fbook icon 60Meet Mrs Christmas

Christmas decsChristmas Deb 2 cropped Christmas Heart

When I was a child the year dragged by so slowly it seemed that Christmas would never come. Now it seems to come all too regularly!

But I’m not complaining – I love this time of the year! My family likes to call me 'Mrs Christmas'. That’s because, when we designed our house by the river back in 2001, I included a huge Christmas cupboard to store my collection of decorations and festive napery, as well as the presents-to-be that I begin to accumulate at each Boxing Day sale and build on during the year.

My favourite activity in the lead-up to Christmas is decorating the tree, a full-day event that takes place on November 30 in time for the first day of Advent.

Last Christmas my lovely friend Jan N gave me an ornament organiser from Aldi which transformed my tree-decorating. Now, instead of using multiple boxes and random carry bags, I can fit almost everything into the organiser. And as you can see from the pic below, it looks very smart indeed. What's more, it takes up far less space in the Christmas cupboard, allowing me to collect or create even more Christmas decorations! 

Christmas ornaments

Christmas tree with alpaca cropped 

This year's tree.

Every ornament in my collection has a history. Some have been brought back by friends from their travels to exotic locations, others are hand-made (many crafted by my beautiful mum) - painted, embroidered, sculpted, beaded, quilted - you name it! Each one is very special, as are the people who made and gave them. And one day I intend to document the story of each exquisite ornament, following the fine example of writer, Jennie Jones, who has photographed and recorded her family heirlooms and curios.

DOB Xmas 2012 3

 Hand-sewn decorations from my friend Gabi in Germany

DOB Xmas 2012 2

Christmas Santas - the painted gourd (yes, gourd!) and the stunning quilt are the work of my dear friend, Marilyn McCann. I painted the standing Santa in a workshop with American painter, Delane Lange. My mum did one too.

 Christmas triptych cropped

Provencal-style Nativity triptych painted by me for my book, 'Folk Art of France' and inspired by a 19th century Nativity scene in the folk museum in Aix-en-Provence. The terracotta santons or 'little saints' (made by a santonnier in Provence) are dressed in traditional costumes. 

Christmas bowl

Magnificent faux tortoiseshell and gold leaf bowl by my dear friend Chrissie W

Christmas Mantel

 Fireplace almost ready for Santa's arrival - stockings to come. 

Christmas Verbena cropped

Verbena and bower vine - both flowering for Christmas

Christmas wreath cropped

I've always loved twig wreaths - any excuse to hang one on a door!

Christmas silver tree cropped

Gorgeous metal tree and decorations - a gift from my lovely friend, Judy A.

Christmas pavlova closeup cropped

The easiest Christmas dessert ever - buy a good quality pavlova base, smear generously with freshly whipped cream, add masses of berries (fresh, of course) and a dusting of ground pistachios and icing sugar (add the icing sugar just before serving or it will dissolve). We had this for Christmas Eve supper last year and everyone loved it.

Christmas dogs cropped

Christmas reindogs: Molly and Angel. (Angel refused to wear her antlers.)

And if you're looking for a Christmas gift for someone who has everything, what about a copy of 'The Trivia Man'? It's available as a print book or an e-book from the following online booksellers, or at good bookstores.

The Christmas Trivia Man cropped

Wishing you a joyful Christmas and a happy, healthy and fulfilling 2016.


17 December 2015

Film Review:

‘The Dressmaker’


After a number of glowing recommendations from friends, I finally went to see ‘The Dressmaker'. They were right. This is a wonderful film – funny, sad, quirky, engaging and beautiful to look at. It deservedly won People’s Choice Award for Favourite Australian Film at the recent AACTA Awards.

The opening credits are filmed from above, showing a grid of dusty wheat fields divided by a highway. It’s night-time and a lone Pioneer bus is heading towards its destination. Along the way it stops at a one-horse town somewhere in rural Australia, where an elegant and mysterious passenger, wearing a ‘New Look’ outfit, alights from the bus and deposits a wooden Singer sewing machine case on the ground. It’s the Dressmaker herself, Tilly Dunnage, returning to her hometown of Dungatar to care for her mother who is ill and apparently suffering from dementia.

Set in 1951, ‘The Dressmaker’ is a tale of vengeance and redemption, a variation on the parable of the Prodigal Son, except that this is about a daughter, and she is not welcomed with open arms – quite the opposite. The story will resonate with anyone who was once bullied in the schoolyard and has always dreamt of returning to their hometown, glamorous and successful, to confront their persecutors. There’s also the added element of seeking out the truth about a long-ago death which has tainted many lives.

Veteran cinematographer Don McAlpine (‘Breaker Morant’ and ‘My Brilliant Career’) bring us dusty, sepia landscapes studded with dead gum trees, granite outcrops and squeaking windmills. The little town of Dungatar has one short street lined with archetypal wooden buildings. On a hill within putting distance of the town are the local tip and the rundown house belonging to Tilly’s mother, played with the perfect mix of histrionics and poignancy by Judy Davis, who won an AACTA as Best Supporting Actress.

The cast of ‘The Dressmaker' is faultless. As Tilly, Kate Winslet gives one of the finest performances of a brilliant career, delivered in the best Australian accent I’ve heard from a non-Australian actor – in fact, it’s so good you don’t even notice it! In the supporting cast we encounter old hands such as Barry Otto, Terry Norris and Julia Blake, and a new generation of stars including the intriguing Sarah Snook (‘The Beautiful Lie’ and ‘The Secret River’) and the azure-eyed hunk Liam Hemsworth (this bloke is so gorgeous he doesn’t need to act).

Hugo Weaving is charming as a cross-dressing policeman, while Rebecca Gibney and Shane Jacobson are suitably jovial and harried as the proprietors of the general store with its iconic Golden Fleece signpost featuring the yellow ram. I loved Kerry Fox as the spiteful schoolteacher, Gyton Grantley as Hemsworth’s ‘slow’ brother, and Shane Bourne as the villain (well, one of the villains).

And finally there would be no film without the fabulous frocks, designed by Marion Boyce and Margot Wilson, which transform the ladies of the town from frumps to pinup girls. Sarah Snook’s makeover, in particular, is a delight.

‘The Dressmaker’ is directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse and produced by Sue Maslin from the novel of the same name by Rosalie Ham (which I’ll definitely be putting on my Christmas list). The screenplay was written by Jocelyn Moorhouse and her husband, P.J. Hogan.


In short, ‘The Dressmaker’ is a beautifully crafted film which swings between comedy and pathos and never fails to enchant.

TRIVIA: Sue Maslin and Rosalie Ham went to high school together.

Deborah O’Brien

13 December 2015

fbook icon 60'The Trivia Man'

Trivia Quiz

TTM Tree Only 420

Answers at the bottom of the page.

1.  What is Kevin Dwyer’s original team name?


2.   Maggie Taylor teaches:

     A.   French and German          B.  Music         C.  French and Latin         D.  P.E.


3.  Which character in the book says, ‘Everyone has their quirks’?

     A.  Peter the psychologist     B.  Stephen, Patrick’s father     C.  Kevin Dwyer    

     D.  Maggie Taylor


4.  The Usual Suspects win the fancy dress prize on the literary-themed night.

 Which classic children’s book by Maurice Sendak provided the inspiration

 for their costumes?


5.  What answer did Kevin suggest for the following question:

    What do the following actors have in common?

    Sean Connery, John Wayne, Frank Sinatra, Charlton Heston


6.  What is the name of the Professor’s wife?

7.   How old is Kevin?

    A. 28                     B. 38                         C. 48                         D. 58


8.  Which character comes to the movie night dressed as Ginger Rogers?

    A. Maggie            B. Mei Zhen              C. Ash                    D. Carole


9.  For her entire adult life Maggie has been besotted with one man. Who is he?


10. Which team came third in the trivia competition?

     A.  The Amazons      B.  Teddy and the Dreamers      C.  The Usual Suspects


1. One Man Band   2. C. French and Latin   3. B. Stephen   4. 'Where the Wild Things Are'   5. They all wore toupees.   6. Miss Kitty   7. C. 48   8.  B. Mei Zhen   9. Josh/Dr Josh/Joshua Houghton   10. A, Amazons

November 17, 2015

fbook icon 60Writing and Art

‘Florals in Terracotta Urn’ Acrylic gouache and impasto on canvas Deborah O’Brien (2001)

I’ve never been sure whether I’m an artist who also writes, or a writer who happens to paint. I’ve done both for as long as I can remember, probably from the time I could hold a pencil in my hand.

Read more at the Australian Rural Romance website



Another Bookish Trivia Quiz

TTM Book image

By popular demand, I've devised another trivia quiz for those who love literary minutiae. 

Answers at the end.


1. Which novelist, born in 1828, wrote this famous first line?
“Happy families are all alike: every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
And can you name the novel?

2. Which of the following fictional detectives was not created by an Australian author?

A)      Phryne Fisher

B)      Jack Spratt

C)      Cliff Hardy

D)     Jack Irish

3. 'Tomorrow is Another Day' was one of the early, abandoned titles of which bestselling novel published in 1936?

4. This Australian novel was written in 1977 and made into a mini-series in 1982. It’s said to be one of the top 50 bestselling novels of all time. What is its title?

5. ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.’
This is the first line of which novel by Charles Dickens?

6. Nick Carraway is the narrator of which iconic American novel?

7. Which novelist, born Mary Ann Evans, said: ‘It’s never too late to be what you might have been’?

8. Before they became novelists, which career did the following authors have in common?
Marcus Clarke, Michael Robotham, Geraldine Brooks, Susan Duncan

9. Which of these houses does not appear in a Jane Austen novel?

A) Thrushcross Grange

B) Netherfield

C) Donwell Abbey

D) Pemberley

10. 'Schindler's List' is the film made by Steven Spielberg from Thomas Keneally’s Booker Prize-winning novel. But what is the title of the book?

11. Name the classic Ray Bradbury novel about the burning of books, which was made into a film by François Truffaut in 1966.

12.Which of these fictional detectives was created by novelist Peter Robinson?

A) DCI Jane Tennison

B) DCI John Barnaby

C) DCI Alan Banks 

D) DCS Christopher Foyle


1.Leo Tolstoy, 'Anna Karenina

2. B) Jack Spratt created by Jasper Fforde

3. 'Gone with the Wind

4. 'The Thorn Birds'

5. 'A Tale of Two Cities'

6. 'The Great Gatsby'

 7. George Eliot

8. Journalism

9. A) Thrushcross Grange, the home of the Lintons, from 'Wuthering Heights' by Emily Brontё

10. 'Schindler's Ark'

11. 'Fahrenheit 451'

12. C) DCI Alan Banks

Deborah O’Brien
First written for Random House website June 2015

fbook icon 60'The Trivia Man' Blog Tour

Kirsty People 420    

While I was off doing book talks, Kevin Dwyer, my Trivia Man, was away on his own trip - a blog tour visiting nine different websites!

Many thanks to the following book bloggers who invited Kevin into their respective domains. 

You can read each of the reviews by clicking on the link.

June 8         Annie Seaton Romance 

June 9:      Duffy the Writer blog 

June 11:     Araneus 1 - Terry R. Barca 

June 12:     Sweet Little Pretties

June 14:     J. F. Gibson 

June 16:     Starts at 60

June 17:     The Bookshelf Gargoyle

June 20:    Booklover Book Reviews

June 22:     Luvz Alkemy

And here's my interview with J.F. Gibson about my relationship with Kevin Dwyer and my own connection with trivia and quizzes, plus some practical tips for aspiring writers.



fbook icon 60Launching ‘The Trivia Man’

Meet The Trivia Man 420 

What a great time we had yesterday launching ‘The Trivia Man’ at Hurstville City Library. Thank you to everyone who attended, and special thanks to those who sent or brought flowers. A big thank you to the lovely Sue, head of adult collections at the library, and events coordinator Julieanne for their hospitality and all the work that went into organising things, including the yummy morning tea. I’m also grateful to the delightful Janet Grundy, who has supplied and sold books so graciously at all three of my Hurstville events.

Launch crowd big cropped

Mary Anne and Johns flowers cropped

On the eve of the Queen’s Birthday long weekend and amid an outbreak of flu that has hit so many people, it was wonderful to see such a big crowd. I was thrilled to catch up with singer, songwriter and life coach, Lindsay Drummond, whom I first met when she performed a song she had written about Rose Scott at the eponymous Women Writers’ Festival last year. Lindsay came all the way from the Southern Highlands and here’s a quirky coincidence for you - she’s a much-in-demand trivia host in the Goulburn area.  It was also great to catch up with some colleagues from Sydney Tech High where I taught many years ago. And some of my lovely painting friends were present too (below).

Painting friends cropped

In my talk I discussed the inspirations for ‘The Trivia Man’, my dalliance with Kevin Dwyer which turned into a long-term relationship (four and a half years and counting) and my own connection with trivia and quizzes. I also threw in some trivia questions, all deftly answered by the audience. They, in turn, posed some interesting questions of me – What is it about this fascination our society seems to have with trivia?  Is Kevin based on anyone you know? (Yes, me! Or at least, the nerdy quiz kid side of my personality.) Was it cathartic to write the story? And many more.

Tom Deb cropped 7171Read about the rest of my book tour here.


Deborah O’Brien

6 June 2015

fbook icon 60   BLOG ARTICLES BY THEME


FILMS & TV (23)

Film Review: '1917' 

Film Review: 'About Time' 

Film Review: 'Alone in Berlin'

Film Review: 'Birdman'

Film Review: 'Brooklyn'

Film Review: 'The Dressmaker'

Film Review: 'The Fault in Our Stars' 

Film Review: 'The Grand Budapest Hotel'

Film Review: 'The Hundred-Foot Journey'

Film Review: 'Jersey Boys'

Film Review: 'Magic in the Moonlight'

Film Review: 'The Monuments Men' 

Film Review: 'The Revenant'

Film Review: 'Saving Mr. Banks'

Film Review: 'Their Finest' 

Film Review: 'Twelve Years a Slave'

Film Review: 'The Water Diviner' 

My Four Favourite Stories about Platonic Love

My Top Five Films about Politics 

My Top Ten Romantic Comedies

TV Review: Reality Big Guns

A World Without Books: Fahrenheit 451

A World Without Downton: the 'Downton Abbey' Finale



Home in the Highlands: I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas   Dec 2021

Home in the Highlands: Autumn   May 2018

Home in the Highlands: The Flying Carpet  July2018

Home in the Highlands: A Tale of Two Chandeliers  April 2018

Home in the Highlands: The Secret Garden  April 2018

Home in the Highlands: Finding the Dream Home  March 2018



Alpacas Versus Llamas

The Case of the Missing Monotremes

A Country Sunday

Country Ways

Frosty Tales

Life with a Platypus

When a Platypus's Fancy Turns to Love



Adverbs and Chocolate

An Aspiring Author's Guide to Book Jargon

Attack of the Anachronisms

Book Review: 'Kakadu Sunset' by Annie Seaton

Book Review: 'Lake Hill' by Margareta Osborn

Book Review: 'The Princess Diarist' by Carrie Fisher

Crafting Characters (Guest Post for 'Hey Said Renee')

The Cutting Room Floor

Five Things I Love About Writing Fiction

Free Bookmarks to Download

Happy Endings

How Big Is Your Book?

My Four Favourite Stories about Platonic Love

My Five Favourite Books about Unrequited Love

The Five Books That Have Influenced Me Most

My Top Three Tips for Aspiring Authors

My Top Six Tips for Writing Historical Fiction 

Never Write When You're Hungry

Old-fashioned Heroes

Q&A with Annie Seaton, author of 'Kakadu Sunset'


Rose Scott Women Writers' Festival 2014

Spot the Anachronism!

Trivia Isn't Trivial

What Makes a Good Tagline?

Why Is a Book Like a TARDIS?

The World of the Book

A World Without Books: Fahrenheit 451

Writing and Art


DOGS (7)

About A Dog

A Bonzer Aussie Dog

Country Dog

Lost and Found

Molly Grows Up

Puppy Love

Puppy Proof?



Yummy Chocolate Mousse

Zucchini and Herb Frittata




Christmas At My Place

Meet Mrs Christmas

My Christmas 2014

Ode to Spring

When Winter Comes Early

A Winter's Tale



The Beatles and Me

Déja vu: Lessons from the Spanish Flu

Elegant Architecture

A Gallipoli Story: Finding Uncle Arthur

A Gallipoli Story: The Lost Shearer

'He Who Would Valiant Be'

Recreational Sewing in Cesarine

Tales of the Emporium

The Victorian Art of Scrapbooking



Researching 'Camille Dupré' 

The 'Camille Dupré' Songbook



Amy Duncan and Her Books

An Aladdin's Cave

Anatomy of a Gold Rush Town

Angie's Westerns

An Emporium by Any Other Name

In Search of the Emporium

Inspirations for 'Mr Chen's Emporium'

The Jade Widow@Mr Chen's Emporium



The Amazing Mr Carroll

The Colour Lilac

Fairytale Turrets and Other Fantasies

'He Who Would Valiant Be'

Introducing 'The Jade Widow'

The Victorian Art of Scrapbooking

Writing 'The Jade Widow'



Emporium Trilogy Quiz

First Impressions

Launching 'A Place of Her Own'

My Next Book: 'A Place of Her Own'



A Bookish Trivia Quiz

Another Bookish Trivia Quiz

Launching 'The Trivia Man'

Meet the Cast of 'The Trivia Man'

The Nerd as Hero (Guest Blog at Dark Matter Zine website)

Quiz Kid?

Trivia Isn't Trivial

The Trivia Man Blog Tour

'The Trivia Man' Competition

The Trivia Man Is Coming

'The Trivia Man' Trivia Competition



'The Rarest Thing' Blog Tour 2016

'The Rarest Thing' Book Tour 

'The Rarest Thing' Playlist

What is 'The Rarest Thing'?


Home in the Highlands blogs