Wednesday, December 31, 2014

31:12:14 365/365 Complete!

And so we say goodbye to 2014.

It has been a rollercoaster year. A year where we have watched our children grow and spread their wings, face challenges and celebrate achievements. A year where we have stood side by side with our friends as they celebrated birth and mourned death. A year filled with laughter and tears. We have spent time with friends old and new and have retraced our youth by visiting our home towns with our kids in tow, filling every second of our trip with stories of people and places that were a part of our becoming who we are today. 

We have taken a photo to mark each and every one of the days of 2014 and put them here on our blog. The special and the ordinary rolled together in a mix of what this year threw at us. Because that is life. Not always the edited version. But all gloriously colourful and real and true. 

I will end this 365 days of 2014 with a photo I couldn't have predicted on New Years day. A new family member that I was not ready for and took a while to get used to. Because we never really know what the next year will bring, do we? 

Thank you for sharing this year with us. We wish you all the love and health and happiness that you deserve. Thank you for being our friends. 

Here's to 2015!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

30:12:14 Mad Auntie Gina

​Because every family has the crazy Aunt who tries to get into the otherwise lovely family portrait!

Monday, December 29, 2014

29:12:14 Afternoon Walks

A new routine for us this year. Walks with Murphy! The day started hot but an afternoon of walking beside the lake we get to enjoy the shelter of the palm trees and the cool breeze on our skin.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

28:12:14 Crystals

I love how this collection of crystals on Rhiannon's windowsill catches the light. I was only supposed to be ducking in and out of her room to drop off some clean laundry but found myself mesmerized by the colours and textures. Walk away from the shiny things Gina, the housework won't do itself....!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

27:12:14 Books

I sort of forgot I had promised my sister to give her Christmas gift ideas for Byron and myself. There was a last minute solution of  "How about I buy us something in the post Christmas sales?" 

I thought I probably wouldn't go shopping for ages but a misbehaving christmas phone gave us no choice but to head into the shopping centre today. As we handed the phone over the counter it flickered into life. Problem solved in less than a nano-second. We looked at each other and the same word left each of our mouths simultaneously "coffee?" 

Just next to the coffee shop was a book shop. 5 minutes of browsing, 2 minutes of queuing and we found ourselves sitting side by side in blissful silence with a coffee in one hand and a book in the other. 

Carrie, there are some gifts you can't put a price on!

Friday, December 26, 2014

26:12:14 Beetroot dip

Yesterdays beetroot salad blitzed in the food processor to make a yummy dip.
I love left-overs!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

25:12:14 Christmas day

A day of family.
A day of celebration for all we have.
A day of excitement for all we have received.
A day of gratitude for all we are surrounded by.
A day of hope for the coming year.
Knowing what we want cannot be bought.
And knowing how lucky we are to have each other.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

24:12:14 A taste of home...

For many Irish people living away from the Emerald Isle Barry's tea is on the list of food products they miss most. My mum sent over a tiny wrapped gift in the Christmas parcel this year and she told me I could open it anytime over the Christmas holidays that I needed some time-out. I put on the kettle tonight and was getting ready to make a cuppa with my normal Aussie tea-bag when I decided to open it up and inside was one Barry's tea-bag! Perfect timing, I topped up my cup with water 3 times to make the most of this nostalgic cuppa!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

23:12:14 Christmas food shop

Each year we do a Christmas food shop at a local international food warehouse. It has basic shelves stacked high with otherwise hard to find items. Many European food products catch our eye and some are in larger sized containers than normal. Byron goes through a few bottles of tabasco sauce each year but I was not going to give in and let him buy this crazy big one!

Monday, December 22, 2014

22:12:14 Snowflake

When I saw images on Pinterest of beautifully iced snowflake biscuits I wanted one of the cookie cutters ASAP. They are available very cheap on-line but you have to wait 4-6 weeks for economy delivery. I was impatient and willing to pay more to get it quickly so I could use it this year. I ordered one on my phone from an Australian seller on Ebay on my work lunch break and it was in my letter box the following morning. I certainly got my $9 value from it and used the cookies as teacher gifts at the end of term. 

Then this weekend I was in my local Woolies and I saw an offer. If you bought a recipe magazine you got a free baking tray and three cutters, an angel, a star and.... a snowflake! 

I couldn't resist as the snowflake was slightly different in shape to mine. The magazine only cost $3.50 so I indulged. The $9 cutter is on the left and the free one is on the right. It's a subtle difference alright and I'm sure if I had seen the magazine offer I wouldn't have ordered my ebay one! 

Never mind, I have had fun with mine and have had my monies worth with the cookies it has helped me to make!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

21:12:14 An early Christmas

We had a brilliant day today. Christmas lunch get-together at my brothers house. It was so good to see the kids all mixing together and realise that it is getting so much more relaxing as they are growing older. We are able to let them wander off and play together without wondering if someone is up to mischief or trying to escape out a window! 

In fact the only drama today was one of the big kids. My cousin Gareth caught his foot on the corner of a sofa and ended up dislocating his little toe. While the men saw the funny side of it the women were in full on fix it mode. Gareth made it clear he didn't want to call an ambulance so with cheers of encouragement from the men (and offers to find YouTube videos to help guide me) after four failed attempts the toe finally popped back into correct alignment. We have added the story to the volume of tales that will be forever repeated at every family gathering in the future! Each telling and re-telling becoming more exciting and exaggerated! 

Dislocations aside it was a very relaxing day. The food was amazing. So many yummy things to eat, ham on the bone, a Finnish beetroot salad, huge prawns, fresh cut bread. Followed by present giving and then Christmas pudding and custard. Maybe it is living so far from home that makes time with relatives so special. As with all family get-togethers we missed those family members that weren't there to share the fun but we raised a toast to them all, near and far. 

We are a very lucky family to have so many good people in our lives. People we can laugh with and hug, raise toasts to and depend on (even if that means being ridiculed as you holler in pain while someone pulls on your foot like a crazy tug-of-war!) 

“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”– Oscar Wilde

Saturday, December 20, 2014

20:12:14 Family Photo Christmas 2014

Oh the fun we had with the self timer on the camera once it was balanced on the tripod. There were so many out-takes that will forever stay within the privacy of our pc! This was the one that showed everyone off to their best. 

What don't we see? We don't see the messy bathroom and the piles of things on the stairs waiting to be brought up. We don't see the challenges of parenting three kids with boundaries that have to change and flex to suit the personalities that are within them. We don't see the things that have tested us over the previous 12 months. The changes in employment, the preparing for exams, the ferrying kids to and from school, part-time jobs and sports. The teaching a teenager to drive, to reverse park up a steep driveway, the burnt toast or the how-many-times-do-I-have-to-ask-you-to-pick-your-dirty-clothes-off-the-floor... 

Oh what a photo it would be if it told the full story of our family! Luckily this photo has caught us on a good day. A day where we spent time together putting up the tree, singing out of tune carols and laughing and being silly in the safety of our own company. 

We are very blessed to belong to each other. We are far from perfect and like every family we have our joys and our challenges. This last year has brought change and I'm sure 2015 has a few surprises in store too but together we will do our best to support each other and to capture the best days on camera. 

As my Dad says when we raise a glass in celebration...

"Go mbeirimid beo ar an am seo arĂ­s"
"May we all still be alive this time next year"

Friday, December 19, 2014

19:12:14 Happy Birthday Myles

I am lucky enough to be God-mother to two wonderful children. A little girl around the corner and a fantastic teenage boy in the UK. They are both very different and both very dear to me. Today I am celebrating the birthday of my God-son Myles. This year he becomes a teenager. I really enjoyed seeing him when we stayed with his family in the UK in January. He has grown and changed since I last saw him but he is still essentially the same, funny person that I remember.

Happy Birthday Myles,
You are growing into an amazing young man. 
I'd love to take some of the credit for it but I think you owe it all to your wonderful Mum and Dad!
I know we live on opposite sides of the world but if there is ever anything I can do for you I'm only a text message away.
Love you,
G xoxo

Thursday, December 18, 2014

18:12:14 Chores

How many baby bibs have I hung on my washing line over the years? How many tiny socks, vests, babygro's? How many photos did I stop to take as I went about my repetitive housework? None!

So when I spent a morning with a friend this week and offered to help her with her chores why did it get me excited? Possibly because with her 6 week old twins her laundry is way more fun than my own. Tiny socks that were smaller than the pegs I used to hang them. I couldn't help but snap a pic of the washing line blowing with tiny clothes.

I'm sure my friend will think I am mad when she sees that her repetitive chore has become my photo of the day!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

17:12:14 The end of an era...

Today was a day of celebration. A day of goodbyes. A day of hugs and thank-yous. Today my baby finished Primary school. The big fish in the small pond are preparing to become the small fish in the big ocean! 

I wandered around the school smiling and waving at kids I know and teachers that have been a part of our lives since we arrived in Australia. Almost every week for nine years I have come in to do reading with my friends. We have seen hesitant kids transform with time and patience into confident expressive readers. After our weekly reading we have gone to a local cafe and had an hour of chatting and putting the world to rights. I feel like it's not just Gareth and his friends moving on but us mums too. 

Just as my heart was feeling heavy I remembered the words of my friend. I'm Godmother to her daughter who is not even due to start at the school for another couple of years. We did the maths together counting the years on our fingers until my Goddaughter will leave year six. 2023! 

And so I enjoyed the day and with a lighter heart watched Gareth enjoying the well wishes of the younger students. I was so happy to see him smile and enjoy this last special day. 

A new era is about to begin in the Baynham household. Bring it on!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

16:12:14 The Gatherer

Today was a sad day. Is there ever a good time for a funeral? Not for a 30 year old. Not for his wife and kids left behind. Not for someone who only stood in our house last month looking healthy and happy. Cancer sucks. Would he have wanted to know that he had only eight precious days from going to his GP to his final breath? Would he have done anything differently?

In the words that were spoken about him there was description after description about what a "gatherer" he was. He was the one that would ring around and arrange bbq's, camping trips, get togethers. His ability to gather friends together was going to be missed. At the end of the service was a challenge. To think of life as a relay race. To see Mitch as having run his segment and holding out the baton to the next person. We were asked to go away determined to spend our time well. Spend it in the presence of family and friends. To be gatherers. To live the rest of our lives with as much passion and enthusiasm as Mitch had lived his.

This Christmas-time is the perfect time to live this message. To reach out to friends and family that we have not spoken to in a while. Ring your aging relative. Accept that offer to get together with friends. Invite some kids around to make a mess in the kitchen.

Have fun and live every day well. Because none of us knows how many precious days we have left to live.

Monday, December 15, 2014

15:12:14 Snowflake Cookies

A big part of this weekend was spent making and eating! Hundreds of cookies were baked and then iced, ready to give away as gifts. I have my Christmas Girls Night Out tonight and everyone brings a $10 wrapped gift to do "Secret Santa"  The best part is the swapping and stealing that goes on as we unwrap a gift according to the numbers we have pulled out of the hat! This year I found a lovely white china serving plate half price in a sale. It brought a previous budget breaker into the perfect price range. I've put some of this weekends cookies onto it, added some edible glitter and wrapped it in cellophane. Another layer of Christmas paper to hide the contents and I am ready to put it in the boot of the car. I can't wait to see who gets it. I will show you what I bring home tomorrow!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

14:12:14 Christmas card

Christmas cards seem to be a dying art. I've noticed a drop in the number of cards we receive each year. Maybe people are more environmentally aware, maybe the cost of the postage is getting too much, maybe we all have less time to sit and write.

I like a physical card. Especially from my overseas friends. Many of our friends put a photo of their kids inside and it is exciting to see how much they have changed from the previous year. I know many friends are on Facebook now and maybe the idea of the annual keep-in-touch is less needed.

Our postage here in Australia has gone up significantly in the last two or three years. If I go into the Post Office with four cards I can no longer hand over a $10 note and get some change back, I'm left scrabbling for some extra coins to hand over. Even though we have started to be sensible and reduced the number of cards we post I still handed over $100 to our local Post Office last week to post this years overseas cards.

Every year I question "Is it worth it?"  I hope so. I know I love the feeling of opening a card from a friend, seeing an envelope covered in little stickers from our Japanese students, or the shaky handwriting of an aging relative.

I 'm not ready to let this art die out just yet.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

13:12:14 Dog Beach

It was an overcast day, warm but not hot. We needed some fresh air and decided to bring Murphy to a local dog beach. It was so much fun to watch him run around without a lead, interacting with other dogs and bounding back to Rhiannon for reassurance every now and then. I swear he has a smile on his face in this photo!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

11:12:14 Avoca

In Ireland there is a beautiful shop called Avoca. When I was home last December my sister bought me some Avoca baubles to hang on my tree. They are rustic and simple. Twine and wool baubles.

I don't want to pull the labels off just yet! They remind me of the evening we bought them. If I close my eyes I can go back in time, hear the Irish accents around me and feel the crisp cold air on my cheeks.

For me Christmas is a time for nostalgia where every decoration has a story and the simplest of things can bring a lump to my throat.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

10:12:14 Band Farewell

Today is an emotional day for us as Gareth has the first of his "lasts" 

Today he has his last band lesson in St Josephs. He first started playing the trumpet under the guidance of Howard Ward in 2011. He has progressed from enthusiastic to tuneful over the last three years. Today is the last time I will line his trumpet case, music stand and bag by the front door, the last day he will carry them into school. 

I think the next week is going to tough as each day brings yet another "last"

“Where words fail, music speaks.”

Hans Christian Andersen

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

09:12:14 Bah Humbug!

Murphy looks like he is feeling a little worn out by the Christmas season! He is fed up being chased around the house with Christmas props because "He looks soooooo cute!"

Monday, December 08, 2014

08:12:14 Candles in jam-jars

My sister pinned this idea on Pinterest and then told me to go look at it. 

Such a simple idea. Get an empty jam-jar and paint it with PVA glue and then wrap it in old lace. Sounds easy? 

I wish you could have been a fly on the wall in my kitchen as I tried to make these! The glue was everywhere, my hands were sticking to everything except the lace! It probably didn't help that I was using the dreg ends of a glue bottle that was lumpy and thick and that I had poured boiling water in to try to thin it out. Imagine me shaking the bottle only to realise that spatters of glue were going everywhere in my kitchen! 

The end result looks peaceful. A bit like me when I had walked away from the kitchen and helped myself to a large glass of port!

Sunday, December 07, 2014

07:12:14 Christmas cookies

I love making Christmas cookies. I have my favorite cookie cutters that come out each year to be used over and over. Now that the kids are older they don't get quite so excited about using them but I am like a child! Bring it on!

Saturday, December 06, 2014

06:12:14 Gum tree sunshine

Summer in Australia can be glorious. Most days are hot but occasionally you will get a day where the sky shimmers deep blue and the gum tree bark glows orange. A day you can walk without being fried up by the suns rays. Todays picture was taken on a walk just before tea when the harshest of the suns rays were dipping low in the sky. I could lie under a tree like this for hours and feel the shadows of the gum leaves dapple over me. I could but I won't as it is next to a road and they'd be calling the men in white coats for me!

Friday, December 05, 2014

05:12:14 Vintage Gift Ideas

I love this time of year, pottering around shops looking for inspiration and ideas. We have a beautiful local shop that sells all things posh and vintage. It is combined with a cafe so you can have a coffee and drink up the surroundings with your eyes. The price-tag normally eludes us but it's fun to browse and imagine yourself back in another time!

Thursday, December 04, 2014

04:12:14 Christmas Traditions

I love when we get the Christmas tree set up. Lights twinkling, Christmas carols playing and Advent calendars opened. Magic no matter what age!

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

03:02:14 Can I open it....?!

Lots of excitement in our house as every day brings a card or parcel from friends near and far. This parcel arrived from Byron's parents. I was bursting to open it but held back until Byron came home from work. Murphy was egging me on but I held strong! Christmas brings out the child in me!

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

02:12:14 Crazy storms

These last few days there have been some huge storms battering New South Wales. We've had blue skies changing in a matter of minutes to black. Lightning followed by rolls of thunder. Exciting to watch from the safety of the house but a bit more nerve wracking if we are still in the car. Heres a picture I snapped from the passenger window as Byron focused on getting us home in one piece!

Monday, December 01, 2014

01:12:14 A Baltic Christmas.

I love that blogging has introduced me to a whole range of friends from around the world. It is fascinating to read stories of hurricanes in Okinawa, Cultural do's and don'ts when living as an expat in Qatar, or just what another mum is up to with her kids over the school holidays. 

One of the readers of this blog, Liene, was born in America but has American-Latvian heritage. On her blog she is hosting a holiday series called "24 Days of a Baltic Christmas." It will be a countdown to Christmas showcasing Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian holiday food, crafts and traditions. If you are interested in experiencing Christmas from another culture you might enjoy a visit to her blog. I am looking forward to reading her posts over the coming weeks. 

You can find her by clicking on her logo below...