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29.6.09

A Good Weekend

Melbourne, it appears, is being nice to me this winter and breaking up the monotony of overcast days with sunny ones quite regularly. Given I start to get moody after a certain number of cloudy days, this has been fantastic for me.

The Bloke (Mr. JM) and I took advantage of the sunshine on Sunday and got out for a walk.

After a stop at the shops where I perved on some cooking equipment (I later bought a loaf pan for a bread pudding), we picked up some sushi and headed to the park. One of the things I love about Australia is that, even in our grotty little suburb, we have a lovely park to go to.

We sat on our usual bench, smiled at the rednecks screaming at each other on the other side of the park, ate sushi (well, I ate a piece of salmon – no rice for me) and then debated what to do for the rest of the day. After talking about how much we would kick each other’s arses at Frisbee, we set off and played a game.

What a lovely way to spend the afternoon! The sun was still shining, so I could run around in my t-shirt. I kind of suck as Frisbee, but The Bloke didn’t make too much fun of me.

We then walked around town, stopping in a couple shops, and then headed home – happily exhausted.

Unfortunately all the activity has led to The Bloke flaring up his sensitive back, but we both reckon it was more than worth it to have such a fun day out and about.

I hope everyone else had a nice weekend.

Summer Beach Reading Giveaway!




Heading to the beach with nothing to read? Now you can head out in style with a book from one (or more!) of your favorite authors!

Pump Up Your Book Promotion is hosting our very first Summer Beach Reading Giveaway. Four great authors with 4 chances to win!

All you have to do is head on out to one of the blogs listed below and follow directions to win. It’s that easy!

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As the Pages Turn is giving away a copy of Dorothea Hover-Kramer’s Second Chance at Your Dream!

This is the first book to apply the breakthrough insights of Energy Psychology to healthy aging. Energy Psychology is an exciting new healing method that changes the vibrational patterns in the energy fields to produce rapid emotional healing and a sense of well-being. With the help of the over fifty exercises for rebalancing yourself offered in this book, you can face the challenges and opportunities of later life to create a time of energy, abundance and joy.

You can visit Dorothea online at www.secondchancedream.com.

Click here to enter!

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Fiction Scribe is giving away a copy of DCS’ Synarchy Book 1: The Awakening!

Thirteen bloodlines, The Brotherhood, fanatically loyal to their gods, the Anunnaki, have controlled the planet since his-story was written. In 1925 Stefano Vasco Terenzio, head of the Terenzio crime family makes a deal with the Anunnaki to solidify his control over the American Mafia. Clever and manipulative, Stefano’s true goal was to put his family in a position so one day they would be able to turn on their masters. Two generations later, the shockwave he ignited was still being felt. Now, as the world inches closer to 2012, time is running out.

The only thing in the Brotherhoods way is Terenzio, a family now divided as a truly epic battle begins that will determine whether mankind continues existing in a world of lies, or shatters the chains that have held it prisoner since his-story was written. Shocking yet hopeful, Synarchy slowly unravels the tightly laced reality we have created for ourselves. Blending the metaphysical with conspiracy, fact with fiction, debut author DCS has opened up a world that will force you to rethink everything you believe about your own. The knowledge within provokes the question; do you really want to know?

You can visit DCS on the web at www.synarchynovel.com.

Click here to enter!

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The Book Stacks is giving away a copy of Dr. Ronald J. Frederick’s Living Like You Mean It!

So many of us long to feel more alive, connected, and secure in our lives, particularly now, in these challenging and difficult times. Why is it so hard? Part of the problem, says Dr. Ronald J. Frederick, has to do with a fear of our feelings—a feelings‐phobia—and the consequences of expressing our feelings to others. It’s this fear that keeps us stuck, detached from the wisdom inside us and distanced from the people around us. And yet positive emotional experiences can actually “rewire” our brain and free us up to experience ourselves and our lives more fully. LIVING LIKE YOU MEAN IT: Use the Wisdom and Power of Your Emotions to Get the Life You Really Want by Ronald J. Frederick, shows how we can overcome our feelings phobia in order to enjoy more satisfying lives.

You can visit Dr. Frederick on the web at www.livinglikeyoumeanit.com

Click here to enter!

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Zensanity is giving away a copy of Richard Aaron’s Gauntlet!

Six hundred sixty tons of Semtex is detonated in a massive explosion in Libya – the last of a deadly stockpile. The operation seems to have gone smoothly, but within minutes of the explosion, CIA agent Richard Lawrence discovers that one shipment of the explosive was hijacked en route to the destruction point. Days later, a glory-seeking “Emir” broadcasts to the world that he is planning a massive terrorist strike against a major U.S. landmark. And he gives a timeline of one month.

You can visit Richard online at www.richardaaron.com.

Click here to enter!

Four great authors, four chances to win! Hurry before contests end!

25.6.09

Boobie Pillow

I giggled way too much over this to not share it. It's the Australian way. ;)



There is no way in hades I would pay $55 dollars for the thing when I could make my own boobie pillow, but it is funny.

The Last Airbender - The Movie!

I love this cartoon way too much, and now they are turning it into a non-animated movie.

Pardon me while I drool a bit.

23.6.09

Fine Food in Canberra – The Durham

One of my favourite things about travelling is discovering new places – especially awesome pubs. I recently made a trip to Canberra, Australia’s capital, for a writer’s conference and found a pub with some of the best food I have ever tasted.

When server Adrian greeted my husband and me just as we walked into The Durham, we knew we had found a good place to settle down for a meal and a drink. The soft lighting and modern but comfy surroundings helped me settle in and relax after a long, hard day.

Things only improved when we mentioned we’d be having meals and were pointed to the excellent specials, one of which my husband chose for his evening meal.

For just $15 (AUD), my husband got a perfectly cooked, juicy steak with a healthy helping of mashed potatoes and vegetables along with a half-pint. My husband is very particular when it comes to his steak, so I was doubly glad to find a place that impressed him.

But he wasn’t the only one who was impressed. I decided to go with the Lord Nelson schnitzel, which should be known as the “Oh Lord” Nelson schnitzel. Cooked just right so it forms a sort of bowl, the chicken schnitzel was topped with delicious fresh seafood swimming in a lovely sauce. Never have I been so inclined to “mmm” so much while eating in public.

And that’s only what we had on the first night we went there.

The menu delights don’t stop. The most expensive thing on the menu is only $28.50 (AUD) and that’s the ‘reef and beef’ – t-bone steak served with today’s fresh seafood in a white wine sauce.

I think it’s safe to say that the hungrier you are when you walk in, the better.

Owner Josh Gray has a true winner with this excellent pub staffed by talented cooks and friendly bartenders. The beer is cold (the cider, in my case), the food is superb and the staff are friendly. I highly, highly recommend you drop in for a drink, a meal and a chat. It’s open seven days from noon until late.

And if you happen to stop by, say hello to Adrian out front and the guys in the kitchen – Jake, Nick, and Tony – from the couple in Melbourne.

The Durham
Green Square
Kingston 2604

(Just southeast of Parliament House)

Contact
Phone: (02) 6295 1769

http://www.outincanberra.com.au/thedurham/

20.6.09

The Greek Experience at Nikos Tavern

With Zorba lessons and plate smashing, there nothing quite like the Greek experience you’ll get when you go to Nikos Tavern in Ringwood East.

While it is a bit of a drive from inner Melbourne, the atmosphere, the service and the food is excellent (not to mention their yummy selection of wines and sweets) so it is more than worth the drive there. When the night is through, your belly will be full and your face will be sore from smiling and laughing. You might even have sore feet if you get up and join in learning to Zorba, which the servers are more than happy to teach you.

If you want to get on the Greek dancing and plate smashing, make sure you book a spot on Friday or Saturday night. As to be expected, those are their busy nights, so booking first is important.

If the prices scare you a bit at first, don’t worry. Go for a banquet on your first visit and make sure you come hungry! You’ll get to try all their great specials and it is a lot of very yummy food (a sure hit for seafood lovers like me). They also have three and five course banquets if that is more to your taste.

Nikos is where I had my 21st birthday (yes, they also do functions) and I can’t think of a place where I would have had more fun. (I even got asked to dance by a very attractive male server.) So for an experience you’re not likely to forget any time soon, try Nikos Tavern.

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You can find Nikos Tavern at:

190 Mt. Dandenong Road
Ringwood East VIC 3134
Tel: 9870 0554

Hours:
Tuesday – Sunday: from 5.30pm
(Open for Sunday Lunch)

www.nikos.com.au

18.6.09

Palm Trees

I remember when I first arrived in Australia and saw my first palm tree.

The Bloke drove me home from the Melbourne airport, our drive mostly silent. As I look back on it, I am thankful for the silence. I'd just given up almost everything I knew for this new world, and I did well to drink it in from that first moment.

Just the number of trees in cities and along sidewalks grabbed my attention. Everything seemed so green and full of life even though I had come from living in a country house. Of course, the life and 'tropical' feeling to it all was aided by the fact that I had left my former home on a cold, overcast, windy day that had seemed only too appropriate at the time.

Then I noticed the palm trees.

Palm trees! The very concept of them seemed to be confined in the sections of my mind reserved for Hollywood and tropical islands. Yet, here they were, next to train stations, along road, living it up with other traditional Australian breeds.

I wondered if Australians - or, at least, Melbournites - realised how awesome it was to be living amongst so many palm trees.

I came from a land of pines, pines, and more pines - all of which I hated with a disgusted scrunch of my nose whenever my thoughts lingered too long on them. Even at Christmas time growing up we switched to an artificial tree because the pine in an enclosed space made it hard for me to breathe.

But a palm tree for Christmas? Now that would have been awesome.

As I stood in the Geebung Polo Club last week, looking through the window at the palm tree almost leaning against the train station across the street, the memories came flooding back.

The 'newness' of most things Australian has worn down a bit, which is to be expected over two and a half years on.

But I still notice the palm trees.

17.6.09

Here's That Rainy Day


Today is another overcast day in Melbourne as I sit at my desk in front of the large, lounge room windows. I love Australia, I truly do, but I'm not really keen on Australian winters...

I grew up in a land of harsh winters that posed a health risk if your heater decided to kick out (which ours did a couple times). We had snow drifts so high that you wouldn't be able to get in the front door because it was covered more than not, and my brothers loved jumping off the lower part of the roof and into the drifts.

At night I would sit on the bench in front of the big kitchen window with my mug of hot chocolate, just looking out at the cold landscape. On the clear nights, the snow glistened like a white, frozen ocean. I always imagined boats sailing around, calling 'to port' at our front door.

Sometimes I would even put on all my snow gear and go out to make snow angels, my excuse for simply being there in the snow and staring up at the stars for hours on end.

The fact that I don't handle the cold well coming from such conditions perplexes The Bloke, but that's another story.

Winter just seems... depressing without the snow.

Despite popular thought, yes, Australia does get snow. They have a ski season, even. And, once in about twenty or so years, Melbourne gets some snowflakes. But Melbourne gets nothing compared to the practically icy tundra I used to deal with every winter.

We just get rain.

Yes, I have wondered if I get SADD, but I have been doing well enough this winter to think not. I take that as a positive step towards becoming truly Australian.

The first winter I was here, it truly messed with my head because I started wanting/feeling Christmassy in July. I finally realized where 'Christmas in July' must have come from.

It's so weird now to have my birthday considered a winter birthday instead of a summer birthday.

I'd never leave Australia, especially over something so small, but I'm wondering if I shouldn't plan a small trip up into the mountains so I can be around snow for a little bit. Maybe if I get it out of my system, I'll feel more at home with the clouds. And the rain.

15.6.09

Matching Bras and Knickers

This weekend The Bloke and I went to the shops because we both need new pants. We're both down to one or two good pairs of jeans and, beyond that, I need some smaller sizes because I've been losing weight. I plan to lose more weight, but I also plan to not look ridiculous in huge pants held up only by a belt until I get to my goal weight.

We went to the second hand shop for the pants, but I couldn't find any nice tops to get me through social times until I get to start buying my goal weight wardrobe. Most of my tops (nearly all of my nice blouses) are all fitted, which (I think) is a great look... when they are actually fitted. My fitted tops are now a bit too big and look funny, not to mention making me look like I'm still at my highest weight.

Anywho, we ended up in Target (yep, they have Targets in Australia) that just so happened to be having a major sale on women's underthings.

Yep, I was in need of some new knickers, too, and it's hard to resist something that is usually ten dollars marked down to three.

I was planning on just getting a pack of knickers and getting out of there, but The Bloke insisted I try on some nice bras while we were there. I ended up ended up getting two matching sets along with a pack of knickers. I could hardly wait to get them on when I got home.

I must say, there is something very sexy about matching bra and knickers. It just makes you feel a bit more... feminine.

The Bloke had a fun night, too, as I took any free opportunities to flash my new bra at him or pull down the waistband of my pajama pants just enough for him to get views of my knickers.

I love weekends like this.

13.6.09

Marina Bar and Bistro in Hastings

A beautiful spring weekend. An open schedule. Is there anything better than going for a drive and discovering new places? If you’re in Australia, then going for a drive is practically a national pastime and you shouldn’t miss out on all the wonderful things Melbourne has to offer outside its immediate suburbs.

Situated on the shores of the lovely Westernport bay on the Mornington Peninsula, Hastings on a sunny Saturday afternoon is quiet and clean, wide streets (with names like Salmon, Mullet and Herring Street) and neat suburban houses with a country town feel that, with the advent of Eastlink, is a much shorter drive from Melbourne than it used to be.

We drove around to get a feel for the town, walked the main shopping area and had a drink at the Westernport Hotel. We had some discussion and browsed a few window menus for places around town but my husband had seen an ad in the Hastings News for the Marina Bar & Bistro so we decided to go look for it. We found it, not surprisingly, at the marina on the water side of Mullet and Skinner Street.

We arrived early and asked for a table – it was apparent from the Reserved signs they were fairly well booked, so if you go, call and book. (Phone: 5979 3699)

It’s a pleasant restaurant area, high beamed, cathedral ceilings to absorb the sound. We were seated in the balcony area in front of the bar, with a view out full-length windows to a view of the marina and the bay.

Even when the place filled up a bit later on it was no effort to have quiet conversation, even when the kitchen got busy with pans and flames. Yes, that’s right. You can watch the chefs at work as they cook up delicious meals. I loved watching them, especially as they really hit their stride when the restaurant filled up.

Their menu is as impressive enough that their wonderful selection of starters, entrees, salads, pastas, meat and seafood mains, kids and seniors menus, and delicious desserts will have you wanting more time to sit and make up your mind about what to try. The prices are very good for food of this quality making it feasible to feed the family without melting the plastic.

My husband liked the wine list – an ex-wine steward, he appreciated the selection, the prices and that nearly all their wines are available by the glass. They also serve a good variety of beers and premixes and there’s a full bar.

We indulged ourselves with sweet chilli bread, crumbed (deep fried) camembert, avocado seafood with cheese sauce, succulent and thick chicken breast covered with juicy, perfectly cooked seafood and a fresh, local whole flounder that peeled easily off the bones.

Upon seeing the menu, my husband commented, “We can come back again…” And we will – there’s a 500gm steak my fella has his eye on.

Mullet Street
Hastings (Right hand side of Marina)

Phone: 5979 3699

10.6.09

Federation Square – Meet, Eat and Surf the Web

A perfect place to meet surrounded by places to eat, right next to the SBS television building and the biggest free Wi-fi hotspot in Melbourne?

That’s Federation Square.

Right across the street from Flinders Street Station, it’s no wonder that Federation Square is the popular place for locals as well as visitors to meet. A large open space at its centre, the Square is a lovely place to rock up and get comfortable with your laptop. It makes a great place to do lunch or even a meeting on a gorgeous day, as you can stay connected to the internet while you’re there – for free.

Feeling hungry? You certainly don’t have to walk far, as the Square offers many choices in cuisine – everything from coffee to a nice sit-down meal.

With regular events, galleries and museums, you’ll never have a boring time at Federation Square. There are all sorts of interesting, funny and outright weird things that happen regularly.

Not only that, you can also scratch your shopping itch with a shop around Federation Square. Whether you want to pop in quickly or wander around for a few hours, Federation Square shopping will work for you.

Want more information about what’s on and what’s around? Check out the website:

http://www.federationsquare.com.au/

9.6.09

Happy Queen's Birthday Long Weekend

The Bloke and I had a lovely weekend out and about, despite the fact he's hurt his back again. We really need to find him a chiropractor.

Anyway, I have a heap of great places to talk about... when I have the time. For now, I need to work!

2.6.09

Not Your Average American

I'm weird.

Yeah, I'll just throw that one out there.

Even though I'm nearly Australian (crossing fingers for this month), most people now know and are used to the fact I'm from the States. While that doesn't bother me, it does mean I get some interesting experiences...

Not too often - but often enough - I get questions about the States. Something in the recent news that someone wants an American's opinion on, something about US history, something about US geography... The list goes on.

That is when I start perplexing people.

Sure, I'm pretty damn good with the geography of the place, but that is about it.

You see, I had a bit of a weird upbringing. I wasn't like a lot of other kids. I didn't grow up with the music of my generation. While other kids were busy listening to the radio, I had cassette tapes I listened to repeatedly that had songs from the 50s and 60s. My favourite songs were La Bamba and Rock Around the Clock. I received my first CD when I was a teen and wondered if I'd ever prefer listening to CDs over my beloved cassettes (which I still have).

Pop culture? News? Fashion? Forget about it. I had my own style and was happy with that. I was lost in my own head most of the time, writing books since about the age I learned how to write. (I was telling them when I didn't know how to write.) I didn't care what other people were doing or thinking; I pretty much knew what I wanted from life and that was that. The world could and would certainly move on without my input.

Geography? Well, I always aced the 'name that state' quizzes, but my family didn't travel. At all. I was able to visit Canada and neighbouring states thanks to my grandparents and friends, but that was it. I couldn't tell you if the summer mornings in California are particularly crisp or not. I couldn't tell you if the beer on the west coast is better than the beer on the east coast (and not just because I wasn't legal).

Sometimes, yeah, I like to think I know 'the American experience' enough to tell people things about America, but really? I'm not your average American. I grew up screwed up in more ways than one, had a strange childhood, a mostly lacking education and a mind that always preferred being in the novel worlds I created rather than the real world.

Did I predict Obama would win? Yes, and I based it on several reasons. Am I surprised about the latest 'stupid American did this' newspaper story? No, I'm used to it.

But can I tell you what was popular/going on/being done/etc while I was living there? No, not really.

I'm just weird.