Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Tuesday Reviews Day - Books

I hope you are staying safe and well in these uncertain times of the Coronavirus pandemic. We have been lucky in Australia to have had low statistics, so much so, that restrictions are being eased gradually. For now, our Queensland border will remain closed between other States and, while some people aren't happy about that, I am grateful that Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, is keeping us as safe as possible. We can't be too complacent too soon. I'm not sure that life will ever return to the pre-Coronavirus norm. Time will tell but it has certainly been a big wake up call.


Now, onto some book reviews 

I have not long finished a book series written by Victoria Twead. Six books in total but there are rumours that there could be more to come. This series is basically a memoir of the experiences shared by husband and wife, Vicky and Joe, after making the decision to move from England to Spain.

Book 1 - Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools 
Vicky and Joe leave the dismal wet English weather behind to relocate to sunny Spain under the agreement that it would be on a five year plan. They would then decide whether to make Spain their home permanently. They buy a house in a small mountain village where they are in for a big culture shock.  From renovating a house that is almost falling apart, to raising chickens, to owning one very territorial cockerel, to caring for a feral cat or two or three, to learning village customs and enjoying the local celebrations, not to mention being rescued by a mule at one point. There is never a dull moment, that's for sure.

Book 2 - Two Old Fools - Olé! 
Vicky and Joe have finished renovating their home to their satisfaction so they can finally relax and enjoy their retirement in the small Spanish town of El Hoyo — that is until the Ufarte family move into their quiet street and life is anything but peaceful. 

Book 3 - Two Old Fools on a Camel 
After Joe divulges that he would like to leave Spain to work as a teacher abroad, Vicky reluctantly joins him and is offered a teaching position too. So, they both head to Bahrain to teach at an American school for a year. Little do they know that the Arab revolution of 2011 is about to erupt and Bahrain will be in caught up in the turmoil. They have to deal with some pretty big struggles on the teaching side of things too but they do form some meaningful friendships while there.

Book 4 - Two Old Fools in Spain Again
Vicky and Joe return to El Hoyo after a very trying year in Bahrain. They soon settle back into their life in Spain but, again, life takes a crazy turn when a millionaire moves into the village and a dispute over land ownership presents itself causing division throughout the village. Families, relationships, and long-term friendships are at risk. Can Vicky and Joe help?

Book 5 - Two Old Fools in Turmoil
Life has been lovely and peaceful in their little Spanish haven but Vicky and Joe must make some life-changing choices as Joe's health starts to decline. A new postal mistress arrives in the village and love could be in the air between her and the town bachelor. However, femme fatale, Lola Ufarte returns to the village and could put a spanner in the works. What will be in the future for Vicky and Joe with Joe's condition needing medical attention?

Book 6 - Two Old Fools Down Under 
Vicky and Joe leave Spain for good to move to Australia where their daughter lives. However, Joe first goes back to England temporarily to have his health issues treated, Vicky goes on ahead to find a suitable house. Vicky loves the Australian lifestyle although spiders and snakes may take some getting used to. She throws herself into renovating their new home and also buys a puppy who she names Lola. Joe joins her later but his health is a continuing issue...

SUMMARY - I just loved this series! If you enjoy memoirs like I do, you may like them too. I enjoy living life vicariously through other people's adventures. As a bonus, Vicky includes a recipe from the region with each new chapter. Vicky's writing style is easy to read, enjoyable, and with a fun sense of humour. I would definitely recommend her books.


On another note, I'm happy to report that I have been getting some sketching and painting done so stay tuned for more in coming days.

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

A day trip to Darlington Park

Yesterday, we took off to Darlington Park for a picnic. It is located out past Beaudesert so about an hours drive away. It was a beautiful day! SO relaxing to picnic at the edge of the Albert River while listening to birdsong and and the sound of water rushing through the river rocks. It turned out to be quite a hot day so we picked a nice spot shaded by a tree and the umbrella helped too.

Spotted a White-faced Heron looking for food

And some wood ducks enjoyed the park too

WOW! Just look at all those tadpoles!

Aaron's car gives perspective on how large this particular tree was

You can see where this tree's roots are now exposed due to the soil has been washed away when the river rises during heavy rain periods

And I even managed a quick ink sketch

It was so relaxing that we all felt like a nap when we got back home. Instead, we watched the movie, Signs, starring Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix.

Until next time...

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Tuesday Reviews Day - Books

My first book review post for 2020 -

First up is The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

In 1974, Ernt Allbright, a Vietnam vet who has been emotionally scarred by the war uproots his wife, Cora, and 13 year old daughter, Leni, to start a new life in Alaska. They are totally unprepared for the Alaskan wilderness but the tight knit community pulls together to welcome them and teach them the ropes. However, help can only go so far as the long, hard winters bring out the worst in Ernt. He is an alcoholic, a wife-beater, and doesn't like accepting help. When winter comes, it means Leni and Cora spend a lot of time trapped inside a small house with Ernt's increasingly unstable and explosive moods. 

My thoughts - I love the way Kristin Hannah tells a story and this one was no exception.  Full of interest and drama. It can be hard to read in areas and you can't help but pray that faith and hope will bring about a happy ending...is that even possible with someone like Ernt in control?  I can't say too much without giving away spoilers but I will say it was well worth the read. I gave it 5 stars.


Next up - How to Bee by Bren MacDibble

This story is set in a time when bees are extinct and their important role must be filled by young children who vie for the respected position of being a bee.  Peony lives with her sister and grandfather on the Goulburn Valley fruit farm where she dreams of being a 'bee'. She is fast but a little too young. The only way becoming a bee could happen for Peony would be for a bee-child to fall and injure themselves. Peony loves her family, the farm, and the community she is a part of. One day, her mother shows up and wants take Peony to work in the city with her — definitely not what Peony wants. Will her mother get her way?

My thoughts - Let me start by saying that this book is actually meant for a younger audience but I loved it! An easy read that definitely touches the heartstrings. I loved how Peony touched the lives and hearts of those around her. I gave it 5 stars.


Next up is Unspeakable Things by Jess Lourey

This book is inspired by true events in the author's hometown in Minnesota.

In the 1980's, twelve year old Cassie McDowall seems to have a fairly normal life on a farm with her parents and older sister. However, her parents do hold some very strange. orgy-like parties. Cassie's father is an artist and an alcoholic whose secretive behaviour makes Cassie question a lot of things. She also has a crush on a really sweet boy in school. 

Then local boys start to go missing, one by one. They show up days later but they are no longer the same. Another boy goes missing but doesn't return. Cassie wants to investigate the disappearances on the quiet. Is she putting herself in mortal danger by doing so? Something is definitely amiss in her town. On top of that, Cassie has a fear of her drunken father coming up the stairs each night while her mother is at work. She dreads that, one night, he will actually come all the way to and through her bedroom door. Are her fears founded?

My thoughts - This book was downright creepy in areas. Her father's behaviour made my skin crawl. It was a compelling read although I felt it was a little drawn-out in areas. It does keep you guessing until the end. I gave this one 4 stars.


And that wraps up the reviews for this week.

Thursday, 13 February 2020

A day outing and some doodles

So! We had dreadful heat and drought conditions, then mega bushfires, then rain...LOTS of rain! I'm talking torrential rain causing flooding in areas. It feels like we've gone from one extreme to another in a very short time — talk about crazy weather Down-Under! I am relieved that the rain helped with the bushfires and also brought a drop in temperatures. Walking across my lawn now feels like walking on a sopping, wet sponge unlike weeks ago, when it felt like walking on dry, spiky straw instead. Extremes, I tell ya.

Anywhoo, before the rains came, Brad (son) and I went for a visit to Forest Lake. It was disheartening to see that they are still battling the toxic blue-green algae and it was sad to see wildlife numbers down.

This poor duck was surrounded by it

There were some bird groups on the rocks but there are usually many more

I loved seeing these small birds on the railings. Sparrows or swallows? 

Always great to see the Little Pied Cormorants. Sadly, we didn't see any of the black swan families which usually live there.

We did have a lovely time out all the same.

And we bought a yummy Zambrero's Vegan Burrito bowl each to take home for dinner. Double rice and beans for vegans — delicious! We love the extra heat from the jalapenos and Verde sauce.

A quick pen sketch of Kya lying on some butterflies, thankfully, not real ones. hehe More on the real Kya in a later post.

And some rough doodles of cartoon-like me...just for fun

And that wraps up this post for today. Hope to be more regular with posting from here on. I hope you enjoy the rest of your week.

Love, light and peace ~

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Dusting off the Cobwebs

Where to even begin this post? It certainly has been a while with my last post being back in October 2019.

I hope it's not too late to say HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

For Australia, it was a horrific end to 2019 and horrific start to 2020 with apocalyptic fires burning across the nation. Many were out of control forcing people to evacuate. Some people even ended up fleeing for their lives into the ocean to escape the mega fires. The sheer numbers of wildlife lost is staggering — it is well over a a billion which breaks my heart. 2,400 homes were levelled by the fires and that was just in New South Wales...the number will be a lot higher when all the other States are taken into account. This truly was an event like no other in Australia's history. Climate change is definitely having an impact. I do worry how the destroyed ecosystems will recover. So much of our precious and unique wildlife gone. It hurts my heart to even think about it. Tribute video below - For the direct link to YouTube, click HERE.

We were so grateful to all the International help offered, 157 firefighters and personnel were sent from New Zealand. We were also very grateful to the American firefighters who came to help but so deeply saddened that three of those brave souls lost their lives fighting our mega-fires. See their welcome arrival in the video below (after selecting play, click on the symbol in the bottom right corner to view in full screen). For the direct link to YouTube, click HERE. As of January 14th, 34 people have lost their lives to the fires, including Australian firefighters.


I can't stress enough how grateful we are for the selfless work of the firefighters and the emergency service crews who put themselves on the front line. They are true heroes! 

It was bittersweet New Year's celebrations for us with so much devastation happening around the country but we did manage to have a lovely evening at my sister's and brother-in-law's home. We brought in the New Year there, then Brad and I headed home around 2am and stayed up to greet the first dawn of 2020 as is a tradition of ours...a whole, new decade awaits!

The start of the first sunrise of 2020.  It wasn't very spectacular as we did have a smoke haze hanging over us from all the fires...not noticeable in the pic. And yes, the smoke haze did flare up my asthma so I wasn't feeling 100% through November and December.

I lost my mojo in 2019 as losing our two fur-kids really hit hard. When my emotions are hit, it effects my creative output. There were quite a few hardships in 2019 including a major surgery for me and a surgery for Bradley (son). About all I could do well was read my Kindle books and I'm happy to say I did achieve my Goodreads Reading Challenge of just over 80 books for 2019.

I do have creative plans for this year but won't state them here in case they fall to the wayside which seems to happen a lot for varying reasons.

I have been doing a little sketching though. Just some simple pen sketches to help me get back into the creative flow.

We've been having a heatwave which means sauna-like conditions without the luxury of air-con in this household. Thankfully, this week is set to be a little cooler with some rain on the forecast.

I'll leave you with a pic of frangipani flowers which were blooming on the tree in our back garden.

Love, light and peace to all ~