Thursday, 30 December 2010

...and there were 26 for Christmas dinner!

Well I can honestly say that Christmas 2010 was pretty 'full on'!

Santa did his thing and was very generous with his gifts. He left us a note and made quite a mess with the pastry crumbs of the mince pie. Rudolph didn't eat his carrot, but he did enjoy the Christmas book that we left for him to read whilst Santa was busy sorting out the presents!

Christmas morning started around 6am with some squealing from Sibs as she realised that Santa had put some small gifts in her stocking. We managed to prolong the getting out of bed for a little while and then the excitement increased when she got downstairs and saw the gifts under the tree and scattered around the fireplace. Santa had even responded to her note - ahh bless him! Family started to arrive and Nana and Papa from England enjoyed special time with the grandchildren.

On Christmas afternoon 26 of us got together at our good friends' and neighbours' house to party away and celebrate the occasion.
14 adults and 12 children...can you imagine?

We were a pretty multicultural bunch consisting of only three Aussies amongst - English, Scottish, Dutch, a New Zealander, an American and of course a Welsh girl!

So much happened during the day that it would take me so long to record here so these are my highlights...

  • The note in the advent calendar said "look behind the advert calendar" and Sibs had hidden a card for us -pure magic!
  • I marvelled at how she loved to give presents and watched her face when the recipient opened her gifts.
  • Gu (welsh grandma) sent 'The Guinness Book of Records' and Sibs danced around the room clutching it.
  • There was lots of champagne!
  • The array of foods that everyone had contributed to the meal was just amazing - antipasto, glazed ham, chicken, beef, haloumi fritters, spinach and feta pie, umpteen salads and sides, salmon, prawns (of course), lime semifreddo, pavlova, cake...we had a feast!
  • The 12 children played together perfectly all day. They all watched a DVD around 7pm, then found a second wind and jumped back in the pool to sing Abba songs until way after 10pm!!
  • There was lots of champagne!

The following day we did it all again. Not quite with the same number, just 10 of us this time. We travelled up the mountain to a lovely day with family. Husband's younger brother and wife catered for us with a spread fit for Kings.
The best bit about Boxing day?... It rained all day and it was cold! So cold that we lit the fire and watched 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' - the original, just bliss!  (OK it's wasn't cold as in white fluffy stuff cold, just cold by Australian Summer time standards!)

So there's been a bit of recuperating and quiet time here.

the morning after the day before!
 We have just about managed to catch up with our sleep and ventured out for the first time today. Oh how I love lazy holiday days... The sun shone today and it feels like Summer holidays at last. We have a few diy projects on the go and we are beginning to get excited for our NZ trip in a few weeks.

Christmas is over for another year...

a local house


Friday, 24 December 2010

Waiting for Santa...

It's Christmas eve and all the jobs are done. Minced pies are cooked, meats have been roasted, presents wrapped, glass of Baileys and some chocolate by my side..., but there's one slight problem....little Sibs is just too excited to sleep!
She went to bed at 8pm which by usual standards is late, and we expected the calls of "I can't sleep!", but I didn't expect this!

Being eight years old I sort of expected her to be a bit 'over' Santa this year, but hey no...she's more excited than ever! (Which up until about 9pm was kind of sweet). I am however savouring every second.

Santa has two messages tonight - a note written on the cupboard door and a Christmas card telling him exactly where she has left her stocking.
Her Santa letter this year said

"I don't mind what I get this year, just some surprises please"

We also went to visit him at one of the department stores and she even went to the bathroom just before to get her hair tidy!!

Husband reluctantly went to lie by her side at about 10.30 and hasn't returned I'm guessing that I'll be turning out the Christmas tree lights by myself tonight...
At least it's all quiet now so fingers crossed she's enjoying some happy dreams.

I wish everyone a wonderful Christmas and a very happy weekend.
I hope the man in the red suit brings you just what you wished for.
Nadolig Llawen i bawb

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Learning to sew


Yesterday my girl decided that she wanted to learn how to sew. I don't really know where this came from, but she wanted to "make something with the sewing machine". Perhaps she felt sorry for the machine hidden under a pile of papers in the study?! We fitted a visit to Spotlight (fabric, crafts etc shop) into our busy schedule with a promise of a sewing lesson the next day.

The rain was here again today so we decided that it was a staying at home day. First was the obligatory Play School viewing where Sibs played along to 'Twinkle Twinkle little star' on her violin. (Brought a bit of a lump to my throat to see how proud she was doing this.)

We then tackled the holiday sort out of her wardrobe. All clothes sorted into 'keep', 'throw' or 'too small' piles. That took a bit longer than planned as a certain little Miss kept on finding other things to do....15 mins to brush her teeth....I don't think so! The bribe treat of sewing just about kept her going.
I left her to finish off whilst I was preparing a spot of lunch, and caught her having a quiet 5 mins rest....her excuse was that she was keeping Modlen the cat company!

So this afternoon the sewing machine came out and I tried to rack my brain how to thread the thing whilst all the time trying to look completely 'in control'! A bit of practice and we were off...

Christmas heart decorations

Sibs loved it! She came up with the ideas and spent ages sewing a little pocket onto one of the hearts. I used pinking scissors to help her to gauge where to put each stitch and she did a great job. What patience! I'm a very impatient person when it comes to most things crafty and whilst I enjoy the process, I also want to see the end product as quickly as possible. A couple of times Sibs commented that a stitch wasn't quite right and could I unpick it so that she could do it again... I think I'll be passing all things sewing related in her direction in a few years! (I hope she doesn't look too closely at the bunting I made for her bedroom!!)

the finished products proudly hanging on the tree

Sunday, 19 December 2010

More rain, more carols, more spiders!

Another Saturday of rain here...this is getting beyond a joke!

Husband and daughter went off to the markets early this morning as per usual and fortunately just before the rain returned. We had quite a spectacular storm a couple of days ago - it was eerily pitch dark at 2pm. It's very strange weather at the moment, as when the rain does give us a break the temperature can rise to 30+ degrees! It's been duvet on, duvet off the bed and switching between cardigans to keep warm and air con to cool down!

Plans for this evening were carols at the local park. This was 'third time lucky'...
So we got prepared - rain coats and umbrellas at the ready and off we went.
not sure about the footwear girls!

 We listened patiently to the warm up band and got a bit muddy scrambling for the sweets that Santa was throwing from the stage. Sibs and her friend managed to catch quite a substantial amount as they seemed to be chewing away for most of the night! Funny that they didn't want any supper either....

at least it was easy to clean...
front row seats
and down came the rain...again
 We sang all the old favourites and then the finale was the firework display. I whipped out my new camera, set it onto "fireworks mode" and snapped away. I missed quite a few and have great shots sky! These are a few of the ones that I managed to capture.

Just to finish off the night, we called in on some friends who decorate their home with the most amazing Christmas lights. People travel from all over to see them. It takes six weekends, yes six weekends to set it up. 

Wearily we arrived home and there in the garage to greet us was this...

is this our old 'friend' the huntsman?

I have a nasty suspicion that it's the same spider from the other day come to seek revenge for being sucked up the vacuum cleaner! That story is here (The pest man and the spider) should you wish to find out more. I closed the door securely and am keeping everything crossed that he remembers the vacuum cleaner incident and chooses to stay well away from inside the house!

Friday, 17 December 2010

Childhood Christmas songs

This time of year childhood memories come flooding back and this week I can't seem to get out of my head a little Welsh Christmas song. We used to sing it to welcome Sion Corn (Santa) to the Christmas Party at the Chapel that I used to go to.

Any of my Welsh friends remember it??

Pwy sy'n dod dros y bryn yn ddistaw ddistaw fach?
Ei fardd yn hir a'i wallt yn wyn
A rhywbeth yn ei sach?
A phwy sy'n eistedd ar y to ar bwys y simne mawr?
helo, helo, tyrd yma, tyrd i lawr.
(my recalled version of the song - apologies if not quite correct!)

Who is coming over the hill very very quietly?
His beard is long and his hair is white
with something in his sack?
and who is sitting on the roof besides the big chimney?
hello, hello, come here, come on down.
(doesn't quite  have the same effect once translated!!)

I endeavour to keep some 'welshness' at home and try and sing a few songs with Sibs in the hope that she (or is that I?) feel some connection with the homeland...
We have some favourites for bedtime - 'Nefol Dad' is one, and for some strange reason she likes me to sing the Welsh National Anthem!

Anyhow, back to Christmas songs....
At a recent Christmas party here in Queensland the children sang Jingle Bells to welcome Santa. It was the traditional Jingle Bells - the "dashing through the snow one". (No one seems to get the irony of this!). However....there is another version...a very Australian version that I just have to share.

Sing along and I'll translate!

Australian Jingle Bells
 Dashing through the bush,
in a rusty Holden Ute,
Kicking up the dust,
esky in the boot,
Kelpie by my side,
singing Christmas songs,
It's Summer time and I am in
my singlet, shorts and thongs

Oh! Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way,
Christmas in Australia on a scorching summers day, Hey!
Jingle bells, jingle bells, Christmas time is beaut !,
Oh what fun it is to ride in a rusty Holden Ute.

Engine's getting hot;
we dodge the kangaroos,
The swaggie climbs aboard,
he is welcome too.
All the family's there,
sitting by the pool,
Christmas Day the Aussie way,
by the barbecue.

Oh! Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way,
Christmas in Australia on a scorching summers day, Hey!
Jingle bells, jingle bells, Christmas time is beaut!,
Oh what fun it is to ride in a rusty Holden Ute.

Come the afternoon,
Grandpa has a doze,
The kids and Uncle Bruce,
are swimming in their clothes.
The time comes 'round to go,
we take the family snap,
Pack the car and all shoot through,
before the washing up.

Oh! Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way,
Christmas in Australia on a scorching summers day, Hey!
Jingle bells, jingle bells, Christmas time is beaut!,
Oh what fun it is to ride in a rusty Holden Ute.


Holden Ute = a small pick up type van
esky           = a cool box
Kelpie        = a sheep dog
singlet         = a vest
thongs        = flip flops

So my girl and I have quite different Christmas songs.
I just hope that she remembers both....


Monday, 13 December 2010

some crafty things

Today I expected to be writing about our visit to Government House....our invited visit no less! Unfortunately this Brisbane rain has been relentless and most things outdoors have been cancelled, including yesterday's twilight carols.

The Office of the Governor regrets to advise that due to the inclement weather
this evening's scheduled Twilight Carols has been cancelled. 
This decision has been made to ensure the safety of the performers and guests.
Unfortunately, this event will not be rescheduled.

Luckily we had plan B and went to the local Church down the road to an indoor carol service. We sang along to the old favourites and watched a version of the nativity story. They have some talented actors there and we had a lovely evening and ended it with an ice lolly to eat on the way home.

So back to crafty things...
Sibs (with a tiny bit of help from me) made some double chocolate cookies yesterday. She's very particular about it. The ingredients have to be exact to the gram, the greaseproof paper has to fit the tray perfectly, but then once they're in the oven she loses all interest and has to be coaxed and cajoled to help with the clearing and washing up! We made double quantities so that we could make some Christmas gifts for the neighbours today.

It's a tradition in our house to spend the first morning of the school holidays in our pj's until at least the time that the school bell goes - just because we can. Hand in hand with this tradition is to then watch Play School and join in with all the songs and guess the window. I really wonder each school holiday how long this will last, but no signs yet...

Play School here is so Australian and we learnt so much in our first year just by watching each day. This morning one of the songs was about each farm animal saying "G'day"!!

After Play School there is usually a request to "do something" so we bake or do some art or crafts. Today we finished off the Christmas cookies gifts and pottered with a few other Christmas things.

Now on to a bit more 'professional' craft things. You might remember that I went to the Twilight Boutique Market on Friday. This is where I saw the snowman which made me laugh. Anyhow, here are a few of the things that I bought.

The birds are from the amazingly talented Mondo Cherry girls. They are made with vintage maps and look very much at home in my twigs on the stairway. The pink flower hair clip and kaftan were made by Spilt Milk. How lovely to be able to meet the owner Kelly, who designs and makes the clothes. The wheat bag smells's a 'relaxing' one. It sits on my pillow in the day and fills the bedroom with a mixture of floral and musk smells. I know there's lavender in there, but don't ask me what else. It was made by Soul Living. I didn't pick up a card so don't have a link sorry.

So the school hols are off to a good start. Sibs is out playing cricket with the neighbours, tea is in the oven...and it's not raining!

Happy Monday

Sunday, 12 December 2010

U2...and a few other things.

Before moving to Australia I didn't really get many opportunities to go to live gigs, shows, or big sports events. Since moving here though, I have taken every advantage of the fact that we live close to a big city and can get to a venue easily.

The other night husband and I went to see U2
They were BRILLIANT!

We walked a few minutes down the road, hopped on a free bus, (provided courtesy of Brisbane City Council) and within ten minutes we were standing outside the stadium together with what felt like half the population of Brisbane!
I don't know that many people here, but in five minutes I had seen a friend and her husband and the builder that did our bathroom reno! So maybe half the population of Brisbane was actually there after all!
Being a bit of a 'country bumpkin' for the last decade or so I clutched husband's hand and had to stop myself from saying, "Now, if we lose each other, where shall we meet??" Even though the stadium was full, the organisation was great and it was so good to experience a non-sporting event at Suncorp.

The concert was a real show with amazing lights and effects - so different to anything else I've seen. I was on a high for hours after.

The next evening I went to the Boutique Market at Bretts Wharf. It felt like the kind of place you go to on holiday. I often have to remind myself that I live here. There were gorgeous stalls full of wonderful hand made goods. I think it needs a mention in more detail so will save it for another time, but I have to share this...

Here we are at the riverside on a glorious Summer evening and then the most bizarre thing catches my eye - a snowman!?!

Don't you think it's funny that a snowman symbolises Christmas
in a place where December can be 30 degrees?!

So here's a little image of our December...

...not a snowflake in sight!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

John Lennon remembered

 Thirty years ago today...

This was the first album that I bought with my own money.
 It was Christmas 1980, and I was just shy of my 12th birthday.

I would play that record over and over and read the words - I can probably still recall most of the lyrics. I adored "Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)" and "Watching the Wheels".

I clearly remember finding out that John Lennon had died. It was a school morning and I ran downstairs and saw my mum standing in front of the sink with tea towel in hand - she was stopped still, listening to the radio in the kitchen. 
John Lennon had been shot by a deranged fan. 
That morning, the craziness of the other side of the world became closer and I remember feeling a slight unease that a person could do such a thing.

The rest of the day has been lost from memory, but often when I hear a Lennon song I have a flashback to that kitchen scene in my head...
thirty years ago today...


Tuesday, 7 December 2010

18 sleeps 'till Santa!

At last I'm starting to realise that Christmas is only 18 sleeps away.

The rain eased for the walk to school this morning, and on the way we chatted about the last few days of term and what activities were planned. It dawned on me that technically this was my last day off sans Sibs, and my Christmas shopping  for her consisted of a $10 gift that I bought in Sydney a few weeks ago!

During this morning's school play we were watching the story of Santa breaking down in his sleigh and being ripped off by some dodgy mechanics...I'm serious...!?!  Not a manger, Mary nor Joseph in sight! Anyhow, during the play my friend's little three year old confidently shared with me that there were 18 sleeps until Santa came to visit...

This called for some serious re-think on the "Christmas is ages away yet" mentality.

Back home, out came the decoration box again and three year old, (who came back for a 'coffee' aka  hot milk with some marshmallows and chocolate sprinkles), and Sibs's cousin who is staying for a few days set about wrapping up some boxes to make pretend presents to put under the tree. There was some serious team work going on. They stuffed the boxes with newspaper, I wrapped, three year old covered boxes with Christmas stickers and cousin tied the ribbon.

So well and truly in the Christmas frame of mind this afternoon I thought it was probably a wise thing to go and brave the shopping centre to part with some cash and fill a few Santa sacks.

Things were looking good - I got a park straight away! A few deep breaths, and I ventured into the cauldron... Can you believe it, two, yes two hours later I've finished!! What a record! What have I been doing wrong every other year that it takes days, weeks even to do my Christmas shopping? I even managed a quick peek in a few shops just for me. (Why did Laura Ashley decide to have a 'up to 70%  off ' day??)

I'm feeling quite smug tonight...
I'm sitting on the sofa admiring the twinkling lights on the mantle and on the tree. The opening doors on the advent calendar don't scare me...I'm back in control....
...well sort of!

memories on the tree

Monday, 6 December 2010

The pest man and the huntsman

Look away now if you're squeamish about insects, spiders and creepy crawlies!

Today was our annual pest and termite inspection.

One of the joys of living in Australia is that you get to share this wonderful country with many a creepy crawly!  As our house is predominantly timber we have decided on 'better safe than sorry' and fork out the necessary $$$ to be checked yearly for the dreaded termite.  We also get a spray of something magical that keeps the spiders and cockroaches where they should be - out of my house!


When we purchased our house, part of the contract included a pest inspection and report, and when I read what could be found I was horrified. If left to their own devices, these little horrors can literally eat away the timber of your home and turn it to dust!

So pest man came, tapped around, peeked in every nook and cranny and gave the good news - "nothing to report" (phew)....well nothing expect the biggest huntsman spider that I have EVER seen. Even pest man was impressed. I got the camera out to take a photo, but it was just too big to get close. Pest man tried the flip flop (thongs if you're Australian) method, but the darn thing was too quick and hid behind the glass cabinet. In the end we vacuumed him up (spider, not pest man!!).
'Papa' was then tasked with taking the vacuum cleaner apart to check and get rid of the spider. Half an hour and half a can of insect spray later we think it's gone...but I'll be checking under the bed tonight!


Saturday, 4 December 2010

Friday fun

Yet again, this has been a busy week culminating in a swimming carnival today at school. Luckily the rain held off just long enough for the children to compete. I'm not used to so much rain here in Australia - I thought that I'd left the wet weather back in the UK, but boy has it rained these last few weeks.
After a morning of listening to cheering and screaming kids, school finished early and we found ourselves with a few spare hours....So what does a girl do? Grab a friend and head to the shops!

I enjoyed watching from a safe distance and listening to their giggles, and I loved the way that everything seemed so magical for them... Trying some lip glosses in one place, admiring a nativity scene in a shop window, even choosing sushi!

Then it was home for a quick play, lots of "why can't we play just a bit longer"
Eventually, all became quiet and here I am spending too long trying to figure out how to post on a blog on my iPad (not easy, but I think I'm getting there...)

This weekend brings a ballet Christmas party, a class breakup breakfast with barefoot bowls (definitely an Aussie thing!), and a Christmas carol service in the city down by the river. If the rain will just hold off...fingers crossed.

Have a great, safe weekend.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Pike River remembered

Today I watched a little of the extremely moving service held to remember the 29 men who died in the Pike River Coalmine disaster in New Zealand. More than 10,000 people gathered to unite in their grief for family and friends lost.

I was particularly touched by the address of the New Zealand Prime Minister who directed a message to the mothers of children who had lost their fathers...

"Amongst all of your emotions and pain, there may be fear for your children growing up without the father who loved them...It's a terrible thing to happen, but it doesn't mean your children will not go on to live happy, worthwhile and fulfilling lives"

I hope those grieving mothers will take some comfort and hope from his words.

Image above and a link to a website with some information about coping with grief here