Friday, July 30, 2010

The little nurse.

Sian got a pupil free day this week. With Byron and myself both working it was an awkward one. Would we leave her home alone? Could Byron work from home? Would I take an unpaid day off from the hospital? None of these were going to work for us so I did the only thing I could think of, I smuggled her into work, sat her in a corner with her ipod, some snacks and the remote to the little tv.

Luckily I work in a lovely hospital where the staff really look out for each other. Sian had plenty of people say hello and drop her out some chocolates from the nurses desk. She even got put to work when a patient was discharged home. When the empty room was cleaned down I brought her in to make up the bed with me! It was fun teaching her envelope corners and she was fascinated by the different layers of mattress protectors, sheets, blankets and bed spreads. She is so used to having a duvet in her room that requires no bed making skills. She is a quick learner and it was fun to spend some time together out of our normal environment.

The best part was having company on my morning tea break. We found ourselves alone in the staff room giggling like a couple of girls as we took self portraits on the mobile.

I wonder if her little taste of nursing will put her off  for life or sow a seed for the future...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

House for Sale

House for sale.
3 bedrooms.
Beautiful peaceful location.
Good schools.
Mad, Irish blogging neighbour.
All offers considered.

In response to the wonderful comments left on the last post. Thank you! My ego has swollen to the size of an elephant. When I read the comments saying you thought it would be nice to live nearby I grinned like a Cheshire cat.....and then I panicked.

I have slowly built of friendships with many of you through comments and emails. Almost like a modern version of pen-pals. You have brought new worlds to my week by sharing your stories of your lives scattered all over the world. I feel like I know who you are, and yet I really don't know you if you judge "knowing" by the fact that we haven't met face to face.

The same applies in the other direction. Some of you have read this blog for a while now and I think, what if we met face-to-face? Would you be surprised...or disappointed. Would I be very normal? In writing we get the chance to think though our words, edit and re-write then before pressing publish. In real life maybe the punch-line would not be as polished. It would be the first draft. Would you still want to be my neighbour?!

And then a real-life-friend commented. Thank you Monica. You relieved my insecurities and started to let my ego inflate again. If you know the real me then maybe I'm ok. Now I need to add in Byron's opinion. Being my husband and master his word is law. He said to tell you all I am not moving anywhere to be anyone's new neighbour! I'm staying right here thank-you-very-much. He said that you are welcome to come move to Australia but don't go putting any ideas of moving in my head!

The End

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


The 12 week challenge is over.
As a group we lost 41.1kgs
We exercised for 26,477 minutes
Moral is high
...and the scales read low!
This week it is back to normality
With just one last surprise
A bunch of flowers from the ladies in the hospital kitchen 
Thanking me for 12 weeks of fun
and getting to know them 
I didn't need flowers as thanks
I'm just chuffed to have people smile and wave as we pass in the corridor
People who's name I didn't know a few months ago
Breaking down some barriers
and seeing each other as people
not just a uniform
Thank you 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Money matters

I think it is really important to teach your kids the value of money. 

Gareth is 7.

He gets a small amount of pocket money every week if he is well behaved and helps with household jobs.

Today he called for me to come quick....

...and bring the camera.

I'm very proud of him

I think he has learned at a very young age how to balance his finances....

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Granny Sheeran and the Smarties

In my family it is considered very important to remember and acknowledge the anniversaries of the death of family members. All through my childhood I remember going to Mass as a family on whatever day marked the death of one of my grandparents. My Dad's father died before Dad even met my mum. But each of us kids know the details of the story of the day of his death, the unexpected trip home my Dad made on the spur of the moment to stay in his family home for the night, being woken in the middle of the night to run for the priest, running through the dark, cold January night with only one shoe on. I feel like I was there. I feel the emotion every time my Dad retells the story. I never met my Grandad Sheeran but there is a connection through the story telling that keeps me bonded to him.

Today marks the death of my Dad's mother. I rang home and spoke to my Dad today and he started the familiar story telling. Year after year on this day we retell the same story. Not of the story of the day of her death but of my relationship with her. I was only young when she died but I have heard the story of the box of Smarties so many times that it plays in my head like a clip from an old movie. I do not know if I truly have a memory of her or if the story telling has placed it there.

I waited at the front window of our house looking out for my Granny Sheeran to join us for Sunday dinner. There would be a knock on the window and a box of Smarties would be waving at me through the glass. My Mum was busy in the kitchen cooking and preparing a big family roast dinner. I, being young, would have wanted to eat the sweets before my lunch. This won Granny squeals of excitement and the pleasure of breaking rules that is the right of a grandparent. It also caused a minor flurry of irritation to my Mum who knew I would not eat properly if I was full of chocolate.

All too soon my Granny was gone. How many meals were actually disrupted when you look at the big picture? Were the memories worth it? Even my Mum made sure to use this story as an example to me when I became a mother myself. She told me not to sweat the small stuff. To enjoy the pleasure that Grandparents bring.

Each year this story is retold to me by my Dad. It makes me stop to appreciate a little bit of my history. I don't know if in other families it is normal to remember the dates of these anniversaries? Do you mark them in your calendar? Do you ring home? Do you have the same stories told and retold?

Is it an Irish thing?

Or just a Sheeran one....

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Love is...

...eating liquorice laces together!

Friday, July 23, 2010


My brother has two gorgeous little boys. It is so wonderful to see the bond between our kids and theirs. There is a natural feeling of belonging, a feeling of being connected. Our kids feel so protective over their little cousins and love being looked up to by these two little people. There has never once been a power struggle over a toy or tears over a disagreement. Maybe it is because my brothers boys are so placid in temperament. Maybe nature has a way of preventing us from killing our relatives!

Here is a photo that I took when we last caught up. It gives me a warm fuzzy feeling.

Maybe that's just because all my kids are finally tucked up in bed.

Maybe it's the first glass of Merlot kicking in...!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sweets from Japan.

My brother brought us some Japanese sweets when he was home last month. The box was cute and the wrappers funny. We had no idea what to expect them to taste like. I used them as bribery to get the kids to hurry up and finish their homework. It worked!

We unwrapped the paper to look inside. They were semi-opaque, squidgy lumps of soft jelly covered in very fine sweet white powder. They squished between our fingers and stretched before we braved to pop them in our mouths.

They tasted strangely sweet and neutral. We couldn't agree on any one description. Floral? Mildly Turkish delight?

If I could read Japanese I might have been able to work it out from the ingredients list.

Has anyone else ever seen or eaten sweets like this...?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

12 Week Challenge: The Finale.

The 12 week challenge is almost over. 

If you want to read more about it you can here, and here and here!

35 people started
32 finished

Everyone is jumping on the weighing scales for one final weigh-in.

We are holding our breath, kicking off our shoes, removing belts and emptying pockets. If we don't like the number we see we run to the toilet for a quick pee and come back again for another go!

The exercise minutes are being added up and everyone's new Body Mass Index's are being compiled. 

The last chance to weigh in is tomorrow and then I take the book home to work out the winners. 

We will meet in a local restaurant on Friday evening and I will have envelopes of prize money to hand out! 

I can't wait. Although I tried really hard I don't think I have actually won any category. I have enjoyed the fun of my work colleagues encouraging one another and being accountable and asking if I went for that walk, or what's for tea. I have lost 5.25kgs which is half of what my Doctor has asked me to lose so I am pretty pleased. I'm hoping to keep up the healthier meals and even try to keep up the exercise (which I must admit I have hated!) so I eventually lose the next 5kgs.

My mantra is "Beauty is not a number" 

(but I still want it to be a healthy one!)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Camel Poo Lip Gloss.

On our recent holiday we had great fun going camel riding along the beach. The man who owned the camels was such a funny man and talked non-stop teaching us all about camels and how they were introduced to Australia, how many of them were in the wild, what they ate, how old they were when he retired them....
He was a mine of information. And then he told us this little gem....

"You know when you are lost in the desert? 
And you get dehydrated? 
And your lips get all cracked and chapped? 
And you lick them to soften them? 
And it doesn't help? 
And you lick them again? 
but it makes them worse? 
You look for some nuggets of camel poo on the sand. 
You break one open to expose the inside. 
You rub it back and forth across your chapped lips.....

You're thinking I'm going to tell you that it fixes them aren't you? 
Well it doesn't. 
It just stops you from licking them!"

Sunday, July 18, 2010

South African Dinner: The food.

Last night was the South African dinner. Before I start to tell you what we ate I have to admit that I thought I had tried most cultures food styles. Even the kids have eaten Mediterranean, Greek, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Thai, Australian... and lots more besides. As we drove to our friends house the kids asked if we knew what was for dinner and I had not the faintest idea. Not only have I never really eaten African food but I didn't even know what it might be. I have one friend from Zimbabwe who is a great cook but other than a curried fish pie most of what she has cooked has been Australian style food. I was slightly apprehensive that the kids might be a bit fussy if the food looked unusual. As we pulled into the driveway I had my fingers crossed and gave the kids the pep talk to be polite and not to make a fuss if they didn't like something.

I needn't have worried. It was a great evening. As soon as we arrived the kids went downstairs to play together. There was a mixture of 7 boys and girls and ages between 7 and 12 they all got on like a house on fire and just invented game after game to play. They were fed traditional South African children's food which was sausages in bread rolls. Perfect! Then they disappeared back downstairs to play and we ignored the screams of laughter from below as we topped the wine glasses up and got ready to tuck into our South African feast!

Lucy and Rob had gone to so much trouble to prepare some traditional foods that are very time intensive in their preparation. Lucy had made her own Biltong which is slow dried, salted and spiced strips of meat. It was very similar to Beef Jerky in its texture and it really tasted amazing. Rob explained that it was typically brought to football games as a snack to eat because a little goes a long way and takes quite a bit of chewing to eat!

Rob cooked big spiral coils of dense sausages called Boerewors on the bbq (braai in South Africa) All this was eaten outside in the crisp, cold winter night air with us wrapped in layers to keep warm. The deck on the back of their house overlooks a large area of bush land so all we could see were the stars and the shadows of the gum trees. It was magic.

We moved inside and were served a Biriyani layered with rice, meat and nuts with poppadums and mint chutney. This was washed down with generous amounts of South African red wine which flowed with as much enthusiasm as the conversation. After the main meal we had Koeksisters which are plaited deep fried pastries that had been coated in a shiny syrup. They were sweet and delicious and went straight to my hips!

The evening was finished off by tucking into a traditional version of a lemon meringue pie that is creamier and sweeter than I have had before. It used condensed milk in the lemon curd and had a lightness to it that made it like eating soft clouds. We sipped a liqueur called Amarula that was similar to Irish Baileys and drank tea and coffee and carried on laughing and talking as long as the kids played.

Finally after midnight Gareth was snorning on the sofa and Rhiannon found her way onto Byron's lap and told him she was going to collapse if she didnt lay in her own bed. Sian was still downstairs and in no hurry to head home! As we left we were handed a bag of dried rusks. We were told to have them for breakfast and dunk them in our tea and coffee. We have and they were good! Kind of like we had when we were kids and our mums would soak them in hot milk as a baby food. Mmmmm!

The best thing about having a mixture of friends from different cultures is the ability to share things with them that we would otherwise never experience. Some of the food last night I had never heard of, never mind eaten. More importantly to me was the snippets of the culture that I learnt by listening to the stories told as we ate. South Africa is a country with a turbulent past and not everyone's reasons for emigrating are as rosy as ours. You can read all the history books you want or watch some Hollywood movies but the stories that come from individual people and families can show you a side to history that you may never have known existed. I'm really glad to be living in such a multi-cultural country and to have made some great international friends.

I am looking forward to the big finale of the three international nights: The Aussie style BBQ! If you are reading this Maree I would like to place my order for shrimps on the barbie and a monster Pavlova.

Bring in on!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

South African Dinner.

Do you remember when I told you about the dinner party idea that my friends came up with? One Irish meal, one Australian and one South African?

Well last month we had the Irish meal here at my house. The rules for the other two families were to just turn up and we would supply everything. They didn't listen. Although I cooked all the different Irish courses they came laden down with Irish Whiskey, Irish cream liqueur and Irish beers.

Tonight is the South African family's meal. We had no idea what to bring with us so we went shopping. We found South African wine and beer easily enough at a local bottle shop. I had another idea for something that the kids could share.

Here are a few clues...


Have you guessed yet?
Are you thinking sugar rush?
Are you thinking edible flag?


How long do you think it will take for the kids to demolish this lot!
I better go get ready. I have no idea what to expect from this traditional South African meal. I don't know that I have ever actually eaten half the delicacies my friend Lucy has spent the last few weeks preparing. She has mentioned slowly drying out meat and making her own rusks. I'm intruiged....
I'll be reporting back.
Watch this space!


Friday, July 16, 2010

Do you see what I see...?

While on holidays we went to see a Koala Hospital where sick and injured Koalas are kept for anything from a few days to permanently. It was a very natural bush environment and you had to look closely to actually see the Koalas balanced precariously on the high branches...

We found out all sorts of weird and wonderful facts. Like how they have very thick pads of fat on their behinds. After seeing the branches they balance on for hours at a time I can see why they need it!

Eventually they coax them down for some milk from a syringe. They look very cute and cuddly but we were warned to be careful of their claws which are designed to cling on the branches but can accidentally curl around an unsuspecting collar bone.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sandy Feet!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Bastille Day

Today is French Bastille Day. The cafe in a rainforest we visited while on holidays had a French chef. They were celebrating all things French for the month of July. The staff wore stripes and berets. The menu had Escargots and Canard. I stuck to Chicken and Avocado sambos but had a cappuccino to feel decadent. Today I send out a big hello to anyone based in France.

A very special  "Bonjour" goes out to Corey who writes the wonderful Tongue in Cheek and my namesake Gina who is temporarily living in France with her beautiful twins while her husband is working there.

In the spirit of all things French I suggest you make a coffee or pour a glass of wine (depending on the time of day in your part of the world!) sit back and visit these two blogs, enjoy their photos and pretend for a little moment that you too are living in the land of garlic and berets and that tonight you will be serving your family Coq au Vin with fresh crunchy baguette and a rather generous glass of a hearty Cabernet Merlot!


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Beach Graffiti...

Photo overdose!

The best and the worst part of returning home from holidays is when I download the hundreds of images from my camera onto my computer.

Don't get me wrong. I love taking photos. I adore editing them, cropping, lightening, collage'ing, (is that a word?) I will happily spend hours whittling hundreds of images until I have a smaller number of photos in a folder named and dated so I can lay my hands on them in the future.

The only bad part about this is from Byron's point of view. You see I can easily let minutes run into hours and leave suitcases half unpacked in the hallway and belly's go grumbling with hunger as I am transported into photo heaven.

And so after this holiday I have been a little more disciplined. The suitcase is unpacked. It still sits empty in the hallway tripping up Mr B each time he walks down the stairs. You would think he might have got the hint and carried it up to the wardrobe by now. The dirty clothes are washed, dried and (gasp) ironed! And now today I am finally neglecting the kids and editing to my hearts content.

For the next few days I hope to upload some of my random favourites here. Some may have stories, some will just be images.

If anyone is concerned about my kids feel free to send pizza....

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Crunchy Betty

When I was a much younger version of my current self I was given a book about beauty. I think I was about 12. The book seemed so grown up. It had all sorts of tips for plucking eyebrows and applying make-up that was a whole new exciting world waiting to be explored. It was probably about then I realised how much better it was to be me than to be a boy like my brother. He had nothing exciting to aspire to other than shaving and maybe a bit of hair-gel. I had an encyclopaedia of wonderful rituals I was going to perform.

I remember rescuing the avocado peel from the kitchen as mum prepared to use this exotic and expensive treat as a starter on Christmas day . I mashed bananas and mixed them with honey and lay on the bathroom floor as the goo melted down my cheeks and into my ears. I was young, had all the time in the world and all the enthusiasm to go with it.

Fast forward a few (cough) years. Welcome to the current me. I still love the idea of pampering. The only problem is that is is just that, an idea. There simply are not enough hours in the day. I'm a mum, a wife, a sister, a daughter, a Nurse, I help at school, I help at Church, I cook, I clean, I tidy up, I launder, I take photos, I blog, I try to exercise, I occasionally find time to use the bathroom.

Most evenings when I finish the seemingly never ending list of  "To-Do" jobs I collapse onto the sofa and snuggle next to Byron and we watch a program on the tv to try to unwind and escape mentally to another place. Maybe Bear Grylls plunging (naked) into an icy lake and eating grub larvae or Tribal wives learning about another culture or maybe Spicks and Specks, the funny Australian music quiz show that makes us laugh so loud we have to rewind to re-watch and laugh again, and again!

If I was granted one spare hour each day by a magic fairy how would I spend it? Would I just let the "To Do" list expand into it? Would I sit in an arm-chair with a book? Would I exercise, learn some Yoga or maybe mash a banana?

Last week I came upon a blog written by Crunchy Betty. Isn't that is a name that grabs you?! I bet the 12 year old Crunchy Betty lay on her bathroom floor as banana goo melted and ran down her cheeks and into her ears. The thing is that the fast-forwarded adult Crunchy Betty still does. She has a blog dedicated to the recipes that she loves and the ingredients that she combines to make them. She's not selling anything. She's just helping people like me discover their inner 12 year old again.

On her blog she shares the recipe for a face mask made with fresh coffee grounds, cream, honey and cocoa. I chose a day I was at home, the kids were in school and I wasn't expecting any visitors. I made myself a coffee and used the warm leftover grounds to make up the face mask. It looked and smelt like a bowl of chocolate mocha truffle. Just as I was going to disappear to bathroom floor heaven the doorbell rang. I cannot begin to tell you how grateful I was that my friend Heidi surprised me with a visit at that exact moment in time and not 10 minutes later. Heidi came bearing chocolate so I put the kettle on again so we could share it. I had a bit of explaining to do as her eyes took in the mess of my kitchen. I think she secretly wished her timing had been delayed so she could have seen me looking daft! As she left she told me It would make a good photo. And so here you are... Thank you Crunchy Betty, not just for making my face glow but for making my soul 12 again!

Friday, July 09, 2010

Simple fun.

Sometimes the best part of a holiday is doing stuff that costs nothing...

All the material things we bought or paid for this week won't stay in our memories as long as these ones will!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Winter madness

It's Winter here in Australia and only last week I was scraping ice from my car on my way to work.

We threw the swimming bag in the boot of the car as we packed for out holidays. The only way I thought it would be needed was if we found an indoor pool somewhere. I was wrong!

At what age do we develop our sense of freezing?! My kids clearly have yet to develop theirs. We woke up to bright sunshine today so they stripped off and spent an hour jumping and splashing in the sea on the beach outside our holiday house.

Most of the photos are on my proper camera which I am unable to access for the blog until we are home in the land of wireless Internet. I'm trying to take the odd photo on my mobile so I can mobile blog. I look forward to showing you some of my proper camera pics next week.

For now here is another mobile shot. It doesn't quite do the temperature justice.

Think blue skin!
Think shivering!
Think Winter!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Camel rides.

The weather has been a bit damp and drizzly. One of the things the kids were excited about doing was visiting a local man who has camels and allows you to ride them on the beach. We met him earlier in the week and he explained that he would not transport the camels to the beach in wet weather as it was not safe for the camels in the trailer if their hooves were wet. Every day since it has rained... Until today!

When we woke it was overcast but dry. We headed to lighthouse beach and met up with John and his amazing camels. He told us so much about them and how camels were introduced to Australia and how well they adapted to the outback conditions. He told us about the introduction of the truck and how people had no more need for their camels and let them run wild. There are now 1.75 million wild camels roaming Australia.

John has 8 that he keeps in a large paddock. Some have retired and he feeds them and let's them enjoy their days, some he bought sick and skinny and is hoping to raise them back to good health. One was overfed and fat and he is trying to gently exercise back to good weight and one has a creaky knee that is puzzling the local vet. It was time to meet Obama, Neptune and King Farouk and go camel trekking!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

The tomato that wanted to be a strawberry...

Today we went exploring and found "Ricardoes" tomato and strawberry farm. We were hoping to do the pick-your-own strawberry thing but unfortunately it has been cloudy all week and there were very few red berries so the farm had put a temporary stop on picking. We could just look, torture!

To distract the disappointed kids we joined the farm tour around the tomato sheds with a coach full of walking stick wielding retiree's! It was actually good fun and great for the kids to see food being grown and harvested. Gareth picked a lettuce and named him Larry. We got a net bag of freshly picked cherry tomatoes that were so red and glossy they looked fake! The farm also sells many products made from their tomato and strawberries.

We headed home and had the most amazingly delicious lunch. Less than an hour from farm to table. That's what I call fresh!

Monday, July 05, 2010

Dad time...

One of the best things about holidays for me (and the kids!) is having Byron around to share in the fun. It's so good to be able to take a back seat in the parenting and watch them interact...

Sunday, July 04, 2010


It's school holidays and we are enjoying a much needed break from school...

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Congratulations Joe!

My younger brother Joe and his wife sponsored us when we were applying for our Australian Visa. We are really proud of Joe today as he has flown home from Japan to receive a big promotion at work. We think it is best to keep on his good side as he is now going to be the best person to go to if we need a loan...
Love you Joe!

Friday, July 02, 2010

Because she's worth it....

Rhiannon was in a band concert this week. 

She normally looks like a bird has nested in her hair by the time I turn up at these sorts of occasions. 

She has the sort of hair that doesn't like being brushed on the shoulders of a little girl who doesn't like it being brushed. 

We bought a fancy leave-in hair product last weekend which nourishes the hair and repairs it from within (?) 
It's price tag reflects this. 

It has shimmer. It has shine. It cost a small mortgage. It's half gone... 

If Mr B says anything when we find ourselves throwing a new container of this product in the trolley next weekend I will show him these photos.

Some things are priceless.

My daughter not looking like a homeless ragamuffin pulled through a fence backwards is one of them!