Sunday, August 31, 2014

31:08:14 Rainbow lake

This week has featured many rainbows. Art-work, cards and now, to mark the last day of Winter, a real rainbow too!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

30:08:14 Murphy train tracks

A fun walk with Murphy. Do we walk him or does he walk us?!

Friday, August 29, 2014

29:08:14 Bonsai magic.

Another day spent working At John Hunter Hospital. Some new art-work on display. A bonsai tree made out of twisted wire and paper cranes in all the colours of the rainbow. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

28:08:14 Rainbows and sunshine.

A card I made using paint-chips. A few strategically placed gems and sentiments help to cover the paint shade names!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

27:08:14 Gonna eat me a lot of peaches!

A friend of mine is in the middle of a very exciting lifestyle change with her husband and kids. They are selling their house and buying a property in a beautiful rural area. Fields and sky as far as the eye can see. I have been waiting and waiting to get word of their house selling and then I saw this status update on FaceBook...  "Movin' to the country, gonna eat me a lot of peaches"

I was hoping this was a celebratory announcement and not just her singing along to the radio. When I did my grocery shop a couple of days later I saw a jar of peaches and couldn't resist buying them for her. We got together on a "Girls night out" tonight as her face was a picture when she found them at her place setting! She says she is going to wait until they get the keys for their new home and pop the champagne and eat peaches to celebrate the beginning of their new adventure!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

26:08:14 Hearts

Last night Rhiannon's High School had an Art Exhibition. One of Rhiannon's art works was on display. It contains twelve pictures, all of a heart but drawn, painted and printed in different media types. Individually they are great pictures but when mounted together they were amazing. At the end of the evening some awards were given out and I am so proud to say that Rhiannon was one of the students called up to receive one. I'm so glad to see her recognised in a subject she loves and it reinforces to us as parents how totally unique and different are kids are. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

25:08:14 Time for jumping in muddy puddles!

I love spending time with my God-daughter (Miss A). She is funny and cute and smart as can be. For a few weeks earlier in the year she was coming to my house on Monday mornings with her sister and we baked while their mum ran around preparing to move house. Once the move happened things got busy and the Mondays stopped happening but I still see my cute girls in the school car-park as we drop off the older kids to school. 

One recent morning as I was bending down talking to little Miss A she took my face in her two chubby little hands and brought her head in really close to mine. She looked into my eyes and with the most sincere voice said "I know, today we will go to your house and bake some delicious muffins. OK?" Her eyes were big and eyebrows raised waiting for my answer. Although that day was already packed with too many plans I promised another Monday soon. 

Today was that day. We made Peppa Pig Muddy Puddle Biscuits. This is not a sponsored post! They were very fiddly to make. The best thing about the kit was the set of little square Peppa and George decorations to put in each "muddy puddle" The whole kit cost $4.40 and the box said it made 6 finished biscuits. I bought them on impulse because they were half price but now I know why they weren't flying off the shelves!

Despite everything we had a great laugh as we mixed and cooked and waited for their mum to come back so we could have tea and biscuits together. Another lovely day avoiding housework but wouldn't you if you had such cute kids in your life!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

24:08:14 Tournament of Minds

Gareths teacher entered some of her students in the 2014 Tournament of Minds. The kids in Gareths team were challenged to make a machine out of recycled materials that could dispense a "precious commodity" (sugar!) They had to spend many lunch times and afternoons after school working together and also had to go into school during the weekends. In the last few days things got quite frazzled as the machine failed to work and moral was going up and down, tears were shed, extra practise sessions were scheduled. 

Finally today the kids went into Newcastle University and did their presentation. They weren't perfect, the machine didn't work and a few of their rehearsed lines got jumbled but they all kept the smiles on their faces and did their best. There's a lot more to be gained from an experience like this than just winning. They learnt how hard it is to work under pressure, that despite huge effort you will not always succeed and that group work involves a lot of give and take. 

Above all they gained a new respect for their teacher who gave up so much of her precious unpaid time to help them. All I could think is that she must really love her job to be prepared to spend Friday, Saturday and Sunday with her pupils and then see them all again on Monday morning ready to get stuck into the next adventure. Mrs Hogan you are madcrazy, nuts, WONDERFUL!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

23:08:14 Spider

Some days I love living in Australia...

Some days I have my reservations...!

Friday, August 22, 2014

22:08:14 The perfect cup of tea!

I am loving the latest batch of my normal tea-bags. They have the usual brand name on one side of the swing tag but have put something funny on the other side. This one is my favourite so far!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

21:08:14 Cén t-am é?

What time is it? 
Not here but in Ireland? 
How to keep track of the time difference?
My trusted Guinness clock is always set to Dublin time
Always scaring visitors who glance at it and think they've overstayed their welcome!
Our 12.25pm, Dublin's 3.25am.
Ssshhhhhhh..... Granny's sleeping!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

20:08:14 5:2 Dinner inspiration

Leafing through my 5:2 recipe book for a 300 calorie dinner inspiration. I can't believe we've been doing this for over a year and a half now. Twice a week, every week. The very occasional week off for holidays but usually made up for the week before or after.

I am finding myself making the same meals over and over. Often it's easier to make a batch of ten times the tikka marinated meat or Cottage pie and then freeze it in individual portions. It saves getting the weighing scales out every time and I'm used to "guestimating" the amount of salad/veggies to complete the meal. Every so often though it's good to go back to the book and have a flick through for new ideas...

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

19:08:14 Knives

I'm so excited. I have wanted a set of good kitchen knives for such a long time but there seemed to be too much choice every time we went looking. Huge price tags, different combinations of knives and not always ones I thought I would use. In the end I went home, emptied my knife drawer and put to one side the knives I use daily. I got Byron to do the same and we had both chosen the same 5 knives. On returning to the shop I saw a beautiful wooden block with 5 knives with exactly the same blade lengths of my old regularly used knives. The shop had a sale with 60% off the original price so I dropped lots of hints to Byron and Gareth about my upcoming birthday and crossed my fingers and toes. Yesterday morning Byron passed me a big box, wrapped in birthday paper and I was squealing with excitement as I unwrapped it. I see lots of time being spent in the kitchen over the coming weeks!

Monday, August 18, 2014

18:08:14 Shared Birthday Memories

This is a copy of a blog entry from 3 years ago...

18th August 2011

Today I shared celebrating my birthday in work with Lesley.
She tells everyone we are twins, separated at birth, raised on
opposite sides of the world and finally reunited at the Blue Hospital.
It's enough to bring tears to your eyes...
Tears of laughter that is!

18th August 2014

Today I celebrate my 41st birthday. Lesley should be celebrating her 70th. Sadly she died just three weeks ago. She had known she was unwell for a while and the last time I saw her she was in a hospital bed feeling pretty crook. She knew she was dying but told me she was going to wait until after she turned 70. That she was going to have a big party to celebrate with everyone she loved and then she would be ready to go. I stupidly asked her when her 70th was and she laughed and called me a numpty. "You stupid numpty, the 18th of August, same as you. We are twins remember" We laughed and laughed and then had a big hug. A hug that went on a bit longer than a normal goodbye.

Lesley, you didn't manage to celebrate your 70th here with us all but somehow I know there is a big party happening somewhere and if I close my eyes I can hear that infectious laugh from here.

Happy Birthday twin. See I didn't forget!
Your stupid numpty

Sunday, August 17, 2014

17:08:14 Puddles

"Walk Murphy over there Rhiannon, past the big puddle so I can take a photo of you"
"A bit closer to me so I can catch your reflections in the water"
"Murphy!!! Not actually in the puddle!"

*insert dog shaking water everywhere...

Out-takes are the best!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

16:08:14 Granny Luddy.

I was 12 when I took this photo. The first photo ever taken with my first camera, bought with my very own money I had been given on my Confirmation Day. Cards had come in the post from Aunts and Uncles, each one wishing me well and each with a crisp £5 note inside. The money had given me the chance to buy something I had always wanted. My very own proper camera. 

I loaded the film in nervously and held the camera in my hands. 27 was the number in the round window. 27 opportunities to capture an image. "But what?" I asked my Granny who was staying with me. "Anything you like", she replied. I asked could I take a photo of her. She smiled and agreed. We walked into the garden where the sky was blue, the sun shone brightly, she wore a deep fuchsia pink cardigan and clutched her prayer books tight in her hands. Her hair was white and fine, blowing with the breeze that sent ripples through the green leaves behind her. I told her to say cheese, she smiled, I clicked. 

It took a couple of weeks to use the rest of my precious 26 chances. I don't know what photos I took with them. They are long disappeared, in a dusty box, who knows where. But the first photo. It was beautiful. I was so proud of it. Ten years later I was given a small silver photo frame as a wedding gift. It could hold an image smaller than a credit card. I found that first photo. With the majority of the greenery cut away the image of my granny perfectly filled the small frame. 

And now almost three decades after it was taken the photo still sits in the frame. The image has faded, washed out, only a hint of the original colours remain. The frame is dulled and has had a few bumps as it has weathered the years and the moves from house to house, country to country. But the memory. It is still bright and fresh, rich fuschia and glossy green, blue skies, white hair and love, so much love that the years cannot fade...

Friday, August 15, 2014

15:08:14 Jam drops

My sweet tooth called, The recipe book fell open and the ingredients were all in my kitchen. Fate, delicious sweet and sticky fate. How I love you!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

14:08:14 Graduation!

Congratulations to Murphy for Graduating from Puppy Pre-School. He very quickly realised that treats would be forthcoming if he just sat, lay down and stood when we waved our hands and used key words. Being a dog that is fond of his food we were delighted (if not surprised) that he won the "Puppy Push-Up" competition on the final night. Rhiannon, with a dog treat in hand, managed to make him sit, lay-down, sit, lay-down sixteen times in quick succession in his 30 second time slot, two more than the nearest contender! 

Now we can turn our attention to the book "100 tricks to teach your dog" given to us by some dear little school friends. They ask us every day in the school car park if Murphy has mastered trick number 97 yet? How to fetch a cold beer from the fridge and bring it to Dad in the TV room! 

We will begin working on that one next week kids!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

13:08:14 Scribbly Gum

I love this particular gum tree. It is called Scribbly gum because of the distinctive scribble lines on its bark. They are made by the larvae of the Scribbly gum moth that live between layers of the bark. Their burrow tracks are exposed when the tree sheds its outer bark. It's funny seeing the scribbles all over the tree limbs, as though a child had been let loose with pencils and doodled to their hearts content!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

12:08:14 Tea light

Reluctantly tidying away the aftermath of a fun Indian night with friends. Cushions on the floor, low table with sequined runners, tea lights sparkling in crackled mosaic holders. Laughter, spicy food, rich red wine, music and more laughter!

Monday, August 11, 2014

11:08:14 Monday morning blues

It's Monday morning and Murphy and I are alone in the house. The kids are at school, Byron is at work. There is housework to be done and quite a few blog entries to be caught up on. It looks like Murphy isn't in a hurry for me to put the washer on. He's found some of the kids clothes waiting to go in the machine and has brought them over to his bed and snuggled up on them! I miss them too Murph! 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

10:08:14 Passion fruit

I read something many weeks ago about personalising passion fruits with your kids initials. It explained that if you etched their initial into the soft green fruit on the vine it would scar and grow with the fruit until it matured. 

I decided to try out an "S" "R" and "G" Finally the fruits are big and turned dusky purple. Tonight I cut open Sian's one and added it to a fruit salad she was having for tea. I 'm sure it tasted better for being personalised!

Saturday, August 09, 2014

09:08:14 Weekend walk

We are really enjoying the lifestyle change that having a dog in the house has brought. Byron and myself have started going for walks with him some mid-week evenings and over the weekends too. 

Although he is Rhiannon's dog and she has the main responsibility to make sure he gets enough exercise we are happy to take over the lead occasionally. It is good for all of us to get out and about more. Even 20 minutes fresh air and taking in the beauty of the Australian Winter around us leaves our heads fresh and our spirits lifted. 

Friday, August 08, 2014

08:08:14 Twenty years ago to this very day...

Twenty years ago today I was a young student nurse holidaying with friends on the sunny Greek island of Rhodes. I was not looking for love. I was more interested in coaxing my pale Irish skin to change into anything other than milky white. I was having fun relaxing on the beach in the daytime and spending ages getting ready to go out dancing, laughing and having a few drinks with the girls in the evenings. 

As the end of the holiday approached I was getting a bit fed up of all the chat up lines, the sleazy offers of  "Can I buy you a drink" from men that already had their eyes on the next girl they would ask if you said no. So as I walked off the busy dance-floor for a breather and saw a group of guys clustered around the rest of my nursing friends I wasn't overly excited. "Can I buy you a drink?" The same chat up line I heard already but this time said with a Welsh accent. As the automatic words "No thanks" were coming out of my mouth I saw a cheeky glint in his eye. I was filled with courage that can only come from having had a few drinks and being in the anonymity of a strange place where I could be anyone I wanted to be. "Ok, I'll have a bottle of water" I had changed my mind but I was about to show this cheeky Welsh man that buying me a drink did not come with any guarantees. 

I watched him queue in the throng at the bar that was several people deep. I gratefully accepted the bottle when he eventually returned. I drank the icy-cold water back in one long drink, said "Thank-you" and turned and went back on the dancefloor. I would never have had the same cheeky confidence back in my normal life but here I was free to be anything I wanted to be, like something out of a book or a glossy magazine. I had only a few days left and I was going to enjoy them. 

The next night our group of nurses started our evening with a meal and then moved on to have a drink in a quieter bar. In walked the group of Welsh boys that we had seen the night before. I found myself sitting next to a funny cute guy with an infectious grin. I smiled and introduced myself to him. He said he knew who I was, he'd bought me a bottle of water the night before. I felt my cheeks flush. The tipsy and confident Gina of the previous night was a long way away from the girl I really was. I decided to behave myself and made small talk and found out he had celebrated his birthday a few days ago. I returned from the bar with a glass of complimentary bread sticks and put them in front of him. A belated Happy Birthday gift. He looked at me and smiled. "Thanks, you shouldn't have, free bread sticks, just what I've always wanted"

He smiled that infectious grin again and I felt butterflies in my tummy. 20 years later and they are still there...

Thursday, August 07, 2014

07:08:14 Morning coffee

No day can truly start in the Baynham household until the coffee machine rumbles and grinds and the smell of freshly brewed caffeine wafts under Byron's nose... 

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

06:08:14 Happy Birthday Mr B!

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

05:08:14 Puppy preschool.

We are enjoying our weekly puppy pre-school classes with Murphy. Because he is Rhiannon's dog she is his main trainer and I sit in the background. The classes have been as much about educating us as Murphy. It also gives him a valuable chance to become socialised with a mixture of other people and dogs which will hopefully make him better behaved over the coming years. 

Next week will be the final of the four classes and there will be a competition to see how many "puppy push-ups" each dog can do in 30 seconds. Really this is getting him to go from "sit" to "down" as many times as possible. We have had great fun with friends kids helping to teach him these commands and counting his progress. He is still a bit unpredictable, doing amazingly well some times and lying down with that "can't be bothered" look other times! 

We will have to see what next week will bring....!

Monday, August 04, 2014

04:08:14 Pennies For Hitler

Another "Old Ducks" bookclub read. This is a book written by an Australian author I am familiar with, Jackie French. My kids have been bring her books home from the school library over the years. When it was suggested as a potential for our bookclub I was intrigued. Would a book written to be read by children or adults alike be enough to grab our attention and focus? 

Even though it was an easy read, written through the eyes of an 11 year old boy, this book was really good. The description of the boys wonder as he had to adjust from life in war torn Europe to life in a laid back hot and dusty Aussie town was so good. I was brought back to our first year after emigrating here from the UK. The bombardment of the senses, every smell, every sound so different. 

It described so well the transition of a boy growing up with the propaganda of Nazi teaching that was being fed to him in his German school and which he believed utterly to be true right through to living with the "enemy" and realising everything wasn't quite as he had been taught. 

A real thought provoker, I cant wait to get stuck into this one at a future Old Ducks get together. 

Sunday, August 03, 2014

03:08:14 Rugby

We were so lucky this weekend to be given tickets to the Super Rugby Grand Final in Sydney. It was a nail biting game with deafening screams of joy when the Aussie team won by a single point! 

Adrenaline surged memories!

Saturday, August 02, 2014

02:08:14 Weekend morning

Saturday morning. Bircher drizzled with honey, sliced crunchy apple, warm croissants and a cup of tea. A lovely way to start the weekend. A lovely meal to break our Friday 5:2 fast. Looking forward to what the day will bring...

Friday, August 01, 2014

01:08:14 Martha Stewart FAIL!

It was a friends birthday yesterday so I made a batch of Martha Stewart Earl Grey cookie dough, divided into two halves which I rolled and chilled waiting to slice into cookie disks. One half of it made a batch of cookies which turned out pretty nice. Not too far off the picture on the website! I put them with a little box of Twinnings Earl Grey tea bags and a card and dropped it to her door. 

The other half stayed in the fridge. When I was surprised today with a generous offer of tickets to an event by another friend I was so glad to have the second batch ready to bake and exchange for the tickets. It didn't go well. Everything looked fine but because I left the cookies cool on the tray they stuck. Solid. Like superglue. I tried every spatula and thin blade knife but only 6 of the two dozen came away whole. I was gutted. The kids weren't. They are all the broken bits. 

Back to the drawing board for a "Thank You" idea!!!