Friday, July 31, 2009

Packing or partying?

Packing for a holiday with three kids running around the house is a challenge in itself so it was no surprise when Byron arrived home from work on Friday to chaos. Chaos with potential I had to remind him! Downstairs was pretty sorted but our bedroom had become the dumping ground for all things on their way to the suitcases.

About 4.30pm things just seemed to get busier and busier. Sian's teacher rang me for a last minute chat about what areas of school work we could keep Sian up to date with while we were away. He had helpfully emailed us 42 pages of lesson plans for some light airplane reading! Thanks Graham! Then Heidi turned up with Mozart causing the expected chaos that three excited kids and a puppy do. Next Maree rang asking if it was OK if they popped in for 5 minutes. 5 minutes became a bottle of bubbly and some Classic single malt to toast Byron's 40th birthday! They arrived with a very interesting couple of presents to be used on the holiday. I am going to be a tease and leave you in the dark about exactly what until a later blog! It WILL be worth it I promise!

When Maree and myself had polished off a bottle of Fresita (A sparkling Chilean wine with crushed Patagonian strawberries, yum!) and Byron and John had toasted every Tom, Dick and Harry with the Talisker we waved them goodbye.

Feeling very light headed and care free I got out the scissors and gave Rhiannon a haircut! Having seen Rhiannon's hair Mr B decided he might decline the offer of a trim and wait to go to a barber in Rarotonga! We got the kids to bed early and spent the next couple of hours stuffing everything into the suitcases. I think we packed everything. I guess time will tell...


We are packed and ready to go!

Two weeks of relaxation here we come.

Byron's presents and birthday cards have been coming through the letter box for the last few weeks and they are now hidden at the bottom of the suitcase.

We may have access to occasional Internet access but the blog is likely to be a bit quieter until the middle of August. As they say on Raratonga Kia Orana !

Happy Birthday Granny!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Pizza Dough Recipe for Karen.

Karen commented on the "Mamma Ginas Pizzeria" post asking for the pizza dough recipe so here goes...!

I did a Google search to find mine and this is the first one I came across. It worked easily but my only comment is that it barely made enough dough for our 2 medium pizzas and 3 tiny ones. Our bases truly were thin n crispy! Next time I'm going to double the ingredients...


1 x Sachet Tandaco yeast,
1 x Teaspoon sugar,
1 x 1/4 Teaspoon salt,
1 x Cup warm water,
2 x Cups plain flour


1. Place yeast, sugar and salt in large mixing bowl. Mix
in warm water until all dry ingredients are dissolved.

2. Mix in flour and knead until a dough consistency
is achieved. (if dough remains tacky sprinkle a little
extra flour into the mix and knead once more).

3. Cover bowl with plastic wrap,
place in a sheltered area and let
dough rise for 20 minutes.

4. Get stuck in to shaping your pizza bases, smother in tomato
pizza sauce and load on toppings of your choice!

5.Enjoy it Karen!

Almost the Cook Islands...?!

I was in a good mood when I got home from the hospital today. I had just worked my last shift before going on holidays. I decided to sit out in the sunshine to start the celebrations early!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Almost 40.....

Tonight we had tea with Anne and Kel. It is a weekly get together that realistically happens once or twice a month. After a big feed of slow cooked Lamb shanks in rosemary and garlic gravy I received a huge compliment from Kel. He looked up and said "You know, You could almost say that this dinner isn't half bad..." From Kel that is huge praise!

We finished off the meal with a celebration of Byrons soon-to-happen 40th birthday. Tiny cupcakes in the shape of the number 40!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Mamma Ginas Pizzeria!

Do you ever have a restaurant at home? Sometimes we go with a theme and pretend that we are not actually at our own kitchen table but at a fancy restaurant. My favourite restaurant is Mamma Gina's Italian Pizzeria.

And so we go from a lump of homemade pizza dough like this...

To have a mad, make your own pizza session like this...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Getting ready

It's winter here. We are waking up to frost and the temperature is about 15-20 degrees most days. We are looking forward to our holiday and are starting to pack our suitcases. The girls are so excited that they are not feeling the cold. They took advantage of a burst of sunshine this weekend to get in the holiday mood!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Collage or kiss?

Today is the last day of the school holidays. It has been a fun two weeks and we seem to have done loads! I have been working today and I could write a blog about me being chased-up-and-down-the-hospital-corridor-by-a-90-year-old-half-naked-man-with-a-walking-frame-on-wheels-but-without-his-dentures-in-trying-to-catch-me-to-give-me-a-big-kiss. Or I could just leave you with a collage of photos of Sian playing with Heidi's puppy Mozart this week.

If however you are finding it hard to shake the image of the old man/no dentures/walking frame/half naked from your head and you are wondering if he did actually manage to catch me then the answer is ... yes!

I leave you with a question... At what point is it socially acceptable to wipe your cheek furiously to remove the slobber of an uninvited kiss if the giver of the kiss is still talking to you and grinning from ear to ear...?!

Happy weekend everyone!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Shopping on Saturday...

This is what happens when we spend all day Saturday following Mr B in and out of every phone accessory shop in Kotara shopping center looking for an iPhone gadget...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Colourful magnet staircase: Written by Gareth

Do you like my staircase?

I made it almost out of ALL my magnets.

It took me almost about an hour to build. It was very fun though and I tried to make it as colourful as I could.

When I grow up I am going to be an artist or a chef. I am going to have my own restaurant and my whole family will work there. But for now I will be just an artist until I am a grown up.

From Gareth

P.S. I am practising lots to be a chef and to be an artist. I am the second best draw'er in my class and today I baked some cakes. They are upside down banana cakes. I put them upside down when they cooked and they fell out just like sandcastles. They taste GREAT!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

School holidays: Day eleven

Today was an out-of-the-house day. It started with a play at our local park where I had arranged to meet another mum and her two kids. Nothing too spectacular about that except that it was a virtual Internet stranger I had never met before...

Having left a comment on a popular American blog another reader of that blog followed the link back here and then left a comment saying she recognised where we lived. It turns out she lives just minutes down the road! It was great to meet her face to face after a few weeks of Internet communication. There were a few jokes about whether she really would be the nice mum of two she claimed to be or if she would be hairy Eric the truck driver from Taree! I am relieved to tell you that she was normal in the nicest possible way! It is certainly the first time I have made a new friend this way, a sign of our modern times!

The afternoon was spent with a different group of friends at a beach that was a first for us. It was close to Caves beach which is a favourite of ours. Just one bay further down the road we pulled up and parked in convoy with four other families. We unpacked our picnic bags from the boot and walked down the path to Stinky Point Beach!

It was much nicer than its name suggested. We layed out the picnic blankets and tucked into sandwiches, fruit and cups of coffee from the thermos. The kids climbed the rocks, hid in the caves and played a big game of rugby while we nattered and put the world to rights.
It was a real bonus to have such a mild winters day after a run of chilly rainy ones. These holidays are really flying by. Not many more days to go before we return to the routine of early mornings, school uniforms and packed lunches...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

School holidays: Day ten

Today was a mad, crazy, busy day. We were inspired by Monica's big girly beading day last week where she invited a big group of her daughters friends around to her house all on the same day to use up all the beads in her craft cupboard and have lots of play dates all condensed into one day. We talked about how if just 5 families did something similar once each during the two week holiday then the kids would have a full days free entertainment every second day.

And so (in the hope of inspiring a tradition) we sent out an email to 6 families we knew and invited their girls to a massive cup-cake making extravaganza!

All we asked them to bring was one packet of cake mix per family and we would provide the eggs, butter and milk to complete the ingredients. It worked brilliantly. We had a great assortment of flavours of cake, coloured cup-cake cases, sprinkles etc.

In the end there were 13 very excited kids in the kitchen cracking eggs, mixing with wooden spoons and electric whisks, filling paper cases with dripping spoons of chocolate and vanilla mixture.

I think we will be looking at the splashes of double choc fudge on the ceiling for many a year to come after one enthusiastic little girl who will remain nameless got a bit carried away with the electric whisk!

It was fantastic to see the older (11+12yrs old) girls helping the younger (6-9yrs) ones. They were like little mother hens helping to crack eggs and read instructions on the backs of the packets. There were a lot of fingers being dipped in the bowls and licking of whisks and spoons!

As the cakes went in and out of the oven like a factory production line the kids carried their mixing bowls to the sink and without being asked started washing them. Their manners were amazing, I wanted to ring all the mums and ask if my kids behave so amazingly when they go visiting at their houses? Maybe we should all swap kids for a bit!

The kids ran off to play and I did a blitz of the kitchen then called them back to a table with loaves of bread and cheese, ham, peanut butter etc. They all made their own sandwiches and ran off again while I divided the 149 cupcakes between 13 plates with their names written on with permanent marker (which luckily came off with some elbow grease later!)

When I called them back to the table there was chaos as they jostled and shouted to be passed the pink icing, or the green, or the chocolate, the dino sprinkles, flower shaped ones, pink sugar crystals... I left them at it and the end result was very colourful! They tucked into some of their cakes in the garden and then brought the rest home with them for later.

It was a really good day. A bit crazy at times but very good fun. My feet were sticking to the kitchen floor after they left and I had sprinkles crunching under my feet at every step. I've scrubbed the floor now and am sitting back with a cup of tea tired but content and grinning at the splodges of double choc chip on my ceiling that will remind me of today for a long time to come because I know I can't be ar*** to clean it anytime soon!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

School holidays: Day nine

Today was a calm day. We vegged in the house for the morning and went to meet Byron for lunch. We grabbed some Subway rolls and a coffee and sat outside the cafe near his work where he joined us for a quick 30mins. It is always great getting to see him with the kids as it breaks their day and his too. After lunch we pottered around buying a few bits and pieces for our holiday (11 DAYS AND COUNTING!) On our way out of the house this morning we collected the post from the end of the driveway and threw it on the passenger seat of the car. One letter stood out... it was a big red one! It had Granny's writing on it and was lumpy. The kids were nagging to open it because they knew as always it was chocolate buttons from Ireland!

On the way home the sun was low in the sky and everywhere was bathed in a golden light. As we passed through Warners Bay the lake was shimmering orange and I pulled in to the side of the road. I threw the kids out, grabbed the red envelope and raced them to the waters edge.

They opened the envelope like a bunch of seagulls fighting over the last chip! Out fell the three packets of chocolate buttons as expected but also three little white envelopes. Each envelope had a message written on it for each kid. When they opened the envelopes out fell green notes, New Zealand dollars! $40 each. The kids were speechless, then screaming with excitement.

They waved their dollars around and talked excitedly about what they would spend them on. Ice cream? souvenirs? It was a really nice thought of Mum to send them this spending money and it helped to build up the excitement levels even higher than before!

Just before we got back in the car Sian asked could I take a photo of her "holding the sun"

Her teacher had shown them a picture of someone doing it and she wanted to try.

We had fun and each kid managed to have a half decent attempt at it!

Wrapped with love ?!

It's my birthday next month.

I know my parents love me.

As much as my sister? I'm sure just the same...? I think....?

How do you sum up how much you are loved and cared for? By your birthday present? Or maybe by the way it is wrapped... Wrapped with love?

I hope this parcel that was sitting forlornly on our doorstep yesterday evening from my parents in Ireland isn't trying to tell me something....

Monday, July 20, 2009

Family Holiday

We have been here in Australia for nearly 4 years. In that time we have had one family holiday. It was a week in Boambee Bay in January 2007. The last holiday that involved getting on a plane (other than the one way flight here when we emigrated!) was when Rhiannon (now aged 9) was a baby!

We have been planning a special holiday for a year now. Byron will be 40 next month and when we started talking about it over a year ago I asked him what the most perfect way to celebrate his birthday would be. His answer was that a perfect birthday would be the two of us and our three kids on a beach in the middle of nowhere. No normal life, just a hammock and a cold drink, the smell of sunscreen, the sound of the waves lapping at his feet, Oh, and a hot rock massage?! Easily pleased, my Mr B!

We talked about booking a really fancy holiday of a lifetime and really letting our hair down after a few years of putting all our money into building up our new life here in Australia. We got some brochures, opened a bottle of wine and started getting excited! Then in July last year Byron's US company went under and we found ourselves very unexpectedly without any income. It was a very unsettling time and it took three months before we had any money coming in. All talk of a holiday went on hold.

As we got closer to Christmas and we had two (much smaller) salaries coming in regularly we knew that we needed to adjust our spending. We luckily had been putting every dollar from the US job into our house which was now fully built and had most of the major furniture in place. We put spending on hold and stopped to appreciate what we actually had around us.

We saw friends splitting up, we heard stories about people we know getting bad news on health investigations, people our age, people who's lives were going in a different direction than they could have imagined. We talked about whether it was foolish to spend money on a fancy holiday after a year of such financial change or whether we should grab this chance to celebrate the here and now. That we have each other, the kids, our health.

We decided to seize the moment and plan our dream getaway. AND NOW IT IS JUST 12 DAYS AWAY! Sorry, did I shout that?! I am a little excited! Yes, in 12 days we will be clutching our new Australian Passports in our hands and climbing on a plane to New Zealand, then changing to a smaller plane to an Island called Rarantonga in the Cook Islands. We will be staying in a traditional beach house directly on Aroa Beach and will be able to walk out the door and onto the sand every morning. Heaven! Roll on August!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Australian Passports.

Our family applied for Australian passports earlier this month. We were entitled to get them once we recieved our Australian Citizenship. We still have our Irish and Welsh passports too. Having dual citizenship means we can retain the right to travel under either.

We had to pay extra money to fast-track the kids passports because their UK passports had expired in Feb and we didn't want to take the chance on not getting them on time. We let our applications go through the normal process knowing we have our other passports to fall back on.

The kids passports arrived within 48 hours of applying for them. Ours arrived on Friday! So now we can travel as a family under the banner of one nationality which should cause less raised eyebrows at customs on our holiday later this month.

I came upon this quote about immigration and thought I would share it with you.

"The immigrant's heart marches to the beat of two quite different drums, one from the old homeland and the other from the new. The immigrant has to bridge these two worlds, living comfortably in the new and bringing the best of his or her ancient identity and heritage to bear on life in an adopted homeland."- Irish President McAleese

Are you living where you were born? Or have you moved to another country? How do you reconcile your heart with your past and your present?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

School holidays: Day six

I normally work as a registered nurse 3 days a week. Byron brings the kids to school, I finish work 15mins before the school bell rings and just get to the school in time to collect them. This works really well in term time and I have been really lucky to work out an agreement with my boss in work for the kids school-holidays. I stay home all mid week to be with the kids and then I work the weekends instead.

Normally our weekends are really special to us as a family. We like to spend family time even if it is just hanging around the house or going for a walk. But I guess this arrangement is good for school-holidays as it means the kids don't get put into any kind of vacation care and yet there is still some money coming into the family bank account.

I miss them all when I am working weekend shifts and it is always nice to hear when I get home that they have had fun (not too much fun though!) Today while I was working Byron brought Gareth for a haircut at the local barbers. Here is a photo that Byron sent me from his phone.

Doesn't he look smart!

Rugby Ball - updated!

No this post is not about a funny egg shaped Rugby Ball, It is about a Black tie Ball to celebrate 80 years of the Lake Macquarie Rugby Club. It was on tonight and we were very excited to be going with some great friends.

I was working at the hospital until 3.30pm and raced home to try to get beautified. I was in dire need of a fairy Godmother to help me, not really to get myself ready, more to clean the house in preparation for the babysitter. Two hours after getting home we were driving to the ball. Not in a pumpkin carriage and horses but you can't have it all...

As always I had my trusty camera in my hand to take photos of the fun and finery. I soon realised that a camera without a memory card is a pretty useless chunk of plastic, ooops! Out came the mobile phone and so I have only got some grainy images but enough to have a bit of fun with!

The evening started out with a laugh as 4 young testosterone filled Irish Rugby Players were auctioned to be slaves for the night. We tried to bid on them but were way outbid each time. Being Irish I just had to run up and ask them where in Ireland they were from. The first guy lived only 10 minutes from where I grew up in Dublin (He is the fine strapping hunk nice young lad I was drooling over standing next to in the collage photo below!). It's a small world.

It was a great evening. Worth going to, not just from a fundraising point of view, it's always a good night when we are out with these friends. Sorry you missed it Jane. We raised a glass to you...

I just can't resist adding this photo from the collage in full glorious colour! The trophy had been filled with a mixture of beers and did not look appetising. Would you believe me if I said we did not sip any?! Any way it was all Maree's idea. She looks like an angel but is a very bad influence on me!

Funnily enough, MrB says the same about her charasmatic husband John. But then Byron is very easily led...!

Friday, July 17, 2009

School holidays: Day five

Later this year there will be a school reunion in Dublin for all of us who finished up in 1992. I won't be flying home for it. Being on the other side of the world would make it a pretty expensive catch up with old friends.

I recently discovered that one of those friends is also living in Australia. She is actually based in Adelaide but was in Sydney with her husband and two girls for a mini break over the school holidays. We decided to do our own school reunion even if it was just going to be the two of us.

And so this morning it was an early start to get on the 8.30am train to Sydney. As I walked to Tumbalong Park at Darling Harbour, kids in hand, I wondered if I would recognise Clare? I had seen recent photos through Facebook but you still wonder... I needn't have worried. She had her back to me as she watched her kids play on the climbing frame but I recognised her straight away.

We didn't really pause for breath as we caught up on 17 years. We sat on a bench with our take away coffees and watched our kids interacting and playing in the huge sandpits. It was a bit surreal watching junior versions of ourselves playing when we were only just becoming adults ourselves last time we met.

It was great to feel the familiarity of the past and yet see the changes of the present in each other. Clare was confident and so happy in her own skin. We talked about growing up, fitting in and trying to find the adult you. I think we both have come a long way since our teenage years in St Raphaelas school. We have both found good men, married and had children, both lost our teenage naivety in a good way, matured like good wine! I liked the Clare I met today. I hope she thought the same of me!

After we said goodbye to Clare and her family we played by the fountains for a little while before heading back to Central station for the journey home.

The Guinea pigs saga continued...

5 weeks ago we had a real surprise when one of our female Guinea pigs gave birth to two balls of fluff. You can catch up on that story by clicking here. We had originally thought that we had two adult females but after this immaculate conception we were unsure.

The babies are now 5 weeks old and nearly as big as their Mum! On Wednesday a local guinea pig breeder named Sabina called in to see if either of the babies were male. She was looking to replace her male that had recently died. It turned out both the babies were girls. We asked her to check our adults too. Splodge was obviously a female because she was feeding the babies when they were little. We were unsure if Jaffa was the dad or not... Turns out that luckily Jaffa is a female which means that Splodge came to us already pregnant and this baby adventure was a once off!

Sabina was interested in having one of the female babies, Saffa, as company for her female who looked very similar with long curly fur. Sian felt Sabina was a very nice lady and would care for Saffa so she agreed to let Sabina take her away that day. Sabina has promised to keep the name Saffa and said Sian can call in to visit any time she wants.

Here is Sian's little contribution to the story... "Mum and Dad were very nice and let me keep Tigger the other baby as they are all females. I am glad I am allowed to visit Saffa to see how she is getting on in her new home. I can't wait till we have visitors again (like Auntie Carrie in December!) so we can show them how lovely our THREE guinea pigs are!"


Thursday, July 16, 2009



Only the Australians could think of such a thing!

Have you worked out what they are yet? They are Socks for Thongs. And by thongs let me clarify that here in Australia thongs mean footwear not underwear! Footwear that I knew as flip-flops when I lived in Ireland.

I'm still trying to work out the logic of this product. Is it just me or do you wear thongs when it is hot and sunny and socks when it is cold and chilly?

My nine year old Rhiannon is known for her love of socks so when she saw these her eyes lit up and she begged me to buy them for her. I said yes before I checked how much they cost but fortunately for my wallet they were a mega bargain.

Now I know that there is bound to be a mum of another Rhiannon out there who just cant imagine life without this essential footwear accessory and so I grabbed a few extra packs (the bargain hunter in me just couldn't resist!) If you know a little girl aged 3-5yrs or 5-8yrs that would love to have some Thocks for her Thongs then all you need to do is leave a comment saying which size you would like and a way to contact you!