Family, Life, Life and love, R U OK?


He is not just a statistic, he was my brother.

Today is R U OK Day. It is a day that is close to my heart and one that I never thought would speak to me so strongly. To be honest, before I was affected by suicide, I thought that R U OK Day was a bit silly, I wondered why we would choose only one day of the year to ask someone if they were OK?

I know now that those three words could be the words that a suicidal person may need to hear. I wish that I had asked those those three words more often. But it can be hard to ask the question, especially when we know that it could open up a conversation that can be difficult to address. R U OK Day was developed by someone just like me, a person who had lost a loved one to suicide. It was Gavin Larkin’s grief after his father’s suicide that lead him to champion this one question ; R U OK?

R U OK Day’s mission is to inspire and empower people to meaningfully connect with those in their world and lend support when they are struggling with life. 

My brother wasn’t OK. I knew that, and I had tried to reach out to him, but days turn into weeks, and he wasn’t talking about it. It’s not easy when families are unsure of the resources available to them. We didn’t know what to say. I will never forget the day after he was found, we were handed a pamphlet, it explained what the signs were, what we should look for. It was too late for us.

James was the youngest in our family, the only boy with three big sisters who adored him. He spent a lot of time acting tough, but he had a soft nature. He had a beautiful heart, it was generous and loving and his cheeky smile radiated a room. I miss him every day, and would give anything just to have him back.  

James was a skilled carpenter and mentored many young builders, who often message me with stories of how much he taught them. Ironically at his funeral, his best mate spoke about James’s ritual on the jobsite, where he would get all the guys into a group hug and check in on them.

James was loved by many and left behind a devastated family, including a beautiful son. He had many friends. He just couldn’t see past his sadness.

Today and every day, lets check in on a mate or a loved one and ask them R U OK? Be prepared to listen. Times are not easy and many are struggling. Show kindness.

Fly high James. 1973-2018

If you need to talk you can also call the numbers below

Lifeline 13 11 14

Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636

To help you ask the question, there are many resources at

Life and love

Love, loss and time for nostalgia

I have been thinking a lot about loss. Loss of business, loss of life and life as we knew it. We are going through difficult times. We are unable to see family unless they live with us, some of us are struggling to make ends meet, others are worrying about our health or the health of a loved one. Some are feeling the impacts more than others, and mood swings are a common thing. (for me anyway)! In our region, and other fire impacted regions, people were already traumatised due to the effects of the bushfires. Life does not stop for them and they must get on with it, often without access to any help.

Many are finding that creativity helps. People are cooking, gardening, painting, crocheting, renovating and jigsawing. Zoom is the new best friend of many. I wish I had shares in Zoom.

The hardest part for me is hearing of the massive loss of life, especially at the volume that Europe and the US is experiencing. Apart from the constant media reports, we are almost removed from that, and in comparison we are doing very well here in Australia.

But what about the positives? The sky is clear, pollution is down, people are making an effort to connect in different ways. Sure, nothing beats a hug but when we can’t see our friends or family in the flesh, we try harder to make the time to talk to them. We crave what we can’t have.

Aunty Louise with me as a bub

My Aunty died last week, she was my fathers only sister. I hadn’t seen her for years but I remember visiting her home as a child and spending time with my cousins. Her daughter asked mum if she had any photos and mum remembered that she made me a scrapbook and in that book was a photo of my Aunty Louise nursing me. She was wearing a super cool spotted dress and she was beautiful. I turned my middle room upside down to find that photo. In the process, I found many other photos. The scrapbook contained photos of my sisters and I, along with my brother. I got emotional seeing James as little Jamie, and then I found the poem. A little poem I wrote as a 9 year old about how much I loved my little brother. It wasn’t a great poem so I wont share it but I was only 9.

The poem

I sent the photos and the poem to our family page and it seems I wasn’t the only one having one of those days. My sister was missing her son who is living in Queensland. We were all missing someone or some time when life was a little bit fuller.

Jamie and I

I thought about my businesses. Grace came home and I talked to her about it. Those of us in business often treat our businesses as our baby. We nurture them, love them, get disappointed in them and we don’t want to let them go even when we know we should. I love my business, but I believe as a business owner, I am coping during this pandemic because I have learnt the hard way that a life is irreplaceable and a business is replaceable. I would live in a tent, give my business away and live without if it meant one more day with my brother, one more family Christmas with my brother in law Steve shucking the oysters. One more day of family bickering and naughty children.

Just one more day.


Eat local

I thought I would share this article on my blog as I wasn’t just running late for deadline, I totally missed it. It was written on 20th December 2019.

I am running a bit late this month with deadline upon me. I spent all day working in the café with food; baking, cleaning up and baking again. My grandmother always said that a good cook cleans up their mess. I am not sure they teach this at chef school but it works for me. I get overwhelmed when I am surrounded by dirty dishes. I am overwhelmed by lots of things these days, and trying to stay a little organised keeps me sane in these crazy times.

My main source of stress comes from thinking about the future of our food sources and the impact of drought on our environment.

Now more than ever we must eat local and support our farmers and producers. I think about this often, in fact even as a young child I was fascinated by my grandmother’s vegetable garden, by our pigs, who ate our scraps, by our chooks and ducks, and by the dairy in Krambach where we took our buckets to fill up with milk. We would get a spoon and eat the cream from the top of the bucket. This was what growing up in the country meant to me. Just today while I was cracking quite a few dozen eggs, as I admired the dark yellow beautifully formed yolks, I thought about where these beautiful eggs came from. I thought about the healthy chickens wandering happily with their friends, going about their business, and kicking dirt with their feet. Our eggs come from Idlewilde farm in Elands. Like much of our produce, they don’t travel far. During the recent bushfires, this farm was almost lost. These guys were already struggling with the drought and then the fires hit. Unfortunately there are many more stories like this. Our dairy source is threatened as dairy farmers are unable to feed their cattle, there is no water, many of the paddocks are burnt. Cows that were once milked will become the beef on our table. This doesn’t seem right to me. I grew up on this land, and we just didn’t eat the dairy cow.

Last week I met Joe, he had been cleaning up on his farm at Cappara after losing everything, including his bee hives. I gave him a beer and he told me that he hoped they would return eventually. He was positive but tired. Farmers have been battling the drought for a long time, and they work hard. Emotionally they are drained. Our food sources are threatened, so what will we eat? It worries me. We are not the food bowl we were a few years ago so how will we survive into the future? I hope that it will rain, but if the rain doesn’t come, we may all be eating imported food. Let’s support our farmers and producers when we can. I understand that our local food is a bit scarce at the moment, but farmers are a resilient bunch, hopefully they will rebuild.

I will continue to support local producers as long as they have food, and as consumers you can shop at farmers markets along with many local butchers and fruit and vegetable shops that source local produce. Dine in establishments that support local.

Eat well, eat local.

Feature photo by Les Mulder of The Edible Forest Wherrol Flat


A few thoughts on leadership

As a business owner and leader of a small team, I have spent years getting better at leadership. I have been reasonably successful and I occasionally fail but the most important advice I would give, is to learn by your mistakes and understand that we must occasionally fail to succeed.

The best thing someone ever did for me is to tell me I wasn’t a great leader, this just made me all the more determined.

Following on from some recent discussions I have had about leadership and what makes a good leader, I have gathered my thoughts and followed a few of my favourite leaders to come up with my take on good leadership. Here are my conclusions:

1. Good leaders tell it how it is, nip it in the bud and move on.

2. They must be respected enough to be followed into battle. Respect and like are not always the same thing.

3. Without a team, there is no leader. Whether it be the workplace, a sporting team or a committee, a good leader can hold a team together and attract people into the fold.

4. Leaders are communicators.

5. Leaders trust their team enough to make them succeed, they relinquish control when they need to.

6. Good leaders don’t want what is best for them, they want what is best for the business/team/group that they represent.

7. Good leaders are real, they understand that people like to be heard. They can be vulnerable and understand that real people are not designed to be positive 100% of the time.

8. Good leaders can visualise the big picture while always keeping an eye on the small things that matter.

9. In the year 2019 and beyond, a good leader will fight for a better world. They are the people in communities that others listen to. In my opinion, they must fight for Climate Change and put the planet and people ahead of profits.

10. A good leader will respect and learn from other good leaders.

11. A good leader knows when to step away and let another leader take over.

12. Leaders inspire others, they must take responsibility for how their actions affect others.

At this moment, I am holidaying with my sisters and niece in Greece. A good leader trusts their team to manage the operation while they take important time out with loved ones.



Hot Cauliflower soup to warm the Winter chills.

Who doesn’t love a nice healthy soup on those Winter evenings? I love cauliflower. You just can’t go past a good old fashioned cauliflower bake with cheesy white sauce, or some roasted cauliflower and garlic. Many people are lowering their carbohydrate intake and cauliflower is also a great alternative to rice, especially if you have a thermomix. I cook fried cauliflower rice in the wok or serve it steamed with curry. My sister Andre and I are huge fans of the Cauliflower puree that is served at Movida Aqui in Melbourne alongside the Beef Cheeks in Pedro Ximenez.

I don’t often use a recipe for soup, but a few of my friends asked for the recipe when I shared this photo the other night so I thought I would revisit my kitchen and type up a recipe. Its easy to make and very tasty, especially served with a lovely sourdough (less carbs than white bread).

You can adapt the recipe by adding other vegetables or today I am making a Moroccan style cauliflower soup using Herbies Baharat added when sauteing. Its brassica season so make the most of some local produce.


  • 1 medium brown onion
  • A few cloves of fresh garlic
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1/2 a leek or a few sticks of celery
  • 1 cauliflower
  • butter or oil to saute
  • Approx 1.25 litres stock – vegetarian or chicken (home made is best)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Optional – a few potatoes/and or pumpkin
  • Comboyne Culture Bluembert to serve (optional)
  • Flat leaf parsley to serve


  • Chop onion, carrot and leek/celery to rough dice
  • Finely chop garlic
  • Roughly chop cauliflower
  • Chop potatoes and/or pumpkin into smallish dice
  • In a large pot add garlic and onion with butter or oil and saute gently on low heat
  • Add carrot, leek/celery and continue to saute until all is soft
  • Add cauliflower, potatoes/pumpkin with stock and salt &pepper – cover the vegetables
  • Cook on low heat until vegetables are soft
  • Blend with stick blender in pot or in food processor
  • Serve with chopped parsley and a few slices of cheese

Easy! Now sit in front of the fire and enjoy.

You can purchase Herbies Spices and Comboyne Culture cheeses at Bent on Food