Wednesday, April 30, 2014

30:04:14 Winter clothes.

It's getting cold here Down-Under. 
You can always tell the change in season by the footwear on a typical Aussie bloke...

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

29:04:14 Fire-Pit

We bought a really simple fire-pit in a DIY shop and had fun one evening sitting around it. It cost $30 and the warmth and atmosphere as we sat around it roasting marshmallows on sticks was worth every dollar. The evenings are really starting to get nippy now and the warm clothes are coming out and blankets are on beds. It's fun to have access to a campfire for a few hours but then have the cozyness of the house to run back into as the evening draws to a close. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

28:04:14 Lest We Forget.

Here is a photo I took of a little sprig of Rosemary on ANZAC day. I worked the Public Holiday and the kitchen staff had put one of these sprigs on each patients tray. I thought it was a lovely gesture. It was pouring down all morning and I tried to capture the downpour in the background but it just looks grainy. In some way the grey and wet weather lended atmosphere to the day of remembrance. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

27:04:14 Gum leaf

It's Autumn here in Australia. A season I so strongly associate with the colour orange. I miss the abundance of leaves falling from the trees and swirling in drifts on the paths, the crunch of dry brittle leaves underfoot. 

When I saw this gum leaf on the ground I picked it up, the mottled colours reminding me of a different climate. At that moment it was the most beautiful leaf in the world. I brought it home determined to take a photo of it to put here. 

I lost it. 

For days I told everyone who would listen that there was a random gum leaf somewhere in the house. Maybe the kitchen, the bathroom, the fridge? Who knows. I stressed the importance of telling me if they found it and NOT to throw it out. They thought I was mad. I told them it was beautiful. They thought I was madder. 

I found it in the spare room where I was hiding Rhiannon's birthday presents. I squealed with excitement. They came out of various rooms to see what was happening, took one look at the leaf and gave each other "that" look. Yup, she's totally mad and went back to what they were doing. 

I found  this little quote that made me feel sane again....

"You're only given a little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it."

Robin Williams

Saturday, April 26, 2014

26:04:14 Rhiannon

14 years ago our lives changed for the second time. 
14 years ago we went from a family of three to a family of four.
Just one little extra person but, oh boy, how you have changed our lives. 
14 years ago I was so over being pregnant, I just wanted to meet you, our second bundle of joy. 
But you were giving us a glimpse of the chaos that you were planning to throw into our lives by sending us on false alarm trips into the hospital until I truly believed that I was never going to give birth and it was all a big joke. 
I cried as the Assistant midwife showed me to my room and tried to get me into a hospital gown. 
I apologised for wasting her time as I gasped the gas and air. 
I babbled between contractions that it was probably just another false alarm. 
She nodded, smiled, patted my back and murmured soft reassuring words while helping me onto the hospital bed. 
Only a couple of hours later the senior midwife had taken charge and was preparing me for the next stage of labour, the part where I would begin pushing. 
And that's where you really decided to have a laugh and throw a bit more chaos into the room. 
You literally popped out, no warning, no second midwife in the room as per the hospital policy, no birthing pack open and no blanket ready to catch and swaddle you. 
The midwife looked as shocked as your Dad as she scrambled to call for help and wrap you up before you started shivering! 
Yes Rhiannon! You are a constant source of surprise and chaos to our lives. 
You make us laugh, you amaze us with your creativity.  
We never quite know what to expect when you are around. 
Things never quite go according to plan but you know what? 
You make us so happy! 
You are gorgeous and sensitive, artistic and humorous, sweet and loving.
Don't ever change.
Always be yourself.
Keep your creative spark alive and do whatever makes you happy.
Don't judge yourself against the benchmark of the people around you. 
Judge yourself against your hopes and dreams, whatever they may be.
Grasp life with both hands and enjoy it.
Break the molds.
Make your own path.
And know that we will forever be following you, watching you, loving you and being proud of you.
Just because you are you.

Friday, April 25, 2014

25:04:14 Oliver's 1st birthday.

One year ago today a beautiful baby was born. The first of a new generation. Byron's nephew Kerry and his wife Sarah had their first child, Oliver Bowen.

One of the things our children were most excited about on our trip back to the UK this year was the chance to meet this new arrival. He was as gorgeous as all the photos suggested, and more! Today he will be celebrating his first birthday. And although he may not fully understand the reason for the fuss I am sure he will see the happiness in the faces of those around him and know that he is very loved!

Happy 1st Birthday beautiful boy.
We love you very much.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

24:04:14 Getting older

When I was pregnant with Sian I read loads of baby magazines. There were articles on every baby milestone under the sun. Weaning, sleeping, choosing childcare, starting school. I was thirsty for knowledge. If I read all the latest advice then I couldn't go wrong? Could I? And then along came Rhiannon and not all the rules that worked with Sian worked this time around. Some of the advice had changed. I had more friends with kids and the circle of information sharing was bigger and more diverse. When I had Gareth I no longer had time to read magazines. I barely had time to check my reflection in the mirror as I ran from school to playgroup to immunisation clinics. 

By the third child I figured I had it all worked out. For the most part I'd kept the nuggets of good advice and let go of the crazy theories that weren't practical in the real world. I was doing ok. They grew older, we no longer needed nappies or baby formula. They started eating the same meals as Byron and myself. The need for constant new information and parenting advice had lessened. 

Just as I was lulled into a false sense of security I found myself standing in a petrol forecourt with my 16 year old daughter. A daughter who has a learners drivers license. A daughter who is learning to drive and needs to be coached through new milestones. Like filling the car with petrol for the first time. I don't remember reading any magazine articles about this kind of parenting. I feel a bit lost. A bit in need of the shiny publications that will tell me just how to handle the next year. How to teach new skills and get her through this "not quite still a child, not quite yet an adult" part of her life. 

I guess we never really have it fully under control do we? We just have to trust that we will learn as we go. We won't always be perfect and what works for one kid won't always work for the next. That's life. We just need to trust in the roller-coaster ride and maybe even let out a squeal of excitement every now and again. 

I'd better go. The attendant is giving me funny looks . I better go pay before he considers ringing the local looney bin on me. I'm not sure I've read an article about getting out of that one...

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

23:04:14 Spider

I have no words to describe this one. Well maybe just four...


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

22:04:14 My Dude!

I can't believe how fast Gareth is growing up. I cut his hair this morning and just had to take a photo of him waiting for us outside the front door. He's getting older every day and is really starting to look less and less like a little boy and more and more like a teenager. I want to stop time now while he is still young enough to want a cuddle going to bed...!

Monday, April 21, 2014

21:04:14 Mum's Cake

I may not have been able to eat chocolate for Lent but I wasn't planning on missing out on Sian's amazing Malteser Cake. Back on the 9th of March I cut myself a slice and hid it in the freezer. Guess what I had for breakfast this morning? Yum!!!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

20:04:14 Happy Easter

Happy Easter, share this time to reflect on life, love, family and all of your blessings.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

19:04:14 Sailing V's Shopping

The phone rang this morning. It was breakfast time and Byron and myself were pottering around the kitchen making coffee and raisin toast. We had been talking about a few errands that we needed to do. The phone call was an invite from a friend to join him on his sail boat on the lake for a while. 

I could see the turmoil in Byron's head. Shopping or sailing? Busy car park or calm water? Wandering aimlessly after us as we ran in and out of shops or sitting back with a mate and feeling the sun warm on his skin? He didn't need asking twice. We ate breakfast and then Byron and Gareth ran around getting sunscreen on, packing water bottles and pumping bike tyres. They said a quick goodbye and were gone before I could say a word. 

The girls woke and slowly got food and stretched and asked what were our plans for the day. I mentioned needing to go to Charlestown shopping centre. They didn't need asking twice. They ran around getting lipgloss, wallets, mobiles and were in the car before I could say a word. 

A couple of hours later Byron sent me a text "We're fishing! Very relaxing." 

I replied "We're shopping! Very relaxing."  

A perfect day for all!

Friday, April 18, 2014

18:04:14 Good Friday

I went to work this morning determined to make it a good shift. In the last few days before Easter I am proud to say that I have managed to stick to my resolution to give up chocolate for Lent. Giving up a luxury for 46 days is really a first world problem and doesn't go near the sacrifices that some people make but for me it has been my little way to prepare for the celebration of Easter. 

The hardest days were at the beginning of Lent. Sians 16th Birthday was only 4 days into Lent and I made her a massive Malteser cake with almost 1 kilo of Maltesers stuck into the thick chocolate ganache that smothered the four layers of chocolate sponge sandwiched with malt frosting. The making of the cake was hard, no licking the spatula or bowl. The hardest was the day itself when I wasn't able to actually have a slice of the cake. The next few days drove me crazy as I shared out the cake with every Tom, Dick and Harry who called past our house until there was none left to taunt me from the cake dome. 

Fast forward almost 6 weeks and work is trying to be nice to the staff by putting big bowls of chocolate eggs and chocolate bars around to share. This photo is of just one of the bowls of treats that I had to move to one side each and every time I got out drugs from our safe on my shift. My colleagues offered to hide them from me but I just said to hurry up and eat them so the temptation would be gone! 

I turned my back on the chocolates and got to work on my showers. I remembered last nights Mass and I made a big effort to take my time, particularly as I helped to wash and dry feet! I struck up conversations and the stories I was told of romance and dances, marriages and wars, love and loss had me close to tears. 

It was a good shift. A Good Friday. Another beautiful ceremony in Church on my way home from work. Another day of contemplation and a day closer to the celebration of Easter. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

17:04:14 Holy Thursday

It's Holy Thursday. We are in the last few days of Lent. A sombre few days where we reflect on the death of Jesus and then his resurrection.  

Tonight in church I lit 5 candles. One for each member of my family. To keep us safe. To give us good health. To make us deal well with the various challenges that life throws at us. 

Tonight's Mass included the ceremony of the washing of the feet. Myself and Simi were with other parishioners, old and young, who had our feet washed by our priest. He is getting on in years. It felt very strange to watch him kneel on the hard tiles and wash and dry my foot before moving on to Simi. He talked about how we can try to live a good life. Whether in the church or out in our everyday lives. 

I couldn't help but think of all the older people who's feet I help wash and dry in my role as a nurse. How often it is rushed as I am trying to be efficient and get on to the next patient. Fr Geoff was in no rush as he washed my foot. He looked up and smiled at me as he dried it as though he had all the time in the world. I felt humble. 

I'll take my time tomorrow morning. I'll make a few extra minutes somehow, try to make my patients feel like there's no rush. As I kneel on the hard bathroom floor I'll try to make time for a laugh and a smile. Like I have all the time in the world... 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

16:04:14 Sesame seeds

It was tea-time tonight and I was trying to think what photo to post here. I was a bit blank on inspiration. I threw some sesame seeds onto the frying pan to toast them. I watched them turn from pale to golden as I moved the pan back and forth. If I could blog a smell then today's would have been a great one. Nutty, warm and golden. But I can't so you will just have to imagine it with the help of this photo! 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

15:04:14 Fishing.

I love school holidays. 
The chance to have a break from routine. 
To fill the days with spontaneous plans. 
To cast and not care if you catch anything. 
Good job I did the grocery shop this morning because there is no fish for tea tonight!
There's always tomorrow...

Monday, April 14, 2014

14:04:14 Spice grinder.

Sian helping me to grind up spices for this weeks "Curry Night" 

A tradition that Byron started up a few years back and now happens every week whether we like it or not! Come rain or shine every Thursday night we sit down to curry in our balti bowls, naan bread and poppadoms on the table and Indian music bursting forth from the speakers. Some curries are a hit and get 5 thumbs up, some are never to be repeated. 

This week is a spicy Pork Vindoloo. Cinnamon bark, black pepper, cardamom seeds, turmeric, cloves, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, dried chillies, fresh chillis, grated ginger, crushed garlic cloves, sliced onions, tomato passata  and balsamic and white wine vinegar are massaged into 2 kilos of fresh pork and left to marinate in the fridge over the next three days. 

On Thursday the pot will go straight from the fridge into the slowcooker on a delay cook program and I will hopefully come in the door from work to a simmering pot of spicy goodness. It is our Indian friend Simi's birthday this week and she will join us on Thursday for her birthday dinner. Hopefully this curry will get 6 thumbs up this week!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

13:04:14 Carrot cake.

I'm not a very organised cook. I get mad notions to cook something and usually get halfway through the recipe before realising a vital ingredient is missing. Today is a perfect example. I was craving something sweet. With Wilma back producing eggs again and a random pouch of vanilla frosting and a half empty tube of orange sprinkles found at the back of the baking cupboard I was off! Whisking butter and sugar, cracking eggs, sifting flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder. All I needed now was 350grams of grated carrot... No carrots in the veggie drawer in the fridge... or on any of the shelves. It didn't matter how many times I looked behind the jars of relish and the half empty milk carton. There. Were. No. Carrots. Arrgghhh!

And then I remembered the veggie patch! The carrot seeds I planted back in September. WooHoo I whooped as I ran outside and started to wildly pull clumps of carrot fronds from the soil. It took three trips back and forth between kitchen and garden until my harvest of tiny finger sized carrots were scrubbed and grated enough to weigh in at 329g.

I now proudly present to you my wonderful morning tea made from Wilma's eggs and organic baby carrots picked fresh from the garden. Oh, and not forgetting the left over pouch of frosting (without an expiry date) swirled proudly on top. Time for a cuppa I think! Anyone want to join us?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

12:04:14 First egg.

We got two chickens back in 2011. For the past three years we have had either an abundance of eggs or none for weeks on end. Some weeks we have had to find creative ways to use a mountain of them up and some weeks we have reverted back to buying eggs in the supermarket. Betty and Wilma have been a part of our back yard, following us busily around the garden, pecking our feet and generally making themselves known to us. 

Last month Betty became quieter and quieter. She watched us from the comfort of the shady bushes. We got one egg a day but never two. One day she hardly moved from the shade, not to eat or drink. We brought the food to her but she turned her head away. The next day she was sat further back under the hedges. I worried that Wilma was bothering her, pecking at her to get her to move when she clearly didn't want to. I picked her up and lay her in a shoe box full of wood-shavings. I moved her to the veggie patch and sat her in the shade of the strawberry plants. She was now safely in the out-of-bounds area that was fenced off from Wilma. I checked on her on and off until I found her with her head tucked under her wing. No longer breathing. She looked peaceful. 

Wilma paced. She sat and looked out of sorts, she ignored us and refused to chase us around the garden. There were no more eggs. She was pining. It took her a couple of weeks to get her swagger back. And finally to lay an egg. Things will never quite be the same without Betty but at least we have Wilma the invincible back to her cheeky self. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

11:04:14 Fairy lights.

When my sister was a teenager my Mum got a set of white fairy lights and made little muslin bags to put over each light bulb so that the string of lights had a wonderful soft glow when plugged in. Many years later she is still using them in her own home. Rhiannon loved them when she saw them on our Ireland trip earlier this year. When we got home I was putting away the Christmas decorations and a set of 50 little white fairy lights caught my eye. I put them aside with the idea of replicating my mums idea in time for Rhiannon's birthday later this month. 

This week I bought some light white fabric and set to making 50 little cloth bags. I had to work fast as there is only a small time window between my return from work and the kids arriving home from school. I wanted to see if I was on the right track so after making the first few bags I plugged the lights in to see how they would look. They were dead. Not a flicker. I felt so disappointed. I scooped the bundle of wires up in my hand to take a closer look and they came on, briefly, then off again. I thought maybe a bulb was loose so I lay the wires on my bare lap and went to gently check each bulb in turn. That's when I got zapped. 

I screamed. It felt like I had been stung by a monster bee. There was a smell of burning. I turned off the power at the socket and looked closer at my leg. There was a black mark that looked like a large freckle. It was the singe mark from where the lights had zapped me. It stung like hell but all I could do was let an immense feeling of gratitude roll over me. I knew that I had just been warned to stop. In a couple of weeks time these lights would have been wrapped up in pretty paper and would have been a part of Rhiannon's birthday gifts. She would have used them in her bedroom and most likely they would have been left on for periods of time as she pottered in and out of her room. I knew that if the lights had malfunctioned there it would almost certainly have caused a fire. 

I had a flashback to a dream I had in the early hours of this morning. I had been driving home from Sian's piano lesson, the sky had turned dark inky black as though a thunderstorm was coming. As I drove home a car blocked my path. The occupants were shouting at me and waving their hands in terror. They wouldn't let my car pass. They were shouting "Fire, Fire" In the dream my heart was pounding. I somehow knew that the fire was in our home and that Gareth was there alone. I woke in the early morning light with my heart still beating furiously and a feeling of horror that our home was in danger. It took all day to shake the heavy feeling of the dream and now as I sat with the half made fairy lights at my feet I felt the fear of it rise up in me again. I truly felt that there was a very real possibility that we had been spared from something far worse. 

Have you ever had the feeling that someone was looking out for you? I'd love you to share your story in the comments below. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

10:04:14 Finished room

The walls are painted, the paper is still hanging, the ceiling light is rewired, the bed has been assembled and the old bedside lamp has been re-born with a small scrap of left over wall-paper! Time to sit back and chill out! Just a small amount of money left in Sian's budget that will hopefully stretch to a simple duvet and pillowcase set to match in with the new colour-scheme. But for now there are books to be read and time to be spent relaxing and soaking up the new decor. 

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

09:04:14 Let there be Light!

This is the magnificent light Sian chose for her new room. It took quite a few hours to assemble. Each flower was made of three layers of petals. Multiply that by the 90 something flowers that were then connected together to make the circular light complete. A lot of effort but worth it!

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

08:04:14 Wallpaper

Sian fell in love with the UK designer Cath Kidston when she walked into one of her shops on Grafton Street in Dublin. Everywhere we went in the UK we saw retro florals making a huge fashion appearance. We bought two rolls of her wallpaper to do a feature wall in Sian's bedroom. I knew we had literally enough paper to cut 10 strips from the two rolls. Not a single bit to spare. If we messed up just one piece we would need to re-arrange the furniture to hide it! I've never wall-papered before in my life. I watched two video tutorials on YouTube this morning and decided it looked easy enough, waited for everyone to be safely out the door and then got stuck in. There were times I wished I had waited for Byron to be home to help but every piece that went up gave me confidence that I could do this. It was amazing watching the room transform before my eyes. I wish you could have seen Sian's face when she walked in the door from a long day at school and work. Priceless!!!

Monday, April 07, 2014

07:04:14 Let the painting begin!

Sunday, April 06, 2014

06:04:14 Blue

This week I am going to be feeling blue PAINTING blue!. 
But what shade?
Oh, too many to choose from. 
Sian wanted a bedroom make-over for her birthday present. 
Over the coming week I will be sharing glimpses of the transformation!
But first to choose a shade....

Saturday, April 05, 2014

05:04:14 Happy Anniversary

I thought I'd share with you the simple card idea I found on Pinterest for an anniversary or valentines card. I find Pinterest such a great place to get inspired when I am searching for a card idea. This was so lovely and simple. I just used my printer to personalise the base card and a simple heart punch with just a pop of colour and a simple gem to make it a bit more special.

Happy Anniversary to my Sister and Brother in law. I hope you have a wonderful day!

Friday, April 04, 2014

04:04:14 Tennis selfie!

Smile mum! 
It's selfie time!

Thursday, April 03, 2014

03:04:14 Lunch time swim...?!

I love RunKeeper. I love how it motivates me to go for lunch-time walks on my work lunch break. I love how it sparks a bit of competitiveness between Byron and myself. He gets longer lunch breaks than me so I rarely get to put in as long a walk as he does. Until the other day that is...

I did my walk a bit slower than normal. I stopped at the library to pick up a book, called in to Woolies and picked up 6 litres of milk and then wandered into the pet shop for Chicken seed, 2 kilos of chicken seed. By the time I was trudging back slowly up the steep hill to the hospital I was knackered and gasping for breath. So imagine my surprise when RunKeeper messaged me "CONGRATULATIONS!" Apparently I had done my best time ever! Are you serious? Not only that but in my 27 minutes of walking I had exceeded Byron's best power walks on his longer lunch breaks?! 

I looked at the summary of the walk and this is what I saw. It looks like I detoured and did a swim 1000m out into the middle of Lake Macquarie and then back into shore again before continuing my walk. Yes, I really had broken all the records but maybe a dodgy GPS signal had swayed the truth a little. 

No need to tell Byron about it yet though, lets keep the competition alive a little longer shall we...?!

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

02:04:14 Lego Movie!

I got an email this week from the mailing list at a local shopping centre. It was offering the first 75 people who responded to the email two free tickets to a VIP showing of the Lego Movie the day before it was released to the public. I responded and very excitingly I won! Then Gareth responded and he won too! Then Rhiannon and then Sian!!! All together the four of us had won 8 tickets. We knew that even if the whole family went we would have three spare tickets so we asked three of Gareth's friends to join us. They did and we had a brilliant time. It was great to hear so much laughter at such a simple storyline. There were as many adults at the movie as there were kids. Everyone seemed very relaxed and happy, chatting with the people around them, probably because we were all excited to have won our free tickets. I'm feeling lucky this week. Might be time to buy a Lotto ticket!

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

01:04:14 Asbestos Awareness Week 2014

Today marks the beginning of Asbestos Awareness Week. As a nurse I come into contact with people who are suffering from Asbestos related disease. These patients are normally elderly and have developed their symptoms in the last few years of their lives. This is usually many, many years after they actually had contact with the asbestos. What I didn't realise was the number of  young people who are currently being diagnosed with asbestos related illnesses.

If you click on this link you will be able to watch the story of Heather Von St James.

It shows a different story to the one I have seen here in Australia. I sat and watched it with my kids one night last week. We were all touched by this mother's story and the efforts she is going to to spread awareness on how we can be educated and protected from this preventable disease. She's not asking you for money just a few minutes of your time to read about how asbestos has affected her life and that of her family. I am proud today to use my blog as a platform to help share her simple message. And to thank God for the health that I have and sometimes take for granted.

Thank you Heather.