Monday, 23 June 2014

Channeling my inner Bet Lynch




This weekend has been pretty full on. 

On Friday night it was school disco night, and I was one of the parent helpers.

This was my last year as helper at the school disco as this is Sibs's last year at primary school.

The last few years I have been one of the gatekeepers at the door collecting the money, handing out glow sticks and making sure that there are no escapees during the night. No-body warned me though that the toughest part of the job would be to keep the parents out!

For the safety of the children, school rules state no adults at the disco unless you're a teacher or a volunteer. I have heard all sorts of 'reasons' why a parent should be allowed in....
Now deep down I am a right softie so being bouncer at the door is not a natural role for me! Anyhow there's nothing like challenging your comfort zone.

So after a pretty exhausting day Sibs and I said goodbye to another primary school event.
As I was on duty out the front of the hall all night, I got all the gossipy chat in the car on the way home - and I cherished it.

Saturday is usually lie in time, but not this weekend. I was up with the birds and out of the house before the shops were open.

I had a fancy pants ball to go to on Saturday night.



Now I don't have an abundance of ball appropriate dresses in my wardrobe... so this necessitated a bit of a last minute rush shop.

Oh my word - panic and pressure shopping on a Saturday is not good! Not good at all!

I tried on some beautiful creations. I had to blink a few times to read the price tag on a few. I think I was on the wrong floor in David Jones when I tried those on!

After a couple of hours of shopping, the coffee stop was medicinal.

I sat and watched the Saturday shoppers and rationalised the various options that I had.

(So if you saw a woman nursing a large coffee and a chocolate bar and muttering to herself on Saturday morning - that was me!)

My little black dress that was ancient but classic was going to have to do.

So I decided that I would spend a fraction of the money on accessories.

I splashed out on some bling, various 'suck you in' undergarments... and some new shoes.

The first pair that I decided on were  black and well, probably a little boring. The shop assistant was a little more enthusiastic about the ball than me so she kept suggesting more and more outrageous styles.

I tried to tell her that I would have trouble just breathing in my new undies so I definitely didn't need the extra worry of being able to walk!

We sort of compromised and I came away with leopard print. Yes, from plain black to leopard print in one move!


What I usually wear on a Saturday night to what I wore this Saturday!


Whilst at the queue for the ladies on Saturday night I engaged in some chatting to the girls around me.

One of them complimented my shoes and I replied - 

"Thank you. They're a bit 'Bet Lynch' aren't they?"

Hmm, lots of blank faces....

These were Australian girls in their thirties - of course they had not the foggiest idea about Bet Lynch!

I tried to explain... One of them thought that she had heard of Coronation Street, so we were getting close! The next thing, out comes a phone, onto Google and we had a chuckle over the Bet Lynch images.

(Click HERE if you don't know who she is, and if you do then just google Bet Lynch images and be prepared for the memories)


Bet is on the left!!

On a more serious note, the cash that I saved by not buying a new dress I took to the 'fancy do' that was raising money for clinical research at The Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital. 
The hospital is involved in some incredible research and one of its major centres is the Burns, Trauma and Critical Care. 

A special guest on Saturday has experienced the amazing care from this centre.  She came to tell her story and moved each and every one of us with her courage and positivity. 

Last year seventeen year old Paris Turkington suffered horrific burns to 60% of her body. She is still recovering, but her progress so far has been inspiring. She is truly a remarkable young woman.

Along with her doctor Professor Jeffrey Lipman she encouraged us to support the RBWH Foundation and through the auctions and raffles and entry tickets I hope a substantial amount of money was raised on the night.

To finish the weekend off, on Sunday we invited some neighbours and friends for a roast dinner. At the end of a full blown meal - (yes there were Yorkshire Puddings and every vegetable you can think of, we even finished with bread and butter pudding and custard!) I happily sought some quiet time with a new crochet project. However, Modlen the cat decided that she wanted some company so I kicked off my comfy shoes and shared my corner of the sofa with my little friend.



 And so it's back to Monday. 

The glamour of the weekend is replaced by washing and house chores. Dinner tonight will be leftovers... and I'll see if I can get to bed before the early hours.


Here's to a good week,

Monday, 16 June 2014

Wonderful Winter

It's Winter in Brisbane (at last!)

Brilliant blue skies, crisp mornings, warm afternoons and cosy evenings.

The Ugg boats have re-appeared and the cardigans are out.


My first ever visit to Australia was for a month during August. I never really noticed that it was Winter. It was just glorious. I remember walking on the beach one morning and feeling a little chill in the air, but it was still Summery to me.



Now as June approaches I'm desperate to feel the drop in temperature. By July I can't wait to light a fire! Yes, I've definitely acclimatised.

The sun becomes a real show off during the Winter months here. The next photo was taken on a drive to work the other morning. I had just dropped Sibs off on the other side of town and had to take a different route to work alongside the river. The glare of the sun was spectacular creating lovely shadows of the city and reflections on the water.


 It's equally as pretty during dusk. Although you have to be quick as it can change from light to dark in minutes - seriously.   This was taken in those 3 minutes when the sun was just hitting the high rises  in the city. It was already dark in the spot where I was. The photo doesn't really capture it as I only had my phone.



With the cooler months comes more opportunity to get outside. I have signed up again this year to complete the Global Corporate Challenge. This is a sixteen week workplace team challenge that promotes physical activity. Armed with my pedometer I have a daily target of 10,000 steps. At the end of each day I upload my activity and this is plotted with the rest of my team to produce some competitive stats.
Some of the money that you pay to register with the GCC enables a partnership with Unicef to help support communities around the world as well as conducting research into the well being of the participants.
My girl Sibs is also unofficially following the challenge and we compare steps each evening. I have to say that she manages to outperform me almost daily. I put that down to her having shorter legs!


So on that note, time to get moving... 

It's on days like this I need a dog!



Happy Monday,

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Just some little everyday things...

The other day I spoke to a friend who asked me why I didn't blog so much anymore.

"Oh you know, life is a bit busy...." was my rather flippant reply.

She told me that she used to enjoy reading about the little everyday things that we got up to.

It got me thinking that as I fill my day with little everyday things I should find some time to record them.

The big things in life - the holidays, the concerts, the birthdays.... they all stay in the memories. It's the other smaller events that we forget.

So as I attempt to get back into this blog space I shouldn't just wait for a big event. Life isn't really like that is it? It's made up of smaller moments that are equally as precious.


So let me share my Monday.

I was mooching around the house contemplating a rare day of no plans when my phone beeped with a message....from my 11 year old.

"Can you come to a gardening and kitchen lesson this morning?"

I haven't done much with her lessons in school over the last couple of years so I decided to forgo the housework (not too difficult a decision) and replied with a "see you there".

I had a coffee date with a friend first thing. It was a mixture of sadness and tremendous excitement. She is leaving Australia to return to England. I handed over the baby blanket that thankfully was finished in time and we just about kept it together.... with both of us prolonging that final 'cheerio'.


"we won't say goodbye, as we will see each other next time I visit home"

Then I hot footed it up the hill to school.

I love the fact that even though Sibs is in her final year of primary she still gets excited when she sees me in her school.

After a lesson in the garden moving earth and mulch and pavers, I joined her and her friends for morning tea before the next lesson in the kitchen.

This is where they get to use the ingredients that they grow and create a meal for the class.

Each group of about four is given a specific menu item to complete from start to finish. We were making Gyoza.  The rest of the class made Garden Sushi, Fried rice with tofu, Edamame and wasabi salad with chilli dipping sauce and last but not least Crunchy fried noodle coleslaw.


Lunch was provided as a thank you for helping out - I wasn't complaining.


 The children prepare from start to finish, even setting the table and washing up. It was a joy to watch them work together and try out different foods and ingredients. I popped a packet of gow gee wrappers in the supermarket trolley that afternoon - there will be gyoza on the menu soon in this house!

On the crochet front I spent some time getting lost in hearts this weekend.


I decided to pretty up the laundry room with a bit of colour and use up some scraps of wool that I had in various spots around the house. Of course that led to a need to sort out said wool and what do you know - I have a yarn shop in my house!



When did I buy all of that??


This necklace was a really quick project. I saved an image of something similar on my phone months ago. (I'm afraid I have no recollection from where but I think it was from an instagram photo.) Anyway, I felt that I could now give it a go and voila.

It's a bunch of individual chain necklaces (you now that easy stitch that you start learning with). Go as long or as short as you want - just remember to count the same number of chains for each necklace! Then in a contrasting colour it's a few rows of double crochet that you sew together to secure the necklaces. I can see a few different colour combinations happening quite soon....




So I'm off to a yoga lesson in a bit, where I get to stretch and breath for a while. Then back for school pick up, quick turnaround between that and violin lesson, dinner,  and then Sibs and I are off to the theatre.

Just everyday small things....


Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Learning to Crochet

If anyone reading this has ever glanced at my instagram photos then you would know that over the last year or so I have taught myself to crochet.

I find it relaxing and almost meditative now, but it wasn't quite as simple to start...

Many an evening I struggled with youtube clips and various websites. How hard could it be to 'insert hook, yarn over and pull through'?? Well, let me tell you - it was!

So I shared a little of my struggle and attempts at learning the stitches one evening on instagram and got lots of little tips by some lovely people who knew what they were doing. Apparently it was all in the tension. Once I controlled that and also found a way that I was comfortable holding the yarn it just clicked. It probably took a couple of weeks of an hour or so in the evenings just practising lines of basic single, double and treble crochet. Add in a slip stitch and then half double and half crochet and I was away! That was once I worked out the US and UK crochet is different!

I was so impatient though...

I wanted to make something.

So I started to learn how to make granny squares. You know the ones - think '70s afghan throws in mustard, orange and brown!

What started off as a small granny square scarf morphed into a throw. Although I'm not sure that my confidence matched my ability at this point!

In hindsight, a smaller project would have been a little more realistic. These throws don't just appear overnight.

Anyhow, I was crocheting, albeit rather slowly and clumsily. It was true - it did get easier. Just being comfortable holding the crochet stick takes time. Knowing how tight or loose to hold the yarn in your hand, being able to twist the hook into and out of a stitch rather than holding it rigidly - none of this was natural.

My first throw took ages...and then some more!

I started and completed a very simple baby blanket in the middle of it. I left it untouched for a couple of months when I went overseas. But I kept going back to it and eventually it was done.



That feeling of satisfaction was pretty immense. Too right I was proud of myself!

I didn't follow a pattern (not my best move!) but I did use a great blog to guide me through a lot of it.

There is a delightful lady called Lucy who keeps a blog - ATTIC24
Lucy lives in Skipton in the Yorkshire Dales - the town I was lucky enough to call my home for 10 years. Apart from the gorgeous photos of the countryside that make me quite homesick, Lucy is an extremely generous soul who shares patterns, tutorials and general crochet tips.

Through her blog I learnt how to join the little granny squares as I went, rather than pile them up and then have to stitch then together, and I used the edging from one of her projects to finish off my throw.

I've made lots of Attic 24 projects since - daffodils for St David's day, flower brooches to sell at the school fete, quite a few stripy bags.



Sometimes my crochet is full of colour....


Other times it's a little more subdued...



But each piece gives a lot of self satisfaction when I see it coming together.

So if you're thinking of taking up a crafty hobby you could always try crochet - it's not just for grannies.

I'm definitely no expert, but I'm happy to share through this blog some of the basics and the things that I have learnt and some of the quick and easy things that I have made. I needed an easy, peasy, right back to the beginning' crochet lesson when I started and I gathered it from lots of different sources.

It's very satisfying making things for other people and I'm just about to post this creation off to Skipton.


It's for a project called Yarndale -  you can find out more HERE
I knew about Yarndale last year but didn't feel competent or confident enough to send through any crochet. I'm guessing (hoping) they're not after total perfection, so I'm contributing my little piece this time.

Right, things to do, places to go before school pick up,

Happy Tuesday,

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Thailand


Last October Sibs and I had a long weekend away in Auckland.  The anticipation and the travelling was almost as good as the time away. It was wonderful, and we made a little promise that we would try and organise another get away to spend time together.

Like a lot of things - I knew that it would be easier said than done!

Life gets so busy and packed with weekend activities and school work  and time just rolls on. So when an opportunity came to travel to Thailand recently I grabbed it and we packed our bags, set the alarm for a silly time and caught an early morning flight to Bangkok via Sydney.




  I can tell I've been living in Australia as it's funny how a 9 hour flight to Thailand felt like a short haul!

Our first sight of Bangkok was rather a blur... To say that they drive rather fast would be an understatement! The city whizzed by and we were weaving through lanes of motorway traffic avoiding trucks and cars with amazing precision. Sibs was a little subdued and I tried not to think too much about the speedometer creeping up to 160 km per hour!

Wat Arun, Bangkok
Anyhow, we made it to our first destination and were given a lovely welcome by family. It was all very exciting catching up with cousins and it was made even more special as my uncle and aunt were visiting from Wales too.

At the end of our first day, after a quick dip in the pool, Sibs and I dodged the mosquitoes (no-body told me there were mozzies in Thailand - and they were aggressive ones too!) and made our way to our own little cottage at the bottom of the garden.  So lucky and grateful for a comfy bed and air con.

Floating markets

Having our very own tour guides for the first few days was a real treat. We learnt about some Thai customs and expectations and how to pronounce the basic greetings.

On one hand this was an 'out of comfort zone' travel experience to be undertaking with an eleven year old. Sibs has been fortunate enough to cross the oceans a few times in her lifetime but her exposure to the world has been mainly Europe, Australia and New Zealand. This was going to expose her to different people, different culture and open her eyes to another world. At times it was slightly confronting, but we had emptied the shelves of our local library of Thailand books and had some expectations. Although I don't think anything could have prepared us for the sight of a road side dentist!


The Sanctuary of Truth

The heat in Thailand was rather surprising. I should be used to warm hazy days by now, but at times this was quite energy sapping. It didn't stop us doing anything although we needed to make sure that we were keeping hydrated and seeking shade whenever we could. There was bottled water available everywhere and in some of the larger tourist areas there was even free water with your entry ticket.

Wat Pho - The Temple of the Reclining Buddha.
Dropping coins in the 108 monk bowls.


The Emerald Buddha

 There were obvious crowds of tourists all seeking similar experiences but we managed to find some quieter, more contemplative moments during the trip. My family were wonderful in looking after us and we were also so fortunate to have a driver during the time we spent with them.



During the second part of the trip in Bangkok, rather than booking organised tours, we caught a train, a boat and a tuk tuk and (most of the time) it was all hassle free. We did experience the 'helpful' local who seeing us studying a map at the train station tried to tell us that one of the temples we were planning to visit was closed for the morning. He then just happened to have his friend waiting near by to whisk us to another temple for a 'very cheap price'! Thank you Lonely Planet Guide for warning me about that one.


I have to admit to having some reservations about staying in the city of Bangkok in the lead up to the holiday. I was reading various reports in the media about the anti government protesters and the disruption that this was creating. Even though I researched hotels, I didn't book any accommodation until a couple of days before.  I took advice from various sources and made an informed decision and apart from a quiet convoy and march that we viewed on one morning it was all calm.

Well as calm as a city with thousands and thousands of people can be....




Thailand was a colourful place with shrines and places of worship on street corners. Most people seemed happy with their lives, however humble we may have deemed it to be.

Sibs was fascinated by the street sellers who would be earning a living any way they could. One little old man proudly displayed a collection of rusty safety pins and paper clips amongst other scraps of metal on his patch of pavement. It was a reminder of how blessed we are...



We stayed in the hotel after dark and made sure that we chatted to the concierge each day to keep updated. The staff were very well informed and looked after us so well. It was a bit of luxury to return to after a day in the heat and a lovely place to relax. Sibs would catch up on a bit of homework at the same time that there just happened to be a happy hour for cocktails!

Sampling some Thai cuisine

We took hundreds of photos and have fabulous memories of a great trip. It was joyous to experience it with Sibs. She embraced the adventure, accepted the unexpected and hopefully learnt a bit too.
She is still young enough to be mesmerised with the moment and I hope this has ignited a little wonderment that the world is an amazing place.



Grand Palace


Arriving and leaving Thailand.
Two weeks away and she grew up!

Now where to next....?

Monday, 5 May 2014

Hugh Laurie and The Copper Bottom Band in Brisbane


My ticket had been safely secured the second I heard that Hugh Laurie and The Copper Bottom Band were including Brisbane on their Australian tour. (Thank you QPAC)

So off I went on Friday night in the pouring rain  - me and my new shoes, to join 1599 others for a night out at the magnificent Concert Hall in South Bank.

After his opening 'Iko Iko' number and some gentle encouragement to join in the second song Mr Laurie pronounced to his adoring audience,

"You're taking a leap of faith here"

Just in case we didn't know, he shared with us that until recently he was an actor.  He gratefully acknowledged that we were allowing him to indulge in his sometimes nerdy appreciation of music and his passion for American blues and jazz sounds.

I must say that he has gathered a formidable band to indulge with...

The stage was shared with seven truly outstanding individuals who shone throughout.

Now no offence here Hugh,  (Can I call him Hugh...? Should I be more formal? Heck I was in the fourth row - we're practically best friends!) but 'Hugh Laurie and The Copper Bottom Band' could easily be just 'The Copper Bottom Band'.
I guess that without the name they may not have sold out.., but from a musical and performance point of view there was no lead on Friday night. Each musician offered his or her unique and flawless contribution.

Soul Sista Jean's dramatic rendition of 'Lectric Chair' and 'I hate a man like you' were standout moments.

There there was the equally captivating and beautiful voice of Gaby Moreno with  'The Weed Smoker's Dream', 'Bona Sera' and 'Kiss of Fire' complete with a little Tango dancing to authenticate the experience.


Everyone on stage appeared to be having a good time. They smiled and congratulated each other after solo slots. They clearly loved their jobs.
Maybe it was the whisky shots that were delivered part way through? Probably not, it seemed a genuine enjoyment.


Hugh peppered the music with slightly comic exchanges with the audience - a touch of his Blackadder genius from years ago. He deliberately avoided any references to the Dr House character and politely informed a rather enthusiastic fan who asked about the Dr that madam was at the wrong show!

The girls were on fire throughout the night and the boys got a combined moment of glory centre stage and performed 'Lazy River' around a snazzy microphone with Hugh as sole accompaniment on the guitar.



The Copper Bottom Band musicians often drew well deserved spontaneous applause. Boy they were good! Laurie knew this and praised them throughout, often looking a little sheepish and rather  amazed that he was actually part of it!




The last number brought an instantaneous standing ovation and we stayed on our feet for the encore.
We didn't want to leave.


I had forgotten quite how much I enjoyed the blues.






(All photos were taken on my phone hence the rather dodgy quality)
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