Monday, 3 March 2014

Too tired to think of a title!

Still quiet around the traps of this blog...just saying a quick hello.

Life is carrying on at such at pace, just not being blogged about.
Partly as the old laptop is really showing it's age and every few minutes is screaming at me that there are 8756 reasons for it to be slowing down! (Yes, laptop, I know the feeling...!)

So today I am having a catching up day.

It feels like the first Monday this year that I don't have to be anywhere. I wandered around the kitchen this morning convinced that I had forgotten some important appointment. Then that delicious feeling of "I can actually do what I want today".

So I sat in my study and drank a coffee and disturbed Modlen's nap time.

I've messed around with downloading photos and getting carried away with reminiscing - serious time waster but lovely.

I've got a slow roasting piece of pork in the oven and the smell is intoxicating.

I've browsed instagram and been transported by wonderful images from NZ to Wales to LA and back again to Brisbane. Goodness the world can become such a small place.

I've done a little bit of research for an upcoming holiday.

I'm now not going to push my luck any further and ramble on as this is about the time the laptop throws a little hissy fit!

It's being replaced this week with a new iMac - beyond excited! 
Dare I make a promise to self to blog more...? Just a little bit more.

Happy Monday

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

An Australian Christmas

I sat down with the laptop this afternoon fully intending to do a bit of a 2013 reflection.

My laptop however had other ideas and decided that it was going to throw a bit of a tantrum. So after de-bugging and removing and uninstalling various programs I'm a bit over searching for just the right photos and I'm just going to concentrate on one day in December. Let me share with you my December 25th.

Christmas 2012 I was back home in Wales in the cold. It was stuff that the storybooks show - shops decorated until they were full to the brim, Christmas carols everywhere, hot chocolates in cafes and white frosty mornings - magic!
Christmas 2013 was in Brisbane in the heat. It was air con and fans, cold drinks, dips in the pool and lots and lots of people.

Before I talk Christmas day, let me start with Christmas Eve.

There aren't many  houses that show signs of Christmas around here. In fact, you could almost be forgiven for not noticing it's that time of year. There are no street lights or decorated trees outside of the city centre. There are however a couple of houses that put up a few lights....

a local house getting into the Christmas mood!
So on Christmas Eve we ventured out just as it turned dark to go and view the house with the lights. As we were nearing we spotted some red and white lights in the sky.

"Look, it's Santa on his way to New Zealand" I joked...

My eleven year old did a double take with eyes wide and muttered something like "You're kidding right?"

There hadn't been much talk or questions about the man in the red suit this year, and I hadn't initiated any conversation either. There was no milk or carrots left when it was bedtime and to be honest I was a little heavy hearted.

However.....when I went to say goodnight I found a stocking and this little note on the bedroom door.

Yes! One more year..... (thank you Qantas!!)

Christmas morning is all the same wherever you are in the world. It starts way to early! The stockings are inspected and there is always chocolate at some silly hour before breakfast. Then when the first cup of tea has been drunk it's on to the presents under the tree. 

It's not Christmas without my friend Jo Malone... diolch mam x

Our usual late breakfast/brunch is smoked salmon, eggs and toast and we shared this with Gu and Tadcu (welsh grandparents). Of course there is a need for coffee at this time as the day had already been going for hours!

We were entertaining at home and the numbers had been steadily increasing in the days up to Christmas. In the end the final count was 25.

The biggest challenge was not the food and drink, but where was everyone going to sit and did I have enough plates and glasses?
The ping pong table came in handy..... covered in a table cloth it worked a treat.
Ikea came to the rescue with cheap glasses and with some borrowed wine glass charms we managed just fine.

it's not an Australian Christmas without prawns.

Everyone contributed and we had a feast.

To start - crudities and dips, mini yorkshire puddings with beef and horseradish.
Fish course - prawns on ice, lemon yoghurt sauce, orange roughie, tomato and cucumber salsa, feta red onion and watermelon salad.
Mains - slow roasted pork, glazed ham, home made pork pie, spinach and feta rolls, green salad, potato salad, quinoa with vegetables and nuts, chick pea salad.
Dessert - mini meringues with cream raspberries and passion fruit and lemon curd, fresh fruit salad, home made macaroons and of course chocolates!

I think we had enough food!

The thing I love the most about Christmas this side of the world is how the day is very relaxed. We sit around the table for hours catching up with family and friends. The food just keeps appearing and the afternoon becomes evening before we know it. 

The children have hours of fun in the pool and playing cricket and always put on some kind of a show. Even the four dogs and two cats behaved themselves!

So another year is over. I'm grateful for many things and thankful that I was able to share December 25th 2013 with special people. 

Monday, 9 December 2013

Can something become too precious?

Christmas 1982 I was given a special gift. 
It was a silver welsh lovespoon on a chain that my grandmother gave to me.

I have worn this lovespoon for the last thirty one years...

I have just had a moment there - a moment where I doubted my maths! Thirty one years? Surely not?

Anyhow, as I said,  this lovespoon has been with me all this time. Throughout my school years tucked under my pale blue regulation blouse; through Uni days; moving away from home; moving back home; getting married; becoming a mother and eventually moving across the ocean to Australia.

I don't wear it everyday, but it is my default piece of jewellery.  As the years go by I love it more and more, and this is where the problem lies. My little silver lovespoon is becoming too precious that I am beginning to get a little wary of wearing it.

The other week I just had a feeling that I hadn't seen it for a while. I checked the couple of places where it should have been. Not there.

I searched high and low. I turned drawers inside out even though it was highly unlikely that the spoon was anywhere near there. I could feel a bubble of panic, maybe even fear that I dared to think that I had lost it.

I left it a few days and searched again. Nothing....

I re-lived the previous few weeks. Tried to remember the clothes that I had worn. I recalled how I almost lost it once when I was olive picking a few years ago when the chain broke but the lovespoon stayed safe and tucked itself into my clothing.

Still nothing.

I even scrolled through some photos and tried to piece together when I wore it. Major panic when I saw a recent one of Sibs and I in Auckland with the lovespoon around my neck....!

I tried to convince myself that it would just show up. (I do denial pretty well)

Last week I was packing to go away for a few days and as I was throwing some toiletries into a bag I spotted a small black velvet drawstring pouch. I tentatively peered inside and there was my little silver lovespoon. It had made it back from Auckland.

So I wore it when I went away again last week and then the same thing happened. I couldn't find it a few days later. Not in the little black pouch, not in the other obvious places.

I rang the hotel - nothing.

Maybe my luck was running out?

This morning I found it tucked in the corner of the jewellery roll that I took away with me. The same jewellery  roll that I looked through - twice.
I actually whooped out loud!

Is this just a sign of a busy life? Of having a brain that it crammed too full of end of year lists and chores that I can't think straight?

Or have these near misses been a sign that I should place this necklace away in a drawer, lock it and hide the key??

I have thought a bit about it this evening. I have thought about how much I love my silver lovespoon necklace and how it often makes me think of my grandmother.

I thought about how devastated I would be if I did ever lose it.
But the strongest feeling came when I really considered not wearing it again.
It felt like I was about to lock a bit of me away.

So I'm going to continue to take great pleasure in wearing it and in enjoying the link it gives me to my past. It's a bit like deciding to live the moments. There's no point wondering too much about the 'what ifs' in life - just make the most of it whilst you have it.

Wish me luck in keeping it safe for the next thirty years and beyond!

Monday, 11 November 2013

Friday, 1 November 2013

ahhh Kevin.... "The Man. The Dreams. The Journey" His show in Brisbane.

Funny, flirty, intelligent, slightly random - that was my evening with Kevin Mc Cloud on Wednesday.

Ok, so I had to share him with about two thousand others, but that didn't stop me from telling anyone who would listen that I was spending an evening with Kevin!

In a highly anticipated 'one night only' show I joined his legions of fans and secured my seat at the Lyric Theatre Brisbane for two hours of entertainment. 

All the car parks were full so after a slight panic that I was going to miss the start of the show I just about managed to fit the car into a tight spot wedged next to a post. This necessitated me clambering into the passenger seat to get out, inadvertently opening the boot in the process and almost losing a heel. Not quite the sophisticated entrance I was hoping for!

Anyhow, I followed the crowd to the theatre and took my seat and I sneaked a really quick photo of the stage  (I know from experience how vigilant the Lyric Theatre staff can be with photograph taking.) Then the familiar theme music came on and Kevin appeared to the delight of the crowd.

So there was no 'One Direction' screaming this week (see last post for all the screaming!) but the applause was generous and warm. Kevin wasted no time in telling us that he hated that theme music, really hated it....who knew? He also shared that Grand Designs is more popular here in Australia than back in the UK.

I immediately got a sense that this was going to be a chatty kind of night. Just Kevin pacing the stage and chatting. Now this is no mean feat as it was a one way chat. He got the occasional clap or chuckle but he carried on with his chatting regardless. It was a mixture of a stand up comic and an academic lecture.

He shared tales about some of the builds that he has covered and we were shown a few clips on the large screen to remind us. He used the screen to show us some architectural designs and influences and gave us a little quiz on our design type. I admit to feeling a bit homesick at times, especially when he showed the 14th Century castle from Series 7. I use to live close by to that.

There was some audience participation in the form of an invite on stage if your 'dream home' was read out so that Kevin could draw it out for you. The closest I came to that is that I work with one such lucky audience member and she's originally from Wales - Go Suzi!

Then there was the (pre-arranged?) cute child who was invited up to help with an experiment. I loved the lady in row 3 who caught his eye and demanded to be chosen to help as well....and he obliged. In his words "she has dressed up and made a real effort" . So did I did I!
I thought that security would have to come and get her off the stage as she was slightly reluctant to leave...

He did make me laugh when he said that he had lots of beautiful young ladies approach him and then proceed to tell him that their mother liked him! There are a number of people that admit to having a bit of a soft spot for Mr McCloud.

During the interval we were encouraged to go mingle and have a drink and I may be wrong here, but I have a sneaky suspicion that Kevin may have indulged in a shandy or two. He was a bit more buoyant in the second half and the pacing increased. There were random references to toilets and a rather awkward dual act with the chappie that does the Australian version of Grand Designs who just happened to be sitting in the front row...

The evening concluded with a rather bizarre encore in the form of a poem/song. To be fair, it was actually quite clever and brought together lots of the information that we had been listening to for the previous couple of hours. One way of providing a summary I suppose.

Thank you for coming to Australia Kevin, you have lots of fans.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

One Direction, Brisbane

I'm either mad, indulgent or just best mamma this week. I can't quite decide myself...

In my last post I wrote about taking my girl away for the weekend and going to see the One Direction concert in Auckland. We had a blast, an absolute blast! Stuff that I hope will stay in the memory bank for ever.

A few days after we returned, I had one of those 'right place, right time' moments....and some Brisbane tickets!

My brain flickered between - "How fantastic, she'll be thrilled" to "I really shouldn't as I don't want to over indulge..."

I mentioned it to Neil, fully expecting him to do the sensible father speech, but uncharacteristically he just said "go for it!"

...So we did!

ear plugs at the ready!

I thought the Auckland fans were loud - but the Brisbane crowd was something else. Boy, those girls can scream!

They jumped, danced and sang their hearts outs. They hung on every word that their idols spoke. (Well, those words that they could actually hear over the screams!)

I spent some time people watching.

*There were a few bored parents. One mother in the row behind me sat all night with her arms crossed, she didn't see a thing apart from the back of the girl in front of her!
*There were groups of girls clutching each other who just uttered "Oh my God" over and over again.
*There were so many people watching the concert through the screen of their phones or iPods trying to capture any images they could. What a waste! Come on girls, enjoy the moment.
*There were some tiny tots trying to sleep...
*There were many many parents loitering outside just waiting. I saw lots of novel reading mums and dads and even a few knitters. Brisbane Entertainment Centre is a little bit in the middle of no-where so I guess it was just easier to hang around.
*There were some 1D mums living their youth again through their children - matching their t-shirts and various band merchandise with their daughters. Some cute, others not so...
*There were tears, happy tears.

Overwhelmingly though there were smiles. Lots and lots of happy people having a great time.
That was a joy to see.

Here's a few of my shots of the Sunday night performance.
One Direction Brisbane Oct 2013

Almost anyone can sound good blasting from the CD in the car, but to their credit these boys can really sing. Yes there were a few forgivable hoarse notes - they had been belting out those songs through 125 shows by the time they got to Brisbane. They didn't give you slick choreography but they made sure that they covered every part of that stage.  Add some fancy laser lighting, crowd interaction, lots of colourful graphics and a few video clips to give the boys a few minutes to change. Well all apart from Harry who appeared to have the same clothes on throughout. On the subject of clothes...what was it with the ultra tight trousers Mr Styles?! 
They looked a lot edgier and a bit more rock and roll than I expected. I'm sure the images on the water bottle/pencil case/backpack etc etc  at home has them looking quite different!
The show was safely predictable with songs about summer romance, unrequited love, fancying the person you can't have, secret love, jealousy...all the stuff that the teenage population of the audience lapped up.

Everyone under the age of about 25 seem to know every word to every song and happily shared this knowledge. It created an interesting sound....

I was warned asked by my 11 year old not to dance or sing....which I duly obliged, but I did find myself toe tapping and the odd line from an often heard track would sometimes escape my lips. (I don't think she noticed.) I have to say that I can't get the "I can't compete with your boyfriend - he's got 27 tattoos" line out of my head. 
I actually think that a couple of them have taken that one to heart and would give any boyfriend with 27 tattoos a good challenge!

One Direction Brisbane Oct 2013

Although mostly rehearsed and scripted (yes I can say say that, having heard it twice), the banter between the band members and the crowd was fun. They seemed to enjoy themselves, and they made many female swoon with the occasional wave or thumbs up or a special blow kiss....cue extra loud screams - one right in my left ear!

They were gracious in their thanks to each and every person in the venue and acknowledged that without their loyal fans they would not be enjoying this phenomenal success. There was quite a bit of charm going on here with praise to the parents for bringing their kids and "thanks for deciding to spend your money evening with us" speeches.

Before you knew it we were into the encore and every parent was beginning to think about the inevitable queue out of the car park....well everyone apart from the cross armed mother behind me who had made an early hasty exit with her daughter.

Shame, because she missed the chest booming loud "Best song ever" and the chance to sing along to "That's what makes you beautiful"....

Well...and....truly living those moments!

Friday, 18 October 2013

Treasured moments - from Swan Lake to One Direction.

Back in 2009 I took my girl to the city to watch the ballet Swan Lake. I remember at the time that I felt like it was a lot of money to spend on taking a just turned seven year old to the theatre and to expect her to sit still through three and a half hours of ballet.

I needn't have been concerned as she sat completely mesmerised, mouth slightly open, eyes transfixed.  I watched her almost as much as I watched the ballet! I think at one point I considered checking that she was still breathing.

That was the start of our regular mother daughter theatre outings.

Since then we have been lucky enough to catch some pretty amazing productions in Brisbane, but to date nothing had ever really come close to the enjoyment experienced watching Swan Lake. There have been quite a few musicals like Mary Poppins, Annie, Grease and Mama Mia. Then the Nutcracker ballet and more recently The Bright Stream performed by The Bolshoi Ballet. Some of these theatre visits have been large scale international productions but we also love to support the smaller amateur performances too.

Last week the dance studio that Sibs is part of had their annual dance concert at Queensland Performing Arts Centre. This performance is one of the highlights of her year. She loves the routine of rehearsals and back stage antics. Behind allowed inside the theatre is a real thrill.  Imagine having to tell her that she wasn't going to experience it this year?

When I first found out the dates for her dance concert, I knew that it clashed with something else. I also knew that the 'something else' was huge. Something that Sibs had been looking forward to for the whole of 2013.

It was time to break the news about the clash.

There were a few silent tears and a wobbly bottom lip. Then a big hug and a promise that we would go and watch the first night of the dance concert.

She still wanted  to attend the rehearsals and her lovely dance teachers who knew how disappointed she was and not being able to perform always made sure that she helped out in some way.

So what prevented her from being part of the show......?

We were having a long planned girls weekend watch One Direction!

My eleven year old is a beautiful mix of interests. She adores her ballet, looks forward to rugby season, loves to listen to a real mix of music and over the last year or so like millions of other tweenage girls has discovered 'One Direction'. (Thank you for the introduction goes to cool Aunty T!)

So last Friday, I picked her up from her afternoon school rugby game and instead of the usual ballet lesson it was a quick shower and change and off we went  to the airport. We shopped a little, bought a book each and arrived in New Zealand on a cold and wet Friday night.

We were originally booked into the same hotel as the band but in my wisdom(?) I changed this to be closer to the city.
At the risk of sounding fuddy duddy - One Direction fans can be a little crazy....
There were hoards of young girls camped out at 1am in front of the hotel screaming. They screamed for almost three days! The groupie mentality was almost a little disturbing and whilst I have no problem with Sibs being a fan of the band, I think that I have a parental responsibility to ensure her safety and to allow her to be eleven...

So we enjoyed a slightly quieter time. We walked, chatted, shopped, giggled and did the tourist things like the museums and the Sky Tower. We lazed over hotel breakfasts - such a treat. We ordered room service in our bath robes and watched TV whilst painting our toenails. It was pure luxury having that time away from home with my girl.

Of course the absolute highlight of the weekend was the One Direction concert.

"I think this is a dream"

I once again watched my girl completely awe struck at the spectacle in front of her eyes.

It was the Swan Lake experience four years later (but with screaming!)

Five minutes after arriving in our seats she turned to me - "I think this is a dream!"

Her quiet contemplation lasted about 10 seconds and then she jumped, sang and screamed with the best of them. Oh my goodness the screaming again.....the ear plugs came in very handy!

One Direction - Auckland 2013

One Direction - Auckland 2013

Sibs beamed all the way through the concert, then all the way back to the hotel and then all the next day and more!
This was loving and living the moment big time!

from Swan Lake 2009 to One Direction 2013
We made a pact last weekend that we would find the time to get away together maybe once a year. 
Just a night or two, just the two of us.
...Already planning the next trip!

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