Posted in About Me

The Family History Writing Challenge – My Wedding Day part 2

Signing the Marriage Register
Signing the Marriage Register

Over the last week or so The Family History Writing Challenge has been discussing scene and summary, the difference between the two, and how to make the most of both.  We have also learned about the “story middle” and how to create tension and interest through the finding of obstacles, how to transition from a crisis point where the person in the story reaches their lowest point, to the climax where the person in the story regroups and finds the strength to overcome the obstacles and move forward.  I have tried to apply this format to the story of my wedding day by:

  • Using scene and summary to transition from one home to another
  • Using dialogue between major characters on the day to create the first obstacle
  • Using scene and dialogue to increase the tension of an additional obstacle

Here is what I have come up with for the “middle” of my story.  Although I am of the opinion that it still needs some work, I am wanting to move forward to the next phase, so will come back to this passage during the editing process.

As I walked into my in-laws house I was immediately struck by the chaotic racket and bustle within. There were people in every room, all talking at once in excited tones. Hairstyles were being created in the main bedroom, the lounge room was a meeting place for all manner of women having their makeup done, Noelene was lovingly pressing my bridal gown in the kitchen, and seated at the dining room table were four hefty groomsmen hungrily devouring a large tray of freshly made sandwiches. The rooms were filled with the heady scent of summer and feminine perfumes.

“Julie, I think we’ve got a problem with the bridesmaids hairstyles,” my sister Kellie said as she guided me into the bedroom.

“Gen, what have you done to your hair?” Words failed me as I stood in front of Gen, appalled at the sight of what she had done to herself.

“I told you I didn’t want to wear my hair that way, so I had it cut off!” Genevieve declared.

“But you’ve got a crew cut. Suzie won’t be able to do anything at all with that,” I wailed.

I turned and walked from the room just as the tears started to well. How could Gen cut her hair so short the morning of my wedding? All three other bridesmaids had shoulder length hair that had been prettily flicked from their faces in the Farrah Fawcett-Majors, devil-may-care style which was all the rage.

Genevieve had been a friend for the previous 10 months and we had shared funny moments and tears in that time.  Gen was a dressmaking and millinery teacher at the local TAFE College and she was to have made the bridesmaids dresses, but when there had been no calls for fittings I had started to worry.  Just four short weeks out from my wedding day she had let me know that she had changed her mind about making the dresses.  I had come face to face with the realisation that Gen had not been the friend that I had thought she was, and I was left with the mammoth task of finding four bridesmaids dresses in my favourite apricot tones that would be available for hire. 

I stood in the middle of the stuffy lounge room, shocked to the core that Gen would let me down yet again!

Terry watched helplessly as the tears trickle down my cheeks.  He gave me a cuddle and then quietly and gently said “Jules, someone’s stolen all the car decorations”.  I just stood in the lounge room, gaping at him.

“Who the hell would do something like that?” I howled. Tears flowed in earnest now, coursing their way over cheeks and chin. All I could think of in that split second was that my wedding day was disintegrating around me.  Firstly, a wayward bridesmaid that I was sure had managed to ruin my idea of how the wedding photos should look, and now there were five bridal cars  sitting outside the house with no decoration. I truly believed my wedding day was in chaos, and just an hour before we were due at the church. Tears flowed, and I was so panicked I could hardly breath, when my gorgeous sister Kellie put her arms around my shoulders and whispered “I think I can fix this.”

I stood gazing at her in disbelief as Kellie spent precious minutes telephoning her recently married friend to see if she still had the decorations from her wedding day. As luck would have it she not only had the ribbon, tulle and flowers, but also a tulle swan for the bridal car.

“Julie you have to finishing getting ready or you will be way to late to the church!  I’ll go with Terry to get the decorations and be back in no time at all”, Kellie promised.

Posted in About Me

The Family History Writing Challenge – My Wedding Day

Goodness me –  how things can go wrong in the blink of and eye!!  I have been unable to really participate in this challenge as on the evening of 2 Feb my computer “went on holiday”.  It has been in the repair shop until yesterday evening, but even now, there are still programs that I can’t access – important ones like Windows Live Mail and Windows Live Writer and other Windows related programs, and it will be going for another “operation” later today!

The single “Daily Dose” that I have received so far was about Cooking Up A Satisfying Scene, and so I got to work on writing the opening scene of my wedding day.  I was quietly happy with it and posted it to the forum for comment,  looking forward to hearing how others found my work.  When I logged in first thing this morning I found two people had made suggestions on how to better my opening scene.  Needless to say I went straight to work on reviewing my writing.  I went back over the information within the ‘Daily Dose” and took the instructions more literally, re-writing and lengthening my opening scene, and following the scene with a more relevant summary, and I feel much happier with the beginning of my story.

By all means, let me know what you think.

Second Draft:

“Can’t you shut those birds up?”

Suzie lay face down on her pillow as soft morning light poured through the window and a cacophony of beautiful Australian birdsong woke my best friend.  She was a city girl and completely unused to the daybreak noise of Aussie birdlife which was abundant in the tree’s around my flat in Piper Street.  “Wake up Suzie, it’s my wedding day!” I yelled as I shook her fully awake.

Suzie and I had been best friends from the day we started kindergarten together. We skipped, walked and ran to and from school, had fights with the boys from up the road, climbed the mulberry tree and took our fill of those luscious berries, shared laughter, good times and secrets, and had tea parties in my cubby house.

Life with Suzie was never dull, but I was fully aware that she struggled with mornings – so I took coffee into her, just to help ease the pain of getting out of bed!

November 1, 1980 dawned clear and fresh. A hot wind was blowing and it promised to be a scorcher of a day. As I sat on Suzie’s bed drinking coffee that morning I could barely sit still with the excitement that coursed through every fibre of my being. “So, how do you think you’ll do my hair?” I asked. Suzie was the best hairdresser I knew and I was dying to find out what she had planned for me, as well as my bridesmaids.

Just a few hours later I sat on a chair in the middle of my small kitchen as Suzie pinned the veil beneath a fall of soft curls, which she had painstakingly created.  “Okay, now you can look”, she said as she led me into my bedroom. There I stood in front of my dressing table mirror, with my hair softly piled high, staring at the gentle fall of the tulle of my waist length veil. My fingers caressed the stunning creamy lace and the thought of all the women who had worn the veil before me brought a lump to my throat.

As Suzie played with the fall of the veil I related the story of how it had originally been made for my grandmother, Ines Maude Smith, in 1908.  My mother, Madeleine Ines Bailey, had worn that same stunning, cathedral length veil in June of 1935. By the time my eldest sister Noeleen wanted to wear this precious heirloom in Aug 1960 the tulle had disintegrated in places. Noelene’s dressmaking skills were amply displayed as she lovingly transferred the lace, cream with age, on to waist length tulle for a more modern bridal veil. This frothy veil creation was worn again in August 1964 by my next sister Gwen.

Sixteen years later I wanted to carry on the family tradition of wearing “Granma’s veil”, so yet again Noeleen’s fingers worked magic by transferring the lace onto the off white tulle I had chosen.  My something borrowed was a treasure from the past.

Some of the lacework on my veil can be seen in the photograph below.

Let the Celebration Begin
Let the Celebration Begin

Posted in About Me

The Family History Writing Challenge – It’s Nearly Here!


Anyone care to join me in the Family History Writing Challenge??  I do hope so.  There is so much you can do with the things you will learn by joining in the challenge.  For example – you can write a collection of short stories, a memoir, or perhaps create the blue print for an epic novel – the sky really is the limit – but really, your goals don’t have to be so lofty.  But most importantly – you can make a start on learning to preserve your own family stories!!

Keeping in mind that I don’t have a novel in me (nor do I profess to be clever enough to write one), I have decided to use the month of February to document what I want to tell my children about my own life experiences.   I spend 100’s of hours every year scraping out every titbit of information I can on ancestors long gone, but what do I want my children and grandchildren to know about me? 

I have stories about growing up, being a rebel teenager, the joys of flatting and backpacker travel, meeting their father and experiences of motherhood that I’d love to share with them.  Have you ever stopped to explain to your children how you met their father/mother?  Do you have their favourite family recipes jotted down or typed up – or even cut out and pasted into a recipe Journal?  Did you ever try to put your emotions on paper in the form of poetry or letters?

Well this years I am going to pull all those topics together.  I want to produce a booklet which will contain memories of my childhood, special holidays we spent together as a family and copies of their favourite recipes.  I am looking forward to hand picking photographs from the thousands that we have collected through the years to illustrate as many of the memories as possible.  I will also be including some of the poetry I have written over the years, and I intend to write letters to each of them about topics that are of the greatest importance to me.  I have no plans for this booklet to be published, knowing full well that the only people to see it will be my two sons.  The Family History Writing Challenge is geared toward folks that want to publish their stories – but who says you have to take it that far? Use the challenge to your benefit; make it fulfil your needs.

writing if i can think it chant

This all sounds very grand, doesn’t it? I didn’t say that my children will be unable to put down the booklet due to the incredibly exciting way in which I have written it; I didn’t say that my poetry was good, or even anywhere near good.  None of those things matter really.  What I intend to do is write this memoir in just the same manner that I talk to them now, so that every time they read something they will instantly be taken back to the moment the memory was created, whether the memory is mine, or theirs.  When I am long gone from this earth I am hoping that, should they read what I have written, they will be able to say “You know, I can still hear her saying that!”

Come on, take the Challenge with me – there’s still a few days left to register (click here to register), and don’t forget – it’s free.  All you have to do is set a little time aside each day to type.  EASY!! 


If I can Image:

Once Upon A Time Image:

Posted in About Me

Participating in The Family History Writing Challenge

_DSC0174 (2)

Don’t you just love how life interrupts your most basic of plans, and throws your whole calendar for the year out the window!!

Oh well………..

My plan was to spend the month of January preparing and writing blog posts for at least 2 months if not more so that I could better organise myself for the year, and present more of the family history content that I so love to write about. However I find that whilst I am progressing with my initial goal, I am also spending a large amount of time preparing for The Family History Writing Challenge with Lynn Palermo which takes place during the month of February each year.

I am so very excited to be participating in the writing challenge again this year.  This will be my fourth year with the challenge and it seems to me that I have never given it the level of commitment that I am putting in this year, so I am hoping for great things to come out of next month.  I have a favourite saying –  “ If it’s worth doing at all, do it well”.  With that in mind I am going to give this years’ challenge my all.

Over the last three years I have learned a great deal about writing short stories from the challenge – whether I am good at it is not the point here.  It has helped me put together interesting posts for The Keeper of Stories about many of my ancestors, as well as a collection of short stories about some of those ancestors for my sisters.  I particularly love The Daily Dose, which is delivered to my email every morning.  This small, informative and encouraging message gives me focus for the day and it also teaches me something new about writing every day.    I watch “the forum” where members talk about their projects, but have never had the courage to comment on what others are writing about due mainly to the fact that I still feel I am a complete novice when it comes to writing.  Maybe this year I will find my voice.

I wonder how many others there are out there that have a committed attitude to preserving their family history and would like to join in the challenge to write their family stories?  I can only say that this challenge is the most enjoyable, helpful and supportive resource that I have found since starting my family history blog two and a bit years ago.  You have so very much to gain – in knowledge and in content for a book or blog – and you have absolutely nothing to loose.  You can participate at any level you choose, talk to people – or not, write 100 or 50,000 words a day (ok – that’s an exaggeration), but at the end of the month you will present on paper the draft for a wonderful story about an ancestor that is just begging to be told.

Good luck to you all – I will be posting during February about my experiences during the challenge – so we’ll talk again real soon


Posted in About Me

Happy 2016 To Everyone

Whew!! What a celebration of love and family it has been, and I for one have enjoyed every exhilarating and tiring nanosecond of it.  This isn’t a blog post about New Years Resolutions though as I’ve decided not to put myself under that stress this year.  For me 2016 will be the year of trying to be a kinder person which of course will lead me to being kinder to every one that crosses the path of my life. That’s the theory anyway.

Family Celebrations
Family Celebrations

The Keeper of Stories will be taking a short break during the month of January as my hubby and I are planning on spending some fun time together.  I will, of course and naturally, be working on posts for the blog during this time and just want to let you know that there are many exciting posts scheduled this year.  These posts will include 2 interviews with living family members, a number of stories relating to the War Heroes of our family, a 2 part series on a family Missionary to the Solomon Islands, more gorgeous postcards from my Grandads collections, and many other exciting titbits!

My wish for you all is that 2016 will be a supremely happy and safe year for not only you, but your adored family as well.

Stay tuned – and we’ll talk again real soon



Habitat for Humanity: Family Celebration Picture,

Posted in About Me

Lets talk Christmas – Your Last Chance Day – Hang In There!

Thursday 24 December 2015 – Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas from Australia
Merry Christmas from Australia

No pressure, but today is the very last day for you to finalise everything – but we’re so organised we can do it standing on our heads!!  All we really need to do today are very basic and routine jobs so – here’s the list I’ll be sticking with:

  1. Cooking  OK, so my plan all along was to cook the meat on the bbq and thankfully my Hubby has a good supply of gas already organised.  I’m going to start with the Ham (recipe here) as this piece will take the longest to cook, plus it really needs to be in the bbq on it’s own, due to it’s physical size.  I can then put the pork, turkey and lamb in different pans on the bbq all at once when the ham is done.  REMEMBER – you must keep checking the meat both to baste, but also to check that it isn’t burning.  You may also have to do some prep on the salads this evening.  I will be cooking the potato salad and the stuffing loaf tonight as this will save me time in the morning, but also allow those lovely flavours to go through the dishes.

Santa and Turkey2.   Cleaning  Really – it’s just the basics today – lets face it, most of it is already done!  First off lets vacuum.  That will pick up any dirt, grass or tiny stones and prickles that have been dragged in from the yard over the last day or two.  Then do a dust.  You shouldn’t have to go overboard here – just a quick wipe with a microfibre dusting cloth.  Check the bathroom.  Put out fresh towels, hand towel/s and washers (for sticky little fingers and faces).  Quickly wipe over the sink, bath and window sill.  Check the front door and entry hall.  Wipe over the front door nobs and glass so they are spotless and put away all odd pairs of shoes that are lurking in the hallway. Look for drip marks on the kitchen cupboard doors and wipe away.  You may need to do a last minute tidy of the fridgeCheck that your stove top is clean and that there are fresh Christmas tea towels put out. Lastly, wash over the floors with really hot water and mentholated spirits.  ALL DONE!


There you have it everyone, thanks for joining me for my Preston Christmas countdown and I do hope that it has helped you in some small way.  I wish each and every one of you the happiest of Christmases and may it be filled with joyous love and laughter.  I have deliberately shied away from any religious implications for the season, but for all my religious family and friends, may the presence of the Lord be at your table and his love fill your hearts..

Merry Christmas to Everyone


Christmas - Aussie Style The

Posted in About Me

Lets Talk Christmas – Last Minute Grocery Dash

Wednesday 23 December 2015

 Well, I’m just so excited!! Some of my family start to arrive today and I want to be ready and waiting with coffee and cake from the moment they get here.

Yummy Fresh Vegetables
Yummy Fresh Vegetables

So – that means that I need to rush off to the store EARLY to grab the last minute fruit and vegetables that are needed over the next few days.

Scrumptious Fresh Fruit
Scrumptious Fresh Fruit

 Take a few minutes to look carefully look through the fridge to establish exactly what is needed, as this will be one totally focused approached to shopping!  By 8.00 or 8.30  am the car parking will be at a premium at any large shopping outlet today; you may just have to be prepared to walk a distance to your vehicle.  So, knowing exactly what you need and not stopping to consider anything else (the old impulse buying monster) will actually save you the discomfort of dragging unnecessary baggage back to your car.  Consider the following:

  • Do you need fresh produce – salad vegies, fresh fruit for fruit salad
  • Are you purchasing seafood – Can you possibly pick it up today
  • Think of the basics – will you have enough bread, eggs and milk to last during the time that your guests will be with you
  • Do your animals have everything they need – extra treats of course!! after all it is Christmas – even for them!
Family Visiting at Christmas
Family Visiting at Christmas

The trick is to stay focused. Plan the trip in your mind.  See yourself visiting the 2 or 3 aisles that you need produce from – and then visualise yourself walking out of the store!  If you follow these very simple steps you should be in and out of the shops, and at home enjoying your day with family, in no time at all.

PS – it’ worth doing a quick tidy through the house – you know, just putting “stuff” away will keep the home clean and fresh as a daisy! 

talk with you again tomorrow



Fresh Vegetables Picture:

Fresh Fruit Picture:

Posted in About Me

Lets Talk Christmas – Take a Load Off

Tuesday 22 December 2015

Well folks, I reckon after the hard physical work done in last couple of days that we should take it easier today.  For me, there are just two or three things that are important to finish today and they are:

  • Take any meat down from the freezer that you will need on Christmas day and sit it on the bottom shelf of your fridge to defrost.  By sitting the frozen meat in the bottom of the fridge you are giving the meat the best chance to thaw at the correct temperature.  I will be taking the pork, lamb and turkey out to defrost to join the ham which is just sitting in the fridge begging to be baked.  My plan is to cook all the meat on the b-b-q on Christmas eve – Thursday.


  • Do that basket of ironing that has been plaguing me for the last few days.  I like to have an empty ironing basket as often as possible, but it seems to have accumulated over the last couple of busy days.  The added bonus of completing the ironing of course is, no matter what situation crops up at the spur of the moment our clothes will be ready and waiting for us. Dinner out – no problem! join you for a picnic – love to! or just come round for drinks  – be there soon!  No need to put that ironing board up and panic about getting places on time.


  • Make the rum balls.  My son Brett just loves these “easy as” rum balls that I make.  Just buy a christmas cake and break it up into crumbs, pour in just enough rum to combine the crumbs.  Form a teaspoon full of the cake mixture into a ball, and repeat about 30 times!!  Melt some chocolate and dip the top of the rum ball into it, then dip chocolate covered rum ball into chocolate sprinkles – done – and very yummy!

rum ball


That’s it until tomorrow folks

We’ll talk Christmas again real soon



Fridge picture:


Rum Ball:

Posted in About Me

Lets Talk Christmas – The Great Outdoors

Monday 21 December, 2015

Don’t you just love fresh air, sunshine, birds singing in the trees….and sweat!  That’s what it’s all about today folks, getting outdoors to do a  clean up, which will be great fun after a couple of days spent in department stores shopping ,or cleaning the house.

Christmas Clean - Table
Clean Spaces to Entertain

Outdoors is where our Preston Christmas celebrations take place so for me, a good clean of the area is as essential as the cleaning of the house.  Now, I’m not really a gardener, but I come into my own when it comes to cleaning and tidying outside.  Here’s my tips for a fantastic looking celebration area – you will need the following tools and equipment:

  1. A Blower Vac
  2. A Cobweb Brush with Extendable Arm
  3. Good Quality Insect Killer (1-2 cans)
  4. Good Quality Surface Spray (1-2 cans)
  5. Glass Cleaner for the Table Top
  6. Cleaning Cloth
  7. Gardening Gloves
  8. Weed Fork

Now, this is not one of my favourite things to do but the first thing on the agenda is spray any webs that may have any nasties occupying them.  I start by spraying along the top side fence (entry to our outdoor living area), then the pergola area across the back of the house and finally, the carport (where Christmas lunch takes place).  Work in a logical sequence so that you don’t miss old Mr Redback who is tucked away under a chair just waiting to attack someone.  Yes, I once actually found a redback under one of our chairs!!

Christmas cleaning - cobweb
Bring ’em Down

Once you have sprayed and you are sure everything is dead, it’s time to bring down any cobwebs in each of the above mentioned areas.  Here in Tamworth during the spring and summer months cobwebs seem to be a permanent fixture, so taming them is paramount.  I use a cobweb brush with extendable arm to bring down anything with a web type look, that way I don’t have to get too close!

Finish off this particular task by using surface spray to keep the area clean and web free for 2-3 months.  The less you have to do this job, the better – as far as I’m concerned.  Be sure to walk away and breath in clean air during the spraying process!

After all that, you probably deserve a coffee!!   After coffee though,  it’s time to connect up the Blower Vac.  Ours is powered by electricity so I use a REALLY LONG extension cord for this.  Once again I start at the top (the side entry to the outdoor living area).  Work your way around the house stopping to pick up rubbish a couple of times as you go.  I just love my blower vac: I still remember doing this job with a broom – not fun….

Next, clean down the table and chairs.  I use glass cleaner on our table top as it is tempered glass.  Wash any chair cushions that may be dirty, or dust them – whichever action is necessary.  Have you checked for cobwebs under the table?

Righty OHH!  Next we use the garden gloves.  Let’s face it – there just isn’t time to weed every bed within an inch of it’s life, so I focus on the two garden beds that will be visible from the lunch table; one at the entrance to the carport, and a larger one at the other end of the carport.  Working as quickly as I can I pull anything that should not be living in these spaces.  It’s always good to give the garden a good water after tampering with the soil, but if you live in an area with water restrictions (most of Australia), then give it a good water tonight.

Christmas cleaning - weeding
The Joys of Weeding the Garden

Now, it’s up to you as to whether you mow the lawn and do the edges at this stage.  Personally, I don’t like to – for two reasons.  Firstly, you’ve just blower vac’d the outdoor living space and mowing and/or edging will potentially have grass clipping all over paths etc. again.  Secondly,  you just may find that the lawn will need doing again on Christmas Eve, which I might add is only days away, so why do it twice?? Up to you though.

After all that hard work it’s time for a shower and  good sit down.  You’re done.  Your outdoor living area should look just perfect for your festive visitors – well done!


Table Picture: Spring Cleaning

Cobweb: wpclipart

Weeding: The Art of Weeding

Posted in About Me

Lets Talk Christmas – Wipe Out !!

Sunday 20/12/20015

OK – so today is all about getting “down and dirty”.  Roll those sleeves up, crank up the housecleaning music and lets Wipe Out The House!!

Now wouldn't that be great!!
Now wouldn’t that be great!!

For most of us, Sunday (today) is the last chance we will have to really clean the house before our family and friends pour through the door on Christmas day.  There will be time through the week for a quick tidy up, but that will be about all we can fit in between rushing off to work, cooking dinner for a hungry hoard and falling, semi-conscious, into bed at the end of it all.

So what are the things that need to be done to have the home spick and span?  Well, I’ll tell you what I focus on, and you can decided whether you wish to add to the list as time permits.  My essential cleaning tasks will include:

KitchenCupboard Doors – a quick wipe over with a cloth dampened in hot water and vanilla extract.  The aroma of vanilla will leave your kitchen smelling homely and loved.  Refrigerator – Just a quick tidy up here.  Check all food is covered and stacked to make the most of available space on Christmas day.  Throw out any food/jars that are out of date.  Dishwasher – your dishwasher will take a caning on Christmas day so wipe over the door with the vanilla dampened cloth, clean the filter and put a dishwasher cleaner cycle through.  Tiles – clean down with your preferred cleaner – especially around the stove and sink.  Floor – I have large tiles on the floor in the kitchen and hallway and find that very hot water with a good dash of mentholated spirits will bring anything off them.

BathroomThere’s no way around it – sorry, but the bathroom will need a top to toe clean.  Don’t forget to clean the mirror!  This will be the 2nd most busy room in the house, so be very particular.  Wash the floor

Lounge RoomCarpet – Vacuum, vacuum & vacuum.  Actually, while you’re at it – vacuum under the lounge cushions.  You just never know when someone will try to retrieve a lost coin or wallet! Whilst you have the vacuum out, change the head and do the curtain tops. Polish – because I want a quick job here, I just use a spray on furniture polish.  It’s much easier to use and takes half the effort of and oil based polish. Tree Tidy – Our Christmas tree is in the lounge room, as I guess most trees are, but it’s a good idea to fully arrange the gifts under the tree and replace any baubles that may have fallen off.  Don’t forget the Window Sills.

Bed Rooms – just a general tidy here – vacuum and polish.  Put shoes away, pick up clothes items, perfume bottles and jewellery and put away in their proper place.  I don’t think I’d go as far as changing the linen, but do so if you must.

Hallwayif you have the opportunity to put fresh flowers near the front door – then do so.  The effect of beautiful blooms on guests as they walk into your home is second to none.  Just the sight of fresh flowers lifts the spirits of the grumpiest person!  Don’t forget to vacuum, dust, look up – are there small cobwebs?  You should also do a quick wipe over of all artwork, photographs and tables in the area, then wash the floor.

Laundry – my laundry is a busy place on any get together that our family has, as the drinks fridge lives in there.  So, wipe over all appliances, clean the sink, wash the floor, look up for those pesky cobwebs, and dust the window sill.  Make sure that most, if not all, the washing and ironing is done, then pack away all clean clothes.

There you have it – a good couple of hours worth of work that will set you up for a much easier Christmas Eve.  Good luck, everyone.  Now, where was that dusting cloth?……………………..


Picture:   Someecards