Monday, June 30, 2008

I tricked my Mum! by Gareth

I tricked my Mum and my sisters with my Bionicles!

Mum was in mass and Daddy and me hanged the Bionicles down by the stairs with some boat string.

When they came home we scared Mum and my sisters with a BIG FRIGHT !!!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

More Bionicle madness.

Another couple of weeks pocket money saved up and Gareth was able to buy another Lego Bionicle.

Byron and Gar had fun assembling it and of course playing with it and the other Bionicles just to make sure it worked!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Nurse Baynham

Rhiannon was very excited when she recently found my old student nurse uniform hidden away in a box. She tried it on and it reached to the floor, heavy thick cotton with a high collar (to protect our modesty!) and with the Hospital emblem embroidered below my maiden name. The buttons were removable and I spent many a night breaking my nails taking them all off and putting them on the next days clean dress. Or being too tired and then having to do it in a mad panic the next morning as we ran from the nurses home across to the main hospital.

Rhiannon was particularly fascinated by the red stripe on the shoulder. Blue was 1st year, yellow 2nd year and red the "very grown up and nearly qualified" 3rd year! She was begging to be allowed to bring it in to school some day.

Today was her day to be morning presenter, which meant that she welcomed everyone to class, told them the weather and then introduced the kids who were going to do prayer, book review, positive school issue and show and tell. She persuaded me to let her wear the uniform for her presentation and had her classmates laughing with her bandaged up teddy and weather map of Australia. Her teacher invited me in to watch and I was able to take the camera with me to catch the moment!

Bird of Paradise.

My friend Josie bought me a Bird of Paradise plant when she was visiting in August 2006. We were still renting so the plant stayed in its pot waiting for us to move into our new house.

It has been planted into the ground for about a year now and is doing really well. It has slowly slowly opened up its first flower of this year and I promised Josie a photo of it to prove I haven't killed it!

Here you are Josie.... Doesn't it look great!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Rhiannons School Band Debut!

Rhiannon started learning to play the Clarinet back in February this year. She has really taken to it and seems to pick up new tunes quite effortlessly. Byron and herself disappear into the TV room and he plays Saxophone while she follows on with her Clarinet.

Today was the first time she was allowed to play with the school band. She was very excited and begged me to be come watch.

As usual the trusty camera was with me so I took a few photos of her in action.

P.S If you are struggling to work out which one she is just look for the one kid with hair all over the place instead of being tied back neatly...

That's our Rhiannon! They broke the mold when they made her!!!

After the concert the rest of the school filed back to their classrooms behind their teachers. Gareth and Tommy saw me and yelled out "Take a photo of us" It is unusual for Gar to pose so I grabbed my chance.

When I took the photo the rest of the kindy kids started yelling out too for their photos to be taken. I ran away to the car before the teacher told me off for distracting them!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sydney Good Food and Wine Show

I had a brilliant time at the show this weekend. Most of the fun was spending time with Jane, Maree, Claire and Di.

Maree's car pulled up outside just after 8am and as I got in I was handed a take-away Cappuccino and a banana friand! Now that's what I call service!

We arrived in Sydney just after 10am, parked, ran to the loo (Coffee, long journeys and bladder control, not a good combination!) then went in to the show. It was a huge exhibition hall packed with stall after stall of wine tasting booths and food samples.

Lots of the foods were spicy and many companies were offering their products at well below retail to get you to try them. I bought a bag full of Thai curry bases and an Indian bag with poppadoms, naan breads and spicy marinades. I tasted the nicest cappuccino drink with Irish Cream flavouring, yum! I cant even begin to describe the Turkish Delight stall..... Lets just say after tasting some very unusual flavours I brought the kids back a box of traditional rose flavour with roast almonds chopped in too! Heaven!

By the end of the day my feet were throbbing and my rucksack was stuffed. Just as it would have been sensible to head for the car Jane suggested hitting the local shops... Mad woman! We spent an hour wandering in and out of various clothes shops before collapsing in a cafe for a sandwich and a coffee before the two hour drive home.

If I thought the service on the journey down was exceptional wait till you here what we were handed on the way home... individual little bottles of chilled champagne and bags of nuts! Maree Newton you are one classy lady! Can we go in your car again next year!

Gina's gone gallavanting......

Oh Happy days!

This weekend is the Sydney Good Food and Wine show.

Last year to celebrate our friend Di's Birthday a group of 5 of us went to a local cookery demonstration and loved it. When Di heard the dates for this food show she knew that we wouldn't be able to resist another day of fun, gossip and laughter, together with food, tasty samples, food, cookery demonstrations and, yes, FOOD!

Maree booked and paid for the 5 tickets which meant that none of us could pull out without good reason. I mentioned something about it to Byron one evening when he was engrossed in watching a gripping Rugby match on the TV, knowing he was paying no attention to what I was saying. When his team scored a try and he jumped to his feet cheering "YES" I took that to be permission!

.. and so it is 6.30am and the house is quiet. I have snuck downstairs to start getting ready and to make a big saucepan of porridge as breakfast for Byron and the kids later (God knows why they think that porridge oats are a real weekend breakfast treat in this day of sugary cereals but they do??!!!)

Maree is collecting Di, Claire, Jane and me at about 8am for the 2 hour journey to Sydney. We have been told to wear comfy shoes (lots of walking) wear layers (it starts out cold but gets hot in there) and bring a BIG bag (for all the freebies that are handed out!)

I dont know if I am more excited about the actual show or the two hours of uninterupted chatting and laughing in the car on the way there and back!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Wedding Anniversary, 12 years on and still going strong!

Today is our 12th wedding anniversary. Wow, just the number makes me feel old!

It doesn't seem that long ago to me so maybe it's true, time flies when you're having fun.

I think that just about sums up Mr B and myself.

He doesn't often burst through the door with a rose between his teeth and a string quartet, serenading with a heartfelt love song.

I don't often put the kids to bed early in a spotlessly clean house, run a bath with sensual oils, scatter a path of rose petals through the house and lie waiting for him in a room bathed in candlelight.....

Instead I creep down the stairs before 7 most mornings and bring him up a cup of tea in bed and in return he gets the kids breakfast and empties the dishwasher while I get dressed and make the beds.

On top of this domestic normality we make each other laugh. Usually over small silly things that wouldn't make sense to anyone else. Nothing makes me happier than seeing Mr B laugh so hard that he has tears running down his face and can't catch his breath!

Even on our wedding day his humour shined through. The church service was over. We stood on the steps for the wedding photos. The photographer called out "How about a kiss?" I turned to Byron but he turned to his best man Gareth instead!

If I could have one wish it would be that whatever the future brings we still make each other laugh and do the small everyday things for each other that mean so much more than expensive flowers.

(but oh how nice it is to get flowers occasionally, isn't it girls!)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Well done Sian!

Sian came home from school today looking very chuffed. She had been presented with a "Courtesy" award at todays school assembly.

Well done sweetheart!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

World Youth Day 2008

World Youth Day (WYD) is the largest youth event in the world and will be held in Sydney from Tuesday 15 to Sunday 20 July 2008. Thousands of pilgrims will arrive in Australia from all over the world and will be staying in the homes of normal people who are willing to open up their homes and can offer a spare bedroom for the week. We put our name down on the homestay list and had a phonecall yesterday asking if someone could come to our house to get us to sign the mandatory forms and so that they could see that we are (relatively) normal, the house has running water, electricity and a smoke alarm!

I sent the kids racing around before bed last night tidying up and making their bedrooms spick and span. I told them if our house wasn't nice and clean enough we might not be allowed to have any pilgrims. Am I the worlds meanest Mum telling little white lies like that? I think I will have to light an extra candle at Mass this week to make up for it!

Before the kids went to school this morning Rhiannon said she needed to tell me some things that I was to tell Bev, our Homestay lady. Firstly could she send us girls, and please not girls who smoke, not even in the garden and also could she send girls that like playing, especially "my littlest pet shop" !!! I tried telling Rhiannon that we might get anyone up to the age of 35. She just gave me that look and said "Mum, even grown up girls still like to play sometimes"

4 hours later and Bev has been and gone. She ticked all the boxes on her list, got us to sign a few forms and told me to tell Rhiannon she promises we will get two lovely non-smoking girls who hopefully will love playing "my littlest pet shop"

Watch this space!

Beef and Guinness pie.

We went to Harrigans last weekend in the Hunter Valley and had their famous Beef and Guinness pie. When I got home I spied a can of Guinness at the back of the fridge that was left over from our St Patrick's Day celebrations back in March. I don't know how Byron or my Dad let this can go un-sampled?!! Anyway, it got me thinking about trying to cook my own.

I took out the Irish cookery book that Mum and Dad got me last Christmas and found a recipe in it.

All day I chopped and stirred and made a massive mess in the kitchen while the piles of ironing sat waiting to be done and the floor went unwashed. I had a ball! The recipe only needed half the volume of Guinness in the can and I had a bit of a dilemma as to whether I should drink the small remaining glass or just pour the extra into the pot? It was 2pm on a Tuesday and the kids would be getting off the school bus in an hour... I did the sensible thing and threw it in and let it bubble and simmer sending a rich smell through the house!

By tea time my stomach was growling and I couldn't wait to serve it up. Byron and myself demolished it and resisited the temptation to lick the plate clean (another thing I learnt from my Dad to my Mums horror!) there was still enough in the pot for another two meals but instead of freezing it we had it for tea again on Wednesday and maybe again tonight!

Thanks for the book Mum + Dad (and Carrie for actually finding it in a Sydney book shop!) I look forward to cooking it for you next time you come visit us here in Oz!

Pool boy.

Byron is in charge of keeping the pool and spa in clean tip top order. He has his test strips and his containers of complicated chemicals that I avoid knowing anything about. I am more than happy for it to be his area of expertise.

When he logged off his work computer at lunch today he said he need to "check the pH levels in the spa" I watched him disappear out the back door but he never came back......

...I went looking for him and this is what I found!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Gareth has been saving his pocket money and has bought a couple of Lego Bionicles.

They are mad space robot things

(you can tell I am a girl and don't get it!)

Byron and Gareth assembled the Bionicles and had a wonderful time playing with them!

I couldn't resist taking a photo of my two happy boys playing so nicely together!

Saturday, June 14, 2008


There is only one place to stop for lunch in the Hunter Valley and that is Harrigans Irish Pub!

How could we travel so far to a rugby match and not take advantage of calling in for a meal of hot Beef and Guinness pie washed down with a cold glass of Guinness!

Gar drank water with his lunch despite what the photo would suggest!

Cold hands, Warm cups.

After standing around in the cold watching Gar play Rugby there was only one thing for it.... Coffee and Hot Chocolate!

We went to one of the cafes in the Hunter Valley Gardens and sat down with another family and wrapped our cold hands around the hot drinks while the kids ran around laughing and eating the lollies they had just bought in the "British Lolly Shop" around the corner.

Rugby Stars

Another Saturday. Another early start. By 8am we were driving to Hunter Valley for Gareth to play Rugby against the Pokolbin Under 6 team.

What a beautiful location. Imagine a rugby pitch slap, bang in the middle of the Hunter Valley Gardens!

It was breathtaking.

The last time The Macqaurie Roos played Pokolbin they lost. This time they were convinced they would win.

They ran around the pitch getting themselves all warmed up and excited. They put on their team Rugby shirts that were so long on them they looked like dresses!

It was supposed to be 15mins per side. The first 15mins flew by and the Roos were in the lead! Second half and they were still in the lead but the gap was closing. The ref decided (?) to play on beyond the 15mins in the hope of evening up the score a little. AARRGGHHHH! When he finally blew the whistle the score was 6 - 4 to The Roos!!!!!

Gareth played really well and almost scored a try at one stage.

He happily ran off the pitch oblivious to who had won or lost while the dads slapped each other on the backs and praised each other on a wonderful victory!!!

Byron spent the rest of the morning walking around with a spring in his step and a grin on his face saying "That's my boy!"

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Rhiannons Confirmation

Rhiannon had her Confirmation last night. It was a wonderful day. It started with a funny phone call from her Uncle Joe and Auntie Rhonda at breakfast. They had Cian, Rhiannon's toddler cousin, trying to say hello on the phone. He managed to repeat "Hello" "Rhiannon" and "Love you" in the cutest voice which had Rhiannon in stitches laughing. When Joe asked him to say goodbye the phone was silent, he had decided to wave at it instead!

Rhiannon had a normal day at school and was bursting with excitement when she got home. She tore open a card from Nanny and Grandad in Wales that had arrived in that days post - perfect timing! She then ran around helping me to set up the table for that nights celebration dinner. It was a mad mixture of different candles, serviettes, sparkly name cards with orange fluorescent writing on them. A very colourful and unusual looking table but very Rhiannon!

Anne joined us for tea and we had pizza, garlic bread, salad, corn on the cob and garlic baked potatoes. For dessert we had trifles that had been made up in individual glasses. We finished them off with a big swirl of cream and loads of mini marshmallows and sprinkles!

When the meal was finished Rhiannon opened up a beautiful silver frame from Anne with a lovely message engraved on it, then she ran upstairs and got changed into her special clothes. At 6 she was hovering next to the phone waiting for Granny and Grandad Joes phonecall! She opened their gifts while she was talking to them so that she could share her excitement. They gave her some beautiful Irish silver Claddagh earrings and a pendant. The Claddagh is an Irish symbol for everlasting love.
The next phone call was from Auntie Carrie in Dublin who sent her a beautiful book of prayers with gorgeous watercolour pictures. We had to drag her away from the book to do her hair for the ceremony.

The actual ceremony was really lovely. Anne was Rhiannon's Sponsor and went up with her for the actual sacrament. I was sponsor to a wonderful little girl Sophie. She is Mark and Monica's daughter and is a great friend of Rhiannon's. I was really chuffed to be asked and really enjoyed going up with Sophie when it was her turn. We weren't allowed to take any photos until after the ceremony and then were allowed one photo each with Bishop Michael.

It was late getting home, 9pm which is way past Gareth's bedtime. He was nodding off in the car on the way home! It was a wonderful evening and Rhiannon really enjoyed every minute of it.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Rhiannons Confirmation, preparation.

Rhiannon is having her Confirmation tomorrow. She has been having preparation classes every Wednesday night in our house with four other school friends. They have been really good kids, very excited and enthusiastic. Here is a photo of them on the last session.

Kane didn't make it along that night so he is missing from the photo which is a shame. If I was better at photoshop I might have been able to magically morph him in! Only one sleep to go!

Tooth fairy!

At last! After a month of wobbling, Rhiannon's tooth finally decided to fall out!

Her bedroom has stayed moderately tidy after the massive clean up last weekend and the miniature dolls house was ready and waiting for the tiny visitor. She went to bed with a note full of questions for the fairy... "Last name" "School" "Pet?" and "Pets name"

Amazingly the next morning the blanks had all been filled in in the tiniest handwriting that we struggled to read (It was before 7am and we hadn't had our morning cup of tea yet!) The tooth was gone but there was no money? We did a bit of a search and found the money in between the pillow and the pillow case. Not sure if the tooth fairy had been playing tricks on us or was just struggling in the dark???

The most exciting thing to Rhiannon was the fact that she was CONVINCED that the fairy had been in the dolls house. The furniture was fractionally moved. The chair was pulled out from the table and a bunch of flowers was turned slightly. It was all very exciting.

Rhiannon brought the note into school along with the photo below just to prove to everyone that the tooth fairy existed. As she told her special news to her class one of her classmates Jasper called out that his tooth had just fallen out that very moment. Jasper went home with his tooth in a bag and a long list of questions he was planning on writing in a letter to his fairy that night......

Monday, June 09, 2008

Nobbys beach, A year after the big storm

Today is the first anniversary of the massive June storms that caused major flooding and damage last June.

You may remember the story of the Pasha Bulker, the huge ship that blew up onto Nobbys beach in Newcastle. It was a major tourist attraction for the couple of weeks it took them to re-float it and pull it out to sea.

We drove in to Nobbys today and went for a walk along the lighthouse path. The road we parked on has been renamed "Pasha Way"

It was a beautiful day with blue skies for the first time in ages and we managed to do a long walk before the black clouds blew over with the next storm threatening to start any moment.
We found a table under the shelter from any rain that might start and got fish and chips in Nobbys kiosk.

It was great to get out of the house after a week of constant rain and the windscreen wipers were only needed as we drove home so we timed it perfectly!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Skeleton Key

We are now reading the third book in the Alex Rider series "Skeleton key"

It is nail biting stuff and even though it is a childrens book I really look forward each evening to hearing the next chapter in the dramatic adventures of the teenage James Bond.

Be warned, if you try ringing us anytime between our 7pm and 8pm you will only get the answer machine as we will be on an island off the coast of Cuba, outsmarting drug barons, laundering money and fighting the biggest baddest villans with metal melting zit cream and exploding bubble gum!

Nims Island

This weekend is the Queens Birthday weekend in Australia so we have three days of no plans except to chill out and relax!

The weather is pretty cold and miserable at the moment with rain on and off most days.

We decided to go see a film together yesterday afternoon in Boloroo cinema, a tiny local family owned cinema with old fashioned charm right down to the chandeliers!

The film was Nims Island and it was really wonderful. Full of messages about being courageous and making good choices. Despite being a kids film it was still good watching for Byron and myself.

There were a few scary scenes where a volcano was threatening to erupt and Gareth ended up moving from his seat to my knee faster than the speed of light. When we asked him afterwards if he had been scared he said no way, he had just wanted a cuddle!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Wobbly tooth, tidy room.

The tooth was still wobbly. The room was getting messier. We came up with a plan. All pocket money owing to our messy middle child was from today onwards frozen. She couldn't spend it on anything new if she couldn't show us that she could look after her things she had already.

Another idea we threw at her was that the poor tooth fairy was probably afraid of coming into her messy room at night in case she tripped and injured a wing and that was why the tooth seemed to be hanging on for dear life.

I'm not sure which suggestion hit the mark but Sian and Rhiannon spent a frantic 15 minutes stuffing everything from the floor into any random box or drawer in the hope of giving the illusion of a tidy room. This tidy up was only going to last until Rhiannon needed to find a particular small "thing" and tore the room apart again looking for it.

Despite swearing that I was not going to be the one to tidy her room for her I went in to try supervising. An hour later and you could see the carpet again! Another hour later and all the small toys were back in their correct drawers and boxes and I was in need of a strong coffee.

Rhiannon instantly set off back to work getting the dolls house set up again for the tooth fairy, preparing a bed for her and some pretend food snacks. We are still banned from the room so that we don't disturb any of these special things but at least we can sneak in at night to check on her as we head to bed without worrying about falling on our faces.

The tooth is still wobbly. Maybe now that the room is better the tooth fairy will let it magically fall out and we wont get a compo claim for her tripping and damaging a wing while she delivers a shiny coin late at night....

Oh Happy Days!!!

I have waited for this moment for YEARS!

Probably as long ago as June 1997 as I sat with Byron on a bench in St Stephens Green in Dublin holding a little piece of plastic with two blue lines in the box.

Today was the first day that being a Mum on a weekend morning really paid off.....

Today Sian climbed the stairs with a tray full of toast and marmalade!!!! Heaven!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Wobbly tooth, messy room.

Rhiannon has had a wobbly tooth for about a month now. Every day we get a run down on its "wobblyness" and are offered a chance to stick our fingers in her mounth to give it a wiggle. It has been so wobbly for so long that every day we think "This will be the day it comes out"

In preparation for the tooth fairy's visit Rhiannon has spent a long time in her room setting up her little dolls houses and other small toys into a virtual holiday resort for her fairy. There are notes and pretend meals, a bed, and lots of "My littlest pet shop" characters all waiting for her.

Rhiannon is so protective about how her room has been set up that she has banned any of us from entering.

I could tolerate this for a few days but this ban on entering her room has been going on for over two weeks now and the room has moved from magic-fairy-wonderland to total messy dump! We trip over discarded toys and dirty uniforms as we try to tuck her in to bed at night (the only time we are allowe to enter) I no longer set out the next days uniform for her as she goes to bed, there just isn't any available carpet to lay it out on ...

If this tooth doesn't hurry up and fall out (and believe me I have had a few big "tugs" ) then I am going to have to call men in protective suits to come fumigate it....

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Point Blank

Earlier this year we read the first book in the Alex Rider series "Stormbreaker" and the kids loved it. We have made it family time before bedtime where Byron reads one chapter after the kids have done their teeth and are in their pj's. We all sit down and let the answer machine take any calls while we immerse ourselves in the adventures of the 14 year old spy!

The second book is called "Point Blank" and we finished it last week. Rhiannon in particular loved it and decided to do her school book review on it. She had to write about the main characters and her favourite chapters. When she did her presentation to her class she read a couple of excepts of her favourite parts to them. She came home chuffed as she had been given the much sought after "Double Tick"

She also told us that when she told her teacher about the family sitting down together every night to listen her teacher had said she wanted to come join in too!