Friday, January 29, 2010

Back to School.

Today was the first day back to school for all three kids. There was great excitement last night polishing shoes and laying out uniforms. After 6 weeks of holidays we are all ready for a bit of routine. I went to bed with the familiar and comforting sight of  three school bags in a line by the front door, three pairs of shiny shoes next to them, three hats, three drink bottles, three lunch boxes, three fruit containers, three .....

I think you get the message. My need for calm consistency after weeks of wonderful chaos was as strong tonight as my need for wonderful chaos after a whole school year of calm consistency back in December!

Sian was the first to leave. She went off with Byron while I got ready to bring Gareth and Rhiannon. We imagined that Sian might have been the nervous child, seeing as how she was starting in a new High School. It was Gareth who surprised us by getting a wobbly lip a few minutes after Byron's car pulled down the driveway.  He cried for his big sister and said he was going to miss her looking after him in the playground and on the school bus home. Lots of hugs and reassurance from Rhiannon and we were finally back on track and ready to jump in our car and the begining of a new year of adventures and learning!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Blast from the past!

Tonight we had a visitor for tea, my cousin from Mitchelstown in Ireland who is travelling around Australia. My cousins in Mitchelstown are my second family. They live on a dairy farm originally run by my Grandad, then taken over by my Uncle and now in the very capable hands of one of his sons.

When I was growing up I spent many holidays on the farm. A city child thrown into wellie boots and let out to play in the fields with cousins, building cubby houses, avoiding cow pats and helping out nervously in the milking parlour.

When I changed from child into teenager I relished getting away from the city I was growing up in, a city where the clothes you wore and the school you attended defined you. The farm was a place where you wore a pair of hand me down overalls that blended in, no-one knew your school when you spoke of it and you were defined by your words and actions not your clothes. I found it a relief at times to escape down there.

When I left home and started nursing I found myself doing night duty where I would work 7 nights straight and then get 7 days off afterwards. I grew to love those weeks off. I often went from my last shift at the hospital to the big bus station in Dublin and slept on the coach to Mitchelstown. My Aunt was always there waiting for me. Waving and with a big grin from ear to ear. A big hug. Always telling me I looked a million dollars no matter how dishevelled I knew I really was.

My Aunt told me I would marry a farmer. She never had a particular one in mind. She just thought I suited the country way of life. A year later I went to a Greek Island, met a handsome Welsh man, not a farmer but a computer whizz kid. Life has a funny way of running in its own direction.

Last night was so good. Hearing my cousin tell stories of his time in Australia in his broad accent that brought a whirlwind of great memories tumbling through my head. I love taking photos but I was so busy catching up with my cousin that I didn't take many of him. I did however run outside for a minute to take photos of his great car, a 34 year old yellow Toyota Celica. A beautiful car with perhaps as many wonderful old stories and memories hidden under it's bonnet as are currently swimming around my head!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Happy Australia Day!

Today is Australia Day!

We are a mixture of nationalities in our house. Irish Mother, Welsh Father, kids born in England and since April 2008 we are also all Australian Citizens.

Today is a day to celebrate what we have become without forgetting where we came from.

A day of BBQ's, green + yellow face paint, sausages, flags and a trip to Speers Point to join in the throngs of other families enjoying the live music and hot chips!

Happy Australia day to you too!
Wherever you may be...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sweet Dreams...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Seriously Studious Sian!

Sian is starting in High School in less than a weeks time. We decided to get her a good sized desk now so that she can have a designated area to study and store all school related stuff. Start as you mean to continue and all that!

We searched until we found a desk that fitted our dimensions and pocket. It was a flat packed unit from a local office supply chain store. Two men hauled the boxes into our boot outside the shop and we nearly  broke our backs getting them out and into the garage back at our house.

I get a tad excited about flat pack furniture. The mixture of logic, lousy diagrams, missing screws and power tools gets my heart rate racing. As soon as Byron left for work the next day Sian and I got tidying and making space in her bedroom for the desk. By mid morning we had ripped open the boxes in the garage and were running up the stairs with panels A-Q under our arms.

Next came the bags of fittings and the drill. I decided it was time Sian got to grips with how to use power tools and boy did she like it!

Rhiannon and Gareth soon made their way into the room to see what all the fuss was about. They too had a few goes at screwing pieces together using the drill on low speed. They loved every second of it. I was in danger of not getting a chance to use the drill myself, unheard of in our house.

By lunchtime the main desk was assembled. We had a break in the afternoon and then finished off the over desk storage before bedtime. It looks amazing.

Sian summed it up when she said "It's kind of good that they don't deliver the desk to you already made. When you have to screw all the pieces together yourself you get to see the different stages of the desk being built and you want to look after it really well cause you spent a whole day making it"

That's my girl!

Thank You.

For all the wonderful comments left on the last post, a big Thank You.
Any doubts I had are well and truly gone.
You are a great bunch of women.
Real-life or on-line, I am proud to count you as my friends!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Why I love blogging...

The subject of blogging brings out lots of different opinions amongst my friends and family. Some love it, some  hate it.

When I started blogging back in 2005 it was because Byron had set this blog up for me and was convinced it was going to be the best thing since sliced bread. He was so excited at this idea of an on-line dairy that could be accessed by Grandparents and friends as we embarked on our big emigration adventure. I was a little unsure about whether I would manage to keep the momentum going over a period of time. I had always loved the idea of keeping a written journal and had started many (usually on the first of January of many countless years) The reality was my words looked bland on paper. I couldn't rework them without crossing a line through them and starting over. Not a good look in a pretty covered notebook.

But blogging... I could sit down and write a story, then re-word and edit it till it was exactly what I wanted to say. And photos!... How better to make a story or diary entry sing that to intersperse it with photos, pictures of the detail that bring the words to life. Yes, I could have printed and stuck photos into a notebook but I never would have. It would have been too much work. I would have found excuses. Printer has run out of ink, I used the last of the sticky tape last week...

I didn't realise as I wrote my first few blog entries that I had found something that was going to bring me so much enjoyment over the coming years. I truly thought as I started blogging that it would be my own diary, stored on-line and hopefully read by family and a few friends so that they could share our journey to Australia. It never occurred to me that over time other people would read it. People I didn't know. I knew in theory that anyone could stumble across the blog but I figured our lives were just average and normal and wouldn't keep the interest of strangers coming back for more. Maybe if I did I would have considered writing under anonymous names, calling my kids by nicknames or initials to protect our identity. The reality is that by the time our blog was being read by other people the choice was gone.

Now 4 years later I find that I am writing the blog for me, for Byron, for our kids. A way of reinforcing my terrible memory with the details of their day to day life so that I can look back on these stories and pictures in the future and reminisce about the good old days. A place to show off my favourite photos when I have finished editing them. Yes, Grandparents still read it, and a handful of UK + Irish friends but increasingly there is a group of people all over the world reading it too. In fact the majority of the comments left are by other blog readers rather than people we know in our real life.

The statistics are quite staggering. In 2009 our blog had over 8,000 visits from over 1,700 people from 55 countries around the world. About 20% of those visitors stopped by just once. Probably stumbling across us while looking for something else. 80% of those visitors have returned multiple times. Most don't leave comments but those that do brighten my day. I always follow the links back to the blogs of those who leave comments. A curiosity as to who they are and a chance to see more about who it is that is reading about our life. Often I find myself regularly returning to their blogs and striking up the modern day equivalent of pen pal friendships with them.

Mostly they are Mums or women who have a love of similar things to me. I have found the most amazing people who inspire me by their stories, their honesty, their photography. They make me strive to try new things, new recipes, new creative ideas with the kids, new styles of photography using a point and shoot camera. They challenge me with their opinions, not always the same as mine. Their culture, their religious beliefs, or disbelief. They challenge me with their life stories, many of which are very different than my own.

I understand that most of my real flesh and blood friends and families don't have their own blogs. I know that many throw their hands in the air and say they would rather pull their teeth out than share the day to day details of their lives with the world. I know some worry about the safety of our family when we write so much about ourselves in such a public way. I know that I am leaving a web footprint of my thoughts and opinions that I have to be accountable for. I know that I cannot take back what I upload. We all make choices. We all live by them.

Over the last few weeks I have been filled with doubts. I have struggled with the possibility that I am naive and that I may one day in the future regret that blog that I write today. Should I stop blogging? Should I start again under a new name, anonymous, or password protected only to be shared with people I know in real life..?

But then you commented. You left me messages that made my heart swell with pride. You flattered me and encouraged me and made my day with your questions, your praise, your opinions.

I may not always feel this way but for now I love blogging. I weigh it up and I see the good that comes from it. For now it brings nothing but positive into our lives. Thank you for your comments, your support, your friendship. For now the Baynham Blog will be carrying on as normal...

...or as normal as our life can be!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Norah Head

Today we went on an adventure. We got a text a few days ago asking us to meet some friends at the entrance to the kids school at 8.30 this morning. We were to wear swimmers, bring towels, water and picnic food and lots of sunscreen. It was an early start for a school holiday morning but we made it on time.

We followed a convoy of friends on a one hour drive to a place I have never been before called Norah Head. It was spectacular. There was a rocky outcrop where the waves pounded the rock pools. We set out our towels and let the kids explore around us while us Mums chatted and put the world to rights.

Its amazing how 14 kids aged from 5 to 13 can play side by side in blissful harmony without killing each other... and how 7 Mums can spend 9 hours in each others company and not run out of conversation!

We are home now and tingly from our day in the sun. There is enough sand in our hallway to start up our own small beach and the washing machine is groaning with the weight of all the wet towels and swimmers. I'm off for a shower and an early night. The cleaning up can wait till the morning!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Today Rhiannon had a friend here to play while Sian went off to another friends house. They came up with a plan to do a fashion photo shoot. They called me in and explained exactly how they wanted the photos to look, including that they wanted a fan to blow the hair back off their faces as I snapped!

They were so funny as they got dressed up and put on their lip gloss and shoes. I got out the camera and they had their turns posing while the other held the fan up to create their windswept look!

They regularly checked the screen on the back of the camera to check if the photos were what they were expecting.

The big finale was when they decided they wanted to have clothes and fabric falling through the air so in turn one stood and posed while the other threw armfuls of dressing up clothes in the air to tumble down on the grinning model.

We went straight from the photo shoot to the editing room (the family computer!) where they analysed the photos deleting and making me crop them to their specifications. These girls sure do know what they want. I just cant wait till they are famous in the fashion world and I get to sit in the front row at Fashion Week pointing at them and saying "I did their very first fashion shoot you know..."

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Byron has a love of single malt whisky. On his 40th Birthday he got a few bottles from friends and family. On a visit to Ireland the year he turned 30 I secretly bought him a beautiful silver whisky measure. It can be turned either way for a single or a double. The silver has Celtic patterns worked into it and the handle is made of petrified bog oak. Whenever Byron gets his whisky out he enjoys the ceremony of pouring it. It starts with choosing carefully which bottle to sample. Out comes the measure and the glass. His favourite glass is one given to us on our wedding day back in 1996. It is hand made in the Waterford crystal factory which has now, sadly, closed down due to the recent economic crisis.

One of the bottles of whisky that Byron got on his 40th last August came from my Mum and Dad. Knowing they had planned a visit to us he has delayed opening their bottle so that he could share the moment with them. Finally one night last week the bottle came out of the cupboard along with the measure and the glasses. There was much discussion and reminiscing as the whisky was poured and swirled, sniffed and savoured.

The best part of the evening was sitting back, chilling out and watching two men that are really important to me sharing a bloke'ish moment. Excuse the tiny photo. I took it with my phone. I didn't want to spoil the moment by rushing away to grab my real camera. Its only a snapshot but when I look at it I smile and feel like I am back sitting at the table with them. Some moments in life are worth more than you can justify with words and for me this is one of them...

Monday, January 18, 2010

Brown Bread recipe.

Here is the recipe I follow for the Brown Bread I talked about on the last post. Debbie asked for it in the comments section and so I am delighted to share it with you! I love all your comments. It is a good feeling knowing that someone else enjoys my random words and photos. I love posting a new blog entry and then seeing the comments appear over the next few hours. Thanks for the compliment semicrunchymama.   Carrie, you wished we were neighbours, well my brother will be heading to Japan next week. I'll stick a bag of bread in his suitcase for you! Belinda, It's true we are almost neighbours. I've seen your son eat. I'm not sure I could afford to invite you around for morning tea! Maybe I will have to meet you in the local park again soon...

Anyway back to the bread. It is my Mums recipe that she used when I was growing up in Dublin. I print it onto plain paper bags and then share out portions amongst friends. It saves them asking for the recipe and me taking forever to remember to give it to them! I thought the easiest way to share it was to just take a photo of today's bread complete with an empty paper bag that is soon to be filled and sent down to Sydney to my brother in the morning.


Brown bread

When feeling homesick...

Make home-made brown bread from Granny's recipe...

Wrap some with love to share with friends...

Serve the rest with a thick spread of creamy butter, topped with smoked salmon, freshly ground pepper and a squeeze of lemon...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

What could be better...?

What could be better than a bottle of top quality wine..?

...An empty bottle of top quality wine!

Purchased for my brothers wedding back in 2003, a few bottles survived the festivities and have been hidden away by his in-laws, Anne and Kel, for special occasions. This week was one of them. A big family meal with Mum, Dad, Anne and Kel joining us around our table. We toasted family present and far away and even though the tissues came out a few times it was a great night. I'm just having emotional difficulty throwing away the empty bottle now...

Saturday, January 16, 2010


I was walking Sian to her friends house the other evening. It was about 6pm and everything seemed to be very calm. 

Maybe it was the contrast to our house which is currently full of chatter and noise while we have Grandparents visiting. 

I walked slowly home enjoying the quiet and the breeze and noticing lots of lovely little plants that normally are unseen as we drive past in a rush to get somewhere else. 

I only had my mobile phone camera with me but I took a few photos as I walked. 

Some of these plants are native Australian and some have been brought in many years ago from Europe and America...

Do you recognise any of these plants from where you live? 

Friday, January 15, 2010


Work has been quite consuming this week. I have felt guilty knowing that my parents are at home looking after the kids and have wanted to be there with them to share in the fun. Luckily I had a day off today and have no more midweek shifts only a few weekend ones between now and the kids going back to school.

To celebrate my new found freedom we went to the park today to burn off some energy and laugh. I got on the play equipment with the kids because there was no-one else around to see as the kids tried to counter balance my weight by all getting on the other end of the see-saw!

How do kids manage to lift your spirits just when you need it? I think it must be the sheer distraction of not being able to think of other things when surrounded by their "busyness" Their laughter and my sore behind was tonic for my soul.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Christening.

The Christening was wonderful. It was a HOT day and wearing smart clothes in a non air-conditioned church nearly melted us all! I think it must have hit 40 degrees C (104 F) at some point. Thank God for an old fashioned  Spanish souvenir fan that appeared out of Anne's handbag and got shared around!

It was an emotional day. For the first time since my parents arrived in Australia a week ago we managed to get our whole family under the same roof. It only lasted just over an hour until the Christening was over and then my sister had to leave from the church to the airport. Lots of tears smudging make-up in the emotional setting of an old church. Hugs, goodbyes and then waving into the distance.

We went back to my brothers house to spend the afternoon in air-conditioned cool. This is one of my favourite photos of the day. My three kids just star struck over their newly Christened cousin...

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Busy week.

I don't normally leave a week between updates on the blog but it has been a busy week. My parents are visiting and we have a full house. This week is an overlap with my sister here too and it will be a big finale tomorrow when my brother has his christening for his new baby. It will be the first time that my family will all have been  together in a few years so we are really looking forward to it.

It has been a hot week. We went for a great walk in Wangi this morning and although it was 35C (95F) it felt lovely under the dappled light of the gum trees. Everyone is having a siesta now, sleeping off their lunch and getting ready for a relaxing evening before our early start to the Christening tomorrow.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Hunter Valley

We love getting in the car and driving up to Hunter Valley Vineyards. The whole area is lush and green and the long straight rows of vines stretch off to meet the mountains everywhere you look. Many of the vineyards are open to the public and have cafes and gift shops to encourage you to come in and sample their wares. Today it was raining and we were feeling a bit cabin feverish so we decided we needed a dose of fresh air, gum trees, green vines and good coffee. We didn't take many photos because of the weather but I enjoyed  being in the passenger seat and still managed to try taking photos from inside the moving car!

I'll leave you with a photo of my view during the drive....!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

The 4 Amigos

What better way to start a new decade than surrounded by friends.

Oh, and by sitting yourself as physically far away from your wives and children as is possible without getting wet!

It's a hard life for the 4 Amigos...!

Friday, January 01, 2010

New Year 2010