Wednesday, May 30, 2012


"Hey Mum, Look at me! I'm a fun-guy!"
"Get it?" 
"A fungi"
"A mushroom!!!"

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cake stall

Last week Gareth's class had a cake stall to fund-raise for the missions. As I left for work early that morning I did a double check to see that everything was ready for Byron to bring him to school. Clean shoes, bag, hat, jacket, money and of course cakes! It's images like this that sum up my life and give me happy butterflies when I see them. I'd like to stop time right here and now please!

Monday, May 28, 2012


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Fingal Bay

This weekend we drove to Fingal Bay to watch Gareth captain his Under 10's rugby team against Fingal Bay.

It was bitterly cold as we got out of bed and dragged ourselves downstairs at the ungodly hour of 6.45 on a Saturday morning. Luckily the slow-cooker was full of creamy warm porridge thanks to a socket timer that switched it on at 5am! With full tummies and school books for the girls to study (exam week starts tomorrow at their High School) we set off on the hour and a quarter drive and watched Gareth and his team mates bravely run around on a full sized pitch. They lost. We consoled. We drove away with the plan of a nice day exploring the area and the promise of an ice-cream once we all thawed out!
We found some warm black rocks overlooking the sea and looked for whales that often swim past this area at this time of year. 
I'd like to say we saw no beached whales but Rhiannon said I have to post this photo here...
Thank you Rhiannon. I love you too!

Having had fun lying on the rocks and soaking up the sun I opened my eyes to see a dead crab being dangled above my face and figured it was a good time to move on.
We drove on the Nelson Bay and stopped at the D'Albora Marina ice-creamery. 
Coconut, Boysenberry and Ginger-beer were the choice of the three kids. Can you guess who wanted which? 
I chose Pistachio and Mr B put a flake on top. Then helped me eat it!
 We were just about ready to head home for the girls to do some more study and just as we settled in the the drive home Mr B decided that a detour was needed to see if the wind was throwing larger than normal waves around on the long exposed beaches of Anna Bay. 
We sat in the car in the car park and oohed and aahed at the blustery view but were less than excited at the idea of actually getting out of the car to go for a walk in it. Undeterred Byron got out and started to walk away from the car so we reluctantly followed. To say that the next half hour was the icing on the cake was an understatement! 
It was the cherry on top with whipped cream and hot fudge sauce! 
The wind was whipping the sand over the tops of the sand dunes and the sun was sitting low in the sky. The kids ran and jumped and shrieked and laughed as the wind whipped the sounds straight out of their mouths. It was like being in the Sahara minus the heat. Or as Gareth thought, like being on the set of a bizarre Dr Who episode?! We felt like we were the only people for miles and eventually even Byron and myself gave in to our inner child and ran and jumped too!
At last it was time to head home, study resumed, dinner cooked, evening mass, cuddles with my baby God-daughter, home again, warm cookies, hot chocolate and bed!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Wedding Wishes

Today was a day that we would have loved to have...
A: Won the lottery or 
B: Had a time machine
C: Had clones of ourselves!

This weekend not one but two weddings took place in the UK and Ireland and we would have loved to be at them. My good friend Nessa was getting married in Tralee, Ireland and Byron's nephew Kerry was marrying his beautiful fiancĂ©e Sarah in Wales. We were however incredibly grateful to modern technology that allowed us to virtually share in their day.

It was great to be able to text Nessa on the morning of her wedding to wish her all my love.

With Byron's nephew were able to text family on the morning to tell them we were thinking of them. We had more texts as everyone waited in the church for the bride to arrive. By the time the bridal group moved on to the hotel we were lucky enough to be able to take full advantage of iPhone's and the hotels wireless broadband as we Face-timed and actually spoke to Byron's parents, sister, brother, nephew, niece and many friends as they waited for the bride and groom to join them for the meal.

As it went past midnight we were huddled on our sofa in pj's and dressing gowns holding glasses of wine to toast everyone. It was a cold night here in Australia and it was so fun to see everyone dressed up and laughing as they clinked champagne glasses in the bright sunshine! Eventually Kerry and Sarah arrived and we were able to speak to them too as everyone took their places for the meal. We watched as the waiter served a meal in front of the iPhone and it felt as though we were seated with everyone else and about to tuck in! 

We went to bed a little sad not be be actually there in person but so grateful that for a few minutes we felt like we were!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Thai Coconut Pumpkin soup.

Here is a loose version of a recipe I found on-line while searching for ideas on how to use up 4 big pumpkins that appeared on my doorstep one day last month! I thought it would be a soup that only I would eat and so I planned to freeze it in tubs as easy work lunches. However the kids wanted to try it and I bravely served it for tea one night with hunks of fresh bread. I expected them to only eat a little before wanting a "real" dinner but they ate their fill and said they loved it. They spiciness can be upped or reduced by the amount of Thai green curry paste you add (or remove)

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 brown onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, grated
  • 1.5 kg of pumpkin, peeled, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbs ginger, grated
  • 1 tbs Thai Green Curry Paste
  • 1 litre of vegetable stock
  • 400ml of coconut milk 

  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat before adding the onion and garlic. Cook until the onion becomes translucent.
    Add the ground coriander, cumin and fresh ginger and cook, stirring until aromatic.
    Add the pumpkin and coat in the spices before adding the stock. Add Thai Green Curry Paste and stir.
    Bring to the boil.
    Reduce heat to low and simmer and stir occasionally. Cook for 30 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender.
    Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
    Pour the soup into a blender and blend until smooth.
    Add the coconut milk and season with salt and pepper to taste.

    If you are a culinary tornado like me take a deep breath and try to get motivated about cleaning up the mess in the kitchen!

    Wednesday, May 23, 2012

    Tuesdays with Morrie

    I read this book many years ago. At the last Old Ducks Bookclub meeting I suggested it as the book to read for this months discussion. Although I had read it before I still wanted to re-read it to take in the message and to see if I interpreted it differently now that I am older and a mother. I left it a bit late to get a copy considering bookclub is tomorrow night!

    My local library had none and I drove to the next nearest suburb to borrow their copy. I got home mid-morning and am just putting the kettle on and am looking forward to curling up in my red armchair with a cuppa and some tissues...

    Have you read it?
    Did any part of it ring true with you and your life?

    Here are the book-club questions we will be discussing tomorrow night...

    rgg_discuss.gif (1294 bytes)

    1. Did your opinion about Mitch change as book went on? In what way?

    2. Who do you think got more out of their Tuesday meetings, Mitch or Morrie? In what ways? How do you think each would answer this question?

    3. Do you think Mitch would have come back to Morrie's house the second time if he hadn't been semi-idled by the newspaper strike?

    4. Discuss Morrie's criticisms of Mitch throughout the book. Do you think Morrie should have been tougher on him? Easier?

    5. Do you think Mitch would have listened if Morrie hadn't been dying? Does impending death automatically make one's voice able to penetrate where it couldn't before?

    Let's Talk About Death
    6. Does this book make Morrie's death a public event? If so, how is it similar to other public deaths we've experienced as a society? How is it different?

    7. Morrie referred to himself as a bridge, a person who is in between life and death, which makes him useful to others as a tool to understand both. Talk about other literary, historical, political, or religious figures who have also served this purpose.

    8. Most of us have read of people discussing the way they'd like to die, or, perhaps, have been a part of that conversation. One common thought is that it would be best to live a long, healthy life and then die suddenly in one's sleep. After reading this book, what do you think about that? Given a choice, would Morrie have taken that route instead of the path he traveled?

    9. On "Nightline," Morrie spoke to Ted Koppel of the pain he still felt about his mother's death seventy years prior to the interview. Is your experience with loss similar or different? Does what you've read in this book help ease any of that pain?

    10. Morrie was seventy-eight years old when diagnosed with ALS. How might he have reacted if he'd contracted the disease when he was Mitch's age? Would Morrie have come to the same conclusions? The same peace and acceptance? Or is his experience also a function of his age?

    Let's Talk About Meaning

    11. Try the "effect of silence" exercise that Mitch described in your class or in your group. What do you learn from it?

    12. Talk about the role of meaningful coincidence, synchronicity, in the book and in Mitch and Morrie's friendship.

    13. Morrie told Mitch about the "tension of opposites" (p. 40). Talk about this as a metaphor for the book and for society.

    14. Mitch made a list of topics about which he wanted Morrie's insight and clarity. In what ways would your list be the same or different?

    15. Discuss the book in terms of structure, voice, and tone, paying attention to Mitch's use of flashbacks and other literary devices. How do his choices add to the meaning?

    16. Are college students today missing out because they don't have the meaningful experiences that students in the 1960s had? Do you think Morrie thought they were?

    17. Morrie said, "If you've found meaning in your life, you don't want to go back. You want to go forward" (p. 118). Is this true in your experience?

    Let's Talk About Religion, Culture, and Ritual

    18. Morrie believed, "You have to be strong enough to say if the culture doesn't work, don't buy it. Create your own" (pp. 35-36). How can people do this? How can this book help?

    19. As his visits with Morrie continued, Mitch explored some other cultures and religions and how each views death. Discuss these and others that you've studied.

    20. To the very end, Mitch arrived at Morrie's house with food. Discuss the importance of this ritual.

    Let's Talk About Relationships

    21. Was Morrie making a judgment on people who choose not to have kids with his statement: "If you want the experience of having complete responsibility for another human being, and to learn how to love and bond in the deepest way, then you should have children" (p. 93)? Whether or not he was, do you agree?

    22. Mitch wrote, "Perhaps this is one reason I was drawn to Morrie. He let me be where my brother would not" (p. 97). Discuss Mitch's relationship with Peter.

    23. Discuss the practical side of Morrie's advice: "Only an open heart will allow you to float equally between everyone" (p. 128). How could this advice be useful the next time you're in a social or other situation where you feel out of place or uncomfortable?

    24. Morrie said that in marriage, "Your values must be alike" (p. 149). In what ways do you agree or disagree?

    25.Would Morrie's lessons have carried less weight if Mitch and Peter hadn't resumed contact by book's end?

    Tuesday, May 22, 2012

    Crazy hair for Lily Day!

    There is a child in school was has been diagnosed with Leukaemia. Lots of different fund-raisers are being done to support her family at this time. Today is Crazy Hair for Lily Day where the kids go to school with wacky hair and give a gold coin donation towards Lily and her family. Gareth went with the mega hold spiky gel look finished off with some red coloured spray. His face was a picture when he saw the finished result!

    Saturday, May 19, 2012

    Seussical the Musical!

    Our very talented friends are in a production of Seussical the Musical at the Newcastle Young Peoples Theatre. We went to see them this weekend and they were amazing!
    The stage was a riot of colour and excitement. A true testament to the wonders of Seuss!
    I was thinking it would be nice to have some flowers for the girls afterwards but then I saw some chocolate roses in our local supermarket and thought they would be fun.
    Seussical is only on for one more weekend so if you live in the Newcastle area and the tickets haven't sold out I would really recommend going along!

    Wednesday, May 16, 2012


    My friend Kerrie is an amazing photographer. She posted a photo on her Facebook page and tagged me in it. When I clicked on the link this is what I saw! 

    Kerrie had taken a photo of my favourite view of the lake just across from our house and posted it with the title "Gina's side of paradise"

    Thanks Kerrie! You made my day!

    You can see more of Kerrie's photos here...

    Monday, May 14, 2012

    Happy birthday Claire!

    A good friend had a birthday today.
    (Sssshhhhh! Because she doesn't want any fuss!) 
    I thought I'd share the card I made her. I've been getting back into my card making recently and loving making a mess of the house and then trying to tidy madly before Byron and the kids get home! 
    Because I wanted to make sure Claire had a laugh on her birthday and didn't get too caught up in numbers I thought I'd lighten the tone with a funny quote on friendship inside...

    True friendship is like peeing your pants Everyone can see it but only you can feel the true warmth!

    I hope you felt the warmth today Claire and for many more years to come!

    Mothers day cards.

    A record of the lovely home-made cards I got this year!

    I love the body in card number one. I just wonder where it has disappeared to?! Somehow I think a Google search might show me where it came from because I sure don't ever recall having one similar!!!

    I love my bling birdie from Rhiannon

    ...and Gareth's poem?! Well, it's unique!

    In case you can't read it it goes like this...

    Oh Mum I think you're really young.
    I hope you like your present
    I bought it from a peasant.
    You know Rhiannon calls me a bum
    well I think you're a super mum
    and you're very fun.


    Sunday, May 13, 2012

    Mothers day 2012

    This Mothers Day was exactly what it should have been. Hugs in bed, home made cards, chocolate and cups of tea. I'm sure it followed the same routine as many mums around the country. For each of those mums, just like me, I hope it was the best Mothers Day ever!

    Friday, May 11, 2012


    Braiding seems to be the latest thing when it comes to teenage hair. Such a simple old fashioned style is now cropping up on pop stars tresses and tv starlets in various forms.

    French plaiting is something I used to try and try to do on Sians hair when she was a little girl with limited success. Within a couple of minutes of watching me do one on her sister she turned away and with nimble fingers re-created the style over and over on any of her friends with hair long enough to let her.

    Now that she has mastered the basic plait she is you-tubing variations and thinking of more and more adventurous and modern twists to an old fashioned style. I love it!

    Wednesday, May 09, 2012


    Monday, May 07, 2012

    Umina Bay

    A friend came up with a plan for a weekend away. It was at a camp-site that also had cabins to rent for the less adventurous. We fell smack bang into that category and having considered camping for less than a nano second we were on-line looking at the more solid accommodation options! We were in good company with every other family doing the same thing. 

    In the end there were 7 families comprised of 14 adults and 19 kids! It was mad, crazy fun. We BBQ'd and shared snacks and watched the kids on the playground and swimming. The weather was amazing, no rain and lots of sunshine. This must be a first for us on a camping style holiday where normally we get caught up in some mini tornado or storm. 

    With such a big group of kids ranging from 7 months old up to our 14 yr old Sian it was quite amazing to watch them bounce and laugh and chase each other around without any tears or falling out. 

    I think we will be planing a return trip at some point in the coming year...

    Friday, May 04, 2012

    Face Juggler

    Apple are responsible for pant wetting laughter in our house this week. Byron downloaded a free app onto his iphone called Face Juggler. It allows you to take a photo and then it takes the main facial features (eyes, nose, mouth) and swaps them with another face in the photo. Sometimes it doesn't do a great job but if the faces are a similar size and are looking in the same direction the results can be hilarious. 

    The kids insisted on Byron and myself posing for a juggle. It's not the most flattering "before" photo but having seen the juggled version and how awful we look I am happy to live with the original version of Mr and Mrs B!

    Wednesday, May 02, 2012

    Parents in the classroom

    In Year 7 in High School there is one opportunity for parents to get a glimpse into their kids school day. This morning they had parents in the classroom and we were able to join them for assembly and then their first two classes of the day.

    After assembly I tried to promise Rhiannon that I would do my best not to embarrass her. I had my fingers crossed...

    We strolled across the bright sunny school grounds in search of the science lab and out came the mobile so I could snap our shadows hand in hand!
    Science was great fun. It was a practical lesson involving dry ice. We inflated balloons, exploded film canisters and made creepy coloured potions bubble and froth!
    After all that excitement we went outside for PDHPE (sports) where we were shown how to throw a javelin. I had one attempt which shattered all my future Olympic dreams and left Rhiannon to persevere until she was pink in the cheeks. 
    We said goodbye and she skipped off to her next class and I went to join the other parents in the hall for morning tea and a chat. When that wound up we found ourselves wandering down the school drive towards our cars and the long list of jobs we were supposed to be doing. Somehow the conversation never quite ended when it should and as other mothers passed us talking at the gates some joined in our huddle and time slipped by until I found myself with stomach grumbling excusing myself so I could go and run my errands. I had to race like crazy to fit all those jobs into the rest of the afternoon. As I jumped in my car at 2.30 to collect Gareth from his school I looked at my phone to see a message from Monica (one of my fellow natterers) telling me they were only just finished their chat and heading home! 

    So I leave you with a message to the principal...

    Dear Mr Stevens
    Thank you so much for giving us parents the opportunity to join our kids in your wonderful school. It was great to walk beside them and see them interact with their teachers and friends. It is so good to get a glimpse of school life beyond the gates. There is only one small criticism I share with my good friend Monica. The school is lacking some comfy seating outside the gates, and perhaps a cappuccino machine...
    Yours sincerely
    Rhiannons Mum.

    Tuesday, May 01, 2012

    The Wild Kayaker!

    In my battle to keep the house clean, the kids happy, my husband nurtured and my parents supported I sometimes feel a little like I forget to have "me time". So in a once-in-five-years fit of madness I walked out of my messy house on a school morning with life-jacket on and paddle in hand and dragged Byron's Kayak across the road to the water and went on a little adventure. I felt wild and daring and took a self portrait to show as proof to my unbelieving children later! I felt more than a little achy and old the next day when I woke up unable to move my arms but at least I felt like ME!