Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Winter Heat

Ok, so there's only officially a couple of weeks until Winter is over here in the southern hemisphere.

We've still got the guys working outside laying the patio and as I was chatting to them this lunchtime I happened to mention how hot it felt. I fetched my digital thermometer and placed it outside. I wished I hadn't because Paul and his crew threatened to down their tools when they realised how hot it was....

Check the picture, 41.7C = 107F.

It's Winter!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Lunar Eclipse

Tonight we had a lunar eclipse. It was expected to be quite spectacular with the moon slowly eclipsing from 7pm to 8pm and then turning a deep shade of red.

Because it was before the kids bedtime they got to watch it with us. Gareth was petrified. We kept talking about the moon disappearing and he thought that it was going to disappear forever plunging us into total darkness! He was very relieved when he saw that it was just a different colour!

It was a fabulously clear night and we had a great view out our back door. It got really eerie when the moon was just disappearing as the local dogs started to howl! Very atmospheric!

Here are some photos I took...

Monday, August 27, 2007

If at first you don't succeed

We have been doing bits of garden landscaping each month but the most eagerly awaited stage will be the laying of the patio. At the moment when you walk out into the back garden from any one of the three patio doors you sink ankle deep into mud.

Paul booked a week off his normal day job last week to lay our patio with two of his work mates. It rained solid all week... A brief break in the rain at 7am on Friday had all three guys standing around in the mud debating whether to cancel that days concrete delivery. The chances of the concrete truck sinking were high and with a $1000 recovery fee if the cement mixer got stuck they decided to call it a day.

Luckily the weekend was dry and at 7am this morning we had a second attempt. It was pretty chaotic with Paul, Mitch and Shane running back and forth with wheel barrows spreading the concrete from the cement truck which was balanced on the edge of our retaining walls. All this while another guy in a three wheeled forklift was whizzing around delivering pallets of patio slabs within a hairs breadth of the cement mixer.

I left on the school run at 8.30 and missed the dramas of the cement truck getting stuck and pulled out of the mud as it tried to leave. By mid afternoon a layer of cement had been poured all over the patio area as a strong base for the pavers to be laid on.

This photo was taken from above but through a pretty dirty window so excuse the blurryness! It gives a good idea of all the mud...

Tomorrow at 7am should see the return of the three stooges (Sorry Paul!) and a truck load of packing sand. Anyone want a bet on the chances of it making it in and out of our mud swamp without sinking...

Watch this space!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Welsh Cakes

One of Byron's favourite childhood treats was his Mother's Welshcakes.

His Mother decided to cook some today.

Sian was watching carefully and taking notes so that she could make them again at some stage in the future.

I really wasn't impressed with my Mother-in-law taking over my kitchen. It was bad enough that she was invading my territory and challenging my role as "carer-and-feeder-of-comfort-food" to Mr B. But oh no, she had to just go and do one more thing that drove me mad....

She tidied up as she went!


Anyone who knows me knows that I am enthusiastic at anything I do. Another word would be messy. Very, very messy. For the last 11 years of marriage I have done my fair share of cooking and baking and all to great appreciation from Mr B. But when the cooking is done the kitchen looks like a bomb has hit it. Every bowl, spoon and mixer has been used. The floor is as messy as the kitchen counters and Mr B usually gets the job of loading the dishwasher with all the awkward shaped bowls and kitchen gadgets. He never once has complained because it has always been for a good cause, something nice to eat. But now he knows different. Now he knows about "Cleaning-As-You-Go"

Thanks Myan

Thanks a bunch...!

Aquarium visit with Cian!

This weekend was the first weekend in a long time that we didn't have to be at a rugby match with the girls first thing on a Saturday morning.

Byron decided that we needed to make the most of the day. Little did I guess that he meant setting the alarm for 6.30am so we could be on an early train to Sydney!

There has been a run of trips to Sydney over the last 18months that have clashed with my brother Joe (who lives in Sydney) coming up to the lake to visit us. Generally it means that we pass each other on the Freeway in both directions and miss out on the chance to meet up. It has become a long running joke that we are trying to avoid each other. You'll never guess what Joe's plans were for this weekend? Yes, he was planning a trip up to visit for my Birthday!

After careful consideration we all decided that we would meet up at the Sydney Aquarium and save Joe + Rhonda the long car ride to Toronto. The kids were so excited to see their cousin Cian! He is going to be one in a couple of weeks and is getting more funny each time we see him!

He was happy to be pushed around by Sian and Rhiannon and loved looking at all the fish behind the glass walls. I think Byron's parents enjoyed wandering around with us and watching the kids reaction to all the sharks and especially the "touching pools" where the kids can actually put their hands in the tanks to stroke sharks and starfish etc.

We got a train back at 6pm and by the time we got in the door at 8.30 the kids were shattered and went straight to bed. We have just had a monster curry and I am heading off to bed while Byron and his folks knock back a few glasses of red wine and plan what we are doing tomorrow.

It better not involve an early start.

I'm off to unplug the alarm clock...!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Computer whizz kid

Computers have become a day to day part of our lives in this house. We are on-line most of the day and first thing most mornings we check our emails as the kettle boils for the morning cuppa.

Byron is known to our friends as "The Eagle" for his skills in all things computerised and the rest of us are known as "The Turkeys"

Gareth has become very interested in the computer and has probably more of an idea about how it works than either of his sisters.

As I collected him from Pre-School one day last week he was at the pre-school PC with Julie, one of the staff. The PC is sat at a little low desk with kiddy sized chairs. I walked in on Julie saying "...but Gareth, how did you do that?" He had by-passed the icons on the desktop that bring the kids directly to the educational software games and had gone searching through: Start menu - All Programs - Accessories - Games and finally had opened Freecell, the solitaire card game that comes on most PCs! The staff were gobsmacked that he had known how to find his way through such a complicated process!

At home here we have a pretty solid "net nanny" installed to prevent access to anything unsavory. It wont even let me access You Tube without jumping backwards through hoops and typing in passwords. I was glad that we did have it so well protected today.

Gareth was playing on the CBeebies website and I was in the room sitting next to him making a card. The next thing he said "Guess what Mum! I've found a new website!" He had decided to see if there was a website dedicated to the letter "Z" (his favourite letter at the moment). He had opened a new Internet page and had done a Google search on "ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ" The search by Google found a Japanese site with strings of the letter Z in it.....?

Watch out Eagle, there's a new Eaglet in town...!

Sians "Berrylicious" dessert!

Sian got a girly magazine a few weeks ago. It had a recipe in it for a dessert. She nagged and nagged and nagged asking when she could make it for us. It looked overly sweet even for someone like me with a taste for all things sugary. I couldn't put her off any more. Last night Anne and Kel were coming around for tea. For Kel no food is ever too sweet. His body is less of a temple than a "sugar-coated-temple-with-extra-sugar-on-top" !

I went shopping for the ingredients and as soon as Sian got home from school she got to work. Butter cake chopped into cubes, sugary strawberry dessert topping, custard, strawberries, strawberry angel delight mix, more custard, more strawberries and a few mini marsh-mallows as the finishing touch!

She was very pleased with the finished desserts. After a big dinner of monster home made "Mama Burgers" we were feeling the waistlines pinching. Sian delivered our desserts to us and we tucked in gingerly at first and then with more gusto as we realised that they weren't bad at all. Seriously sweet but very moreish!

I'm looking forward to next months magazine to see what else she can make us!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Blue Mountains

Byron's parents have discovered the art of very cheap travel. In Australia anyone with a pension card is entitled to a "Pensioners Excursion ticket" This costs $2.50 (£1.00) each and gives them unlimited travel all around the state of New South wales for the day on buses, trains, coaches and ferries!

I think it is generally supposed to be for Australian Pensioners but the local transport companies have said that they happily offer it to visitors too. The local bus driver has been saying "The usual this morning?" and getting the tickets out and passing them to Myan and Den as they get on the bus outside our house!

Today they have left on a train to Sydney and are going to the Blue Mountains on a two night mini-trip. We booked the accommodation on-line, bought a mobile phone, put credit on it and waved goodbye to them at Morriset station!

The hotel they are staying at is in the center of a small town called Katoomba. It is only a few minutes walk from Katoomba train station.

The weather all over New South Wales is pretty cold and wet over the coming week but I am sure they will have a good time.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

My Birthday


What can be nicer than waking up on your Birthday morning? The one day of the year that you can have a lie-in, breakfast in bed, fun unwrapping your presents in a calm and relaxing atmosphere, maybe even a warm, deep bubble bath to start the day off nicely...

Dream on Gina!

I woke up this morning to the sound of my bedside alarm at 6.30am.
We had an hour before we needed to pack 4 adults and three kids in full Rugby gear into the car, along with a picnic bag with flasks of coffee, suncream, umbrellas, (Unpredictable weather here at the moment!)hats, coats, rugby balls etc, etc, etc.

What more could I ask for! Byron did manage to get me a cup of tea to drink in bed. The kids were woken up and piled into our bedroom. Presents were handed to me and I was actively discouraged from spending too long "guessing" what the contents were! There was a frantic unwrapping frenzy and phone calls from Mum, Dad and Carrie before we were all in the car driving to Maitland to the a Rugby Gala Day.

Our friends John and Maree were there with their boys Harry and Tom and David brought Isaac. Anne and Kel met us there to watch the kids playing. It was a fun day. I didn't pay much attention to the exact scores of each match much to Byrons disgust.

My motto is

"Its not all about who wins"

Byrons is

"It's all about who wins"

Say no more!

After the matches were finished and we were packing up the car John and Maree unpacked a chilled bottle of bubbly and glasses from their boot so that we could have a toast! It was a really nice gesture and topped the morning off perfectly!

We drove to a town called Dungog for lunch. It is in the middle of nowhere and had one really wide main street.

We half expected to see a ball of tumble weed blowing down the street like in the Wild west films! It was so quiet and we found a cafe to eat in and had the choice of any table. Having agreed that we had caught Dungog on a quiet day we jumped back in the car and headed home.

It was a very different Birthday but an enjoyable one all the same.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Sea Monkeys

Rhiannon is a clever kid. She has realised that nagging for a dog hasn't worked so she has downsized... to some Sea Monkeys!

She bought them about two weeks ago and they were just a tiny packet of dry powder. Within minutes of putting them in their tank a few had hatched. Two weeks later we can see lots of these little things wriggling around the tiny aquarium.
Rhiannon is in seventh heaven! They get fed once a week and will eventually get to 19mm in length. I have already had a nightmare about them growing monstrously big and breaking free of their tank and taking over the kitchen.

Whoever said pets are easy!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Swimming Pool !!!

We have talked about wanting a swimming pool in our garden ever since the new house was still in the paperwork stages. It is a big expense and so we put it to the bottom of the list of "needs" even though it was still high on the list of "wants" ! It is still winter here but spring is on the way and we have had a few really hot days over the last few weeks. We decided to make enquiries into the cost of a small pool to see if it was something we could think about over the next 12 months or whether we would have to put it on a 2-3 year plan.

That was two weeks ago. Last week we signed the contracts and this week the surveyors have been out mapping the garden and preparing our planning application!

We have chosen a 7.9 metre rectangular pool with a set of curved steps at one end. It will sit in the back right corner of the garden as you look from the back of the house. It will be in view from the TV room, kitchen and eating area so it should be possible to keep a good eye on the kids as they splash about. It will be close to where our new patio is being laid so we will be able to BBQ, eat and drink with friends on the patio while keeping a close eye on any kids in the pool.

The estimated time for arrival of the pool is early November with a two day installation process. That is if we get granted Planning Permission from the local council without any major hiccups. Worst case scenario we are hoping to be swimming by the Christmas holidays which is the hottest part of the year.

Time to go shopping for some new swimmers!!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Rugby team photos

We were up early today for Rugby Training. The girls were scrubbed and had their hair brushed furiously before jumping in the car for their team photo at the rugby grounds. After the photo was taken the girls played their match and got suitably muddy and disheveled. A late arrival of one of the team mates meant that they were grouped together again for a second team photo after the match was finished! I suppose it makes the photo more "authentic" !!!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Nan and Grandad update

Apologies for the break in blogging, it's been a busy week with having the grandparents around!

After their first week of relaxing in the garden and hot-tub, they've have had a busy second week. They've discovered the joys of local transport and are exploring the local area on buses and trains. They've also completely scoured the local area with marathon-esque walks - they must know the local sights better than I do.

We've visited the Hunter Valley wine region, Catherine Hill Bay for a day of beach worship, numerous shopping centres, rugby training with the kids, tennis and swimming lessons.

In saying that, they're still having a fairly chilled-out time, including head massages!

Thursday, August 09, 2007


Poor Gareth. He was due an immunisation booster before he started school in January.

I brought him along to the local nurse today thinking it would be a quick in and out. After one hour in her surgery and lots of cross referencing Gareth's immunisation records with the Australian guidelines we realised that it was a bit more involved than one injection....

9 different immunisations in 4 different syringes and 1 wobbly lip later and a very sore Gareth was allowed home. To add insult to injury he still needs 3 more visits for another 3 injections over the coming month.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Westlakes Music Festival

Rhiannons class participated in a local music festival today. They sang two songs, both from the Bindi Irwin exercise DVD. They were really good and put loads of energy into it. From my seat at the back of the hall I struggled to get many crisp clear photos but the ones I did get give a general idea of the fun they had!

Can you spot Rhiannon...?

She is in the second row on the right of the photo. You can just see her squished between a girl in a black Tshirt and her friend Natalie in a mint green Tshirt....

Here are few more close ups...

Hero Worship

For the past few weeks Gareth has become much more aware of his appearance.

He has been combing his hair in the mornings and having to wear 'smart' clothes everyday.

There's a fair bit of hero worship going on in his mind too. As he said goodnight to Gina the other night: "I love you Mum!", then turned and whispered to me "I don't really love her Dad, I'm just tricking her. I love you instead".

Maybe his testosterone levels are raising, especially with Grandad being here too as he has two male figures to look up to. He isn't quite beating his chest yet, but he likes puffing it out, take a look:

Monday, August 06, 2007

Happy Birthday Mr B!

Today is Mr B's Birthday.

He has had a very relaxing day so far starting with a cup of tea and presents in bed. He was only complaining last week that he had nothing good to read..... not for long as he unwrapped a brilliant assortment of books! Ricky Gervais, World War II, Rugby biographies, political diaries... They should keep him busy for a few weeks! He also got some great clothes including a Welsh Rugby shirt which went on straight away and hasn't come off!

After breakfast he disappeared into the hot tub for a soak, then fixed a burst tyre on his bike and went for a cycle, lunch was sitting down by the lake and now he is sitting on the sofa with the kids eating green jelly! It was Gareth's idea to put the candles in the jelly... sounded like a great idea at the time!

When the kids are in bed we are going to take advantage of our live-in babysitters and nip out for a Thai meal. As always he says it has been his best birthday ever.

I know he is a softy at heart and although he won't say it to their faces he told me earlier that the best present was having his Mam and Dad here! Don't tell him I told you...!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Happy 30th Tenelle !!!

It is my sister-in-law Tenelles 30th Birthday later this month.

She is going on holidays with a friend for her actual birthday and wanted to call in and see us before she left. We decided to throw an impromptu party with a heart shaped Chocolate Baileys cake, candles, strawberries and cream and lots of balloons.

We gave her presents and cards that were all small and light so she could pack them away in her suitcase. She had no intention of waiting that long and tore them all open infront of us which was far more fun as we got to enjoy her reaction!


The Baynhams have landed

My parents arrived this weekend from Wales for an extended visit - a whopping 3 months in total. The kids have been beside themselves in excitement before their arrival and have been very affectionate to their grandparents so far.

For their trip last year we had organised a full itinerary including visits to beaches, boating, vineyards, Sydney, dolphin watching, etc.

This time it's going to be more of a hands on affair!

Here are some pics of Day 1. First, Grandad digging in the garden:

Secondly, Nan in the hot-tub.

I see a pattern forming...