Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Pictures from the Book: Page 4

This morning I was honoured to be the guest-speaker at a book club connected with Wyandotte Winery (they recently read "Flying Over the Rainbow"). As part of the Q&A, they expressed the desire to see colour versions of the photos in the book. I'd been thinking about that myself, and so, YEAH! Why not?!?!

There are LOT of photos in the book - over 70 - that's too many to put up all at once, but the beauty of having this blog is the fact that I CAN show you colour photos. We'll start with page 4 - a photo of Cockatoos sitting on a park picnic table:

(Click on the image to see a larger version)

Friday, February 24, 2012

She'll Try Anything Once - Twice if She Likes It

(side note: finally, FINALLY, computer seems to be straightened out, so I can post again!!!)

Avian bodies are not really designed for lactose, but a little taste every now and then isn't harmful. We were having breakfast, which on that morning included rockmelon (aka cantalope) and Greek yogurt. Laka was sitting on her t-stand next to the table - clearly very interested in what we were having. I gave her some melon, which she happily licked over and gobbled.

But she wanted more, fascinated with the white substance I was transferring via spoon from the bowl to my mouth. She leaned toward the spoon, swinging her body to follow my hand each time I took a bite.

I finally gave in, scooping up about 1/4 of a teaspoon of yogurt onto a spoon and handed it to her.

Oh, yes... it was a big hit. First she licked the back of the spoon, carefully getting every little molecule, her face showing intense concentration. Then she deftly turned the spoon over and went after the inside of the bowl, managing to get some on the bottom of her lower mandible in the process:

After extracting every little bit, she flipped the spoon end-to-end and inspected the handle (no joy there, the yogurt was GONE!).

Once she was satisfied that the delectable white stuff was gone, she summarily dropped the spoon, enjoying the loud CLANG! it made when it hit the pan under her stand.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Bain of all Bloggers...

Computer problems - my usual machine is down...

I'm on a clumsy laptop using wifi and pulling my hair out. I'm using some pretty choice language right now... with this machine... I think it's possessed... It's taken 30 mins to type this much. I'll get to the bottom of this (or beat this laptop with a hammer...) and put something worth reading up in a day or so.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Angel Food Cake - Part 2

Last month, I mentioned my plan to introduce my Aussie friends to "Angel Food Cake". I'd planned to do it right away, but somehow managed to procrastinate until this week - but I finally did it.

I am part of a group of women who meet one afternoon a week to play mahjong. They are a great bunch of gals and fairly adventurous, so I decided they were the ideal ones to try this out on.

I got a Duncan Hines angel food cake mix from an American food store here in Melbourne - and located an angel food cake pan via eBay. The cake mix turned out to be amazingly easy - certainly easier than attempting this from "scratch". Everything needed (including the eggs) was part of the mix; all I had to do was add water. I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical that the cake would turn out correctly - but it did!

The cake pan is non-stick, so I had to be extremely careful in how I loosened the cake from the sides. My plastic spatula worked well for out outer edge, and the cake came away from the sides easily.

The inner tube part was trickier - I used a butter knife for that (and managed to get the job done without scratching the pan).

Worrying that the cake would adhere to the pan's bottom, I lined it with wax paper before pouring in the batter. It's a good thing I did; I'm convinced the cake would never have come out easily, esp. after seeing how it was clinging to the sides.


It turned out perfectly. The texture, colour, flavour - all if it was exactly what angel food cake should be. And what did my friends think of their first taste of angel food? Well here's the unanimous verdict:

(the ladies, from left to right are Joan, Phyllis, Jill, Jenny, Dianne, and June.
In front are Jill's grandchildren, Caitlin and Thomas, who came home from school just in time to be offered a slice)

They were pretty surprised at how tall the layer was, and by the texture, which they compared to sandwich bread. Most of them remarked on how sweet it was - which surprised me, as I don't think of angel food cake as being particularly sweet. I don't eat cake often (almost never, really) so I'll have to get some the next time I'm out for a coffee and make note of how sweet it is.

Anyway - angel food cake is a hit in Australia!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Andy Warhol's Famous Prediction

In 1968, artist and celebrity Andy Warhol said "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes." Well, my 15 minutes came this past week, when I was interviewed by Jan Goldsmith of Melbourne radio station 3CR (855 AM).

As part of my publicity campaign for the book, I sent complimentary copies of Flying Over the Rainbow to Jan and a few other radio personalities - hoping they would read it, enjoy it, and invite me on their programs to discuss it. I was tickled to pieces when Jan contacted me in late December saying she'd be in touch after her summer holiday to schedule an interview on her weekly program "Published or Not".

And so she did! I was there last Thursday, sitting in the studio, so excited to be there I could hardly breathe. I was one of two authors being interviewed that day - and thank HEAVENS they put me on first. I'm sure my jangled nerves would have been a lot worse if I'd been second. This was live-to-air radio (no "undo" buttons anywhere, folks...) and I was painfully aware that the microphone in front of me was transmitting anything and everything.


As the introduction theme music played, my heart started pounding like mad, and I developed a very bad case of "cotton mouth".


From the way Jan conducted the interview, it was obvious that she not only read the book, but liked it. Her enthusiasm for the book helped settle me down, and I managed to get through it without coming off like an idiot.

The station regularly records "Published or Not" and puts podcasts of the program on their website for a few days afterward. It won't be available for long, but anybody who checks their podcast page in the next week or so can listen in (Or try this direct link: "Published or Not | 10 Feb 2012").

Here I am, less than 30 seconds to air. Do I look relaxed? LOOK AGAIN! I was dying a thousand deaths...

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Display

I've heard them calling in the forest, and have seen females while out walking along the paths just beyond Grants Picnic Ground, but I'd never seen a male lyrebird doing a mating display until just the other day.

We were at The National Rhododendron Gardens, when we came across a family who'd stopped alongside the path and who were intently watching something hidden by some bushes. I heard the sound of a butcher bird coming from the direction they were looking, and wondered why they'd be so entrance by a bird that is interesting and lovely, but certainly not a rare sight here. Then the butcher bird call ceased and the sound of a loud camera shutter took it's place, and then the sound of kookaburra's laughing. All the sounds were coming from the same place: underneath a bush just in front of us.

Ah! It was a lyrebird! Lyrebirds are incredibly talented at mimicking sounds they hear.

So we stopped, too, and stood quietly watching. There were two of them, both males, and they seemed to be taking turns dancing and performing a mating display.

Stephen was able to get a couple of good photos of one of them:

During a display, the male flips his long tail up over his body and quivers so that the long feathers wave and tremble. He turns this way and that, stomping the ground and calling as he dances.

I didn't see any females, just the two males, so I don't know if they were really trying to attract a mate or if they were just practicing and showing off for each other. There might have been a female in the bush next to where they were dancing; the dark shadow of the bush made it very hard to see much, and we didn't want to move in closer and possibly upset the birds.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Maggie and Billy Bob - our resident magpies - have a youngster now. "Junior" has been out of the nest for some time, and I think that Maggie and Billy Bob wish he was back in it; he never gives them a moment's peace.

And here he is (right):

He's nearly the same size as the adults - a little bit thinner-looking and darker, and with a slightly "pouty" look about him.

We always know when he's around. He follows his Mum and Dad pretty closely, with an insistent, whiney call - reminding them that he's hungry.

And he's ALWAYS hungry.

Morning, noon, and evening - Maggie and Billy Bob are busy hunting food for their fledgling, working desperately to satisfy his bottomless pit. We see the family in our yard several times a day, and when I'm out on my morning walks I find them all around the neighborhood hunting for anything that might make a snack for Junior.

Here he is cawing madly at Billy Bob, begging for whatever it is Billy Bob has just picked up:

And down the hatch!:

Junior is actually capable of feeding himself, provided he sees the food. Here he is, picking up a crust of bread. I love the look on Billy Bob's face - SHOCK!

The crust that Junior has (left) is a little too large, but he's capable of snipping of bits with his beak. Still, if he sees Billy Bob with something in HIS beak, Junior will walk right across the food in front of him to beg something from his dad.

We're getting a big kick out of watching the magpies rear their baby, but I have to admit that the early morning feedings are a bit of a pain. At the first crack of dawn we hear them landing on the roof above our bedroom - thumping down so hard that it sounds like cockatoos landing. We hear "thud.... thud..thud" as they hit, then the "clickclick" of their toenails on our corrugated roof, and finally the LOUD and insistent whinging from Junior (impossible to sleep through). Not exactly welcome at 6:00 a.m. ...