A Versatile Little Maple Leaf…

Many people don’t  realise that, in addition to being both hilarious and generally fabulous at life, I’m also a published author and an avid reader.

If you’re interested in those things, you’re welcome to follow me at:

Book Squirrel A blog about books, authors, new releases, and generally bookish stuff.

WordyNerdBird where I blather on a bit about life as a writer, reader, word nerd, teacher, and director.

Shakespeare Nerd where I fully indulge in my love for Shakespeare’s works, and try to help others appreciate and understand them better.

WordyNerdBird Writes  where I publish my new writing as a “road test” for the next book!

Where The Wind Has Taken Me A blog about the places I’ve visited and things I’ve seen.

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The Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory

Junee is located in the Riverina of New South Wales, about 350km southwest of Sydney. It is a nice looking town with some well-restored old buildings, surrounded by the sorts of landscapes that I grew up thinking were iconically Australian: low hills, brown grass paddocks dotted with sheep and trees, and fields of wheat and other crops.

Situated in a beautifully restored old building which used to be the town’s flour mill, The Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory was the drawcard that brought us to town while we were visiting family in Griffith, about 2 hours’ drive further south.

We enjoyed a delicious lunch in the outdoor area under the shade of Virginia creeper supported by old wooden beams. The menu may not be extensive, but the food was absolutely delicious.

Visitors can stroll through the building and watch the different kinds of chocolates and sweet treats being made through large viewing windows.

The factory’s chocolate shop offers a multitude of organic sweet treats: plain chocolate, regular or raspberry licorices in plain or chocolate coated varieties, rocky road, freckles, chocolate coated pretzels, varieties of chocolate with different fruit or nuts in them, just to name a few. The hardest part is deciding what you want to take home, and how much work you’ll have to do to make up for it later on.

In addition to all the sweet things, there are all sorts of produce on offer: pickles, sauces, balsamic vinegar, jams and chutneys, honey and olive oil – all locally produced.

It honestly doesn’t get much more Aussie than this.

Out of responsibility to the folk who read my blog, we bought some chocolate to taste-test, and we are not sorry.

The chocolate is smooth, creamy and delicious. That freckle I just bit into for the sake of the photo is the perfect blend of crunchy and smooth. The rate at which my husband ate his chocolate covered raspberry licorice bullets was definitely indicative of superior quality and taste. The chocolate-coated pretzels I bought were as good as the ones I had in Amish country in Pennsylvania, and that’s really saying something! Consequently, they did not last long enough to have their photo taken. It was only a small packet, after all.

In retrospect, it’s probably a good thing that the Junee Chocolate and Licorice Factory is a ten hour drive from home.

The Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory
#chocolate #organic #travel

Jerilderie: A Little Town With Big History

Jerilderie is a small country town situated on Billabong Creek in the southern Riverina area of New South Wales. The Newell Highway runs right through the town, so it is very easy to find.

Jerilderie has a lovely lake and park on the banks of Billabong Creek. This park is also the site of the town’s war memorial to local soldiers  who fought in the Boer War both World Wars.

It’s a small town with a big history, courtesy of Australian bushranger Ned Kelly and his gang. It was an even smaller town then than it is now, but it had one thing that was most attractive to Ned Kelly: a printing press.

Although the Kelly gang usually operated in northern Victoria, it was in Jerilderie where Ned and his gang robbed the bank, took control of the local post and telegraph office, bailed up the postmaster and had telegraph wires cut and the poles cut down to prevent news of his visit to the town being communicated until after the fact.

The post and telegraph office held up by Ned Kelly.

It was in Jerilderie that Ned Kelly entrusted his 75 000 word manifesto known as The Jerilderie Letter to the postmaster, who promised to pass the papers on to the newspaper editor. This document explained and defended Kelly’s motives and actions, and also proposed a republic of north-eastern Victoria. The postmaster did not pass on the papers— in fact, the originals were lost for 90 years, and a copy of the letter was not printed until fifty years after Kelly’s death.

Visitors to Jerilderie can see the buildings visited by Kelly and his gang, and follow a trail of story boards that detail the events of the gang’s exploits in town. There is also a small museum attached to the Murrumbidgee Shire offices, which has displays of artefacts including Kelly’s Colt Carbine revolver and replicas of the iconic armour worn by the gang.

Jerilderie is a great place to visit. The locals are friendly and welcoming, and visitors can find excellent food at both the local bakery and the pub. The  old-fashioned candy store is also worth visiting for those with a sweet tooth.

Jerilderie.
#History #Australia #NewSouthWales

Altina Wildlife Park, Darlington Point, NSW.

Altina Wildlife Park is one of the hidden gems of New South Wales’ Riverina district. Situated just over 30km from Griffith and just under 100kn from Jerilderie, Altina is on the Sturt Highway near Darlington Point.

Altina has a great range of small and large animals, and offers a positive and enjoyable opportunities to see and learn about them.

Visitors are invited to walk through the small animal and reptile sections of the park at their leisure, and are then taken through the  large animal part of the park on a wagon behind one of the park’s beautiful Clydesdale horses.

There is a great range of animals from all over the world to see, and the tours are informative and interesting. The tours are presented by the zookeepers, who are knowledgeable about all the animals both in a general sense and in terms of being personally involved in the care, training and feeding of the animals.

The enclosures are large enough for the animals to have sufficient room to roam, and care is taken to provide, is keen to preserve and breed animals that may be endangered in the wild. The park has a philosophy of interfering with the animals as little as possible, so the animals are trained to do certain things so that the keepers can check their health without going into their enclosures or sedating the animals any more than is absolutely necessary.

I have visited Altina twice when visiting family in Griffith, and have thoroughly enjoyed both experiences.

Altina Wildlife Park
#zoo #photography

All images in this post are my own.

Tattoo.

Today is new tattoo day.

This tattoo honours my late father, my family, and my unique identity within it. My family’s surname is Dutch: Groenenboom, which translates to ‘green tree’.

I am thankful to be starting the new year by doing something to deeply meaningful. It is a positive way of acknowledging those who have passed, including my own father six months ago, those who are still flourishing, and my connection to them all.

I spent ages choosing the tree design, as there are myriad options available and many are gorgeous. I chose this one because it symbolises strength, beauty and grace. The maple leaf represents me, obviously, unique among the other leaves, but strongly connected and coming from the same source.

I am so proud that this symbolic tree is now part of me.

Easy Natural Lip Balm

I’m very happy with my first attempt at making my own lip balm!

There are myriad recipes for DIY lip balm on the internet. Some of them were very complicated, and every single one is a bit different than the others, even if they have the same ingredients in them.

In the end, I decided that proportion was the thing to get right, and the more straightforward I could make it, the better!

This was the recipe I used.

Ingredients:

40g pure Shea butter
40 g coconut oil
80gm beeswax pellets
40 drops peppermint essential oil

Equipment:

Microwave safe jug
Wooden spoon for stirring
Small spatula

Method:

  1. Melt the Shea butter, coconut oil and beeswax in the microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring each time.
  2. When it is all melted and no wax pellets remain, stir in essential oil. 
  3. Pour into small pots or tins.

Notes:

It will set at room temperature, but that will cool and set faster in the fridge.

When set, the lip balm should be opaque white and smooth in appearance. 

This recipe makes approx. ten small tins. 

The Verdict:

This was so easy to make!

It set really well and has a nice, smooth consistency.

The smell is quite neutral and only faintly minty.

It feels lovely on my lips, with a delicious little tingle from the peppermint.

I love the fact that this has no chemicals in it!

I’m very happy to be reusing tins and containers that I already had. I simply used some decorative tape to cover the lids.

DIY Hand Sanitiser

This week, as one of my “I’m staying at home, so I’m going to make the time useful” projects, I made my own hand sanitiser. 

Sadly, in this time of corona virus and panic buying/hoarding by selfish people, there’s no real need to explain why. 

While there are several recipes in circulation on the internet, the one I used was given to me by my local natural health practitioner. I chose this recipe because it included Vitamin E oil to nourish and moisturise the skin.

Ingredients: 

  • 100 ml aloe vera gel
  • 80 ml water 
  • 1/2 tsp vitamin E oil 
  • 12 drops essential oil of choice
  • 1/3 cup isopropyl alcohol 

The original recipe had 1/4 tsp of vitamin E oil, which I doubled in the hope of preventing the nasty dryness and itching that I experience with so many of the commercial products. 

In the interests of making my lotion as cleanly as possible, I used room-temperature water out of the kettle, which had been boiled that morning. 

I don’t really like overly floral fragrances, so I chose something more aromatic and spicy: a blend of bergamot, sweet orange, cinnamon, cardamom and clove which not only smells really nice, it is strong enough to counter the smell of the alcohol and fragrance the lotion without being overpowering. 

Method:

  1. In a bowl, combine aloe vera gel, vitamin e oil and essential oils. 
  2. Add water and alcohol, mixing well to combine. 
  3. Pour into a clean, dry container. 

I used two 100 ml containers that I bought specifically for this purpose, as they are different from any of the other bottles or tubes of stuff in my house, and therefore won’t be confused with anything else. 

I also clearly labelled them, so that everyone in my house knows what is inside. 

I have been using this sanitiser for two days and have no dermatitis or nasty reaction yet. This is a very good sign, as I have sensitive skin and tend to react quickly to anything it doesn’t like. 

If you don't visit a bookshop, have you even been to Clunes?

Even older than its more famous neighbours Ballarat and Bendigo, Clunes was the first gold rush town in Victoria. 

Gold was discovered there in 1850 by William Campbell, but the discovery was not made public until the following year. This triggered the gold rush in Victoria, and Clunes became a thriving township. 

The heritage of the town is still visible in the lovely old buildings, homes and churches in the town. 

Clunes has more recently become known as “the Book Town of the Pyrenees” because of the annual book festival held there each year. Shop windows are decorated with a decal of books, giving the town a visual theme that promotes its new identity and adds a subtle but vivid touch to the traditional buildings and heritage colour schemes. 

In addition to a number of second-hand, vintage and collectable book shops, Clunes also offers some lovely gift stores, a traditional green grocer’s store, an old fashioned lolly shop, cafes and bakeries, and antique and collectible stores. 

Our visit was just a short one, as we tacked it onto a trip we were already making, so I only managed to visit one book store while looking around town.

Of course, it is a very rare occasion that I venture into a bookstore without buying anything. This visit was not one of those occasions.

The next visit to Clunes most likely won’t be one of those occasions, either. It’s clear that I’m definitely going to have to plan a ‘Going On A Book Hunt’ visit to Clunes, because I spied at least four other bookshops that I want to browse in.

This video highlights some of the lovely spots in and around this gorgeous, bookish little town. Enjoy!

Four Years Migraine Free: A Happy Anniversary Indeed!

Today is the fourth anniversary of my daith piercing. That also makes today the fourth anniversary of the last of the debilitating migraines and chronic severe headaches that had plagued me consistently throughout my teens and adult life. 

My Daith Piercing

I don’t think I could ever forget the surprise and shock when that migraine— which I had had for five days— was gone within an hour of the piercing being done. I had definitely not expected that to happen! 

I also still remember the profound sense of clarity and awareness the following day when I was in the classroom and completely headache-free — an entirely new experience for me.

The niggling fear and suspicion that it couldn’t last and that the next migraine was lurking around some corner, waiting to accost me and steal my new lease on life, was a feeling that took some time to overcome.

That hasn’t happened yet, and while I realise that day might yet come, I no longer actively think about it. 

I am so incredibly thankful for the difference in my life that one piercing made. I am also thankful to my professional body piercer for her expertise, and for having taken the time to learn how to use her art for therapy and healing.

Vetiver Oil: A Grass Roots Therapy For Better Sleep

One of my most consistent problems with sleeplessness is that I can be totally exhausted, but still unable to actually drop off to sleep. 

That’s mostly because of my fibromyalgia, but it is complicated by back pain on those nights when my pain relief medication fails to cut the mustard, as it sometimes does. 

Because I know from past experience that prescription sleeping medication causes my whole system to lag, and because of the strong pain killers I need to take for my back as well as my fibro, I feel very strongly about not having those other drugs in my regime. 

So, I recently visited my friendly local alternative health practitioner and asked, “What can you suggest to help me sleep?”

She suggested Vetiver Oil, diluted in fractionated coconut oil. The instructions say to apply it under both big toes and to the wrists, to inhale deeply on going to bed, and to reapply on waking through the night. 

Extracted from the roots of vetiver grass, vetiver oil is useful for calming emotions and relaxing the body.

The first night, I did doze off more easily. I also smelt like I was sleeping in the very damp leaf litter on the floor of a forest that didn’t get enough sunlight. Inhaling it deeply wasn’t anything I needed to do consciously — that was unavoidable! It is not an offensive smell, but it is distinctive and perhaps a little strong. 

On the second night I decidedto just go with it under the big toes, and I added a dab or two on the inside of my ankles instead of my wrists – I figured the circulation is near the skin there, too, and I wouldn’t find the smell so strong there. I found that it still helped me to drift off and the smell of the oil was not so pervasive. 

On the third night, I followed the same routine as the previous night. I also used some lemongrass oil on my fingers and hands for pain management, as I often do through the day. It wasn’t my intention, but I found the lemongrass balanced and lightened the vetiver quite effectively. That was a happy accident! 

I have been following that routine for a couple of weeks now, and while I still don’t fall asleep quickly, I have observed that drifting off is gentler and generally doesn’t take as long as it has done in the past. 

Having experienced difficulty falling asleep for as long as I can remember – even before the onset of fibromyalgia, it’s fir to say that any improvement is welcome. 

Fibro-my-Sunday.

Image by Jordan_Singh on Pixabay

My plans for today are not optional. That is a luxury rarely available to me.

When I woke up, though, I realised my body has other ideas:

Me: “Come on, legs. You can do it!”
My legs: “No. We can’t.”
Me: “You have to.”
My legs: “Fine. But we’re going to make you suffer.”
My back: “I’m with them.”
My fingers: “Us too!”

I got up and showered. I needed the hot water for my back, but the water hitting my skin was painful.

I dressed, but then had to change into something made from softer fabric that didn’t hurt my skin so much just by being against it.

I downed my medications, hoping they would work quickly. They didn’t.

I drank my coffee, hoping the caffeine would make a difference. It didn’t.

I can’t take any more pain killers for hours. I can have more caffeine, though, so that is definitely happening.

This is one snapshot of one morning. One morning that is complete typical of many others in my life, and in the lives of other fibromyalgia sufferers.

And now, I am off to a full day of rehearsals that I have to attend because I am the director.

Today is going to be an exercise in perseverance and in drawing upon my actor’s craft. The role I play today needs to be motivated and excited, and able to project that motivation and commitment into my cast and crew.

I cannot fall over. I will not fall over. That is, at least, until I get home.

Tell you what, though. I’m glad my other half is cooking dinner, because I’m already exhausted.