My folks returned back to the UK today.
They've been here for almost 3 weeks now and I hope they now appreciate why we made the move last October. It's been absolutely great having them here; showing them the lake, beaches, the people we know and also the beautiful scenery that surrounds us. I missed them, and it was great to catch up.
Of course, it's been heart-warming for me to see them interacting so well with the kids. The children have just been great, and have been more than spoilt by 'Nanny and Grandad'. It was almost as though we've never been away and the kids stuck to them like glue. Even Gareth, so often a daddy's boy wanted Grandad to take him to the toilet everytime instead of me - sweet relief !!
Looking back over this blog for the past couple of weeks just shows what a busy time we've had, but all of it great fun and I'd do it all again tomorrow...The highlights of their visit probably include:
- Hunter Valley and the wine extravaganza
- Shoal Bay and the dolphins
- Picnic at Blackbutt reserve
- Sian learning to cycle
- Rhiannon losing her teeth
- BBQ breakfasts ... and lunches... and evening meals...
- Heritage Afloat in Toronto
Without realising it, I suppose Gina and I were probably trying to justify to them why we decided to emigrate, and it also brought it home to us what exactly we have managed to achieve in the past 6 months. We feel part of this community at the moment, and wanted to show them that both the kids and us were both comfortable and settled, and that we had absolutely no regrets about our decision to leave the UK.
Was it emotional collecting the pale-skinned grandparents at the airport?
Was it emotional dropping the newly tanned grandparents back to the airport?
Did I hide any sign of emotion, whatsoever?
Did they now I had a lump in my throat saying goodbye?
What do you think?
I'd like to say a big 'Thank You' for everyone here who made my parents so welcome on their visit (you know who you are) - they were truly delighted to be the centre of attention for a while !
Enough already, I'm getting all sentimental.
Bring on the next visitors, Nashy in June and then Josie and Stef in August...
My folks returned back to the UK today.
At last, it is finally Rhiannons "Real" Birthday! She has been excited about her party last week but today she really is 6 and boy do we know it! There has been excited giggling coming from her bedroom since about 7am. Finally about half an hour later she couldn't contain herself and came into our bedroom like a tornado! We needed ear plugs! She was absolutely hyper!
There was a mad frenzy of unwrapping presents and lots of shouting "Thank-you" into the air. (We have told them that if they shout it loud enough it might travel around the world!) Her first present was a football (didn't manage to disguise the wrapping on that one very well!) Then a football goal. This was the only thing she had been asking for.
After that everything else was just a whirlwind of excitement; clothes, fishing game, twirling ribbons, Bratz dolls, purses!
Thanks so much for all the parcels, some were sent so far in advance that I had trouble remembering where I had hidden them! We will put up more pictures later of the rest of the day but here are a few for now.....
And later on....
Grandad and Nanny put together the new football goal (easier said than done!) and we all had a spirited game of football on the deck which involved very few rules and two footballs! Rhiannon decided to wear a pair of Gareths welly boots but was still almost unstoppable as the "goaler" (we couldn't persuade her it was goalie!)
After playing the tomboy all afternoon she got dressed up into the flower girl dress that was made for her nearly 3 years ago and danced around the front garden waiting for Anne, Kel and Tenelle to join us for her birthday tea. It was somewhere about then that I nearly severed my thumb off with the carving knife and rushed away for paper stitches but that is a whole new story! Finally we all sat down and had a lovely roast lamb dinner followed by a fantastic marshmallow and red-berry dessert that Charles & Sue taught us (bag of frozen fruit topped with bag of marshmallows in the BBQ for 30 mins till it all goes sticky and melted- YUM!)
It was a lovely end to a busy day and we finished it all of with singing "Happy Birthday" to Rhiannon who really looked like she had had a brilliant day.
ANZAC Day - 25 April - is probably Australia's most important national occasion. It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.
Here in Toronto there is an annual commemorative march down the main street. Most schools and organizations are represented. Many children wear the medals that have been passed down from their Grandfathers. Sians school, St Josephs- Kilaben Bay, were involved and Sian was happy to join in. It is still Easter school holidays here but they asked the kids to wear school uniform for the march. Sian was happy to oblige, Rhiannon refused point blank!!! You can just see Sian on the right of the photo about 5-6 rows back from the banner. I think Rhiannon slightly regretted her choice later when the children in the parade were given a free ice-cream and can of fizzy drink afterwards!
Never mind, there is always next year!
For the first hour they just all played really nicely in the rumpus room leaving all us adults standing around chatting and catching up. Then in the second hour we had to rev them up a gear to play pass-the-parcel and eat the birthday food before it was time for home.
She got some lovely presents and went shopping today swinging her new handbag on her arm, wearing a lovely pair of new bright pink woolly winter tights with a summer skirt (doesn't get her fashion sense from my side of the family!)
A big "Thank-you" to all of her friends who made it such a lovely day!
We had a fabulous day today on Anne and Kels speedboat. We had a "sticky-beak" at all the wow waterfront houses (in normal language a good old nosy!) It was fun to see how the other half live. Some of the houses right at the waters edge even had swimming pools in their gardens. Too posh to get seaweed in between their toes!
Kel let Byron take control of the steering wheel. It was the first chance to show off his new boating skills since he got his license last month. We pulled up on a jetty at Rathmines and got a big lunch of fish and chips, then let the kids feed the left overs to the seagulls.
We pottered around for another couple of hours before having a roast lamb dinner at Anne and Kels house. We brought a couple of bottles of Tyrrells wine from our vineyard visit during the week. They were gone in record time and a heavy dent was made in Kels wine rack. I picked a lousy night to be designated driver!
We were a bit hung over this morning and were in two minds as to whether we should do a big day trip to the Hunter Valley Vineyards. Anne made our minds up by telling us that Kel had made a phone call to a friend at Tyrrell's Winery and we were going to get the red carpet behind-the-scenes tour if we went up. 10 minutes later and we were all in the car!
We had a fabulous day wandering around the beautiful Hunter Valley gardens. We had the most huge delicious sandwiches for lunch, and then on to Tyrrells....
We weren't disappointed, Annes Cousin Mike and Kels friend Greg made us feel like royalty. We were allowed all around the working areas of the winery including the special atmospherically controlled bottling room. It was really amazing to see all the large crates being packed with bottles that will probably be heading all over the world, maybe some will even make their way to Tesco Northampton where we used to buy most of our wine! We bought a great case of their different red wines and are looking forward to opening one or two this evening when the kids go to bed!
Sian finally learned to cycle without stabilizers today! After much wobbling and screaming the penny dropped and there was no stopping her! She spent the afternoon whizzing around Rathmines park in a blur!
On the way back we passed through a really heavy rain storm. By the time we reached home it had moved on and we had a beautiful rainbow that looked like it finished on the roof of our house!
The kids were so excited and ran around trying to find the pot of gold. You can imagine my surprise when I heard Rhiannon squealing in excitement....She had found a parcel on the doorstep that was addressed to her! It was a chocolate Easter card from her friend Jack in Northampton.
Who says there is no such thing as magic!
A trip to Australia would not be complete without a visit to Sydney. We parked in one of the suburbs and got a ferry in under the Sydney harbour bridge and past the Opera house. It was a wonderful way to start soaking up the atmosphere. We had a lovely coffee right next to the opera house and then made our way through the Botanical gardens. Byron was our tour guide around the Sydney streets (we all know I have no sense of direction!) We had a lovely lunch in Darling Harbour and sang "Happy Birthday" to Auntie Carrie as we walked over the Pyrmont bridge and then went souvenir shopping. We caught an evening ferry home. It was dark and the lights were just wonderful and although the photos all look very blurry and wobbly from the vibration on the ferry I think they catch the magic!
We went to Shoal Bay today, and this was one of the places that we visited a few years ago that made Gina and I realise that perhaps we should come and live in Australia. It is a beautiful location with fabulous beaches, clear waters and best of all the dolphins.
It was a place that I just HAD to take my folks to see, and although we thought we would get stuck in the Easter holiday traffic it turned out that we were almost the only people there...bliss.
After a quick splash around in the sea (with Sian happily swimming), we booked in for a trip on a Dolphin Watch boat. It involved motoring around a large bay until dolphins were spotted, and it didn't take us to long...we were absolutely spoilt by the number of them swimming and darting all around the boat.
It was a case of 'Look there', 'now over there' and 'take a picture, quick!', and before long one or two of us were fast asleep...
Once the boat trip was finished, we headed back to the beach to watch the sun go down, the colours were amazing and it really made a great end to the day splashing at the water's edge.
The day started off with Nan and Grandad giving Gareth a 'very' early birthday present of a new bike - they just couldn't wait until November and Gareth certainly didn't mind. He loved it and we couldn't get him off it at the end!
As well as packing in all the usual Easter festivities, there was also a large carnival atmosphere in Toronto this weekend for the annual Heritage Afloat festival - where there were loads of old, beautiful wooden boats on show, as well as entertainment, stalls, fair rides, tanks (!) and great food...
One of the highlights of the festival was a boat race, but the contestants were only given two hours to make their boats before entering the race. I don't know how any of them managed to stay afloat for more than 5 minutes, but after the starting gun was fired (by three musketeers!) the race was on, and it was hilarious with battles raging for the next ten minutes (water bombs, barging and oar bashing).
Of course, the obligatory bouncy castle and slide were also present...
A great spot for native Australians (and visitors alike!) to go for a day out is a place called The Entrance. It has a great 'holiday-resorty' feel to the town, with a continental atmosphere; plenty of outside cafes, stalls and splash pool areas.
Here, at 3:30 every day dozens of pelicans turn up at the side of Lake Macquarie and wait to be fed, it's a great spectacle with hundreds of people squashed up against the water's edge straining for a glimpse.
The kids had a chilly time in the splash pool, and Sian even jumped straight into the lake to see if it was warmer there.....it wasn't ! Good girl for trying though.