Monthly Archives: August 2014

Driving to the Snow…the Journey of a Thousand Toilet Stops.

Monday morning, the family said our goodbyes to the dog and the pile of bones I’d bought him as a guilt-laden compensation package and we left for our much anticipated trip to the snow. With about a 7 hour drive ahead, we would be staying in Jindabyne for 6 nights and skiing at Perisher in the so-called “Australian Alps” for 5 days before returning home via a night in Canberra.

Just to put you in the picture, my husband and the kids are “skiers”. This means so much more than simply gliding down the mountain on what looks like a set of planks. Being a skier is something that grips hold of your heart, your soul, your psyche, your very being and there’s that fire. You can’t describe this kind of wild passion but you know it’s there when you look in their eyes. There’s that flame. You also know that as soon as they leave the slopes at the end of the trip, they’re already mentally calculating how they could possibly squeeze another run in this season even if they have to starve. Real skiers don’t care about food. They just want to get back out there again and Ski! Ski! Ski!

Geoff the skier extraordinaire.

Geoff the skier extraordinaire.

Let me introduce you to my husband. Even before the ski season officially opens, he’s back onto Perisher’s webcam checking out conditions and watching the snow reports like an over-zealous hawk. I even caught him checking out the mountain in summer. There was nothing but grass. Call it desperation or determination, either way, he’s hooked.

Miss skiing on the slopes.

Miss skiing on the slopes.

Our kids have also caught the bug. Last year, after spending a full day at ski school, they’d go for a few runs down the Village 8 with their Dad and they’d also visit me over on the Magic Carpet. I couldn’t believe their energy. After all of that, they even managed night skiing as well. Unstoppable! They were completely unstoppable!!

Mister the Skier

Mister the Skier

It is hard not to be drawn to such a mighty flame and thanks to the Disabled Winter Sports’ Association and my magnificent instructors, skiing has become more than a possibility for me. I was actually able to fly out of the nest and spread my wings, even if I still remain a tentative fledgling. Before I started, I thought I might be in a sit chair or have some other form of adaptive equipment but my instructor got me out there on standard skis. We just took things nice and slow and appreciated my smaller engine.

Thank goodness  you don't have to take on the mountain alone!

My instructor & I. Thank goodness you don’t have to take on the mountain alone!

Despite my success last year and my love of the snow and a good holiday, I was still apprehensive. As much as I wanted to be a part of our family holiday and not dampen their enthusiasm or to be “difficult”, my fears were mounting up layer up on layer like a huge, enormous cake with cherries and even sparklers on top. Although I might have been a picture of calm serenity in the front seat of the car with all of my home-baked goodies under foot (including a double dose of Chocolate Caramel Slice), beneath the surface, storms were raging and it was raining cats and dogs. Actually, that’s a bit of a euphemism. I was actually busting for the loo. Indeed, I couldn’t stop busting.

So you could call our drive: “The Journey of A Thousand Toilet Stops”. We had had 4 toilet stops before we’d even driven through Sydney. As if needing to go wasn’t bad enough, trying to find a toilet on a motorway is hellish and we went on an almighty detour through Quakers Hill which probably added an hour to the trip. By this stage, I’m sure my poor husband was starting to feel like a stop-start learner driver slaughtering the clutch. I could hear him thinking: “Why did she have to have that third cup of tea before we left? Did anyone bring a cork?” Frequent toilet stops aren’t anything new but even for me, this was getting ridiculous beyond ridiculous.

That was how I realised just how nervous I was about going skiing again and it wasn’t only a fear of going skiing either. My wretched auto-immune disease has flared up on both of our previous family ski trips and we know Murphy’s Law all too well.

Family Portrait 2012- I had serious breathing troubles climbing up the hill.

Family Portrait 2012- I had serious breathing troubles climbing up the hill but I’ll do anything for the shot.

On our first trip back in August 2012, the day before we were due to leave, we had a mad panic dash to Emergency. The pathology lab had called me directly at home saying my blood tests showed I was at high risk of having a heart attack. That news hit us like a bolt of lightning. I mean we all want to be able to say our goodbyes. Get our affairs in order and at the very least ensure we are wearing one of our better pairs of undies not to mention a decent bra and definitely not the holy singlet. I’m sure you, like me, also have a lot of photos to sort out as well. To say it is traumatic to watch your entire life flash passed like that is a huge, enormous understatement…especially when you have young kids!!!

There we were also about to go on the ski holiday of a life time and the children were so excited about seeing snow for the first time and even building a snowman. Having a heart attack wasn’t part of the plan.

The kids with our snowman 2012.

The kids with our snowman 2012.

Fortunately, that was a false alarm but my auto-immune disease had flared up and the prednisone went up. I was also told to have blood tests while we away and I’m sure you can appreciate how I felt about that.

Last year, not to be outdone by the previous year, I caught a chest infection at the snow which ultimately brewed into a life-threatening case of pneumonia. Lung CTs for that showed that my auto-immune disease was now attacking my lungs as well. I could tell just by looking at my doctors’ faces that I was as good as doomed. Yet again, my life was whooshing past like a bullet train but yet again, I had a reprieve. I was off for 7 sessions of chemo and around 3 months shut in the dark. When you’re having chemo, you can’t go out in the sun without covering up every millimetre of skin. You can just imagine how I loved that living near the beach in the middle of a gorgeous Australian summer. At the same time, it wasn’t forever and chemo was giving me my second wind.

Thankfully, chemo worked and the auto-immune disease is in remission again but it was a close call.

So you can understand why I was more than just a little apprehensive about going skiing again.

But going skiing wasn’t just something the rest of the family wanted to do. It was also my dream. A dream I had worked hard on last year. You see I’d had this big light bulb moment when the rest of the family had been skiing without me the year before. As I watched the Paralympic ski team training on the slopes, I decided that instead of climbing up a mountain like so many who are overcoming a health challenge, I was going to ski down the mountain instead. This became a personal goal to “turn my mountain around”. Moreover, skiing down the mountain was going to be the grand finale to a motivational book I was working on which was based on the serenity prayer…working out what I could change and what I couldn’t change in my life and I guess also reaching some kind of acceptance of how this panned out.

Unfortunately, the auto-immune disease turned out to be the turn in my side and it really did rattle the serenity prayer. Of course, I wasn’t about to “accept” that the dermatomyositis was going to get me. Serenity or no serenity, I was fighting back! Grr!

At the same time, this significant setback put the book on hold. It’s not that the book had to have a happy ending but that wasn’t the story I was planning to tell. I was getting better and certainly wasn’t getting worse or even dying. That could be someone else’s story. It definitely wasn’t going to be mine!

Skiing down the mountain at Perisher in August 2013.

Skiing down the mountain at Perisher in August 2013.

So instead of skiing down the mountain and living happily ever after, I had skied smack into a metaphorical brick wall. For almost a year now, so many aspects of my life have been on hold. I am still in the process of picking up the scattered pieces. Don’t get me wrong. I am very thankful…exuberantly thankful to be where I am but there has been so much angst and frustration not to mention the grief and anguish our whole family has been living with given my precarious health. Yet, you would walk past me in the street and not even blink an eyelid. I look so normal and I’m usually smiling, laughing and squeezing the zest out of life. You’d never know!!

Understandably, this meant that while the rest of the family was uber-excited about going skiing, I was still struggling to get my mojo back and I very much felt like I was chasing someone else’s dream and not catching up.

That’s one of the difficulties with pursuing someone else’s dream. As much as you might be willing to extend yourself, try something new or simply support someone you love who is pursuing their passion, at best you are struggling to keep up. At worst, you are completely and utterly lost and accused of “being difficult”, “dragging the chain” or even sabotaging absolutely everything just because you can’t find the gear stick and are perpetually stuck in park.

I was having trouble packing and Geoff was accusing me of getting side-tracked baking before we were ready to go but I knew how to bake. It was safe, comforting, routine. Moreover, baking some special treats for our holiday was my special contribution straight from the heart. I was baking Chocolate Caramel Slice and Choc-Chip Cookies. I could do that. The whole ski thing was so far beyond me. I simply couldn’t move myself into gear.

But as they say, time heals and that’s the benefit of a very long drive. Eventually, even this non-stop bladder had to run dry. By the time we finally reached Cooma and I was trying on my ski boots, I was actually starting to get excited. My ski boots were red…just like Dorothy’s slippers in the Wizard of Oz.Yet, despite this new found excitement and a sense that perhaps I was finally starting to get with the program after all, a big part of me still felt like tapping my boots together and chanting: “There’s no place like home… There’s no place like home… There’s no place like home…” Oh to be magically transported back home to the warmth of my electric blanket, the comfort of my feathered dooner and a pile of fabulous books. Surely, it couldn’t get any better?!!

Yet, just like Michelangelo saw David inside that historic marble slab, some special kind of x-ray vision perceived just enough of a skier buried deep inside myself to resurrect some faith. I just needed to chip away the fear and I would find those skis, the poles and even a helmet and goggles. What’s more I wouldn’t have to do it alone. I had my instructor and he’d already gone backwards down the mountain for me.

You can’t ask for better than that!

By the time the car finally pulls into Jindabyne and as I inhale all that fresh mountain air, my fears have gone away.

Hey, those mountains had better watch out. I’m back and I’m about to turn them around.

xx Rowena

The Snow…An Australian Story.

Before I launch into a grand account of our ski trip, I thought I’d better introduce my overseas guests to what we Australians call (please pause and wait for the drum roll)…

“The Snow!”

No doubt, it comes as no surprise that we get very little snow in Australia and snowing itself is a rare, very exciting and even memorable event. Indeed, each and every snowflake is precious… so very, very precious!!


Most of our snow, at least on the Australian mainland, is concentrated in the Snowy Mountains, which are part of the Great Dividing Range on Australia’s East coast south of Canberra. As most of our snow falls in this region, it is colloquially known as “The Snow”. You see, there isn’t much snow anywhere else apart from the odd freak dump and that usually isn’t skiable. It’s only good for snow fights and bragging rights. Yes, snow is so rare in Australia that being able to say you’ve touched or even seen real snow is something for kids to show off about.

This lack of snow also explains our comparatively poor performances at the Winter Olympics. Although we first competed in 1936, we didn’t receive our first medal until 1998. As a nation of sporting champions, that speaks volumes. We simply don’t have sufficient access to snow to participate en masse, let alone compete.

Mount Kosciuszko01Oct06.JPG

Mt Kosciuszko looking like a an innocuous garden-variety knoll. Should we enhance Australia’s tallest mountain or perhaps we should adopt a mountain some place else? I’m actually wondering whether the magic carpet is actually steeper than this old fellow…

The Snowies culminate in Australia’s tallest mountain, Mt Kosciusko, which is something of a national embarrassment as far as tallest mountains are concerned. Looking more like a pancake than a jagged mountain peak, Mt Kosciusko clocks in at 2,228 metres above sea level. Obviously, this makes “Kozzy” little more than a pimple on the side of Mt Everest, which stands at a towering 8,848 m.

Yet, despite being so vertically challenged, some bright spark has decided to re-brand the Snowies as “The Australian Alps”. As a marketing person myself with considerable imaginative flair, I can appreciate a bit of hyperbole. However, when it comes to describing the Snowies as “alps”, somebody seriously needs to get their eyesight checked. Although our alps do have snow in winter, they’re nothing more than big hills. Actually, dressing our Snowies up as “alps” reminds me of a pre-pubescent teen strutting around in an F-cup bra with sport’s socks shoved down their front. For better or worse (depending on how steep you actually like your mountains), it’s going to take a lot more than a pair of football socks to turn the “Australian Alps” into anything like the kind of mountains Heidi calls home. No, that would take serious earth-moving equipment and even more dirt than you’d find in a British tabloid.

Don’t get me wrong. Personally, I’m more than happy with our Snowies. As the saying goes, more than a handful is a waste and I certainly found even our relatively gentle ski slopes Everest enough. They are what they are. We don’t need to call them Alps just to attract tourists. After all, not every skier wants to fly before they can crawl!

Welcome to Perisher!

Welcome to Perisher!

While there are a number of different ski resorts to choose from in both New South Wales, Victoria and also Tasmania, we ski at Perisher resort, which has a huge mass of lifts and trails sprawling in between Guthega, Blue Cow, Smiggins and Perisher itself. Most of the time, I stuck to the Magic Carpet although I skied at Blue Cow about 12 years ago and absolutely loved it. I have also skied down Perisher’s Front and Happy Valleys. I have never skied in Thredbo but understand it has steeper slopes and hence doesn’t have quite so many young kids or rank beginners on the slopes. While I met a few people who flitted between Thredbo and Perisher, we find in easier to plant ourselves at Perisher. We save money buying 5 day lift passes in advance online and we get ourselves lockers for absolutely everything so we’re not lugging stuff to and from the car every day and can juggle things like cameras, snacks and walking shoes while we’re out on the slopes.

Geoff who is obviously a much better and more experienced skier than me, loves Perisher because there is so much variety and you can ski around the resort trying different runs and says there is so much to explore. There are also 47 lifts, which makes a huge difference in being able to access a real variety of different runs. I imagine that this would be very desirable to more advanced skiers who don’t share my love affair with the magic carpet down below and actually venture out.

Snow Gums at Mid-Station, Perisher.

Snow Gums at Mid-Station, Perisher.

What the Australian ski fields might lack in altitude, we more than compensate for in beauty and unique character. You see, our snowfields are home to the snow gum, a very tenacious yet beautiful tree which somehow manages to thrive in very adverse conditions and is so different to the firs you might experience overseas. I have to admit, however, that I didn’t take in much of the scenery while I was out skiing. I was too focused on my instructor’s skis and was deliberately not looking down. I didn’t want to freak myself out!

Close-up of the beautiful colours running through snow gum bark . What a beautiful palette!

Close-up of the beautiful colours running through snow gum bark . What a beautiful palette!

I don’t know if this is unique to our ski fields and we were also lucky with the weather but even in the very depths of winter, we can have deep azure blue skies and glorious warm sunshine. It is hard to believe but it was so hot and balmy we could have been at the beach. That is, as long as we had our ski gear on. Of course, it cooled down significantly after sunset but by day we had some truly glorious weather!!

Kangaroo eating a carrot, Jindabyne.

Kangaroo eating a carrot, Jindabyne.

If you are looking for skiing kangaroos, I haven’t come across any as yet but I have definitely seen critter prints in the snow which might suggest they head out after dark. There are certainly plenty of kangaroos around the ski fields. Where we usually stay in Jindabyne, there are resident mobs of kangaroos which we’ve hand fed before heading out for a day’s skiing. They’re a real treat.

Yet, although seriously outnumbered by just about every other sport in existence, Australia too has its mad, completely obsessed skiers. However, in Australia this obsession with skiing itself is almost superseded by a fixation with the snow reports and how many centimetres and hopefully metres have fallen. This is a very serious business and every skier tries to time their ski trip at precisely the right moment to experience optimum conditions. However, there seems to be no pattern from season to season. It’s all pot luck. This feels like a serious gamble when you have to fork out big money for accommodation months in advance and there are enough short seasons where you could easily blow your dough. Yet, these wrangles with the weather are no different to booking a summer beach holiday where there’s the usual threat of rain.

Even the Cheshire Cat was out there!

Even the Cheshire Cat was out there!

While I have been talking about skiing, I must admit that there is another creature on the slopes and I’m not talking about all the cows, giraffes and other onesies lolling about.

Wild Zebra Spotted on the slopes.

Wild Zebra Spotted on the slopes.


No. I’m talking about snowboarders or “boarders”. As a skier and a beginner skier at that, I’m unable to elaborate much about them except to say that I’ve spotted boarders parked under trees and even grazing in the middle of “ski” runs. There are significant “hostilities” between skiers and boarders on the slopes, which I haven’t bought into. I am too busy focusing on my own skis and checking up and down the slope for hazards to get into anything peripheral.

My main gripe is with the behaviour of doting parents on the magic carpet. The magic carpet is Perisher’s beginner ski run and you take the carpet up the top which is easier for beginners to manage than the t-bar or chair lift. The magic carpet is an area for all beginners, not just kids and certainly is not a reserved area for parents photographing their absolutely gorgeously cute beyond all measure little cherub with their state-of-the-art camera phones. I’m sure even royal photographers are less intrusive and don’t feel they have an ordained right to knock down learner skiers in their quest for the perfect shot. After ski school finishes, these parents gather at the bottom of the slope and I mean on the slope watching their little darlings and blocking other skiers from having a run. I was actually having a lesson during all this chaos and had three runs ruined by thoughtless parents and when you are paying potentially more than $3.00 a minute, you are understandably annoyed especially as some of these parents haven’t even paid for lift passes.

Last year, we even saw a father photographing his 1 year old toddler in the middle of the magic carpet. This was really dangerous because even beginners can pick up a bit of speed but we can really struggle to stop and have trouble controlling direction. When you see a small child in your path, your natural instincts tell you to stay away. Not to hit it. For an adult to run over a child feels really, really bad even on the snowfields and even when the child’s very own parents have put them at risk. Yet, so many parents don’t seem to share my concern about the inherent risks. For some reason they become so one-eyed about their child, that they can’t see anything else. As I said, that can be very dangerous on the ski fields and even more so in the beginner’s area. Remember this is where the rank beginners are learning and while we might be able to ski down the hill, there are no guarantees we are going to stop. Skiing is a risky and dangerous sport and as much as I love photography, you do need to question whether a shot is worth the risk. Such tunnel vision has no place on a ski slope.

There are also other activities peculiar to the “mountain”. While many might associate skiing with inhaling all that beautiful fresh mountain air and increasingly your physical fitness, smoking is an activity in its own right. I seriously struggled to breathe at times with the clouds of cigarette smoke looming in outdoor areas. Some smokers were courteous, but one bloke was pointing his cigarette away from his mates and practically stuck it in my mouth. I was young once myself and had the odd cigarette but these days I feel we all have a right to clean air.

In keeping with this healthy snowstyle, you also seem to be able to fill up on beer as early as 10.30AM which is otherwise known as “beer o’clock”. These early starts aren’t just restricted to beer drinkers either. An older guy well into his 60s or 70s sat opposite me and pulled out a hip flask of whiskey around a similar time much to his wife’s horror. If you are a wife or perhaps it’s even your own father who stubbornly refuses to tow the line, but I’m you’ll appreciate just how difficult it can be to manage a naughty husband!

My budget hot chocolate with a mountain of cream to rival Mt Kosciusko.

My budget hot chocolate with a mountain of cream to rival Mt Kosciusko.

While I might be sounding like some holier than thou prude, I wasn’t much better. Beer and cigarettes weren’t my thing but I had my own poison. No matter what, I always made it up to mid-station before 10.30AM for my budget $2.50 Hot Chocolate with its luscious swirl of thick, whipped cream and two molten marshmallows. It might not give you lung cancer but it could certainly block a few arteries. So you see, I’m not such a health freak after all!

With hedonism of all kinds alive and well halfway up the mountain, who has any energy left for the après-ski?

Sounds like a hot shower or even a long soak in the tub is in order along with an early night.

Oops! That’s right. It’s only 10.30AM and I haven’t even got started yet!



Back to the Mountain…Almost!

The interesting and often challenging thing about being part of a family is that you not only get to go on your own adventures and do your own thing, but that  your family also takes you on all sorts of journeys to places you would never, ever consider going. As a result, you find yourself stretched, pulled and even contorted in all sorts of directions you never thought possible and if you don’t snap somewhere along the way, you actually stretch and grow so far beyond your perceived limitations and you emerge your own personal super hero. I understand that you might not have seen my lasoo, but I am Wonder Woman by the way!

Quite often,  I at least, find myself thrown in the deep end, way out of my depth on these adventures. Thrashing my arms around in the swirling vortex, I feel myself about to go under and yet  I somehow find my strength and go on to exceed even my wildest expectations. Amazingly, the frightened little mouse emerges from her ordeal a lion, even if my roar is still a little soft.

Family Portrait 2012- I had serious breathing troubles climbing up the hill.

Family Portrait 2012- I had serious breathing troubles climbing up the hill.

Given my struggles with my autoimmune disease which attacks my muscles and lungs, these challenges can be terrifying and intense. However,  my fear is counterbalanced by my intense desire to be an active part of our family and be able to do things with them. Sometimes, these challenges involve relatively simple things like taking the dog for a walk, walking to the shops or being able to go the park after the school. However, every now and then some big challenges come along and it doesn’t get bigger or more terrifying for me than our annual ski holiday.

The rest of the family are mad skiers who have been checking the snow reports for a few months now and started crossing down the days to our next ski trip as soon as they exited the slopes last year as green oases were opening up and the alpine streams were flowing fast.

Enjoying a Toblerone Hot Chocolate at Mid-Station, Perisher.

Enjoying a Toblerone Hot Chocolate at Mid-Station, Perisher.

I, on the other hand, prefer traveling up and down Perisher’s Front Valley on the chairlift, stopping off at mid-station for a decadent Toblerone Hot Chocolate served with a marshmallow snowman on a swizzle stick and walking through the snow taking photos. However, there was also something about the allure of skiing which sort of drew me in…no doubt, seeing how it made the rest of the family glow!

Two years ago, we took the kids skiing for the first time. They, and of course, my husband had a mad time and came home totally ski obsessed. I didn’t go skiing that time thinking that it wouldn’t be possible. This idea was challenged when we met the para-olympic ski team training down there and they put me onto the Disable Winter Sports’ Association. I don’t use a wheelchair and so there are some things they can do that I can’t.  I wasn’t sure if I’d make it down the hill in a sit chair and didn’t think I’d ever be able to pull off conventional skiing until I met my instructor. Yet, this meeting provided the initial spark.

Thank goodness  you don't have to take on the mountain alone!

Thank goodness you don’t have to take on the mountain alone!

This spark grew into something of a determined flame.

A dream was born.

I was going to turn my mountain around. Instead of climbing up the mountain like so many garden-variety adventures, I was going to do my own thing and ski down the mountain instead. I was initially going to do it as a fundraiser but in the end decided that it was too much to organise and that I was better off just making sure I reached the bottom on the mountain. You could just imagine organising some kind of huge event and then being too scared to go down and instead of being the all-conquering hero, being rescued rather red-faced by ski patrol in the ski-do.

Anyway, you’ll read in a previous post that I actually made it down to the bottom of the mountain. Of course, I didn’t feel like the conquering hero at the time. I was too busy shaking in my boots and relieved it was all over. Yet, I’d done it. I had conquered the mountain!!

However, instead of this achievement being the finale for what had been an amazing year of personal achievements, it actually signalled the beginning of a serious fight to save my life. While down at Perisher, I developed the beginnings of the chest infection which developed into pneumonia  and this pneumonia became seriously life-threatening. My lungs were almost cactus according to my specialist. The pneumonia meant new CT scans of my lungs and these showed that the scaring or fibrosis associated with my auto-immune disease had progressed and was now “established” not “mild”. This development resulted in some very serious medical appointments but then I was offered chemo which, at the time, felt like a life raft to a drowning soul. The chemo worked but it has been a long road and I’m not back yet. Lungs have improved from 43% (the worst was unrecorded) to 60% and my lung specialist was “impressed”. I don’t think he’d expected that. My muscle strength is also pretty good. Most of the problems I had relating to my auto-immune disease have improved significantly but ironically I’ve been battling “chemo brain” and have dreadful troubles with my memory and any sense of time. Multitasking of any sort is impossible. I am dependent on lists, alarms and the occasional cattle prod from Geoff, the kids or the pile of school notes.

After going through all of that and I must admit that I somehow successfully managed to squeeze my violin exam and Christmas in between it all, I am rather apprehensive about returning to the snow this year. I remember all those awful out of control feelings as my skis took off seemingly well ahead of my body and the absolute nail-biting horror of looking out from the top of the mountain and seeing the village way, way down below. I felt like I was perched on the very edge of the world about to fall off. Do I really need to go through that level of fear all over again? Isn’t doing it once and knocking it off my non-existent bucket list, enough?!!

Of course, I have replayed that horror over and over and over again as I prepare for my return to the mountain. As much as I feel like letting that fear engulf me and running as far away from the mountain as my ski boots can carry me, I’m also determined to show that mountain that I mean business. That it’s not going to get me again. I can beat the mountain and I can also take out the muscle disease, the dreaded lung disease and I am going to be so much more than a survivor. I am going to be an almighty conqueror. I’ll put in a little prayer request at this point because I need to acknowledge the one who is the wind beneath my wings. I know prayer has helped to get me where I am and I’ll certainly need it as I conquer the mountain again!

Out walking the dog preparing for our ski holiday.

Out walking the dog preparing for our ski holiday.

So I ask you to think of me as I keep walking the dog to get myself fit for this latest challenge on my journey. I have already taken so much more than the first step. I have conquered the mountain before and now all I need to do is go back. That is what it means to be brave!

I can do it!

I can do it!

I can do it!

Wish me luck!

xx Ro

PS: To all my overseas blogging mates who have real mountains to climb, you might find my angst about skiing down what could be seen as a “hill” a little petty but where I live, it is flat so even a little knoll seems significant. We can’t all have Everest in our own backyards (although I must admit, I’m sure Everest lives inside my head and challenges me each and every day as I stagger out of bed!)

PPS. I should point out that while I am more afraid of tackling the mountain this time because I have been down there before, at the same time,  I have been able to reassure myself that I am in pretty good physical shape and I can also reassure myself that because I’ve done it before, I can do it again. I will also have my instructor to help me. It’s great to know that we don’t have to conquer our mountains alone.

I am also looking forward to skiing more with Geoff and the kids hopefully beyond the learner’s magic carpet this year.

Gee…now I really am starting to sound like Wonder Woman and I might even confuse myself.



Walking with the Dog

The Journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step but then you need to keep walking…and walking… and walking.

Rowena Newton

About a month ago, I started walking the dog along the waterfront a few mornings a week.

While being able to take the dog for a walk is something many take for granted, for me it represented a humungous breakthrough! Having a muscle wasting disease which goes in and out of remission like flicking a switch, going for a walk is no longer something I take for granted. It is often a luxury, something I need to work hard at or indeed, it can also become a fairly risky activity. It would actually be safer for me to jump out of a moving plane as long as I had a parachute attached.

However, every time I read anything related to improving my physical and emotional health, exercise is always top of the list. Being the middle of winter, walking is the best form of exercise for me and our Border Collie Bilbo is only too keen to join me on the journey.

The journey of a thousand miles, begins with one paw print in the sand.

The journey of a thousand miles, begins with one paw print in the sand.

So far we’ve stayed local. We drop the kids off at school and head for the beach which has an excellent new footpath without any of those menacing cracks, which can be very nasty indeed which to the mobility challenged. The footpath monster has jumped out and grabbed my foot with its malevolent grip more than once before and I’m sure it was laughing as I fell crashing against the concrete with blood spurting skywards like a fountain. Footpath monsters are nasty psychopaths who can’t even shed a solitary tear for their innocent and often mobility-challenged prey.

Most people come here for the view. I'm here for the footpath.

Most people come here for the view. I’m here for the footpath.

Walking has really helped lift my mood and help me better deal with my lingering health issues. Not only do I benefit from all that “scientifically-proven to be good for you” stuff like endorphins but I also get out of the house, soak in and explore the view and meet loads of people. I make a point of saying hello to everyone I walk past. This is my personal rule and most other walkers do the same. Most of the time, there’s just a: “Good morning” along with perhaps a comment about the weather: “freezing”, “sunny” nothing much more. Naturally, everybody’s response is different but some people really do respond with a heart-warming smile, which stands out and resonates from the rest. Even though they’ve only said: “Good Morning”, I feel uplifted.

While the majority of people down at the beach are a motley crew of walkers with and without dogs, there’s also a foreign species in our midst…the exercise fanatic. The exercise fanatics jog or even run along in their Lycra skins with a water bottle strapped to some part of their anatomy and almost mandatory headphones over their ears. Of course, they don’t stop to say hello, wave or pat your dog. Rather, they’re pretty much in their own little worlds no doubt listening to music to try to block out the physical torture. Personally, I can’t imagine anyone enjoying jogging although I understand there are plenty of addicts out there. I’m simply not one of them.

A kindred spirit.

A kindred spirit.

However, me being me and being just a little mischievous, I’d like to sneak my own little mantra onto their MP3 players: “Eat the chocolate cake. Come on. I know how much you want it. You’ve been so good. Too good. It won’t hurt to have just a wee little bite. I know how much you want it!!”

Evil Chocolate Cake

Evil Chocolate Cake

Yes! That’s so bad, it’s good. You know, I’d even cast the serpent from the Garden of Eden to do the voice over. He has a proven track record when it comes to temptation. (When I shared this diabolical scheme with my husband, he thought it would also be a hit over the sound system at the local gym as well…Ha! Ha! Ha! Sounds like there’s real market potential for diet sabotage out there.)

Stop it, Ro! Behave yourself. Show a bit of respect.

Anyway, as I said before, due to my muscle disease, I am overjoyed just to be able walk at all. Get out of the house.

Never take that for granted.

As much I protest and claim to deplore exercise, I have noticed a huge mood shift since we’ve been going for our morning walks. Of course, there are the endorphins but we’re meeting people chatting with other dog owners and of course meeting their dogs and giving my post-chemo brain two new names to forget instead of one! We’ve now become part of the dog walking community. I love this because I’m quite a social butterfly but I’m also trying to be productive and get something done. You know how it is. I’m trying to focus on working from home (my writing) and get the house sorted out and organize the kids and often recover from their morning antics (battles over iPads, refusals to eat, eat dressed and wondering how supposedly intelligent children can’t close the front door behind them without at least a reminder…or 10!) This way I can get some exercise. Have a chat and can be sitting at my desk by 9.30 AM.

I feel cold just even looking at the photo. The sky was icy white with barely a shade of grey.

I feel cold just even looking at the photo. The sky was icy white with barely a shade of grey.

A few days ago, I was seriously struggling to get motivated for our walk. The day beforehand, it had been windy, raining and absolutely bleak and freezing. This particular morning, the weather wasn’t looking any better and the entire sky was coloured-in a very pale and chilly shade of grey. To be honest, I was seriously thinking of just going straight home, diving back into bed, switching my electric blanket onto super roast and hibernating for the day. A warm bed on a cold day seemed to extinguish any thoughts of persistence, perseverance or any other motivational rubbish.

However, I heard a small voice somehow whispering to me through the wind telling me to get out there. Saying that even if we only go for a short walk, that would be better than nothing. I wouldn’t be surprised if the dog was exercising his powers of telepathy. Dogs are good at that…especially border collies. They might have been bred to round up sheep, but are just as good at rounding up people.

Looks a bit moody but still good.

Looks a bit moody but still good.

Well, there I was walking the dog along the windswept, frozen beach. Of course, it was like a scene from a Jane Austen novel, except in an Australian context although the sun was valiantly trying to poke its head through the clouds. It was nowhere near as bleak as the previous day, which cheered me up a bit and we got underway.

Then, as John Lennon said:

Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.

Further down the beach, we ran into our old friend Sam the Old English Sheepdog who is such a beautiful dog. I always feel like rushing up to him and giving him a huge hug because we used to have an Old English Sheepdog and I still miss him, even though he was a crazy mutt we’d rescued from the pound.

Our son and Rus our Old English Sheepdog back in 2006.

Our son with Rufus, our Old English Sheepdog, back in 2006.

Anyway, it was Sam’s Dad’s birthday and a few dog walkers were all down at the beach drinking champagne and devouring the most lusciously sweet, hugest strawberries I’ve seen in awhile. The next thing I know, it’s 9.00am and there I am drinking champagne and orange juice and feasting on a strawberry with near strangers and being treated like a princess. It absolutely made my day!!! It was the best medicine I’d had in ages.

Hmm…I’d never considered intravenous champagne as a treatment option before but it certainly has appeal. That said, I don’t really drink alcohol and it is the first time I’ve ever had champagne for breakfast.

That’s why it felt so good. For once, Mummy was being naughty and I loved being in time out!

Have you been out exercising at all lately? Perhaps, after Christmas in July, there should be another round of New Year’s resolutions so all our best intentions can get another kick start.

So I’ll keep an eye out for you bright and early in the morning hail, rain or shine and who knows what champagne will be waiting for us just around the corner?!!

xx Ro

Look what I spotted at the beach today...another good incentive for getting out of bed and to keep walking!

Look what I spotted at the beach today…another good incentive for getting out of bed and to keep walking!

John Lennon: When I grow up…

“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”

John Lennon

Photo: Jack Mitchell, Wikipedia commons.

Shock! Horror! My Kids Actually Eat!

This afternoon I was so excited. I’d finally got something right.My two little cherubs were sitting down at the kitchen table eating their home-made Pumpkin Soup with fingers of wholemeal toast and they couldn’t get enough.

Alleluia! Talk about a breakthrough! 

Most of the time, getting our kids to eat anything seems to be a nightmare. That is unless it involves Tim Tams. We have breakfast nightmares trying to get our daughter to eat her Weetbix. Lunch boxes returning home full.Rejecting Master Chef Matt Moran’s sumptuous Flourless Nutella Cake. Chocolate Chip and Macadamia Nut Cookies are even “yuck”.

They are living proof that kids can survive on air.

I can’t tell you how I’ve felt over the years having meal after meal rejected by my kids along with scrumptious cakes, biscuits. Pouring out my love  as I cook, yet they reject it like poison. Not just the like of Brussels Sprouts but even chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cake although they do love Apple Crumble, Rice Pudding, pancakes and Butter Chicken.  

Parents, no doubt since the dawn of time, have been banging their heads against brick walls trying to get their kids to eat, feeding them stories of starving children in Africa or poor children whose parents can’t afford to give them any dinner whatsoever. I tell my kids that other kids only get tinned spaghetti  on burned toast for dinner. They’re not given the likes of roast lamb with crunchy roast potato, sweet potato and pumpkin (roasted in olive oil, garlic, mustard and fresh rosemary-not lamb fat).

However, yesterday after school, they both dived into the homemade pumpkin soup I had somehow prepared the night before like one of those TV cooking chefs with the teams of fairies living in their kitchens. This sort of thing doesn’t happen very often around here but I’m trying to lift my game and plan ahead. Have something healthy and ready to go when they get home from school so they don’t head for the biscuits in the pantry before I can rein them in.

This is probably only the 3rd or fourth time that I’ve made Pumpkin Soup and I really am feeling rather slack for not making it more often. My goodness, here I am complaining about the kids not eating and here is a tried and tested favourite. They love it..particularly our son. He absolutely loves it and my mother has been feeding him Pumpkin Soup for years. I must say I find peeling and cutting up all the pumpkin rather tedious although I can’t quite get my head around making it Jamie Oliver style and leaving the skin on my butternut pumpkin.

Anyway, if you would like to make fairly our traditional version of pumpkin soup, you can click through to this previous post:

It comes highly recommended.

xx Rowena

Flying Inside a Veritable Mosquito.

When psychologists and all sorts of other mental and physical health experts (who usually have a swag of impressive letters after their names) say that scouting develops resilience, they’re usually talking about the kids.

However, last weekend just goes to prove that scouting also stretches the parents well beyond their comfort zones into unexplored territories of fear. That’s apparently what it means to build resilience…you feel the fear but somehow manage to slay the beast and bury it somewhere in your backyard.

A stunning sunrise over Brisbane Waters as the cubs prepare to leave base on their big adventure.

A stunning sunrise over Brisbane Waters as the cubs prepare to leave base on their big adventure.

You see, last Saturday my husband and the kids went flying with the cubs while I stayed home.

Now, I’m not talking about “flying” as in running very fast or leaping off the roof of the scout hall doing some kind of Superman manoeuvres. They’re the sort of antics reserved for Detol commercials and such like!

No! Instead, Geoff and the kids went up in the sky in a real, live airplane. An airplane which I have since code named: “the Mosquito”. I don’t know what I was expecting in the way of aircraft but it was definitely something approaching half the size of a commercial jumbo jet with some kind of full-body airbag or parachute attached. After all, isn’t the Scout motto: “Be prepared”?!!

The Little Prince

The Little Prince

Unfortunately, I was unable to go flying with them myself. Rather than being a case of scaredy-cat-itis, I have hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain) so I have a shunt in my head which I understand doesn’t really like changes in pressure. We didn’t have much notice about the trip and seats were limited so I didn’t have time to check the ins and outs of it all. Rather, I simply waved the family off before sunrise and returned to the comfort of my electric blanket and feather doona and had a big sleep-in instead. It is the middle of winter in Australia and we are experiencing freezing, Antarctic conditions, which means the temperature is anything below 18®C. We Aussies can cope with the roasting summer heat but we shrivel up and almost die, as I said, when it is “cold”. So at this time of year, we’re all happily hibernating underneath our doonas and the invading hoards can completely overrun the place. We wouldn’t even notice they were here unless they turned off the heater or our electronic devices.

While this plane might look safe, it actually crashed and broke a wing.

While this plane might look safe, it actually crashed and broke a wing.

Anyway, while the rest of the family was out flying, I did the next best thing. I was reading about, thinking about and even inhaling the joys of flight while I was writing in my journal. Quite a few years ago, we had been to a wonderful exhibition where scientists had built models from Leonardo Da Vinci’s drawings and we gained a real appreciation of his absolute obsession with flying.



I contemplated Da Vinci’s love of flight: “Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been, and there you long to return”.

Of course, I pictured the kids arriving home with their necks permanently craned up towards at the sky.

Then I jumped online and thought I’d check out the Scout Flying Centre and see what type of plane they were flying in.

That was where my heart fell out of the sky and came well and truly crashing down to earth.

It wasn’t a plane. It was a mosquito!

The Mosquito in shadow. I loved this shot. Well done Geoff!

The Mosquito in shadow. I loved this shot. Well done Geoff!

The plane was miniscule Cessna C172…a 4 seater with only one engine.

One engine meant there wasn’t a Plan B.

Moreover, with a plane that small, there was no room for the kind of airbag or full-plane parachute I was considering, although I guess the plane was small enough to somehow break its landing in a tree…

Such is the power of positive thinking!

Yet, as much as I was a bit rattled, I was the one encouraging the rest of the family to go. I wanted them to carpe diem seize the day and you can’t do that from the safety of your couch or by wrapping everyone up in so much bubble wrap that they can’ t even move. This might be a different application of the saying but “if you love someone, set them free”. As much as you need to protect your children, you also need to give them the space and encouragement to grow up and stretch their own wings!! In other words, they need to become independent and actually grow up!

At the same time, a part of me did wonder whether they really had to go flying in such a small aircraft to experience the whole carpe diem thing, especially in light of recent devastating aviation catastropies?!!

Apparently, the answer was a resounding: “yes!”.

Of course, they didn’t ring me to let me know they had all touched down safely and there were no photos beamed through to my phone so I could be a part of the experience. However, I did call them. The first time, they hadn’t gone up yet and the second time they were on their way home on the bus already. Phew!

Thankfully, the first phone call informed me that Geoff and the kids weren’t going to be on the same flight. Geoff and Jonathon were going up together and Miss was going up with a buddy. That was a bit of a relief but I was still looking forward to that phone call to say they were all safely back on terra firma and on their way home.

Geoff and Mister about to climb onboard.

Geoff and Mister about to climb onboard.

Apparently, the plane took off from Camden and they went on about a 20 minute flight out to Warragamba Dam out in the foothills of the Blue Mountains. Geoff and Mister went together while Miss went with another girl and her Dad. Their plane was called “CFI” which in airplane talk becomes “Charlie Foxtrot India”. Aparently, Geoff kept getting in trouble for referring to it by its initials only. Geoff told me the boys were full of enthusiasm and it was a case of “Look! Look! Look!” They were so excited! Mister, who is 10, commented on how the view reminded him of looking at a model train layout, which also has an aerial perspective. Miss, who is 8, said they had gone to the Blue Mountains and it looked like “pillow land”. She was amazed at how quickly they managed to get there. It took them 15 minutes, whereas it takes a couple of hours’ drive from home. I should point out that the kids haven’t been on a plane since they were too young to remember so this is their first memory of flying.

Flying over Warragamba Dam. Can't see Nessy but everybody knows she's shy!

Flying over Warragamba Dam. Can’t see Nessy but everybody knows she’s shy!

In addition to these sightings, I also heard about a reported sighting of the Loch Ness Monster in Warragamba Dam, which holds Sydney’s water supply (so you could say it is a rather thirsty sort of beast!) This could, of course, explain the frequent water shortages…

French Pilot and enigmatic writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

French Pilot and enigmatic writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

While you could dismiss this sighting as childish imagination, Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s enigmatic classic: The Little Prince reminds us that children have a different perspective on things and who are we to say who is right and who is wrong? I guess he is the “I” in the story, who talks about how he drew a picture of a boa constrictor swallowing an elephant as a child, which adults dismissed as a hat. When he explained his drawing, the adults told him not to waste his time with such nonsense:

“The grown-ups’ response, this time, was to advise me to lay aside my drawings of boa constrictors, whether from the inside or the outside, and devote myself instead to geography, history, arithmetic and grammar. That is why, at the age of six, I gave up what might have been a magnificent career as a painter. I had been disheartened by the failure of my Drawing Number One and by my Drawing Number Two. Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things[1]”.

LIttle Prince Boa Constrictor

St Exupery strongly believed in the power of the imagination to achieve greatness:

“A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing with in him the image of a cathedral”

Michelangelo had a similar vision. Talking about his famous the statue of David, he remarked:

“I saw an angel in the marble and I carved until I set him free.”


That doesn’t mean that I’m suggesting or even purporting that Nessy has gone and packed her bags and somehow relocated to warmer pastures!

I’m just saying that we have to be gentle with a child’s vision and all that they may or might not see and carefully nurture their dreams and visions. Given this little bit of faith, you never know how far they’ll grow! We don’t need to stamp all over them just because we’re “right”.

By the time the flight crew arrived home, they were tired and cranky. Their necks weren’t craning permanently to the sky longing to return. After such an early pre-dawn start, there was only one place for this flight crew to go…bed!

Sweet dreams!

xx Ro

[1] de Saint-Exupery, Antoine; The Little Prince, New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1971 p 2.

Too Much Chocolate Temptation!!!!

After indulging on Chocolate Caramel Slice all last week, I was going to be good this week. Perhaps against my better judgment, I decided not to turn my kitchen into a veritable Chocolate Caramel Slice factory by pumping out the next batch as soon as the last piece evaporated with my cup of tea. I decided to wait.

You see, I had become a new, reformed woman. Yes, even I was capable of some self-restraint and could also redefine chocolate as a “sometimes food”.

Restraint on the chocolate front is a new and particularly foreign concept for me. However, while doing my food and cooking research, I kept reading that chocolate is a “sometimes food” and after awhile, I had an attack of the guilts. Even this chocoholic was going to reform.

Although “sometimes” might mean occasionally, unfortunately when it comes to having a sweet, chocolaty treat, I am what you would call more of a “frequent flyer”. Try as I might, that late night sugar craving hits and I forget that I’d had a Tim Tam yesterday or Chocolate Caramel Slice all last week. I want chocolate and I want it now!! Believe me, depriving me of chocolate will result in a tantrum which makes Gordon Ramsey look like a purring, little pussy cat!

So here I was at home on Saturday night minding my own business and trying to be good. As you could probably appreciate, I’m not that good at being good. Yes, it’s confession time. There I was playing online Scrabble again and checking out puppies for sale on the side. While puppies aren’t chocolate or Chocolate Caramel Slice, I’m not supposed to be looking at puppies at the moment either but how can I resist? They’re just too cute. Besides, it’s not my fault. It’s all those terrible online advertisers who know the very weakest point in your Achilles heel and flash it up at you in a way you can’t resist. I looked up puppies once or twice on Gumtree and now they come and visit me every single day. It’s not my fault!

So there I was playing online Scrabble and looking at puppies when along came an invitation to get this app which provides you with endless recipes, shopping lists and all sorts of cooking info. Isn’t it cruel the way advertisers flash evil temptation at you when you’re practicing self-restraint?!! Before I knew it, this chocolate-starved, weak-willed chocoholic had succumbed yet again. I was whizzing up a chocolate cake.

This is how I came across this recipe for Flourless Nutella Cake. This recipe only required eggs and Nutella and took about 30 minutes to cook. Such almost instant gratification was too hard to resist. 1, 2, 3 and that cake was in the oven and the countdown was on.

Well, it wasn’t quite 1, 2,3. I had to beat the eggs up and heat the Nutella in the microwave and mix it all together. All that might have taken about 10 minutes but it was all very easy peasy and the results look truly professional. You would never guess that there were only 2 ingredients.

A close-up of inside the cake.

A close-up of inside the cake.

The kids were in bed when I made this but I’m fairly sure they could make it themselves with just a bit of supervision around the microwave and of course making sure the Nutella actually ends up in the cake and not in their tummies instead. I do try to limit how much Nutella the kids eat as it is definitely a sometimes food. A word of caution regarding nut allergies… Nutella contains hazelnuts.

So here is the adapted version…


The cake in its tin

The cake in its tin.

Flourless Nutella Cake Version 1.1

Based on recipe by Matt Moran, Masterchef.


6 large eggs

360g Nutella.


  1. Preheat oven to 175C. Grease a round 21 cm springform or standard cake tin with spray oil and line with baking paper. I used a standard cake tin and it was fine.
  2. Crack eggs into a medium sized mix master bowl and beat on the highest speed until the eggs have tripled in volume, which should take 3- 6 minutes.
  3. Using a set of kitchen scales, weigh and measure out the Nutella. This is quite a messy business but finger-licking good! Probably best measuring it into a medium-sized glass bowl which then goes into the microwave to 20-40 seconds to soften the Nutella up.
  4. Add 1/3 whisked eggs to the softened Nutella and gently fold it in until well combined. The mix should turn dark brown. Add another 1/3 eggs and fold in. Repeat with remaining 1/3 eggs. Ideally, the Nutella will mix through easily but when I made it the Nutella was still firm and not mixing well so I returned the batter to the mixmaster and beat it carefully on a slow setting for a few minutes until the mix was dark brown and well mixed. It didn’t seem to do it any harm.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pan and place in the oven to bake until cooked through, about 20-40 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely before removing from pan.
  6. I served it up with fresh strawberries and it could also like a dollop of cream but doesn’t need it.
  7. You could also dust a little icing sugar over the top.



I haven’t mentioned that I used to work in market research and so every time I dish up one of my new cooking creations or indeed “experiments”, I grill the family to get their detailed opinions. They’ve now come to understand that “good” and “nice” or especially “yuck” don’t cut the mustard. I need detail and they have become much more expressive.

Unfortunately, when I asked everyone what they thought about the Flourless Nutella Cake, it turned out that the rest of the family didn’t share my enthusiasm. My daughter said: “It tastes like egg.” She didn’t finish her piece. Our son said it needed icing. My husband wasn’t sure about the texture and didn’t really feel that it tasted chocolaty enough. He found the taste a bit vague. To be fair, I don’t think he’s tried many flourless chocolate cakes.

I am thinking of making it again and adding more Nutella…say 1-2 tablespoons.

I wonder if I’m the only mother in existence whose kids are so fussy about their chocolate cake?

How about you give it a whirl and let me know how it goes!

XX Rowena

The Ultimate Lunchbox Solution…Chook Rissoles with Buried Treasure.

I swear if I find one more lunchbox with the kids’ sandwiches untouched, I’m going to combust. Go stark raving mad and absolutely bonkers. Bonkersbonkers!

Sensing and perhaps identifying with my overall frustration, you’ll understand that this isn’t a rare event. Our son usually eats his sandwiches but our daughter is an unrepentant recidivist. She is 8 years old and if I’m lucky, she might eat half a sandwich. More commonly, however, I’ll find that tell-tale “mouse” bite out of one half of otherwise untouched sandwiches. Most of the time, however, they’ve been left completely untouched. That’s right. We’re talking pure neglect! (Of course, we all know that neglecting to eat your school lunch should be a criminal offense. I’m not sure who makes the laws or whether it is worth marching to Parliament House over this issue but my bag’s packed. I’m halfway out the door!)

Day after day, month after month, this little scenario continues. Mum dutifully makes the sandwiches each morning. Child ignores or refuses to eat said sandwiches. They come home. Prior to his visit to the vet a few years ago, the dog was getting the leftover sandwiches and I swear that two years later, he can still identify a lunchbox. My children barely eat and our dog barely stops! His ribs still bear testament to those uneaten lunches.

Anyway, now that I’m getting back on my feet again after my recent health setbacks and have been teaching the kids how to cook, I’ve revisited the school lunchbox. This afternoon I spotted some chicken mince in the supermarket and with fresh resolve, I adlibbed chicken rissoles for the kids lunchboxes tomorrow and my husband even gets some to take to work.

These rissoles were made with what I had to hand at home. I didn’t have any coriander at home today but I think that would make a wonderful addition. The whole idea with this recipe is that you add the veggies you like and then add some breadcrumbs, eggs and cheese to the chicken mince. As this combo will be a bit slushy, just thicken it up with flour until the mix forms a fairly solid lump. This took at least half a cup of flour when I made them, although I was pouring the flour straight in and judging by feel when the consistency was right.

A word of warning concerning food safety when cooking using raw chicken. Raw chicken is a breeding ground for Salmonella bacteria. Please ensure you wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after touching raw chicken and before touching something else. It’s all very well to spread your love around but you need to keep bacteria contained. I also wear disposable gloves while mixing the mince and make sure I have all the ingredients ready to go in so I’m not tempted to grab ingredients with contaminated fingers.

When sending the rissoles to school, it would be a good idea to send them along with a freezer brick or frozen drink, again to reduce the risk of food poisoning.

I’ve called this recipe: “Chook Rissoles with Buried Treasure”. “Chook” is what we Australians call chickens and it was my nickname back at school so it seemed appropriate. The “buried treasure” is, of course, all those hidden veggies although if your kids help with making the rissoles by perhaps grating the veggies, they’ll know they’re in there. However, I’m sure when they smell these tasty rissoles, they’ll just “2, 4, 6, 8…Bog in. Don’t wait”.

chicken rissoles

Chicken Rissoles with Buried Treasure

Chook Rissoles with Buried Treasure


1 kilo raw chicken mince, preferable organic

¼ cup oil

1 onion

3-4 mushrooms

1 zucchini, grated

1 carrot, grated

1 cup grated tasty cheese

1 cup approx fresh bread crumbs (a good use for left over bread!)

2 eggs, beaten

Splash of soy sauce

Dash of sweet chilli sauce


Disposable gloves

Could also add coriander or other fresh herbs and some red capsicum would also taste great.



  1. When it comes to making the rissoles, you will be pan-frying the onion, garlic and mushrooms and the remaining ingredients will be going directly into a large bowl with the raw chicken mince.
  2. Taking a chopping board and sharp knife, dice the onion and mushrooms, keeping them separate. They will be heading for the frying pan.
  3. Grate the zucchini and carrot. The cheese can be bought pre-grated or you can grate it now. Add the zucchini, carrot and cheese to a large mixing bowl.
  4. Turn the hot plate onto medium to high heat. Using a large, heavy frying pan, add the oil and heat until it is starting to sizzle.
  5. Add the diced onions and garlic and fry until slightly browned and then add the mushrooms. Fry until light brown in colour. Then add to the mixing bowl.
  6. Using a blender or other device, pulverise a few slices of bread to make breadcrumbs. I probably added about a cup full although I didn’t measure them precisely. Add to the mixing bowl.
  7. Pour about half a cup of flour into a cup and keep to hand. You don’t want to be touching the bag of flour with chicken mince hands. Remember, you do not want to be spreading those raw chicken germs and the potential for Salmonella all around your kitchen.
  8. Crack two eggs into a bowl and whisk with a fork and keep to hand.
  9. Add the chicken mince to the mixing bowl.
  10. Add the beaten eggs to the rissole mix along with sauces.
  11. Put on a pair of disposable plastic gloves and start kneading through the mix making sure all the ingredients are thoroughly combined. The mixture will be quite sloppy at this point.
  12. Add plain flour until the mix thickens up and gains a solid, dough-like consistency.
  13. It is now ready to cook.
  14. Heat the oil.
  15. Take handfuls of the chicken and veggie mix and roll it in your hands to make balls and add to the frying pan. When the pan is full, place the remaining rissoles on a large dinner plate or plastic chopping board. You can now remove the gloves and wash your hands thoroughly.
  16. Return to the frying pan. With the hotplate on medium heat, fry the rissoles until they are well browned on both sides. I put the lid on over the top. Cook thoroughly.


We had a sample for dinner tonight and my daughter loved them. She seemed very keen. I can only hope she is equally enthusiastic when she opens her lunchbox tomorrow.

I would like to try making these again with some fresh coriander and even some chopped macadamia nuts. You could also add frozen peas or corn kernels to the mix. It is very flexible but you do need to ensure all the ingredients can bind together.

This recipe certainly received a big thumbs up at our place!

Bon Appetite!

Xx Rowena

PS I’ll give you a little laugh at my expense. I forgot to pack my daughter’s lunch this morning after going to all the trouble of making the rissoles and running very late with last night’s dinner. A friend drops the kids off on Fridays so I can rest and so I was fully in lounging round the house in my PJs mode and I needed to apply a cattle prod to go out. I thought she had netball this morning and so went via school off to the local netball courts and back to school again. It was quite a tour for that very precious lunchbox.

So if my daughter doesn’t eat her lunch today after all of that effort, I’m going to…Well, I’ll surely think of something. Dear me! How long can I blame the chemo for what my elderly grandfather used to call his “good forgettery”?