.

 

Thank you so much, Jessica, for that wonderful behind-the-scenes look at La Spaggia. This restaurant is now on my must-visit list! And your lessons are truly worth remembering. I was, in my silly younger days, one of those mastercheffy wanky-food wannabes, but living in Europe completely cured me of that. The best meals were always the simplest, using the finest, freshest ingredients.

Now, my well-fed Feasters, do you have a restaurant story? What aspect of human behaviour – good or bad – have you witnessed in a restaurant? I had an experience in a posh-ish restaurant in France where I accidentally ordered rare veal kidneys that leaked half-raw juice all over my plate and stank like… er… guts. I couldn’t bring myself to eat anything on it. Nor, at that point, did I possess enough French language to explain that I simply hadn’t understood what I’d ordered. The waiter, when he came to clear the table, put on an awesome show of Gallic offense, complete with an angry nose-in-the-air strut back to the kitchen that was like something out of a comedy sketch or cartoon. I would have laughed except I was sliding under the table in embarrassment. Funny, we never went back to that restaurant…

So, come on, share your restaurant romp. We bet you’ve had some beauties!

If you’d like to learn more about Jessica and her award-winning books, please visit her website. You can also connect via Twitter and Linkedin.

 

 

FRIDAY FEAST with Ebony McKenna

Long to feel young at heart, to suffer once again all the agony and ecstasy of freefall teenage love? Don’t mind a super clever and oh-so-gorgeous snuggly ferret? Then Friday Feast has the author for you!

It’s my great pleasure to host Australian author Ebony McKenna on Friday Feast today, a lady who is as cute and adorable as her Ondine series. A series, I should add, as perfect for the old adults among us as it is the young. The Ondine books are simply wonderful; a sparkling combination of magic and romance, from a fantastically imaginative author. Just what you need to escape a miserable winter’s day or to heighten that summer joy.

Plus who can resist a ferret? Those creatures are just made for love!

 

ONDINE: THE SUMMER OF SHAMBLES

 

Cover for Ondine: The Summer of Shambles by Ebony McKennaWhat’s the point in falling in love with a man if he turns back into a ferret when the moon goes down?

Ondine is your classic 15-year-old student looking for fun in her summer holidays.

When she finds out her pet ferret Shambles can talk, and is in fact a gorgeous boy trapped under a witch’s spell, she vows to help him become handsomely human again.

But her plans for an idyllic summer of romance are complicated when an assassination plot is uncovered and a long-lost treasure is discovered. Then things get really tricky when Ondine falls under the spell of Lord Vincent, the devastatingly handsome son of a duke.

Set in the magical and wonderfully weird European country of Brugel, The Summer of Shambles is the first in the four-part ONDINE series.

 

Doesn’t that sound fun? Ondine: The Summer of Shambles is out now in paperback throughout the Commonwealth. Try your local bookstore or most excellent Australian bookseller Booktopia. Ondine can also be purchased from Amazon UK or Bookdepository.

For ebook lovers in Australia and the UK, try Kobo or Amazon UK (for Kindle). For the US and other non Commonwealth countries, clickety click on over to Amazon.com for the Kindle version. For a full list of links please visit Ebony’s website.

Keep your beady eyes out for more Ondine books, with book two out now in ebook and paperback in selected countries, followed by book three in December and four in March, 2014. Nearly a year of fabulously ferrety fun reading!

Now kick back and enjoy Ebony…

 

CURRY UP!

Curry pies. I am addicted to these things and hardly need encouragement to talk about them. I don’t think I’d survive Melbourne’s winters without at least one a week. Not that I can make them, because that would require a recipe and following it. Yes, I can follow a recipe, but I’m hungry now.

Ebony McKenna's favourite treat, a curry pie

Lucky for me, Melbourne is blessed with pie shops. I have several within driving distance that make extraordinarily good ones. Or at least, they sell them. I don’t know if they individually make them.

Your basic curried beef pie is the traditional meat pie, with added curry powder mixed in. Nothing too hot or outlandish here. Just your regulation pie with the shortcrust pastry on the bottom and flaky pastry on top with poppy seeds. You can never eat them in your hands, as something happens to the curried gravy to make it extra dribbly. You will need a plate and a knife and fork. It’s the civilised pie, if you will.

But keep an eye out for specialty pie shops. There’s a gorgeous pie shop in a place called Brentford Square in Forest Hill. It’s called Paul’s Pies, and they make two kinds of curried pie: Curried beef, with onion and sultanas (which is a very English way to make curry) and the other curried pie, which is Thai chicken.

You heard me. Thai chicken.

Utter, utter heaven.

Another cafe I went to had curry pies with jalapeño peppers. Eating them was the most delightful torture as the pain burned higher and higher with every mouthful. Of course I ate the whole thing.

BUT, my favourite curry of all time is the seasonal bliss of my mother-in-law’s Boxing Day turkey curry. And she is generous enough to share this with you. (Possibly in the hope that one day I’ll do it. But she’s so good at it, really, should I even try?)

Ebony McKenna's mother-in-law's famous turkey curry

(This is a rare photo of the boxing day curry, as its rare that anyone sits still long enough to have a photo taken before devouring it.)

BOXING DAY CURRY

(This amount probably covers 6 people. I just double everything (except the curry powder which I increase to 3 not 4) if having 10 or more. )

Ingredients

Oil to cover base of pan

1 large onion, finely chopped

3 sticks celery, finely chopped

1 green pepper, finely chopped

3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into thin slices

1 heaped tablespoon of flour

2 tablespoons curry powder ( I use Keen’s curry powder and Madras curry powder, one tblsp of each)

2 cups of chicken/turkey stock or water with a Chicken Oxo cube

1 kg of turkey meat (either recently cooked, or as leftovers from Christmas Day curry)

2 tablespoons of sultanas

Method:

Lightly fry the onions, celery and green peppers.

Add the apple slices

Combine the flour and curry powder and sprinkle over contents of pan

Stir and cook gently for 2 mins

Blend in the stock and bring to the boil

Reduce heat and simmer for 10 mins

Add the turkey meat and sultanas.

When all combined pour into casserole dish and place in oven for 1 hour at 160C

Serve with steamed rice and seasonal vegetables.

Note: Turkey curry apparently keeps for several days in the refrigerator, but it never lasts that long at our place.

 

Geez, thanks Ebony, I now have a shocking hankering for a big dribbly pie. Something my bum does NOT need right now. I also can’t stop thinking about Bridget Jones and her mother’s (in)famous Turkey Curry Buffet. Although unlike Bridget’s mum’s cooking, I bet your mother-in-law’s curry is delicious. Certainly sounds it. Just the thing to attract any passing Mark Darcys!

Back onto pies…

So Feasters, what’s your favourite bakery treat? Are you a pie person? Maybe sausage rolls tickle your fancy. Perhaps a sneaky cream bun or two… ‘Fess up! I don’t want to be the only one here with a desperate need to raid the pie shop. You need to suffer too!

If you’d like to learn more about Ebony and her WONDERFUL Ondine series, please visit her website. You can also connect via Twitter (highly recommended as Ebony is very witty and informative), Facebook and her blog.

THIS WRITING LIFE: The Thrill of Discovery

Every month on the Australian Romance Readers Association email loop, members share what they’ve read over the previous month. I love this. There’s something really fun about seeing what others are reading, in the same way perusing another person’s bookshelves provides nosy joy. All those attention-grabbing covers and new authors. Stories to passionately dissect and discuss. The delight in finding common interest.

Just this morning, a member mentioned she’d been loaned two of Jilly Cooper’s early novels, Riders and Rivals. The idea that she was enjoying these books for the first time gave me a twinge of envy. Imagine experiencing that wonderful feeling of discovery again. The thrill of meeting unforgettable characters like Rupert Campbell-Black and Billy Lloyd-Foxe and delighting in all their mischief, then finding that there are more wonderful reads to come, thanks to Cooper’s extensive backlist.

Discovering a new author is such a rush. Last week, book blogger Bree, from 1 Girl, 2 Many Books, convinced me to try a Susanna Kearsley and I’m so grateful she did. I was hooked from about half way down the first page of The Shadowy Horses. Now I’m feeling smug because I know there are a whole lot more Kearsleys I’ll be able to relish in over coming months. I’ve heard romance readers talk about Georgette Heyer in the same way – how they can still remember their first taste of her genius the same way as they can their first kiss. I suspect there are a lot of readers who experienced a similar rush with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, or upon reading any number of the classics or works of our literary and commercial fiction giants. Though it was a very long time ago, I can still recall the absolute squirmy breathless excitement that Walter Farley’s The Black Stallion provided. Amazing how the feeling lingers, even after so many years. But that’s the power of stories.

Which author has left you with that special buzz? The author that makes you wish you could read them for the first time again? I would love to re-experience Paullina Simon’s Tully. That book, with its difficult-to-like-heroine, still astonishes me whenever I return to it. Still, it’d be hard to go past Jilly Cooper’s Riders and Rupert’s delicious upper-class naughtiness. But then I always was a sucker for anything with horses!

Mysty and me 1.0

FRIDAY FEAST with Caitlyn Nicholas

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Happy Friday, Feasters! Did you back the winner of the Melbourne Cup? I didn’t, but that’s hardly new. Last time I picked a winner on Cup day it was the year Subzero romped home in the mud, waaay back in 1992 when I frocked up and caught the train to Flemington only to spend the day getting rained on. Cold, wet but fun and a very, very Melbourne experience.

Now, my Friday Feast guest this week hails from not from the fine city of Melbourne, but its arch rival Sydney. We won’t hold that against her though.

Caitlyn Nicholas not only writes one of the best “mummy blogs” going, she also pens wonderful contemporary romances. And I can say that with conviction because I have Caitlyn’s latest release burning up my Kindle right now.

Check it out!

 

DRIVE ME TO DISTRACTION

 

Sometimes life or death decisions are easy. Alex Radford has a choice – borrow the money to treat her mother’s rare and aggressive cancer from sleazy moneylender Hamish MacCameron. Or do nothing and watch her die.

MacCameron has an agenda. He wants Alex in his bed, and he wants her to help him exact revenge on his sworn enemy, Robert Dryden. He is only too happy to lend her what she needs, but the strings attached form a tangled web from which Alex has little hope of escape.

It’s not all bad. Since she was a girl Alex has had one dream: to become a Formula 1 driver and show the boys how to drive a race car. MacCameron’s money gives her a shot at fame, and in a move that scandalizes the F1 racing fraternity she becomes the new driver for Rob Dryden’s struggling F1 team, Prometheus.

Alex tries to keep her distance from Rob, knowing that one day she will need to betray one of the few people who ever had faith in her. But things begin to unravel when Hamish MacCameron is murdered and she and Rob are the top suspects on the list …

 

Sounds cool, doesn’t it? Sleazy moneylenders, murder, fast cars, steamy attraction…. yep, it’s all there in one fab book. A book you can own right now! So click on over to Amazon for the US Kindle Store or the UK Kindle Store, the Kobo bookstore or Google Play for epub file using devices, or for Apple’s various i-things try the iBookstore.

Prefer to try before you buy? Then sample away at publisher Momentum Books.

Sorted? Excellent. Now you can play with Caitlyn. But remember to keep your dog at a distance. She’s a dangerous woman…

 

How To Poison Your Dog

 

Greetings feasters and the lovely Cathryn.

Firstly, Cathryn is guest blogging over on my blog today, don’t forget to pop over and check her interview out.

Cathryn: it’s a cool interview too… but I’m horribly biased!

Today I’m blogging about a very dangerous recipe.  Make it at your peril. The last time I did it cost me $270. I kid you not.

It was an idle Sunday afternoon. My husband was at work, and the kids were home, bored, bickery and in need of distraction.  This recipe is an easy one for kids to make, quick, low on the washing up and totally yummy. Also chocolate.

It worked a treat.  Within an hour we were munching on warm brownies and I had my feet up, leisurely sipping a cup of tea and congratulating myself on redirecting an afternoon of cranky kids into a spot of domestic bliss.  There was a bang on the front door, the neighbour kids were after some company and everyone, including me, rushed outside to play (well I watered the garden and kept an eye on things).  A strange clattering noise made me hurry inside, to find, to my horror, that we’d left the pan of brownies on the coffee table and the dog had helped himself.  To the lot.

Now chocolate is poisonous for dogs.  So after a quick call to our local after hours vet, the dog, the kids and I pile into the car and rush down to the surgery.

Poor Sebastian (he’s a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel) had a miserable night of throwing up at the vets. But by the time we picked him up he was completely recovered, bright eyed, bushy tailed, utterly unrepentant and ready to do it all again.

$270 later and we were able to bring the damn animal home.

Sigh.  Lesson learned.

I do still love this Brownie recipe though. I’ve been making it since I was eight years old and it is utterly delicious.

 

Caitlyn’s Disastrous Brownies

4oz butter (110g)

2oz plain chocolate (dark, I use 70% Lindt) Have made it with milk though.

2 eggs, beaten

8oz white sugar (225g)

2oz plain flour (50g)

1 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt (I tend to leave it out)

4oz chopped nuts (I use any I have around, walnuts this batch, pecans the last)

Pre-heat oven to 350 F or 180 C

Melt butter and chocolate (I do this in the microwave)

Stir all ingredients into melted butter and chocolate

Bake in oven for 30mins, until the mixture shows signs of shrinking away from the side of the tin, and the centre feels springy. A knife inserted in the centre should come over clean.

Leave to cool in the tin for 10mins

Eat and Enjoy.

 

So what’s your food versus animal story? Cat coughed up a furball in the soup? Dog destroyed a dessert your mother-in-law slaved over for days? Pet parrot taught the local padre some blue language? 

Time to fess up, Feasters. Come on, it’s cathartic to reveal these things!

If you’d like to learn more about Caitlyn and her books, including her December release Geek Girl saves the world novella, Dark Moon Rising, then please visit her website. You can also connect via Caitlyn’s truly excellent blog, Twitter and Facebook.

FRIDAY FEAST with Nikki Logan

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Happy Friday, Feasters! Are you feeling all spring-y? Isn’t it wonderful to see the sun and experience its lovely warm caress again? Very difficult to feel down when the sky is clear and blue, plants are in flower and nature’s creatures are bouncing around all a-frisky.

Ooh, and speaking of nature’s creatures, we have a rather different focus today. Yes, m’dears, Friday Feast is going animal! And so it should. I mean it’s not every day you get a multi-published author and zoo worker regaling you with tales, is it?

Romance with Nature is Australian author Nikki Logan’s catchphrase and how wonderfully she does it too. Whether it’s one of Nikki’s many captivating Harlequin Romance novels or a heart-pumping romantic suspense, you’ll be caught up in her vivid, wild environments and beautiful, passionate love stories.

Just check out her new release, Wild Encounter.

 

WILD ENCOUNTER

 

A wildlife release mission in Africa turns deadly when the convoy is hijacked by smugglers, and veterinarian Clare Delaney is taken hostage. Terrified for her life and her animals, the intrepid Clare establishes a rapport with the man she believes is the criminals’ leader, and reluctantly finds herself under his protection…and falling hard for the enigmatic man.

Alpha-to-the-max Simon deVries sees right through his sexy captive’s attempt to seduce her way to freedom. So when their simmering attraction flares into true passion, it takes them both by surprise. Now he’s torn between completing his secret mission and letting her escape without telling her his true identity. He knows if he lets her go, he will be risking his career, his life…and his heart.

 

Ooh, I’m a sucker for an African tale. Add in a sexy hero and a wild romance and I’m there. And so could you be! One click and Wild Encounter will be all yours. Go on. You know you want to…

Done? Excellent. Now you can have Nikki!

 

What To Feed Your Own Zoo

 

Working in a zoo you get to see and hear a lot of things related to the nutrition of different species. I bring a lot of ideas home to my own ‘pack’. Food enrichment ideas and activities to make the fur-kids work harder for their food and get more enjoyment from it.

The key to an effective captive diet (for any animal, including yours at home) is to replicate the wild one as much as possible. Not just the obvious stuff —wolves eat meat therefore my dog should eat meat—but the incidental diet elements too. Wolves eat meat, and hide, and leathery tendons, and whatever was in its prey’s stomach.

Numbats, for instance, spend huge parts of their day foraging for termites—their primary nutrition source. But while they busily ingest 20,000 termites a day (!), they’re also accidentally ingesting the semi-digested timber and grit inside the termites as well as the material from the termite mound that they accidentally ingest as they tongue-up thousands of termites a day. Their bodies have evolved to not just tolerate but also require that natural fibre for good digestive function. So much so that zookeepers at Perth Zoo grind up chunks of the termite’s nest mound and sprinkle it on their food like cinnamon on eggnog.

(Look at that little one on its back… so cute.)

Cathryn said you guys love recipes… here’s one for you. A termite-charged numbat slurpee courtesy of Perth Zoo.

Ingredients

Water | Eggs | Low-lactose milk powder | Ground up termites | Live Termites (two species) | Ground up mound material | Calcium | Vitamins |

·       Mix water, eggs, milk-powder and cook until like custard in consistency.

·       Mix in crushed-up termites and live termites

·       Sprinkle ground-up mound material, calcium and vitamins

·       Serve chilled

Mmm-mmm. I’m sure you’re all rushing off to make some right now.

Why am I talking about numbats? Because they’re so very, very adorabubble. Here’s one we prepared earlier.

Similarly, the big carnivores may be ‘meat eaters’ but they predate almost exclusively on grazing animals and so a percentage of their weekly diet is green stuff.  Pre-chewed, half-digested greenstuff but plant material, nonetheless. So a certain amount of ‘greens’ is good for carnivores, too.

Note ‘weekly’ diet. Not ‘daily’. Grass grazers [zebra|deer|pig|birds], fruit pickers [birds|monkeys|rodents] and leaf browsers [elephants|giraffe|kangaroo]  tend to spend most of their day foraging for their plant-based food because of its lower nutritional value and relative abundance. But while the top end carnivores have an energy-rich, concentrated meat diet, it does come at a price. They use a lot more energy catching it, they fail as often as they succeed, and sometimes food is just really hard to come by. Or to keep.

Wild dogs, for example, will work in packs, expending enormous amounts of collective energy tracking the right prey (the slowest, the weakest, the least experienced, the most vulnerable), isolating it and then hunting it down. They’re efficient, humane killers once they’ve done that but more often than not as soon as they’ve done all the hard work and settled in for a good feed, along will come a larger prey (lion, hyaena, leopard) and steal their feed out from under their paws. Compared to the muscle-mass of the larger carnivores, wild dogs are pretty rangy and that’s basically because their protein intake is only *just* ahead of their energy expenditure. They go hungry more often than not, work super-hard for their food and—unlike the other ‘me, me, it’s all about me’ carnivores—wild dogs make sure the weak and young are fed first. So a rangy alpha is a good alpha. It means he’s looking after his pack.

Why am I talking about wild dogs? Because I really respect their carnivore values and because I have a romantic suspense called ‘Wild Encounter’ out this week through Entangled which features them. My heroine is up to her elbows inmoving a pack of unconscious and endangered wild dogs across African borders when she and the dogs are kidnapped by wildlife traffickers. I got to spend months researching these beautiful, unique animals and their quirky ways and the affection has stuck.

Just like your dogs at home, animals which are biologically adapted to be foraging and working hard for their food risk becoming overweight if their food is plonked in twice a day and the only thing they have to do for it is haul themselves up and walk to a bowl. So good zoos will implement behavioural enrichment challenges for their captive creatures to make sure that the have to work for their daily food allowance.

(BTW, every single one of these you can do at home for your own captive collection…I’ve modified them for your average suburban kitchen and not the industrial zoo food prep areas…)  There’s so much we can do for our backyard zoo just by taking the lead of the people who look after animals for a living.

Frozen icies: boil up a stock using dinner bones or the left-over blood from the meat tray of your next roast and some water. Freeze a portion, then layer in some small treats and splash a tiny bit of blood stock on them. Freeze to bond them in place. Then add more stock, freeze. Repeat. That way you have a tasty, lickable, layered snack for a hot day that will keep the animal engaged and active. (You can do this for nectar loving birds with diluted peach-juice for stock and fruit pieces inside. Or horses with a super diluted molasses mix and apple/carrot bits inside.)

Scatter feeds: withhold 1/3 of the animal’s daily food and hide it around their environment. Under plants, wedged in logs, tucked in corners, smeared on sticks, buried in sandpits. Release the animal into the environment and watch them go—hunting and foraging like a pro and using all their natural behaviours. (This is also a great one for pets who suffer separation anxiety because they’re so engaged with the ‘hunt’ they don’t have time to indulge the addictive anxiety behaviours as you leave for the day.)

Stuffed pinecones (great for cockies):  Take an open pinecone and wedge unsalted, unbuttered popcorn into the crevices. Hang on a hook in the aviary.

Carcass feed: in zoos, carnivores can be fed entire or half-carcasses which gives them a chance to really work out those natural predator muscles. Zookeepers suspend them from bungees, or affix them to flying foxes so the predators have to chase their ‘kill’. At home you can give dogs entire kangaroo tails (hide-on) and tie them to a post so they can play tug-of-war.

Puzzle boxes:  put some food treats in a discarded toilet roll stuffed with straw. Wrap it in old newspaper. Hide in the garden. Messy but so much fun!

So that’s it. The ideas are as unlimited as your imagination. The secret is to understand what your animal’s wild behaviours would have been and then to find ways to stimulate those.

Good luck! Let me know here if you have any enrichment ideas of you own or if you have any success with one of the above.

*Nikki*

 

How cool was that? A bit different to our usual Friday Feasts but variety is indeed the spice of life, although I can’t imagine I’ll be whipping up any termite slurpees anytime soon. Not deliberately, anyway.

What tricks do you use to keep your menagerie amused or well-fed? My mum used to pong the house out cooking up kangaroo mince mush for the dogs. And my beloved collie, Cooch (darling, darling doggie), had a real thing for horse hoof trimmings. Absolutely loved them. Suppose it was like the canine equivalent of biting someone else’s toenails…

Nikki and I would love to hear your tales (or tails!), so get a-commenting!

If you’d like to learn more about Nikki and her romance with nature, please visit her website. You can also connect via Facebook and Twitter. Or check out her trailer on YouTube.

 

FRIDAY FEAST with Jennifer Scoullar

Good morning, Feasters. Today I’m absolutely delighted to welcome Jennifer Scoullar to the blog. Why? Because not only is Jennifer a fellow Penguin Australia rural lit author, she’s a fellow horsey girl which naturally makes her a mighty fiiiiine person!

Jennifer ‘s world sounds wonderfully romantic and Man From Snowy River-ish. She lives with her family on a property in the gorgeous southern Victorian ranges. Her house is on a hill-top, overlooking valleys of messmate and mountain ash, and all her life she’s ridden and bred horses, in particular Australian Stock Horses.

Which means she knows what she’s writing about in her debut rural romance, Brumby’s Run.

Check it out…

BRUMBY’S RUN

 

A blissful, carefree summer beckons for Samantha Carmichael. But her world is turned on its head when she learns she’s adopted – and that she has a twin sister, Charlie, who is critically ill.

While Charlie recovers in hospital, Sam offers to look after Brumby’s Run, her sister’s home high in the Victorian alps. Within days, city girl Sam finds herself breaking brumbies and running cattle with the help of neighbour Drew Chandler, her sister’s erstwhile boyfriend.

A daunting challenge soon becomes a wholehearted tree change, as Sam begins to fall in love with Brumby’s Run – and with Drew. But what will happen when Charlie returns to claim what is rightfully hers?

Set among the hauntingly beautiful ghost gums and wild horses of the high country, Brumby’s Run is a heartfelt, romantic novel about families and secrets, love and envy, and most especially, the bonds of sisterhood.

 

 

I am so, so excited about this book and can’t wait to score a copy. The official release day is July 2nd but there are reports of Brumby’s Run already in the shops. So keep your eyes peeled!

And now I hand you over to Jennifer.

 

BUSHFOODS

Recently I’ve become interested in Australian native foods, commonly known as bush tucker or bushfood. I think it’s a natural extension of my passion for our environment. Bushfood ingredients were initially harvested from the wild, but cultivated sources have become increasingly important to provide sustainable supplies for a growing market

The fledgling bushfood industry is helping to conserve wild resources and protect bio- diversity. It is creating incomes and jobs for rural communities, and I like that it values and utilises indigenous knowledge.  It encourages farmers to branch out from traditional crops, and has had some unexpected advantages.  For example, salinity is being reduced in some areas by introducing native perennials, and waterways once polluted by fertiliser runoff are returning to health.

Once I discovered the pleasures of cooking with bushfood, I couldn’t get enough of it. Everybody knows about Macadamia nuts, but there is another far more ancient native nut that has been considered a delicacy for thousands of years. My new novel is set in the Bunya Mountains of Queensland, famous for their Bunya nuts. The nuts come from a magnificent pine tree which dates back to the Jurassic era 180 million years ago. When Gondwana separated into different land masses 45 million years ago, the Bunya pine survived in a few areas of  Australia. It is a cousin to the Monkey Puzzle tree of South America. Nuts from both trees were a prized food for indigenous tribes, and the Monkey Puzzle nut is an important food source in Chile to the present day.

The football-sized Bunya cones weighs 5-10 kilograms and hold between 30 and 100 nuts.  Each nut contains about 130 kilojoules (32 calories) with more starch and protein than the average nut. They taste similar to chestnuts with overtones of pine, and are great in both sweet and savoury dishes.  Bunya nuts are a bit hard to come by, outside of Queensland. But you can buy them online from the Australian Produce Company, and store them in the freezer.

Flourless Bunya Nut  Cake  (gluten free)

Ingredients:

  • 750g of Bunya nut kernels  
  • Half a litre of milk
  • 75g butter
  • 300g sugar
  • 6 free-range egg yolks
  • 6 free-range egg whites
  • 100g almond meal
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon almond essence

Method:

  • Boil nuts in large saucepan for half an hour and remove from shells. (This can    involve hammers and shouting. I find it’s a great job for teenage boys!)
  • Preheat oven to 180C.
  • Place kernels in food processor and reduce to a smooth paste, slowly adding the milk to soften mixture.
  • Mix softened butter with egg yolks and sugar until smooth and fluffy, then hand-   blend with the Bunya nut paste.
  • Beat egg whites to a firm consistency and again hand-blend with the Bunya nut, mix in one cup at a time, alternating with the almond meal and almond essence until all ingredients are fully mixed.
  • Pour mix into a 28cm spring form, lined with grease-proof baking paper.
  • Bake for 50min in centre of oven. Turn heat off and leave for a further 20 minutes before removing from oven to cool naturally.
  • Shake sifted icing sugar on top. Best eaten same day.

This delicious and unusual cake is also suitable for those with a gluten intolerance.

 

What a fascinating post! Thanks, Jennifer. I really enjoyed that and will definitely be on the hunt for some Bunya nuts now. I’ve cooked with wattle seed and finger limes and a few other bushfoods but not these. Must try!

Now, Feasters, lovely Jennifer has offered one super-lucky reader the chance to win a signed copy of Brumby’s Run. Rah! But as usual you have to work for it. Jennifer and I want to hear all about your best Australian bush experience. Don’t have a best one? Then share your worst. After all, everyone loves a good python in the sleeping bag story as much as they love a romantic campfire dinner/cute furry animal one.

Get in fast because the giveaway closes midnight Tuesday, 3rd July 2012. Australian addresses only, sorry.

If you’d like to learn more about Jennifer and her books, please visit her website. You can also connect via Facebook and Twitter.

This giveaway has now closed. Congratulations to JindivickWildlifeShelter who has won a copy of Jennifer’s wonderful debut rural romance Brumby’s Run. Thanks to everyone who joined in the fun!

FRIDAY FEAST with Christina Phillips

Oh, I do love Fridays. Not only is it the end of the week, which means fun, frivolity and very, very soon FOOTBALL, it’s Friday Feast time. And I don’t know about you, but I’m thoroughly enjoying these posts. Everyone has such wonderful food stories to share and today’s guest is no exception.

I am a huge admirer of Christina Phillips. Her writing is beautifully lyrical, her stories compelling and her heroes… well, let’s just say they make me gooey. A lot gooey, in fact. Maximus, Maximus, you sexy Roman hunk of….

Oh, sorry. Where was I? Yes, praising Christina. Wonderful writer. Fabulous books. You must check them out. No, seriously, you must. Forbidden, Captive and soon, writing as Christina Ashcroft, Archangel of Mercy.

Here’s a look at Forbidden to give you a taste.

He was a master of seduction – but no match for the magical allure of the woman he wanted most…

Carys knew from the moment she first spied on Maximus in his naked barbarian glory that he was a dangerous Roman centurion – his taut, battle-scarred flesh marking him as a fearless warrior. But her desire for him was as undeniable as it was illicit.

Charged by his emperor to eliminate a clan of powerful Druids in Britain, Maximus never expects his mission to be thwarted by the clan’s ethereal princess, Carys, his daring voyeur. Falling under her spell, he doesn’t realize her true heritage – until he captures her heart as well as her body.

As Carys’s loyalties are twisted, and freedom is no longer her single-minded obsession, an avenging former lover threatens to crush Maximus’s people into oblivion. Now Carys and Maximus must overcome the devastation of war and face the ultimate sacrifice if their forbidden love is to survive.

Think of it… Maximus in his naked barbarian glory. How can you possibly resist!

Oof. Look at me rabbiting on again. Without further ado, here’s Christina.

Thank you Cathryn for having me on your blog today! I love the idea of your Friday Feast blog posts and all the delicious recipes. I’m sure I’ve whacked on several kilos just by drooling over the photos!

Since I’m a bit of an undomestic goddess I thought I’d chat today about a recent wine tour we enjoyed in the gorgeous Margaret River region of Western Australia. It was to celebrate my husband’s birthday and my daughters discovered a fantastic villa right on the river – Riverzedge Retreat.

Two weeks before the weekend we sat him down and told him we were going away and he needed to take time off work (yes he does need to be told this!) The weekend arrived and the weather was perfect. The villa was stunning and our bedroom was fabulous. I’ve always had a craving to sleep in a four poster bed and although it didn’t quite have the four posts it did have the most gorgeous drapes, and combined with the breathtaking views it was a little slice of heaven!

On the Saturday morning the seven of us trudged down the hill to wait for the tour bus. Aha! As an added surprise we’d told him we were taking the tour bus and I will never forget the look of absolute astonishment on his face when instead of a bus, an amazing white limo pulled up!

I would now love to give a detailed description of every winery we visited and wines consumed. Unfortunately, I enjoyed myself far too much at the first stop with a selection of Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignon Merlots and the entire day is one very happy blur!!!

However, I do remember we stopped for lunch at the Voyager Estate with its magnificent Cape Dutch architecture. The grounds are absolutely beautiful and after we’d eaten (I believe more wine was also consumed!) we had a leisurely wander around the lovely rose gardens.

One of the experiences I’ll never forget is the adorable kookaburra that woke us each morning by dive bombing our windows. I’m originally from the UK and a total City girl, and even after living in WA for thirteen years the incredible wildlife still leaves me breathless. It was kind of surreal to hear this kookaburra doing his best to wake us up, then we’d walk out onto the balcony and there he’d be, perched on the rail and giving us the beady eye. It’s the closest I’d ever got to this cheeky bird and I discovered they are a lot bigger than I’d imagined when, as a child, I’d warble “Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree…” We also had a family of ducks who’d waddle right up to the back door looking for edible goodies.

It was a wonderful weekend away with great company, plenty of wine and delicious food (none of which I had to cook and in my book that is a huge bonus!!)

As a side note, when I was researching for my Roman/Druid romances I came across several fascinating tidbits. Apparently the Romans thought it was common to drink wine neat and instead they’d cut it half with water. But what really knocked me sideways was how during the earlier Republic period it was against the law for Roman women to drink wine at all. The reasoning behind this was because, naturally, women were unable to control themselves and if they drank wine they would sleep around. A man was within his rights to kill his wife if he discovered she’d been drinking and in order to discover if she had he would kiss her on the lips! So much for romance 🙂 Needless to say none of my heroes harbour such barbaric prejudices!

Sigh. That sounds so wonderful. Thanks, Christina. Fabulous post. Margaret River is one of the few Australian wine regions I’ve yet to visit and this just makes me want to go there more. Although I’ll definitely have to drag along the golf clubs so I can wear off all that delicious food and drink with some exercise.

Now, Christina has a special gift for ten lucky commenters. Share your favourite wine region or, if wine isn’t your thing, simply your favourite tipple, and you could score a very attractive and handy present!

Get commenting because entries close midnight, Tuesday, 21st February Australian Eastern Standard Time. And don’t forget to include your email address or a link so we can contact you. Open internationally.

If you’d like to know more about Christina and her beautifully written books, please visit her website. You can also connect via her blog, Twitter and Facebook.

 

The contest is now closed. Christina has generously offered a prize to all who participated, with details on how to claim in the comments section.

Thank you for joining in the Friday Feast fun!

 

A story to warm your heart

Last weekend’s The Weekend Australian Magazine featured an amazing story of survival that made me choke up when I read it, so I hunted down the link to share.

A Salty Tale: When Sophie the cattle dog went overboard off the Queensland coast, her owners thought she’d drowned for sure. But every dog has its day…

Sniff. I love a happy ending.