Friday, December 31, 2010

New Years Eve 2010

Happy New Years Eve from all of us "Down Under"

How are you celebrating?!

Bye Bye : Until next year!

We had fun saying goodbye to 2010. The kids thought they were very witty as they counted down the list of "last things" they did in 2010. It started with a last trip to Hunter Valley. A last visit to the British Lolly shop. A last sit on the bench outside to chat and eat their sweets!

A last trip to Tempus Two for a coffee before heading home.

And finally, the hilarity as they announced that they were eating for the last time until next year, going to the toilet for the last time until next year! 

Their wit knew no bounds... until I threatened to ground them until next year!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Day 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

Getting ready for Santa and his Reindeer's...


Christmas eve is always very exciting. Every year we mix up porridge oats with glitter and sprinkle it on our front  lawn as a tempting snack for the reindeer to help guide them to our house.


There is nothing so good as watching them fling handfuls of this magic reindeer food high into the air with the excitement of childhood. A time where you can be tucked into bed by Mum and Dad knowing you are safe and loved and know that tomorrow brings so much excitement...

Advent Day 24

I think you are going to have to use your imagination here...

Sian opened the final window on the Advent Calendar today during another web-chat with my parents. I thought I was being really clever pressing a "snapshot" button on my laptop thinking it was taking an image of Sian as she opened and ate her chocolate. Unfortunately the image that was being saved was the incoming image from Ireland. On this particular day we were having problems seeing Mum and Dad and were just looking at a blank dark screen so you can imagine how exciting my snapshot images were!

Another year down. I hope that you have enjoyed seeing our countdown to Christmas as much as we have.
A very peaceful and happy Christmas to you.

I hope you have a day of  fun away from the stresses of normal day to day life.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Advent Day 23

Christmas Eve Eve...
...and Rhiannon's final Advent window of the year!

Waiting...

Christmas is about anticipation, waiting, patience...

...even if it is just for the mince pies to come out of the oven!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Advent Day 22

Gareths last Advent window for this year...



Lemonade Scones



Ingredients:


    325g (2 cups + 2 tablespoons) self raising flour 
    167 ml (2/3 cup) cold lemonade 
    167 ml (2/3 cup) thickened cream


Method:

Preheat oven to180 C. Prepare your baking tray with spray or baking paper.

Combine lemonade and cream in small bowl.

Into another bowl sift 2 cups of flour.

Add lemonade and cream mixture to flour and gently fold in ingredients until just combined (don't overmix the dough as this will produce tough scones). The dough should be fairly soft and sticky.

Place dough on lightly floured bench, form into a round and press out to about 3.5cm (1 1/2 inch) thickness. cut scones using 5cm (2 inch) cutter.

Makes 12 scones

Place scones close together on the tray, so they are just touching. Bake for about 12 - 15 minutes, or until pale golden and cooked through.

Serve with jam and cream. Enjoy.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

How to make Christmas Cookies: Gareth style.

Let your Mum do all the hard work making the mixture.
Let Mum clean and tidy the entire kitchen.
Let your sister roll out the dough.
Climb up on the clean kitchen counter-tops with your dirty feet.
Bug your sister by grabbing the cookie cutter and taking over completely!


Advent Day 21

Today was sunny.
The beach was calling.
The surf boards were packed.
..but not before a chocolate fix-me-up for Sian!


Monday, December 20, 2010

Advent Day 20

Ho Ho Ho!
Santa's little helper is here to help. 
Guaranteed to make a mess. 
Much less reliable at clearing it up again!


...and yes. She is still in her pj's! Couldn't bribe her out of them for the photo!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Advent Day 19

I'm getting embarrassed by the number of these Advent photos where we are all still in our pj's!
Let's just pretend I'm taking the photos at 7am not lunchtime!

Dundee Cake

Christmas for me is all about the food. The nuts, the port, the baking and eating together...

Many of the things that make our own perfect Christmas begin in childhood. What foods and treats were in our family homes as we grew up. One favourite of mine that my Mum made was Dundee Cake. A lighter fruit cake than the traditional Christmas one.

We went shopping for the ingredients yesterday, weighed, beat, mixed and got it in the oven for its slow bake just in time to leave the house for mass, and back just in time to smell the last half hour of it cooking! I have read that it tastes better if you can keep it a while before eating. I thought we might last the week but within half an hour of it being on the cooling rack we were tucking in to the hot slices and big glasses of cold milk!



Here is the recipe:

Ingredients
 5 oz (150 g) butter, at room temperature
 5 oz (150 g) caster sugar
 3 large eggs
 8 oz (225 g) plain flour, sifted
 1 level teaspoon baking powder
 milk, if necessary
 6 oz (175 g) currants
 6 oz (175 g) sultanas
 2 oz (50 g) glacĂ© cherries, rinsed, dried and cut into halves
 2 oz (50 g) mixed whole candied peel, finely chopped
 2 level tablespoons ground almonds
 grated zest 1 small orange
 grated zest 1 small lemon
 2 oz (50 g) whole blanched almonds
 Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 3, 325°F (170°C).


Method

Put the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and beat with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy – or an electric mixer will do this much more quickly.

Whisk the eggs separately then, a little at a time, beat them into the creamed butter and sugar.

Next, using a large tablespoon, carefully fold in the flour and baking powder. Your mixture needs to be of a good, soft, dropping consistency so, if it seems too dry, add a dessertspoon of milk. Now carefully fold in the currants, sultanas, cherries, mixed peel, ground almonds and orange and lemon zests.

Then spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin, smoothing it out evenly with the back of the spoon.

Next arrange the whole almonds in circles on top of the mixture, but do this carefully and lightly; if they are pressed in they will sink during the baking. Place the cake in the centre of the oven and bake for 2-2½ hours or until the centre is firm and springy to the touch. Let it cool before taking it out of the tin.

This cake keeps very well in an airtight tin and tastes all the better if kept for a few days before cutting. 
(Yeah right!)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Lego Master.

Gareth is having a ball the last few days. 

No school, staying in pj's until lunchtime and nothing to do but make Lego all day!

Advent Day 18

The kids were quiet this morning and we found ourselves sleeping in until 9am! No chance of that next Saturday...

It feels good to be all done with the Christmas shopping. We have no intention of going into any big shopping centres this weekend. Hopefully with the warm weather we will be chilling out at home watching Mr B cut the ever growing grass and passing him out the odd glass of cold water if he looks like he is passing out!


I hope your weekend will have some chill out time too...

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Craft.

Day two of Rhiannons School holidays and I no longer have access to the kitchen table...


Advent Day 17

Todays opening of the Advent Calendar was a bit different. We managed to line up a video Skype call with Mum and Dad in Ireland and Rhiannon opened up her window in front of the laptop as they watched. It was nice to share it with Mum and Dad as they are so good to send the calendar over every year and today they felt a part of it all. 

We "walked" them around the house with me running holding the laptop after the kids as they ran from room to room, bouncing on beds, showing off trophys, magnet creations, even the abilty to climb into a small cupboard and shut the doors behind (nice one Gar! I'm sure Grandad Joe loved that demo!)

It all came to an end when I managed to knock over a cup of tea in the kitchen and tried to mop it up with one hand while balancing the laptop in the other. Some days I think I am Wonder Woman but occasionally I have to face reality and admit defeat!


Only one week and it will be Christmas Eve!!!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Advent Day 16

At last!

Gar and Rhiannon are on holidays too!

The house has disintegrated over just a few hours into looking like we have been burgled!

It's going to be a long 6 weeks...!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Advent Day 15.

Today is the first day of Sians School Holidays.
She breaks up one day earlier than Gar and Rhiannon and made the most of the peace and quiet!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Advent Day 14

14 down. 11 to go!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Advent Day 13

It's a hard life when you are 8 and all you have to do in the morning is veg in your jammies on the sofa looking for where today's window is....

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Advent Day 12

Advent on the run!

It is a mobile blog today as Sian brings the calendar in the car on the way to tennis!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Advent Day 11

It's the weekend. We are steering clear of the shops between now and Christmas. I will go shopping one more time on Monday while the kids are in school and hopefully get the last few gifts home and wrapped before the kids finish up in school later in the week.

Today we stayed home and the kids swam and played. Our neighbours Hibiscus tree has gone into bloom and many of the gorgeous red blossoms are dangling over the fence. Big temptation for a pretty girl! I'm sure they won't miss just one!

Day 11's window had a chocolate snowman. A melting chocolate snowman in this heat. He didn't last long!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Rocky Road.

I hate making Rocky Road. 

Melting all the delicious Cadbury's milk chocolate, stirring in salted peanuts, marshmallows, chocolate M+M's, chopped up jelly snakes, white chocolate chunks, Peanut M+M's.... 

All those annoying bits that fall out of the bowl and have to be eaten. All the bowls and spoons that need to have all the chocolate licked off them before going in the dishwasher. I'm such a good mum that I saved my children this awful chore and did it all by myself while they were still in school. 

The final step is probably the worst. Getting a big knife and roughly chopping it into chunks and piling it up in pretty bowls for the teachers. All those irritating uneven bits that you just have to eat so you get the balance right in each bowl. 

It's a hard job but someone's got to do it....


Advent Day 10

The end of another school week and everyone is getting tired. We are looking forward to end of term and morning lie-ins. No more school uniforms. No more ironing 20+ blue shirts every Sunday night!

The weather is getting hot too.

Gareth got off the school bus today and went straight for the Christmas tree where he sat in a cool spot out of the sun and opened window number 10...

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Advent Day 9

Sian is nearing the end of her first year in High School. 
This week they have "End of year activities" which essentially means that they get to go to school out of uniform and get brought to different venues each day. 
So far she has been ice-skating and swimming and still has the cinema to look forward to tomorrow. 
Today she came home hot and tired from her swimming day and ran upstairs to the balcony for some fresh air and peace and quiet while she opened her Advent calendar window... a Christmas pudding!

 

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Advent Day 8

Home from school. 
School bag thrown by the door. 
Shoes, socks and sun hat scattered along the hallway. 
Lunchbox abandoned on the floor. 
Straight to the Advent Calendar!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Advent Day 7

This one's for you Anne!


This is not our piano. It's a piano that we are babysitting. It belonged to our friend Anne's Mother, or maybe Grandmother.... I'm not sure and Anne is in Japan so I can't check with her. The piano stool was made by her Grandfather. We are borrowing them both so that the kids can enjoy them. Byron is threatening that one day he will chop it up for firewood and put a bookcase in its place. It's not his favourite piece of furniture in the house but for now he is outnumbered!

Today Gareth opened his Advent calendar window and played random (VERY) loud notes in the spirit of Christmas using one finger over and over while Byron was trying to work in the next room. He didn't help the situation much!

Now Gareth's gone to bed and I'm off into the garage to hide the axe....!

Monday, December 06, 2010

Advent Day 6

Monday morning. 
Time for school. 
Only one thing can make it better. 
A piece of chocolate before getting on the bus!

The best part about baking cakes...

.... is getting to lick the bowl!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Advent Day 5

It's hot a humid today. Only one place to be if you are a kid... in the swimming pool! 

Today was Rhiannons turn and her advent chocolate had barely made it into her mouth before she ran and plunged into the cold water of the pool!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Advent Day 4

It's a lazy Saturday morning. 
Byron is busy working in the garden and the girls are making Christmas cards. 
Gareth is happy to leave them at it and we are trying to decide whether to get out of our pyjamas before or after putting up some Christmas decorations...

Friday, December 03, 2010

Bye Bye Mr Postman!

This was the highlight of my week...


I finished writing the majority my overseas Christmas cards and got them in the local post box just as the postman arrived to empty it. 

It's pretty amazing to know that they are flying across the world right now and on the way to friends scattered around Europe and America. 

I hope a little bit of our Christmas spirit lands on your door mat a few days from now!

Advent Day 3

We got home late tonight and Sian was in her pj's when she remembered her advent chocolate. By the time I grabbed the camera she had already got it in her mouth.

Cant you just see the sugar rush twinkling in her eyes!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Magnet power

Gareths obsession right now is magnets.
Granny and Grandad Joe added to his magnet collection for his birthday and he is pretty excited at the new creations he is inventing daily!

Advent Day 2

I was in work this morning before all the kids were up so Byron took a photo of Rhiannon opening her window and emailed it to me. I got it on my phone as I was just starting my drug round. It made me smile, both because Rhiannon is grinning and also because I was really glad Byron had thought to take the photo for me.

Thanks Mr B!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Advent Day 1

Every year my parents send an Advent calendar to the kids. Every year we take a daily photo and send it to them. If I'm organised I try to post them here too!

This years one arrived on December the first all the way from snowy Ireland. It had a customs warning on it stating that the parcel had been opened and inspected by customs. The kids were worried that the customs man may have eaten all the chocolates! Luckily the note inside said that nothing had been removed!

Here is the first window being opened by Gareth...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Margaritas

The TV blew up last week.

On the first night Mr B and myself found ourselves actually having to talk after the kids went to bed.

By the second night we gave up and hit the Margaritas!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Pool party

Today is Gareths Birthday Party. 
He decided on a pool party and invited 6 friends to join in the fun.
They had a ball.
I think this one photo sums it up!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Shark attack!

Gareth is still milking the gap between his actual birthday yesterday and his birthday party tomorrow.
Today we made his shark cake ready for the Pool Party...


It is a slab of vanilla cake with some cut out and covered in sugar icing. 
He was so excited when we filled it with blue jelly and a plastic shark! 


Roll on tomorrow so he can eat it!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

8

Today Gareth is 8
For his birthday he got a scooter.
A new game for his Nintendo DS
A set of magnets.
And a book of The Worlds 100 Most Disgusting things.

video

Tonight he went to bed the happiest boy in the world!
I hope his life will always be this good...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

All in good taste.

Tomorrow my gorgeous boy will be 8

In the traditions of our family he gets to choose the menu for tomorrow nights family meal.

Following the last few months of Junior Masterchef he has been trying new and exotic foods. He has been open to tastes and flavours that he would have refused a year ago. 

I wondered what he would choose.

Tandoori chicken and prawn pizza?

Salmon and caper fettuccine?

Rack of lamb with herb crust?

Here is his choice.....

Friday, November 19, 2010

12 years and counting....

I arrived home from a long day at work and grabbed the mail from the letterbox and unlocked the front door to get in out of the rain. When I saw the square white envelope with the English stamp I threw the boring bills on the table with the car keys and sat down for 5 minutes with a smile on my face! 

It was from a good friend in England. Four of us would get together at least once a week to chat and have coffee while our kids ran around our feet playing. We met 12 years ago at ante-natal classes while we were heavily pregnant with our first babies. There is a lot to be said for friendships that share the experience of those first few months of being a mum. Finding friends that share and empathise as you struggle with young babies and learn as you go how to be a mother. It's hard to be fake, to keep a mask of perfection as you sit sleep-deprived rocking a teething baby and watching your coffee go cold just out of arms reach. 

I made some wonderful friends in those first few years of motherhood. Friends who passed the tissues and let me cry when things were hard. Friends that got as excited about my babies milestones as I did about theirs. Friends that made the decision to emigrate a hard one. Friends that still take the time five years down the line to write and even to put a little coffee stick in the envelope so I can "join-in" as I catch up on all the news about the kids, their families and all that is changed and all that is still the same. 

 

There is a Turkish quote about coffee and friendship which I think is very true...

“A cup of coffee commits one to forty years of friendship.”


Well Zoe if that is true here is to the next 28!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Happy again.

Our remaining little Guinea Pig Tigger has been very withdrawn and has been pining hiding in the bedroom of her hutch. She won't interact with us and is only eating small amounts. I encouraged the kids to cuddle her and give her lots of attention. Rhiannon took her role very seriously and climbed in to the grass run with her and brought her homework with her. She spent the next hour there keeping Tigger company while doing her school work.


Yesterday evening Byron came home from work a little later than usual. He had a cardboard box under his arm. Without consultation with anyone else he decided we needed a playmate for Tigger and so now we have a new addition to the family. She is a tiny 6 week old guinea pig that the kids have named Ivy. They are overjoyed to have this fluffy little fur ball to fuss over and it really has cheered up Tigger who runs up and down the ramp in her hutch with the baby following her every move. Her appetite is back and she is now scoffing carrots and grass again and looking perky.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Baking and hugs.

Today I feel so sad, so flat inside. Like a weight is in my chest. My kids are upset and I can do nothing to change it.

We had a hot day yesterday. It was about 30 degrees in the morning and the kids wanted to swim in the pool. They put their three Guinea Pigs in the wire run on the grass to get some exercise and then they jumped in the pool. As I sat and watched the kids the sun got warmer and warmer and I threw a shade cloth over the Guinea pig run to take the glare off them. After about an hour and a half I got the kids out of the pool and we headed inside. The kids stopped to put the guinea pigs back in their hutch and found that their beloved Jaffa was dead. The other two guinea pigs were very limp. We carried them into the house and gently dampened them down with tepid water and tried to revive them. We held Splodge and watched her move around and thought she was going to be ok but over the next few minutes she died in our arms. The littlest guinea pig who was Splodges baby was also very weak. Over the next few hours we sat with her and cooled her down and tried to feed her drops of water from a syringe. She refused all food and drink over the next 4 or 5 hours before finally eating and drinking tiny amounts.

All through those hours we had tears and questions, sobbing and hugs. We searched for reasons why they had all been so badly affected by the heat. Most Australian summers days get to 30 degrees and more and yet these guinea pigs had been with us for almost two years without any problems. Maybe because it was the first warm day this spring and they were just not used to it? Maybe it was that they were getting a little older?

Watching the kids bury the guinea pigs in the back garden with serious red eyed faces was heart breaking. I know that they were "just" pets but to our kids they were very special. I know that it is teaching them about life and death, about the feelings that go with it and how to work through them. But right now I would pay any money to take that sadness out of their eyes. To have waved goodbye to them in the school yard this morning without watching tears spill over onto their cheeks again. Not to have had to give another big hug, whisper more words of "it's ok" into their ears. Not to be sitting here in the house looking at our one surviving pet hiding in the corner of her hutch, refusing to come out and be cuddled. Refusing fresh slices of apple that would normally cause a flurry of squeaking and jostling to grab them from my hand.

I'm dreading the school bus pulling up. I want to see smiles on their faces again. I will do what I resort to when I don't know what else to do. What Mums all over the world do when they want to make everything ok.

Baking and hugs.

xoxo

P.S: Three tiny fingernail sized paper guinea pigs made by Rhiannon last night.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Cook-Along madness.

The Masterchef Cook-Along was great! The program started at 7.30pm and we had everything laid out on plates ready to bake. The kids were on the edge of their seats watching the first half of the show and waiting for the real action to begin. When it did there was a flurry of mixing and taking turns, passing the mixing bowl from one to another. Licking spoons, talking over the tv, missing bits of instructions and having to shhhhh and catch up! It was fast paced and it took our 6 pairs of hands to work as a team until the puddings came out of the oven.


They smelt, good, they looked amazing, they tasted....like heaven! It was fun stopping to imagine all the other kids that were scattered around Australia and tucking in to this warm, chocolate, nutty delight at the same time as us. By the time the bowls were scraped clean it was gone past the kids bedtimes so they ran upstairs to brush teeth and jump into bed with the memories of hazelnut chocolate puddings still fresh in their heads.

I got left with this....!