• Blog

    Advice for my daughter on turning 16


    cake and candlesToday is my daughter’s 16th birthday. As a parent that’s a crazy thing to process. CRAZY!

    I remember my own 16th birthday very clearly. I was an exchange student in the USA…I had brought presents from home that I didn’t even sneak a peek at for the month I had them. I sat on the bed and opened them alone. Then I got in a station wagon with 13 other people (highly illegal I’m sure) as my then host-family drove us from Boston to New York City. It was nuts.

    It was also part of a grand adventure. And isn’t that what life is supposed to be? Shouldn’t it be a wonderful journey full of crazy memories, good friends and exciting challenges?

    So here is my advice for my daughter on her 16th birthday – some of which I’ve followed and some of which I should have.

    1. Start at YES.
    Don’t have your first impulse when asked a question or offered an opportunity be NO. Please let it be YES.
    Say “Yes” even if it’s a soft yes followed by, “now how can I make that work for me?” Yes people have the most fun.

    2. Don’t be afraid.
    People will try and tell you the world is a horrible, scary place full of bad people and dark forces. Ignore that. Ignore those people. Don’t let fear be your guide. That doesn’t mean don’t use common sense. Don’t go looking for trouble but don’t assume trouble is looking for you either. Trouble has bigger fish to fry.

    Most people are basically decent – even the ones you don’t agree with – approach people with that attitude/idea in mind and in my experience, at least, they treat you with decency. So get out there and meet new people, try new things and have adventures.

    3. It is okay to make mistakes.
    If you’re not making mistakes you’re not doing it right. Remember when I took you ice-skating and I said “If you won’t let go of the edge, if you don’t risk falling down you won’t be able to skate?” Well, that applies to lots of areas of life. As we like to say here “Have a crack, kid.” You don’t get good at things or even mediocre (and that’s okay as well for lots of things – better to be a mediocre player than not on a team) without trying and sometimes you will fail when you try. That’s okay.

    4. Be more like your father
    Your father doesn’t give a toss what anyone thinks of him. Your father throws himself into everything and he has a crack.
    He lives in the moment (yes we all know that annoys the snot out of me but that doesn’t mean he’s wrong). Be friendly, be kind, be happy and act as if everyone is lucky to make your acquaintance, because they are. You’re awesome.

    5. Ignore the haters
    Negative people are unhappy people. If anyone throws hate your way just remember – they have to live with themselves and you get to walk away. You’re not going to like everyone and that’s okay but don’t be a hater and ignore those that are. They’re not worth the energy. (I’m not saying let people treat you badly but don’t put too much energy or thought into anyone who does.)

    6.Friends are important
    Friendship is a rare and nebulous thing. You’ll be amazed at who will stay in your life and who will drift out of it. You’ll be blown away by what people treasure about you and why people are drawn to you. Be friendly and make lots of friends that nourish the different parts of who you are – friends to dance with, friends to cry with, friends to share hobbies and travels with – sometimes one person is all these things and sometimes you have friends for a reason or a season. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket – or pin all your hopes on one person – the world is full of amazing and interesting people, try and get to know as many as you can.

    7. Trust your instincts
    If it doesn’t feel right don’t do it. If your instincts tell you a situation is off, then go with your gut. Your gut is almost always right. (It’s not as reliable as your mother who we know is always right – okay that might not be true – but it probably is). Learn to listen to it and honour it. (As a teenager especially there’s a lot of pressure to go with the mob – the mob is definitely not as smart as your gut, that doesn’t mean never run with the mob, just pick your moments).

    8.You are loved
    On any given day please know that there is a whole community of people on this planet that love you (Okay none of them love you as much as I do but they really do love you.) We all have days where we feel sad and lonely and rather tragic and that’s okay, normal even, but you are never alone because there are people near and far who adore you.

    9. Nobody gets to touch you without your permission
    I know you know this but remember it. Not a friend, not an enemy, not a man, woman, adult or child is allowed to touch you without your say so. If anyone is in your space – even a little too close- tell them to back off and if necessary use that back belt in karate you earned. (I’m sure it won’t be necessary but that’s a handy skill to have).
    (See above trust your instincts)

    10. I’ve got your back
    Not in a crazy vigilante way – you know that’s not exactly how – I roll but I’m here for you unconditionally. You are my greatest joy. I want you to have all the good things you want (except maybe not the piercings and tattoos if I’m totally honest) and I will try and help you get them. I will help you dream, I will encourage you, I will laugh with you (and sometimes at you), I will lift you up and I will always be your soft place to fall.



    Pamela Cook
    8/15/2016 07:11:23 pm

    Beautiful Monique. I got all choked up at the end.

  • Blog

    One the occasion of my daughter turning 14 years and one day


    Charlottes FeetI don’t usually do personal posts but today I am making an exception.

    My daughter was born fourteen years and one day ago.

    Everyone talks about the memories of the day their child was born which, of course, is a huge day. There is so much anticipation, so much waiting and then what an outcome! I have lots of memories of the day she was born and like many children she loves that story and it has been oft repeated.

    Where my waters broke (hardware store), how we then went to the hospital and they said I had to go for a walk to start labour (didn’t help), how we went out to dinner (still no action), how we watched Forrest Gump on the television (that’s why she liked Bubba Gump’s restaurants in America), how I spent the night alone at the maternity ward (super weird). She knows she was born at 6pm and that she was just over 6 pounds. She knows that I was in the shower when my parents arrived and that my husband had her tiny little self wrapped so tight my mother thought she’d been born without legs (probably would have mentioned that on the phone). She knows who visited that night (my folks and my sister and her husband and her 3 month old cousin) and she knows that I simply couldn’t sleep because I had to keep looking at her – and her legs of course.

    So that was an amazing day twenty four hours.

    This however is the story of the day after she was born which I will always remember as one of the loveliest days of my life. (Let’s face it the result is fabulous but lovely isn’t a phrase I would use to describe labour).

    Before I go on, you need some background. I only have one child. I refer to her as my miracle. The miracle is not in her ongoing fabulousness but in the fact she exists at all. After a period of time best forgotten, I was told more than likely I wasn’t going to be able have kids. This was devastating for me, because I absolutely, one hundred percent wanted them. It was even more devastating because my husband is a kid magnet. He’s never met a kid he didn’t want to dangle by their ankles, chase around the yard or give a piggy back to. (In fact, true story, when we visit friends with small children they’re pretty sure he’s only come over to play with them, and so are their parents). So I layered that on the already large mound of Catholic guilt and sadness.

    We were so convinced that we weren’t having them that we had a plan B which was fully worked out and involved moving to Europe (partly so I didn’t have to watch all my friends have kids). At the time we didn’t tell many people because it was sad and depressing and that’s not who we are. (And to be honest couldn’t discuss it without crying) And then we got pregnant and it was amazing. That euphoria was followed by the pregnancy from hell. The first twenty plus weeks carrying a plastic bucket everywhere and the last eight weeks, having Braxton Hick’s contractions every 10 minutes.

    What we knew then were two things. I wasn’t good at getting pregnant or being pregnant. Still, we didn’t care because we were going to have a baby and we knew the odds were we were only having one so damn if we weren’t going to be grateful.

    Anyway the day after my baby was born I sat in the hospital holding this perfect little human and waited. I waited for visiting hours because I knew that people were coming. I knew that the minute they could there would be people bursting through that door to meet her. It wasn’t about me (maybe a little) but it was about her.

    And I wasn’t disappointed. There was my friend Kylie who waited with her face pressed to the glass of Australia’s fanciest baby shop till they opened to buy her the perfect outfit (which I still have), there was another friend who brought the baby some divine hot-pink sunglasses (which we still have) because what day old baby doesn’t need sunnies? There was my grandmother who came with my aunt and my 11 year-old cousin, who co-incidentally I had been a nanny for years earlier (which fed my love of infants). My grandmother was just shy of 90 at the time and lucky for us it was a lovely, tiny baby that even frail old ladies could lift and carry. Lucky for us it was a pretty big room. It even had a rocking chair nanna sat in to cuddle the baby.

    You get the idea. And still they kept coming. School friends, college friends, relatives…

    That tiny little human got handed to everyone in the room. She didn’t cry and she didn’t fuss and (neurotic mother of only child that I am) I was deliriously happy about that.

    Some of the faces are a little blurry now, but the feeling and certain moments of that day shine like crystal in my memory. It was a day of love and joy. It was a welcoming to the human race. It was a celebration of her arrival. It was a show of community.

    It was love.

    I’ve always felt that day stamped the way that the people in our lives would treat her. Almost without exception the people in that room are still in our lives. Almost without exception their faces still light up at the sight or the mention of her. Many of them acknowledged her birthday yesterday.

    Some of those people even though they’re in their forties and she certainly isn’t she describes as friends even now.

    You can’t protect your child from the pains of growing up. You can’t stop the bullies or the mean girls. You can’t make their decisions for them and you certainly can’t change them (even if you wanted to).

    For me knowing that however the rest of the world treats her she was welcomed in a circle of love has always given me strength and comfort, hopefully for her it’s done the same.



    Melissa Dary
    8/12/2014 08:08:33 pm

    That’s beautiful Monique, it brought a tear to my eye and a lump in my throat. Xx
    8/12/2014 08:25:22 pm

    Thanks Melissa. 🙂

    8/12/2014 10:06:20 pm

    Our daughters share a birthday (seven years apart)! What a wonderful post. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that each and every child is a miracle. Both of my children had difficult births, and I can’t help but think about that on their birthdays, thankful that they are healthy and happy. Happy birthday!

    8/13/2014 03:18:15 am

    Aw, I’m all choked up by this lovely story! Your family may be small but it is very very special, Monique!
    8/13/2014 09:13:42 am

    So true Kathryn, I think we (especially in the West) with modern day medicine sometimes forget that every baby is a miracle to be treasured and that not all of them make the journey here safely. And happy 7 years and 1 day to your daughter 🙂
    8/13/2014 09:14:47 am

    Thanks Mary. They do say good things come in small packages so I hope that applies to us.
    8/13/2014 09:15:21 am

    P.S For some reason the silly website won’t let me fix that heading…so ANNOYING:)

    Imelda Evans
    8/14/2014 02:54:09 pm

    I hear you Monique. Our blessing girl is also surrounded by love and we are ever grateful. Happy birthday to your girl!

  • Blog

    Happy New Year and a ‘Taste of Tuesday’


    Sydney Harbour Fireworks over Opera HouseIt’s already January 1st in my corner of the universe and it’s Tuesday.

    This year I’m starting a new weekly post on Tuesday’s called “A Taste of Tuesday”. I’m inviting authors to submit an extract or a taste of their novel, answer a few food related questions and include a recipe – maybe one that relates to their novel or something they eat to get themselves through writer’s block…something related.

    So I thought I’d go first.

    Taste of Tuesday – a food-related author interview

    1. Do you prefer sweet or savoury foods (ie cheese or chocolate)?
    Easy for me I’m a savoury girl all the way. Look for me by the dip or cheese at a party.

    2. Red wine or white? (wine obviously)
    Red baby…though good champagne will never be refused.

    3. Do you have a favourite food memory?
    I have a couple. When I was a child my grandmother made an apple pie she called an Apple Charlotte. It was a pie with a very short crust and also it had chocolate icing..it sounds weird but it was heaven. She used to visit us when Iw as little and bring it to my house just for me on a ferry and two trains. I don’t think it is a coincidence my daughter is called Charlotte.

    My most amazing meal ever taste-wise was in a tiny hold in the wall family restaurant in Assisi, Italy. I ate truffle pasta and it was heavenly.

    4. Does food feature in your novel(s)?
    In Mr Right and Other Mongrels Allegra likes to cook organic, in Hearts Afire the lovely Cassie is a caterer and in my next novel Alphabet Dating Serena has an obsession with soups, so I would have to say – yes!

    5. What recipe are you sharing with us and why?
    I’m cheating. I actually have my own food blog so I’m going to add the link. You can pop on over to see lots of my favourite recipes…for example today I’m making the ribs featured on the site!

    (I’ll come back and do a new post here on Taste of Tuesday when Alphabet Dating is released).

    Excerpt -Mr Right and Other Mongrels

    My mother, however, was going nowhere. Worse than that she kept leering at Teddy, which simply made me uncomfortable.

    I really didn’t know what was going on with Teddy and me but I surely didn’t want anything going on between Teddy and Moonbeam.

    “Teddy, do you want to help me get some dinner together?”

    “No Allegra, he can stay and keep me company.” She was good.

    “How about we both help Ally out.” What a guy.

    So we piled into my small kitchen with her standing a bit too close to Teddy for my liking.

    “So what are we having?”

    “Potato gnocchi with tomato sauce and a salad.”

    “Cool, what can I do?’

    I had already cooked the potatoes so I put Teddy to work mashing them. And I pulled down a jar of sauce I had made from organic tomatoes earlier in the summer and put it on to simmer.

    Teddy looked at me quizzically “You jar your own sauce?”

    “Uhmm yes”. I was always kind of embarrassed by my love of cooking. It makes me seem like a possessed potential housewife or something. I mean I know you don’t go to a club and discuss organic cooking; it doesn’t get the men flocking. Ultimately though I just like to cook and eat well.

    “Well, Allegra, that being the case I may have to marry you.” He winked just so I’d know he wasn’t serious. “I’ll grow the veggies and you can make the sauce.”

    I noticed Moonbeams dark eyes got a tad darker and flashed a bit wilder.

    “I don’t know that there is room for a veggie patch in my flat or your designer terrace either for that matter,” I laughed.

    “Well, we’ll just have to move to the country.”

    “Sorry can’t leave the shop.”

    “I’m heartbroken,” he feigned distress as he mashed. “I offer to give up my lucrative TV career and to grow veggies and marry you and you won’t leave the bookshop!”

    You can read more about Allegra and Teddy in Mr Right and Other Mongrels.

    Girl Holding Books Illustration


    Anne R. Allen
    1/1/2013 11:03:10 am

    This is such a fun idea for interviews–a creative new twist for getting to know an author and introducing new books. I came over from the Facebook “Official Chick Lit” page. Happy New Year!

  • Blog

    Guest post by 12 year old Charlotte – last minute Christmas book recommendations for 10-13 year old set.


    CharlotteI asked my 12 year old to put together a guest post today with book recommendations for 10-13year olds. Here is what she came up with. She is an avid reader but she focussed on series that she thinks have mass appeal to both boys and girls.


    For a series of action packed books that’s great for girls and guys the Maximum Ride series by James Patterson is a brilliant choice. I’d recommend this book to ages 12 and up. It’s an awesome book about six kids who are 2% bird and have wings along with multiple other strange abilities. They’ve escaped from a science facility that’s trying to destroy them but now they have to destroy it before it destroys the world for a reason they’re not quite sure of. It’s an amazing series and I couldn’t stop reading it I was never sure what would happen next and the narrator, a girl called Maximum Ride, was always making witty comments making me laugh or smirk.

    Despite the action packed awesomeness there were hidden messages in it about loyalty, friendship and how just because we’re different that doesn’t mean we’re not awesome. This is a great series and I really hope you read it and it brings you as much joy as it did me. For rating this 1-10 this is a definite 10.


    Another series that will captivate kids is the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan. This is a spectacular series about a boy called Percy Jackson the son of the Greek god Poseidon, god of the sea. He goes from a normal life into one full of monsters, magic and other dangerous things he couldn’t even begin to imagine. He meets new friends, enemies and has to overcome challenges he didn’t think he could. I’m in love with this series and am currently enjoying the sequel to the brilliant series and seeing some of my favourite characters come back to face stunning challenges. I recommend this book for ages 11 to fourteen and the second series 11 to maybe 16 or possibly 17. On a scale of 1-10 this series is a 9 ¾. This book is great for guys and girls.


    A trilogy of books that is also brilliant is the Sun Sword trilogy by Belinda Murrell. The trilogy is about four kids in a strange world where their land has been invaded by an invading country and they take it upon themselves to save it. But what can a princess, a tailor’s son, a healer’s daughter and a horseman’s son do against a trained and armed army? If you read you’ll find out won’t you. I’m crazy about these books and have read the trilogy 3 times. I recommend this book for ages 10-13 or maybe 14. On a scale of 1-10 this book would be an eight or a nine. I hope you love this Aussie author’s books just as much as I did and still do.


    by Charlotte


    12/21/2012 09:20:38 am

    What a great post, Charlotte! My sister who is quite a few years past her teens enjoyed the Maximum Ride series, too. You may have persuaded me to give them a read.

  • Blog

    Family traditions


    I love a tradition. I don’t come from a family especially obsessed with them though I know many who do. My own small family has a few of our own. It’s my daughter’s birthday this week which has me pondering this.

    One of the main traditions we have is making of the birthday cake. I think this is a tradition many people can relate to. I think it’s probably a bigger deal among families like mine who lack other cultural and religious traditions. Sure you can go to Wendy’s and get an ice-cream cake or order one from the cake shop but…we’ll it’s not the same.

    In Australia it’s pretty common for children to spend a whole year looking through the Australian Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake book choosing their cake. It has to be a cake to match the theme. The fairy party for example leaves you choosing between the mushroom fairy house and a fairy castle, cars theme and you must choose between a road and village or a car itself or perhaps your age decorated in lollies and freckles. – you get the idea. So much choice! Of course the cake the child chooses can often be beyond the skill and scope of the parents the universe handed them to but it’s hard to explain t

    Here’s a link to show you just a few of the fabled Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake cookbooks.

    We’ve made many cakes over the years. They have each have their own label in my husband and my collective memory.

    Most impressive – easily the Princess Castle with sugar-crusted ice-cream cone turrets – 5th birthday
    Most difficult to execute – Dora the Explora’s Backpack – 3rd b’day.
    Only cake repeated – butterfly – 1st birthday party (to which I insanely invited 60 people) and 3rd birthday for pre-school.
    Simple and effective – a tie between an elephant – 6th birthday party and horse – 8th birthday.

    This year we’re taking a couple of kids to archery so we’re doing a target. Should be simple enough…should be, but we’ll see.

    Target Birthday Cake


    Renee Brown
    8/4/2012 12:50:56 am

    Do you still have pictures of the horse? I see that one in my future…

    How was the archery cake? My daughter has an obsession at the moment, thanks to Brave.
    8/4/2012 09:04:15 am

    I do have the horse cake pics somewhere I’ll find them. It was super easy. Archery cake was not too bad…we just made it up…I worked out we needed to start with the outside circle and work in…not my natural instinct but then you could put smaller plates, cups etc to work around.
    Renee Brown
    8/5/2012 10:51:04 pm

    Did you use fondant or icing? I bet it would be super easy to cut the circles out with fondant, unfortunately my daughter hates fondant.
    8/6/2012 07:31:35 am

    We used icing not fondant because my lovely daughter doesn’t like fondant either. All the internet versions we saw had fondant. I used two tins of Betty Crocker icing. Basically one for the white and the other tine we divided and added food colour…we started at the edge with a big plate in the middle and then removed and then using plastic bags as piping bags piped around smaller and smaller plates & cups…make sense?