Monday, November 30, 2009

Feeling Festive!

I'm feeling all festive.

The birthday candles have been blown out so now we can get down to the task of getting ready for Christmas!

For the last few weeks I have been cutting and sticking, making and writing, stamping and posting over 50 Christmas cards using a fun collage I made using photos taken on this years holiday.

I still haven't quite adjusted to Christmas being hot. For those born and bred in Australia it is normal but I was born and bred in Ireland, a land where cold and rain make Christmas a time to snuggle up in front of the fire, not the air-con!

If you are lucky (?!) enough to know us in real life then one of these cards should be dropping through your letter box any day now. If it already has why not leave me a comment so I know it has reached its destination.

If you are a blogger friend or just passing by then I wish you a very merry Christmas too and hope that you are enjoying this countdown through Advent, one of my favourite times of the year.

For those that speak Gaelic:

"Nollaig Shona Duit" 

For those that speak Welsh:

"Nadolig Llawen"

and for those that speak Australian:

"Throw another snag on the barbie, Mate!" 

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Birthday party.

Gareth had a fun birthday party this weekend with 7 of his school friends. They played table football, swam in the pool and stuffed their faces on sausage rolls and jelly. What more could a seven year old want!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Terracotta mountain....

Who in their right mind would give a birthday child a dinosaur excavation kit? A kit made of of a brick of terracotta earth. A kit that needs to be hammered and chipped until the brick of terracotta dirt has become a mountain of terracotta dust and sludge all over the white kitchen floor? Not Anne!

And what mother on watching her child receive such a gift would sit back and pour the present-giver a big glass of icy cold white wine and drink and chat and laugh for an hour while the child chipped and blew dino-dust and messed the floor for an hour until a dinosaur was found? Not me!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Home at last...

Sian is home.
Safe and sound.
Back with her family where she belongs.

She took lots of great photos which she is happy for me to share here at some stage over the next few days. For now here is the snapshot from my phone taken as she got off the bus.

Thank you Mr Jennings for being such an inspirational teacher who combines the ability for kids to think he is cool and yet has gained the absolute 110% trust of all the parents. We couldn't have sent our kids away on such a big journey with just anyone.

You are one in a million!

The Birthday: in glorious muddy detail!

Gareth had such a great birthday. Thank you so much to all the people that remembered him on his special day. He had so many great parcels to open and cards with exciting stamps on. Being the 21st century he also got text messages arriving on my phone and email wishes too! It was a very early start as I was leaving for work at 6.30am. When I stuck out my bedroom door to have my breakfast at 5.30 he was already outside waiting! The next hour was a chaotic frenzy of torn paper and "Wow" "Cool" and "Yahooooo!!!"

Byron and Rhiannon "helped" him to play with his toys for the next couple of hours before it was time for school. At school assembly he was presented with his birthday certificate. He brought in a big tray of cupcakes to share with his class and I picked him up at 2.45. He chose the dinner: Meatballs, spaghetti and garlic bread. Followed of course by the wobbly jelly and custard that I posted in yesterdays blog!

After the food was finished Rhiannon and Gar opened one of his presents and spent the next hour entranced by it. The end result was a kitchen floor covered in terracotta mud....and a dinosaur!  It is deserving of its very own blog post. Feel free to guess what it was. I will post photos tomorrow!

He says it was the best birthday EVER!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Birthday Gar!

Happy 7th Birthday Gareth!

You are such a great boy and bring a little bit of balance to our house (especially for your poor Dad!)
We love you so much and know that we are very lucky to have you be a part of our family. You had a Guardian Angel watching over you 7 years ago when you were born. You were the biggest baby we had ever seen, almost twice as big as your sister Sian! We didn't even get to use our smallest baby clothes that we had in our hospital bag. You went straight into the next size up!

We had so much fun with you today. I loved your choice of cake...
Green  jelly, custard, lollies and sprinkles?!!
You are a funny, funny boy and so easily pleased!

We are looking forward to having fun with you this weekend playing with all the great presents you opened today.

Happy Birthday big boy!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Sian is in her final year of Primary school. Historically in Year 6 they go on a school trip for 4 days and 3 nights to Canberra with their teachers. It costs a lot of money and we paid it over installments with her school fees since January. They are allowed to bring spending money but were encouraged to offer to do extra household chores to earn it.

Over the last 6 weeks Sian has cleaned windows, spread topsoil in the garden,  stuck stamps and airmail stickers on Christmas cards, licked envelopes, cleaned bathrooms, folded laundry and sometimes just been my slave for an hour as I called out a list of small jobs to help tidy up the house when it was getting too much for me after a long day in work. She really earned her money! Many of her friends were talking about bringing in the region of $50. Some were working hard for it, some said they were just going to be given it. Sian certainly fell into the first group! When she had reached $42.75 there was an unexpected surprise. Granny in Ireland wrote Sian a letter and inside was $10. I had lost my slave, thanks Mum !

And so on Monday morning the alarm went off at 5am and at 5.01 Sian was standing at the foot of our bed dressed and grinning and ready to set off to school for the coach. It took us slightly longer but by 5.30 we had  woken and dressed Gareth and Rhiannon and were on our way. I didn't bring my camera but got out the mobile and tried to take a few photos on it. It was so early that the light wasn't great and the photos are a little blurry and grainy but I'm sure they show how excited they all were.

I did get a lump in my throat as Sian hugged me goodbye. I'm sure she will have a great time.

Roll on Thursday night when she returns!

A little behind...

This last couple of weeks has been so busy. The lead up to Christmas starts early when you have to post 80% of your gifts overseas. I'm feeling a little overwhelmed and that's the polite way of putting it.

Sorry my blogging has been so sporadic. Sometimes you have to make choices and unfortunately feeding kids, working and sleeping occasionally has to take priority over time on the computer! Hopefully after this weekend things will calm down. So much has happened that I want to blog about if I get a chance.

Sian, my eldest, is in Canberra on a school trip, I made, wrote and posted almost 50 Christmas cards and wrapped, weighed and posted 30 gifts in 8 parcels costing in excess of $250 in postage alone. I'm feeling financially stressed but glad to be contributing to the Australian economy via the Post Office.... I gave my Constipation lecture in work. I feel lighter now :-) Gareth will be 7 tomorrow! I made invitations to his birthday party to look like Pokemon trading cards which used up one of my valuable days off work, that must explain why the house looks like someone broke in and trashed it before sprinkling little bits of crumbs and dirt all over the floors. We have had outrageously hot 40 degree days followed by rain and 21 degrees followed by 36 degrees and sunny again. Gareth forgot his sunscreen on his face on one of the 40 degree days and has lobster red face with white eyes where his swimming goggles were.... It will make for great birthday photos! Tonight I am making 33 ice-cream cone cakes for Byron to bring in to Gareths class in the morning to celebrate his birthday. I will be leaving for work at 6.30am and hope to wake Gar in time to open a present or two with me. It's days like this I hate being a working mum. Then there is payday and that is when I am grateful I have a job in this economic climate.

I'm glad I got all that off my chest. So now you all know why I am a little behind.... If only I really had a little behind, sigh!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

If you are Irish you will understand this...

Not my normal topic for this blog but.....

If you aren't Irish, the background to this story is that Ireland played a football game against France to see who would go forward to the World Cup finals. A French player admitted deliberately using his hand to stop the football going wide of the goal and the French then scored and won as a result of this foul. It wasn't seen by the ref (thus the spoof opticians advert) and it has now blown up into an International political argument...

"FRENCH President Nicolas Sarkozy has apologised to Ireland after their national football team was deprived of a World Cup berth by a goal that should not have been awarded.
Video replays showed striker Thierry Henry used his hand twice in the build-up to a William Gallas goal in extra time that sent France to next summer's World Cup finals in South Africa"

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

...after the ant bite!

After our eventful breakfast picnic by the vines of the Peppers vineyard we packed up the car and went exploring to see what else was on offer. We discovered a treasure trove of little shops in converted stone buildings surrounded by fountains and flower gardens. It was amazing to think we have driven past this vineyard many times without realising what was hidden down the long driveway far from the view of the road.

There was an beautiful open sided chapel with the breeze rushing through offering a cool retreat from the intense heat of the morning sun.

Further back there was a fabulous French homeware shop "Les Indiennes de Provence" I was thinking of my friend Corey Amoro as we smelt,
touched and admired walls of fabric, perfume, candles, knives, cushions. We were bombarded by colour and smells of all things French. Byron was slightly less excited by the smells of French perfume so he wandered next door to the antique book shop to inhale the smell of old books and dust!

Gareth sat by the fountain and chilled out with the fish and then we finished our morning in the cool interior of Cafe Enzo.

The kids ordered ice-cream flavoured fizzy drink that looked like it would glow in the dark! It tasted sweet and just like melted vanilla ice-cream and
they loved it.

Mr B and myself were happy to stick with our coffees!

One final glimpse of the vines through the church pew before we said goodbye to Peppers...

...until another weekend!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Hunter Valley Breakfast.

The weather forecast was for a glorious sunny weekend so we decided to eat breakfast outside on Sunday morning. Anywhere but at the kitchen table.

We argued about whether to just sit out on the patio, to walk across the road and sit on the reserve? To head off for the beach? Before we went to bed on Saturday evening we gathered together the picnic rug and sunscreen still completely undecided about where we were going.

Sunday dawned with blue skies and we ran around putting food into lots of small plastic containers and jumped in the car. Mr B was driving. We continued the previous nights argument/discussion and before we had reversed down the driveway it was decided: We were going to Hunter Valley, a beautiful wine making region one hours drive north.

I could just picture it. Picnic rug spread out within touching distance of the vines, the early morning drone of insects on a warm Australian spring morning. We drove past the entrances of many famous vineyards and some less well known. Finally this one caught our eye, Peppers Creek. It was heavenly. There are so many vineyards all through this region that it will take a lifetime to visit them all. The danger is wanting to return again and again to our favourites but the adventure is discovering new ones that are yet unknown.

We spread out the rug, lay out our feast of croissants, nutella, rock melon, almonds, blueberries, banana chips, bircher oats and bottles of ice cold water. We were starving so we all tucked in with gusto. Food tastes better outside. The soft texture of the juice soaked oats in vanilla yogurt mixed with the crunch of oven roasted almonds. The soft buttery flaky croissants melting in our mouths. The cold refreshing melon.

The screams of pain from Gareth....

Yes, the calm was broken by Gareth yelling out in pain as he was bitten by a green ant. Ouch. These guys are small but pack a powerful punch. They had waited until we were lulled into that false sense of serene security before launching an attack on our breakfast bliss. We jumped up and looked like we performing a bizarre Irish jig as we hopped and stamped and ran to the car. Byron opened up the boot and the kids dived in. The picnic food followed and we carried on our picnic from the safety of our new breakfast location. Not quite the picture postcard image we had imagined but safer!

Australia. You've got to take the rough with the smooth!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Slugs and snails...

Thursday, November 12, 2009


I've mentioned spiders on the blog before.

When my children were born in England I was determined that they wouldn't be scared of spiders so I made an effort not to make a fuss if we found one in the bath. I encouraged them to hold spiders and we would carry them outside into the back garden and set them free. All the time we had them in our hands we would chat to them about how silly they were getting lost in their bathroom when they belonged in their own house outside.

Now fast forward a few years and note that the Baynham family have emigrated to Australia. Yes Australia the land of many spiders. According to a website I read this morning (we all know everything on the net is true!) there are between 50 and 100 venemous species in Australia. Two of which can be life thretening to humans, the red-back and the Sydney funnel web.

Try if you can to imagine that I now had to undo the teaching of my kids early years. In the first few weeks of being here I had to teach them NEVER to touch a spider. Who cares if the spider has got lost and his mummy is waiting for him in the garden. Get the tin of black nothin's-gonna-live-when-sprayed-with-this Mortein from the cupboard and kill asap with no remorse.

Poor confused mixed up kids. They'll need therapy in the years to come I'm sure!

On the topic of red-backs, we have encountered a fair share of them but never inside the house. Ok once on the back of a chair that I had just carried in from the garden but that doesn't count really. Within confined spaces I feel safe, clean, spider free. My biggest fear is of the stories told around many an Australian kitchen table (especially to gullible tourists and newly arrived immigrants) about "the spider in the car"

There are statistics on the number of Australians killed by spiders while driving. I'm sure there must be a website dedicated to educating us about this but I can't find it just now. Apparently there have been stories about drivers losing control after a spider drops onto their lap from the ceiling or scuttles across the dash board.

I don't want to be a statistic. That won't happen to me. Or will it? Byron went to drive my car this week and before the car pulled down the drive I heard him yell for the black Mortein. He had spotted a spider. Not just any spider. He had spotted a red-back.... on a web.... by the drivers feet.... Where my feet had been accelerating and braking every day this week, this month, since we bought the car 4 years ago. How long has this red-back been there? Has it had babies...????!!!! AAARRRGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!

Blue Ford Territory, four years old, only a few minor bumps to the body work (that wall came out of nowhere) good mileage, regular services.....

Going cheap.....

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Happy 40th anniversary Sesame Street!

It's something that children all over the world grew up with... Sesame Street!

Even thinking about it now brings back warm fuzzy memories of childhood. Snuggled up on the sofa at home in Dublin, rain running down the window pane while colourful puppets laughed and sang their way through the alphabet.

Today marks the 40th Anniversary of the first airing of Sesame Street on US television.

How to celebrate such a momentous occasion?


Monday, November 09, 2009

Nelson Bay Food Festival

About a one hour drive from where we live is a beautiful place called Nelson Bay. It has a bustling collection of beachside restaurants along the most fabulous white sandy beaches.

When we came over to Australia in 2003 for my brother Joe's wedding we came to Nelson Bay for three nights after the wedding to chill out. We ate in one of the small pizzerias and had a bottle of wine. Then we walked back along the beach to our accommodation and had that fatefull half tipsy conversation: "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?!"

The conversation that sparked an idea - that grew into a dream - that became a reality - that is now our life "Down Under"

Not surprisingly we try to jump into the car every now and again to revisit Nelson Bay and its surrounding area. This weekend Rhiannon was invited to a party in the Australian Shark and Ray Center, 15 minutes from our fondly remembered pizzeria. We dropped her off and carried on driving expecting to have a quiet wander and a coffee.

We arrived into the gastronomic hustle and bustle of the Nelson Bay Food Festival. All around us were white marquees offering wines and foods to suit every palate. Thai noodles, BBQ'd king prawns, Organic fruit juices, Nuts, nuts and more nuts! After ravaging a bag of honeyed cashews we found a stall selling ready made picnic platters for $20. We chose one with half a French stick sliced up, strawberries, olives, sundried tomatoes, salami, parma ham, Camembert and Jarlsberg cubes. Coupled with a $15 tray overflowing with a selection of Sushi and we had a picnic fit for a king!

Gareth is a foodaholic. He seemed frozen as he stared at the tray not sure what to tuck into first! We rolled out of Nelson Bay a few hours later, unable to eat or drink another thing! We headed back to collect Rhiannon knowing we will be putting the 2010 Food Festival in our diaries for a return trip!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Jacaranda Trees.

When we first came to Australia for my brothers wedding it was November 2003. Everywhere we went we saw magnificent trees covered in purple flowers. When we next stepped off a plane two years later it was October 2005 and again these fabulous trees were everywhere we looked.

We assumed that they were native to Australia and in bloom all the time. Having read my Australian friend Belinda's blog I realise I am not the only one who assumed this! I have since worked out that they are actually native to South and Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean and that they only bloom in Spring!

Every Spring when they bloom it reminds me of the fun of our first visit to Australia and the excitement of our second trip as we began our adventure of creating a new life for our family here Down Under.

Saturday, November 07, 2009


I love Halloween. But one week into November I have had my fix and I really can't care less if I never see another glow-in-the-dark skeleton again. Well at least until October 2010. Take plastic spiders for instance. A harmless prank. Designed to give a sudden fright until your eyes focus and you work out it is not real.

Most plastic spiders have neon stripes and unfeasibly big bodies. It probably takes my brain a nano second to go from panic-mode to chill-out-it's-plastic-mode. And so the other morning, I find myself at 6am making a cup of tea bleary eyed before heading out to work. I glance down at the shape on the floor and see yet another stupid plastic spider by my foot. Too tired and too early to be bothered picking it up and throwing it on the pile of Halloween "stuff" I carried on dunking my tea-bag.

Can you see where this is heading?


So by now you should have a mental image of this plastic spider scurrying over my foot and under the dishwasher never to be seen again.

Don't forget to add in the image of me screaming, and tipping the freshly made tea all down my front...

Are you smiling yet?!

Good, now get commenting and tell me handy tips for removing tea stains from white fluffy dressing gowns...

Friday, November 06, 2009

Don't grow up...

We are approaching Sian's last few weeks in Primary school. In January she will move on to High School. I do not feel old enough to have a high school daughter yet! Help!

Back in March there was an info night for parents and kids. We felt out of our depth wandering around this huge school that has almost three times the number of students that our small local primary school has. There was a second info night this week and we couldn't believe the change that 8 months had brought. The kids were taller, more confident and looked totally ready to take this next step up into the big bad world. For the first couple of hours we just seemed to queue...

Queue one: Hand in the mountain of forms we had filled in at home.
Queue two: Pay fees deposit and pay for School Tracksuit.
Queue three: Fitting for School Tracksuit.
Queue four: Collect School Tracksuit.
Queue five: Free sausage sandwich to keep morale up!
Queue six: Try on the rest of the School uniform, skirt, pullover, sports top, sports shorts...
Queue seven: Pay for all aforementioned uniform.

Finally there was the meeting explaining the transition over the coming weeks until the end of January when they will be dropped off for their first day (gulp!)

Try to imagine if you can Byron, Sian and myself leaving the grounds of the school at the end of the night. Byron and myself walking slowly to the car looking nervous, carrying overflowing bags of text books and uniform and with empty wallets. Sian walking tall and confidently to the car, a big grin on her face a twinkle in her eye!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Barn Braic

I haven't blogged yet about what we did at Halloween. It has been a busy week and I cant believe it is Thursday already!

A childhood tradition growing up in Ireland was to eat Barn Braic. There are many different spellings but essentially it is an Irish fruit bread/cake that was served at Halloween sliced up and spread with creamy salty yellow butter.

Traditionally there were some things wrapped in greaseproof paper and hidden in the cake. A ring, a pea, a stick, a coin and a piece of sack cloth. Each item had a meaning. Some were happy: the ring meant you would marry over the coming year, the coin was for wealth. Some were a bit unpleasant: the stick was that you would be in an unhappy marriage, the pea that you would be forever a spinster, the cloth that you would live a life of poverty.

I Google searched for a recipe and this one looked the easiest and least time consuming. I had to Google again to convert the weights into grams (that probably explains the sticky lumps on the family computers keyboard!) Overall I must say it was incredibly easy. It just took forever to cook.

We had friends joining us after Mass on Saturday night for dinner. Because their kids were younger than ours I thought I should be politically correct and modify the items going into the cake and invent new meanings for them! In the end we decided on the following...

Coin: You will be rich!
Almond: You will live a long and healthy life.
Stick: You will travel far and wide to exotic places
Star bead: You will be a famous superstar!

I also had premonitions of tired kids, up past their bedtimes crying if they failed to get a slice with a "thing" inside and so I made the kids Barn Braic muffins, one per child, each one guaranteed to have one item inside.

For those of you thinking kids these days are wrapped in cotton wool and shouldn't need to have everything enginered to make them happy, I know! I generally agree with you. I just figured it was my party and I could cry if I wanted to but I sure as hell didn't need 7 tired kids joining me!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The perfect moment...

Now that the Summer is finally on its way and the days are warming up we are getting the chance to play out and about so much more.

There is nothing more fun than a day at the park. Kids all burning off their energy and mums sitting back on picnic rugs catching up and putting the world to rights.

It just feels so good when you have friends who are similar yet different. Friends who are all trying to bring their kids up the very best they can but who don't judge if you make different choices to them. Friends with enough in common to keep things comfortable, yet with enough differences to keep it interesting.

We are very lucky here in Australia to have made friends with a great and diverse group of families. We span from younger mums to second-time-around families, different nationalities and different incomes. And yet there is something that binds us all together. We all met through having a kid in Kindy back in 2005. I just hope that the kids continue these friendships over the coming years as they head to high school. I know I would trust these parents to watch out for my kids just as they know I would look out for theirs. For now we sit back and watch as they just laugh and play and bury themselves in the sandpit. If only I could stop time just where we are right now...

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Race that stops a Nation!

Melbourne Cup is THE biggest racing date on the Australian calendar! It is a horse race held in Victoria on the first Tuesday in November. It is said that the whole country comes to a stop at 3pm: Thus the name "The Race that stops a Nation"

The race only lasts minutes but all around Australia women dress up in gorgeous dresses and high heels with feathers in their hair and champagne glasses in their hands. This year I was working so no glamorous dress or sparkly shoes for me! Instead it was uniform as normal and a gathering of nurses, patients, admin staff, porters and visitors around the hospitals tv in the main reception, cheering wildly for 3 minutes and 23 seconds!

The kids got out of school 15 minutes before the race started so I dashed out and grabbed them, returning in time for the starting gun. The kitchen girls had brought out a spread of nibbles and I brought a special cake I had made and decorated after the kids had gone to bed the night before.

When Rhiannon saw the cake she said "Mum, we have toy horses just like those ones in our toy box at home!"

Monday, November 02, 2009

From Ireland with love.

Our kids love the random spontaneous letters that arrive from Granny and Grandad Joe in Ireland.

They always know when one has arrived as it has the distinctive Irish stamps and the big green customs label. It rarely makes it from the letter box to the front door without being torn open and this latest letter was no exception!

The kids had just got off the school bus all hot and tired on Friday afternoon. It was the end of a long week and they were ready to get stuck into a weekend of Halloween fun.

The timing couldn't have been better as they ripped open the envelope to find a packet of Halloween balloons and three packets of Irish Cadbury Chocolate buttons!

Sometimes it is the tiny little things that help to keep family together no matter what the distance and for our family in Ireland that tiny little thing is Chocolate buttons!

Sunday, November 01, 2009


I enjoy when the girls have friends come to our house for a sleepover. They are at an age now (nine and eleven) where they entertain themselves, watch a movie or play in their rooms. Anytime we have kids staying over there is an unspoken rule....

.....That we will make hot chocolate before bedtime!

Both Sian and Rhiannon had a friend stay over on the same night during the recent school holidays. Gareth was at his friends that night for his first ever sleepover so it was just girls in the house! Poor Byron!

There was only one thing for it. Get out the chocolate and mini marshmallows!