Wednesday, February 28, 2007

St Davids Day...Almost!

It's St Davids Day tomorrow. The Welsh patron saint day where any self-respecting Welsh person will surround themselves with Daffodils, Leeks, and all things dragon-like.....

Of course if you live away from the holy land of Cymru then the significance of telling the world you are Welsh becomes a bigger and more urgent task.

Carrie and myself went shopping today looking for anything that we could use to make the house look more Welsh.

We bought the ingredients for Dragon pie and I spent the afternoon with my scalpel carving a Welsh dragon from frozen pastry ready to put on top of the "dragon" filling. We even found a "Dragon egg" Easter egg! Perfect!

Before the kids went to bed we hung up a large Welsh flag in our bedroom, laid out cards from his family in Wales and all of our Welsh paraphernalia creating a virtual Welsh alter below the flag!

The Dragon-pie is made and in the fridge, the breakfast tray is laid with yellow cloth, Welsh mugs and the obligatory leek, the dragon egg is hidden under Gareth's bed.......!

Dydd Gwyl Dewi Hapus!!!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Swimming Lessons

I signed the kids up for swimming lessons and they started last week. The classes are at a local pool and are groups of 3 kids per instructor.

Sian and Rhiannon are in a group together with one other girl of similar age. It gives them great one to one attention and at only $8.40 / £3.40 a lesson it is really great value.

Gareths lesson is straight after the girls and is with a girl and boy that can swim unaided so he has a bit of catching up to do. We have bought him some goggles but he refuses to put his head under water because he hates the water going up his nose!

We are used to swimming classes in the UK being hard work, especially the showering and trying to get everyone dressed afterwards in the crowded changing rooms. Last week we were the only ones in the changing rooms and we were wondering where everyone else was?

Yet again the Australians have an easy answer... Kids were hopping out of their cars and running through the car park in their swimmers with towel in one hand and goggles in the other! After the lessons they just wrapped up in their towels and jumped back in the car to get dressed at home! Much easier!

I guess there are a lot of advantages to living in a country where the temperature is warm all year round!

Carrie has arrived!

My little sister Carrie arrived in Toronto today having spent the weekend in Sydney with my brother Joe and his family.

The kids thought she was arriving on a train in the late afternoon and that we would go straight to the train station from School to collect her. She really arrived in the morning and went to the school to collect them with me!
The kids were very excited to see her waiting on the school steps in her green Irish rugby shirt! Carrie had brought me a new rugby shirt too which she insisted I wear too so we both got a few funny looks from the other parents. They must have been thinking that St Patricks day was early this year!
We had a busy afternoon racing around to swimming and then home where the kids wanted Carrie to have a lie down on her "lumpy" pillow! To great squeals of excitement from the kids she found the various cards, pictures, magazine, chocolate and presents hidden under her pillows! We had to taste the chocolate to be sure it was nice.

Next Carrie produced lots of gifts from her suitcase, new swimmers, glow in the dark bugs, bouncy balls and some Irish chocolate for a bit of a taste compare and contrast!

They are all cuddled up on the sofa now watching a film before bed. Carrie doesn't know it yet but she has a very early start in the morning because the kids want her to go on the school run at 8am!!!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Ireland V England

I am not normally passionate about Rugby (or any sport for that matter)

However when once a year Ireland play against England I can't help but get excited about the result...

And what a result!

Ireland 43 - England 13 !!!!

"Thug gach duine rud éigin, thug daoine áirithe a raibh acu."

Here is a little quote from my Dad that he wrote to me in an email celebrating the victory...

Soccor is a gentleman's game played by gentlemen.
Rugby is a gentleman's game played by savages.
Gaelic football is a savage's game played by savages!!!

Oh, and if you are wondering what the earlier saying means...
"Everyone gave something, some people gave all they had."
I think it sums up the Irish team on the day!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

House Build week 23: Tiles

Week 23 and we are on the countdown to getting the keys!

The tilers have been working hard this week. An Italian father and son team. The Dad is first generation Italian and shouts at everyone in Italian with a cigarette in one hand and tiles at the speed of light with the other. The son has an Aussie accent and interprets for his Dad while cutting tiles as fast as his Dad is laying them! It was comical to watch but we have heard that they are the best tilers in the area.

Gareth stood watching them for ages while we were talking to the site supervisor and I am sure he learnt some interesting use of the Italian language!

The big changes this week are obviously that there are now tiles on the bathroom floors and also on our Balcony. The final gyprock wall has also been completed under the staircase and it looks great.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Pancake Tuesday

We have tried to get in a habit of having Anne and Kel join us for a meal once a week and Tuesday is the evening that seems to suit us all at the moment.

We are all trying to eat healthily as summer eating has caught up on all our waistlines! We agreed to a healthy meal of marinaded lean steak on the BBQ with a salad and potatoes with no extra butter.

Not bad so far I thought. The meal was great and we were feeling happily full when Mr B suddenly has a flash of inspiration. It's pancake Tuesday and we had all forgotten until he said it out loud.

There was a brief moment where our consciences were debating the pros and cons of eating something totally unhealthy when we were already full up from dinner.....

The pros won and out came the flour, eggs and weighing scales. The kids joined in with great enthusiasm.

Within minutes the plates were piling up with pancakes, vanilla ice-cream and maple syrup!

Auntie Carrie!!!


My sister has finally finished her Thesis and has booked a well deserved trip to Australia to relax and de-stress!

She is due to arrive in Sydney this Saturday morning and will spend four weeks with us in Toronto and then a week in Sydney with my brother Joe.

The kids are hyper. We were chatting this morning about what we should put under her pillow. We have a tradition within the Sheeran family where treats are hidden under the pillow of the visitor. As soon as that person arrives they are shown to their bed where they have to pretend to be utterly exhausted from their travels. They lie down to shrieks of excitement from the kids and of course they have to grumble about how lumpy and bumpy their guest bed is before finally "finding" their treats hidden under their heads! Gareth is very excited. He wants to have some Cadbury chocolates by the door with a note saying "To Carrie, we love you, from us"

I am really looking forward to showing Carrie around our new lives that we have built here, the kids school, Rathmines park, our friends and of course the new house. We may even have the keys by the time she is due to go home. For those of you that don't know Carrie here are a few of my favourite photos that were taken the last time I went to Ireland just before we emigrated.....

Monday, February 19, 2007


Our kids took up a new sport this week..... Tee-Ball.

It is basically a child friendly version of the American game, Baseball.
The kids are in teams of about 10-12 and either bat or field. The batting team run around a small group of bases trying to get back home while the fielders try catching the base ball in their big mits to get the running kid in the other team out. Simple rules but try teaching them to a group of six year olds!!! The Australian Baseball Federation (ABF) heavily sponsors a 6 week course of Tee-Ball coaching and matches for young kids in the hope of tempting in fresh blood to the on-going baseball leagues.
Over the next six weeks the kids will go to a local sports ground every Thursday afternoon for 45mins of coaching followed by a 1 hour game against a team from another school. The coaches are all volunteers and the equipment is provided by the ABF. The total cost for the six week course is $10 (£4) and for this they also throw in a free T-shirt and baseball hat!

Keen to give it a go we turned up last Thursday and Sian and Rhiannon played their hearts out! They absolutely loved it! Loads of their school friends were there and lots of the parents too so it was very sociable. We had a sausage sizzle afterwards and that was tea sorted!
Having had so much fun on Thursday we went into a local sports shop at the weekend and bought a bat and ball to go down the park with. We also found a "tee" which is the pole that the baseball balances on top (Thus the name Tee-Ball!)

Eager to try it out we went straight down to Rathmines park and had a great couple of hours playing. Here are some of the photos.....

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Valentines present....

I mentioned getting a very unusual Valentines present this year.

Before I tell you, here is a little bit of background about me...

-I love to learn new skills.
-I have done many night classes over the years, Yoga, Water colour painting, Guitar, Swedish Body massage, Reflexology etc.

- I remember as a child following my Dad out into the garage and watching him as he soldered, changed plugs, repaired punctures and made things like desks and shelves for our bedrooms.

-I have a burning desire to work out how things work and get great satisfaction from learning how to make or fix things.

-I rarely allow Byron to get anywhere near our tool box and insist on having the first go at DIY in the house!

This Valentines night we sat down to a nice steak and a good bottle of wine. Byron passed a piece of paper across the table to me. On the paper was a message...

"I am sending you back to college"

Byron has arranged for me to join a small group of people to be taught how to make our own musical instrument, in my case a guitar!

This isn't just any old course you could do anywhere. It is being run by a man called Strato Anagnostis who lives in Toronto and is a world renowned instrument maker. He was apprenticed under one of the top four instrument makers in the world and established the Tasmanian Kaleidoscope Factory in Tasmania in 1989 where he made intricate wooden kaleidoscopes. Some of his customers included Pope John Paul II, the Dalai Lama, The King of Nepal and the Sultan of Oman.

He now lives in our local area with his family and our kids play tennis together on Friday afternoons. He talked recently to Byron about his love of instrument making and that he would love to teach a small group of people this skill. He has decided to try a set of 10 classes about four hours each time and Byron put my name forward.

So far there are two other people interested and it should start over the next couple of months. It won't be cheap as it will require about 120 hours of tuition to make the guitar and I will have to buy the materials as well. It really is an amazing opportunity because Strato is obviously a very highly regarded man and it is just luck that we live local to him and heard about this fantastic course. I am so excited!!!
I have just found a photo of Strato and his wife that I took this time last year at our St Patricks day party. I think his son was just about to have his hair sprayed green!

Roll on the start of this new adventure!!!

House Build week 22: New Kitchen

Lots more progress on the interior of the house this week.

The small window is still smashed in the Laundry room so we still have a way to sneak in in the evenings when the builders have gone home.

I had another (official!) site visit this week with Paul Jones the site-supervisor and was given a run down on all the recent changes and the changes to come over the next week. Byron couldn't come with me as he was in Sydney but he had coached me on the phone to look surprised when I went in (after all I shouldn't have seen the recent changes, should I?) I tried hard to sound amazed at the wonderful sight of the ceiling covings and noticed the site supervisor looking a bit strange at me...What had I said wrong? "But the stairs Gina?" he said "Isn't the stairs great?" I had climbed them so often this week in the evenings I forgot that they were probably the most obvious big change since my last official visit! Not sure if I got away with that one!
Shortly afterwards Paul explained that a new pane of glass had been ordered for the broken window in the laundry and it would be replaced over the next week. I tried to look nonchalant but was cursing inside. I was hoping we might get away with that one for a while longer....

We went back into the house again today and were delighted to see that the kitchen has been installed. All that is needed is the appliances and the counter tops which will arrive much closer to the handover date.

The bathroom cabinets have also been installed and the bath surrounds have been made in preparation for the baths to be sat into them. The kids bath has been sat in the middle of Rhiannon's bedroom floor which she found quite amusing!

She brought a pencil and paper with her today and sat on her bedroom floor and drew pictures of ideas she had for decorating her new room. She is probably looking forward to the move more than anyone else as she is sharing with Gareth at the moment and is finding it hard now that he won't play Care Bears and Polly Pocket in the mornings with her!

Although the bathrooms are coming along the toilets are not yet in place and there is a Portaloo in the corner of the garden for the builders to use. Gareth has taken to deciding he needs a wee on each visit to the house and takes great delight in getting down to business in the fresh air next to the Portaloo! The plants are thriving in this corner. I hope we can persuade him to break this habit after we have moved in!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentines Day

Happy Valentines Day!!!

Our day started out a bit hectic as we needed to get Byron on an early morning train to Sydney. Cards were exchanged, cup of tea in bed and then back to bedlam!

Lunches for the kids were suitably romantic themed! Heart shaped jam sandwiches with honey and sprinkles on top, passionfruits ($1.30 for an egg shaped fruit with half a teaspoon full of pulp....? Do they think we've won the lottery?!!) and some tropical passion crush drink. Spoiled rotten kids!

While the girls were in school and Gareth was lying on the beanbag drugged up on baby Neurofen (He had a temperature and looked dreadful) I began making a Valentines cake, as ordered by Sian as I dropped her at school earlier! I couldn't find any red food colouring to put in the sponge mixture so I rummaged around the freezer and found some frozen berries. I mixed some through the cake mixture and put some in the icing on top. It looked great and the girls helped to demolish it when they finished their tea. After bundling them into bed Byron and myself had a lovely lamb BBQ with a really great bottle of wine. Of course we couldn't let the last of the cake go to waste so we polished that off too!

Happy Valentines Day across the seas where you are just waking to your cups of tea and cards!
Oh, Did I mention my present......?
It is by far the most unusual gift I have ever recieved! Mindblowing, different, not even something I knew I wanted, in fact it doesn't even properly exist yet!
Keep reading because this one deserves its very own blog!

Thank you Jack!

Rhiannon received a parcel in the post yesterday from the UK.

It had a very special card and gift inside it from a friend she made aged 3 at Pre-school in England.

She was so chuffed when she opened it up and wouldn't let it out of sight all afternoon even while having tea and doing homework.

It went to school with her this morning too!

Thank you Jack!

Friday, February 09, 2007


Today is hot and muggy. The aircon has been working full blast over the last few weeks. It is still a bit strange getting our heads around it being summer in January here in Oz. We still read the UK news on the BBC website. There were snow warnings yesterday for a deep fall of snow overnight. When we woke up this morning we had recieved emails from two friends with photos they had taken of the snow.

These first photos were taken by one of Byrons neighbours, Adele, in Aberdare, South Wales where he grew up.

This next photo is from Sians best friend at school in Northampton, Natalie.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

House Build week 21: Lock-up.

We have reached "Lock-up"

An important milestone that sees the front door and garage doors in place.

This effectively brings an end to our sneaking through the open front door gap and wandering around to have a nosey at what changes are happening inside.

Although I should have felt delighted to see the front door in place I felt a bit of an anti-climax.

We strained to look through the windows around the ground floor of the house and caught a tantalising glimpse of our new staircase sweeping up to the upper floor where last week we had climbed a wobbly ladder. We spied two baths sitting on the floor of the family office! One for the kids bathroom and the big spa bath for our en-suite.

We tried in vain to open each of the sliding patio doors, laundry room door and garage door but they were all locked tight. Byron was heading back to the car with Gareth. I racked my brain for any idea of how to get inside and then had a brainwave! A small panel of glass was missing from the laundry room window. Maybe if I reached my arm in and tried to open the external laundry room door from the inside.....


The door clicked open and we were in! It was so exciting seeing the stairs in place and the kids climbed them two at a time to see their bedrooms! The gyprock and coving has all been put in place and the rooms just need skirting boards and a lick of paint to be finished! Here are some photos...

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

St Josephs Swimming Carnival

It's that time of year again: Swimming carnival.

Sian headed out to school this morning with her swimmers on under her sports uniform. She jumped on a school coach and they headed off to the local indoor swimming pool. I followed behind in the car with Gareth and enough drinks and snacks to feed a smalll army!

When we got there there was a bit of confusion as to where to sit. I had forgotton that the kids are elected to one of four "House's" when they join school and they then participate in sporting events under the banner of their house flag. Siblings are kept together to make it easier for the Mums to know who to shout for! We worked out that Sian was in Hunter House so we looked for the big green flag and sat underneath it.

As I sat down and looked around me I realised that some of the better Mums had gone to the effort to come dressed in their kids team colours. There was a sea of Green, Red, Yellow and Blue t-shirts. I sat there in my pale pink feeling a bit daft until my two friends Claire and Maree joined me on the Green stand. Claire was wearing a pastel green top so she looked smug but Maree was in burnt Orange. We sat and tried to find a connection linking the colours together.... green = leaves? burnt-orange = trunk? pink = cherry blossom?..... OK, it was a weak link!

On to the real action... The kids entered races of different lengths and strokes under their age group. A teacher tried calling out which races were next into a microphone. The sounds were all echoeing and bouncing around the pool and it sounded as though she was underwater! Despite this the kids seemed to be on the right starting blocks at the right time.

Sian was feeling a bit nervous and only wanted to enter one race. She swam well and finished with a smile on her face which is the aim of the day. Lots of her friends entered multiple races and swam brilliantly.

Gareth and his friend Tommy were so well behaved. They were only a few feet away from the edge of the water and it was a miracle that neither of them fell in! They tucked into their lunch boxes by 10am and soon there wasn't much left in them so they started nagging to go to the tuck shop. After a bellyful of E-numbers and artificial colouring they were hyper. I finally called it quits and brought a blue-tongued Gareth home to rest while Sian stayed on and cheered on the last few races.

It was a great if chaotic day. It finally gave me the motivation and opportunity to sign all three kids up for weekly swimming classes before I left. Roll on next year when Rhiannon will be old enough to join in and I will try to remember to wear my Irish Rugby top!