Monday, June 30, 2014

30:06:14 Love combination.

When five people go on holidays together it is always a juggling act balancing everyone's needs. We want to holiday as a unit, not always split doing different activities. Time spent on a beach can be relaxing for the person with a book while those wishing to connect with their inner child can run around playing frisbee and trying not to dislocate their ageing hips *cough: Byron!* 

Tonight we soaked up the atmosphere in Poco Loco, a vibrant and noisy Mexican restaraunt. Some of us revelled in the loud music with spicy dips and big glass of red wine. Others relaxed and spent time sipping ice cold cloudy lemonade while leafing through a birthday book from earlier in the year. 

A perfect balance!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

29:06:14 Just Breathe

I'm just loving being on school holidays. We've escaped to a place where our days are filled with walks and ice-cream. Where we can be a family without too many distractions. It's only a few days out of normal life but it's just what we need as a family right now. A bit of distance from work and responsibilities and a chance to spend time with our kids. Laughing, talking, drawing, reading, relaxing, fighting (!) and just being us! 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

28:06:14 Do we, Don't we...?

We've been contemplating expanding our family. I'm nervous. I've never been a dog owner. I'm so aware of the pitfalls of getting excited and rushing in. Of not thinking it through. Of all the dogs who are abandoned in shelters because they weren't a good match for their family.

I'm also aware of the asthma and eczema in our family that get stirred up around animal fur. It's a topic that has been raised many times around the dinner table. Now there are many breeds of dog that are said to be "hypo-allergenic" We have spent time in the company of friends dogs. We've intentionally cuddled and rubbed skin watching for a reaction. The lack of itching or wheezing negates my strongest argument against a dog.

We've discussed "who's" dog it might be? The reality of daily walks and poop scooping have been stressed.  Two of three kids have stepped back. They would be happy with a dog joining the family but don't need or want the extra responsibilities that go with it. They understand that by stepping back they get a much lesser say in choosing breed, colour, name etc. They are fine with that.

Things moved up a level from contemplating to reality this week when we heard through a friend of ours of a family looking to re home their dog. The dog ticks all the boxes in terms of breed and allergy. We are waiting to see if we can arrange a meeting. If it doesn't work out we will go back to looking for a reputable breeder for a puppy.

In the meantime we decided to get out some books from our local library so we are prepared for whatever changes are over the horizon...

Any advice would be very gratefully received! 

Friday, June 27, 2014

27:06:14 Merewether

Celebrating the begining of the school holidays with a night walk along the beach in Merewether followed by some hot chips and aioli in front of the fireplace in Merewether surf house! 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

26:06:14 Lunchtime walk

Today was a beautiful day. I took advantage of the sunshine to go for a lunchtime walk. It is good to escape the hospital sometimes. Work can be very intense. A fast pace and some challenging situations. A half hour of sunshine calmed my frazzled nerves and let me go back in to finish my shift with a little more energy and patience.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

25:06:14 Oven Fixer-up-er

I sometimes have days when I consider alternative careers. 

If I had to choose again what would it be? 

We have had a spate of things breaking in the house. The tumble-dryer, microwave and oven to name but a few. We are seeing how long we can live without the tumble dryer (18 months and counting) The microwave got replaced in the Sales. The oven.... I considered the idea of chucking it and replacing with whizz bang fancy until I realised just how whizz bang fancy the price tags were! I wasn't about to spend a small mortgage so I turned to my dear friend Mr Google. All it took was a bit of research and I had the tool box out dismantling the oven. I removed the element, searched eBay for a replacement part and waited patiently for it to arrive. When it did there was the small issue of the holes not quite lining up with the ones on the oven. That's what drills are for! 

So to summarise, Pinterest told me how to clean my oven overnight with Ammonia and a bowl of detergent, Google helped me find what the problem was and eBay provided the spare part. All for under $100!

This oven-fixer-up-er job is remarkably easy. I'm tempted to trade in my Nurses badge for a tool-belt!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

24:06:14 Postcard

Imagine Gareth's surprise when he checked the postbox today. Inside was a postcard from his Auntie! It seems like weeks and weeks since she went on holiday. I was beginning to wonder did she forget to post it on her travels and did it sit on the bottom of her suitcase forgotten until the last items got unpacked? But no, the postmark was her holiday destination so I think it must just have taken the scenic route from there to here!

Monday, June 23, 2014

23:06:14 Broken hearted

Today was fun. I was babysitting for my friend's two gorgeous little girls. Normally when they come to play at my house their big sister is in school and misses out on the fun. Not today! Today we knew that she would be joining us after school so spent the afternoon baking a special cake. It was a recipe from my Mum for "Kerry Apple Tart" which is like a cake but with big chunks of apple in it and lots of extra sugar sprinkled on top for crunch, YUM! 

My cute little kitchen helpers chose a heart shaped tin and we waited for their big sister to arrive so we could serve it warm from the oven. The noise level in the kitchen was unbelievable. There were shrieks and giggles and silliness galore. I fully intended to get an arty shot of the cake before we scoffed it but forgot in the chaos. Luckily my friend had grabbed a photo at the height of the giggles as one of her girls declared in dramatic voice that  "My heart is broken" That gave us all another round of giggles before the cake was finally cut up smaller and then shared out and eaten. 

The noise got louder as first Gareth and then my girls came in the door off their school buses. Finally Byron walked in on the very end of their visit, probably the stage where the messiness and noise was at its peak and not a bit of tidying up had happened. He looked like a deer caught in the headlights as he walked into a house of crumbs and sugar rushed kids. 

Yes, these are the days that make my heart full of love but my brain realise why we stopped at three children!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

22:06:14 Sunday Lunch

Growing up in Ireland Sunday Lunch was a magnificent thing. All the family gathered around the table. A roasted joint of meat with several veggies and lots of thick glossy gravy.  Not quite what today's lunch here in Oz entailed! Ham and cheese sambos with fresh basil and lots of sticky tasty relish. Not quite the same ballpark but tasty just the same!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

21:06:14 Happy Anniversary Mr B

I can't believe I have spent half my life with you! I was a 20 year old student nurse when we crossed paths on the Greek Island of Rhodes. Little did I expect I would have an engagement ring on my finger less than a year later. That we would be married a year after that. 

What an adventure this last twenty years has been. I feel like my whole identity is moulded into being half of "Us" Almost all my adult life has been spent sharing my every waking moment with you, and feeling your arm draped over me each night as I fall asleep. 

We have had such adventures together. One of the biggest of which is parenting. We are doing our best to help navigate our three wonderful kids into adults who will give more to society than they take away. That they will be resilient, happy and content in their own skin regardless of what the world throws at them. 

And the biggest adventure? Is managing to stay madly, totally in love with each other. Neither of us are perfect. We have changed a lot in the 18 years since we said "I do" But somehow we have changed together and learnt to love the person we have each become. 

I left my home country for you. I watched you pack my life's belongings into the boot of your car on my parents driveway the morning after our wedding. I trusted that you would would keep me safe as I started a new life with you in another country. And then nine years later I packed our suitcases once again and held your hand as we boarded a one way flight to Australia to begin our new adventure "Down Under"

To the man I can be vulnerable and true in front of. To the man who loves me with bed head hair as much as when I am dressed up. To the man who is my perfect fit. Who is half of my identity. 

I love you. 

Plain and simple. 

18 wonderful years later, would still say "I do" ?

In a heartbeat. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

20:06:14 The Proof of the Pudding... in the eating! 

Yes, I can safely say that having polished off a whole packet of crackers, half a block of cheddar and 3/4's of a jar of my home-made version of "Ballymaloe Country Relish" that it tastes good! 

Damn good! 

I really don't think I have to worry about putting "best before" dates on this batch!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

19:06:14 (Gina's) Ballymaloe Country Relish

I was experimenting in the kitchen yesterday. I got a mad craving for an Irish Chutney called "Ballymaloe Country Relish" The only official stockists are miles away from us so I started searching online for recipes instead. I came across the one below. It took three hours and about $15 of ingredients to make 6 small jars (Just under 200mls in each) A reasonably long time in the kitchen for not a huge return but now that I know it worked I think I would double or treble the ingredients and make a huge batch as the cleaning up is not going to take any longer than it did for the small batch. The tomatoes made up the majority of the cost and I did go for the good vine-ripened ones so if they were in season and selling cheap it would then reduce the cost of the relish.  I sterilized the jars in the oven and the lids by simmering in a pan of boiling water. It says that if done properly the relish should stay good for at least 12 months. Somehow I don't see them lasting long enough to test that theory! 

800g vine tomatoes chopped
200g cherry tomatoes chopped
250g cooking apples chopped
250g chopped brown onion
225ml white wine vinegar
175g raisins
300g sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tsp all spice
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp nutmeg

1. Throw all ingredients in to a big pot. Let sugar dissolve and then bring to the boil, stirring all the time. Then bring down to a simmer and leave to simmer for an hour, stirring the whole time to avoid the end of the pot burning (It took mine over two hours to really reduce down to a good consistency)

2. When done, put into sterilised clean glass jars. (You can sterilise them by placing them in the oven at 130C for 25 mins). Secure lids tightly. These are best enjoyed if left to mature for a week or two first, but I had some of mine that day and it was really nice too.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

18:06:14 Is it a strange creature? No it's a hat!

The kids were mortified by my choice of headwear that I put on for my weekly walk during their tennis lessons. "It's not that cold Mum" Well I disagree. It's bloomin' freezing here in Australia. Winter has well and truly started. Luckily it was dark and my walking companion Angelina wasn't too embarrassed to be seen walking with a hairy big eared creature. I think I'm getting old because I don't seem to worry so much about what random strangers think of me. Oh the freedom of not-caring!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

17:06:14 To Study or not to Study? That is the question...

Do you recall my mix up with this month Old Ducks Bookclub reservation? We were to read the book "To Kill A Mockingbird"  but I accidentally reserved a study guide and had to return to borrow the original book. I did keep the study guide and read through it after I had finished the book. I mentioned my mix up to one of the Old Ducks. Well, imagine my shock when a group email went out to the members of Bookclub...

"I have it on good authority that a member of Old Ducks "accidentally borrowed" the Study Guide for "To Kill Mockingbird" from Toronto Library.  

Someone might be sounding very clever on the plot, themes etc at our next gathering..........

I felt that my intentions had been slightly misconstrued. I decided to get my own back on the funny Old Duck by super-imposing her face over a picture of me reading my guide! The suggestion was to imply that she was the one who had read it not me. Having my work name badge on may have slightly given away the true identity of the reader but it got a good laugh from my fellow ducks!!!

Monday, June 16, 2014

16:06:14 Exams

Last week was my final week where I was covering a colleague's role while she was on Annual leave. My last week working double my normal hours. By the end of the four weeks the house was starting to come apart at the seams. The laundry was running behind, the standard of cleanliness was falling to cringeworthy levels. I was so looking forward to starting this week with energy and enthusiasm. I pictured Monday being a day where I would clean the entire house top to bottom, fill the pantry, fridge and freezer to bursting point, put on loads of washing, sheets flapping on the washing line while the smell of jasmine filled the air...

Then my phone rang last week. It was the High School asking if I was free to be a reader/writer for the year 12 HSC trials over the coming two weeks. They have a great system whereby parents volunteer their time in exam weeks to work one-to-one with students that need some extra help. You either read the questions to them and let them write the answers themselves or you can also write for them. It could be something simple like a kid who has fallen off their skateboard and has their arm in a cast, it might be a sight impaired student or someone who has dyslexia or just gets overwhelmed in a hall full of row upon row of desks. 

When I was in High School I don't remember any extra help for students. You just sat your exams with everyone else. Inevitably some kids fell through the cracks. They found school challenging and didn't get any extra support to help them reach their potential. It's really good how things work now. How could I say no? 

And so tonight there is still ironing to be done, I wouldn't advocate eating off the floors, even the cleanliness of the kitchen counter tops are questionable. I never did get stripping the beds. The air sure doesn't smell of Jasmine! 

But I had a great day. I wrote solid for what seemed to be an eternity. My right hand went numb from gripping a pen tight and writing as fast as my student was speaking. I was reminded how tough school can be. The fear as you sit at your desk waiting to be told to turn the paper over. How your heart can sink as you read the questions and don't immediately know how to answer them. The slow and steady pace that builds up as you get over the initial nerves. The writing so fast as the final minutes tick down and you want to get every last idea from your brain onto the answer booklet. The sigh and slump of shoulders as the teacher calls time and walks towards you hand outstretched for the papers. Turning to the person next to me knowing that they put their 110% into the last few hours and seeing the worry fall from their face as they know they are one more exam down. 

The being told "Thank you", unprompted and with genuine meaning. Not just once but two, three times. 

Did today turn out how I had first planned? 


But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

15:06:14 Fathers Day!

Happy Father's Day to my wonderful Dad in Ireland and my great Father-in-law in Wales. We hope you both have a wonderful day and get spoiled rotten. We miss you lots especially on a day like today. 

Den, this blog post is a spoiler if you haven't already opened your card! And to my brother and sister in law Steve and Julie, Sorry about the words on the front but you have to admit Mr B is pretty special and he can get away with cards like this from the other side of the world, (too far to give him a boot up the back-side!)

Missing you all!

Gina & Byron

Saturday, June 14, 2014

14:06:14 Morning tea.

I love weekends. It's all about family, food and the extra time to savor it all. Our Saturday breakfasts are traditionally a home made Bircher Muesli.

I often make way too much so here is my morning tea! A small bowl of left-overs with frozen raspberries mixed through.

Friday, June 13, 2014

13:06:14 Full Moon

There was a glorious full moon tonight. Not only was it a full moon but it was also Friday the 13th! When I was a teeneger we used to wind each other up and foretell stories of gloom and doom that included many "Have you heard the story of..." 

Now that I am an adult the days seem so busy the relevance of the day escaped me until I was paying for a prescription on my home and I stopped to look at my watch for the date. 

As I neared home the moon was shimmering above the lake and I had to stop for a photo. I would have loved to have had the tripod and taken the time to take a really good photo but the day was racing away with me and hungry kids and tea was beckoning. This quick shot will have to do!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

12:06:14 Mockingbird

It is one week until the June Old Ducks gathering. This months book is "To Kill A Mockingbird"  A classic book but not one I had read before. I placed an online request for it at my local library. When the text came in to say it was ready to collect I called in that evening, eager to get my hands on it. Sian was with me as I waited for the librarian to get it from the reservation shelf. She came back with a very thin little book and started the process of checking it out. I turned and whispered to Sian "Look how small the book is! No excuse for any of the Old Ducks not to have finished it this month" I was still giggling to myself as I walked out the library door. 

But then I looked down and flicked through the book. Something just wasn't quite right. I had reserved the "Study Notes Guide" to the book and not the book itself! I had to sheepishly return and ask the assistant if she had the actual book. She was very professional and I'm sure it was just me reading the smug "Ha ha" in her eyes! She found the proper full copy of the book and asked did I still want the study guide. I stood up straight and tall and said of course I did. It would be an invaluable addition to our Book Club discussions. I turned and left holding both books tight with cheeks still pink and Sian laughing at my side. 

Roll on next Thursday. I will be so ready for our very serious literary dissection! 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

11:06:14 Party preparations.

Rhiannon is off to a friends Birthday this weekend and had an idea for her gift. A Terrarium! She had made herself one a while back and thought it would be a good present idea. 

We went shopping one day for the bowl and fancy rocks and also found a "rock pet" which is a polished clear gem stone with "googly" eyes that is perched in the left lower part of the photo. It almost looks like a fish in a fish bowl! 

Next we went to a DIY store that sold plants and we got some cacti and succulents to plant inside. Holding tiny cactus plants while trying to plant their roots firmly in a confined space is challenging as we found out. 


Let's hope her friend likes it!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

10:06:14 Sparkles

I love that Rhiannon has started showing an interest in photography. She is often to be found experimenting with make-up or nail art and then taking photos of it. Even though this photo is one of her "out-takes" I think it is one of my favourites! 

Monday, June 09, 2014

09:06:14 Birthday Brunch

It is a friends 40th Birthday later this week. Her sisters sent around an email to gather a group of friends to have a surprise brunch together. It was in a cafe I had never been to before, small and atmospheric with a mish mash of colours and styles. It really was lovely to have some quality time with a really nice group of women. 

Sometimes it is nice to have a few hours out of our normal roles as mums and wives to talk and nurture and re-charge our batteries. There is something very comforting about opening up to other women about things that we have experienced or are currently grappling with and get their advice or take on the situation. Sometimes all us women need is to let things out and hear "I know exactly what you mean..."

Cheaper than therapy and much more fun!

Sunday, June 08, 2014

08:06:14 Olé!

We had to drop Sian to the cinema tonight and would have barely returned home before turning around to drive back again to collect her. We thought about going for an evening walk near the cinema or having tea out but neither of the other two kids wanted to leave the house. We left Rhiannon in charge and decided to have a "Date Night" 

The rain cleared and we went for a walk along the coast for about an hour. It was cold and windy but really enjoyable. It blew away the cobwebs from an otherwise lazy day. We stopped at a small cozy Mexican restaurant and had some snacks and drinks. It was very atmospheric and felt very decadent to be sitting, just the two of us! 

Saturday, June 07, 2014

07:06:14 Goodbye friend.

Today is a day of sadness and happiness all jumbled into one. Today is the day we say goodbye to a good friend but the day that she gets to start a new exciting chapter in her life. Simi is from India and she started work as a nurse in my hospital about 2 years ago. In that time we became good friends. Almost every Saturday at 4pm I would get a text "Gina are you going to church tonight?" Simi would be walking home from her morning shift at the hospital but not having a car meant that she needed a lift if she wanted to go further afield. If we were going to Mass we would drive and pick her up on the way and often she would have dinner with us or even just a cup of tea and a chat before we would drop her home again.

Simi taught us many of the traditions of her culture by cooking for us or just sharing stories of her life in India. You could tell by the way she spoke about her family that she had a great respect for them, especially her parents. As is the tradition in Simi's culture she got engaged to a man that her parents had helped her to choose. I had many preconceived ideas about what arranged marriages but watching Simi over the last year and hearing her views on it have opened my eyes to a different perspective. Her wedding was held in India in January but until now she has continued to work and live near us.

Today she goes to join her husband and begin her married life with him. There were hugs that didn't want to end and tears through smiles. We watched her make her way through security and walk away as we waved and waved with bright smiles on our faces to hide our sadness and the lumps in our throats.

"May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
and the rain fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again my friend
May God hold you in the hollow of his hand" 

Friday, June 06, 2014

06:06:14 Nostalgia.

Aldi did a "British"  specials theme this week. With Byron from Wales, me from Ireland and the kids spending their first few years living in England many of these food products were familiar to us. I filled a basket with these goodies and brought them home. The HobNobs and fig rolls were first to be opened with a cup of Tetleys tea. The Branston Pickle is earmarked for a cheese sandwich over the weekend, maybe some scrambled eggs with HP drizzled on top. HulaHoops in front of the TV over the weekend and another cuppa with the Jammie Dodgers! 

Thursday, June 05, 2014

05:06:14 "Trish"

Another piece of artwork on the walls of John Hunter. The more I walk those long corridors the more I see!

This is quite a huge piece of artwork. It is made from 30 square canvases, each painted by a different artist. A photo of  "Trish" was taken and mapped out into a grid. Each artist was given a square and asked to paint it in a style of his or her choice. The only stipulation was to maintain the correct proportions so that the 30 squares would blend well into the final portrait. 

Everytime I walk by this painting my eye is drawn to a different square. I think to myself  "which of these squares is most like the style I would have painted in?" I can't help but feel for the artists who got the outer edge squares with very little of Trish in them to be creative with. Did they draw numbers out of a hat? Did they get choice? Did any artist swap with another? What did Trish think when she saw the finished work?

Another work week over. I am looking forward to my day off tomorrow. So much to catch up on at home. Things can unravel so quickly on these weeks I work double my normal hours. I take my hat off to mums who regularly do these hours and juggle their homes and kids. I hope you are all having a good week.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

04:06:14 Wyong Windows

Every hospital I visit while doing this job has little hidden treasures that you don't see on the first trip around. For the first few times I walk through each building my eyes are seeking out floor-plans, ward names, arrows to tell me where I should be going. As each hospital becomes more familiar my eyes can look around more and take in some of the details that escaped me on previous rounds. 

Today I saw a door in Wyong Hospital. Inside was a quiet oasis bathed in coloured light. A place to come and be still, to say a prayer or just escape the hustle and bustle of the wards, to ask for help or to give thanks. I'm sure many people have bared their souls in this room. Have bargained and pleaded, have cried tears of sadness and tears of joy. It was nice to spend a few moments in here, breathing deep and quieting my mind before walking back out onto the bright busy corridor, folder held tight and shoes moving quickly on to the next destination. 

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

03:06:14 The Time Of Her Life

I was keeping my eyes well open as I did my hospital rounds today. I was watching out for a copy of a magazine that published this morning. My friend Francesca had written an article for it and I was excited to see it. The first patient I went to assess had the magazine on her bedside table. After the assessment was complete I asked could I look at it. It was so good to see her name in print. I asked if I could take a photo of the page to send to my friend and let her know that I had seen it. Later that night when I got home I was able to go online and read the article in full. It was a very good read about being a mother and the juggling of many roles and why we strive to be so much to so many. In the middle of an exceptionally busy month it really was something I could relate to. If you want to read more you can find the full story here

Monday, June 02, 2014

02:06:14 Gabrielle Aplin

Today Sian and myself boarded a train and made our way to Sydney to a concert in an unusual venue, a large Presbyterian church. Until now I hadn't heard about "Heavenly Sounds" It is a tour circuit of Australian churches and cathedrals in Brisbane, Sydney, Newcastle, Canberra, Melbourne, Hobart, Perth and Adelaide. 

Tonights main performer was a young UK singer/songwriter, Gabrielle Aplin, that Sian has liked for a while. She has a song that has been played a bit here on Australian radio. It is a cover version of "The Power of Love" an old Frankie Goes To Hollywood track (that I liked back in the day that dinosaurs roamed the earth!) It's quite a "breathy" delicate cover so I was imagining this girl to be very ethereal and fragile. I was so wrong. She was a tiny, power charged rocket! She belted out song after song on her guitar and brought the house down. 

It was a really good night. It's just such a shame it takes so long to travel to and from Sydney. We were on a train by 11pm but didn't get home till well after 1:30am. I think nights like this are worth it, the concerts I went to back in my teens were a part of who I was, who I identified with, who I aspired to be. Seeing this performer who had so much personality, guts and individualism, follow her dreams is a great example to all of us that we do not need to be cut from the same cloth, made from the same moulds, conform to what everyone around us is doing. 


Sunday, June 01, 2014

01:06:14 Hello Winter!

Another walk, but this time the weather is getting cooler. Today is the first day of Winter here in Australia. Last week it was still so warm it seemed laughable that we were entering our cooler season but in just one week the temperatures have dropped significantly. Despite the cold there are still splashes of colour to be found. Gareth scaled a steep grassy embankment to pick this little bunch of wild daffodils for me. They smelt incredible! One last sprig of flowers to put in our May Altar before we put it away.