Tag Archives: Australiana

This Writing Life: An Outback Queensland Adventure

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Welcome to this delayed edition of This Writing Life: A. Outback Queensland Adventure. I’ve been trying to organise this post for a while but the first round of edits for THE COUNTRY GIRL landed while I was away and that meant it was straight down to business on my arrival home, with no time to spare for travelogues. Or house cleaning for that matter, but any excuse to get out of that.

Anyway, better late than never!

For those of you who missed my adventures on social media, in mid March Jim and I had to fly up to Townsville for some appointments. Because Murphy’s Law dictated that nothing matched up (actually, it was probably more our disorganisation that caused this but Murphy is so much easier to blame), we ended up with a few days to spare. This also coincided with my globe-trotting parents-in-law leaving their four-wheel-drive parked in Townsville.

Four-wheel-drive…

Queensland outback practically on the doorstep…

At a loose end…

Never look a gift horse and all that I say. So we pinched the car and hit the road.

If you ever get the chance to go driving around outback Queensland, I highly recommend you take it. As you’ll see from the following photos, we had a BALL!

To put things in perspective, this map shows where we headed to: Townsville, through Charters Towers and then out to WInton and surrounds.

Outback Queensland Map

From Townsville we headed out past Charters Towers and then down to Winton, approximately 600kms.

The drive out was fun. The humour in outback Australia can be as dry as the landscape, as demonstrated by this laugh outside of Charters Towers.

Grounded! The writing on the boat reads: Lake Wanted, Boat Grumpy. Cracks me up.

Grounded! The writing on the boat reads: Lake Wanted, Boat Grumpy. I’ve seen this a few times now and it never fails to crack me up.

There’s a tiny little town called Corfield, population 10, on the Winton to Hughenden road, which has nothing much more than a pub come shop, a couple of other buildings, and a bit of a camping ground. But each year they hold the “real” Corfield Cup, a play on Melbourne’s famous Caulfield Cup horse race, and the population swells to more than 1000.

Sounds right up my alley. One for the bucket list!

Corfield, Queensland. Home of the "real" Corfield Cup. I'd love to go to this event. One for the bucket list.

Corfield, Queensland. Home of the “real” Corfield Cup.

There’s a lot of flat country out there…

Heading to Winton. It's flat and a bit empty.

The seemingly endless mitchell grass downs that dominate the road to Winton.

Another tiny town was Prairie, population 50, and once a main horse change for Cobb and Co. coaches. The pub is a blast and a must-stop.

The Prairie Hotel, complete with horse on the roof.

The Prairie Hotel, complete with horse on the roof, saddlery draping the front rails and very friendly locals.

Inside the Prairie Hotel. A treasure trove!

Inside the Prairie Hotel. A treasure trove! There was even an old barber’s chair.

Deciding to make Winton our base and travel outwards from there, we booked a room at the North Gregory Hotel. First opening it doors in 1879, the hotel has been destroyed and rebuilt multiple times. This is the 4th North Gregory Hotel which opened in 1955 (and was owned by the local council!) and it’s a fantastic building.

There’s so much history in this hotel alone. It was the location of the first public performance of iconic song Waltzing Matilda in 1895. Lyndon Johnson, who would go on to become the 36th President of the United States, stayed here as a Navy Lt Commander after his plane crash landed at Carisbrooke Station in 1942. It was also where locals held secret meetings as they formed the airline Qantas.

North Gregory Hotel

Such a great looking hotel, and a gorgeous morning for adventuring.

This made me smile each time I passed. Near the location of the first public performance of Waltzing Matilda.

This made me smile each time I passed. Near the location of the first public performance of Waltzing Matilda.

Artist Daphne Mayo (1895-1982) created these etched glass panels for the dining room at the North Gregory Hotel. These are a tribute to Waltzing Matilda. Another set was to Qantas.

Artist Daphne Mayo (1895-1982) created these etched glass panels for the dining room at the North Gregory Hotel. These are a tribute to Waltzing Matilda. Another set was to Qantas.

This cute little fellow was in the beer garden of the North Gregory Hotel.

This cute little fellow was in the beer garden of the North Gregory Hotel.

We were up the next morning early for a stroll around town. First stop was Arno’s Wall, a work of art and architecture by local identity and opal miner Arno Grotjahn. It has all sorts of things embedded in it, including a kitchen sink.

Sunrise hitting some motorbikes embedded in Arno's Wall.

Sunrise hitting some motorbikes embedded in Arno’s Wall.

It was so quiet in Winton that morning, there were brolgas wandering the street.

Brolgas in Winton

Brolgas in Winton

Winton town centre features lovely whimsical artwork, wonderful sculptures and commemorative statues. They even have cool dinosaur themed bin covers. Such a nice place to wander around, full of humour and history.

Cute sculpture in Winton main street.

One of the cute pieces of art in Winton’s main street.

dinosaur foot wheelie bin covers.

Love these dinosaur foot wheelie bin covers.

Banjo Paterson sculpture

Banjo Parterson and Waltzing Matilda commemorative statue.

Winton Wagon

This horse drawn wagon carried the last load of wool to the Winton rail head in 1936. The wagon could carry a load of 9 tonnes when yoked with 19 horses.

Corfield and Fitzmaurice building

The historic Corfield and Fitzmaurice building in Winton’s main street. There’s a museum inside and a shop selling local hand-made crafts. I bought a gorgeous bracelet from there.

Swagman statue

This lovely statue is a tribute to Banjo Paterson and to the many swagmen who lie in unmarked graves throughout the country.

There’s nothing so dry as outback Aussie humour and the Tattersalls Hotel outdid itself with these quotes they’d hung on the outside walls.

Tattersalls Hotel

Tattersalls Hotel

From Winton we took a drive 110kms south to Lark Quarry and the Dinosaur Stampede National Monument, which was seriously cool. There’s something about seeing 95 million-year-old dinosaur tracks that brings out the excited kid in me.

I love how science has determined that, all that time ago, hundreds of small dinosaurs were wandering near the edge of a lake when a large, meat-eating theropod attacked. Blocked by the lake, the little dinosaurs had nowhere to go, and in a mad panic were forced to run like crazy past the predator to safety. Even more exciting, the event was preserved in the mud and then turned to stone for us to see today.

Though occasionally rough, the drive to Lark Quarry was enjoyable too. Fantastic landscape and just look at that sky!

Emergency airstrip

This section of road in the middle of nowhere is designated no stopping so emergency aircraft like the Flying Doctor can land.

Arriving at Lark Quarry

Arriving at Lark Quarry

The scenery around Lark Quarry was stunning.

The scenery around Lark Quarry was stunning. The colours are incredible. So vivid they almost look created instead of natural.

Below you can see some of the footprints, preserved under cover (a necessity, not just to protect them from the elements but from people who have damaged and/or tried to nick them over the years). The largest of the theropod prints is 64cm, which extrapolates into a predator approximately 2.5 metres tall at the hips. The other dinosaurs ranged from chicken sized to half the size of an emu. Just enough for a nice snack.

inosaur footprints

Dinosaur footprints! And the only known preserved dinosaur stampede in the world. Fantastic.

From Lark Quarry I made Jim take a detour to Old Cork Station. The road deteriorated so badly we thought we’d taken a wrong turn, it wasn’t on the GPS and don’t even think about internet access. Earlier there’d been another track heading off in a different direction, so we u-turned back to try that, only for it to dead end at a gypsum quarry. So around we went again… with much swearing and muttering from the driver about people who get excited and soppy about things that are nothing but lines in a forgotten song. But we found it in the end and I ticked Old Cork Station off my bucket list. Jim, however, was completely underwhelmed and still hasn’t let me forget it.

For those of you who have never heard of Old Cork Station, take a listen to Australian folk band Redgum’s “Diamantina Drover“.

I defy you not to feel romantic about it!

Old Cork Station

The sandstone ruins of Old Cork Station near the Diamantina River, one of the shire’s original properties. Old Cork was first settled in the 1860s and the homestead built in 1880-85.

After Old Cork (yes, there’s still a Cork Station, if you’re wondering – we drove past the ‘new’ homestead on the way) we journeyed back to Winton, where Jim got chatting to a local who’d called into the tourist office for a natter. Apparently the local had been up to Combo Waterhole the day before and it was running, something he’d never seen before.

Naturally, being his father’s son, Jim decided to take a drive cos, you know, we clearly hadn’t done enough already that day. *rolls eyes*

Combo Waterhole is iconic in Australian bush culture. It lies 132km north-west of Winton off the Landsborough Highway and is believed to be the setting of, or at least the inspiration for, AB (Banjo) Paterson’s Waltzing Matilda which he wrote while visiting Dagworth Station (which Combo Waterhole was once a part of) in 1895.

You know how it goes…

Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong
Under the shade of a coolibah tree,
And he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boiled:
“Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me?”

Combo is, so the story goes, the billabong in question. It’s also of importance to Jim’s family because across the other side of the waterhole is a Cobb and Co staging post where Jim’s great grandfather worked and where his great-uncle Les was born.

Sign indicating the turn-off to Combo Waterhole

Sign indicating the turn-off to Combo Waterhole. The waterhole is on the horizon somewhere.

Combo Waterhole

Standing at Combo Waterhole, which is actually a series of waterholes. As you can see it was flowing quite quickly so we didn’t try to cross to visit the Cobb and Co post.

The local also told us that if we could catch sunset at the 4-mile windmill (four miles from Winton, funnily enough) it’d make for some spectacular photos. We did and they were!

Windmill sunset

The peace of watching this sunset was quite incredible.

The following day we headed 24 kms out of Winton to the Australian Age of Dinosaurs, which was also excellent. The museum holds the world’s largest collection of unique Australian dinosaur fossils.

Age of dinosaurs - Banjo statue

Perfectly normal thing to do, stick your head in a dinsosaur’s mouth. This is “Banjo”.

Age of dinosaurs lab.

Volunteers working to clean a dinosaur bone in the lab.

Age of dinosaurs

Love what’s written on the outside of this preserved pack of bones: “One BIG Dinosaur!!!”

Close to Winton is the Bladensburg National Park, which was once Bladensburg Station but was designated a National Park in 1994. There’s a half day drive you can do around it called the Route of the River Gum. We had a four-wheel-drive so we did it, and had a great time.

Bladensburg National Park - kangaroos

Kangaroos sheltering from the heat in one of the claypans at Bladensburg. The claypans allow water to run off so freely that it only takes half an inch of rain to fill the waterholes. Drovers used to follow the storms, knowing that even a small one would produce enough runoff to provide water for themselves and their livestock.

Richard Cragg's lonely grave in Bladensburg

Richard Cragg’s lonely grave in Bladensburg. Cragg was a mail contractor who died in December 1888 aged 46, apparently from “poison.”

The 1894 shearer's strike memorial

The 1894 shearer’s strike memorial. It was here that 500 shearers camped during the strike of 1891 and 1894, when Winton was under martial law. It’s also of historical political significance as these events played a role in the founding of the Australian Labour Party.

Engine Hole, a waterhole in the park.

Engine Hole, a waterhole in the park. Even a simple ham, cheese and tomato sandwich tastes like gourmet food when you eat it somewhere like this.

Bladensburg Homestead and shearing shed is open for visitors. This shed was built in the 1960s after the original shearing burnt down, and has only 6 stands, reflecting stocking rates of the time. Sheep numbers on Bladnesburg ranged from 30,000 in 1915, to 600,000 (!!) in the 1920s, declining to 14,000 in the 1950s.

The change in numbers is amazing. In 1965 in Queensland’s Flinders Shire alone there were nearly 1.3 million sheep. By 2006 there were only 156,000. Cattle are now the primary stock that’s run.

Bladenburg's old shearing shed.

Bladenburg’s old shearing shed.

Before we left Winton, I had to play on its musical fence. It made me laugh, even if Jim thought I was a twit.

musical fence

Can’t say my efforts on the musical fence were very tuneful.

Musical Fence - drums

I did feel, however, that I played the drums quite marvellously.

We called into Hughenden on the trip back and had a terrific time visiting the museum and checking out the sculptures.

Mutt the Muttaburrasaurus

Mutt the Muttaburrasaurus, a fibreglass replica. These dinosaurs grew up to 7 metres in length and were 2.2 metres at the hip. Behind, the gorgeous old Grand Hotel, sadly closed.

Windmill sculpture, Hughenden

This windmill sculpture/rotunda in Hughenden’s main street was erected in 2001 to celebrate the centenary of Federation and features two 20 foot blade windmills. It’s practical as well as interesting and, thanks to interpretive panels inside, educational. Danny from Santa and the Saddler would have loved it!

dinosaur metalwork sculpture

One of the dinosaur metalwork sculptures that dot the centre of town.

dinosaur metalwork sculpture

Another metalwork sculpture in Hughenden. Clever!

Hughie, the 7 metre tall muttaburrasaurus

Hughie, the 7 metre tall muttaburrasaurus in the Flinders Discovery Centre.

Danny, windmill engineer and hero of my rural romance Santa and the Saddler, would have gone nuts over this gigantic Comet windmill in Hughenden.

The Comet windmill Hughenden

The Wirilla Station windmill, now in Hughenden, stands on the banks of the Flinders River and is one of only fifteen 35 foot mills ever manufactured. This one is number 11 and it could pump a million litres of water a day with an average wind. Danny would have wet his pants!

From there we drove back to Charters Towers, a famed gold rush town, where we enjoyed a picnic lunch at Centenary Park and this commemorative sculpture.

Gold Discovery Monument

The Gold Discovery Monument by Queensland artist Hugh Anderson

I was sad to leave the area. We’d had such a great adventure, experiencing outback Queensland and visiting locations so iconic and significant in Australia’s history.

Next time we’re up in Townsville with time to spare, I’m hoping to take a (longish) drive north-west to the Undara Volcanic National Park to check out the lava tubes. My parents-in-law tell me they’re spectacular.

Hope you enjoyed this post from This Writing Life. Don’t expect too many other adventures for a while. No time for fun in the Hein house, it’s book writing time and I have an idea for a beeeoooooty!

 

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THIS WRITING LIFE: To Show We Go!

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Ooh, I so adore a country show. They remind me a lot of growing up, when spring meant the start of show season. From the end of August until the last shows of December I’d spend every weekend at a showground somewhere in south-east South Australia or western Victoria, competing on my horses and having a wonderful time.

Sideshow alley clowns, Luddenham Show 2016But I also loved all the other things that shows offered – everything from local trade displays to the hard fought baking and other competitions. The livestock pavilions, with all their smells and noise and sleek animals, were wonderful. Plus there were performances and displays and all sort of things to entertain young and old, and celebrate rural communities. I even liked the sideshows, although not that much. I was far too uncoordinated to win anything. Even the laughing clowns, which for some reason I loved (WHY? everyone knows they’re evil), used to defeat me.

Just up the road from me is the tiny village of Luddenham. Last weekend it hosted its 112th annual show and after saying for the last three years that I really must check it out, this year I did. And what a happy, happy time I had!

Lovely horses, woodchopping, bush poetry, whipcracking, sheepdog trials, poultry, an animal petting zoo, trade displays and more, but what really thrilled me was the number of young families there, enjoying this little taste of country life.

Here are some photos from the day.

Bush poetry at Luddenham show

The day started with a Poet’s Breakfast which was a lot of fun. Nothing like a recital of The Man From Snowy River to perk your morning up.

Sheep dog trials at Luddenham Show

Sheep dog trials are always fascinating. This combination did an impressive job with these difficult sheep.

Shearing demonstration at Luddenham show

The shearing demonstration, at the end of which the shearer did a very funny bit of sheep hypnotising.

Junior whipcrack

This young lad learned how to crack a whip from his grandfather. Love how Google photos can create gifs like this!

senior whipcrack at Luddenham Show

Meanwhile. this fellow learned his whipcracking off YouTube!

Veg display at Luddenam Show

In the pavilions we had lovely farm produce…

lowers at Luddenham Show

…and pretty flowers

Decorated gumboots at Luddenham Show

…decorated gumboots

art at Luddenham Show

…art

photos at Luddenham Show

…photography

craft at Luddenham Show

…craft

cooking at Luddenham Show

…and cooking. I bet these categories were hard fought.

Woodchopping at Luddenham Show

Outside we had woodchopping. I do love a man who can swing an axe!

Woodchopping at Luddenham Show

And more woodchopping. I so enjoy watching these events. The strength and skill involved is incredible.

Woodchopping at Luddenham Show

Here’s a junior axeman in the making.

Led horse at Luddenham Show

What I really came to see – pretty horses!

Pony events at Luddenham Show

Pony event judging

Cute pony at Luddenham Show

Too cute!

Australian Stock Horse classes at Luddenham Show

Warming up for a working Australian Stock Horse class

Pony at Luddenham Show

Little pony!

Poultry pavilion at Luddenham Show

As always, the poultry pavilion was a hoot. Chooks are funny.

Mice in the petting zoo at Luddenham Show

Meanwhile, in the petting zoo, we had mice…

Donkey in the petting zoo at Luddenham Show

…and a sweet little donkey

Guinea pigs in the petting zoo at Luddenham Show

…guinea pigs

The petting zoo at Luddenham Show

…and lots more overfed animals. Not to mention gaggles of overexcited children.

Reptile demonstration at Luddenham Show

There was also a hugely popular reptile talk and demonstration.

Vintage machinery at Luddenham Show

A vintage machinery display.

Nepean Hunters Club at Luddenham Show

The Nepean Hunters Club also had a trade stand. Not my thing but I couldn’t resist this pic. Their bow and arrow shooting range was enormously popular.

Dragon bouncy castle at Luddenham Show

Why weren’t there bouncy castles like this when I was growing up?

Hope you enjoyed the photos. I certainly enjoyed my day!

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FRIDAY FEAST with Cathryn Hein

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Welcome, food and book lovers, to the blog series that satisfies both mind and body. This week on Friday Feast, you have me. I’m sharing a childhood memory along with an easy picnic food recipe, and showing off my upcoming release Summer and the Groomsman.

Author Cathryn HeinBut first, the rollercoaster ride of Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf. After flopping dismally in the ladies premier competition, the Goblet, I’m now focusing on the club championships. Three rounds in and I’m sitting pretty in second. And no one can catch me! That might have something to do with the fact that there are now only two ladies left in the contest, but we won’t talk about that. Second is still second, even if is also technically last. And who knows, if the gun player ahead of me also pulls out, I might even win!

Enough of golf silliness. It’s time to wax lyrical about next week’s release of my rural romance novella Summer and the Groomsman. To say I’m excited about it is an understatement. This sweet, heart-warming story has been in my head for so long I thought it would never get out, yet here it is, all golden and lovely, and ready for you.

Take a looksie…

SUMMER AND THE GROOMSMAN

Cover of Summer and the Groomsman by Cathryn HeinIt’s Levenham’s wedding of the year but unlucky-in-love Harry Argyle has more on his mind than being groomsman.

After yet again nearly colliding with an escaped horse while driving home to the family farm, Harry Argyle comes face-to-face with its pretty owner, and doesn’t hold back his disapproval.

Confronted by a bad-tempered giant on a dark country road, beautician and new arrival in town Summer Taylor doesn’t know who to be more afraid for: herself or her darling horse Binky. It’s not her fault Binky keeps escaping. The alcoholic owner of the paddock she rents won’t fix the fence and Binky can be sneaky when it comes to filling his stomach. But no matter how big and muscled the bully, she refuses to be intimidated.

When Harry’s wedding party book a session at the day spa where Summer works, both she and Harry are horrified to be paired together. Grudgingly, they agree to make the most of it – only for the session to spiral into disaster. Realising he’s made a dill of himself in front of sweet Summer yet again, Harry vows to set things right.

Summer isn’t about to easily forgive the man who called her horse stupid, no matter how brave and kind, but with everyone on Harry’s side, even fate, resistance is hard. Can these two find love or will Summer’s wayward horse put his hoof in it again?

Doesn’t that sound fun? I promise it is. Secure your copy today by pre-ordering from Amazon.com, Amazon.auAmazon.uk, Kobo, iBooks, or Nook.

All sorted? Good. Now come on a picnic with me.

A Rocky Tale

Who doesn’t love a good picnic? There’s something about eating al fresco that increases your appetite and makes everything taste better. Throw in great company and you have the best of days.

Well, mostly…

About 100 kilometres from my home town of Mount Gambier, parallel to the Coonawarra wine region but across the Victorian border toward the small town of Dergholm, there’s a state park. On its western edge is a camping area called Baileys Rocks. This has great significance to our family because it’s where my maternal ancestor John Bailey settled with his wife Frances in 1888. Probably to escape his 5 brothers and 5 sisters in Portland (they bred well in those days).

When Mum, who was mad about genealogy, discovered that the old homestead’s foundations could still be seen at the site, she ordered my family up for a look, dragging my godparents and their family along for the ride.


The area contains the most amazing rock formations: 500 million-year-old boulders of granite that look like giant marbles, and possess an eeriness that just begs you to hum the haunting Picnic At Hanging Rock movie theme tune under your breath as you walk around.

I was quite young at this point. Perhaps around age 10, I can’t be sure, but I recall having a great day. Running around the giant rock formations, exploring the bush, following the creek, breathing in the scents of eucalyptus and scrub… what better adventure for a kid? Some of the boulders had drill holes and blast marks where attempts had been made to mine the granite, only to be foiled by the hardness of the rock. We had picnic food and cordial and found the original house foundations. I have a feeling we may even have played bush cricket. All was good.

As everyone who lives in Australia knows, picnicking is not without its perils. Besides sunburn, we have pesky wildlife to contend with. There wouldn’t be too many of us who haven’t been annoyed by flies, spiders, snakes, wasps, bees, dive-bombing birds, even the occasional fearless emu, when dining outdoors. And everyone has had trouble with ants.

Ant quoteBaileys Rocks had the usual small black ants – those determined, pesky creatures that can sniff a sausage from a mile away – but it also had bull ants. Great big fat aggressive ones. The territorial sort that attack and take about ten heavy stomps to kill, and even then the buggers keep twitching.

Unfortunately my poor godfather got bitten by one.

To be fair, it could be my faulty child’s memory but I swear he went red, then purple, then his neck went missing as his entire upper body swelled up like a provoked toad. Bemusement was followed by concern and mutterings about how bad it truly was, what his laboured breathing meant, whether a hospital trip to Penola was in order. These days, we’d probably recognise his condition for what it was – an allergic reaction that needed medical attention, but this was the 70s and in my experience it took more than an ant bite and a touch of anaphylaxis to put people in a flap.

So my godfather was left wheezing, and we carried on having fun before eventually packing up and tottering off home, happy and tired from the day and filled with wonder for those amazing rocks. He survived – god knows how – but a lesson was learned: watch out for bull ants. They can spoil your day and make you look freaky.

Fortunately I already knew that thanks to an experience I had when I was little and out rabbitting with my dad. I needed the loo and being in the middle of a paddock, Dad just told me to go. So I did. Straight on a bull ant’s nest.

But that’s a story for another day.

Eh hem. Time to get back to the subject, which is picnic food!

Here’s a recipe for a dead easy frittata that’s as good cold as it is hot, can be made well in advance, and is perfect for an outdoor meal. It’s also very adaptable. As long as you have the main ingredients you can tweak it however you like. The photo below has the frittata made in an enamel-coated cast iron pan, but life’s much easier using non-stick.

I made this recipe last night for dinner (that’s the slice of frittata photo) using red onion because I didn’t have any spring onions, and served it with salad. Delish!

Picnic Frittata

Frittata

Serves 8

1 kg waxy or all-purpose potatoes, skin on, cut into 2 cm chunks

2 chorizo sausages, halved lengthways and cut into 1 cm slices

100 g baby spinach

10 eggs, beaten

6 spring onions, finely sliced

Heat a good wodge of olive oil in a 27 cm non-stick pan over medium heat and throw in the chorizo (you can also chuck in roughly chopped red onion at this stage, if you want). Cook until lightly browned and the oil has lots of flavour from the chorizo, then remove the meat using a slotted spoon, leaving the oil in the pan.

Slice of Frittata

This version was made with sauteed red onion instead of spring onions. Great for lunch!

Meanwhile, steam the potatoes until just tender. Allow to dry out a little, then add to the flavoured oil and sauté until slightly crispy and the potatoes have taken on the spiced oil.

Add the spinach and stir until wilted. Return chorizo to the pan and combine.

Mix the spring onions with the whisked eggs. Season with salt and pepper.

Lower the heat and pour egg over the potato mix. Stir to even out the ingredients, plonk on a lid and cook until the egg is set, about 10-15 minutes or so, depending on thickness. If you’re feeling excited, finish it off by lightly grilling the top.

Cut into slices and serve warm or cold.

No chorizo? No problem. Simply swap with any other kind of spiced sausage, ham or bacon. No spinach? Leave it out. Honestly, as long as you have eggs and spuds, you’ll be right. The rest is up to your imagination.

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So, clever Feasties, what’s your favourite picnic food? Do you have something special you make for outdoor events? Please share. We’d all love to hear!

If you’d like to learn more about me or my books, why not tootle around the website for a while? There’s lots to explore. You can also connect with me on Facebook, Twitter using @CathrynHein, Google +, Goodreads and Pinterest.

Friday Feast recipe index link.

FRIDAY FEAST with Jennifer Scoullar

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Greetings, food and book lovers, and welcome to another tasty edition of Friday Feast. This week we trip to the tantalising tropics and go a bit nutty with one of Australia’s favourite rural and environmental fiction authors. Plus there’s a giveaway!

But first, the disappointment that is Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf. Sigh. Deep, deep sigh. I was on form, dropping shots off my handicap with almost every round. But that was before, when the sun shone bright and autumn was far away. Now… Oh, it is ugly. So very, very ugly. The summer of my golfing content is over. The curse has returned with the shortening days and I am but a hacker once more.

Author Jennifer ScoullarEnough lamenting. It’s time for our guest.

Australian author Jennifer Scoullar blazed into our literary landscape with the best-selling rural romance Brumby’s Run, following that success up with Currawong Creek and Billabong Bend. What makes Jennifer’s novels different is their focus on environmental issues. Issues that are often complex and divisive, yet Jennifer handles with knowledge and empathy.

Her latest is Turtle Reef, which officially releases next week . Take a look…

TURTLE REEF

TurtleReef_cover2.0From the bestselling author of Billabong Bend, Brumby’s Run and Currawong Creek comes a wonderful new novel set against the spectacular beauty of Queensland’s rocky coral coast.

Unlucky-in-love zoologist Zoe King has given up on men. Moving from Sydney to take up an exciting new role in marine science in the small sugar town of Kiawa is a welcome fresh start. Zoe  is immediately charmed by the region’s beauty – by its rivers and rainforests, and by its vast cane fields, sweeping from the foothills down to the rocky coral coast.  And also by its people – its farmers and fishermen, unhurried and down to earth, proud of their traditions.

Her work at the Reef Centre provides all the passion she needs and Zoe finds a friend in Bridget, the centre’s director. The last thing she wants is to fall for her boss’s fiancé, cane king Quinn Cooper, so she refuses to acknowledge the attraction between them – even to herself. But things aren’t quite adding up at the Reef Centre and when animals on the reef begin to sicken and die, Zoe’s personal and professional worlds collide. She faces a terrible choice. Will protecting the reef mean betraying the man she loves?

Ooh, this sounds exciting. Nothing like a story featuring a heroine stuck between a rock and a hard place. Definitely one for the buy list. Turtle Reef releases officially on Wednesday, March 25th but you can secure your copy right now.  Simply  pre-order from those good people at Booktopia, or try Bookworld, Angus & Robertson, Collins Booksellers, iBooks, Amazon.au, Google Play, Kobo, JB Hi-Fi, eBooks.com or your favourite bookstore.

All set? Then come swimming in delicious waters with Jennifer.

Turning Turtle

Many thanks for having me on ‘Friday Feast’ Cathryn, and for helping me celebrate the macadamia orchardupcoming release of my new book, Turtle Reef. The story is set at the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef, where rainforests and cane fields sweep down from the foothills to meet the rocky, coral coast. Much more than sugar cane grows in these rich volcanic soils. Shady tropical orchards abound: avocados, custard apples, egg fruit, lychees, mangos – and of course macadamias, the king of nuts.

Macadamias aren’t really nuts at all, but the kernels of a hard, green fruit. I’m a bush tucker fan, and sometimes have trouble sourcing ingredients. But these are such popular international favourites, it’s easy to forget they’re indigenous.They macadamia fruitgrow on lovely rainforest trees that evolved not long after the death of the dinosaurs. For millions of years, they flourished along the east coast of Australia. However by the time Europeans discovered their commercial potential, they only persisted in a small number of rainforest remnants.

Today the macadamia tree is our only native commercial food crop. It can bear fruit for over 100 years. The oldest known tree was planted in 1858 at what is now Brisbane’s Botanical Gardens, and is still producing.

To celebrate the release of Turtle Reef, here is a simple macadamia recipe with a Queensland feel. I make this cake in a 30 cm cast iron skillet, however any oven-proof fry pan would do. An old-fashioned Aussie recipe, delicious but fattening!

Tropical Upside Down Cake

Tropical upside-down cake

Ingredients

½  cup butter

⅔ cup brown sugar

 1- 1 ½  cups unsalted roast macadamia nuts

Pineapple rings (fresh or canned)

1 cup plain flour

¾ cup sugar

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ cup milk

1 egg

Pineapple juice or syrup

Method

Melt ¼ cup butter in pan.

Add ⅔ cup brown sugar until melted. Use more butter & brown sugar if needed so that the bottom of the pan is covered with mixture. Once melted, remove from heat.

Arrange pineapple rings on top of melted brown sugar. Fill each with a macadamia nut. Chop remaining nuts and sprinkle in spaces, keeping some aside.

Sift 1 cup flour with ¾ cup of sugar and baking powder.

Add ¼ cup butter and ½ cup milk. Mix until well blended.

Add one egg and 2-3 tablespoons of pineapple juice or syrup. Mix well.

Pour batter over pineapple, spreading evenly to the edges. Sprinkle with remaining chopped nuts.

Bake 40-45 minutes or until golden.

Cool on rack for about 15 minutes. Place cake plate over pan, turn upside down and give a little shake. The cake should slide out easily.

For an indulgent tropical twist, serve warm, with Streets Blue Ribbon Coconut & Mango Ripple Ice Cream. Yum!

 

Doesn’t that sound divine? I was gone at the mention of caramel and macadamias. And don’t get me started on the sweet pineapple. Thanks for sharing this beautiful recipe, Jennifer. I’ll be testing this one out for sure.

Now, my luscious little Feasties, as you are probably already aware, Jennifer is not only an excellent writer but a generous soul. Which is why she’s offering a…

GIVEAWAY!

Yes, you could win your very own copy of Turtle Reef. Rah! But as always, you must work for it. Not very hard though. We’re about making life easy here on Friday Feast.

To be in the draw to win a copy of Turtle Reef, simply share which dish or food reminds you of the tropics.

Perhaps it’s a big bowl of juicy prawns with tangy seafood sauce, or a perfect fillet of reef fish with its skin grilled crispy. Maybe mangos or lychees or another exotic fruit like durian makes you think of sandy beaches and warm water. Or even a spicy green papaya salad and aromatic satays on the barbie. Reveal all and you’ll go into the draw.

For me it’s Morton Bay bugs. I love those babies and have them every time we head to north Queensland to visit Jim’s family. Served with bowls of nuoc cham for dipping, they go down a treat. A quick trip to the fish co-op and greengrocer, a bottle of something white and zesty to wash them down, and a feast is on.

So what brings out the tropics for you?

Giveaway closes midnight Tuesday, AEST, 24th March 2015. Australian postal addresses only.

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

This giveaway has now closed. Congratulations to Amanda B who has scored herself a copy of Turtle Reef. Lots of vicarious tropical living ahead for her. Thanks to everyone who joined in and shared their tropical delights. What fun!

 

THIS WRITING LIFE: Spirited – Australia’s Horse Story

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While I was visiting Canberra the other week for the Australian Romance Readers Convention, I was fortunate enough to catch the Spirited: Australia’s Horse Story exhibition at the National Museum of Australia before it closed.

Being horse-mad from birth, I can’t resist the call of anything equine and the museum was only a pleasant stroll around the edge of Lake Burley Griffin from the QT Hotel where the convention was being held. A sunny autumn day, some horsey goodness… perfect.

The museum released a great video of the exhibition which is well worth a look. It certainly got me excited!

It was rather thrilling to be confronted with more video on entrance to the exhibition, this time showing wild brumbies in action. An elderly man, who said he used to help his dad break brumbies, and I stood mesmerised by the footage in warm, horse-loving companionship. We were so entranced we watched the video loop through twice. Even when I left to take in the main exhibits, he stayed on. I don’t think he wanted to leave.

Video still of brumbies at the Spirited exhibition

As expected, the exhibition was a trove of interesting artefacts and information. Look at this: A first edition of The Silver Brumby alongside Elyne Mitchell’s typewriter.

Typewriter used by Elyne Mitchell and a first edition copy of The SIlver Brumby

The first displays were interesting, focusing on colonial life and the important role horses played in the development of the colony and agriculture. Horses were uncommon in the early years of settlement. A few arrived with the first fleet, but according to the museum guide book by 1791 only one stallion, one mare and two colts survived, and horses remained scarce for several decades.

There were some wonderful artefacts on display from Springfield station, near Goulburn, including this magnificent dress harness fitted with the Faithfull family crest.

Carriage harness with Faithfull family crest decoration from Springfield station.

From Burrungurroolong station, also near Goulburn, came this wonderful rocking horse. I would have killed for something like this as a kid. That’s a go-fast rocking horse if ever there was one!

Wooden rocking horse from Burrungurroolong station.

I thought this carved-out log trough was amazing too. Imagine the hard work involved in its creation.

Carved log feed trough.

I also really liked this forging anvil, which was used by blacksmith Samuel Sinclair, who arrived in Bermagui in 1904 to set up shop after having served as a farrier in the Boer War. I know it’s hard to tell from the photo, but this thing was HUGE and weighed 348 kilograms.

Forging anvil.

My favourite display was probably the trophy cabinet. This contained, among other things, the 1866 Melbourne Cup won by The Barb, and is our earliest known intact cup. Initially, the Melbourne Cup was a prize – a gold watch or cash – and the first actual cup was awarded only in 1865, which makes this version particularly precious. The other two trophies are the 1867 Melbourne Cup and Queen’s Plate won by Tim Whiffler. Apparently two horses called Tim Whiffler competed in the Cup that year, with ‘Sydney Tim’ taking the prize, along with the Queen’s Plate two days later.

Ornate Melbourne Cups and Queens Plate

The exhibition had its quirky items too. Moving from the sublime to the ridiculous, here’s Jackson, a toy horse used in the 2007 alternate Birdsville races when an outbreak of equine influenza caused a ban on the movement of horses and shut down the normal event. In typical outback fashion, the show went on, with mock races fielded with stuffed toys.

Jackson, the stuffed toy Birdsville races competitor

And more quirky exhibits. An inkwell made from a horse’s hoof. This makes me think of the snuffbox the British made from Marengo’s hoof, Napoleon’s favourite warhorse, and was presented to the Household Brigade.

Hoof inkwell.

There was even an old horse-drawn dairy carriage, circa 1947, complete with poo (out of shot, unfortunately). One of the plaques told a great story of a bakery horse who was so habitualised that it simply set off on his route when flu kept its driver from turning up to work.

Lincoln Park Dairy delivery cart

This sculpture had so much life, and was (ironically?) surrounded by anatomical specimens, including bits of Phar Lap.

Wire man and horse sculpture

There was much, much more in the exhibition, including information on breeds in Australia, a fascinating video on the use of the whip in horse racing, medals from Olympics and other major events, pony club tales and photos (rah!), and pieces on all the various equestrian sports Australians compete in, from dressage to campdrafting and everything in between.

Definitely worth the visit but for those who missed it, never fear! The National Museum of Australia has pages and pages on its website about the exhibition. There are photos, videos, and deeper stories about horses in Australia. You can spend ages on there. A fantastic resource for those who love horses or are simply interested in our history.

And here’s my souvenir from the exhibition: Hot Chocolate the blow-up wonderhorse. What a steed!

HotChoc3.0

Not quite the real thing but at least he’s house trained, doesn’t eat much, and packs away flat. Sadly, he will never, ever compete with this darling. Not in my eyes.

Cathryn as a little girl with Mysty

My first horse, the romantically named Mysty. Best horse evah. Sigh.

Yep, once a horse-girl, always a horse-girl!

 

THIS WRITING LIFE: A Country Adventure

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A belated happy New Year to you!

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and New Year. We spent ours in north Queensland with my parents-in-law and after over 4,500 kilometres on the road, travelling there and back and bits in between, we’re now home.

For a couple of reasons I thought it would be fun to share some of the photos from our country adventure. There are some lovely images of rural life that I thought you might appreciate, plus for me it’s nice to have these pictures in one place where I can look back on them for inspiration.

Enjoy!

*

After driving 2,000 kms what does my other half decide to do the following day? Go for another drive, of course, out to Strathmore Station and the Bowen River pub. Great fun. Even a flat tyre didn’t put a dampener on it. But I can say that because it wasn’t me who took care of it!

Brahman cowYoung cattle in the shadeCattle traffic on the Bowen River bridgeCrocodile warning signBowen River HotelBowen River Hotel front barSign instructing trucks to dump their dust Sorting out the flat tyreMy parents-in-law own a livestock transport company. Here’s me tooling around with one of their cattle trucks. They have lots of these. This truck is only a B-double but they run up to triple road trains which are 53 metres long.

Me on a truckThese two pulled up in the drive on Christmas Eve. I was so excited. Thought I was being brought a horse for Christmas!

Horse in the front driveA family friend invited me join him while he dropped hay to his cattle. Naturally I said yes! These are Brahman-Droughtmaster crosses. Aren’t the little ones cute?

Hay for cattleCalves Little floppy eared calvesCow and calf contentedly eatingSpotted this little fellow on a garden tap.

Green frogPlayed a bit of golf while I was away. Things are a bit less formal out in the country…

A spot of country golfingI have a thing for curlews. Their call is wonderfully eerie and sometimes they stand stock-still and use their camouflage to do a Jedi mind trick. We are not the curlews you are looking for

A pair of curlewsSome country humour. The street sign is from the Australian hotel in Townsville. The Brandon Tavern’s “crashed” plane’s tail reads: Fly On In For A Coldie.

Aussie humourWe saw quite a lot of cattle being driven on the stock routes on the way up and back. Although none of my photos show it, there is a shocking drought in parts of Queensland and NSW right now with farmers in terrible straits. In places they haven’t seen rain for more than two years. Some have sent their breeders to graze the stock routes because they have zero feed. Please let it rain for these people soon. The devastation is heartbreaking. (Apologies for the poor quality photos. Our windscreen was a tad bug-splattered!)

Cattle near Rolleston, QueenslandDrover on horsebackWe had a lightning trip to Lightning Ridge on the way up. I wanted to buy myself a black opal. Champagne tastes on beer money, unfortunately… This is the big welcome sign on the Castlereagh Highway. You have to turn off and drive 5kms or so to reach the town. It’s worth doing. Everyone was very friendly and the opals are beautiful.

Me at the big Lightning Ridge signWe experienced a few Dorothea Mackellar moments on the drive home. Hit a dust storm between St George and Dirranbandi only to encounter flogging rain 5 kilometres later.

From one extreme to anotherI really adore it when a country town teams together to create something special. Gulargambone on the Castlereagh River in central NSW (population 500 but “flying ahead”) has played with their name to create a galah theme. There are murals and smile-inducing galah artwork in and outside town. Love it.

Some of the Gulargambone galah art

What did you do over the Christmas-New Year break? Travel or relax at home? Whatever you did, I hope it left you happy and ready for a rip-roaring  2015!

FRIDAY FEAST with Karly Lane

Feeling a bit chuffed here in Feastland because today we have another fabulous guest. Not only is Karly Lane a lovely person, she’s a wonderful author, and I know this to be true because 1/. I’ve met her, and 2/. I’ve read (and loved!) her books.

Karly lives on the gorgeous north coast of NSW, where she’s kept super busy looking after her four children and husband, as well as penning her heart-warming novels. When I read North Star on its release I couldn’t put it down. Not only that, the moment I finished it I shot Karly a gushy email to tell her how much I loved it and demanded to know when was her next book coming out. Well, now I have my answer. Karly’s next book releases very shortly – at the same time as Heart of the Valley, in fact – and I cannot wait to get my nose buried in its pages.

Check it out!

MORGAN’S LAW

 

When Sarah Murphy returns to Australia she desperately needs a break from her high-powered London life. And though mystified by her grandmother’s dying wish for her ashes to be scattered under ‘the wishing tree’ on the banks of the Negallan River, she sets out to do just that.

While searching for the wishing tree, Sarah stays in the small township of Negallan. It’s there that she finally has some time to relax and unwind, there that she finds herself drawn to a handsome local farmer, and there that she discovers her enquiries about her grandmother are causing disquiet within the powerful local Morgan family.

Will the Morgans prevent Sarah from discovering the truth about her grandmother? And should she risk her glittering career in the UK for a simpler existence in the country, and the possibility of true love? By the bestselling author of North Star, Morgan’s Law takes you on a compelling journey into a young woman’s hopes and dreams.

 

I’m squirming in excitement already!

Oof, but enough of my fangirldom. Here’s Karly with her gorgeous post and a recipe that makes my stomach rumble. Wonder if I could nip out for a quick countery at lunch…

 

FORGOTTEN JOYS

The humble counter meal at any pub in Australia, I think, is vastly underrated.

Morgan’s Law is basically set in a country pub, so for my career minded-London living Sarah, she has to deal with a huge culture shock when it comes to meal times.

When was the last time you had one? For me, it had been years, until my writing group began holding get togethers once a month at a central point (being that we travel from up to200 kilometresfrom all points of the compass to attend.) In doing so, I’ve rediscovered the humble counter lunch.

The beauty of the pub meal is that in the majority of cases-they’re not only economical, but they’re huge! Having a daughter who is about to back-pack around Australia – having a decent meal – even if it’s for lunch, will at least ensure she won’t starve to death!

The other thing about pub meals is that gone are the days where you only had maybe two choices—a meat pie with chips or a meat pie with vegies (complete with complementary grubs in the broccoli) …now days some of these places are rather suave and sophisticated, and the meals a work of art! So there’s something to suit everyone!

The other thing that I adore about these places are the buildings themselves. Most of these pubs we go to are beautifully restored or preserved buildings, making you feel as though you’ve stepped back in time. I can’t help but conjure up all sorts of wonderful scenes from years gone by…makes me wish I could sneak back in time for a little while and see what these old pubs were like in their heyday!

Ahh, this writer’s life is hard work… the things we do in the name of writing…

Check out my favourite local pubs – they’re gorgeous.

The Star Hotel, Macksville

Federal Hotel, Bellingen

The Heritage Hotel, Gladstone

CHICKEN PARMAGIANA

Something you’ll find as a staple on every pub menu is the good old Chicken Parmigiana, so here’s a recipe to make it at home.

 

Pre-heat oven to ~250 degrees Celsius

Crumbed Chicken:
2 Chicken Breasts
2 Eggs
Milk
Plain Flour
Bread Crumbs
Oil (for frying)

Trim any excess fat and rubbish away from chicken, slice open along the edge length ways (so as to double it’s size) cover with glad wrap/freezer bag/whatever and flatten.

Whisk eggs and milk, coat chicken draining off excess. Coat in flour ensuring it is completely covered. Return to egg mix and then coat in the bread crumbs.

Heat oil and fry. (Making sure the oil is hot before putting the chicken in) Cook until brown. Set aside on some paper towel to drain excess fat.

Sauce:
20ml Oil
1/2 an Onion
1 Clove of Garlic
1 tin (400gm) Crushed Tomatoes
1/2tsp Dried Basil
1 ½ tsp of Brown Sugar
Sal and pepper

Heat oil in frying pan and add onion and garlic; cook until onion has softened stirring occasionally.

Add tomatoes, basil and sugar. Bring to the boil then return to a simmer. Once the sauce has reached desired consistency add salt and pepper to taste and remove from heat.

Line baking tray with foil. Place chicken in tray cover the top with sauce then add cheese.

Put in the oven until the cheese is brown.

But if all this is just too hard…why not pay a visit to your local pub and get them to cook it for you!

Thanks so much, Karly. Lovely post and they are indeed gorgeous pubs!

I’ve always been a fan of a good counter meal myself. They’re cheap and, as you say, usually enormous. Very important when you have ravenous men or starving hollow-legged teenagers to feed. But I think it’s also the simple casualness that makes them appealing – that and the sometimes weird and wonderful pubs they’re served in.

I took Jim to see the famous Tantanoola Tiger when we were home over Easter. The ‘Tiger’, which is in fact an Assyrian wolf shot by a local back in the late 1800’s, sits in the dining room of the Tantanoola Hotel behind a glass frame, complete with the gun he was shot with. So you can enjoy your counter meal in this great old pub in the company of a stuffed wild animal.

As to how the ‘Tiger’ came to be roaming around the south east gobbling up sheep, no one really knows. There’s speculation that it swam ashore from a shipwreck, which is kind of amazing, really, and also makes me wonder why the wolf was on the ship in the first place. Ahh, Australian stories. What fun they are!

Now, giveaway time. And we have a fabulous one on offer this week – a Karly Lane goodybag! Karly would love to hear about your favourite counter meal or even your most beloved pub, the more interesting or quirky, the better. So, Feasters, crack those knuckles and get commenting!

And when you’re out and about or even net-surfing, keep your eyes peeled for Morgan’s Law, coming veeeeeery soon to a bookstore near you!

Entries close midnight, Tuesday 24th April 2012 AEST. Australian addresses only.

If you’d like to learn more about Karly and her heart-warming rural stories, please visit her website. You can also connect via Twitter, Facebook and on Goodreads.

This giveaway has now closed. Congratulations to Louise, who has earned herself a Karly Lane goodybag. Thanks to everyone who joined in the pub food fun. I hope to see you back again.