There is no substitute for jam on toast…

Lindt Chocolate balls

Lindt Chocolate balls

This will be my fourth week on the sugar-free ONE LINE RULE diet and I confess, this last week has been the toughest yet. The novelty has worn off and the temptations are becoming harder to keep at bay. A dinner-party with friends on Saturday night saw me knocking back the offer of chocolate Lindt balls on a plate – my favourite EVER chocolate – and that hurt!


(p.s. For newbies to this regime, the ONE LINE RULE diet means no products containing more than five per cent sugar. It’s all about checking the ONE LINE on the nutrition box of any product you might be tempted to eat. Over 5% and it’s OUT.)

Making chocolate

Making chocolate

Then yesterday, Ronnie decided she might become a CHOCOLATIER after finishing school, so she really needed to learn how to make chocolate NOW. With my help. Without me licking my fingers???? Do you know how hard that is??? You could have put me in the Tower of London and strapped me to a torture stretcher and I would have been happier.


My daughter, the chocolatier

My daughter, the chocolatier


Most teenage daughters persecute their mothers by getting smashed and coming home late in the wee hours of a Saturday morning… Not my daughter. No, she wants me to MAKE CHOCOLATE with her. So demanding. AND she is well aware of my anti-sugar campaign. Unbelievable.


The Muesli

The Muesli




Breakfasts are also tough. I love THE MUESLI but I also like variety. So to mix things up, I usually add a dollop of natural yoghurt to my muesli most mornings and sometimes a bit of fresh fruit. Otherwise, here’s a couple of alternative brekkies that hit the spot:


Oats and berries

Oats and berries



(1) Uncle Toby’s Instant Oats with a dozen fresh raspberries. There’s no sugar in the porridge and I’m allowed one serve of fresh fruit a day, so this is fine. The raspberries give the cereal a little sweet kick and you can always buy a box of frozen berries when they aren’t in season.





Vegemite on toast

Vegemite on toast


(2) Good old Vegemite on toast. Always a winner and butter is acceptable so, you feel like you’re sinning but you’re not. Sadly, peanut butter doesn’t cut it – the 7.4% sugar content takes it over the limit… sigh.




So as you know, I’m very much missing my daily sugar fix. I ‘get it’ now when I remember what Emma The Guru said about sugar being an addiction as serious as any drug you can think of. Withdrawal can lead to desperate behaviour…. like this.

Even though I am coping (and enjoying) the breakfast options above, this morning I was particularly missing the concept of JAM on toast. Caving in to nagging from the kids, I’d purchased a whole loaf of WHITE sourdough bread. Now, there’s nothing better than a thick slice of white bread, toasted, dripping with warm butter and raspberry jam. I couldn’t get this image out of my head. I didn’t want Vegemite. But I knew that the EVIL, WICKED jam, beckoning me from the fridge, had to be kept locked up and well away from my sugar-free self. Still, the thought kept nagging at me. There must be another solution. And then I had a light-bulb moment.

There WAS something in the fridge that MIGHT work as a substitute. The ONLY acceptable BELOW five per cent sugar yoghurt I’d been able to find on the market was TAMAR VALLEY and I had a tub of raspberry yoghurt in the fridge. Ah ha!! Surely that would taste like jam? I would scoop the jammy bit out of the yoghurt and put it on my toast!

It looked like this:

Berry Yoghurt toast...

Berry Yoghurt toast…

One eager, big fat bite.

Munch, munch….. EWWWwwwww!!!

This does NOT taste good. I would NOT recommend trying this for breakfast, or any other meal for that matter. Just so you know. I don’t always get it right.

‘Something to remember me by’, whispered my holiday to my purse… and “poof” – it sprang open!


Have you just finished your first week back at work? Or are you starting back on Monday?  It’s around this time, a large portion of the population packs up their holiday gear and heads home – holidays over for another year. Ahhh…. I can hear a huge collective sigh as we fold up the beach towels and shake the sand out of our hair. Forget those sleep-ins and hours basking in the sun – time to grab that briefcase and toe the line.

Like you, I have to put my head down and bottom up, if I’m going to make a fist of this blogging caper. My holiday is over now too. No mid-week coffees or lunches with pals, so don’t even phone me okay? But I do have one last holiday story I want to share with you.   There is a treasure I will be wearing around my neck as I tap away at my laptop. It’s a special necklace that I SHOULD NOT have bought (but did!!) and I am now going to offer a perfectly acceptable rationale as to how it came to be a part of my life.

Allison Heyes

Alison Heyes


As I mentioned in an earlier blog, several girlfriends happened to be in Lorne at the same time as us, and one night Allison (we call her Al…) organised a gathering at her family home, high up in the hills. She wasn’t just being hospitable. This was a business evening. Al used to be a schoolteacher. Now she designs and sells jewellery. After twenty years in the teaching game, she and a girlfriend, Sue, decided they needed a change and set up the Missie line of accessories.


And how could you say ‘No’ to a party that offers the best view in Lorne? Check this out.

Party with a view - Lorne

Party with a view – Lorne

Not bad, huh? And the jewellery, clothes and accessories Al sells are quite special. Not that cheap, landfill crap you buy at chain stores – rather, serious silver and gold pieces that are built to last. Likewise, all the handbags are made from beautiful quality leather.

When they set up the Missie business more than five years ago, Al and Sue flew to Hong Kong to meet with a family friend who had ran a diamond and pearl company. He gave them some expert advice on how to get started. Now they sell on-line, as well as stocking boutiques across Australia. Occasionally, they also hold jewellery parties like this one that I attended last week.

Al says the best part about the Missie range is that it appeals to all age ranges. ‘We pride ourselves on being able to match a piece of jewellery to anybody. It’s upmarket, but in a very good price range. We have some bracelets that sell from $20, and our most expensive piece is $250,’ she said.

Here’s just some of what Al had on display when she invited me and about twenty other women to visit, have a wine or two and try on her wares.

A table of treasure

A table of treasure

Pretty in pink

Pretty in pink – long pink coin necklace $80


Silver cross bracelet - $150

Silver cross bracelet – $150


Green cluster necklace $65

Green cluster necklace $65 (Also comes in pink or black)






Bone cross $80

Bone cross $80




Genuine pearl necklace  or bracelet - large $190

Genuine pearl necklace or bracelet – large $190









It was very clever of Al to rope hubby Michael in, to help serve drinks. And a fine job he did too. Always with a broad smile and a full bottle on hand, like a boy in a candy store – being the only bloke among the chicks. It’s amazing how much more open one feels about spending after a glass of wine. Or two.

Michael the diligent waiter

Michael the diligent waiter

Silver disc necklace - $220

Silver disc necklace – $220


There was one particular necklace that caught my eye – sparkling in the sunlight. Al’s business partner, Sue, was wearing it with a simple black shift dress and the combination worked a treat. I enquired about the price and yes, of course, I had picked the second most expensive piece in the range! The most expensive is a gold cuff that sells for $250.



Summer dresses - patterned $90, Plain $80.

Summer dresses – patterned $90, Plain $80.


The dresses are fun and floaty – perfect for summer. The shift worn by Sue comes in a range of colours and is perfect for dressing UP at a party or DOWN at the beach.



Al and girlfriends

Al Heyes and girlfriends


By the end of the evening, the patterned dress was proving popular, snapped up and worn on the spot by several guests – probably because Al proved such an excellent model.



Grey zip bag - $180

Grey zip bag – $180


Then I spied the handbags… A denim suede number was begging me to buy it, but I had to consider the silver necklace. At $180, I couldn’t buy both. Love the zips, and that colour would work with just about anything… hmmm, what to do?


I went back to the necklaces to reconsider. Emma tried on a lovely silver ball necklet that was another option worth considering… and more economical.

Silver ball necklace $60

Silver ball necklace – $60

Other silver options: Multi-heart strand $220 or a single heart, $210

Other silver options: Multi-heart strand $220 or a single heart, $210







And THEN I spied one of the most original handbags I’d ever come across! Check this out. An evening bag that doubles as a bracelet accessory. The bangles are solid silver and it hangs from the wrist, meaning you don’t have to do that awkward juggle at a cocktail party, trying to balance a champagne glass and clutch bag while grabbing at finger food. How inventive! AND just the right size. I was sold. But I opted for black – thought it would be more versatile, although the silver was tempting…

Bracelet bag - $90

Bracelet bag – $90

Bracelet bag in silver - $90

Bracelet bag in silver – $90









By the end of the evening, I was obsessed with practically every item Al was selling, but I knew I had to make a choice. It would be rude to turn up, drink her wine and leave after only buying one teeny, weenie handbag, wouldn’t it? I should at least buy ONE more piece. The chatter and laughter among the women was reaching fever pitch, as more and more pieces started disappearing, being sold fast. All I wanted was to take home that silver necklace with the discs sparkling in the evening sunlight… How to justify buying a bracelet bag AND a necklace? Ah ha! The answer sprang to mind like the popping of a champagne cork. I had enjoyed SUCH a wonderful holiday at Lorne, I needed something to remember this perfect holiday by. Surely that was a good enough reason?

My new necklace

My new necklace


I peered at the necklace ONE MORE TIME through the wine glasses and knew it had to be mine. SOLD. And that is the story of how I came to own a beautiful new silver necklace as a memory of a very special holiday in Lorne. Justification, ladies. Works every time.




If you’d like to check out more of the Missie Jewellery range, or to book your own jewellery party, go to



I didn’t realise my husband was SO competitive – until today…


Generally speaking, I reckon men are more competitive than women. And sometimes, you even find that within relationships, couples can be competitive with each other. I’d never thought that about Fletch and myself – UNTIL TODAY.

There we were, happily enjoying some ‘time out’ – kiddie free – down along Victoria’s surf coast with my brother and sister-in-law. Early this morning, Fletch rose at dawn to take some photographs along the beach. Sunrise shots are his specialty. You may remember a few of his picturesque snaps from a blog I posted at Lorne last week. I stayed in bed and was probably snoring when he twisted his ankle among the rock pools.

We waited for him to return so we could ‘go out’ for breakfast. By the time he got back, I was starving. We decided to take a stroll through the scrubby bush lining the cliffs, down to the Anglesea Life Saving Club, where they’re renowned for dishing up a killer brekky. Fletch said his ankle would be fine, that it wasn’t ‘too bad’. Watching him power ahead of Penny and myself, I believed him. He likes to be the fastest and lead the pack. I’m used to that and didn’t think much of it.

After we arrived at the Life Saving Club, we sat on the decking, over-looking a sweeping view of the Anglesea beach. The tide was out, leaving a glassy expanse across the foreshore. While sipping on a latte and waiting for my eggs and bacon, I took a photo of my own and posted it on Instagram. It looked like this:

Jen beach

My photo of the Anglesea beach

Now, it’s a little over-cooked. I know, I know… My excuse is that we were sitting in the sun, and as you’re all probably aware, trying to peer into the dark glass of an I-phone to see ANYTHING on a sunny day is practically impossible. Fletch looked at it and nodded silently. Knowingly.

Next thing I know, he’s grinning as he also takes a shot and posts it on Instagram. His photo is,  OF COURSE, infinitely better and looked like this:

Fletch's photo of Anglesea beach

Fletch’s photo of Anglesea beach

Remember too, that he IS photographer and has dozens of special ‘Apps’ on his I-phone that I am blithely unaware of, so his creative powers are naturally, going to be far superior to mine. My eggs arrived. I felt I may as well wear them on my face after he’d shown me up on Instagram to be a failure. But it didn’t quell my appetite. I stuffed myself and the eggs were delicious. As were the mushrooms.

After finishing up, we walked back home along the beach and I spotted a row of fence posts that screamed artistic potential. ‘Great,’ I thought. ‘Now I can show the world what a brilliant photographer I am!’ And I took this:

My photo of beach fence posts

My photo of beach fence posts

I took more time with the effects and was quite chuffed with the results. That is, until Fletch saw my photo and then ran back to the fence posts. I watched in disbelief as he snapped away, knowing what he was doing. For the second time he wanted to prove to the world that he is a better photographer than me by shooting the SAME subject matter. Here’s his picture:

Fletch's beach fence posts

Fletch’s beach fence posts

Humph! Quite frankly, I think it’s a bit over-the-top. A bit melodramatic – don’t you think? But damn him, yes, it’s STILL stacks better than mine. Then I remembered him striding along the bush track to breakfast, trying to keep ahead of the girls, despite his twisted ankle. It suddenly dawned on me that he is one helluva competitive bloke.

I called him on it.
Jen: ‘Why are you doing this? Why are you so competitive?’
Fletch: ‘I’m not competitive.’
Jen: ‘Well, why do you take the same shot as me?’
Fletch: ‘If I see something and you see something at the same time, we both take the shot, that’s all.’
Jen: ‘But you see me take the shot, then copy me and do a better shot and it makes me look bad.’
Fletch: ‘No I don’t. Don’t be silly. You’re over-playing it.’

I’ll say it again. HUMPH! You’ve seen the photos. You be the judge.

But come on – we all KNOW he’s a better photographer than me. I mean, just take a look at these shots he took at sunrise:

Sunrise at Anglesea - by Alan Fletcher

Dawn breaking at Anglesea – by Alan Fletcher

Sunrise at Anglesea by Alan Fletcher

Sunrise at Anglesea – by Alan Fletcher

That last shot is my favourite. It’s pretty impressive.

So there you go, Fletch – you win. As you lie on the couch with ice on your swollen ankle, moaning, I tell you – you ARE a better photographer than me. Can you just stop copying my Instagram shots to show me up??? Thanks.

And by the way – here’s one shot I snuck in at the Life Saving Club that you DIDN’T get to copy:

My photo of classic teaspoons

My photo of classic teaspoons

Yep, all the teaspoons at the cafe are vintage classics – all different and probably sourced from Op Shops all over. I love them – their detail and craftsmanship – that each one has it’s own story and a past life.

So there, Fletch – bettcha jealous now.


New Year’s Eve Resolution Update


This is just a quickie blog to make myself accountable for the five New Year’s Eve Resolutions I promised to myself. Here’s how I went in the past week:


(1) Sugar free challenge (apart from wine) – to stick to the ONE LINE RULE diet.

Missing chocolate the most...

Missing chocolate the most…

Still going well, although because we’ve been on holidays I still haven’t enforced the three-alcohol-free days rule. But I did have ONE yesterday and two last week! Yay me. And at least I am now seeing a slight drop in weight, which although that’s not the primary reason for cutting sugar from my diet, it is encouraging. I am missing a lot of my regular treats though… No more fruit buns from Baker’s Delight… (sigh.) I’m meeting with my anti-sugar guru Emma Dumas, to get some more tips about maintaining the One Line Rule diet, so I’ll post them shortly, including a couple of recipes that may be of use to those of you who are also trying the NO SUGAR campaign.

It is tough, but I’m going to keep going! So yes, I get a tick for keeping to my ONE LINE RULE diet for the first two weeks of the year.

Spider Solitaire

Spider Solitaire

(2) Not to play I-Phone Games.

Hmm… not going so well. Got home from Lorne and found I still had Spider Solitaire on my I-pad so thought I’d sneak in a quick game which turned into half an hour, Pathetic. So I deleted that but then I transferred my addiction to games by joining my daughter in working on a 2000-piece jigsaw. A jigsaw??? Really? But I found it quite meditative and kept at it till about one in the morning till it was done. So I can’t get a tick for beating time-wasting game addiction this week. But surely jigsaws don’t count? A shared mother-daughter activity has to be considered worthwhile, doesn’t it? And they’re NOT an I-phone game… No, I still played Spider Solitaire so I get a big fat cross. X

(3) To tidy my office before the end of March.
Still plenty of time till the end of March, and I’m doing little bits and pieces, so I think I’ll get there. A tick for this one.

(4) To go to the gym at least 3 times a week.
The disclaimer on this resolution, was “except for when on holidays”. As we returned from holidays at the end of last week, this one still doesn’t really count, but I did manage a spin class at the gym, so I think I get a tick here.

(5) To NEVER smoke another cigarette again.
Even after a big weekend at the Jeep Portsea Polo, I stayed cigarette free so I get a big fat tick here.

So checking the scorecard – that’s four ticks out of five at the end of week two. But the coming week will be a bigger test as I’m now back in the work routine and will have to enforce the 3-times-a-week gym rule. Will keep you updated next week.


Holiday movies for the kids – Why Parental Guidance beats Wreck It Ralph


Movies are always a favourite option when trying to amuse the kids during the long school holiday break. It’s a couple of hours of ‘time out’ – a chance to sit back and relax, take a rest from sibling squabbles, and hopefully enjoy some quality entertainment while stuffing yourself with warm popcorn.

If you’re tossing up which movie to take the kids to see this weekend, then I’d strongly urge you to choose Parental Guidance over Wreck It Ralph – a MILLION times over. And don’t listen to the newspaper critics. While I have enormous respect for them, in this instance, I disagree with just about all the reviews.


Parental Guidance

Parental Guidance


Ronnie wanted to see Parental Guidance, and despite one prominent critic giving it only ONE star, we headed off to the cinema anyway, because she loves a comedy. She’d also checked out the trailer and was convinced it would be worth watching. She was right. Get a couple of seasoned comedic veterans like Billy Crystal and Bette Midler and it’s hard to go wrong. Their pairing is fabulous and their comic timing – spot on. The script is busting with gags that will appeal to both younger and older generations.



Even if you don’t have kids, there’s enough family conflict and humour to make it relevant to all. I also enjoyed watching the tug-of-war between the grandparents and their daughter over which type of parenting works best for children. Both are a little extreme – cocooning and helicopter parenting, versus the old school – ‘smack them and tell them to shut up’ variety. At least the film isn’t too heavy-handed in terms of trying to dish out a morality lesson. The audience is given the chance to see both sides can be right, and that black and white isn’t the way to look at life when it comes to raising children. The final message of the film probably falls from Bette’s mouth when she tells her daughter to ‘Stop trying to be the perfect parent. Nobody is.’ How true.


Wreck It Ralph

Wreck It Ralph

As for Wreck It Ralph, you couldn’t have gotten me out of the cinema more quickly. All four of our family agreed it was possibly the worst movie we’d seen in years. True, our kids are well beyond the age of the toddlers this Disney feature is aimed at, but regardless, we’ve loved all the Toy Story and Ice Age movies of the past and had hoped this movie would live up to the clever scripting and standards already set. Not so. The script is infantile and weak, lacking in magic and charm. I am amazed one movie critic gave it FOUR stars. Really?

Sugar Rush land

Sugar Rush land

The other aspect I detested was the film’s blatant product placement. It’s so contrived, I practically left my jaw on the floor of the cinema. From the Nesquik quick sand, to the Diet Coke lake, to the exploding Mentos, to the Sugar Rush landscape – god help me, if this film isn’t trying to turn the next generation of toddlers into sugar addicts, then I’ll eat a block of Cadburys. And if you’ve been reading my Blog lately, you would know how unlikely that is – being on a sugar-free campaign and strongly promoting the health benefits of a sugar-free diet. So you can imagine how incensed I was when those silly Oreo characters started marching and chanting ‘O-Reo! O-Reeee-ohhh. O-reo! O-Reeee-ohhh!’ Puh-lease….

So there you have it. I’ll stop ranting now. But DO see Parental Guidance. It’s charming, funny and your kids will learn who the amazing Billy Crystal and Bette Middler are. Isn’t that a better idea than turning then into sugar fiends???

Best blow-wave at home – Vidal Sassoon

Sometimes ‘going out’ can be a struggle. When you’re busy juggling work and kids stuff, the concept of actually putting on make-up and doing your own hair for a social occasion seems a bigger challenge than climbing Mt Kosciuszko.

Hats and pigtails - a good solution for a quick hair-do

Hats and pigtails – easy solution for a bad hair day


That’s why I’m also a huge fan of hats. They’re a quick fix for a bad hair day, although sometimes this look doesn’t necessarily work in the evenings…. But generally speaking, a hat is a favourite accessory on holidays when you just couldn’t be bothered lathering up.





But what if you’re going to a ‘special’ function or wedding and you know you have to up the ante? You’re probably going to have to have your hair coifed, teased and sprayed to within an inch of its life at the hairdresser’s. But what if you’re time poor – and who isn’t these days? Who has time for making an appointment and planning ahead, let alone getting there?

If you’re like me, you’re always looking for shortcuts. Tips on how to do your own hair and make it look half decent so you can avoid that hairdresser palaver. Which means I’ve bought lots of junk over the years, looking for a magical solution. And yes, I do occasionally use the GHD straighteners, even though they fry the bejeezus out of your hair and my colourist warns they should be avoided at all costs unless faced with an emergency.

So my latest tip comes from a good friend, Judy, who kindly insisted I borrow her new contraption before buying one of my own. It’s called the Vidal Sassoon Big Hair Styler and it looks like this.

Vidal Sassoon Big Hair Styler

Vidal Sassoon Big Hair Styler


I was skeptical, but agreed to give it a go. I already had another version lying unused in my bathroom cupboard so didn’t hold much hope. It took a few attempts, but –  VOILA – it works!! I was impressed enough to run out and buy one the next day, and now I use it almost every time we ‘go out’.

If you want to get one yourself (and I’d highly recommend it) then I do have a few tips for getting the best results.

1. Generally speaking, the Vidal Sassoon Big Hair Styler retails at $99.95. Unless you can find one on sale, I’d recommend buying one from National Pharmacies. If you sign up for their Customer Rewards card, you instantly get a 20% discount!

2. Wash you hair, towel dry and leave it for between half an hour to an hour, before styling. And use a blow dryer to dry off your hair a bit first. If you start using the Big Hair Styler from scratch with dripping wet hair, it will take hours.

Create a top knot with a butterfly clip

Create a top knot with a butterfly clip


3. I’m not a professional hair dresser, so don’t really know how to ‘section off’, so I usually just grab about half my hair from the top of my head and secure it with a butterfly clip to start with. This means I can work on styling the underneath layer first. Yep, it’s a messy look…


4. I use a comb brush to section off a piece of hair that will fit around the brush and then pull firmly to get the best results.

Use the roller button to pull the hair tightly to the scalp

Use the roller button to pull the hair tightly to the scalp

5. I push the roller button to draw the hair in tightly to the scalp and then hold it there for about twenty seconds each time, which seems to work well for creating volume. Because the machine does the pulling for you, it also takes a bit of muscle work out of the job, which saves the aching arms you often get from performing a regular blow wave.



The finished result

The finished result


6. After the underneath section is done, I release the top half and repeat the same process, working around the head. It takes about two or three goes to get it down pat, so keep trying. In the end, it might not be as good as a result as I’d get at a hairdresser, but considering the time and money saved, I think it’s pretty good.




And sorry, I should have tidied up the bathroom a bit before having photos taken, but hey, remember what I was saying about being busy? Which is why I love the Vidal Big Hair Styler – it really is a fab time saver. Thank you Judy!

Vidal Sassoon Big Hair Styler

Vidal Sassoon Big Hair Styler

Of course, the Vidal Sassoon website has an actual video which shows you more clearly how to style your hair, but given those commercial productions are so fancy and sometimes hard to believe, I wanted to show you my own happy snaps so you could see a normal person can actually come up with a half decent result at home in their own bathroom.

But if you DO want to check out their video, it’s at

Good luck!


War Horse Review


When you hear a stage show has won five Tony awards and two Laurence Olivier awards before you see it, you can’t help but have high expectations. We headed off, very grateful, to be invited to the Australian Premier of Warhorse at the Arts Centre on New Year’s Eve. I tried not to get too excited. After all, I’ve been disappointed by several stage shows recently… (not mentioning any names.)


The Australian production of Warhorse

The show is based on Michael Morpurgo’s book War Horse, and tells the story of a young boy, Albert Narracott, and his horse, Joey. The pair is inseparable and share a special bond. Albert has an uncanny knack with horses – a bit like the horse whisperer of pre-war England. But when the First World War breaks out, Albert’s father sells Joey to the army, much to Albert’s distress. What then follows is a tale of heroism, heartache and suspense, as we follow Albert’s journey as a soldier to the trenches of France, in a brave and truly committed bid to find his beloved horse.

Albert and Joey

Albert and Joey


It’s a bit like National Velvet meets Gallipoli. So you get the special emotional bond between horse and owner that develops from when both are young, plus the stories of courage and loyalty in the face of terrifying, epic battles.

But what makes Warhorse truly extraordinary is that such a wonderful tale is told through a unique combination of artistic staging and masterful puppetry. It’s hard to believe the exquisite beauty of these man-made equine creatures, brought to life by such ingenious puppeteers.



Three men are required to make each horse move. When I first heard this, I thought it would look clumsy on stage and distract the audience from the story. Not so at all. After just moments, you forget the shadows moving deftly under the horses’ frames. The puppeteers are also responsible for the horses’ noises – neighing and snorting – and their portrayal is so convincing, I swear you will fall in love with these magnificent animals, believing them to be real.

Three puppeteers bring each horse to life

Three puppeteers bring each horse to life

The book’s author, Michael Morpurgo, says he wanted to convey how war looks through the eyes of an animal – to highlight the universal suffering brought about by war. The stage show definitely perpetuates this message, with strong imagery, music and effects. But there’s still a dash of comedy – surprisingly brought about by a single puppet – a goose! I won’t say anymore, but he’s a very funny bird.

Topthorn and Joey

Topthorn and Joey


There’s also a deep connection that develops between two of the warhorses – the strongest and most competitive – who are of course, Joey, and the masterful black  Topthorn.



It’s been described as a ‘story for everyone’, and on that level, I agree. It obviously resonated deeply with Hollywood film director Stephen Spielberg who saw the show in London, then made it into a film, which was nominated for six Academy awards, two Golden Globes and 5 BAFTAs.

As fate would have it, we ended up seeing a DVD of the movie, Warhorse, the night before the theatrical event. As a person who likes to know the endings of books before they arrive, I was happy to learn the outcome before it a happened. But you might want to wait till after seeing the show. I’m just not good with suspense. I enjoyed comparing the two and found the stage show provided a deeper emotional understanding of the love between Albert and Joey.

The cast of 33 is strong, and while the show is produced by The National Theatre of Great Britain and Global Creatures, it’s predominantly made up of Australian actors. Twelve of them are puppeteers. Sydney-based newcomer Cody Fern takes on the role of Albert, and puts in a fine performance, full of earnest fervour. A strong debut for his first major production.

Actor Nicholas Bell

Actor Nicholas Bell


Others who shine include Ian Bliss, as Albert’s father, Ted Narracott and Natasha Herbert (seen in many an MTC production) as Albert’s mother. UK born actor Nicholas Bell plays Albert’s Uncle Arthur and is a standout. He’s long been a familiar face in Australia, having moved here many years ago and appearing in countless theatrical, film and television productions.



Overall, I’d have to see there’s something quite beguiling and beautifully magical about War Horse. It’s hard to nail exactly what makes it so compelling and I really don’t think I’ve done it justice with my words. You really will just have to go see it for yourself. Even with high expectations, I’m sure you WON’T be disappointed. You’d better hurry and buy tickets though, as the show heads to Sydney on March 16th. Let me know what you think!

Science Validates Sugar Free Challenge – advice alert for cancer survivors

Chocolate - I miss this the most!

Chocolate – I miss this the most…


Is it just me, or is the whole world turning it’s eyes to the sugar-free movement right now? Even Liz Hurley tweeted only the other day that she was starting up a ZERO SUGAR health kick. I’m hearing it being talked about on radio, TV and even in films.


Of course, I’m more conscious of the cause, because of my New Year’s Resolution to take up the sugar-free ONE LINE RULE diet, but I do believe it’s becoming a trend.

A well-timed mission too, with a new research study just out that validates everything that’s been said in recent blogs about the health risks associated with sugar. In particular, this study, by the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, focuses on cancer survivors and what foods may help or hinder their chances of staying healthy.

Sizzling steak...

Sizzling steak…

Results from the study, that was published last November, show that patients who ate more red meat and sugary products, had an 80% higher risk of a recurrence of cancer. 1011 people with advanced colon cancer were included in the research group.



Of the group, 343 had a recurrence of cancer and 262 died.

The good news is that other cancer survivors can learn from these facts and hopefully, improve their chances of preventing the cancer from returning.

Overall, the study found that the patients who had the highest ‘glycemic load’ and carbohydrate intake, were twice as likely to have their cancer return.

Chocolate brownies

Chocolate brownies

The Study’s author Jeffrey Meyerhardt, MD, a gastrointestinal oncologist, said the patients were observed for six months, with their diet, exercise and weight all taken into account. Those who ate refined grains, red meat and high-sugar content foods were much more likely to have cancer return than those who at more fresh fruit, vegetables, poultry and fish.

He said, ‘We theorize that factors including a high glycemic load may stimulate the body’s production of insulin. That in turn may increase the proliferation of cells and prevent the natural cell-death process in cancer cells that have metastasized (spread) from their original site.’

There is a reminder in the study that changing your diet in NO WAY is a substitute for standard treatment. All these patients were already undergoing chemotherapy and surgery. This information is purely advice for improving survival AFTER treatment.

Doctors are also unable to say whether the findings will apply to other forms of cancer.

If you’d like to read the article if full and learn more about the research results, go to this link:

ONE WEEK ON – Have I Kept My FIVE New Year’s Resolutions?

So it’s ONE WEEK since I bared my soul and told the world my FIVE New Year’s Resolutions. Yes, even the embarrassing admission that I really had to give up playing time-wasting games – like DRAGONVALE of all things – on my I-Phone…. (Can someone else out there please confess so I don’t feel like a total loser!!)

To keep myself accountable, I promised weekly updates – which I’ll do until I feel I’m beyond temptation and have conquered my issues, or that I’ve broken so many of them, I have no choice but to thrown in the towel.

Here’s how the past week went:

(1) Sugar free challenge (apart from wine)
– to stick to the ONE LINE RULE diet.
So far so good. Despite all the temptations at this wonderful holiday location, Lorne, I have not eaten ONE lolly, cake, biscuit or ice-cream. The family haven’t been any help whatsoever – continuing to order muffins and crepes in front of me… so much for support. Just an hour ago, they bought smoothies and I was hit with a huge case of food envy. It was driving me nuts, so I relented and ate two pieces of sugar-free dark chocolate. Which is not great as that just perpetuates the craving for sweet treats. At least it wasn’t REAL chocolate!

I don’t think I’ve necessarily lost weight, but that’s not the real goal. Emma Dumas, the queen of the anti-sugar campaign (see Blog post December 19) insists the weight will come off, but says the health benefits are more important.

I will persist! And yes, I get a tick for keeping to my ONE LINE RULE diet for the first week of the year.

Forbidden Fruit...

Forbidden Fruit…

(2) Not to play I-Phone Games.



DAMN! I sort of broke this resolution yesterday… When I say ‘sort of’, I mean I didn’t play a game on my I-phone, but I DID play a game on Fletch’s I-pad!! So definitively, I did keep my resolution, but specifically – in terms of playing electronic games – I broke the rule. What happened is that Fletch had gone out on a VERY early morning photo shoot. When I woke, I noticed his I-Pad was on his bedside table, so I reached for it, to check the weather forecast. Unfortunately, I hadn’t deleted the Dragonvale game from his desktop, (as I had with my I-phone) saw the Icon, and without thinking, opened it and started playing. Naughty, naughty me!! A big bad cross for breaking this resolution. I will now go and delete the game from his I-Pad. Sorry.

(3) To tidy my office before the end of March.
Well of course you know I’m on holidays, so that just isn’t going to happen this week, is it????

(4) To go to the gym at least 3 times a week.
The disclaimer on this resolution, was “except for when on holidays” , so again I can give myself another tick for this one without thinking. Although I have done a decent bush or beach walk every day while here, so I think I’m doing okay in the exercise stakes.

(5) To NEVER smoke another cigarette again.
I really gave up smoking last year, but there were several occasions, maybe half a dozen? – (alcohol was usually involved) where I DID light up. I don’t want to have even ONE hiccup this year. So far so good. A big tick for Resolution Number Five in Week One.

Overall, checking the scorecard – that’s four ticks out of five at the end of week one. And I only played Dragonvale once. I promise. But next week I’m aiming for five out of five. After all, it’s not like I’ve set the bar extraordinarily high… How have you done with your New Year Resolutions this week? Let me know – I’d love to hear your stories.

Why my husband goes missing for hours on end…

Some women might get suspicious. Imagine the scenario. You’re on holidays with your husband and then suddenly he disappears for hours on end – mostly unable to be contacted. This happens again and again. Mostly in the evenings and sometimes you wake in the mornings, and he’s no longer in bed. Vanished again, for God knows how long…

Me though, by now I’m pretty used to it. And there IS a reasonable explanation.

Actor Benji McNair who played Mal Kennedy on Neighbours

Actor Benji McNair who played Mal Kennedy on Neighbours

Fletch has long held a passion for photography. In fact, some of you may not know it, but well before and during the first few years of working on Neighbours, Fletch also worked as a professional photographer, taking head-shots of other actors.

In fact, when I was writing for newspapers but wanted to break into the world of electronic media, I booked in with Fletch to take a headshot of me. This was before we’d even started dating.  Funnily enough, we never did THAT photo shoot as a newspaper photographer I worked with kindly offered to take my headshot for free, so I cancelled my session with Fletch – not knowing that in the future we would end up married.


Sunrise on the top of Mt Batur, Bali

– Sunrise on the top of Mt Batur, Bali – 1989

Then, after dating for more than a year, we planned our first overseas trip and went to Bali for three weeks. Little did I know that Fletch had decided if we could also travel well together, he’d propose. I think he wanted to test me for patience too. Patience with putting up with his need to pull over the car at any moment to set up his photography gear to take shots. That took FOREVER. Like when we climbed to the top of Mount Batur for a sunrise shot about twenty-three years ago… I didn’t mind that so much. It was the daggy mustard-coloured photography vest he wore that drove me insane. I hated it. Threatened to throw it out several times but he’s still hoarding it. Ewww….


These days, it would take a lot to get me out of bed at FIVE AM. I’d usually say the same for Fletch, but on holidays, he’s as keen as ever to conquer new photography heights.

Here in Lorne, I must admit he’s taken some beauties. This is my favourite so far:

Lorne sunset 2013

Lorne sunset 2013

Then there’s a sunrise…

Lorne sunrise 2013

Lorne sunrise 2013

And a stunning snap of the Cora Lynn Cascades.

Cora Lynn Cascades

Cora Lynn Cascades


Just for fun, I thought I’d tape a quick interview with Fletch. In all our years together, I’ve never interviewed my own husband. The concept amused me. Here’s how it went:

Jen: So what do you love about photography?
Fletch: I love many things about photography.

Jen: But what keeps your out there for hour after hour? Don’t you get bored?
Fletch: No, because particularly with nature photography, you’re communing with nature and connecting with nature as well. You’re not taking photos the whole time. Often you’re just absorbing the scene and working at how you feel about it.

Jen: But for hours and hour and hours?
Fletch: Yes, it can take hours and  hours and hours because sometimes the sun is at the wrong angle and you have to wait for it to change. or someone arrives and puts their body in the scene and you have to wait for them to leave, or you have to experiment with different filters and exposures. And of course you need to wander around and play with your compositions as well.

Jen: And it’s also weather dependent…
Fletch: It’s extremely weather dependent. It requires a lot of patience.

Jen: And as you said people can get in the way, like when we were at Erskine Falls yesterday and you needed the platform to be completely still and tourists kept jumping on it. That must be so irritating. Did you want to hit them?
Fletch: No. Everyone is entitled to go to these beautiful places. The idea is to go to these beautiful places when not so many people are there.

Jen: Are you going to have an exhibition of your works?
Fletch: I’m not planning one.

The photographer at work.

The photographer at work.


Jen: Well what’s the point in taking so many thousands of photos?
Fletch: Well, you can develop a reputation as a photographer commercially without having exhibitions. And there’s a deeper satisfaction. It’s like fishing. Some people fish just for the thrill of the catch and then thrown the fish back while others make a living out of it. I’m more like the fisherman who throws the fish back. I do it for the love of it.



Jen: Do you think you might one day be better known as a photographer than an actor?
Fletch: Yes, that’s possible because people have very short memories. As an actor I’ll probably fade away quite quickly.

Jen: Rubbish. Dr Karl will never be forgotten.
Fletch: Perhaps. (laughs)

Jen: Where’s the reward with the photography then? Is it when you get that zinger shot?
Fletch: Of course.It’s exactly the same as for a writer.

Jen: So self-satisfaction is all you need?
Fletch: There’s all sorts of satisfaction. There’s commercial satisfaction when someone buys what you’ve written, but there’s also the pure joy of creating something yourself. Like for an artist – a pure piece of pottery or jewellery. For me, it’s a photograph that is purely my interpretation of a moment in time that contains your heart and soul.

Jen: Maybe you could ask the story-liners to write photography into the Neighbours scripts – that Dr Karl becomes a photographer and then you could show off your real photos on Neighbours and also become well known as a photographer?
Fletch: That sounds a  little manipulative to me. I’m already doing music on Neighbours.

Jen: Yeah, you’re right. Maybe I should take up photography too, so we could see more of each other?
Fletch: That would be a good idea. Photography and golf.
Jen: That might be a bit much.

Well let’s see if I have any natural talent. Here’s two shots of the same scene – one by Fletch and one by me. Guess who took which shot?

Erskine Falls (2)

Erskine Falls (2)

Erskine Falls (1)

Erskine Falls (1)



Yep, I bet you picked it. Fletch’s shot is the winner on the right. Guess I’ll stick to writing. And ask him sweetly when I need new photos for the Blog.