Dirty Hippy Meets Pretty Girl

At the end of our Australian adventure, we had three days in Melbourne. We chose our hotel because of its proximity to the Queen Victoria market. I love a good market and this one truly was the queen of all markets, as well as the largest outdoor market (17 acres... that's some serious shopping) in the Southern hemisphere.

We cursed ourselves for having shopped the night before at the crappy corner grocery store. We'd purchased ramen and peanut butter and jelly for our hotel room. This was an idiotic move, considering that the Queen Vic offered not just souvenirs, but every type of food in the world that is better than ramen and peanut butter and jelly. Everything was fresh, homemade, beautiful, cheap, organic, so much so that I imagined us moving to a Melbourne apartment to live within walking distance of the market. A market that good makes you contemplate such things.

Yes, please.

There were seafood vendors, butchers, bakers, cheese makers, a stall dedicated entirely to spices, and one for fresh pastas. And still the market offered anything else you might need, clothing, pet supplies, hardware, luggage, jewelry, flowers, toys, remedies, and home decor. I found and purchased a handful of woven headbands, because the nomadic nature of our trip had lessened my normally obsessive standards of hygiene and forced me to fully embrace my inner dirty hippy.

I took over 600 photos during our trip. Did I take any pictures of the incredible vendors and their wares at the Queen Vic, of the fire juggler at the night market, or the gourmet decadence on display during the day? I did not. I took one picture during our visits to the market. And here it is:

Meet Pretty Girl, suitable for ages three and up. She can be yours for only $22AUD, which is about $18 in US currency. But you'd think for that kind of money, she might come with enough fabric to cover up her breasts. And if you are going to include breasts, why omit the nipples? Without the nipples, breasts aren't very useful, unless you use them to catch errant crumbs while eating in the car, or employ your cleavage as a pocket if you find your clothing is without one when you really need one. 

It's hard to tell in the picture, but Pretty Girl apparently makes a light and a sound when you press on her belly (or the spot where her belly should be). I didn't do this because honesty, I was a little frightened of Pretty Girl, or rather frightened of the makers of Pretty Girl and anyone else who might have touched Pretty Girl. But I did wonder what sort of sound she might make. Did she moan with pleasure? Ask to borrow a sweater? Quote Shakespeare? Lament the poverty that reduced her to life in a cardboard box? 

Mike and I decided to purchase each of the girls a souvenir from the Queen Vic market. Needless to say, Pretty Girl didn't make the cut (in truth, I shielded them from even viewing Pretty Girl). Instead, they each picked out a ring. Emilia's was a silver band which she lost in less than 48 hours, while Ivy's is a purple bunny which, against all odds, made it all the way back to the US with us.

I wonder about the fate of Pretty Girl. If someone does spend twenty-two Australian dollars purchasing Pretty Girl for a child, I can only hope that child bestows upon Pretty Girl a proportionate set of nipples along with a frock of some kind with which to cover them. Because if Queen Victoria were here, I daresay she would not be amused.

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On Returning Home

In two days we'll board the first of four planes to return us to Idaho. We'll come home tired, tan, grateful, and with a nice little chunk of debt to whittle down over the next few months. This is debt I'm happy to have and which was worth it all the while.

We've traveled by plane, car, bike, boat, and camper van, visiting dozens of cities and staying in hotels, houses, apartments, cabins, a ship's berth, and, of course, camper van. My aversion to sand has not deterred my husband from seeking out pristine, picturesque beaches along the east coast of mainland Australia and throughout Tasmania. Every beach we found was both pristine and picturesque.

"Look at the view! Look at the beach!" we demanded, but they were more excited about finding a big stick.

This is the land of little pies (shepherd's, mince, curried scallop) and enormous bacon (meriting the word slab over strip). We've had

Happiness Is a Nougat Paddle

"You really want to go to the nougat factory?" Mike asked. A friend had suggested we check it out, but Mike was skeptical. 

"I don't know, maybe we should. I mean, how often does one get the chance to see nougat being made?"

We were both eager to get out of the house, having had an unfortunate encounter the night before with this guy...

...whose presence made me think that the answer to this question...

An American Girl's Guide to Celebrating Thanksgiving Abroad

Our Thanksgiving was a little different this year. We celebrated on a Sunday with family friends (American-Aussie hybrids) in Coolum, Queensland. We ate turkey and ham and stuffing, but instead of the snow and football that will accompany the feast back in Boise this Thursday, we slathered on sunscreen and bug spray and the kids frolicked in an inflatable pool. I was supposed to bring a pumpkin pie, but I couldn't find canned pumpkin. When I showed up with a chocolate concoction instead, I realized our hosts thought I'd make pumpkin pie from an actual pumpkin, and the fact that they thought I am capable of such a thing is downright adorable. 

This is not a pumpkin pie. 

While some aspects of Thanksgiving hold with tradition, there are others that evolve over time. For instance, deep frying a turkey as opposed to cooking it in the oven. People swear by it, I know. But personally, I've never been tempted. It must be popular for a reason, so I started thinking of why you might deep fat fry your Thanksgiving turkey. Here's what I came up with:

  • No one's had a good emergency room visit since the 4th of July.
  • When else can you justify buying 3 gallons of oil? 
  • You don't have to learn what brining means.
  • The holidays aren't fattening enough as it is. 
  • Deep fat fryers are shiny.
  • You'll have room in your oven for 5 more casseroles.
  • Nothing says gratitude like boiling oil.
  • Cooking in the driveway is sort of like getting back to nature.
  • There's a good chance a man will do it so you can spend more time drinking wine working in the kitchen. 

Despite the fact that now I totally want to deep fat fry a turkey, I think we'll opt for something more simple when Thursday rolls around. 

Notes from the Sunshine Coast

This is not a koala. No matter how long I stared at it, I could not turn it into a koala.

I have no idea what this means. I'm not sure that I want to know what this means. 

These two were excellent guides along the coastal track in the Noosa National Forest. 

...and made it all the way to Alexandria Bay, where the sand makes an oddly pleasing squeaking sound with every step you take. We found out after the fact that this place is clothing optional. Luckily, no one was scarred by unexpected images of a stranger's dangly bits. 

But it's not always sunny on the Sunshine Coast. Here's a weather report...

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What I Did and Did Not Expect About Australia

We've officially been here for more than 24 hours. Here's what I DID anticipate...

We are living above our station. Everything is white or glass and we were immediately informed to give the grand piano a wide berth, as it is a "family treasure". One of the first things the owner of the home said when we arrived was, "Oh, you have little ones." This was discussed ahead of time and I, in no way, sprung my children's existence on the homeowner. But she had a hard time disguising her fear. So we are living with the near-constant mantra of don't touch anything. Said things include this...

and this...

So we find ourselves in the awkward position of being grateful for our accommodations, while also wishing they were a little shittier. I know, woe is me. 

Australian trees are better than American trees. Not only are they home to fruit bats and cockatoos and other things that I don't know the names of, but which also provide a nice change from Boise's ever-increasing horde of squirrels, but just look...

Americans are trashy in more ways than one. I've long suspected that Americans produce far more waste (I didn't say bodily, get your head out of the toilet) than residents of other countries. This has been confirmed by the presence of teeny tiny trash cans bins. It's sad that my family fills this amount of space with waste multiple times in any given day. We need to work on that.

And here's what I did NOT expect...

Nougat! Am I the only one with an aversion to nougat? Who developed the word nougat? Do they think that sounds appetizing? We don't yet know if we'll have time to take the nougat tour, but if we do, we could actually see nougat being hand-made!

I'd make a shitty spy. For years, I wanted to be a spy. Don't laugh, I'm serious. But I can't even unknowingly smuggle an apple. At some point I'll be ready to tell the full story, but at present I'm still too traumatized. For now, let's just say I'm on the watch list...

I'll leave you with a short (one and a half-minute) video.

More on Australia later. For now, I wish you a g'day. 

Only God Can Fudge Me

Does her tattoo have the word fudge in it? I inched closer. 

Fudge me. It said something about fudge me

That can’t be right. Can it? 

We stood in a foot of water at the edge of a lake. This was my first group-camping trip. Friends had invited us, and we knew they had invited other friends, as well. But those other friends also invited other friends, who invited other friends and relatives. The result was a colony of adults and kids camping along a reservoir. The fudge me lady represented the greatest degree of separation between me and any other member of this group. I wasn’t even sure of her name. But gosh, I thought, if she has a tattoo with the word fudge in it, she must have a great sense of humor. The top of her swimsuit obscured my full view of the words along her upper back. I decided I had to ask. 

“Excuse me, I’m trying to see your tattoo. What does it say? Something about fudge?” I smiled, as disarmingly as possible. 

Top 5 Marketing Tips for Indie Authors

This blog first appeared on The Huffington Post

My fellow writers often ask my advice on various aspects of writing and publishing, not because I've enjoyed great success (though I have enjoyed moderate success), but because I've tried just about everything. I've run discount promotions, blog tours, and pricey print ads; participated in television interviews, spoken at book clubs, and performed on stage at comedy events. Every step is a learning experience. Different strategies work for different authors, but here are my top five. Some of these relate more to the sale of ebooks than print, because when it comes to sales, that's where I've had the most success. There are many aspects that come into play, and these are just a few, but assuming the content of a book is decent, of course, here's what I recommend for increasing sales.

1. Kick Ass Cover. Your book is already out, so this doesn't apply to you, right? Wrong. If you have a good book with a mediocre cover, it would be worth your time to redo the cover and re-release the book. Your cover must be eye-catching, intriguing, and a little edgy. Those were my main goals (along with a cover that shows well as a thumbnail) when speaking with my graphic design artist for my first cover.

What You Need to Know About the Boob Hair

  • To be clear, the Boob Hair is not a hair that grows from the boob. On the contrary, it is a hair that originates from the head of the owner of the aforementioned boobs. 
  • At some point, the hair detaches from the head and migrates south toward the cleavage. This is where the hair makes the transition to official Boob Hair. 

"I know where I'm headed," said the Boob Hair. 

How to Properly Celebrate Making the NEW YORK TIMES Best Seller List

Last week I saw a post on Facebook congratulating Jen Mann for hitting the New York Times best seller list for her fantastic book People I Want to Punch in the Throat. I adore this book, but it really should be banned. You can read more about that HERE.