Saturday, April 30, 2011

Simple fun.

We had great fun today throwing the 5 cousins together. 
They played, they laughed, they ate, one little one cried, then slept, then woke, then played some more. The camera as always was out but today the kids helped to take some of the photos. Nothing captures the fun of photographing kids like a little bit of blurriness! 
(Yes I'm trying to pretend it was all intentional and not just user error) 

Then of course there was Byron playing the silly Uncle, ignoring all rules and swinging kids around like aeroplanes when they were supposed to be calming down for afternoon naps!
We all enjoyed having a posh afternoon tea to celebrate Rhiannons Birthday (again!) 
This time the cakes were made from a box due to slight issues with baking the previous batch from scratch...
After all the eating the kids had some time out to chill. I found this pair snuggled up on the sofa watching Scooby Do.
We went across the road to get some fresh air and build up an appetite for tea. 
I hadn't realised it was so wet but the kids soon had their shoes off to feel the squidgy grass in-between their toes!
Then just a few last photos as the sun dipped in the sky and we headed inside for Shepherds Pie, Yum!
It's so good to have a day like today spent with family, just hanging out and having fun. Money can't buy the feeling of well being you get by the time you flop on the sofa in a trashed house, kids tucked in bed, cup of tea in hand, leaving the mess to be sorted tomorrow!
Happy Weekend everyone.

A perfect....mess!

I'd love to encourage you all to think that I am a domestic goddess.

I do bake regularly and my kids are very enthusiastic in their praise. If it is sweet they will eat it. Just in case I am accused of showing you only the successful items that come out of my oven and on to my cooling rack I thought I would share this photo with you...

Yes, apparently when the recipe says two eggs and you have only one it does matter!

My kids, being the unfussy eaters that they are, simply peeled the tops off and ate them like cookies and then got spoons out and scooped out the remainder of the crumbly mess. 

...and those that were left behind when the kids were tucked up in bed... I polished off myself in the same fashion!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Solo performance.

A quick photo from my phone...

I called in to collect Gareth and Rhiannon from school today. Gareth had his trumpet with him and had managed to persuade his teacher that after a few weeks of practise he was now ready for his first concert! The timing was perfect, I was invited in to the classroom to watch. Despite knowing only one tune and playing it with more enthusiasm than skill his classmates were very generous in their clapping and cheering. 

It was a fun way to end the school week and makes me think now more than ever that Primary School teachers are not paid nearly enough money!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Fridge.

I'm so excited!

For those of you who think I live an exotic lifestyle here in Australia, look away now.

I mean it. Shut this page down, go away, have a cuppa and imagine me running down some golden beach in a red skimpy one piece, laughing with the bronzed life guards before wrapping a gorgeous sarong around my trim waist and slipping my expensive designer shades down over my sexy eyes and revving away down the road in my soft top Porsche...

You're still here? I guess you realise I am who I am. Sitting here blogging when my kitchen is a trashed mess from breakfast, the floors need washing and the ironing mountain is registering as a landmass on Google Earth.

Do you want to know why I'm so excited? You do? Oh you are darlings!

From this moment onwards I'm getting organised. I'm going to take control of this messy house. I'm going to write lists, plan menus, schedule and delegate and live a perfect life. And it all started with this mornings delivery. May I present to you my new fridge!

Ta Da!!! It is only cheap but it's been bought for the garage. It is going to organise me in my quest for stress-free mealtimes. I will buy one big shop each week. No running back in and out of Woolies every couple of days for just a couple of things. I will plan my meals and prepare food every Monday when I am off work and will store it in my spacious clean and currently empty fridge in the garage. My fruit bowl will no longer get soggy and soft. I will have tons of room to keep all the spare veggies and spare fruit No more apples falling out on the kitchen floor every time I open the packed normal kitchen fridge to get the milk.

Oh Joy!

I'm just going have one more little peep inside before I go collect the kids from school.

Hang on...
Someone else must have other ideas...

Where are you MR B..............! I'm going to wring your neck....

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cupcake Queen and exciting visitors on the way...

Here in Australia kids love to bring in a tray of cakes to share with their classmates on their birthday. Cupcakes are preferred over a real cake as the teacher has no mess cutting and sharing. No knife to be wielded about by the more spirited kids in the class! I was inspired by the gorgeous teeny cupcakes in Gloria Jeans yesterday but after Rhiannons "Not a Party Get Together" yesterday it was a bag of value cake mix and a few sprinkles. The little circles were printed out last night after I was rejuvenated by a cuppa. I just printed them and popped them out with a circle punch then stuck them on cocktail sticks. Easy and cute!
Just as I thought the birthday celebrations were well and truly finished we got some exciting news. We will be having a visit this weekend from my Sister-in-law and our two gorgeous little nephews. We have decided an impromptu party is called for. They are 4 and 1 so all it will take is a few balloons and candles in a simple cake to make things very exciting! My brother Joe has had to return to Japan for his job but his family have decided it is safer for them to stay in Australia so for the next few weeks at least they will be missing their daddy and in need of all the family fun and loving that they can get.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Happy Birthday Rhiannon!

Today Rhiannon woke up in her new room as a gorgeous little 11 year old! 

We were all invited to join her in her beautiful new room to watch her open her cards and presents. This is her opening our card to her. I had written something sweet about her being our little ray of sunshine. That made her smile. But then she read Byron's message and laughed out loud. He had written something along the lines of her being more like a flippin' tornado! 
We went off shopping with her after breakfast so she could spend her birthday money. She had a ball. She managed to make her money go a long, long way by hunting out the bargains with her savvy big sister Sian. They made me proud as they pooled their money on special deals and two for one offers sharing the cost and the goodies between them!

We stopped to recharge at a coffee shop and she chose three teeny tiny little cupcakes to share with Gareth and Sian. I had great ideas about trying to make similar ones to send into school with her but that fell by the wayside! 

The day ended with a "Not a Party Get Together"  

This became a joke. It started out as her choosing to have her room redecorated over having a big party. 
It progressed to... 

OK, you can have two friends to tea on your birthday.
No, it's not going to be a party.
Yes, you can have Dominos pizza.
And Sians chocolate fountain? Well alright then.
Three friends?
...and a sibling?! 
(Picture Sian doing a happy dance that there will be someone her age)
And another friend calling by to say Hi and drop off a card and a smelly candle for the new bedroom...

And so the day ended with 8 happy kids sitting around our kitchen table. Stuffing themselves with Pizza while Byron and myself ended up relegated to the sofa with a few left over crusts.

I guess that is life as parents. 
Busy, unpredictable... but fun!

Monday, April 25, 2011

The new bedroom, Flowers and watermelons!

The new bedroom is complete. We went from hills and fluffy clouds in the sky to watermelons and flowers. It all started with a lovely set of bed linen we found at a local outlet store.

From there Rhiannon chose two colours of paint, pale pink and pale green. We painted two walls in each colour and re-painted her old wooden flowers in pinks and purples...
 and added a few freehand water-melons.
We bought a chair, white desk, bookcase and shelf so she can have some study space as she heads into High School in January.
The whole room looks calm and uncluttered. Her favourite spot is the painted window box that is hidden behind the long sheer curtains. A perfect place to sneak away and read when she is supposed to be doing chores!
Knowing our gorgeous Rhianny it will never look as calm as this again, especially once she moves back in. The spare room is already unrecognisable from the room she moved into a week ago. I can't see the carpet any-more. There may be a small pony lost in the pile of discarded clothes. We shall see how long this lovely new space stays this way...!

P.S. She moved back in tonight so she can wake up in it tomorrow morning on her birthday.
Sweet dreams little ten year old. Tomorrow you will be a whole year older.

The Adventures of Eagle.

We mentioned a few days ago that we have Eagle visiting from Elisabeth Morrow School. 
St Joseph's School in return have sent a parcel to the US school with something similar inside. 
We thought it might have been a stuffed koala or a kangaroo but no! The Aussie kids had sent their American friends a pelican!

 The reason for this is that we have a lot of pelicans here in Lake Macquarie and the kids had been learning a funny poem about them that was written by an American Poet and Humorist Dixon Merritt...

A wonderful bird is the pelican,
His bill will hold more than his belican,
He can take in his beak
Enough food for a week
But I'm damned if I see how the helican!

We thought that Eagle might like to come on a day out with us as we skated and walked alongside the lake.

 We wandered along the new bridge in Elebana that has Merritts poem engraved in the handrails.

Further along the bridge was more writing where the kids spotted the word "Eagle" and helped Eagle to pose next to it!

After a busy day of skating it was home to bed in a slipper for Eagle.

Who awoke on Easter Sunday morning to a breakfast table over-run with Easter chicks.

Hot Cross Buns were eaten... 

...and then a knock on the door. It was Kayla from up the road. She had been on her parents boat and they were going wake-boarding so they had dropped her at the jetty and sent her in search of Eagle. No sooner had we said goodbye to him and she was off! Running down the road, hair streaming, eagle tightly clutched in her hand ready to bring him on another day of wild adventure! 


Today is ANZAC day here in Australia. A day to remember the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps who fought to keep our countries free, particularly during World War I.

All around the country people march through their local towns wearing sprigs of Rosemary and give pride of place to the elderly soldiers that wear their medals and the medals of their fathers and grandfathers with pride.

Today I was working in the hospital. I started at 6am. It was silent outside and most of the patients were still sleeping in the dark ward when I went inside. I was told to help one of the patients rise early and get him showered and dressed for an early breakfast. He was being collected by his wife at 7am so he could participate in his local march. His clothes were all pressed and hung by his wife the night before. Creased trousers, starched shirt, socks rolled and sitting inside highly polished shoes. I took the final item out of his wardrobe. His suit jacket, heavy with the weight of lines of medals. He asked me to lay it flat on his bed while he ate. I asked him about the medals, he told me that some were his own, some from his father and some his grandfather.

As I touched them I felt goose-bumps. These little pieces of fading ribbon and polished metal represented lives lost, blood shed, real sacrifices made by real men. Sons, husbands, fathers. I asked him could I take a photo of the jacket to show my children, to show my friends here. He stood tall and smiled. He said he wanted people to remember, to remember those lost, to remember those who gave so much so that I could have freedom. He was happy for me to share this image...

"Lest We Forget"

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday.

Rhiannon was involved in an outdoor celebration of the Stations of the Cross in our church grounds in the lead up to Easter. Her school was depicting the Third Station where Jesus is brought before the Sanhedrin and has his clothing removed.

Rhiannon was chosen to be Jesus and was wearing the orange robes which were velcro closed down the seams for easy "tearing" off.  She was worried that it wouldn't work because on each of the practise sessions the velcro then stuck to her clothing underneath. When they did it for real during the actual ceremony it went perfectly and she and her friends were very proud.

All day it had been forecast to rain but the first drop held off until the final blessing when the heavens opened and the rain came down in torrents. A fitting end to a very beautiful and solemn ceremony.

We wish you a peaceful Easter wherever and however you are celebrating it. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Fresh beginnings.

When Rhiannon was a baby we were still living in the UK. This is the nursery that I painted for her. Hills and sky and wooden cut out flowers...

When we told the kids we were going to emigrate to Australia one of Rhiannons biggest fears was saying goodbye to her room. She made me promise that her new Australian bedroom would be exactly the same. I promised. We removed the flowers and packed them away with the sunshine mirror and put them into the container that was to ship them to our new life "Down Under"

Fast forward a couple of years and we had built our new house. Rhiannon was given the choice of how to decorate her room and she was still adamant that it was to be exactly the same as the old one. We painted and repositioned the flowers and the sunshine and her wish was granted...

Fast forward another few years and Rhiannon is in her final year of Primary School. She is preparing to start High School in January and has asked if she can have her room redecorated for her birthday present. It was hard painting a thick layer of white base coat over the hills and fluffy clouds that had been watching over her as she slept over the last 11 years and two continents. 

Her birthday is on Tuesday and until then she is sleeping in the spare room as we assemble a new desk and bookcase and paint her room in a more "big girl" way. She has decided she wants to wait until Monday night to sleep in her new room so she can wake up in it on her birthday.

Watch this space for an update...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Eagle has landed...

Gareth's class have struck up correspondence with a school in the US called Elisabeth Morrow School. The American kids have sent a parcel with letters and a soft toy that represents their school sports team, a soft eagle wearing an "Eagles" shirt. Each of the kids are getting a chance to bring eagle home for a few days and then passing him on to a schoolmate. Gareth has been hanging out for his turn and finally got his hands on him today after he returned from holidays with Tommy. We will try to show him the sights over the next week and will then pass him on to Kayla around the corner!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

How was the camping?

How was the camping, you asked?

You texted.

You sniggered and you giggled.

You Facebooked.

Yes, those of you that live here in Australia heard the news reports that this weekend had the highest April rainfall on record in the last ten years.

Yes, you delighted in telling me!

Yes, those of you who rarely ring for a "no reason chat" found time to pick up the phone to ask how we were!

So here we go. The Gina version of the Big Campout.

It rained, and rained, and rained. We got soaked, We cursed. We laughed. We drank. The end.

What? You want more? You want the miserable details? Where to start?

Friday 5pm. It was dry and the sun was shining in a blue sky. We pulled into the camp site to see clusters of immaculately put up tents and lots of familiar friends holding bottles of beer high with grins on their faces. Hurry up! Get the tent up! Get a beer into ya! And so we tried. Within ten minutes we had the inner tent unrolled and laid flat on the ground, corners pegged in and ready for the poles. That's when the rain started. It poured and poured and poured down absolutely saturating us and the inside of the tent. We stood under the BBQ shelters watching the puddles merge where we were hoping to sleep. Cue the cursing. Fast forward an hour. There had been a lull in the rain. It had eased to a gentle pitter patter and the tent was up. Beer was in hand and the kids were gone off with their friends. Cue laughing "Ho Ho How-we-will-laugh-at-this-in-the-future through gritted teeth!) Cue drinking.

Friday night it rained and after consuming a delightful selection of bubbles, red wine and Baileys we fell into our damp beds and snored through the gentle hum of rain and tarpaulins flapping in the wind. Saturday started early, 4.30am if I recall, and passed in a cycle of rain, clear, rain, clear, wet kids cycling and scooting around and around the camp-site having a whale of a time. Gareth got a magnificent black eye falling from the top of the playground. Sophie scared everyone by performing a spectacular crash off her scooter that required lots of cleaning and bandaging by a very well equipped resident nurse, lots of chocolate and hugs. We escaped home for an hour to swap sodden clothing for dry, we ate take-away fish and chips in the shelter of our kitchen and were grateful for the temporary solidness of the walls and ceiling sheltering us from the elements. We returned to the camp-site to start what was to be the big finale of weather dramatics. If only we had known maybe we would have stayed home!?

Saturday evening began innocently enough with cups of tea and dark chocolate TimTams under the rain shelter as we discussed the nights eating arrangements. We had been eating snacks all day and weren't particularly hungry but we were damp and chilly and the idea of being handed hot food and not washing up after was very appealing. We chose a local club that had just opened their all-you-can-eat-buffet. $10 per kid, $24 per adult. Normally you would starve yourself and skip breakfast and lunch to ensure that you were able to get your moneys worth. Despite everyone saying they weren't that hungry we made good inroads into the fresh oysters, crab claws, baby octopus, baked salmon, Chinese banquet, spring rolls, honey chicken, special fried rice, salad bar. Actually I lie. No-one touched the salad bar, they were too busy re-stocking on the oysters and eyeing up the dessert bar!

We returned to camp with full bellies. Put kids to bed in dry clothes with torches and books, had a glass of red and a wee nippy sweetie of Talisker from Byron's hip flask. Looked at the watches and called it a night.

Not much sleep was had that night because the biggest storm rolled in, reaching its crescendo at about 2am. There was driving rain and wind that hit the tent like a freight train. How the tents sprung back up after each time they were flattened to the ground is beyond me. I must admit for all the jokes now there was a part of that night that was scary. I couldn't hear my kids in their tent that was side by side with ours. I felt vulnerable and eventually braved the downpour in my pj's to run into them and check. 2 were sleeping like babies but Sian was sitting bolt upright looking a little terrified. I promised her $10 if either tent fell down and made sure she had a mobile under her pillow so we could ring each other and I went back out into the dark to find many of our friends also standing out in their pj's holding tent poles down and repositioning flapping tarps and hammering in extra pegs. One tent had flooded when the tarp above it had released a downpour of collected water straight into the doorway. Wet kids stood looking pale and green around the gills while parents rearranged soggy sleeping arrangements in the dark. The following hours passed in a haze but all I know is that we slept fitfully and woke to clear blue skies on Sunday morning and not a sign that the previous night had happened. If it were not for the cups of tea  steaming in cupped hands as we recapped the nights events I would have sworn I'd imagined it.

And so ended the second time the Baynham's have camped in Oz.

Will there be a third I wonder...?!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Happy Birthday Sister!

My sister lives in Dublin. For her 30th birthday last year I bought her a Pandora bracelet and Murano glass bead. This year I thought she might like another bead to add to it.

I caught her at a crazy time, 5 minutes before she was leaving the house for a flight. Did I mention she hadn't finished packing? I pushed her for ideas on what type or colour of bead she might like. I threw questions at her. Glass? Silver? Dangly bits? She answered in brief single words. No. Yes. No way! I found out she is not a fan of hearts. This was a new one for me. Not a fan of dangly bits either. Simple. Simple. Simple.

And then she reminded me about the last bead she bought me.

The one that represented the fact that the sun, moon and stars shone out of my arse and then she hung up the phone!

I went shopping to my local Jewellers. I told the woman all the above stipulations. And then I told her what I wanted. Unfortunately they didn't have quite what I was looking for so I decided to try to make my own. This is the result....

I hope she likes it. 
Almost as much as the other one that is wrapped in tissue paper hidden in the bottom of the box...

Friday, April 15, 2011


It's Friday.

We are camping.

This is the rain radar...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Holiday plans.

This week it is school holidays. Our plans so far included repainting Rhiannons bedroom on monday (just the base coat so far)

Minding a friends 6 year old girl on Tuesday so my kids can be looked after by her mum later in the week while I am working.

And today was a free rugby coaching day at Newcastle university.

The big finale on Friday will be our family camping trip. We have our brand new $49 six man tent from Aldi. Weather forecast is for a few showers. I hope the tent is waterproof!

Monday, April 11, 2011

I can't say Muesli

I'm Irish. 
Byron is Welsh. 
We grew up pronouncing things differently. 
Sometimes it's what endears him to me. 
Sometimes it's what makes me want to hit him over the head with a frying pan. 

It's not that I object when he says something differently to me. 
It's when I say something and he cannot contain his laughter that I get mad. 

Take the word muesli. 
When I say it he nearly pops a hernia laughing. 
He says he is not laughing "at" me but he is just laughing "with" me. 
Whatever Mr B. 
I'm reaching for the handle of the nearest heavy inanimate object... 
be warned...

Here is a photo and recipe for a great toasted MUESLI that I made this week.

1/2 cup Honey
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1/2 cup Olive Oil
Heat together in saucepan until sugar is dissolved.
3 cups Rolled Oats
1 cup Special K flakes crushed
1 cup Sunflower Seeds
1 cup Walnuts
1 cup Raisins
Pour hot syrup onto mixed dried ingredients. 
Mix well and spread on large flat baking tray.
Bake in oven for about 30 mins stirring tray occasionally to cook evenly.
Allow to cool and crisp up before eating.
Tastes great with yoghurt and fruit or just as a normal cereal with milk.

It says it lasts for 10 days in an airtight container. 
Ours was all eaten in 24 hours so we haven't tested this theory.

P.S. No husband was harmed in the making of this recipe or blog post...
...but it was a very close thing!