Monday, July 30, 2007

Spa Heaven !!!

A year ago we went to the Newcastle Show, a display of all things to do with home improvement and garden design. What was supposed to be a simple day out ended with us putting a deposit on a Spa for the garden of the new house (We hadn't even got planning permission for the house at that stage!)

One year later and on the weekend of this years Newcastle show we finally had our new spa installed!

It arrived on Saturday afternoon and was ready to jump into on Sunday morning. Mr B is in charge of water testing and adding of chemicals and is enjoying taking charge of all the fancy touch screen buttons etc.

The kids loved it and had to be dragged out. Byron and myself threw the kids into bed as early as possible last night and we spent a very enjoyable couple of hours sitting in the warm bubbles being relaxed by the massage jets and sipping chilled bubbly in the very cold night air!

I think this is going to be our new pre-bedtime routine!!!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Who turned out the lights?

We have been manically running around doing lots of DIY in preparation for Byron's parents trip. (8 days and counting ....AAARRRGGGHHH!!!!)

Last month we hadn't got a single blind or curtain on any downstairs window. Over the last month we have hung one bamboo blind, two sets of curtains, six sets of venetians and two roller blinds.

Some of the windows are particularly wide and we cant get standard blinds off the shelf. One room with big windows is the TV room at the back of the house. We didn't want curtains or anything fancy or flouncy. The rest of the room is very plain and simple. A friend suggested external roller shutters. They are invisible from the inside until you turn a dial and then they smoothly wind up or down using an electric motor. You can totally shut out all the light, even in the middle of the day. It makes watching a film on the TV more dramatic when the sunglare is eliminated. You can even choose to have them 99% shut which allows a small amount of light to still filter through. They are also able to filter noise. Not such a problem for noise coming in from outside but a huge bonus for our neighbours because Byron uses that room to practise his saxophone in!

They were installed this morning. The fitter said he would be here early this morning. I didn't think he meant 7.15am! It was a quick and easy installation and we are really happy! No more feeling like fish in a fishbowl at night. Here are some pictures taken in the middle of the afternoon...


The weather is warming up this week and as I look around my house I realise that it is time for some haircuts. First the kids were driven off to Tracys Hair Hut and all had a trim then home and out came the scissors once again for haircut number two....

Its the turn of our Botanical Gardens Grass Heads!




Today !

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

New Sofas!

We have had another furniture delivery. At least this time it didn't entail hours of flat pack assembly and cursing at vague instruction sheets.

We have a room downstairs that is called "Formal Living" on the house plans. In the show house they had some sofas and a coffee table and it looked like a perfect place to sit down with the Sunday papers and read them cover to cover with no noisy kids around - We can dream!

We were hoping to get this room usable before Byron's parents arrive so that we have a choice of places to sit in the evening. I don't think any of us want to spend every evening of their 14 week stay sitting on the same sofa in a row watching TV! We hope that with the big TV room, this new formal living, the balcony and the Hot Tub (Which arrives this Saturday - Yipppeeee!!!) we should be able to spend some evenings together and some apart to add a little variety to our week.

Off we went to the local retail parks a few weeks ago just to have a look... It was 20 minutes til closing. The friendly sales man warned us that any sofa we ordered would take about 6 weeks to arrive. It was 5 weeks till Byron's parents arrival so we started feeling we needed to choose something asap. We saw a leather sofa that we liked the look of. It was on special offer and guess for how long..? Until close of business that day. Nothing like a little bit of friendly sales man pressure to get the wallet out! With 5 minutes till closing we found ourselves looking at a swatch of 10 different coloured leather samples. We might as well have put on a blindfold and pointed our finger randomly. We argued the benefits of calm muted colours, Chocolate , Black, Latte and then spontaneously agreed on a vibrant "Burnt Orange"!

I was a bit worried that we hadn't had time to make an informed decision but the deposit was paid and all we could do was wait. We got a phone call last week to say that the sofas had arrived early and would we like them delivered the next day!

So here we are with our "Parents oasis", Sunday papers, no kids.... Try telling Rhiannon and Gareth that! They think the new sofas are great!

Monday, July 23, 2007

World Youth Day Celebrations

Today was a special day for us. In preparation for World Youth Day next year there is a wooden cross 3.8 meters high being brought from parish to parish around Australia. It was given to the youth of the world 25 years ago by Pope John Paul II. It is handed from one group of young people to the next and each parish is marking the arrival of the cross with their own special ceremony.

I took the girls out of school for the day so that we could go together.

Gareth still went to pre-school as I thought it would be hard to have three young kids in a busy environment. One kid per hand seemed a bit more sensible! After dropping Gar at pre-school we had an hour to waste before the ceremony started so I brought them to a local coffee shop and we had a milkshake together. It was a good start! We headed off to Speers Point just in time to get our seats set up in a lovely sunny spot.

The cross arrived by Coastguard boat to Speers Point jetty. There was a large crowd of approximately 1000 school children and each child was given a prayer bracelet as a momento. I had helped to make 100 of the prayer bracelets with a group of my friends during the school holidays. Sian was given one of the ones we had made and Rhiannon got a pink and purple one that she was very pleased with.

It was a wonderful day with lots of great talent provided by the school kids and members of the Aboriginal Awabakal clan who were the original owners of the Speers Point meeting place.

There was singing, dancing, amature dramatics etc. We sat in our picnic chairs and soaked up the atmosphere. It was a gorgeous sunny day which helped.
It was quite a special feeling to be able to participate in the day and the highlight was when we queued up for our turn to touch this wonderful wooden cross.

I hope the girls got something special from it. They seem proud of their prayer bracelets.
They waved goodbye to the convoy carrying the cross as it drove away and are talking excitedly about whether we can go to Sydney next July for the Popes visit.

Rhiannon's Rugby

This Saturday there was a rugby gala for all local kids' teams. Sian and Gareth couldn't make it because of other committments such as parties and ice-skating but Rhiannon wasn't going to miss it for the world.

We travelled for over an hour early Saturday morning laden with drinks, rugby boots, towels, snacks, spare rugby ball, camera and two of her friends who were also playing.

The 'gala' meant that the mighty Lake Macquarie Kangeroos (under 9s) had to play two games - exhausting to watch let alone play.

The kids take it all in their stride, some taking it much more seriously than others. She may not be the biggest kid on the pitch, but she's committed and loves chasing after the ball.

Unfortunately, they were well beaten by the first team they played against. A combination of a stern pep-talk by the coach, bags of oranges and high-sugar snacks ensured a more enthusiastic effort in the second game. They were rewarded by a win in the very last minute. I'm not sure who was more excited though, the kids or the parents watching - it got quite heated at some moments, it's easy to get carried away with the excitment.

Here's a selection of pictures of Rhiannon in action:

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Wild West Trivia Night

Last night was the annual school fundraiser.

It is a fancy dress evening with seven rounds of trivia questions. Extra points are awarded for dressing up and joining in party games etc.

This years theme was "Wild West"

We turned up as a bunch of scruffy bad-boy cowboys and Saloon girls. We were pretty convincing with the men having a weeks worth of stubble and us girls wearing our best push up bras!

By half time our table was in the lead and we were having a ball. Too much of a ball because as we carried on drinking into the second half we slid down and down the score table!

One of the funniest games we took part in was trying to waddle across the stage with a dollar coin wedged carefully in our rears.

When we reached the far side we had to unclench so that the coin fell into a small foil dish. At one point having managed to transport my coin and having unclenched I looked down and couldn't see it anywhere. I yelled out "I lost my dollar" only to look up and see that all the spectators were howling with laughter! They assumed I had hidden it too well never to be seen again!!! I found it rolled onto the carpet but we didn't win that particular game!

Mr B did win us a set of two cinema tickets in a different game. I will save them for a good night out when my in-laws come to for their 3 month holiday.

I was driving so I feel fine this morning but Mr B joined in the rounds of beer with great gusto and is lying in bed trying to stop the room from spinning! I think it is going to be a long day.....

Wild West Trivia Night, more photos!

Here are a few more photos taken by Annette, one of my fellow "Ho's" on our table last night!

No more words needed, they speak for themselves!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Guitar making class - Term two

I am now in my second term of Guitar making. I payed out another lump sum for my next ten weeks tonight - Ouch! At first Strato thought it might take about 30 weeks to complete the guitar but we are flying along and may finish after just 20. We are already planning the celebration party for Mid October which should get a bit of press attention as the course is really quite an unusual one.

In the last couple of weeks I have worked on the head of the guitar. I saw a guitar in a shop and I really wanted to copy the head design. When I didn't think I could do it I changed my mind to a more traditional shape and started carving it only to really dislike it.

The next week I asked Strato was there any way of rescuing the wood so that I could go back to my original choice. We were able to find a way of working the wood so that I will be able to have the head I originally wanted.

Last week I stuck the Tasmanian Blackwood Rosette into the recess I had chiseled out for it and clamped it for the week. This week I started to plane over the raised Blackwood circle to bring it down to the same level as the soundboard. It looks really well.

I have joined the two sides of my Guitar with a block at the base join. It has dried and is out of the clamps and looks great. I think I will be able to attach the sides and neck next week. It really is starting to take shape.

This week I was planning the inside braces for the soundboard of the guitar. They give it strength and stop it from caving in with the pressure of the strings running across it. Each guitar has a different brace design which takes into consideration the shape and final sound of the finished guitar. It involves using set squares and protractors and feels like I am back in maths class at school. Three different attempts to measure angles and draw them onto the inside of the sound board and Strato still wasn't 100% happy so I will wait until next week before carving the individual brace pieces. Better to get the plan right before I go to too much trouble carving the wrong sized braces.

As my wise Dad always says.. "measure twice, cut once"

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Office upgrade

We have been in the house 3 months now and are making our way room to room doing whatever improvements we can do within each month's paycheck.

This month's splurge was the family office. We had been using an outdoor patio table for the pc and had no storage at all for all of our box files and my craft stuff. After lots of unsuccessful furniture shopping attempts we saw a great range of mahogany office furniture that we both loved.

We made a phonecall to place our order to be told that we may have to wait up to four weeks for our whole order to arrive as some items were out of stock. They promised that as each item came in they would deliver it at no additional cost to us. Early the next morning we opened the door to find that our desk and bookcase number one was being unloaded from a lorry on our kerb! Four days later and the same delivery man was bringing up bookcases two, three and four! Another couple of days and our filing drawers were here and finally today the last cabinet has arrived and we are now on first name terms with the friendly delivery driver!

Our office space is transformed and it is a great feeling to have all the box files and folders behind closed doors.

Another bonus was being able to finally unpack boxes and boxes of our good things from the UK. All of our wedding presents made it over in one piece despite being transferred between four houses since September 2005.

To celebrate we used our finest Waterford Crystal wine goblets to toast each other with the only bottle of red wine in the house.

I think there is a saying about Waterford Crystal "A good wine deserves a Waterford glass and a bad wine needs it". Well our cheap bottle of wine went down very easily and tasted great!

Slainte and Cheers to the future !!!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Stop the bus... I want to get off!

It's NOT fair...

I did not travel half way around the world for this...

I thought we had left behind the cold and miserable UK winters. I don't expect perfect blue skies every day. It's actually quite nice to still have seasons (gives a valid excuse to shop for clothes twice a year!)


I did not plan on waking up to a car with a frozen windscreen here in Australia.

Sunday morning, trying to do the right thing, bringing the kids off to 8am Mass and as I sit into the car I realise that I cant see a thing through the windscreen. It's the same as many a UK winter morning. Back out of the car, run back up to the front door, mad rummage through the hand bag for the keys, kettle of water, back to the car, pouring water all over the windows while trying not to soak my feet, back up to the house to throw the kettle in the front door, and finally, back in the car and late driving away down the road.

I'm not happy. There must be some small print in the visa application about this....

Someone get me John Howard on the phone....