Monday, 25 August 2014

Weekend Birthday

Another year..... I won't go on about time going so fast etc, etc (but it really DOES!)

The annual breakfast in bed birthday treat happened here this weekend. She waits for me to stir and get myself out of bed and downstairs to prepare the tray with a small breakfast and a few cards and gifts. She always pretends to be asleep but the smirky smile tells me that she's been so patiently waiting....

Quick rendition of "Penblwydd Hapus" and down to the kitchen to begin a day of celebrating.

The lights are on because it's dark, which means it's early - really early! Way, way too early on a weekend morning...! We had to fit in this birthday breakfast before setting off for a school activity, but we managed - just.

No birthday can pass without cake and this year the request was marble cake. The last time I made marble cake was exactly one year ago.

The other treat for birthdays in this house is that you get to choose where or what we eat. This year it somehow lasted the whole weekend. Sibs opted to stay at home rather than choose a restaurant  and on the birthday eve it was calamari (ewww!), then the request was Cesar salad for lunch and home made ravioli for dinner. Oh, and the request for ravioli fillings? - Spinach and ricotta in some and meat in others! So in between ferrying back and fore from different weekend activities some serious work happened in the kitchen department.

Home made pasta is sooo good, but it's such a fiddle and even though there were no complaints on the taste front I have to say the presentation of the little ravioli parcels was rather questionable! The tomato sauce did its job in hiding the rather strange looking shapes!

A quick clear up and nana, Sibs and I were off out to meet up with Aunty D, Aunty L and a friend for a girls night to the city to the Tina Arena Reset Tour concert.

Sibs was amazed at the lack of screaming.  I suppose when you've experienced One Direction and 5 Seconds of Summer anything else will appear subdued!

Of course there had to be the obligatory selfies.

The night was great and it was an extra special treat for Sibs to get together with Tina and the team after the concert. It did mean that it was a very late night, but a lovely ending to a packed birthday weekend.

Happy birthday to my wonderful, wonderful girl.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Relaxing retreat weekend

So last weekend I spent a few days away from it all up the mountains for some serious switch off time. Goodness, how quick the week has gone.      

By the time I picked Sibs up from her ballet class and coaxed her away from the chatting that eleven year old girls are so good at, we set off a bit later that planned.

Now there are two ways of getting to this particular middle of no-where spot that was to be our weekend destination- the 'highway and then a bit of mountain' road, or the 'mountain all the way' road. On Friday night I decided on the highway. I hadn't tried this route to get there before.....

Picture the scene - it's dark, really dark, we're a little hungry and a little impatient to get there....

The sat nav only knows part of the way..... (it really is in the middle if no-where!)

So I take the wrong turn....!

Ok, technically I didn't take the wrong turn, I just didn't take any turn!

In my (slightly weak) defence every lake looks the same in the dark! Then after miraculously avoiding an enormous deer in the middle of the road, the dusty 8km dirt track that leads to the property appeared.

The fire was blazing, the casserole was being kept warm and the relaxing could begin!
We made it!

The Saturday morning started with a quick catch up hello with the animals and after a brief introduction to the new goats, off they trotted for a walk like two obedient little dogs!

The weekend was a get together with family to celebrate two birthdays. Two cousins born almost two weeks apart turning twelve in August. We celebrated their tenth birthdays here and they have loved every visit since. It's a place that they can wander and enjoy being outdoors. Apart from my slight paranoia about snakes, they are safe! Even on this winter weekend the daylight hours are all spent outside just exploring the surroundings.

These alpacas always make me smile. They would win any staring competition without a doubt!

Just as I was snapping away at the alpacas these three were watching the action, so of course they had to be included in the photo shoot too!

One of the highlights of this particular stay was to see two koalas close up. The last few times that I've visited I've managed to spot some in the trees in the distance but this time they were so much closer to the property. It's such a reminder that I'm in Australia and not somewhere back in the Yorkshire Dales!

They were so obliging looking directly at the excited woman taking a hundred photos of them!

On the Saturday afternoon Nana had us all in stitches of laughter when she brought out some old family photos. The kids had a real giggle at the fashions and hairstyles. Laughter is so infectious.

Then as the sun set it was back indoors to light the fire, enjoy another comfort food dinner and then curl up under my new blanket with a book.

Of course it's not a birthday weekend without cake and Aunty D produced this fantastic creation on Sunday afternoon for us all to enjoy. 

Presents were exchanged and Uncle S had the brilliant idea of giving the kids the same book complete with a beautiful little message on the inside cover. 

I think Sibs was very happy with her birthday present!

All too soon if was Sunday afternoon and time to pack up and head back to reality.

Quick goodbye to Stuart Little and Mr Jones the goats.

Thank you Nana and Papa for organising a lovely weekend.
Until next time....

We stayed at The Hollow Log Country Retreat website link  HERE, and Facebook page link HERE

Friday, 8 August 2014

A Friday catch up

It's Friday..... thank flippin' goodness!

It's been a long few weeks ....

Partly as I have been busy putting in a few extra hours here and there with my work and partly self inflicted as I have been staying up way way too late in the evenings working on my crochet blanket and getting totally addicted to the new BBC channel on Foxtel TV!

Thank you, thank you, thank you Foxtel for bring BBC First to Australia. Burton and Taylor was superb!

So what else has been occurring?

Well the Winter has not disappointed with glorious crisp mornings and sunny afternoons. The fire has been lit a few evenings...just for the sight, sound and smell really as to be honest it hasn't been particularly cold.

The Winter school holidays were a bit of a blur as Sibs was involved in a pretty big production of CATS.

When I say pretty big, I mean huge! There were over 500 cats involved with Marina Prior as the star attraction. I did start to write a blog post about it but never quite got to finishing it. I probably should, as it was such an incredible experience for her and it would be good to capture the memories. I was involved back stage and got to witness the excitement and thrill that the young performers experienced. It was pretty magical.

So after that I took Sibs and a friend for a little break up to Noosa to visit Nana and Papa and we did the holiday stuff - meal out, market wandering, walk on the beach, paddle boarding, whale watching on her uncle's boat,  people watching. Just chilling out really - bliss.

The second half of the school year has reminded me how close we are to coming to the end of a childhood milestone - finishing primary school.
Last week Sibs and I went to be fitted out with her high school uniform. Yes, it's a full six months before she starts high school but I got a call to gently let me know that I hadn't booked in a fitting and hey, ho there was a cancellation and could I pretty please get myself organised and be at the school for 7am on a Monday morning!
When Sibs tried on the school blazer I expected to be confronted by the sight of a grown up young lady, instead I saw my little girl looking back at me. It didn't help the emotions that the high school sports fleece was the identical colour to the fleece she had when she first started primary school back in the Yorkshire Dales as a just turned four year old. Talk about flashback with a twist!

So the spare bedroom is full of uniform, bags, hats, textbooks and various school paraphernalia. Sibs keeps going in and trying things on - which I think is a good sign that she's looking forward to the change.

This boy has yet again been in the wars, we reckon he's getting pretty close to his ninth life!

We didn't see him at all last Sunday and he didn't come home that evening for his tea. I eventually heard the cat flap swing open in the early hours of Monday morning and a rather bedraggled looking Twmff appeared. He spent the day sleeping and when I checked on him he had a number of little scratches and cuts. He has since spent the week curled up and hasn't even shown any interest at all in venturing out. Something or someone has definitely spooked him. He's been getting lots of cuddles, 'cwtches' and  'maldod' so I'm sure he'll be right as rain soon.

In more exciting news.... I've finished my stripe blanket - yay!

I've really enjoyed working on this one. It's pretty heavy and warm and is just the right size to drape over two laps on the sofa. Every now and again I would question the riot of colours but when I put a border of three different tones of blue to finish it off, it seemed to work.

I'm pressing pause this weekend and going away up to the mountains for a get away weekend and I'll be taking my blanket with me. It's a place we've been to before. Somewhere to completely switch off. There's no TV, phone reception or internet connection. The only noise is the wildlife - and there's plenty of that.
I've packed two books, my toothbrush, my Ugg boots, some chocolate, my camera,  my crochet bag and not much else!

So let's hope I come back revitalized and refreshed.

Happy weekend,

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,

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