Sunday, April 29, 2007


Cathy, This blog is for you!

I have heard many, many times that although many of you enjoy reading this blog it has a tendancy to be a little "sugar-coated"

I am the first to admit that I don't put everything up here like a true factual diary, just the fun and interesting things that I think friends and family will enjoy reading. Do you really want to see the photos or read the graphic description of the nasty tummy bug that hit all our family and the Woodruffs over the last three weeks?....I didn't think so!

However today I thought I would show you the first pictures of our lovely new house since we moved in.....

Lovely, Isn't it?

You can really see the potential can't you?

Actually, I think if I could ever see the floors again I would be happy! All that you see of this beautiful new house from the moment you walk in the front door is boxes, boxes and half emptied/spilled out boxes.
It is such a mess I don't honestly know where to begin.

We managed to loose a set of car keys tonight and a set of keys to the new front door, who knows when they will ever be seen again. I have also lost the cheque book, one of Rhiannons sports shoes, the bedside light for Rhiannons bedroom, my razor...

I could go on but I think you probably get the idea by now! I guess I could be spending the time that I am sitting here blogging to make a start on this mess but then my next blog would be all sweetness and light with photos of a beautifully unpacked and organised house and you lot would all be grumbling again about that perfect life down-under.

But now you know, my secret is out, I'm not 100% perfect.

Well maybe if I could find my razor and shaved my legs......

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Happy Birthday Rhiannon!

Today is Rhiannons 7th Birthday. She woke up very early and was hyper when we called her into our room. For her Birthday she wanted to have her ears pierced and to have a small toy. We got her ears pierced at the weekend and she is so proud of them! She got some tiny white crystal stones and although she went very quiet when they did them she didn't cry.

When we were at a local toy shop she went all gooey over a large stuffed Winnie The Pooh toy. We managed to smuggle it to the till in a kitchen rubbish bin (without being done for shoplifting!) and she was so pleased when she saw it this morning.

Thank you to everyone who rang her so early this morning. It was a very international group of phone calls from Australia, Ireland and even a phone box in Lanzarote where Granny and Grandad Joe are on holidays! Thank you also to everyone who sent cards and presents. She really loved them all. She wore Granny and Grandads rashy suit at breakfast, Cathys trendy top after school and Auntie Karens pjs to bed!

At school this morning she was given her Birthday Certificate at the morning Assembly. She looked very shy. She was allowed to bring Pooh bear into her classroom for a few minutes while we gave her teacher the tray of cup cakes to share out with the class. He had to come home in the car with me though as there wasn't enough room for two on her little classroom chair!

With all the chaos here in the house of boxes we couldn't find a birthday candle anywhere so we stuck a tea light on her cake!

She has gone off to bed a happy and contented 7 year old!

.....Thank you for your patience. Normal service has now resumed.

Yes! We are back!

New house, new family office room, same reliable pc, same me dying to blog all the adventures of the last few days!

To sum it up, it has been exhausting.
Rain, rain, rain.
Mud, mud, mud.
New white carpet, new white porcelain tiles.
Cleaning, cleaning and more cleaning!

Byron sprung a surprise on us last Saturday morning by announcing that we were moving that day. Never mind that the removalists were booked for Tuesday. Never mind that we had no fridge or beds in the new house. Never mind that there was not a single blind or curtain on a single window. Never mind anything practical. Mr B was moving and by default that meant that we were too!

Off we went to a local DIY store and bought blackout roller blinds for the kids rooms. I spent two hours cursing them as I tried to cut the metal "easy to fit to any window size" pole that the blind was wrapped around, and recut it because I had been too timid with my cutting, and RECUT it because I still had been too timid with my cutting. During that time an adrenaline pumped Mr B drove back and forth like a maniac to the old house and transported the kids beds in a trailer single handed. By 8pm we had Rhiannon's blind up and her bed sorted. Gareth was lying in bed waiting to go to sleep while I was standing on his toy box drilling his blind in place and Sian had to make do with an old curtain pinned onto her window frame. Then I was in the car again back for the zillionth time to the old house to get the kettle and toaster and a bag of ice for the Esky that was going to be our makeshift fridge over the next three days. I came back to the new house at 10pm to find a hot bath run in our en suite and a chilled bottle of bubbly waiting to be drunk. Maybe this wasn't such a daft idea after all. It didn't take long to finish the bottle and by then I had mellowed considerably. I mightn't have been ready to admit it to Byron but it actually was quite exciting to finally be in our "real" house.

The day of the big move was on Tuesday. A day of torrential rain. Loading up the lorry at the old house went smoothly. It was when a slightly panicked Byron rang me from the door of the new house (with pale carpets and tiles) to say that the men had no drop cloths to protect our floors from their huge, muddy boots that I started to feel a bit apprehensive. The sight that greeted me as I pulled up outside nearly terrified me. I have never seen such massive, tattooed, bald bunch of ex-convicts in my life before. They were built for brawn not brains. One was called "Tink" short for Tinkerbell??? I think it was because he had been caught listening to opera music once and had never lived it down? Anyway, they worked tirelessly carrying heavy items out of the back of a precariously tilted removal truck and at times I think it was sheer luck that the items made it in in one piece! The piano was the heart stopper but it too made it safely to its new room. I was very relieved when the men announced that they were done and added up the bill. They were charging based on time and we got away with 4 hours. They charge from base to base and had allowed 30mins to return back. We handed over the wad of notes and a few extra for beer money to say thanks. Then we chatted for another few minutes as they entertained us with stories from their various (colourful) pasts! After a firm shake of hands they were off..... Except they weren't because the truck sank in the mud when it was 90% on the road. With the road completely blocked by the removal truck I was directing traffic onto the reserve next to it for the next hour and a half in the pouring rain while Byron , Tink and the other two dug and dug and dug the back of the truck out of the swamp that used to be our driveway. It was a long day and we were very relieved when they finally pulled away and we could get on with the unpacking.

It's Thursday today and the last few days have been a blur of cleaning the old rental house till it shines. I finally finished it this afternoon and will meet our landlords to give them all the spare keys tomorrow. I really feel for them because they have all this yet to come over the weekend. And they are using Tink and crew to move too! Good luck!!!

We will of course be posting photos of the new house in the coming days and weeks but right now we are surrounded by chaos, boxes, bags, paper, cardboard and bubble wrap so hang on in there until we are a bit more organised.....

Saturday, April 21, 2007

"We apologise for the break in transmission......"

This is it folks.

The last blog from our rental house.

We have packed and moved 90% of our belongings to the new house and in just a couple of minutes the keyboard and mouse will be taken away from under my hands and wrapped in bubble wrap for the big move!

The removal firm has been booked to move the really heavy items, fridge, piano etc. Broadband has been requested but who knows when it will actually arrive so hang on in there if it takes a few days for us to resume our blogging....

Don't worry, we'll be back online soon !

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Byrons New Sofa!

Byron was very excited this morning because today was the day that he had arranged delivery of "his" new sofa! I was hoping to delay its arrival until next week because we still had tradesmen all over the house laying carpets, cleaning tiles etc. I thought next week would be calmer but we all know what Mr B is like when he gets excited about something.....!

The men had to bring it around the back of the house to squeeze it through the sliding doors. Within seconds of it touching the ground Byron was all over it like a child opening his Christmas presents!!! Plastic wrap and cardboard was flying left right and center and the end result is fantastic! The sofa seems to fit the room perfectly! I have even (grudgingly) admited that I am glad we didn't wait till next week to have it delivered!
Only one small problem remains.....
A particularly "small" problem indeed....
The size of the TV!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

$80,000 Frank

Ok, so we didn't catch Frank.

We weren't the winners of the $80,000 prize money.

But this morning a brown parcel arrived from KO.FM. It had a small Hi5 toy and a T-shirt as consolation prizes for Rhiannon and Alex who had been fishing the day we thought we had won!

We decided that Alex might prefer the T-shirt so keep an eye on the postman over the next week Alex and you could be wearing this to school next sports day!!!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Thank you Granny and Grandad Joe!!!

As we were getting ready to emigrate to Australia we had to make choices about which of our possessions to bring with us and which to leave behind. Two things helped us make up our mind. Firstly, was it worth paying to transport it halfway around the world and secondly would Australian customs let it in....

When it came to all things that were used out of doors they were an automatic no-no. Anything that had any trace of earth on it could result in our entire container being detained (at significant cost) by quarantine. Sadly that meant that the kids had to say good bye to virtually every one of their garden toys. They didn't make a fuss as they watched the playhouse, swing, slide, climbing frame, sand-pit etc make their way down the driveway into friends cars.

When Granny and Grandad Joe heard this they really wanted to make sure that the kids could replace their toys when we got our own house. They gave each child a "leprechaun cheque" for $1000 and said it could be spent on any outdoor toys they liked. We decided to pool the money and buy some communal toys. We bought a large above ground pool to use until we can afford a real one. Another thing we plan on buying is a wooden play house on stilts that we will order when the back garden is levelled. The third thing was assembled today. A massive trampoline with an enclosure! It took a few hours of blood, sweat and tears to put together this morning but it has been a huge hit! The kids now have somewhere to burn off some energy as we do the more mundane DIY jobs in the house.

Thanks Mum and Dad!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Decorating mania!

Since October 2005 we have been renting. The frustrations with this have been having to live with someone elses taste in interior design and panicking anytime any of the kids so much as touches a wall with sticky fingers. It has been hard having to hang our pictures only where someone else has previously put a hook in the wall. The owners of this house were pretty tall and all our pictures are hung so high that we can hardly see them!

At last we can get out the hammer and choose exactly where and when to hang things. Oh the joy of being able to use the tool box again! I used my drill for the first time in age this afternoon. It had seized up from lack of use! The last three days have been a whirl of painting and decorating the kids rooms. We wanted to get the messy part of the painting over and done with before the carpets are laid later this week. Looking at the amount of spilt paint on the bare floorboards I think we made the right choice!

Sian wants a frangipani yellow bedroom. We painted one wall in a strong yellow and used a lighter shade on the other three.
Now that the paint has dried it all looks the same! Never mind. At least she is happy with it.

Rhiannon wanted exactly the same bedroom that she had in England. Green hills, blue skies and some fluffy clouds. We stuck the wooden flowers back on her walls just as they had been before we emigrated.
I have promised to build her a window seat in the alcove behind the floaty pink curtains. She can't wait until she finally gets to have her own room again.

Gareth wants a space room. We have painted it bright blue and are going to paint the space rocket on it tomorrow. He has joined in enthusiastically with his roller "helping" me to add copious amounts of blue onto the already painted walls! There is the slight issue with Gareth of knowing what is going on inside his little head and what kind of rocket he is expecting to see on his wall when it is finished. So far he has mentioned aliens being inside the window of the rocket and being able to climb through to the inside to join them....?

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Goodbye Woodruffs!

The Woodruffs have finally had enough of us and decided to leave. After nearly three weeks of living with 10 people they flew back to the UK today via China.

Gina, the kids and I have had a fantastic time with them. It's been a very busy few weeks with loads of activities packed in - we now have plenty of new memories to treasure.

The days were full of visits to beaches, fishing, boating, surfing and trips around the area.

The evenings were full of good food, good wine and good company.... at least I think they were, there are definitely some hazy memories after one too many glasses of Tyrell's merlot. There weren't many early nights at all....

Here's a brief summary of their stay:

  • 1 house
  • 10 people
  • 20 days
  • 30 bottles white wine
  • 10 bottles red wine
  • 44 bottles beer
  • 1 mexican night
  • 2 barramundi nights
  • 1 indian night
  • 3 cars
  • 10 bbqs
  • 2 speedboat rides
  • 1 ferry ride
  • 5 beaches
  • 1 baby kangaroo
  • 1 adult kangaroo on a golf course
  • 1 trip to sydney
  • 1 lads night out
  • 1 girls night out
  • 20 easter eggs
  • 4 sick kids
  • 5 caught fish (including Frank)
  • 1,500 photographs (!!)
  • 1 rubber chicken
  • 2 women tossed overboard
  • 1 book of lists
  • 2 lost trunks in the sea
  • 1 boat race
  • 1 new house
  • 1 science museum

Goodbye to them all, they'll be missed !

Thursday, April 12, 2007

House Build week 30: It's ours!!!

It's been a long time coming but now it's ours!

Today is Week 30 and we were given the keys to our new house!
Every penny that we ever had has now been turned into brick and mortar but it is so worth it!

We had handover from 2-5pm while Cathy and Derek stayed in the rental house with the kids and started packing for their trip home tomorrow.

It was a bit bewildering standing in the new kitchen, signing bits of paper and being handed multiple sets of keys. It still didn't feel like our house with people walking around cleaning and doing the last few odd jobs. The supervisor gave us the run down on all the things in the house, like how to work the oven, hob, extractor fan, dishwasher, alarm system, security lights, solar boosted hot water system, spa bath, underground water tank, ducted vacuum.... the list was endless and I really doubt we took it all in. Luckily we have been left multiple instruction booklets for light bedtime reading!!!

When we were finished handover we rushed home to collect Cathy, Derek and the 6 kids and returned to the house just in time to see the Dominos pizza car pull up on the kerb with an order of pizzas for our first meal in the new house! We sat on picnic rugs on the bare concrete floors and tucked into the tastiest pizza we had ever had!
There was a knock on the door and in came our friends the Meeks with beer and bubbly to join in on the fun! We had a toast to the future and this new chapter in our Australian adventure. We took lots of photos with Cathys camera but the flash got confused and didn't work so they are a bit blurry (but to be honest so were our heads so in a way they worked out very atmospheric!)

We are very much looking forward to finally unpacking all of our possesions that were packed away so carefully in September 2005. It will be like Christmas and birthdays have all come together at once. We have already brought a few boxes around in Kels Ute and will be making many, many trips back and forth in it over the next two weeks while the carpets and tiles get laid.

Thank you to everyone for your lovely messages, texts and emails over the last few days. We look forward to each of you knocking on our new door and coming in for a cuppa over the coming weeks and months!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Heritage Afloat Festival.....the photos

I haven't had a chance to get any blogging done for a while as Mrs B and our very own guest-write Cathy have taken over....

Last Sunday was the annual Toronto Heritage Afloat carnival - this involves wandering around the foreshore looking at classic cars, model boats, food and shop stalls and, best of all, watching the boat building competition. The teams only have a couple of hours to make a boat out of very basic pre-supplied materials and then entering them into a race. This time last year my parents watched the race, and this year we were lucky to have Cathy and Derek with their family to share the day with.

The boat race was short but fun, with the usual dirty-play involving throwing flour bombs and trying several ways to sink the opponents. The kids loved it, even the big kids.

One other highlight was a fly-over from a World War II sea-plane called a Catalina. These planes used to based on a RAAF post on the lake, but one hadn't been here for over 50 years.

Lots of ice-creams, kebabs, balloons, magician shows and rides on the park ensured two car-fulls of tired little ones.

Monday, April 09, 2007

WE CAUGHT $40,000 FRANK!!!!!!

A local radio station in Newcastle KO.FM 102.9 ran an amazing Easter weekend competition. They released a large tagged fish called "Frank" into Lake Macquarie at 7am on Thursday morning and offered a reward of $40,000 to anyone who could catch him before 4pm today. The radio stations 4x4s have been driving around advertising the competition and on Thursday morning they were at our local park taking promotional photos next to the lake and handing out free boxes of Smarties. Our kids ran over and had their photo taken with the radio station staff and were delighted with their free sweets. Little did we know that Frank would be such an exciting part of our Easter weekend....!

This morning Derek and Byron wanted to go fishing for an hour at the local jetty. They walked down and I drove ahead with the little ones in the car.

As we drove (listening to KO.FM of course!) the presenters were whipping the listeners into a frenzy of excitement saying that there were only 5 hours left for Frank to be caught... Myles and Gareth were so excited and utterly convinced that they would catch Frank on their kiddy fishing rods. Gareth chatted to the other fishermen on the jetty telling them that Mum was going to catch the special fish and win $44 dollars! Wow! The men were laughing and wishing us luck. Myles was fascinated by the tiny fish swimming close to the surface of the water and saw Frank many times over.

After a while I took Gareth and Myles home again leaving Byron, Derek, Rhiannon and Alex to fish on for another half an hour. Imagine my disbelief when Byron rang me on my mobile telling me he had Frank!!!
I was utterly convinced that I was being wound up but Byron was so serious that I went along with him. He had actually managed to hook a large fish with a green plastic tag on its tail with KO.FM and a phone number written on it. He asked me to ring the number for him. Still convinced I was being wound up I rang the number and nearly fell off my chair when a man answered saying "Hello KO.FM..."

After a conversation that involved lots of questions I was told that they would contact the KO.FM boss and ring me back. Cathy and myself started to talk at a million miles an hour. What would we buy? Was it a hoax? Could we be bothered finishing making lunch or would we just ring for a slap-up take away Pizza?

The phone rang and I answered nervously. It was the boss asking lots of questions..... When? Where? What size fish? What colour tag? With great disappointment they told me that my info didn't match theirs and that my fish must be a hoax. They were really nice and so genuinely empathetic. They knew that the kids really thought that they had Frank and said that they will try to post out something from the radio station to them as a consolation gift.

It looks like Frank will live to swim another day......

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Heritage Afloat Festival.....

Mr B thinks he took the best photos at todays Heritage Afloat Festival so he wants to write the blog.....

Watch this space......

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Sydney: By Cathy.

Saturday was 'Sydney day', we all got up 'relatively' early to get the train for our trip to the big city. After a 2 hour journey, we arrived at our destination, eager to 'do' the attractions, accompanied by seasoned tour guides.

To our delight we saw Byron's friend Charles outside the station and Myles gave him a few bob for his latest CD as he was looking a little weathered and his make up was running in the rain.

Derek was determined that the priorities were coffee, the Harbour Bridge, the Opera House and coffee in that order.
Fortunately Gina & Byron knew the perfect place with views of all the above. Unfortunately it was raining kangaroos and dingos.

Feeling 'refreshed' we set off up the steps to the Opera House to take a closer look. It was amazing to see it and we posed for photos, as Byron 'helped' out with the buggy. I wonder if we're beginning to get on his nerves?

Gina and Myles on the other hand were having a great gas!

A fantastic day was had by all as we whizzed around on boats, trains and trams and now I think of it Byron did lie down under the mono rail!?

On the way back Gina and myself had the pleasure of our 6 tired children's company, while Derek & Byron amused themselves (loudly) and all the other train passengers with a book of Auz-isms, (explanations of Australian slang). It was a long journey home!

Thanks again Mr & Mrs B for another excellent day.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Hunter Valley Shopping Village

Being Good Friday we were warned that most shops and businesses would be closed for the day.

Byron being Byron did not feel that should stop us going shopping.....
He rang around until he found somewhere for us to go for the day, Hunter Valley Gardens!
Off we went for a lovely day of pottering around lots of "Leave-the-kids-at-the-door-because-all-breakages-must-be-paid-for" shops.

The kids nagged until we went into "Bo-Bangles" the old fashioned lolly shop.
They were let loose with their pocket money and all came out with smiles on their faces and e-numbers in their mouths!
Rhiannon summed it up by saying
"These are make-me-feel-happy-sweets"

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Ocean Baths

We spent a nice day at the Ocean Baths in Newcastle today. For a change we decided that Grace deserved a beach day that suited her age.

Off we went to a man-made beach with a low circular wall creating a shallow sea without waves. Beyond the wall the waves crashed against the rocks and surfers rode and sank in the massive swell. Inside the wall the 6 kids splashed and played in water that never went past their hips.

It lacked the adrenaline rush off the big waves that the older kids had enjoyed at Caves Beach and Catherine Hill Bay but Grace had a ball!

After a couple of hours we jumped back into the car and headed off to the Newcastle Museum and the kids spent a good couple of hours racing around the science room doing loads of experiments until the nice museum man kicked us out at closing time.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Aaaaahhhhhh!!!!! (By Cathy again! )

After a quick visit around the new house with plenty of aahhhhs and ooohhhhhhhs, All suitably impressed (further details of the mirrored ceiling to follow....) it was off to Anne and Kel's house.

Kel's friend Peter and his daughter Kelly very kindly brought their baby Kangaroo "Molly" for the kids to meet. It seemed a bit surreal to have a baby Kangaroo bouncing around Annes house but everyone was thrilled to get a cuddle of a real live Kangaroo.

Molly seemed very interested in Gareths lunch bag and all the kids now think that Kangaroos live on a diet of bannanas!
Kelly also brought three Guinea Pigs to the kids delight, two of which were nearly smuggled into Gina's car at home time! Rhiannon seemed to have a noticable bulge in her turned up skirt hem as she left the house and Sian was counting her pocket money and asking if we could go to the pet shop on the way home....

Before we left for Australia the boys had been asking for a pet fish but now the stakes have been raised and I am broody for a baby............