A June Dozen

We’ve been eating, drinking, testing and tasting and the fruits of our labours are coming here soon. Watch our video … perhaps you’ve visited these places too? Love to hear from you, John and Pip

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Hey good news

Happy to report local Vline station staff have restored my faith and lowered my grumpy level. Friendly helpful service goes a looooong way! Thanks. Only fair to report the good with the bad :-)

Vline poor again

And so it goes — the 8:53 to Melbourne has been delayed and they now hope it will be more like the 9:20 if we’re lucky … Official reason? “Defective locomotive”

Vline unsatisfactory service

Train customers along the Ballarat line are riding buses again this morning thanks to the Victorian government owned Vline train operator. The scheduled train services are unexpectedly being “replaced” with bus services even though buses were only supposed to run Friday to Sunday — so we Ballan commuters get to start our day grumpy instead of relaxed.

UPDATE: buses continued as “replacements” in the evening. I caught a bus 30 minutes earlier than my normal train but still arrived home at Ballan about 6pm proving that the bus is nowhere near a “replacement” … it’s a poor substitute.

Gingering up the bookshelves

Ginger, featuring art by Leonie Ryder

Ginger, featuring art by Leonie Ryder

Our friend and client Dr Leonie Ryder has just launched her major new book Ginger in Australian Food and Medicine through the Melbourne imprint Australian Scholarly Publishing ($39.95, paperback).

The book cover says it all: “This book traces the history of ginger, one of the oldest, most popular and versatile of spices, focusing on ginger growing and the use of ginger in Australian food and medicine from 1788 to the mid-20th century. The story is set in the context of ginger’s long history in China and India, ancient Greece and Rome, and Britain. Ginger was grown in the first garden in Sydney in 1788. As settlements were established further north, the spice thrived, and large quantities were also imported to meet ever-increasing demand. Including recipes and historical anecdotes with detail from specialist sources, Ginger in Australian Food and Medicine is for a wide readership.”

Strictly Literary is very proud to represent Dr Ryder. I met Leonie in 2010 when she was finishing work on the book and tracking down evidence that ginger was imported to Australia with the First Fleet in 1788.

She is one of those rare individuals to hold not one but two Doctorates — one in Aviation Psychology and one in Food History: that’s a major achievement! She is also an accomplished artist, as the sketches in this delightful volume demonstrate.

Brisbane shoppers can meet Leonie at Riverbend Books on Wednesday May 7 at 6pm (193 Oxford Street, Bulimba). More details here.

Cooks, historians and health fans will find much to love in Ginger, including recipes. You can order one here or in discerning bookshops.

Ballan in Autumn is Festival Time

PublishingStrictlyLiterary

This is the big week for our little Central Highlands town 78km north-west of Melbourne, when the power poles in the main street magically sprout loudspeakers and spring to life on Sunday. We hadn’t moved in this time last year so Sunday will be our first one … luckily filmmaker Patrick Bonello captured the action and posted it: looks wild!

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So many concerts

We’ve been amazed at the number of top concerts which come to our part of the world. Suzi Quatro was here last month (video by Michelle Bell-Booth on YouTube) and next week (March 15) the Ballarat Symphony Orchestra is playing at Michael Unwin Wines at Beaufort, just up the road to the north-west.

Last Spring we sat in glorious sunshine (the one hot sunny day) next to Lake Wendouree and listened to Jon English, Ross Wilson and Russell Morris for around four hours of solid Oz rock and roll, not to mention blues, all for $50 a head. Thanks to the people at Regional Touring, I guess.

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Jon English: picture by John Cokley

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Ross Wilson: picture by John Cokley

Russell Morris: Picture by John Cokley

Russell Morris: Picture by John Cokley

As Autumn starts we ventured out to the Grampians last week, taking in lunch at Halls Gap and then tasting wine on the way back at Beaufort and Michael Unwin’s wines, taking home two bottles of his signature Umbrella Man chardonnay and merlot.

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Enjoy Autumn … we’ll have some flowers, more visits and other shopping news next month.

Dripping with produce

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We spend a lot of time knocking back cheese and wine and so when we received this email share … well, we couldn’t resist!

On Sunday we ventured north-west to the Talbot Farmers’ Market outside Ballarat and it was a revelation of the happy kind.

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We’ve visited this tiny rail stop on off-days (as have friends) and it’s practically dead. You could fire a gun up the main street and not hurt a soul. But on market days, it’s humming! Wine, food, flowers, produce and nic-nacs … all there.

We noticed VRail was opening their new station that day, perhaps that helped?

But the find of the trip was on the way back home to Ballan, at the tiny locality of Coghills Creek.

There we stopped at the 30-year-old vineyard Eastern Peake and yarned with owner Norman Latta over a glass or two of his excellent wines. Norm and son Owen offer a range of classic wines with made-up names such as “Pinot Tache Blanc du Noir” (a delightful rose) and “Appellation Ballarat” (an inviting pinot noir, 2010 was the year for us).

And for lovers, they’re having a Valentine’s Day party: details here. The Victorian countryside is practically dripping with produce this season … take it in!

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Out with the old, in with the new

We have just learned that our friend and valued colleague Donna Meiklejohn has been named one of Queensland’s 125 most outstanding women leaders! So proud to know her:

You can view the list here, at the YWCA Queensland’s 125 Leading Women site

The YWCA has been celebrating 125 years of continuous work with and for the women of Queensland, and reckons that this list “is a fitting tribute to the thousands of women who have shaped both this great organisation and this great state over that century and a quarter”.

They continue: “We feel that each of these 125 women represents a facet of what it means to be a leader. Each has contributed something significant to her community, and at the same time is the embodiment of one particular type, style or field of leadership.”

Donna’s citation reads: “Donna is an award winning journalist who has had a long, high-profile career in news and current affairs journalism as a presenter, writer and producer in the commercial and public media. Donna started work in country radio in the 1970s when the industry was dominated heavily by men and went on to become the first woman appointed by an Australian commercial television network to an overseas posting. She is best known for her roles as presenter of the national ABC viewers’ forum Backchat, and the flagship current affairs program Nationwide. She is currently lecturing at the University of Queensland, nurturing the journalists of the future.”

But here’s some news: we hear that Donna’s services have now been secured by QUT instead for 2014, and more power to them!

Here is just a taste of the company Donna finds herself among:

Christine Anu

Sallyanne Atkinson

Anna Bligh

Quentin Bryce

Sarah-Jane Clarke & Heidi Middleton

Keri Craig

Cathy Freeman

Caroline Jones

Elizabeth Kenny

Deborah Mailman

Kay McGrath

Sarina Russo

Julianne Schultz

Georgie Somerset

Samantha Stosur

Merle Thornton

Kath Walker

Mary Woods

Robina Xavier.

First flower 2013

We promised flowers and even started a countdown on July 7, predicting first rose blooms 154 days later on December 8 (according to the locals). But it seems nature is a little eager this year and our first rose poked its nose out a month early. And the other bushes are positively groaning with buds, dozens of them.

So we dug in and planted proteas from Garden Express mail-order service, peonies from the Tangled Maze and Mistydownes Nursery, and a peach and an apricot from our local Growmaster in Ballarat.

And finally for this post, our regular road trip around our region. This time we visited the nearby booktown of Clunes, the vineyards and cellar doors of Avoca, and the delightful gem of a little cider brewery and deli just outside Ballarat.

Here’s how:

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