I don’t have the recipe for this, but I had to share it with you anyway. It’s similar to Mandy’s famous chocolate box cake and was made for my friend Debbie’s daughter’s 21st b’day. I didn’t get to try it because it wasn’t gluten free but it looked amazing!


amy's 2

SONY DSC#6 Clothes maketh the man, or woman. Dress like you want the job, especially if you’re applying in person, or if you’re lucky enough to get an interview. First impressions last.

The easiest thing for women is a LBD (Little black dress) Keep the length of the skirt professional (near the knee) and add a black jacket to make the look more corporate. Minimal jewellery and natural make up. Use deodorant but not perfume.

Guys, you cannot go wrong with a nice pair of black or dark grey chinos, a freshly washed and ironed white or light blue collared shirt, and if you’re looking for a corporate job, add a matching jacket and tie.

Polished black shoes and an analogue watch work for both men and women.

*If you’re worried about being overdressed you can call ahead and ask what attire is appropriate for an interview.*

#7 A new thing I’d never heard of, but we’ll see if it makes a difference, is to undergo your own police check. They cost a bit, but if you can prove you’re employable, and save your next employer some money by doing the check yourself, it may have you head and shoulders above the other applicants. 

#8 Speaking of head and shoulders, haircuts, and manicures. Maybe not with nail polish for the guys but most of you could do with a shape and trim regardless. Girls stick to a French polish. Haircuts should be neat, tidy and professional looking. Guys keep the facial hair… you guessed it, neat and tidy.

#9 Be available, especially for retail positions. They want to know they can rely on you to turn up to work on time and not be fussy about the rostering process. Admittedly, this becomes complicated when trying to fit in school or university, but make an effort to be as flexible as you possibly can. Oh and don’t go planning six month tours of far off places if you’re seriously wanting a job. Employers aren’t likely to hire you if you’re going to be flitting off after a fortnight.

#10 Be their next employee. I’ve had the most response in my job search by solving a problem the company was experiencing and letting them know how to work around it. Sure, it’s a risk that by helping them someone else may take the job, but by using my initiative and all the tips above, as well as being a team player, who knows what could happen.

Cross fingers for me everyone. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Police check website (there are many others, and some cheaper, this is the one I used) 

How to tie a Windsor knot

How to polish your shoes




The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Perfect Resume 5th Edition

Kindle Edition, 304 pages

Published January 5th 2010 by Alpha



No-Nonsense Cover Letters

Published December 6th 2009 by Career Press, Incorporated

ISBN1601638167 (ISBN13: 9781601638168)



bec2012_TNBec Stafford interviews Garth Nix about Clariel for the Escape Club.


Garth 2014Set approximately 600 years before the birth of Sabriel, Clariel is the highly anticipated prequel to the first book of your Old Kingdom trilogy. What’s it like writing a prequel, and what have been some of your favourites from literary history?

A prequel often gives you more freedom than a sequel, particularly if you set it far enough back that any difference in the world or setting can be explained by the passage of time. An interesting thing for me was having to go back and re-read my earlier novels and notes, and I discovered I had forgotten a great deal, but I had also set up things I needed without ever knowing that I would. The mystery of the writing subconscious . . .

As for favourite prequels, the only one I can immediately think of is The Magician’s Nephew by C. S. Lewis, which in a personal ordering of the Narnia novels would be near the top. Apart from that, few spring to mind!

Clariel explores both sorcery and magic. Can you tell us a bit about Clariel’s hidden powers? And have those themes always intrigued you?

The Old Kingdom books are in general heavily about Charter magic, ordered and structured magic cast by visualising and drawing upon symbols that define and describe the universe; and Free magic, a raw sorcery that is directed by will alone. In CLARIEL, I have gone more into the nature of Free Magic and Free Magic entities, exploring this aspect of the world in greater detail. I have always been interested in myth, legend, belief and superstition; all those things are basic building blocks for a fantasy writer to develop magic. I guess I have always been interested in the use, misuse, and cost of power in general, magic being a subset of this.

Nix_ClarielYou’re heading off on a long book tour of the U.S and U.K this month. What do you like most about book tours, and can you share some funny and/or interesting anecdotes from your past experiences?

The best parts are the events themselves, visiting bookshops, meeting the staff, meeting readers. Even after all this time I still find it kind of amazing that real people read my books! What’s not to like about talking about books (not necessarily my own) with other booklovers?

The worst parts are the travelling. I’d love to be able to open a door at the back of one bookshop and step out in front of the next bookshop halfway across the world. Like all authors who have been in the business a long time, I have done my share of mortifying book events, where there are few people, the books aren’t there or other things go wrong.

And then there are the travel complications, like arriving at midnight in a snowstorm to be told by the hotel clerk that “We have your reservations, which were and are confirmed, but we have no rooms.” I left the publicist to sort out that metaphysical conundrum and fell asleep in the lobby. Eventually, a half-painted room with the painter’s ladder still in there was found. By that stage I didn’t care!

You’ve answered this question before, but we wonder if it’s changed: Which of your fictional characters Burns Brightest in your mind and why?

The character that is burning brightest right at this moment is Lady Godiva because I am finishing an overdue story for the anthology CRANKY LADIES OF HISTORY where she is the main character, and I have only left writing that to answer these questions and in a few minutes I will go back. Of course, she is not exactly the character from the well-known legend . . .



A beautiful young lady in a black & white with a vine accent around the edges. Smack bang in the middle of the cover is an exquisite rose bloom in a wonderfully vivid scarlet. The title is in red, and I quite like the effect.


Magic practitioners, young women climbing the social ladder, and the stereotypical hero and heroine can be found in this one.


Old Bony. She’s a bit of a nasty character, but her heart is in the right place.

Least Favourite

Ivan. I know this is a fairytale retelling, but seriously?


A Beauty and the Beast retelling: girl becomes the prisoner of a beast and this is where it all gets a little too convenient.


Girl is sent home, but things occur to make her want to go back to the beast.


Not quite the Disney version of the happy ending, but it’s close enough.


This was a quick read, but some things fell into the way-too-convenient basket for my liking. However, I do appreciate that Natasha is a brilliantly strong female lead character.

This would definitely be a nice entry-point to fairytale re-tellings for the middle grade crowd. But for the older YA audience, it’s just not as strong as other versions.


“Tonight, you ride in the sleigh with my pretties.” ~ Old Bony making evening plans for Natasha




The cover had immediate appeal to me, the red really stands out with the white background and represents the story. 


Natasha and Ivan. Beauty and the Beast, Natasha comes from  poor family, Ivan from a rich. They both come under the care of Luel for the beginning of the story and the relationships blossom from there.


Luel, the care taker of Ivan, an intelligent and magical woman who brought a wonderful motherly element to the story.

Least Favourite

The villain. Usually, I really enjoy the drama the villain adds to this story, but with this one I just didn’t like him much.


Natasha gets caught in a snow storm in the forest; she runs from wolves and finds sanctuary in a mansion. She finds there is nobody around and finds herself drawn to one red rose in the garden. Upon her touch, the rose falls apart and the home-owners demand repayment for their loss.


Even though, at first, Natasha is held at the mansion until her debt has been paid, she soon learns of the mystery of the man-beast, Luel and the magic that keeps them in hiding. Natasha soon grows very fond of Ivan and Luel and wants to help him release him from the curse.


Very powerful, eventful, and big moments that really made this story a beautiful read.


I was a little wary at the beginning but once it really gets going, Natasha begins her travels and meeting the witch it really took off. Set in an alternate Prague, the story recreates the landscape, cultures, and languages. Great world building and characters that you really want to root for. Natasha is a strong and admirable character. I very much enjoyed this fairy tale story and highly recommend it. I love stories that take us on a trip, getting a glimpse at different cultures and social life. Great story telling all around.


For who as seen Old Bony these days? Not a single soul. Not once in a hundred years has she shown her long thin nose and sharp teeth to people anywhere.  Who knows, maybe her brand of magic, the magic you hear of from the old stories, cannot survive in our modern world of telegraphs and trains and typewriters. 

Mandy Wrangles_2_tnSan Francisco is famous for many things. The Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Gay Pride, the Painted Ladies, Lombard street – the twistiest street in the world…the list goes on and on. And then – there’s the clam chowder.



USA-cc3One of my foodie ambitions was to try the famous San Franciscian chowder in a sourdough bread bowl while we were in town, and I wasn’t disappointed. Different versions are available from every second street vendor, but we got lucky on our very first purchase.

We stayed right on Fisherman’s Wharf, almost directly across the road from the world-renowned Boudin’s Sourdough Bakery – also the oldest bakery in the city. After a long day bus-touring around town, my beloved popped out to grab takeaway for the kids, and returned with this to our hotel: The original clam chowder in a bowl. You can see below how excited I was:


It was so omg delicious that we returned the next day for more, this time eating in at the downstairs cafe-style outdoor dining room. By the way, chowder goes to down really well with beer….

And finally, on our last night in San Francisco, we returned again to Boudin’s with our entire party of 16. This time we ate upstairs, which is more of a fine-dining experience. While I skipped the chowder this time around (for lobster), my 10yr old ordered it from the kid’s menu. Check out the turtle bread that it was served in!

So clam chowder achievement was unlocked. And it lived up to all expectations!




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