Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Tocal school visit

Rhiannons class had a school trip to a local heritage attraction last week, Tocal Homestead.

Only a few parent helpers were able to go along. Luckily one of these helpers was our friend Monica. She brought a camera with her and has passed a disk around with all the photos of the trip.

Rhiannon had a lovely day and said her favourite part was helping to do the old-fashioned jobs. I wish she was as excited about the modern ones at home! Here are some of the pictures of her helping with the laundry...

Thank God for washing machines I say!!!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Welcome Wall - filling in the gaps.

I know that I have already blogged about our day in Sydney and the unveiling of the welcome wall. It was such a great day but I didn't have time to tell you about the parts before and after the ceremony. I thought I would fill in the gaps a little here.

It was a really early start. We got up at 6am and were driving by 7. It was a still and misty morning and we were mesmerised by the sight of the lake outside our house. It looked so magical and still. As always I couldn't resist making Byron pull over so I could take a photo!

We got to Sydney an hour earlier than we needed to be so we went to "Pancakes on the rocks" and had a round of coffees, hot chocolates and a big stack of pancakes, strawberries and ice-cream! Yum!

After the ceremony was finished and we had eaten and drunk our fill at the VIP reception we went in search of Joe, Rhonda, Cian and Tenelle who were passing time in a cafe on Darling Harbour.

Cian has cut three teeth since we saw him last and we had great fun trying to get him to smile long enough to get a photo of his new pearly whites!

We had an ice-cream with them and then said goodbye as they had another party to go to.

It is not often that we find ourselves in Sydney with spare time on our hands. Usually we are bringing visitors around to see the sights or visiting friends like Charles and Sue (sob, sob, can't do that anymore since they abandoned us to go back to life in the UK) We decided to spend the afternoon in the Sydney Aquarium. It was brilliant. Its usually fairly expensive for 5 to get in but we had two free admission vouchers so it was a cheap(ish) day out!

We loved the underwater tunnels where the sharks swam all around us. Scary! The camera struggled a bit with all the reflections off the perspex but we still got a few good shots.

By the time we left the aquarium we were so tired and our feet ached. We jumped in the car and started the two hour drive home. It was just starting to get dark as drove over the Sydney Harbour Bridge. A great end to a fun packed day!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Welcome Wall

Today was a special day for us. On our first Anniversary of our arrival in Australia we applied to have our family name engraved on the Welcome Wall in Sydney's Darling Harbour. It is a long bronze wall with thousands of names engraved along it commemorating the arrival of families to Australia. Some are the names of peoples' ancestors and some are recent arrivals like us. Today was the official unveiling of the panel with our family name on it. We were invited along to the unveiling along with the other 300 families on this panel.

What was special for us is that Byron was asked to give a short speech about us and our reasons for coming here. This made our family VIP's with reserved front row seats! We were treated like royalty from the moment we were waved into a private car park at the Maritime museum.

My brother Joe, his wife Rhonda and her sister Tenelle all came to cheer him on and we managed to get them seats in the third row. Another unexpected arrival was our friend David who lives near us in Toronto. He was due to visit friends in Sydney for lunch and made a huge effort to arrive early so he could join us.

Before the ceremony we found ourselves being interviewed by a national newspaper and were whisked off along the wharf for a quick photo shoot with a professional photographer. It was all very exciting! The ceremony itself was really lovely and involved three different people speaking about their experiences since arriving in Australia. They had all arrived about 50 years ago and their stories described their struggles to learn the language and assimilate into Australian society. Our story represented a more modern experience. Byron was wonderful and gave a short, genuine and witty speech which had the audience of over 1000 people laughing. I have posted a small part from the end and you can view it here....

After his speech was the actual unveiling and we finally got to see our name. It was a really proud moment. We were brought inside the museum for a private function to chat with the other families and speakers and to have a cool drink and some nibbles. It really was a fabulous day and we will never forget it.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Sandstone walls.

We are putting sandstone walls along the sides of our block of land. This will help retain the earth in our neighbours gardens where the excavator cut in to level our block. Once these are done we can put fencing up above the walls and get some privacy.

Paul and his gang turned up at 7am and got stuck in. It was so cold that you could see their breath form clouds in front of their mouths as they spoke. It's amazing how chilly the mornings and nights can get now that Autumn has arrived. Almost reminds me of home!

In the first hour there were more deliveries of ash, sand and concrete. A round of hot tea + coffee, discussion about the plan of attack and they were off. The caffeine must have kicked in fast because by this afternoon they had completed both side walls. Wonderful, warm, higgledy-piggledy rock walls. We love them!

Next job hopefully will be the fence panels by a local firm. Then Paul will be back to build some more sandstone walls in the back garden to give us two defined levels. One level will be a big patio just outside the back door and then up some steps to the back of the garden which will be grass.

The driveway should be laid in the next two weeks and while the driveway guys are here they will pour a concrete slab around the side of the house for the hot tub!

We are bleeding money right now but it is so worth it just looking at the house and garden transforming. It has been a long wait for us to get our own place and it feels so great to watch it come together at last.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Ten ton of ...... Sandstone!

I had a rude awakening this morning. There was a loud knock at the door at 7am. It was Paul, our friend who is doing our landscaping and is on the guitar making course with me.

"Your rock is here"

There parked on the kerb was a ten ton truck full of sandstone. Byron got dressed double quick and went out to help and myself and the kids stayed in the cozy warmth of the kitchen and watched out a gap in the back door. It was exciting watching the rocks tumble from the back of the truck and I caught the kids reactions on the camera....

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Guitar making class continued...

It was week 4 tonight and I went along confidently to see if my neck and soundboard had glued and dried successfully. They had, except I had stuck the two pieces incorrectly! I felt a little less stupid when I realised that Paul and myself had both made the same mistake. Strato had cut and re-glued the necks for us so we could carry on with the next step.

The wood for the back and sides of the guitar had arrived. Another bill to pay. This time Strato managed to get us an excellent deal by going direct to the mill that cuts these pieces. He got the wood for $140 each instead of $260 that we would have paid elsewhere. The running bill for this guitar has now passed the $1000 mark...Ouch!

Most of the night was spent planing the neck of the guitar down to very exact proportions. 19mm at one end, 16mm at the join and 12.5mm at the other end.

It is so nerve wrecking hoping that one more sweep of the plane won't take 0.5mm too much off. I also prepared the back pieces of the guitar for gluing and clamping but have to go back in a couple of days to do this as Paul was using the clamps on his soundboard.

It doesn't look much like a guitar yet. Hard to justify the money that has been spent on it so far. I'm sure it would have been cheaper to have brought me to a guitar shop on Valentines day and let me choose any guitar I wanted off the shelf!

Australias biggest morning tea

Today was a fundraising day for cancer research across Australia. Gareth's pre-school asked the kids to bring in a plate of something to share and to make a donation on the day.

Gareth and myself made loads of honey gingerbread men and Rhiannon decorated them last night. We had a lovely time at the morning tea and the kids stuffed themselves full of yummy cakes and biscuits. I bought some raffle tickets and had my eye on the second prize, an insulated picnic bag with a couple of bottles of wine inside! As they drew the second ticket I joked with the Mum next to me saying

"Positive thinking, I will win this prize, I will win this prize..."

Guess what.... Yes, it was my ticket that came out!

Never again will I scoff at the power of positive thinking! Gareth was thrilled and carried our prize home and proudly marched into the house with it. He is busy exploring the plastic contents while I am busy chilling the alcoholic ones!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Guitar making class.

Sorry for the delay in blogging about my guitar making class.

I usually like photos to go along with a new story and finally remembered to bring along my camera last week.

Week one was a real eye-opener. I like learning new things and finding out how things work. As a good friend Monica said "It's good to do things outside of your comfort zone" Well on week one I found myself so far outside my comfort zone I seriously wondered if I was cutout for this course. I found myself in a chilly workshop down a dark side alley in Toronto in the company of Strato the teacher and 4 other men.

Here's an introduction to the four men I am on the course with....
Irish Paul looks like my Uncle Colm and plays a range of stringed instruments in an Irish band. Dale plays guitar regularly on stage and needs a guitar so specialised that he is on the course to customise his own unique model. He has been planning his design for 12 years and had even made a miniature example of what he is making...???!!! Graham is a professional boat builder who is well used to working with wood and tools. Another Paul, our friend who is doing our landscaping, is also a fantastic guitar player who has been playing for years and has experience working with wood. Byron and myself recently went to see Paul playing guitar in a local cafe and he is really good despite his attempts to be modest. Then there's me.... Can't play the guitar and never held a chisel or plane before in my life.....

The first thing we were shown was how to sharpen a chisel on an angle grinder. Sparks were flying and guess who was the first to be asked to come up and practise in front of the group? Me. Then came using a plane on a long piece of wood. The guys all had a lot more muscle than me and I felt like a wimp struggling to push the plane smoothly along. By the time I went home the only thing stopping me pulling out was the $450 dollars I had paid so far for the course and the $200 I had spent on my first piece of wood.

Week two was much better. Armed with mugs and teabags I made a round of tea half way through the evening. One thing I knew I was good at... I paid for my second piece of wood, a length of Honduran Mahogany for the neck. I managed to saw this and stick it at the required angle without too much trouble.

Week three and I got to grip with the plane and started the process of joining two thin pieces of Spruce together to become the soundboard (the top of the guitar) Before going home I glued the two pieces together and clamped them tight. I will be going back on Thursday to see if they successfully joined together....

Watch this space!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Bath time

Mr B was working hard in the garden after work this evening.

When it finally got too dark to see what he was doing he came in and jumped into a deep bath. He sat back in the peaceful candle lit bathroom letting the jets unknot his muscles when in burst the three kids and took over.

Mr B had to admit defeat and get out while Sian, Rhiannon and Gareth jumped in and had a ball for the next hour!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

We have grass!!!

At last, our muddy swamp in front of the house is transforming into a lawn!

Our friend Paul has been working really hard for a couple of days preparing the ground for the new turf. Byron has been really busy in work and has had to wait until he logs off at teatime before he can go out and join Paul. Last night they slaved on into the dark with all the lights on inside the house trying to give them enough light outside to work with. It is really amazing to watch the mud transform as the turf is unrolled and stamped into place.

Here is a photo of Mr B when he finished! After watching a couple of series of Desperate Housewives I am delighted to finally have my very own sexy gardener!!!

It was too dark to take photos of the new grass last night but here are some I took this morning...

School photos

Here is this years School photo!

As you can see Rhiannon won't give more than a small smile for a stranger pointing a camera in her face but Sian gives it her 100% full on Hollywood smile!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mothers Day

What a great day I have just had!

The kids were awake from 6am wondering when they could give me their gifts they had bought at their school stalls. They helped Byron make a tray of tea and brown bread and marmalade and brought it up to me in bed. The kids schools do fundraiser stalls before Mothers day and Fathers day. They ask families to donate a gift worth about $5 and then helpers re-sell them to the kids for another small donation. Obviously your kid brings home something another family has given but it really gives the kids a great sense of Independence being able to choose something all by themselves. The gifts come home wrapped so even Byron had to wait until I opened them to see what delights they had bought! I got some lovely candles, coffee mugs, cappuccino fudge, hand cream and a gorgeous face cloth with crochet frills around the edges! What more could a Mum ask for!

We went to Toronto and met up with Anne, Kel and Tenelle and had a great breakfast and rounds of hot coffee at Double Take Cafe.

After that we jumped into the car with our Esky full to the brim with picnic food and drove to a new town we haven't yet been to, Morpeth. It is an olde worlde town with shops and houses dating back to 1820. One old cottage claims to be haunted by the ghost of Eliza who emigrated from Dublin and built the house with her husband when they landed. Byron had the kids wound up by making low moaning and howling sounds as we walked around. I don't know if I was more amused by watching the kids reactions or the expression on other peoples faces that were standing behind him!

By the time we got home the kids were ready for bed and so was I.

Why cant Mothers day last longer than 24 hours......

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Garden landscaping

We are living in a beautiful house with beautiful cream tiles and beautiful cream carpets.

Unfortunately our beautiful house is bang in the middle of a beautiful mud pile!

We have no driveway yet and are parked down on the road. Each time we get in or out of the car we have to scrabble 10 meters up a slippery muddy slope and climb over a silt fence on the way. I will be glad when I come home from the supermarket with 20 bags of groceries and don't have to make my way over the assault course like a donkey!

The first step to sorting out our muddy garden is digging some trenches and filling them with gravel and "aggy pipe" I was sent out to buy 40 meters of this aggy pipe from the local DIY super store. Little did I know that I was in for great fun and games getting it to the till. Only one 20 meter roll (barely) fitted into the trolley and Sian, Rhiannon and Gareth spent the next 10 minutes rolling the other massive roll down the aisles towards the cash registered scattering terrified customers in their path! The least said about my attempts to get it in the car the better! One finally went in the boot and one was strapped into the passenger seat leaving Rhiannon with her knees up to her chest in the seat behind and me barely enough space to release the handbrake!

Now that we have it back at the house Byron and his friend Paul have many hours of blood, sweat and tears ahead of them laying it. Watch this space for more photos!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Rhiannon and Jaspers Birthday Party

Rhiannon and her friend Jasper have birthdays just a day apart. We all know the same families so it made sense to combine our efforts and have one joint party in Rathmines park.

Anne Marie (Jasper's Mum) and myself agreed to go shopping together on the Saturday evening to do a joint shop and split the cost between us. Sounds simple enough I thought. Anne Marie picked me up at 6.30pm and off we went to Woollies.... Well not quite straight there. We thought it might be better if we sat down and made a list first and Jane lives opposite the supermarket. Being a Saturday night Jane offered us a little champagne to sip while we were planning. Two hours and a couple of glasses of bubbly later and we made our way across to Woollies with a long list and not a care in the world! We were only in the first aisle when we heard the announcement that the shop was closing in 15 minutes so we dashed around throwing things randomly into the trolley and made it to the till in record time!

Anne Marie came back to my house so we could make up the party bags and we spent a very relaxed couple of hours making Rhiannon's cake, filling party bags and polishing off another bottle of chilled bubbly. I like Anne Marie and her approach to party planning!!!

The next morning we sat on our new balcony and watched the world go by as we had our breakfast. Then it was a mad rush around getting dressed and throwing things into bags to bring with us. Luckily the sun was shining and we got a couple of free picnic tables near the lakes edge. All the kids had a ball on their bikes, scooters and roller blades. It was fun trying to light the candles on the two cakes simultaneously with the breeze trying to blow out the candles as we lit them. Jasper had a cake in his team colours and Rhiannon's was a tower of red food colouring and sprinkles! Perfect! Rhiannon really enjoyed her day and was a fan of the joint party. She was grinning all the way home in the car saying how cool it was to have had so many friends at it.

It was probably one of the easiest parties I have ever had to do. So next year, put the date in your diary Jane and get that bottle of bubbly chilling because I feel another long list coming on...!!!