In Canberra for #HumanBrochure 2012

It’s been a long day. We didn’t get to bed until nearly 1 and had to be up at 5 to finish packing and drive to Brisbane for our flight to Canberra. We had a few hours to wander on our own and we found a lovely cafe in Manuka near our hotel and had a lovely lunch.


The festivities began at 6pm when we all loaded on 5 buses and headed to the War Memorial for a welcome from Ian Hill, the mastermind behind this world-first project as well as a welcome from the staff at the War memorial.

Australian War Memorial

We headed in to the museum and if you haven’t been to Canberra or if you’ve been to Canberra and missed this place, go back. It’s a world class museum that honors the sacrifices of those who’ve gone before to ensure our freedom to live as we choose. After a glass of wine, first on offer for canapes were fresh prawn rolls and they were really fresh and filled with prawns and herbs.

There were several presentations, a lot of “oh that’s YOUR blog, I love it!” and more and more and more food. The chicken satay sticks were perfectly cooked. You know how you can get them and the chicken is tough and hard to eat? No matter how good the sauce is, if the chicken is tough, it’s crap. This was really well done. I didn’t have any but the lamb chops were wonderful. Everyone was raving but by the time they came out, I was full. I did have a memory of them because someone dribbled sauce down the back of John’s jacket.

I had a lovely conversation with Annabel Candy who was visiting from the Sunshine Coast with her children. @rhubarbwhine, Shirley from was on the bus from the airport with us and it was so great to put a name to a face. She’s even more lovely in person if you can believe it.

I even met a fellow food blogger from Sydney who had the most amazing shoes! Have a gander at the personality you’d need to wear these. 🙂

I'm So Hungree

Human Brochure Canberra

John and I are leaving first thing in the morning for Canberra to take part in the 500 strong Human Brochure Campaign.  A while back the ACT Tourism office decided that inviting 500 people active in social media and blogging to visit Canberra for a weekend would do more than a huge advertising campaign.  They asked for people to register their interest in participating and when I saw the contest, I signed up.  I knew there would be heaps of people putting their hand up but hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

A few weeks later I got an email that said, “You were selected,” and I ignored it.  My blog doesn’t make any money.  The software end of it earns a bit but not enough to fly to Canberra for a weekend to write about why people should want to go there.  It said I needed to confirm in 2 days.  I didn’t think another thing about it.

Then I got a phone call from the Human Brochure people saying I hadn’t acknowledged and I explained my situation and said another time might work for me.  Then she said:

“Maureen, it’s an all expense paid trip to Canberra for you and your husband and we’ll take you everywhere.”

It took me about 30 seconds to say, “We’re in!” There were 30,000 applications for the 500 spots so I was pretty chuffed we’re getting to go.

Then I yelled to John that we were going to Canberra and he gave me the, “I don’t think I can take off work to go,” business and then I said, “okay I won’t go either.”  So we’re going.

Obviously our segment is food and wine and we’ll be having some wonderful food, visiting the War Memorial, National Gallery of Art, Botanic Gardens as well as restaurants and wineries.  I’m really looking forward to meeting other food lovers I’ve only seen online.  I only learned tonight that fellow food blogger Bizzy Lizzy is going – I saw her photo next to mine.  It will be wonderful to sit and have a chat with someone I’ve only typed to before.  I had a look at all the photos and I’m definitely going to be the grandmother of the group.  I packed a sewing kit.

If you’re on social media this weekend, check out the hashtag #humanbrochure and see what we all have to say about our visit to Canberra and why you should want to visit too.  I’ve been to Canberra several times — including the War Memorial, National Gallery of Art and the Botanic Gardens but they’re all worth seeing again – especially when free food and wine is involved.


People Are Funny

zombie foodBecause of my blog at, my husband wrote a WordPress recipe plugin so that my blog could be nicely formatted and yet still give Mr. Google all the back-end bits and pieces that they require in order to give my recipes a photo and a rating and hopefully come up as relevant for the recipe name.

We’ve offered the plugin to other food blogs to use and we were going through the list of recipes that people have created using EasyRecipe.  It was more like a quick scan because there are nearly 90,000 of them and they’re coming in at the rate of 1 every minute or so.

We decided to reward people who were kind enough to tick the box on the plugin saying they wanted their recipe photos to be included in our promotions so they get a link back to their blogs.  We’re not pinching their recipes, only the main photo they’ve selected and linking it back to their site.

All recipes that get entered using our plugin must fill in the cuisine tag because Google requires it as a part of their recipe view inclusion.  Now you’d think that most people who write a food blog would understand what the word cuisine means but I’ve got to tell  you that you’d be wrong if you thought that too.  I’ve been going through a list of cuisines that don’t fit what WE thought the normal cuisines would be.  You know, French, Canadian, Australian, Swedish, etc., etc.

Here are a few “cuisines” that made me scratch my head:

  • doggy treats
  • Balls (I don’t want to know)
  • 2-cups
  • All of the above and below (I have NO clue)
  • Peanut butter and jelly (I’d put this one under American)
  • Injection
  • Crispy Bits and Burnt Ends (I need to meet this person)
  • Make-up (edible?)
  • Problem solver
  • Zombie  (this dish is probably best served cold)

So far I’ve classified most of the cuisines and will have to consolidate them now from names like “Dolce di Carnevale” to Italian and “Hoofdgerect” — I’m guessing Dutch but I’ll have to look it up and so on.  THEN I have to work on meal type.  It makes me roll my eyes to see what meal types people come up with for what I would classify as breakfast, lunch, dinner, picnic,  snack, beverage or dessert.  Here are a few meal types:

  • allergy-friendly (probably better suited for a tag)
  • dipping sauce (condiment?)
  • Buns (Come on over for buns around 7?)
  • homegrown
  • Maine (I’m sure they meant Main. I’m from Maine and John wanted to know if Maine was a national cuisine.  No.)
  • Rice
  • Sweet Tooth (While I have the sweetest tooth in town, I suspect this is dessert)

I can’t wait to share with you what we’re doing with all these photos.  It looks very cool indeed and I’m very proud of my long suffering husband/programmer who will code anything I ask.  Even if he thinks it’s dumb.  Not this one – we both like it and we hope you will too.


It’s Been a Good Month

not good enoughI can’t think of too many times in my life that I’ve been able to say that. While I know I’m clever and can get a lot done without huge effort, I tend to talk down to myself through that little voice in my head.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been working on that with a therapist who’s trying to help me change the dialog from “you can’t,” “you shouldn’t,” to “you can” and “you should.” It’s working! I don’t want to give too much away but I was chosen to go to Canberra by the ACT Tourism folks as a part of their Human Brochure program. 30,000 people submitted their details and I was one who was chosen. It all happens this weekend so fingers crossed that it goes well.

Last month I submitted my details to attend the Australian food blogging conference in Adelaide early next month. They only chose 70 people out of those who applied and I’m going to that too. They had so many people apply that they found a way to squeeze 10 more in. I’m really looking forward to catching up with food writers I’ve gotten to know over the past year that I’ve been blogging at

I guess what I’m trying to say in this post is, no matter how long you’ve been carrying baggage around in your head, it’s never too late to get rid of it. You’ve seen my photo and I’m no Spring chicken. Hell, I don’t think I’m even Autumn. Doesn’t matter. What does matter is that I finally said, “enough is enough,” and found someone to help me work through it all.

The best thing that happened is something I can’t really talk about but I’ll be included in an international panel of people who’ll all be talking about food. The exposure I’ll get to sponsors and opportunities to speak will be pretty cool. 6 months ago I would never have entertained doing something like this. I wouldn’t have felt good enough. The truth is, I AM good enough.

I only started this blog a few weeks ago and I’m already under a million on, the service that ranks sites on the net (google is #1). I’m not bragging (well not much) but I’m quite okay at this blogging routine.

Although I’m pretty busy, there is always time to help someone so if you ever want a chat, let me know. If you’re on the Sunshine Coast, coffee would be great. I love going out for coffee.


perseveranceIf anyone ever asked me what the secret to success is, it would have to be perseverance.  I used to be a quitter.  yeah, that’s me with QUITTER written on my forehead when you look up failure.  I never failed as much as I just quit.  I figured quitting was less painful than failing because I didn’t have the belief I was good enough to succeed.

I can’t say I wasn’t successful because I was.  I started out with a great job in the states and was one of the highest paid women in Knoxville where I lived.  I also started 3 companies with partners and walked away from all three of them when my partners became difficult.

Then 18 years ago I met John.  If I ever met anyone who was more like a dog with a bone, I don’t know who it could be.  He’s taught me to never give up.  He’s been a programmer all his life and through his work there are always little coding glitches and bugs – we’ve all come across them.  I’ve always said I’d have a tough time being a coder because my attention span can be no longer than a gnat’s fart sometimes. “oh, see that bird?  what’s it doing in the water” and off I’d go.

Not John.  If he’s got a problem he’ll work at it 14 hours without stopping until he finds it and he always finds it.  He swears that he’s not all that clever but he succeeds because he never lets a problem get the best of him.  Perhaps he’s just overcompetitive?

A while back when things were really dicey for us financially (not that they’re a whole lot better now) I was at the point of throwing my hands up and going to live in a tent in the woods (we don’t own a tent).  John put his arms around me and said “Giving up is for losers and we’re not losers and if we lose everything, we’ll still be ahead because then we’ll have learned an important lesson in what not to do again.  If we stop now, we’ll never get anywhere.”

I know..  “awww.”  I did not awww.  I think I said something about how he drove me up the effn wall with his ability to keep going and keep going with a smile in spite of all the wreckage around him.  I suspect I used bad words too.


I didn’t give up.  I get up every morning and I get my fingers clicking and every day gets easier and every day I do a little bit better than the day before.  I know I’m clever – I’m 100% confident in my ability to do anything I want but I have learned that perseverence is the key.  People with little education have gone on to make squillions of dollars so it’s not all about schoolin’ – it’s all about not taking your ball and going home.  I love what I do and I’m beginning to like pouring out my soul at the end of every day.

There’s an old proverb that says it takes both rain and sunshine to make a rainbow so maybe it’s time to let that sun shine through.

Drink More Water

water with orange essential oilLots of it.  I have a history of getting so engrossed in what I’m doing that I forget to get up and get water or anything else.  You might call it a one-track mind but you might also call it forgetful.  Regardless what it is, I’m guilty of it in a big way.  I’ve been like this my entire adult life.  One time years ago I kept going back to the doctor with a complaint that I was getting severe headaches at the back of my head.

He was  lovely man and sent me for test after test – nothing showed up.  I was miserable.  I’d visit this doctor week after week and he’d give me drugs to alleviate the pain and then would send me off for yet another test.

Then one day I was perusing a page on the net and there was a link to another site and then from there to somewhere else.  You know how it is when you get stuck in the time suck that the Internet can become.  Anyway, I ended up on a page where a woman said she had the same problem I did – a severe headache at the base of her skull, and she got nowhere with doctors or tests.

Unlike me, she’d found a “cure” and it was found in a glass of water.  The pain was caused by a lack of fluid in the brain.  I IMMEDIATELY started drinking water and within 2 hours the pain was gone.  I’m still not good at drinking water but now I have a water cooler in my office so it’s only a few steps and I always have a glass in my office.

Another thing I’ve noticed is if I’m making a lot of mistakes or I’m having trouble coming up with a word – you know, the time you panic and are positive that alzheimers has taken over in under 3 hours – if I drink two glasses of water, my memory really improves.  I looked that up on the interwebs and I’m not alone there either.  There is some research that shows extra water keeps the synapses firing.

I’ve started putting one drop of orange essential oil in my water several times a day.  I did it because I really like essential oils and this tastes really good.  I did this for a week before deciding to look up some information on the net about orange essential oil.  Among other things, “It enhances libido.”  I had noticed an increased interest in this area but I thought it was all down to Springtime when our fancies turn to love.

If you’ve not been drinking as much as you should, take heed.  Add some orange oil and heck, you might even get lucky between the sheets.

Life’s Not About Accumulating “Stuff”

Back when we were flash with cash, buying things was a matter of getting in the car or going online and making the purchase.  No thought, no planning, no anticipation – I wanted it, I bought it.  Now don’t get me wrong, that WAS a lot of fun and there’s a lot to be said for being rewarded for your hard work.

You know there’s a but coming, don’t you?

In 2008 our world fell apart.  The financial crisis hit and within months it seemed that people in the US stopped buying, several really large investments evaporated into thin air and we were left reeling.  I didn’t believe it would last that long so I did a really stupid thing.  I used my superannuation to pay our staff for over a year.  I just knew we were inches away from recovery but that never happened.  My super was gone and we had to let all the staff go anyway.

So we sold our beautiful house with my gorgeous garden, my orchard, my veggie garden, my chooks and everything else for far less than it cost to build and we moved to something much smaller.  Our income is substantially (hugely) less than we were earning before and here’s where the but comes in…   we’re not any less happy.

John is still the same wonderful man he was when we met when neither of us had a pot to piss in and I suspect I’m still pretty okay to him too.  We still have the same wonderful friends, our family still loves us and we have our health.

For us, life has been the journey to learning that it’s much better to dash over to Belly Good for my favourite Rainbow Beef having John’s 100% attention than to travel around the world first class.  Honestly, it was just as much fun.  Okay maybe the food wasn’t as good as the $350 dinner in Osaka where we had a private chef slicing and frying garlic chips but I got more out of a heartfelt conversation last night.

My goals have changed.

I still work really hard to make ends meet and my joy now comes not from planning a big holiday or getting something schmick for the house but helping someone else begin to achieve their goals.  I’ve always been drawn to people who need me and I’m so grateful that John feels the same way I do about helping.  Yes, we’d probably be farther ahead in our recovery if we focused totally on ourselves but I think we’ve had a lot of emotional healing to go through.  Losing millions hurts.  Don’t let anyone tell you differently.  It affects your feeling of self worth, destroys your self-confidence and there’s a fair amount of grief that goes in there too.

We will be okay if we never get on top again.  It’s taken a long time to be able to say that.  Being happy together is our priority.  We’ll probably never retire because we love working but maybe we won’t have to work such long hours.  Thanks for listening to my story.


Good lord you’d think I was pregnant with the cravings I’ve been having lately.  Like today – John asked what we were having for dinner and I gave a mental note of what we had in the freezer that I could magically thaw because I hadn’t given a moment’s notice to dinner planning.  Some days are like that.  I love to cook but if I’m busy with a project or work, I’ve got a one track mind.

rainbow beefAs I was thinking what would be really easy (yes, even orgasmic chefs need a break) I said, “Remember that place in Maroochydore where we had that crispy beef with plum sauce?  That’s what I want for dinner, but I’ll scrounge something up downstairs.”

A few minutes later he said, “Belly Good?”

“Yes, that’s the place, on Duporth Avenue.”

“Let’s go get what you’re craving and we can call it a date.  I take you to the best places.”

I WAS craving and no, that’s not on the list of best places but I really wanted that beef.  I could close my eyes and taste it.  Turns out it’s called Rainbow Beef and it tasted just as good as I remembered it did the first time I ate it. We don’t normally go out and rarely do we eat fast food and Belly Good is probably the Chinese McDonalds but I really wanted this dish.

Usually I build something up in my mind and when I have it again I think, “why was I craving this?  remind me.”  Not this time.  I looked at my big plate of gooey, crispy redness and reached for the chopsticks.

Finishing a plate of food is something I’m not often capable of and I’ll admit that John helped me eat a fair bit of it but the plate was completely empty by the time we left there.  I think of it and sigh – it was exactly what I wanted.

Sometimes it’s perfectly okay to feed your cravings.  It’s especially okay when it coincides with a date night.

Do you have food or beverage cravings?  I wonder where in our brains cravings come from and then I wonder, “Are cravings silly?  “

Do You Cringe at Making Cold Calls?

I confess that I’m if not the worst, I’m 2nd to the top of the list of the worst when it comes to making cold calls.  I would rather clean toilets in a bad service station than make a cold call – see what I mean?

A few weeks ago, my friend Madonna Robinson invited me for coffee and we’ve become good friends.  During one of our conversations she told me that what she’d really like is a new website to promote her ability to teach people how to make cold calls without fear.  My eyes opened really wide and I said, “Seriously, is it possible?  I’ve always been so uncomfortable calling someone I don’t know to sell them something they think they don’t need.”

She looked at me with the most confident face I’ve ever seen and said, “I’m 100% convinced I can teach anyone to cold call without fear.”

So I said, “Fine, if you are that convinced, I’ll help you build your site.”

Col Calling Without FearI’m not a commercial web designer and I’m not a commercial marketing expert but I’ve been working online since 1995 and in all that time I’ve learned a thing or three.  I’ve made a lot of money through web businesses and to get there I had to make every mistake in the book and learn from it.

Back in 1995 there were no rules, etiquette, spam, licensed photography or any guidelines whatsoever.  Those of us in the beginning had to forge our way through by trial and error.

My husband has been a programmer all his life so it was easier for us than some.  He says I’m not to be trusted with technology because I’m not afraid to touch break anything. So sometimes I do break things.  It seems I have an “it’s broken” voice when I yell, “Joooohhhhnnnn!”  I must have because when I say that I get, “What did you break this time, dear?”

Back to Madonna.  I asked her what sort of website she’d like and she pointed out a website that I thought looked awful. It was a design I would call “first generation” as in that’s what sites looked like in 1995.

I convinced her to go with a Thesis theme for WordPress because it’s what I use and I know it quite well and then she chose the color scheme, the column arrangement, the widgets at the bottom and then she went off to get her domain.

I helped with the setup and the header and John programmed the join my list and get my book free thingo to work automatically with MailChimp and the rest was all done by Madonna herself.  She even set up the PayPal linkage herself.  I knew she coud do it.

If you’re like me and have considered cleaning the servo’s toilets rather than make a cold call to boost your business, go over to Call Reluctance Queen and sign up to get her book for free.  I’m sure you’ll agree she has a terrific writing style.  I can’t wait for the full book to be written and to read the testimonials I know are going to come.