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I’m off to Ballarat in a couple of weeks!
On Sunday 5 June, from 2.30-3.30pm I’ll be in the fabulous gold-mining historical city of BALLARAT, chatting with historical romance author Darry Fraser, contemporary fiction author, Toni Jordan and debut author Tobias Madden. We’ll be talking about love, family and relationships in fiction.

It’s FREE, but you need to Book Here:

Ballarat Library 178 Doveton St N, Ballarat Central VIC 3353, Australia
Hope to see you there!

Democracy Sausages

We had a federal election here on Saturday.  Voting is compulsory in Australia, and while some people in other countries think that’s terrible, the truth is, you don’t HAVE to vote — you just have to turn up to vote and get your name ticked off.  Once you’re given your ballot slips to fill out, you can do whatever you want — write nothing, do an informal viote (ie fill it out wrong or incompletely, or whatever. You just have to do your duty and turn up. Otherwise, unless you have a good reason (illness, religious objections, etc) you will be fined.

 The polling stations in my area are mostly primary (elementary) schools, and when you turn up to vote, it’s a bit like a fete — there are kids running around and playing, and games taking place — all quite impromptu.

The people handing out how-to-vote pamphlets are not allowed on the premises or in the schoolyard — they have to stay outside on the footpath, so going to vote ends up being quite a lay-back, friendly affair.

There might be music playing, or the kids might put on a show,  and the schools and the parents’ organizations generally use the occasion to raise a bit of money, so there are cake stalls, produce stalls, plant stalls, and more.  Some schools even advertise. . . 

One year I bought a jar of the best marmalade I’d ever eaten, and though I know the parent who made that has long gone — their child would have finished school by now — I still live in hope of finding another such wonderful jam. But the stall most of us look forward to is the sausage sizzle. 

It’s just a sausage in a slice of bread with maybe fried onions, mustard and/or tomato sauce (ketchup), and as they’re being sold on election day, they’re called “Democracy sausages.” The name is just a bit of a joke, really. We Aussies love our sausages (also called snags) in bread, and  they’re often sold as fund-raisers. You might find the Lyons club, or a bunch of Rotarians or a church group running a sausage sizzle on a Saturday morning in the main street of a country town, for instance. 

Yesterday a couple of  dads were manning the griller and some mums and a few dads were doing the assembling and  selling. And the lines for the “Democracy Sausages” were longer than that of those waiting to vote. It all makes for a very pleasant voting experience.


Plants and plans

A friend dropped in at the end of moving day and brought me a couple of zygocactuses that she had divided from her own plants. One is coming into bud and the other has just started flowering, and it’s so gorgeous so I brought it inside. That’s it on the left.

Mum grew zygocactuses but all of hers were the same hot pink and I never knew they came in different colors. This one is soft baby pink and each morning it has more flowers. Don’t you love how small things can make you smile?

I don’t have the wide windowsills of my old house, where the plants thrived in the morning sun, but I have put a low bookshelf under my bedroom window and filled the top with my plants and they cheer me up each morning.

It faces west, though, and I’ll have to find somewhere else for them come summer or they’ll get scorched. But in the meantime, it’s lovely to wake up to flowers and plants.

This new house also has four large planter boxes and I’m going to grow vegies in them. They already have some herbs — amazingly a couple of basil plants are still going strong, despite the cold — and when I bought the house 3 months ago, it had tomatoes growing in one of them. I’m planning to plant broad beans in that one (because you shouldn’t grow tomatoes in the same place twice in a row).

I also have something called perpetual spinach, and a variety of silver beet seedlings. They’re currently sitting in the window and I’ll plant them as soon as I get a moment. I love winter greens.

When spring approaches I’ll be planting more vegies. I’m thinking maybe even potatoes. I grew them a couple of times in the old house and had several wonderful crops of potatoes.

Isn’t it funny how a new situation can spark you up? My old garden was much bigger and was getting a bit out of control (i hear my friends snorting at that understatement) but this one is small and very manageable. Milly isn’t impressed, though — there are no creepers to hide under, and scare critters from and no colonies of little skinks (tiny, sweet lizards) that she used to watch with fascination.

And though I hear magpies singing most mornings — which is a truly joyous sound to wake up to — there don’t seem to be many other birds in this garden. I’m hoping to change that, though, Stay tuned. And if you want to hear the sound Australian magpies make (they’re not the same as magpies from other countries) click here: