Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Woodruffs hit the water.

It was a glorious sunny day today so we decided to take the boat out for a spin around the lake.

The kids were very excited. After they were all strapped up in their life jackets they were sat into the front of the boat with strict instructions to obey the Captain. It could have been a nightmare having 4 adults and 6 kids in a small space in the middle of a lake but the kids were brilliantly behaved and it was easy!

They all huddled up tight at the bow of the boat laughing and shouting "faster faster"

We sat in the back with our coffee enjoying the sun on our faces. Grace was really good and was happy to sit on laps while the boat was moving.

We tied up to a mooring in a quiet inlet and the kids all jumped overboard and had a swim around. Poor Grace was the only one not allowed in the water and wasn't happy. None of us adults were prepared to risk the bracing water to get in with her. The kids said it was lovely and warm but we weren't dipping more than a toe in!

We rang Carrie in Anne and Kels house to ask her to join us. She was in her pj's so we gave her two minutes to change, brush her teeth and run down the 100 steps to the jetty. She made it in record time and we spent the last hour pottering around, drinking more coffee and having fun. The wind picked up and we werent able to get Carrie back to Anne and Kels jetty because it was very choppy so we abandoned her and Derek at another local jetty where she walked the 10 minutes back to the house. We got the boat safely back out of the water and back to the house with just over an hour to wash the 6 kids, the boat and ourselves before heading off to a party in Anne and Kels house to celebrate their house move that will happpen early next month.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Koalas and Kangaroos!

What does every kid want to see when they are on holiday in Australia???

Koalas and Kangaroos of course!

Luckily for us we have a free animal reserve twenty minutes drive from our house. It is always one of the first places our kids want to bring visitors.

The kids had a lovely time and let off lots of steam running around the park and Grace added a few animal names to her vocabulary!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Natural born surfers!

Yesterday we stayed local to allow the kids to adjust to the time difference and the Australian weather. Today we decided to hit the beach!

We went to Caves beach, one of our favourites, as it has great waves for body boarding and some great rock pools to explore when the kids need a break from the water. For Alex and Myles's last birthdays we had bought them a body board each that we put on their beds when they arrived. They were very keen to try them out.

Within seconds of arriving on the sand the three boys were racing down to the water. There was a strong rip tide and the lifegurds had the red and yellow flags quite close together so we spent our time calling them to keep them between the flags. The boys were like fish and didn't seem to mind being swept off their feet occasionally.

They got the hang of the body boarding instantly and were shrieking with adrenaline rush excitement as they raced into shore on the crest of the huge waves over and over again!

It was a brilliant day. I think we will have to go back another day when the girls are off school.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Hello Woodruffs!!!

The Woodruffs have arrived!!!

Judging by their faces as they arrived into Sydney Arrivals hall the flight had taken its toll on our friendship!

Never mind! They are here now and hopefully we will show them such a good a time that the friendship will recover! It's amazing what a few bottles of wine can do!

Our first real day was a bit overcast which was a nice way of breaking the kids in gently to the Australian weather. We went to a local park where the kids let off some steam and then had an ice-cream next to the lake. By the time we got back to the house a few hours later you would think that we would take it easy for the rest of the day but, oh no!

The Woodruff boys had other ideas!


Off we went down to Kilaben Bay jetty and over the next heart-stopping hour we managed not only to prevent any of the kids from falling head first off the jetty but we also caught three lovely fish!

First there was the one that got away... A huge fish jumped out of the water straight out from where we were fishing. The next cast landed where we had seen him and within seconds the rod was straining. I thought the rod was going to snap and the fish was pulling so hard that we couldn't reel in the line. As the line went slack we knew we had lost him. That story can go down in history and can only get more dramatic with the telling!

Next was Gareths turn with a fair sized fish (Don't ask me what type?) It was christened "Fish"

Then Alex caught a whopper! He was known as "Chips"

Finally it was Myles who caught a tiddler that was named "Ketchup"!!!

We brought the fish home and Alex cooked his and ate it with the biggest smile on his face.

What a brilliant start to the holiday!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Bye Bye Carrie.

We have had a great time during Carries visit with us over the last few weeks.

We have enjoyed showing her all the sights and introducing her to all the friends we have made here. Some of the highlights were our day on the boat, the St Patrick's day party and a great day trip to Hunter Valley that we did one day while the three kids were in school. We stopped at the Peterson's Champagne house for coffee and scones and then went on to the Hunter Valley Gardens shopping village where we bought lots of gorgeous things and then had a lovely lunch in one of the gift shops.

Another benefit of Carrie visiting was her unbelievable ability to empty out all the drawers in my kitchen before breakfast forcing me every day to tidy out and pack another room in preparation for the big move to the new house. I have at least half the contents of every room either packed away neatly or thrown away in the garbage!

Carrie has now gone off to Sydney to spend a week with our brother Joe.
I wonder if his house needs a spring clean?!!!

Thanks Carrie!

Come back any time!!!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

California Visit Part II

My week in California was very enjoyable - I could at long last put faces to people that I've only ever spoken to over the telephone.

Work aside, I experienced Sushi for the first time, and was surrounded by great scenery including lakes and redwood trees.

My trip home took a turn for the worse however....

Arriving at San Francisco airport there were signs showing that the terminal was in a heightened state of alert called "Amber". This meant that extra security checks were in place so check-in would take a little longer. I was early at the airport so this should be okay, right?


I was deemed suspicious because I was a UK citizen travelling to Australia from the US. My boarding card was marked with yellow highlighter pen and I was told to check-in at a different location. I had to remove my belt, shoes, wallet and discuss with security exactly what was in my case - even having to prove that my laptop and iPod worked.

I was then told to stand in a glass box and to stand still until a red light changed to green.

An automated voice told me it was "preparing gas jets" as I stood there confused. Several "gas jets" later and the red light was still red, not even a hint of green. My own state of alert raised to amber when I spotted other check-in travellers staring goggle-eyed at my glass box and four other security guards were making their way towards me.

The door was opened by a guard and when I politely said that the light hadn't yet turned to green I was instructed to move out quickly. I turned to look at the display monitor at the front of the glass box, and was stunned to see in big, bold, red, flashing letters the words:


"Is that me?" I asked as I pointed towards the display. Well, apparently it was and I was quickly whisked off for an interview. My own state of alert shot up to red at this time and I was shaking like a leaf.

15 minutes and one 'intimate' search later I was given the all-clear and was told to collect my stuff. When I asked how often 'false-positives' occur with the analysis I was told never. That didn't help reassure me though and I walked in a daze for the next half an hour.

Several large beers later I boarded the plane but couldn't help feeling uncomfortable as other passengers were looking at me with obvious suspicion.

I'm glad to be home !

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

St Patricks Day party!

March 17th

St Patrick's Day!
Green, Shamrocks, leprechauns, Guinness, flags... What more could an Irish lass want?

St Patrick's day was brilliant this year! We had a great morning out on the Red Dragon. We flew the Irish flag off the back of the boat as we sped around the lake showing Carrie all around the shores of Lake Macquarie.

In the evening we had a party at a local club where 60 of our friends turned up with kids in tow wearing every shade of green possible. It was load and noisy but fantastic fun!
Byron was booked on a flight to the US the following morning so it wasn't a late one but we sure made the most of the time that we had!!!

Here are some of the photos.....

Monday, March 19, 2007

California Visit

Not content with avoiding my sister-in-law by travelling to India last week, I'm currently spending this week in a much chillier California. When will she take the hint??

I'm based in Scotts Valley near Santa Cruz and it is definitely much cooler than I'm used to. It's currently 10C here at the moment (50F) and I can't remember it getting colder than 14C for the past 18 months in Oz. It was a case of "spot-the-tourist" as I left the airport ..... it wasn't too hard, I was the only one wearing shorts and sandals.

I took a shuttle bus from San Francisco airport to the motel in Scotts Valley. It was quite a drive and I couldn't help comparing it to the trip from Bangalore airport to the hotel. There are probably the same amount of cars here except rather than being squashed into two lanes, there were 12 lanes on the freeway !

I'm about 6 miles away from Santa Cruz beach. I'm not sure I'll get much sight-seeing done, but the beach looks pretty good to me...

Monday, March 12, 2007

Happy Birthday Kel!

It is Kels birthday today .

Because it is a school day and we had swimming lessons in the afternoon we were struggling to find a time in the day to see Kel and give him his presents and cards. Anne offered to come around and join us for breakfast. We got up early and ran around getting ready for school quicker than normal. By 8am we were ready and Carrie was busy cooking pancakes. We put a candle in one to sing Kel "Happy Birthday"

Generally we make a fuss about birthdays for the benefit of the kids but today I think Kel had fun too!!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Getting ready for Daddy.

The kids have been great since Byron went away to India last week. They have missed him terribly but have generally been well behaved and have tried to be positive counting down the days till his return.

He gave them all special tasks to do while he was away so that they would feel important. Rhiannon's was to water his precious chilli plants. It has rained almost everyday so that job has been pretty unnecessary. She has found another job instead...polishing shoes!

I don't know where she got that skill from. I don't think it is one of Byrons strong points but I am sure both her Grandads will be proud of her as they are both known for attacking any pair of shoes left lying around in a sorry state.

We may all have long faces while Byron is away but at least we have shiny shoes!

Saturday, March 10, 2007


Saturday means pocket money day.

Pocket money day means hitting the shops so that's what we did this afternoon!

Spending money helps to make us feel a little happier while Byron is away and by the time we came home we were ecstatic!!!

I love shopping but luckily today we were spending Carries money (mainly!)

Carrie was taking advantage of being here in Australia to buy a lot of bulky and heavy presents for upcoming birthdays that would be impossible to post from Ireland. Being the dutiful sister I helped to make her wallet lighter and our carrier bags heavier.

The kids also got to spend their pocket money in their favourite shop, the Australian Geographic Store. Sian got a collection of polished stones reduced from $17 to $5 - Bargain! Rhiannon got a great 3D book reduced from $13 to $4 and Gareth got a Glo-stick which caused great excitement at bedtime when he activated it. He is still running around pretending to be something from Star Wars but we are pretending we can't hear him.

Time to go make a cup of tea and rest our weary feet (and wallets!)

Sians Birthday - the morning after the night before!

Well we survived the sleepover! .....Just!

I was flagging by midnight and three of the five party girls were sleeping fast but two were still being little night owls!After hearing them promise they were ready to sleep I fell into bed with my bedroom door open in case anyone needed anything. Rhiannon was in my bed. She had been sobbing earlier in the evening because she was missing Byron and I had promised she could sleep on his side of the bed to keep it warm. Unfortunately she misinterpreted my plan and instead wriggled, tossed and turned all night keeping the entire bed warm and me fighting for my share of the duvet!

We had a reasonable start at 7am and after a big breakfast of toast and mini pancakes the girls were itching to make face masks. We whizzed up a banana, some honey and a handful of porridge oats and got a chunky paintbrush out and opened the beauty salon! The girls lined up on their chairs and I went from girl to girl painting the sticky gloop onto their faces.

After 10 minutes there were squeals of laughter coming from the bathroom as they tried washing the dried on mixture off.

Very shortly after the cars started pulling into the driveway and 4 very happy girls with glowing complexions went home having (hopefully) had a lovely time!

Thank you girls for coming to Sian's sleepover and being so well behaved. Thank you too for the lovely presents that you gave Sian. She is a very happy 9 year old!

Bangalore Update

Well, I've been in India for almost a week now and I must say it's been an excellent experience.

My initial reaction to the crazy roads and driving still stands -- it's quite simply scary the number of near misses and accidents I've witnessed. Although I wouldn't enjoy driving here myself, I have come to enjoy being a passenger all week with an hour journey each day to the office and back. I've had the same taxi driver all week and he's been laughing at my wincing at traffic incidents and whenever I close my eyes in fear!

I've seen some amazing sights on the roads; so many people hanging out of a bus that it was leaning right over, a family of 5 on a single motorbike, market traders on the pavements sleeping overnight on their food, half-built houses held up with just wooden poles and elaborate Hindu temples on every street.

"What about the food?" I hear you ask -- Oh, the food! Many of you may know that I like hot and spicy food, but I was little worried that my idea of spicy food wouldn't be in the same league as spicy food in Bangalore. The company that was looking after me (Mindtree) looked after me so very well this week, and took pleasure in taking me to different restaurants to see how this Welshman coped with ever-increasingly spicy food. Well, I'm pleased to report that my stomach is made of strong stuff indeed, and much to the amazement of my hosts I handled everything that was passed my way, and it wasn't until my last meal with the team that I actually broke out into a sweat (I blamed the faulty air-conditioner).

I was taken to some truly rustic Indian restaurants, the best of which involved eating off a large banana leaf without any cutlery. The idea is to use a "roti" (a sort of flat bread) to scoop up the food.

Messy? Yes. Good? Definitely.

To be honest, I love curries, but having them for breakfast (yes, breakfast !), lunch and tea every day for 5 days is taking its toll on my waist line - I'm having a night off with a lettuce leaf and water...

I've been in awe of the respect and courtesy I've received this week, from the bell-boy in the hotel foyer, to shop assistants and waiters. My hosts for the week have bent over backwards to ensure I am well looked after, and I am even being taken on a trip to the famous Mysore Palace tomorrow. Here is a picture of the Mindtree team that has taken care of me this week.

It's a strange feeling that a software product I created over 4 years ago is being tested and further developed by parts of this team in India. They're a dedicated group of people.

The worst part of this week has been the fact that I've been away from Gina and the kids, especially when it was Sian's 9th birthday today. Gina has been my alarm call most mornings at 7am and it's been great to hear her voice first thing in the morning. It's also fantastic to hear the kids' voices too, especially when you can hear the excitement in their voices. Well, perhaps Gareth didn't sound that excited but he's a lad after all !

I've had a fantastic time here, but now I'm looking forward to going home....

P.S. This is the 300th entry in this blog, not bad for 18 months of blogging !!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Sians Birthday.

Sian has had a lovely birthday today.

She went to bed last night very excited. I heard a noise at 5am and found her wide awake in the bathroom reading a book trying to pass the time til the sun came up so she could wake us all up!

Carrie and myself stayed up till after midnight making and icing 70 cup cakes! Some were for the kids and iced in every colour under the rainbow and some were iced with baileys icing for Carrie and me. We went to bed never wanting to see another cup cake again!

This morning all the kids tumbled into my bed (very lonely without Mr B) and we started the present opening extravaganza. Sian got some really lovely gifts. Thank you to everyone who sent cards and parcels. She really was spoiled rotton. She got so many lovely clothes that she kept changing into different outfits all day.

One of the most unusual parcels that she got was a large long brown paper parcel from her friend Alice in England. It had a paint-your-own-umbrella-kit in it! This got squeals of delight when it was opened by Sian and had Gareth and Rhiannon begging to be allowed to help paint it. A very unusual present and so big that it wouldn't be one that I would consider if I was paying to post it half way around the world! Thank you anyway Zoe and Alice! We will have great fun painting it and will blog a picture of the finished masterpiece when it is done.

We spent the morning at Rathmines park letting the kids burn off some energy. We went home at lunchtime to make a wake up call to Byron in his hotel room in India at his 7am. Sian was excited talking to him. He had sent her a video clip of himself singing Happy Birthday in the morning but it was nice for her to be able to speak to him in person. We went to our normal Friday tennis in the afternoon and then home for Sians sleepover party.

Four of her friends arrived with sleeping bags and pillows ready for an evening of pizza, dvds and birthday cake. They have had a great evening and are whispering and giggling in the dark in the next room as I type this blog!

Hopefully they will fall asleep soon as I am shattered after last nights baking and can't wait to hit the sack myself!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Happy Birthday Sian!

It's Sians Birthday tomorrow and as luck would have it it is a day off school!

Each year on a pupils birthday they are presented with a certificate. Sian got hers this morning because of the day off tomorrow.

Carrie and myself have been working like mad this evening getting ready for Sians birthday tomorrow morning. We have been blowing up balloons, making and icing cup-cakes in wacky coloured icing. Making her birthday cake and wrapping presents. It is gone midnight now and we are just off to bed. Only a few hours now before Sian wakes as a gorgeous 9 year old!