Saturday, February 28, 2009

Obsessing about Cupcakes!

A friend emailed me this week asking about ideas for her daughters birthday cake. She said she makes a mean cupcake but was not so sure about tackling a full-on cake. 

I thought about ideas for her all week. What different girly cakes I have made over the years for Sian and Rhiannon and what cakes I have seen at all the parties they have been at. 

In the end my advice to Tania is to stick with what you are good at. Make the cake out of cupcakes! Easy to serve, no knife, no plates, looks great.

And so thanks to Tania all week I have been obsessing about cupcakes! I crave biting into the soft swirling icing topping and crunching the sprinkles in my teeth before tasting the soft fluffy cake dissolving in my mouth....

Friday, February 27, 2009


As School Councillor Sian had a chance to compere her school assembly today. She introduced the school song and then helped hand out certificates to the kids getting their Merit and Courtesy awards. She did a great job and I was really proud of her. 

I had hoped to sneak away once she was finished as I had 101 jobs to do before the school day ended 2hrs later but just as I was making my way to my car I was cornered and asked to help out for an hour getting a group of kids ready for their involvement in this weekends family mass. 

As other more holy and assertive people fussed around and told the kids where to stand and what to do I felt for the kids who had had their instruction and were expected to stay serene and quiet at the back. They were getting restless and so I did what I knew best and gathered them around cross legged on the floor and told them I would tell them a story. 

Nothing religious was popping into my head so I told them an old favourite "Fionn and the Salmon of Knowledge" A great one for ad libbing and because non of them are Irish it didn't matter a bit if Fionn didnt do exactly what the old Irish legend says. 

That's the beauty about story telling! ..and kids!...I'm just not sure if they will bother asking me to help out at Mass again!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Go the Waratahs!

Whoops! This entry should have been posted ages ago, but it happened around the time of our flood and I've only just managed to transfer the images from my camera.

Mr Newton had the excellent idea of taking the kids to watch the Super 14 team The Waratahs play a warm up again against the might of Fiji. Gareth and I both sport Waratahs caps and rugby tops and they rarely play in Newcastle as their home ground is Sydney.

I think the idea of "taking the kids" was a poor pretence for a few beers watching the game, but the kids (all 6 of them) did have a good time, although I feel the blokes probably got more from the night out.

I missed the first few minutes of the game by ferrying the "little people" back and forth to the toilets and queuing for their hot dogs, but the atmosphere and the warm, balmy evening coupled with several cold ones soon soothed my frustration...

The game itself was a little one sided ( 60-0 to the Waratahs ) but there was plenty of action.

At the end of the game the Waratahs players, many of whom play for Australia, walked around the pitch signing autographs and chatting. Sian, Rhiannon and Gareth all got clothing signed by the famous Wallaby prop Al Baxter, he looked massive next to Sian, he's nearly as big as me....

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Mr Courtesy!

There is only one thing better than seeing my little Gareth jumping off the school bus with messy hair, grubby hands and a big grin on his face...

...and that is seeing him with this weeks "Courtesy" award badge for really good manners in class!

He gets to wear it all this week and then hands it back for another kid to get next week.

Good boy Gar!

Monday, February 16, 2009

V.I.P. Party

Sian will be 11 in 3 weeks time. We talked about what she wanted to do to celebrate her birthday. With the glamour and excitement of the weekends concert still fresh in her mind she decided she wanted to have some friends around to our house for a pop star party. No boys, girls only, lots of balloons, streamers and music so they could dance their hearts out and have lots of girly fun.

We sat down and thought about invites, Sian had seen a V.I.P. themed party in a magazine and so out came the paper, scissors, glitter and laminator . After a couple of hours of craft and a trip to the local shops for some pink metallic cord Sian had a bunch of V.I.P. lanyard invites. They had the name of the girls on one side and all the date/time/place info on the other.

She was so excited going to school this morning with them.

All we need to do now is talk Mr B and Gar into wearing dark suits and shades and acting like our event security on the day!

All dried out.

It's been two weeks now since I opened the front door and had water flow out over my feet and down the driveway. Two weeks since they ripped out the carpets and the skirting boards. Two weeks since they installed hot air injection machines into our kitchen, multiple industrial blowers throughout our house and huge he-humidifiers to suck all that moisture out of the floors and walls.

Finally, I am glad to say it is dry in our house.

Very dry.

All moisture has been well and truly sucked out of everything, including my lovely Christmas poinsettia from Byron and the kids.

You can't say the machines didn't do their job well....!

We miss you Nicola :-(

We miss you Nicola :-(

It has been almost a week since you left us to go sailing in the Whitsunday Islands.

The house is very quiet without you and everywhere I look there are little reminders of you.

The empty spare bedroom.... the gifts you left behind... the potatoes...

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Now that's a wrap...

Rhiannon went to a party today. She was really excited and in an effort to direct her energy into something useful I set her the task of wrapping the present.

Most of our wrapping paper had turned into soggy mess during the flood so we only had a sheet of plain gold. A little boring for a ten year old boy I thought but better than nothing. Rhiannon got stuck into the wrapping with joy, abandon and about 20meters of sticky tape. Oh yes, Sometimes I look at my middle child and I see her Dad in her.

But then a few minutes later as I yelled like a fishwife at everyone to
I stopped and saw what else Rhiannon had done to brighten up the boring gold paper. She had turned the gift into a monster!

Now thats my girl! There's a little bit of her Mum in her too!

Ringing ears!

Well dare I say it....

Last night was actually quite good fun!

We went off to the concert tickets clutched tight in our hands. The merchandise stall was so bloody expensive. I really must be getting old. $20 for a plastic lanyard? $30 for a hat? Yes, I am showing my age! I suppose when you convert in into sterling then it sounds OK. I am so used to things being cheap here in Australia and sometimes it takes my friends in the UK or Ireland to slap me across the face and tell me to cop on!

Anyway, having had the contents of my wallet decimated for a wristband and a pair of Veronica's love heart glasses we wandered inside to find our seats.

The seats were just brilliant. They were at the top of an aisle so we had no-one blocking our view. We were facing the stage head on and it didn't seem too far away.
The kids were so hyped up.

The first band on were called "Short Stack" They were young and what they lacked in musical genius they certainly made up for in sheer energy. They are a young band that come from New South Wales and are just breaking into the Australian music scene.

At one stage they unfurled a banner with a phone number on it and yelled at the crowd to text their email addresses to it to win a chance of going back stage. The fool that I was, I allowed the girls to hijack my mobile and all we seemed to get was a website address and a code. Turns out I bought their soon-to-be-released single called "Princess" I cant download it until the end of the month. It better be good!
Next band on were Metro Station. They were great. Very good at interacting with the crowd. Hugely energetic. They are Californian and have had a big hit here with "Shake it" The girls just went mad as they played. They looked a bit like they needed a hot meal to me. All long skinny legs with sprayed on black jeans, bare scrawny chests and wild long black hair that seemed to move in a mad blur over their faces as they jumped and ran all over the stage.

Lots of dramatic guitar throws to the roadies as they changed instruments for each song. I have to admit, by the end of their set their infectious enthusiasm had me jumping up and down and screaming along with the best of them.

And finally, The Veronica's themselves. They lived up to all the hype and expectation.

All their hits, loads of crowd interaction, even a quartet on stage for the big finale of "Untouched"

What a night. It was heading towards midnight as we made our way up the driveway. Two exhausted but elated little girls by my side. Ticket stubs, programs and merchandise held tight in their hands. Tonight I saw a difference in their faces. As they screamed and jumped their eyes sparkled with the hype and excitement of seeing real live music. I could tell they loved it. Maybe there is a little bit of their mum in them after all!

Friday, February 13, 2009


I used to love going to concerts. Back when I was younger, back when I thought I was such a rebel, back when I planned to tour around America on a Harley, when my boyfriends were generally broke and had long hair and my parents prayed for the day I would meet Mr B and be a good girl and settle down!

Some of the concerts I went to were just the best, Nirvana, Extreme, Eurythmics, HotHouse Flowers, Pearl Jam, Meatloaf (Only because Elaine dragged me to it because I forced her to go to Extreme!) Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Soundgarden, Therapy, R.E.M., Guns N'Roses, Aerosmith.... Those were the days!

Well tonight I'm going to be that rebel again. I'm off to my first concert in ages....

Ok, so I'm really only going to chaperone my two little angels. Oh yeah, and it's not really that heavy metal, more girly screaming and singing along. And it wont be a big fight to get to the front row. It's allocated seating, much more comfortable. I'm off to see The Veronicas.

Hold me back! Where's my old leather jacket and torn jeans.... I'm sure they must be at the back of the wardrobe somewhere.....

Thursday, February 12, 2009


A good friend of mine Nicola has said to me over and over that she will come visit us in Australia at some stage. This was the year she finally booked her flight and we started our countdown to her arrival.

She arrived with us this weekend and was the same Nicola as always. Full of chat. Squeezing a million different conversations into every day. Full of positive energy. Nicola has to have been one of the friends that has had the biggest effect on me as a person. I hope she wont mind me saying this but the year before we emigrated Nicola was involved in a dreadful car accident that has left her with some pretty awful injuries. I flew over to Ireland and was collected by another friend Stella who drove me to the hospital where Nicola was in an induced coma in a very serious condition. As I sat watching her and holding her hand I felt so much regret. Regret for all the cards I should have sent, the phone calls I should have made, the friendship that had been allowed to take a backseat as my life had taken me in a different direction. I made a promise to Nicola that if she would just get better I would never take her friendship for granted again. Or any other friendship, or my health, or Byron's, or my kids.....

Nicola did recover, slowly and over many months and many operations. She could be self pitying but all she can talk about is how lucky she is to be alive. About all the great things she wants to do with her life. How precious is the here and now. How absolutely nothing is unachievable if we just set our mind to it. She is a brilliant person and if I could just have 1% of the positive attitude she has I will have a great life no matter what gets thrown at me.

Nicola laughed her way through her flood trashed spare bedroom in our house. She squealed her way through the big storm and she talked my ear off over the many coffees we had during her stay.

Thank you for coming to see us Nicola , enjoy the rest of your holiday!

..and then there was the storm.

Last week was the flood.

Just when we thought we couldn't get any wetter...


On Tuesday after dinner Mr B went to check the news and saw a warning for a major storm heading our way. He yelled down the stairs at us to shut all the windows and doors straight away. I knew from his voice that something was up so I jumped up and started locking everything. When we looked out the back door the sky was black.
We thought about moving the poor Guinea Pigs hutch out of the center of the garden and against the wall of the house for shelter but as we stepped outside we realised it was too late. The rain had started coming down too heavy so we had had to get back inside.

As the storm picked up momentum the rain turned to hailstones. At first they were pea sized but then they got bigger and bigger and bigger until there were golf balls of ice hammering into the windows. Byron ran from window to window closing curtains and blinds because we were convinced that the glass was going to start shattering. I sat the kids on the bottom step of the stairs as far away from any windows as we could and cuddled them as we waited for the storm to pass. Eventually hail returned to rain and after some fantastic lightening strikes and booming rolls of thunder even the rain stopped. We opened the curtains and looked out at hail all over the grass and leaves littering the road and driveway.

It was eerily quiet, no bird sounds just the wail of sirens starting up in the distance. A reminder to us yet again that although our cars looked like someone had taken to their bodywork with a hammer we were all safe and sound and in one piece.

Whats next? We've had the flood. We've had the storm. Plague of locusts anyone???

School Council

Sian is now in Year 6, her final year in Primary School. This year her classmates were given the chance to make a speech to all the year 5 and 6 students to be voted onto the school council. Sian really wanted this so she sat up with Byron one night I was in work and together they thought up a speech that was funny and summed up all the reasons her school friends should vote her in. That Friday she went into school and made her speech along with about 20 other hopefuls and watched and waited as the rest of the students voted....

On Sunday night the phone rang. It was Mr Jennings, Sians teacher. Sian had been voted in and was going to find out at morning assembly the next morning! Mr Jennings wanted to give one of us the chance to watch. I was working but Byron decided to go into work late so he could see.

Sian was so excited when her name was called out. Her best friend Gemma got voted as one of the Sports Captains so they were on cloud nine together after the presentation!

Can you spot her? If I give you a hint that her punchline of her speech referred to how she might be pint sized but she can take on huge tasks....?!

We're back! (Sort of !)

There has been a lot going on in the Baynham house since we flooded last week. The family computer dying (drowning!) has limited my access to email and blogging but the lovely Mr B has reluctantly lent me his oh-so-precious laptop to occasionally turn on and have my fix of all things web-like. He is nervous of all the power spikes that we are having and the fact that our fuse board is humming from the amount of electrical devices that are running to dry out our lovely house. He is obviously afraid of losing all the information on his laptop if it blows so forgive the randomness of the posts that I hope to write and upload over the coming week. They may not follow date order just keep scrolling up, down and all around next time you log on!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hi from NICOLA !!!!!

Thank you Gina, Byron, Sian, Rhiannon and Gareth for having me. I had a brilliant time with you all. It was great to catch up properly with Gina and get to know Byron and the kids again. You guys should be so proud of your amazing family.

Rhiannon has taken over Sian s previous position of girl in pink! I believe green and blue are Sian's preferred colours these days. Gareth has an amazing star collection in his room. ( I 'm secretly jealous of that!) . Gina and Byron, what can I say...... You haven't changed a bit and are as in love as ever. You are a refreshing couple to be around.

We had every weather condition imaginable in the three short days I spent with you. From 45 degrees heat by the pool, to cloudy cool and breezy, to a very quick

(within minutes!) major storm that rained giant ice cube sized hail stones that punched holes in the heavy duty plastic box that stored the swimming pool equipment ( we have pictures to prove this!). What can I say? I had an amazing time and will definitely be back (if you'll have me?).

Love you all.
xxxxx Nic

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Flood, The documentary.....

For a bit of a sticky beak around our flood ravaged house have a look at this documentary made by our local TV station....

OK, I lie, It is me behind the camera with a "Tongue in cheek" look at the current state of our house...

Apologies for the sound quality. The background hiss is the sound generated by all the blowers and dehumidifiers 24 hours a day and is slowly driving us crazy.


As you know if you read Byron's previous post we have had a huge flood in our house this week. I cannot even get close to describing what we went through on Monday afternoon on a blog entry. I am known for being a story teller, for juicing up and embellishing stories as I retell them but I honestly don't have the heart to do this this time around.

On Monday I got home from work just ahead of the school bus and found water flowing out under our garage door and down the driveway. I ran to the front door and when I unlocked it all I could see was water. There was a sound of running water coming from further back in the house. I started yelling out "Is there anyone there?" in a frantic voice as though someone would wander out to me and apologise for accidentally causing the flood???
Of course there was no-one home. I ran to turn off the mains water but it was too stiff to turn so I ran back through the water and into the kitchen. I heard the water coming from behind the fridge so I managed to pull the fridge out of its recess and saw that the water filter had exploded and mains water was rushing out of a tap in the wall. When the tap was turned off I just stood there and stared at the water that was ankle deep in the kitchen, TV room, hallway, computer room, living room and just spilling over into the spare bedroom. As I looked at all the electrical items in the water, sewing machine pedal, laptop charger, floor lights etc I realised how stupid I was to be in the water while the power was on so I ran outside and shut it all down at the fuse box.

The next hour passed in a blur. I rang Byron, he jumped in the car to come home. I rang Anne, she threw her bucket and mop in her car and came straight over to help. The school bus pulled up, I tried to stop the kids from walking into the house to see what was wrong. I rang my friend Karen, she came over to take the kids away so we could start the clean up.

Anne and I mopped and wrung, mopped and wrung, mopped and wrung. Byron rang the insurance firm, they had a man there within the hour taking photos and making more calls.

Within another hour there was a crew of men using industrial vacuums on the carpets sucking the water out of them, then tearing them out underlay and all, propping furniture on plastic blocks so that 10 industrial blowers could blow hot air under everything and installing two huge dehumidifiers could suck 7o litres of water out of the air every 24 hours.

The next morning the builders arrived to tear out all the wooden skirting boards, door jams and to drill holes every few centimeters along the base of our kitchen cupboards to insert more tubes that would blow more hot air from another machine. This one hotter and noisier that the other 10 put together. So hot and noisy I swear the devil himself must use it to keep hell ticking over at a nice unbearably hot temperature....

This has been our life ever since. 24 hours a day noise that you cannot talk over. 36 degree hot air blowing in our faces downstairs. No windows allowed to be opened. Noise so bad that we put earplugs in our ears at night upstairs behind shut bedroom doors so we can get to sleep.

It looks like the only thing to do is to spend as much time out of the house as possible. There is nothing like stepping outside into the cool air of a balmy summers morning with a gentle breeze to keep you cool. Oh yeah, there is NOTHING like that because this weekend is forecast to be the hottest one in living memory. 47 degree Celsius on Sunday. New South Wales is headline news with the weather men saying that nowhere in the entire planet will beat the heat that we are in for tomorrow.

I think I'm going to head for the local ice-skating rink when I wake up....

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Normal blogging will resume shortly...

Unfortunately our house was flooded yesterday due to a burst water pipe. Gina had a shock when she arrived home to see water flowing down the driveway...

The house is a bombshell, carpets ripped out, cupboards emptied and lots of soggy things everywhere. Repairs include new skirting boards in every downstairs room, new kitchen cupboards, new carpets and plasterboard sheeting, not to mention furniture and electrical equipment.

Currently, we have 10 industrial sized blowers and de-humidifiers running on full power day and night, for the next 4 days. It's very noisy!

Luckily we're fully insured but blogging will definitely be interrupted for at least a week.

Kids are taking it in their stride as usual, and we're all treating it like an adventure. I only hope Gina's friend Nicola, who arrives for a visit next week, likes adventures too...