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The little chef
Chocolate banana cupcakes
Easter Sunday falls on 1 April this year, which happens to also be April Fools Day. But this recipe is no joke. In fact, it is here to delight even the non-carrot-cake fans. It is a classic and can really be delectable and brimming with flavour when done right, so with this recipe we can tick that one off the list. It makes all the difference in the world when a cake is tender, moist, full of warm spices and exactly how you would like it. Enjoy on Easter with kids, friends and family, or bake all year round. Either way, this recipe can always be your go-to.
4 eggs
¾ cup vegetable oil
½ cup apple sauce
2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla essence
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground ginger
3 cups finely grated carrots. Use a small grate on a grater. This recipe uses around 6-7 medium carrots
2/3 cups chopped pecans
Cream Cheese Frosting
1 (226g) package cream cheese, softened
½ cup salted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla essence
4 cups icing sugar, or to your liking. The texture of the cream cheese frosting will change if you use less icing sugar, but the overall flavour will still be the same if you would like to tone down the sweetness.
Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line two 9” round cake pans with baking paper and set aside. If halving recipe, use an 8”x 8” oven-proof dish.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg and ground ginger.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, combine eggs, oil, apple sauce, sugar and vanilla. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until combined. Stir in grated carrots.
Evenly divide mixture into the two prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Let cakes cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
For The Cream Cheese Frosting
Don’t you love when the rest of the recipe gets easier?
In a large bowl and using your trusty electric mixer, whip together cream cheese, butter and vanilla until light and fluffy. Slowly incorporate icing sugar and mix until combined.
Turn cooled cake upside down, and frost with cream cheese frosting before adding the second layer of cake. Evenly frost all over. Finish it off with chopped pecans.
*Cream cheese frosting can be divided and coloured to look like carrots using orange and green food colouring.

Little green men
Who doesn’t love a leprechaun? However, if you’ve ever actually seen one of the little green men it probably means you’ve partaken too heartily of the green beer that appears out of the blue once a year
in March. The date is upon us again, St Patrick’s Day when, Irish heritage or not, many Australians will join in the fun and celebrate. Patrick is reputed to have died on 17 March. Not long after his death he was claimed as a saint by the community he served for many years, according to tradition in the early Christian church.
In fact, he has never been officially canonised but his status stands and he is included in the Catholic Church’s official List of Saints.
He is also venerated in the Anglican Communion and in the Eastern Orthodox Church where he is regarded as equal to the Apostles. He shares patronage of Ireland with Saints Brigit and Columba.
An unwilling traveller
Surprisingly, Patrick did not start life as Irish, or even as a Christian despite being born to Christian parents. His father, Calpurnius was a deacon, his grandfather, Potitus, a priest in Roman occupied Britain. In later life as Patricius, the name he used for himself, he wrote his ‘Confession’, or memoir, where he told of how he came to Ireland as a teenage boy. At the age of sixteen he was captured by Irish raiders, taken to Ireland, and sold into slavery to work as a shepherd for six years. This was not a happy situation and in his distress he turned in prayer to the God of his father and grandfather, eventually converting to Christianity. He tells of how he regretted his youth and ignorance and, after six years of bondage, he heard a voice urging him to escape;
a ship was waiting for him. He fled to a seaport over 300 kilometres away, persuaded a ship’s captain to give him passage, and three days later landed in Britain. After trudging overland through wilderness and living rough for a month he returned to his family. Patrick then studied Christianity in Britain and Auxerre in France (Gaul) for around twelve years. He recounts how he was given another vision where he heard the voices of Irish people calling him, “We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us”. Patrick accepted the calling and returned as a missionary, now an educated and ordained priest, to the land of his former slavery. Here he would build on the work of another missionary, Palladius, and indeed some of the feats later ascribed to Patrick may have rightly belonged to this cleric.
Good works and great mythology
For over thirty years during the second half of the fifth century Patrick converted and baptised pagans who practised a form of Celtic polytheism. He became the first Bishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland, ordained priests, and built monasteries. However, not all went smoothly. He seems to have encountered a spot of bother over gifts accepted from wealthy women and money received for liturgical services such as baptisms. He decided to end the practice, but this was a case of ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’.
In refusing to accept the monetary sponsorship and patronage of kings and chieftains, a common practice, he found himself without the protection such sponsorship would have afforded him. In this foreign land without a family structure of his own to give him status he became the luckless target of thieves who beat and robbed him. Later, it appears, he spent over sixty days in prison chains with the prospect of execution awaiting him. Obviously, this didn’t happen and Patrick lived to continue his teachings and unwittingly
create legends.
The shamrock, and those snakes
Icons of St Patrick often depict him with a cross in one hand,
a shamrock in the other. He used the shamrock as a Christian symbol to teach the doctrine of the Trinity. This was a handy symbol as three was a significant number in pagan Ireland where triple deities often represented eternal life and rebirth, and Patrick could recast the shamrock in a Christian context. Although Patrick has been credited with banishing snakes from Ireland, scholars and naturalists have found no evidence, fossil or historical, that Ireland ever had any snakes to banish. The only remotely plausible explanation for this persistent myth is that Patrick banished the serpent image, symbol of the druids, his pagan counterparts. On Saturday my family will gather for our annual commemoration of our late father’s birthday, named for the day Patrick – Paddy – of course. No matter that along with Irish heritage we have become, like most Australians, a mixture: English, Scottish, Danish, Dutch, Croatian, Polish, Korean and New Zealander, perhaps even Jamaican way back (we learnt recently) are all in there too. We’ll hold our usual limerick competition for the Blarney Stone trophy and celebrate what’s good about our various heritages.
Like many others, we’ll wear the green, sing a few sentimental Irish songs, recount a few yarns from other St Patrick’s Day gatherings, and maybe enjoy a glass of Guinness. No one does it like the Irish – and even the neo-Irish.
Judy Redeker

Hazy days
The grey-brown haze and vivid sunsets caused by burn-off smoke are a common sight in the Tasmanian summer. When we see them, probably the first thing we think of is the fire and the danger it presents, but even if the fire doesn’t come close enough to cause alarm the smoke, too, can be harmful, and has the ability to spread much farther than the fire itself. The elderly, young children and those with pre-existing conditions are most at risk, but there are steps you can take to mitigate the effects of burn-off smoke.
What’s in burn-off smoke?
Burn-off smoke is made up of many different types of particles and gases, including nasty substances such as carbon monoxide and formaldehyde.
The larger particles in smoke are what causes the haze and can irritate your nose and throat. Some of the smaller particles are microscopic and can be breathed into your lungs, where they can enter the bloodstream.
What are the health risks?
Burn-off smoke can travel hundreds of kilometres away from the fire itself and can spread over large areas, even major cities. Researchers estimate that smoke from landscape fires account for around 340,000 premature deaths globally each year.
In Sydney deaths increased by around 5% when the city was severely affected by bushfire smoke. Burn-off smoke also causes
a significant increase in hospital admissions for lung problems and cardiac arrests.
Most of us are probably familiar with the uncomfortable symptoms of smoke irritation, having experienced them at least once in our lives. They include coughing, itchy eyes, runny nose and a sore throat. Most healthy adults will find that symptoms caused by short exposure to burn-off smoke will clear up once the smoke has gone. However for elderly people, young children, pregnant women and people with heart and lung conditions such as asthma, smoke exposure can pose more of a risk. For those at risk, symptoms can worsen and can also include wheezing, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing. It’s recommended that anyone experiencing chest pain or difficulty breathing seek medical help immediately.
What can you do?
If burn-off smoke is affecting you there are steps you can take to reduce exposure. Authorities recommend avoiding exercise and staying indoors with your air conditioner set to recirculate. It’s recommended that you also avoid other sources of air pollution indoors such as candles, cigarette smoke and dust. Anyone with a pre-existing condition should follow the treatment plan that they have worked out with their doctor.
If you need to get out of the home you can visit airconditioned places such as shopping centres or the local library, or if possible visit a friend or relative who isn’t in a smoke-affected area.
You can filter out smoke particles using the P2 facemasks that are purchasable from hardware stores, but they are only effective if used correctly and can make breathing more difficult. It’s recommended that anyone with a pre-existing condition seek medical advice before using them.
Although a less obvious aspect of the devastating effects of bushfires, bushfire and burn-off smoke is no less sinister, with the potential to take lives and affect millions. If you are one of those at risk it’s wise to be aware of the dangers and the steps you can take to keep yourself safe.
Siobhan O’Brien

Up, up and away
My very first flight was in 1970, from Gatwick in the UK to Australia. We flew the final leg in a Fokker Friendship from Melbourne to Launceston. It seemed a long, long way back then.
But give a thought to the first flight by a woman, which took 159 days.
I discovered the story in the book The Fabulous Flying Mrs Miller: An Australian’s true story of adventure, danger, romance and murder, by Carol Baxter.
I am not alone in enjoying this book. Reviewer Simon Caterson comments: “Among the glittering generation of pioneering aviators and aviatrixes of the 1920s and 1930s, Jessie ‘Chubbie’ Miller stands out as remarkably adventurous. Carol Baxter’s highly readable biography provides an engaging portrait of a young suburban housewife who decided, quite literally, to make her own way in the world. As Baxter acknowledges, for a biographer it is a tremendous story that just keeps on giving. This book does it justice.”
So just how did a woman born in 1901 start on this road to adventure? Chubbie’s family lived in a small town called Southern Cross, 400km from Perth.
Chubbie, nee Beveridge, moved with her family in 1906 to the bright lights of Broken Hill.
Not long after her 18th birthday,  she married young Melbourne journalist Keith Miller. The honeymoon was barely over when Chubbie realised she’d made
a mistake. In 1927, after personal tragedies, including the death of a premature baby and two miscarriages, she left her husband behind, and headed for a holiday in England, financing the trip with money she made selling carpet-sweepers door
to door.
When she left, little did she know that she’d become the first woman to complete an England to Australia flight (with a black silk gown thrown into her small flight bag, just in case).
This all came about when, amid a whirl of gin and jazz at a party in Baker Street, London, she met Bill Lancaster, who among other things, had been a jackaroo in Australia, and an RAF captain. With both their marriages falling apart, the couple was soon head over heels. They had a lust for adventure, and for each other (which they had to avoid others finding out about), and a desire to see their names in the headlines.
Bill had a plan to make his fortune by being the first to fly
a light plane to Australia, but he didn’t have the money to finance it. Chubbie said she had a little cash and was willing to bankroll him, so long as she came along as co-pilot, even though she'd never flown before.
In the tiny, open cockpit of their flimsy two-seat biplane, the ‘Red Rose’, the pair survived sandstorms, crashes and the appearance of a venomous snake wriggling at their feet while they were 1,500m above Myanmar (then Burma). Their Avro Avian almost crashed again as Chubbie tore the joystick out of its socket to beat the snake to death.  In all, it was a 22,000km flight from England to Australia. So Chubbie became the first woman to fly such a massive distance.
She also became the first woman to fly across the equator.
The journey which took them 159 days, and the couple reached Brisbane to enormous acclaim, with lord mayor William Jolly telling The Brisbane Courier they showed the same spirit of adventure that had “resulted in the discovery of Australia. This flight is a wonderful manifestation of pluck, grit, and determination. I am sure that every citizen of Brisbane heartily congratulates them on their great achievement.”
Many more adventures followed for Chubbie, including flying in the first air races for women with Amelia Earhart, disappearing over the Florida Straits and being feared lost forever only to charm her way to a rescue.
Five years later Chubbie would find herself at the centre of one of the most notorious and controversial murder trials in United States history, when Lancaster was accused of killing Haden Clarke, a writer Miller had developed a relationship with.
Baxter describes her as “petite, glamorous and beguiling... Miller was one remarkable woman – flyer, thrill-seeker, heartbreaker. No adventure was too wild for her, no danger too extreme. And all over the world, men adored her.”
Marian Hearn

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