Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Years Eve 2009

It is New Years Eve. The end of 2009 and the beginning of a new decade. A night to celebrate happy times and to look forward to better ones. New Years eve is a contrast of emotions for me.

1994 was the New Years Eve that I fell in love with Byron. I had met him on a holiday that August and thought he was sexy and funny but celebrating New Year in cold Edinburgh was when I really fell for him. Memories of frosty breath, tartan kilts and the excitement of youth that nothing can dampen.

Fast forward a few years to when I was happily married and pregnant with my second baby, Rhiannon. It was 1999. The eve of a new millennium. My grandmother whom I adored was ill and fading fast. Everyone told her how wonderful it would be for her to live in two centuries. She told them it held no appeal. I was in Ireland and waiting for the call from my Mum at the hospital. She died at 5.30pm. While the rest of the world cheered in the new century we tried to smile and toast my wonderful Gran but our eyes overflowed.

New Years Eve 2000. My brother flew home from Australia and once again I travelled to Ireland with Byron, Sian and our baby Rhiannon. We pretended it was the eve of the millennium again and we had a wonderful family meal. My parents gave each of us kids a set of two Waterford crystal glass champagne glasses. We toasted our health and our futures and promised to use the  glasses every New Years eve no matter where we were.

New Years eves since have been quieter affairs. Since we moved to Australia in 2005 Byron and myself have celebrated together by having a nice meal after the kids went to bed and going for a dip in the pool at midnight. This year my sister Carrie is with us. My parents in Ireland will be boarding a plane in the early hours of New Years Day and starting the long 24 hour flight to join us. My Dad has not been very well over the last year. It will be great to see them both but it will also be very emotional as we know we cannot take for granted how his or anyone else's health might be by this time next year. When my Dad makes a toast he always uses this old Irish saying: 

"Go mbeirimid beo ar an am so arĂ­s"  

It means "May we all be alive and well the same time next year" 

Just writing this upsets me because it is more poignant now than it ever has been. My wish for this New Year is that it will bring peace and happiness to our family and to yours. That we will all live every day like it is our last. That we will cherish our kids and take time to smell the roses. That we will love and be loved and that on this day next year we will look back on 2010 and smile knowing that it was a good one.

Happy New Year everyone. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Maree's Marinaded Peppers

I have a friend called Maree.

I'm pretty sure she doesn't read my blog so I am safe to talk about her here. Maree is possibly the most accomplished cook I know. She is forever whipping up little delicacies and bringing them along to picnics.

Savoury, sweet... and always accompanied by a glass of cold champagne.

Maybe it is the champagne that makes us all tiddly and thinking everything of hers we eat makes us want to die and go to heaven?

And did I mention she is beautiful too? Inside and out. I sure hope she isn't reading this because she would be quick to disagree. Add modest to the list of her qualities.

On a recent last minute spur of the moment picnic a few of us mums planned to meet in a local park with all the kids for tea. It was the final day of school, the Dads were all on a boys Christmas night out and we wanted an easy life.

Fish and chips from the local take-away easy.

A last minute phone call from Maree confirmed that it was to be a simple affair. Picnic rugs and bottles of water. No kids bikes to squish into the boots of the cars, no home-made gourmet delights, no fuss. Just money for fish and chips.

You can imagine my face when Maree started to unpack her picnic bag. Camembert cheese, thin biscuits, strawberries, a marinated pepper salad ...and a bottle of cold bubbly!

I could have killed her right there and then until I tasted the pepper concoction. The moment the slivers of roasted pepppers hit my mouth and I got the subtle flavours of garlic and oregano I knew I could never kill her. Not until she parted with the recipe.

This is it...

Bell Peppers: Gently scorched under a grill, sweated in a plastic bag, skin removed along with seeds, cut into long thin slices. Placed in a bowl with shaved garlic, crushed oregano leaves and thin slices of anchovies then drenched in olive oil.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009


My sister Carrie is visiting at the moment from Dublin. In 48 hours my Mum and dad will also get on a plane in Dublin to join us. A house full of visitors. This morning the house is gone quiete again. Carrie is spending a couple of days with Joe and Rhonda in Sydney and we are back to being a family of 5.... or are we?
Look at the little visitor that came to say hello at breakfast time.

A cheeky baby gecko!

We are in the middle of Aussie summertime.
The pool is sparkling, the fridge is full, the beer and bubbly are cold.
Dinner is Moroccan spiced sausages, potato salad and Maree's Marinaded Peppers (see above blog post)
Anyone else want to join us?!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Me and Jamie xoxo

I love you Jamie Oliver.

I love how you showed me on the tv last week to spread sweet mince meat on a thin sheet of frozen puff pastry, how to roll it like a Swiss roll and then slice off little disks from it.

How to sit each each wheel of pastry and fruit delight onto a square cut from another sheet of frozen pastry and how to cook them until they turn golden.

I love the randomness of each one.

I love how home-made they look and yet how little effort they took.

I love that I can pretend to be a domestic goddess because of you.

I love that it is just our secret Jamie, just me and you.

P.S. Did I tell you that I loved you yet....?!


I got my Christmas present a little early this year. Due to RTA regulations Byron had to have the personalised plates he had chosen for me installed on the car the week before Christmas. The joke amongst his friends is that, being female, I would drive around unaware of the changed plates for a few weeks before noticing. Thanks boys. I am glad to say I spotted them as soon as I came home from work. I was heading out on my girls Christmas night out a couple of hours later with bubbly in hand, Secret Santa present under my arm and a grin on my face!
Now I should never lose my car in the supermarket car park again.....

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Perfect T-shirt

This has got to be the funniest and most appropriate T-shirt that anyone could ever have bought for Mr B!

Working as a Computer Programmer means that he is often rung when friends have problems with their laptops, iPods, broadband, printers....

Thank you Cathy!

I can see this getting worn lots over the coming year!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Day 2009...

We have had such a lovely family Christmas so far.

We went to Christmas Mass on Christmas Eve and the kids were all involved in different parts of it. I stood at the back of the church with some other Mums and we handed out bells, lit candles, directed little ones and tried to prevent them from setting each other on fire! It was crazy and fun as any mass involving kids has to be. It always feels so Christmassy mingling with friends outside afterwards as the kids run around playing. Lots of hugs and Christmas wishes between families and friends.

Then it was home to set up everything for Santa. Cookies and milk are a must, carrots for the reindeer's and a mixture of oats and glitter to sprinkle over the grass. Byron always pours a generous glass of whiskey for Santa, he kindly pours from one of his best bottles! Rhiannon wanted to get Santa eating more fruit and veggies so she left out a shiny green apple. When the kids were in bed there was some last minute wrapping and then a chance to sit down with Byron, my sister Carrie and some glasses of port to toast Christmas and relax in front of the tv for a while before bedtime.

Rhiannon couldn't get into a deep sleep. I tiptoed in to check on her and she sat up in bed. I settled her and then Byron went in to check on her a little later only to have her wake up again. On Christmas morning she told us she had seen Santa and he was not wearing a hat. Luckily he had left her some presents because we all know he doesn't like kids staying awake on purpose...

Christmas day was a lazy fun day of relaxing and present opening and eating, eating and more eating! Did I mention that we ate?! I am so stuffed now and am dreading New Year and all those resolutions that I am bound to break within the first week. The weather forecast this week is Today: rain, Tomorrow: rain, Monday: rain, Tuesday: rain, Wednesday: rain, Thursday: rain, Friday: rain, Saturday: rain.... Poor Carrie. She is thinking she will be flying home to Ireland whiter than she arrived!

This afternoon we are going visiting friends and ending the day at the cinema where we plan on seeing Avatar. We have opted for the normal 2D and not the 3D version as I think it might be scary enough for the kids as it is.

I hope you are having some fun relaxing over the Christmas break.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas 2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Advent Day 24

Well this is it folks.

The final Advent window.

It has been a fun 24 days of anticipation and sharing and turn taking. I have enjoyed blogging it here. All your wonderful comments have kept me motivated to upload that days photo before I go to bed, no matter how tired I was! Each morning as I crawled out of bed I looked forward to seeing your comments you had left overnight.

Sian opened the last window today. She waited until bedtime when we had set out the Santa tray.

It is almost midnight now and it is time to tip toe to bed past sleeping children with empty stockings hanging from their bedroom doors. How many hours will pass until we are woken by the sound of excited squeals....

I hope you are all enjoying your Christmas Eve and that whatever children are in your lives wake up happy and innocent eyed tomorrow morning. Wishing you all peace and happiness over the coming days.

It has been a fun year.

Thanks for sharing it with us.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


This week in work has been stressful. Probably the most stressful week I have ever had in this job. Tuesday I found myself in a vulnerable position with a very aggravated patient. As I backed out of his room he pushed his door hard against me and hurt my arm as I held it up to protect my face. Nursing is a hard job but we shouldn't have to feel physically threatened. It would be easy to refuse to treat this patient but there are only two Registered Nurses on duty on each shift. If I refuse to treat him all I am doing is forcing my colleague to be his nurse. How would I feel if the tables were turned and they placed me in a vulnerable position to protect themselves? I filled out an incident report which goes on file. I guess if enough reports get filled out it puts the hospital in a stronger position to refuse to readmit him in the future. The nurse on the shift after me got hit in the face by him. If I hadn't filled in my report I would have felt awful that his behaviour had gone unreported. 

I dreaded going in to work today. I tried to keep a physical distance between myself and this patient but nursing is a hands on job and there were times I was helping to dress him and helping him in and out of bed and I was so scared being in arms reach of him. What can you do? I left work frazzled and tired and anxious to get home. I rang my sister from the car park and told her put the kettle on for me. I was irritated that I had had to work on a little bit late. Only ten minutes but ten minutes I would have rather had at home, especially given the week I had had. 

As I neared home the car in front braked sharp and pulled in to the kerb. Ahead was a smashed up car in the middle of the road. People were running towards it. The man in the car in front jumped out of his car and ran too. But not towards the first car. He had spotted a second car and it was way off the road in the bush with its bonnet crumpled around a tree. I pulled in behind him and looked at the two cars. I could see two people get out of the first car and plenty of people around them so I followed the man into the scrub. 

It was uneven and I ran with my feet catching in the long grass. Part of my brain was registering that I was running to an unknown. Putting myself at risk when I had three kids waiting at home for me. But the most part of me needed to know who was in the car. I was wearing my nurses uniform. I was representing my hospital, my profession. It was an older lady in the car. She was virtually untouched. After a check over and lots of questions I helped her out of her car and we made our way back to the road. I left her with more people who had stopped to help and ran on to the first car. The two young men in it were shaken and bruised but again not badly hurt. 

Two ambulances, two fire trucks and a police car turned up to help and about an hour later I was free to get back in my car and go home. 

It was a day of extremes. 

A day that began with me questioning why I was a nurse and ending with the answer...

Advent Day 23

Second last window today...
I can't believe Advent is almost over. This time tomorrow we will be coming home from Christmas Eve Mass and getting Santas tray ready. My tummy is full of butterflies!
What are you doing today?

Making cookies.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Wangi Queen.

Last night we went on a fabulous Carol cruise around the lake we live next to.

There were about 70 or 80 people from our parish who all booked onto the Wangi Queen, a beautiful old 1920's show boat. We ate and drank and were merry while one of the ladies played Christmas Carols on a key board. We sang along from the song books that were handed out and were were surrounded by fun and laughter and dreadful enthusiastic singing!

It was such a lovely evening. Champagne and nibbles being shared amongst friends and strangers. Everyone bonding in the glow of Christmas cheer.

The weather was quite dramatic with big clouds and rumbles of thunder. At one point I stood out on the front of the boat supervising Gareth and his friends looking over the front of the boat at the water whizzing by. Gareth looked up at the sky and said "Look Mum, there's heaven"

I asked Gareth if he could see anyone looking down at him and when he said a few names it brought a lump to my throat. His friend Luke joined in and said he could see his Pop too. You just want to catch that little bit of innocence and bottle it up while they are so young and naive. When the sun set the sky went dark and we watched an amazing lightning storm zig zag over the sky.

And the finale as we neared the jetty...? A pod of dolphins swimming alongside the bow of the boat. Magic!

Advent Day 22

Carrie here,

I don't do blogs.

I dont understand many things about my sister Gina, including why she feels the need to chart the progress of everything from her cup of tea in the morning to the time she goes to bed!

Anyway, this is what I got up to with the kids while Gina was in work. We made bread, mango sorbet and remembered to open day 22 on the Advent Calendar.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Advent Day 21

It's a bright sunny day today and we have so much to do. It is my last day off before Christmas. I return to work tomorrow and work until 3.30 on Christmas Eve.

Looks like Carrie will be playing childminder over the coming days ...and ironer ...and floor washer ...and chef ...and maybe even guest blogger?!

Do I dare let her into my blogger account? Would I trust her to write about me when I am not there...?

Do I really want to know what the kids are getting up to?!

What do you think?

Monday morning....

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A big week

This is the end of a very emotional week. So many things have happened. So many tears have been shed. All happy tears I must add.

It was the kids last week in school. We went in to school early so Gareth could have one last day of swapping Pokemon cards...

Rhiannon could have one more morning of being silly...

and Sian could have one more morning of signing friends sports shirts and getting hers signed by her classmates too...

For Sian this meant that it was the end of her time in Primary school and she said goodbye to the school that has shaped and moulded her since we arrived off the plane from the UK 4 years ago. She has had some fantastic teachers in St Joseph's and they have prepared her well for her journey through High School that will begin next month.

The school organised a leaving Mass on Tuesday evening which was a lovely way to mark the end of their Primary years. They got to dress up "posh" and all the girls looked so lovely and grown up in their dresses.

On Wednesday, the last day, all the children in the school lined the playground forming a guard of honour for the year 6 students to walk through. It brought a big lump to my throat and tears to my eyes.

That evening my sister-in-law gave birth to a healthy, gorgeous baby boy that they called Tadhg. His name is a very old Irish name that means storyteller. It looks strange written down but is pronounced like tiger without the "r" at the end.

My sister was travelling the long journey from Dublin to Sydney and landed on Saturday night. On our way to the airport we were planning to call in to the hospital to see baby Tadhg. We found ourselves arriving in Sydney an hour earlier than visiting started so we stopped by my brothers house to see Tadhg's big brother Cian (3) who was being looked after by his Grandma Anne. It was an unplanned visit and we rang ahead to check it was ok for us to drop in. When Anne put down the phone she picked Cian up and told him his cousins were coming to visit. She said his face lit up and he asked "Can we dance Grandma?" and then ran around in circles laughing and squealing with excitement.

We had so much fun with Cian for the half hour we stopped in. We gave him a toy soft dog which we voted to call Patch. We shared a box of Smarties out with Cian giving away almost all of his to everyone else!

Then we dashed to the hospital to ooh and aggh over a tiny sleeping Tadhg. He looked so lovely but we didn't want to pick him up and disturb his sleep.

After hugs all around we jumped back in the car to Sydney International airport and waited anxiously for Carrie to appear in the line of people filing through the arrival gates. Would we recognise her? What would she be wearing? Would she be exhausted? Excited? Byron spotted her first and the kids ran to give her a huge hug. She didn't look at all diiferent from her last visit 3 years ago!

We doubled back to the hospital and sweet talked the night porter into letting Carrie and myself sneak in for Carrie to say a quick hello to Tadhg. He wasn't sleeping anymore. We followed the wailing down the corridor and got to see him wide awake and refusing to settle to sleep. We each got a cuddle and a chance to rock and soothe him and loved every second.

We didn't stay long and ran back down to the car to start the 2 hour drive from Sydney back to our home. We talked all the way trying to keep Carrie awake and then sat up chatting until after midnight.

Today we are vegging in the house, the kids are swimming in the pool under the watchful eye of Byron and Aunty Carrie and I am off down to the local bottle shop to buy in some refreshments for this evening! I think we need a bottle of something cold and bubbly to toast all the big events of this huge week, or maybe a box of bottles like this image I found on-line... hmmmm, yes, that will do nicely!

Advent Day 20

Auntie Carrie is here!

Jet-lag doesn't seem to have kicked in yet....
Lets see if she is still as chirpy by this afternoon!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Candy Canes and Cavities

Christmas! The time of decorations and trees of tinsel and carols of homemade cookies and candy canes....

The time of Dental check ups? Yes the last 6 months have evaporated and we got the postcard in the letterbox reminding us to squeeze a check in before the end of the year. But 8.30am on the first day of the kids school holidays... sigh :-(

Luckily we have found ourselves under the care of Anna. The sweetest dentist in the whole world. (Is sweet an inappropriate descriptive word for a dentist?) Anna is softly spoken, always smiling and tells my kids how lovely they are, how cute their T-shirts are, how adorable their accents are from the minute we walk into her room.

They argue about who gets to sit in the dentists chair first. They let her scrape and polish and fluoride coat their teeth without a murmur. They laugh at me when I pretend to refuse to have my check up at the end of theirs. Anna patiently plays along with all of our fool acting.

And so this morning we wake with shiny teeth ready to get stuck into making some dark chocolate truffles from a recipe Sian tore out of a newspaper this week. Byron is down at the shops buying the weekend papers, some croissants from the local bakers and Sian is clutching the torn out recipe in one hand and a $10 note in the other as she looks for the ingredients in the little grocery store.

In another 6 months we will be on our way back to Anna to repair the damage!

Advent Day 19

It's Saturday the 19th and Auntie Carrie is now on leg two of her 24 hour flight to Australia. Good bye Abu-Dhabi, Hello Sydney! We have paused from the mad tidy up to let Gareth open his window on the calendar.

Tomorrow is Rhiannon's turn.... or will Auntie Carrie get there first!

Friday, December 18, 2009


Today we had our 6 monthly dental check up at 8.30am. Having rushed around to get 3 kids to the dentist: dressed, fed and with minty fresh breath we decided to make the most of the morning and went on a drive into the mountains looking for a blueberry farm we have been to over the last few years. They don't advertise themselves widely. They are a family who supply to many of the restaurants in the Newcastle area but if you ring ahead they sometimes let members of the public "pick-your-own"

We had company today in the form of Karen (a friend who likes to leave wickedly sarcastic comments on this blog from time to time) and Karen's two daughters Amber and Kayla. These girls are slender and smooth skinned with long blonde hair and butter-wouldn't-melt-in-my-mouth faces. Do not be fooled. They are wild and feisty and will break many poor boys hearts in the future (while causing their Dad Simon many a grey hair in the process)

Anyway, I am wandering, back to the story...

Yesterday was a scorcher. Still 42 degrees centigrade at 6 O'Clock in the evening (That's almost 108 if you are an American reader!) Today was cooler, only 22 degrees. How can the temperature drop by 20 degrees overnight? The last few years we have picked blueberries on hot humid summer days. We have worn thick layers of sunscreen and hats and glasses. We have been eaten by mozzies and Sian even got chomped by a leach. This year we had our hats, we had our sunscreen, we had our mozzie spray, we had our cold bottles of water, we had our bottle of salt (for the leaches) We couldn't have been more prepared.

It rained

It rained heavily

It rained like someone had let Gods bath overflow and we were directly underneath it.

We got totally, utterly, absolutely soaked to the undies. And that was before the man had unlocked the gate to the blueberry enclosure. It was great fun! We picked and picked the biggest juiciest blueberries until we had 6 overflowing buckets. At one point I had more in my bucket than Kayla (remember innocent little Kayla...?!) She sweetly asked to see how many berries I had in my bucket. I bent down and leaned my bucket close to her so she could see inside and with one deft move she tipped it downwards so that half my berries tumbled down and into hers...! Are you starting to understand me? Grey hairs, lots of them...

After an hour we were shivering and our fingers were wrinkled like kids that had stayed in the bath too long. We had laughed and laughed and finally we went back to the farm house veranda and handed in our buckets to be weighed. We walked away with over 6 kilos of Blueberries between us.

We headed home wet and happy and left a trail of dripping clothes abandoned through the hallway as we ran to get first turn in the warm shower. Something tells me that we will be eating blueberries with every meal over the coming days. Blueberry pies, Blueberry muffins, Blueberry pikelets, Blueberry smoothies... Yum!

Now before I sign off I need to pre-warn you about Karen. She has often been on days out that I have blogged about afterwards. She has the nerve to say that I sometimes exaggerate the days events. She seems to think there is an element of storytelling in my writing and that sometimes the details are livened up a little to make the day sound better. She goes so far to say that when she reads my blog she knows in her head that she should take the story with a pinch of salt.

If I say the waves were 2 meters high she knows there was a gentle swell.

If I say we climbed a sheer rock face she knows we went for a stroll up a grassy hill.

If I say we were attacked by hoards of angry bull ants she knows that one or two little ants scuttled across our picnic rug.

If I say I got soaked to the undies....

.....She takes a photo!

Advent Day 18

The countdown to Christmas is speeding up, and so is the countdown to Auntie Carrie! She is boarding her flight in Dublin right now and will be landing in Sydney in 24 hours and 24 minutes!

...but will the kids let her open one of their Advent windows...!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Advent Day 17

I was wondering where Mr B would take the Advent photo today as he was looking after the kids while I was working. I needn't have wasted my brain cells, they had all forgotten about doing it when I walked in the door at 3pm! Gareth thought it was hilarious.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Rocky Road.

I had never heard of Rocky Road before we moved to Australia. For anyone who hasn't heard of it before it is chunks of nuts, lollies, marshmallows and dessicated coconut held together by melted chocolate and set into lumpy bumpy slab that you break or cut up and stuff your face with. Any Aussie readers feel free to correct or elaborate if I am off track here! We have made it a few times now and realised that everyone has a different recipe, essentially whatever they personally like.

And so the Baynham Rocky Road was born. We have come up with a delectable combination of Cadbury's Turkish delight, Peantut M+M's, Roasted Almonds, Coconut, Marshmallows and smarties all bound together by Cadbury's milk chocolate (For the record, Australian Cadbury's chocolate is no where near as good as the Irish version, I'm allowed to say that, I'm Irish...!)

At the end of the school year we know it is nice to give gifts to the kids teachers to say "Thanks" for all the hard work and effort and patience that goes into looking after and nurturing our little terrors angels. Rather than give bars of soap or worlds best teacher ornaments we like to give something that can be eaten and shared out at home and so we made a big batch of Rocky Road at the weekend to give to the teachers and of course a plate for Mr Nash who drives the kids safely home day after day.

Nothing can truly thank these people for the care they show our kids over the year but this stuff's got to come close!

Advent Day 16

It was the last day of Primary School year today and Gareth couldn't wait to get home and start playing with his toys. We ran out of time to open his window on the Advent Calendar this morning so it was one of the first things he wanted to do when he threw his school bag in the hallway!

Byron is looking after the kids at home tomorrow because I will be at work.

I wonder what tomorrows photo will be!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Advent Day 15

Tomorrow is Sians last day in Primary school (big lump in my throat as I type...)

They were allowed to sign each others sports shirts to keep as a momento.

I'm not sure I feel old enough to have a High School kid.

Ooops! Yes, there is another grey hair...
..and another...and another!