And here we all are - 

              brookers et al 

a likely looking bunch, aren't we. 

Many many years ago, Ivy and Bill Brooker had a bunch of kids. Graham, Murray, Jeanette Florence, and Margaret. Whew !! That's a mouthful. But I guess I'd say we've all turned into rather nice people, with a bunch of kids of our own, and for a few days, we get together in different parts of Oz and have a darn fine time. Apart from the cheek - quite a lot of that floating over the BS meter.

In the piccy above, and from the left, we have Robert and Margaret, my Malkie, Ellen and Graham, me, then Murray on the end. WE were at Evans Head a little way down the coast of New South Wales. OOPs, I forgot Bella - she's the little ball of fluff snuggled into Rob's arm and looking oh so snug there.

This time our bidies place was a cottage in Alstonville, a slice of heaven near Lismore, country NSW, with views to the ocean.

          cottage

          cottage 2

Stunning, and ours for a few days. Woohoo !!

  First night, Malkie cooked an malkie cooks 1ancient family recipe - spag bog. Tried and trusted. Murray watched and gave cheek, while he opened his port.

   marg giving cheek 2 

    Marg just gave cheek. 

      

 

 

   ellen 2   brookers 3    brookers 7

     Ellen did too. Jeanette didn't: she's a good girl !!  But that Marg - just saying !!

 

                            explore 2

This is Sam - the local dog-in-residence. Marg and I booked him for a conducted tour very early next morning. Bit reluctant, he likes exploring by himself - but we won him over with a scratch behind the ear, and spent a delightful hour before the rest of the world woke up.                 

                       chook pen mix 

We visited the chook pen, complete with stylish bark hut coop. (ooops, Sam - one of those chooks is a cow, did you notice ?)

                 explore 3     explore 8

He took us thru the orchard, where the fruit trees were groaning with the load. Beautiful soil- volcanic, rich and red - and everything grows. We picked lemons and mandarins for the day.

                explore 7         explore 6

He took us to see the array of herbs growing in whacky pots, then he showed us a banksia with the BIGGEST candle - like flowers.

                               explore 5

But then, faithless Sam - he happened on the guinea pig, and the world was lost. There we leave Sam - forever stalking the little pig, and hoping to catch it.

                                  explore spotty nighty 

                   So we went home for breakfast - after all, Marg was in her nightie, spots and all !!(don't you take my pic)

                      driving 1

The day was destined to be a driving day, checking out the beaches relatively close to us - Evans Head, then Yamba. Both pretty spots. Both festooned with very healthy Norfolk Is. pines, both with nice beaches, both wonderful for a holiday. 

                     driving 5     

 

       driving 8

But, let me give you the big tip - Yamba has the BEST fish and chips. Thick slab of deep sea mullet, cooked to luscious perfection, more chips than I can manage. It was a fisheries co-op, doing a roaring trade for obvious reasons.

              driving 17    driving 16

Gloriously handsome pelican came over to see us, hunkered down, and said -where"s mine ??  Malkie said, very nicely, you have to go fish for yours. So he did.

                         driving 14

We inspected an old "Navigational Aid" (no it's NOT a lighthouse, the sign said so) and oohed at the long long wake of the Clarence River where it joins the sea -

                        driving 15

The Clarence is not Australia's longest river, but it's mighty fat where it flows through Grafton - and creates havoc regularly in flood time. We are a land that values water, except for the deluges that inundate this region several times a year.

                       bella 2    bella 4

Was a lovely day, driving and looking and talking - but then tiny Bella announced she'd had ENOUGH of driving. In human years, she would be approx. 110 yrs old - and deserves to be heard when she speaks. So we went home as, like Bella, we'd had enough driving for the day.

                             view sunset 2

          Home in time to watch the pink sky - the opposite end of a sunset. And then off to local eatery for dinner - a beautifully restored Federation Hotel. 

                       last day 4       

One bright sunny day we wandered through "Old Alstonville Cemetery" - we had heard a whisper there were several Brookers buried here. One of our ancestors had spent time here. 

 

                       last day 3 

and we found them

                           last day

He would have been our great great uncle Josh, but going by the inscription, must have been very ill. Age 25.

                        last day 2 charlie  

And great great uncle Charlie appears to have had an accident at only 24.Now we need to track down our cousin Christopher, - he's versed in the genealogy of the Brookers, and find out more.

                         walkies fig tree

Let me tell you about Duck Creek. If you go past the old old fig tree, and head straight down the mountain, you'll come gradually to a tumbling brook. You can pick your way down slowly, following the paths - but be careful, has been raining, so there are some washaways, and lots of slippery stuff. OR, you could let go and roll down !! 

                       walkies

                      Pretty little creek. But then of course, you'll need to come back up again. No shortcuts, just wind your way around the tracks. Quite a hike - 1.5 kms.

             walkies good staghorn    walkies 5

             walkies - ferns     fungi 2

Lush rainforest - so beautiful. Thank you Ellen, for these piccies.

             shopping 1 best

Back to civilization - a visit to Bangalow on the way home. Yuppieville. Obviously catering to the "in" crowd that descend regularly on Byron Bay, not very far away. Heaving with people on a Saturday - pretty town set in rainforest, but a culture shock after our time away.

And so we trekked home. Lovely time spent together - is there anything better than spending time with family like this ?? Walk talk joke eat more talk and more talk -so good for one's soul. Next time, heading for the Bunya Mtns - watch this space - you have to come with us.

 

 

 

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The day dawned crisp and bright and cool. The heavens gave a shiver of anticipation and sent down a stiff breeze to celebrate. The waters of the Gold Coast sparkled and shimmered with joy.

                     water      

                The whisper went round the Universe - psssst - today is Shazza's birthday.

      exotic blooms

All the exotic blooms in the garden picked up the message - today is Shazza's birthday.

 

        exotic blooms 2

Time to celebrate - hooray hooray -  Sharon has been with us for 6o years - time to PARTY !!

  

               family firat

          Family first came a-calling, with much love and many many pressies. 

              handbags1

Next the handsome handbags were allocated their duties. Now, every girl knows she needs handbags to fetch, carry, serve, pour drinks and generally be attentive - but wherever our Shazza found this pair, they were pure gold. They even understood the "no talkietalkie" rule, and the ban on fraternising - BUT, they did have to be prompted now and again to pour the champers a little faster and more often. Just saying. Must have been a puritanical streak there somewhere !! No way had we had enough yet !!!!

                table setting

Tables were set by the water. Pretties were scattered along the tables, and the glasses winked in the sunshine waiting to be filled. Very special day this is - Shazza's birthday - as 18 tried and trues are sharing it. Even the heavens got the message and settled the wind down - all was perfect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

table setting best

 

Now came the Birds of Paradise (from now on referred to as BOPs) to soak up, and feast on, all this beauty. They came from all directions glowing in their plumage, twittering and murmuring and admiring and simply loving the setting. 

                      page

And as the champers flowed and the noise levels rose, the BOPs settled in for a long, long rambunctious lunch in the splendour of the fading afternoon.

                     guests 18 a 

                     

food 2

The food. Can I tell you about the food ?? As you would expect, it was divine, and the handbags delivered it all in a timely fashion.

First course - baked camembert, with pine nut salad, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar (pictured)

Main - salad nicoise

Dessert -"died-and-gone-to-heaven" chocolate mousse.

All followed by cheese and fruit platter, and the most YUM gorgonzola ever.

 

                    bops 2 mix

The afternoon raged on. Food was scoffed. Champers kept flowing. The noise became frightening. Presents were opened and gloried over. The handbags learnt to duck and weave. 

                    untidy

                     Getting a tad untidy - who cares ?

          And as the sun sank slooowwwwwly in the west - nobody moved. No BOP was going anywhere. 

          The day was glorious - the night was just as glorious too. The stars appeared, and still we stayed.

        sharon - blowing out

The Shazza cake was celebrated by candlelight, moonlight and starlight. What better way to leave this party - who knows if, or when, it will ever end. And the handbags stayed on duty to rescue any BOPs trying to swim by moonlight - darling handbags - they were so handy.

On a more serious (i.e. less tongue in cheek) note, thank you Sharon for a wonderful wonderful party - surely the best ever!! It truly was an afternoon and evening to remember. May you have many many more birthdays to celebrate, and may we get to celebrate with you. Love your style, girlie xxxx

 

 

Ever been to a party THAT good ?? I'd love to hear about it -

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Weather is gradually getting cooler.

Days are shorter, mornings are brisk & chilly & SO SPARKLY.

Love it - my favourite time of year.

Time to liberate the stock pot and make vegie soup !!

     veg 2   

Have you noticed the plethora of veg around lately - my favourite "Crisp on Creek" fruit shop is teeming with glowing brightly coloured veggies - and I try to bring the lot home and pack them into my stockpot. YUMBO. 

               garlic 1

And the garlic - have you seen the Australian version ? Massive great cloves that make it so easy to add lashings to the soup. Nice not to be trying to use squidgy little imported cloves (people, they've been fumigated !! nasty chemicals)

 paprika1

My recipe is very simple - chop up all veg, pop them into the stockpot with good quality chicken broth, and let it all simmer away gently.

Add in paprika, tumeric, mixed herbs, chilli flakes, salt and pepper - use plenty of each - flavour is paramount. Surely part of the pleasure of cooking a soup is the taste testing - frequent and often, please. 

Serve it with a heap of grated parmesan - heaven in a bowl.

 

 

 

 

 

           soup  

And when you are tired of veggie soup (you did make a BIG pot full) try this one as well -

Calabacitas (Mexican-flavoured vegie side dish)   

1 onion, sliced.

4 cloves garlic

2 cups zucchini (2"cubes)

2 cups yellow squash (1"cubes)

15 oz can diced tomatoes

1 cup diced green chilli

3 tablespoons chicken or vegie broth

handful (large) chopped coriander

3 tbspn fresh chopped oregano (1tbspn dried)

salt & pepper to taste

extra olive oil for drizzling, just before serving.

Saute onions and garlic in half the broth till translucent. Add in zuchini, yllw squash, remaining broth, green chilli, and stir over heat till vegies are becoming tender. Add tomatoes, cook for several more mins. 

Stir in herbs, salt and pepper - and enjoy.

 

 

Are you enjoying your veggies ? Like all the health gurus are telling us to ? Hope so. Love to hear all about your vegie story - how about it -

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Picture the scene - 4 of us in our trusty German car (Fritz) bowling away from Avignon,France.  It was exactly a year ago, and we were a tad tired. Had been in Avignon for the day.

       av usums         av buildings

Oohed and aahed our fill, and now we needed somewhere to rest our weary heads for the night.The boys had confidently attacked the very reasonably priced hotels outside the walls of the city - only to be laughed away - several conventions plus a squillion tourists meant there was no room at any inn.

               chat - road

Roads were really really busy, and as we left the beauty of the old city behind, the area degenerated quite quickly into ugly factory - type landscape. What to do ??  Was obvious - Desiree got out her Magic Fairy Wand, started waving it madly,and there it was - a signpost that read - Chateauneuf-du-Pape, 5km.

          av chateauneuf-du-pape

Woohoo - this we have heard of - ancient wine growing area. Micha roared off the road in search of food, bed, wine, new feet, pixies, prostitutes, anything. 

              chateau sign

Maybe that magic fairy wand worked a tad too well - the crenellations of a massive Chateau hove into view through the tree tops.

             chateau - first view

 

And it was a bit rich to swallow on our SENSIBLE budget, but we had to sleep somewhere, didn't we ??

          the view   

                 French countryside looked amazing from the Chateau.

our room - best1

 

Ours is the room behind the winter tree, and Des and Micha were high up in the tower.

 

Four poster bed - fireplace - sumptuous.

    inside our room

 

              entrance 1   

                   Inside the entrance. Ooohh -

              drawing room1         

                And aaahhh - the drawing room.

Of course we had dinner in their private dining room.

             dinner mixture

Precious !! Ooops, I meant scrumptious !!Almost a degustation menu with sorbet between course, every plate perfect and delicious. With their own wine from the area, good food, gorgeous setting,and once they knew Micha was a chef from Australia, the jokes came thick and fast!! Truly, truly a fabulous night.

           

           However, like the best nights ever, it was followed by morning. We had to pack our bags and scarper. Damn shame. Maybe again just as well - seeing as the dinner cost even more than the room, and the package was almost our yearly holiday budget - Well, you get the picture !!

But I'm jumping ahead. Early morning, we had time to wander and soak in the countryside - and the mountains in the distance. Beautiful morning - cold, but quite bracing.

          morning mix 2    

         Time to hit the high road.

                  morning 11a 

If you would like a life enhancing experience (at a price) here's the phone no. -

                  phone no

Recommended - book a few years ahead to get a room in summer. Or take potluck in late March like we did.

         full view

 And finally, I had to usurp a picture from their website to show the whole Chateau. Must have been taken in high summer.

 

Comments ?? Yes, please. But don't ask me the price of a room - Malkie wouldn't tell me !!

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