Monday, January 31, 2011

Back to School

Gareth and Rhiannon went back to school today :-(

They were very happy to go and meet their friends and teachers.

Sian and myself had the day together as she doesn't go back until tomorrow. We had one of Sians friends join us at the school and after we said goodbye to the little ones we all spent the day together.

Tomorrow normal life resumes with Sian returning to High School and me returning to normal work hours. I have really enjoyed having extra time with the kids over these holidays. Why do they have to go so fast!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

NinjaBread Men.

Gareth has been begging me to buy him something recently. Not an obvious choice for an eight year old boy. We are not talking DS games or Rugby boots. We are talking cookie cutters. 
Now before you think he is not a very macho or cool boy let me show you what type of cookie cutters....

This weekend we relented and bought a set to the kids delight. We made a big batch of cookie dough up and made and iced our first set of these fighting cookies! 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Dobell House: Part two

When we left the cafe we knew we were close to Dobell house. We just didn't know exactly where it was. We decided to go for a random walk to see if we could find it. If we walked the wrong way we joked that it would just help us to walk off the "huge" lunch we had just consumed! Just as we were about to stop and walk back to where we had started we saw a glimpse of a white building. We were there! We balanced my camera on the grass and set it to the self timer so we could all be in it. It slipped a little and went on an angle which I think looks fun and quirky. I think it was a sign of what was to come!

We went inside and found two old ladies at a small counter with a biscuit tin to collect the entry money. It cost $8 per adult and kids were free. Anne had rung before Christmas to ask how she could buy Byron and myself a gift voucher. The volunteer there that day said it wasn't something they did but that he could hand write her a receipt if she came in and paid in advance. We had the receipt that showed the $16 was paid for "two adult entries in January" Anne got out her own money to pay her entry and that's when the confusion began. The two poor old ladies had absolutely no idea what we were trying to do. All they knew is that they had never seen anything like our voucher before in their life. They got themselves in a twist about how much we needed to pay (one Adult entry) And whether the kids were paid for (they are free) and whether I was with the group (yes I was) and what on earth the piece of paper was that we were showing the (the receipt from Anne paying for our entry in December) and which volunteer had been there on the day Anne paid (a little old man with a dog) Who must have been Ron (I guess so?) and why would Ron not have written VOUCHER on the top of the receipt in capital letters (I have no idea) and how it was all so unusual and not at all what they were used to (poor ladies) 

Eventually we all reached friendly agreement that if we paid $8 for Anne we should be ok to look around! It was absolutely wonderful. The house was just as it was when the artist died in the kitchen of a heart attack in 1970 as he was making his tea. The book that Anne had given us really made the house come to life as we had read so many little anecdotes about him and his eccentricities. One of the beautiful things I remembered and told the kids was how he came to live there. The house was built by his Dad and brothers. When the parents died the house was left between the 6 siblings who gave their part shares to their artist brother Bill for free so he could live and paint there. His spinster sister Annie had nursed her parents in their frail years and continued to live there in the only bedroom and she cooked and cleaned for him and then in time he cared for her as she aged and finally died there. You got the impression of a kind man from a close family and it really did feel very magical to stand there in his home as it looked while he lived there. 
The magic moment truly happened when we walked up a stairs to a studio he built and painted in. It had a small cane bed in the corner where he slept and all his easels and paint brushes were there in front of us to touch and feel. The wooden floor was covered in splashes of paint and there were some black and white photos on the wall showing him in his studio. 
Rhiannon noticed that in one he is sitting in a cane chair and the chair was next to her. She sat in the chair and you can just see the photo in the background with William in a similar pose.
We really had a fantastic day today. Packed full of funny stories and memories and made even better by Anne getting to share the day with us. 
I can't wait to see what she thinks up for next year... No pressure Anne...Just saying...!

Dobell House: The build up....

We got a very unusual Christmas present this year. Instead of a "thing" we were given a book and a receipt. The book was all about the life of a famous Australian artist called William Dobell. The unexpected twist was that he lived down the road from our house and his home has been preserved since he died in 1970 by a group of volunteers. We had been given a voucher for our entry to the house any weekend in January. There was some smallprint though. The admission was only valid if we brought Anne with us, the friend who gave us the gift!

There is a long rambling story about our morning leading up to our trip to Dobell house. I'm blogging it here for us to look back on and laugh in the future so go have a cuppa and come back to read again in an hour if you just want to know about the cultural part of the day.... You're still here? Sucker for punishment. Here goes...

We went today and decided to go for lunch first. We found a very nice looking cafe with modern tables and umbrellas outside. It looked quite trendy and had a chalkboard menu that was just lists of words run together like egg, ham, toasted, open, melt etc. We could barely make out what anything actually was or what prices things were. Overall our impressions were of a hip and trendy kind of cafe. We wandered inside to get a table and we couldn't have been more surprised. The cafe was being run by a couple that were easily in their 60's. The man was busy in the kitchen and the woman was taking orders on a little paper pad. The inside was quite old fashioned (in a nice way) It had plaster moulding around the walls, original flooring, 70's style coffee table next to a modern sofa and a gathering of small cafe tables and chairs.

We took our seat and waited. When the lady took our order she basically told us all the possible ingredients, asked us which we liked the sound of and then told us what she was going to make us. We had no idea of cost and not much point asking from what we could see. Anne commented on how lovely and cool it was inside compared to the scorcher of a day outside. The woman said it was all thanks to her ceiling fan, then walked away and turned it off?! We were left wondering if Anne's comment had been misinterpreted as the fan being too cool?

As we waited for the lunch and coffees Anne moved her chair a little and it promptly collapsed on the ground leaving Anne looking at the ceiling from her new position on her back on the cafe floor. We got a fright and jumped to help her but luckily she was fine. The man came to see if Anne was ok, got her a new chair and went away back to the kitchen. We were discussing what a bizarre morning we were having and laughed it off.

Finally after an hour of waiting 5 of the 6 lunches came out. They were so tiny we all dropped our chins on the table and had to stifle laughter. My breakfast muffin with egg, ham and wilted spinach looked about the size of a small cookie. When she asked if I wanted a knife and fork I wanted to say it would be easier to pop it in my mouth in one go! It tasted delicious and I really wasn't complaining because I wasn't starving. Anne's and the kids lunches were equally simple, tasty but wouldn't leave you stuffed! We all finished our lunches but poor Byron was still sitting waiting for his. When he was close to getting up and leaving the lady came across to serve him. I was so glad he had his back to the kitchen because you can read Byron's face like a book and I was laughing at what I was reading!

When we went to pay they said that they only took cash. We only had a card. When Byron seemed surprised that they didn't have a modern till with a swipe machine he asked the lady where the nearest money ATM machine was (Surely a frequent question if they only took cash) She looked at Byron, shrugged and said she had no idea...

Poor Anne had to rescue us with cash she had in her wallet which Byron really felt bad for because she was already treating us to the Dobell house trip. Anne just laughed at him and said she had always planned on paying as it was part of the Christmas present.

We left the cafe laughing and talking about how the lunch would be one we would remember for a very long time! The funny thing is that the couple looked like they were so busy. Even though they were really slow they had faces that looked like they were trying to juggle many tasks and we could imagine them putting their feet up at the end of the day and chatting about how they had been run off their feet!

Now I'm going for a cuppa myself and will be back with part two: The batty old volunteer ladies who couldn't work out our pre paid entry voucher and the wonderful trip into the life of William Dobell...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Lemonade Scones with a twist.

Gar loves being allowed in the kitchen to  bake. Especially when I turn a blind eye to him climbing up on the kitchen counter in his pyjamas and bare feet!

He whizzed up a variation on our Lemonade Scones this week. He added chopped dates and walnuts and they were GOOD!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Australia Day 2011

Happy Australia Day everyone!
We were up at 7am and made an early trip to the beach before the 38 C heat kicked in.
Gar and Rhiannon asked me to dig a "really deep" hole for them...
At least there was no risk of sunburn buried up to their necks in cool sand!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Summer Wishlist No:28

No: 28 Have fun making (and drinking) cocktails using the glasses I got from my mum two years ago....

Monday, January 24, 2011

Cupcake madness!

Last week we had our second Annual Cup Cake making extravaganza!
It was wild. It was sticky. It was fun!
We had 11 kids and made 113 cup cakes. 
The idea behind the day was to offer back a days childcare to each of my friends who took my kids on the Thursdays I had to work over the School Holidays. 
Instead of having each of their kids on different days I threw it all together into one huge day of kids and noise and sticky floors. 
The kids were great. 
There was not a single disagreement or raised voice. 
Probably because I held off letting them eat their sugar filled creations until just before their parents came to collect them!!!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Lambton Pool

Today was another scorcher. The forecast for the coming week is well into the 30's every day. Today was 36C degrees. Rhiannon suggested going to a local outdoor pool in Newcastle. It seems a bit daft to pay in to another pool when we have one in our own backyard but there was a water-slide at the public one so we relented.

We packed up after lunch and stopped at the petrol station for newspapers and magazines. We paid the grand total of $13 entry and another $5 for tickets to the water slide. For the next 4 hours the kids swam in the 4 different pools (including a mega deep diving pool with 1 meter boards 3 meter boards and a diving tower!)

We all went up and down the slide a few times as you can see from this video. The first out are Gareth and Rhiannon. Can you guess who is screaming her head down all the way in the second inflatable?!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Summer Wishlist No:19

No: 19 Have a meal overlooking the sea at sunset. 

Today was a scorcher. Almost too hot to be out in the middle of the day. We spent until after 4pm inside catching up on house stuff and then finally headed out to get some fresh air.

We used the new bike rack to get the three kids bikes into Newcastle where we bribed them with a cycle along the foreshore that would end at the Nobby's lighthouse Fish and Chip shop. By the time we got to it the kids stomachs were growling and then we realised that it wasn't open! We had to cycle back to the car and then on a little further in the other direction to a different Fish and Chip shop called Scratchley's who do the best Calamari in Newcastle!

As we ate our food on the rocks we watched a man who was setting up 5 fishing rods in a row to do some fishing. He was taking it all very seriously and had live fish for bait that he was storing in a plastic bucket with a battery powered aerator. This was balanced on a home made trolley made out of an old plastic milk crate, wheels and a handle so the man could transport all his fishing gear safely.

The kids watched with big eyes as he cast out each rod and within minutes Gareth and Rhiannon were making fishing rods too out of sticks and fishing line that was caught in the rocks near us.

They "fished" until sunset when we called it a night and headed home!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Summer Wishlist No:31

Back in September we created a Summer Wishlist which you can see here. Now that I look back on it I can see that we have done a few of these things and can cross them off the list...

No: 31 Order a special number plate so we can legally use our bike rack and go cycling further a field than our area.

Luckily I am only showing you a still photo of the finished job of attaching all three bikes to it. If it was a movie clip I would have to ask you to remove all young children from the room first as the air was blue with cracked knuckles and sore arms! 

Alls well that ends well and we are now cycle mobile!


The Baynham family are off to a Mexican Fiesta!
Somebody get that lady an ice cold Margarita!

Boy fun.

As a mum I find it easy to entertain girls. It seems to come naturally. Craft and painting nails: no problem! As for boys activities I have to think a little harder.

So when both girls were on a sleepover at a friends I found myself waking up to just Gareth. We had a couple of hours to pass before collecting the girls and I wanted to make it fun for him. I must admit I did consider letting him play his DS in front of the tv while I caught up on reading my favorite blogs. One happy boy and one happy mum! Gareth had other ideas.

We started with a game of indoor mini cricket...

Then went to the local bakery with Gar still in pyjamas and bed hair and bought apple danish pastries to eat by the lake...
And spent a while searching for hermit crabs...
All before 9am!

Now I think I've done my boyish stuff and I'm off to get my girls back and have a cappuccino... :-)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Hair salon

Because the girls are on their long summer holidays from school we can relax some of our normal rules. In school hair is expected to be "normal" in colour and style. For a bit of fun the girls had two small colored strands of hair attached to some of their real hair. They only last a few weeks and most likely will have fallen out before school returns. The stylist chose a spot to attach them so they can be hidden under the normal hair when it is tied back so if they have lasted that long they shouldn't cause a problem.

This is the girls waiting for the stylist to start...

And here is Sian...
And Rhiannon...
Can you see Gar in the background. He nearly died when I pretended he was next!!!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

How to entertain kids while living Down Under.

We spent the day today with friends. 
cooking sausages on the BBQ by the lake edge, 
...and all together chilling out!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Self sufficiency?

After weeks of planting and tending to her vegetable garden Sian got curious as to how her carrots were doing. They have produced great bushy fronds above the ground so she gently pulled one out to see what treasures lay beneath.

Good job we are not trying to feed our family of 5 from her veggie patch!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Summer Fun!

...and water-melon,
= Happy Kids!

Friday, January 07, 2011

Family portrait.

Oh the wonders of modern technology. 

Byron was trying to show me the forward facing camera on his new mobile and before you know it all three kids had muscled in to have a look too!

And so I present you with our first family portrait of 2011 !

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Holiday lunchtime!

Only one thing beats School Holidays...
...and that is grabbing a fresh pizza to take away, eating it on the local jetty and then sending the photo to Dad in work!

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Library lie down.

The school holidays can really take it out of you when you are 8...!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Growing up is a state of mind...

This week I had a mini School reunion. It really was mini. Just me and my friend Clare who went to school together many moons ago and now live on the other side of the world to where we first met.

When we caught up over the last couple of days we talked about how the 17 year old versions of ourselves would never in their wildest dreams have imagined themselves living these lives in the future. Living in a different country, taking chances, breaking the moulds we thought we would shape to.

But ultimately very, very happy!

Who knew that growing up didn't have to mean acting grown up!

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Card making heaven!

One of my hobbies is making things, anything really. From once in a lifetime things like making my own guitar through to simple things like making a friend a Birthday card. 

Since we emigrated I feel that I have to put effort in not to let my friendships in the UK and Ireland fizzle out. It can be hard with the time difference to find a good time to pick up the phone where both people are awake and not rushing to do the school run or falling into bed at the end of a busy day. One of the things that helps is using birthdays as a chance to keep in touch. Thank God for Google calendar and it's "repeat annually" function that keeps my current calendar up to date! 

A few years ago I started to make my own Birthday cards. I made a huge mess and took hours to produce a very average card but I had fun and persevered. When I found myself returning to work as a Nurse time became even more precious a commodity and I found that there were a lot of panic trips to the local shop to buy shop bought cards and get them in the post where they invariably arrived late. 

Last year I took advantage of the January school holidays where I took annual leave to care for the kids at home. I decided that we would have a day of card making (whether they liked it or not!) I let them drift away from the table after a couple of creations and then made a hell of a mess for the rest of the day and blamed the kids when Byron walked in the door from work 8 hours later! It was great as a birthday approached to know that I had a card on standby but I underestimated the number I would need and ran out by June. Luckily the kids had another school holiday in July. Guess what activity I planned for them? Lucky kids!

This year I made a list. Don't you just love lists? They give me a smug sense of control as I write them and then I promptly lose them! This list had every birthday, anniversary, Fathers day and Mothers day on it. I counted and realised that I needed just over 100 cards. I had two choices. Tell my friends to stuff the friendship or neglect my kids and husband for a few days and lock myself in the spare room and have some fun covering the floor in gems, sticky tape and off-cuts of paper.  

The kids survived. Byron did a marvellous job making meals out of tinned beans, cereal and chocolate biscuits! I have a trashed spare room but a carpet covered in cards of every shape and colour imaginable. Byron thinks I have saved him a small fortune compared to buying 100 shop bought cards. What he doesn't know is that I plan on spending a small fortune in the stationary supply shop "replenishing" my craft cupboard for next year! 

Time out this week blissfully crafting and now a shopping spree on the agenda for next week. 
Life is good!