Friday, 30 December 2011

Christmas food and holidays.

After the craziness that is Christmas we have packed a bag and come away to the coast for a few days.

Actually, Christmas wasn't particularly crazy this year. There was only 10 of us compared to the 26 of last year....this was a doddle!

Our Christmas morning was the usual scrambled egg and smoked salmon with fresh coffee and toast and presents. Then family and friends came over lunch time and we all sat outside around the big table and drank champagne and ate all day.

A few people ask what we eat on Christmas day. Instead of the traditional roast turkey dinner we served a range of different foods. There was caramelized onion and feta tarts, guacamole, galloping horses (chunks of pineapple topped with crunchy peanut butter, soy sauce and chili).

The next course was prawns - (obviously an obligatory part of Christmas in Australia) served with lime yogurt. Then we had white fish with lemon lentils and a green salad. After a little break there was a meat course of cold roast turkey, marinated pork and we had another couple of salads a potato one and a roast veg cous cous salad.

As if that wasn't enough there was just room for cheesecake and a chocolate bomb with home made mango ice cream.

So you see how it took about 7 hours of sitting around the table to tackle all that!

I was so busy enjoying myself that I didn't take any photos of the day. There are a few shots of the show that the children put on for us complete with costumes and face paints but that's it. So just use your imagination....

So now we're well and truly into the school summer holidays. I'm sitting here in the shade of the afternoon sun watching Sibs and her cousin play mums and dads.

We have been fishing off the jetty which is the usual activity here and we'll light the BBQ and the fire tonight and enjoy a glass of something under the stars.

It's a good way to relax, or to chillax which is the word of the moment for my nine year old. Where do they hear these things?

Hope everyone is enjoying the Christmas holidays too and I wish you all a very happy new year.

Blwyddyn Newydd Dda,

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Saturday, 24 December 2011

'Twas the night before Christmas...

...and everyone was exhausted!

I don't know if it's the same in your house, but this one has been buzzing with activity these last couple of weeks. There have been play days and sleepovers, baking and crafting, even a dinner party thrown in to test me!

So now it's Christmas eve and the house is quiet, even the cats are hiding somewhere in anticipation of the man in the red suit turning up...

The Christmas cake is ready, the turkey has been cooked, the sweet things have been baked, the fridge is bulging at the seams and I'm taking a quick five minutes to myself before I double check that everything is it ever??

So a 'typical' Christmas week down here in Australia has included...

Not quite ice skating.

Sushi train lunch

Carols by candlelight in the local park.

Some relaxation with a coffee and the papers.

A bit of a shop....well there was a sale on!

Tonight we went to see some of the local houses that have put up a few festive lights!

Then came back to chop up some carrot for Rudolph, some watermelon for Santa and to write him a note.

I'm holding on to the magic that is the aniticipation of Christmas...
I wonder if this will be the last time that it will be quite this exciting?

I wish everyone a very Happy Christmas holiday near and far.

Nadolig llawen i bawb.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Some slithering companions

Oh, the joys of Summer in sub tropical Queensland.

Before you get envious of the brilliant blue skies and sunshine let me tell of some of the other 'joys'.

We are now sharing the Summer with a few more creepy crawly and slithery critters...

Each year, when the temperature starts to rise, out come the huntsman spiders,
 the cockroaches and the snakes. I can't believe that I now accept this as part of everyday life here.
I'm not saying that I accept it as in I like it, it's just that I know it happens!

This time of year we call in the pest man for his annual inspection for termites.
We live in a timber house and this is just part of the maintenance to protect ourselves from our home being potentially eaten and turned to dust by these horrors. At the same time as the inspection, the pest man will spray our place with magic stuff to keep the spiders and the cockroaches out...what a hero!

This magic dust however doesn't protect us from all the unpleasant creatures...

Last week there were some workmen here doing some electrical stuff outside
and after a little while there was a cry of -

"Hmm, Beth -  we have a bit of a snake issue here!"

"Snake issue? ..... How big a snake issue?"

It appeared that a whip snake had decided to have a snooze under the bbq
where the electrician was connecting some power.

He thought it was a piece of rope and got the shock of his life when the 'rope' moved!

I stayed a safe distance away to weigh up the situation and offer my 'expert advice'!!

The young apprentice electrician then did what you shouldn't do and proceeded to bash and stab at said whip snake with a shovel...hmm not too clever. Consequently Whip snake was not impressed with having his sleep interrupted and at this point it was a case of me getting well out of every one's way
- i.e.quick scarper indoors to watch out of the window.

In conclusion - the snake didn't win the battle with the shovel and was placed in a strong plastic bag.
Now don't read the next bit if you are squeamish about snakes...

The plastic bag continued to move for quite some time! I know, disgusting isn't it?
Even though the poor snake was in a few bits - each little bit moved!
Yuck! or as we would say in Wales - "ych y fi, mochyn du, rhedeg lawr i ty mamgu!"

Then a couple of days after the snake incident Sibs spotted a blue tongue lizard in the garden.
They look remarkably like snakes until you take a second glance and notice that they have little legs.

 Blue Tongue lizards are not dangerous and this one was a bit of a baby
even though it is putting on its sternest 'don't mess with me' face!

We just watched it for a little while and let it go its own way.

 A bit of  a reminder to be aware of what could be lurking in the back yard during the warmer months.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Reverse Garbage crafting

Christmas school holidays and the days are just flying past.

We are most definitely enjoying the fact that we are not following the school bell routine
but boy are we still busy.  

I took Sibs and a friend to a place called Reverse Garbage last week and they were given $10 to spend with the instruction of "use your imagination".

Reverse Garbage is a recycling place in Woolloongabba, Brisbane where you can pick up all sorts of things for next to nothing, and it's great for craft activities. They have boxes of small stuff, different fabrics and cut offs and one off unusual items like a clothes mannequin. The girls (and I) had a great time rummaging around looking for inspiration.

During school holidays they also offer craft activities for children but we weren't there on one of those days so we filled a basket and came home with our goodies.

I spotted these ink cartridges in a box and scooped them up double quick.
I haven't used my ink pen in years!

Here's some of our loot!

 A few hours later we had covered some boxes in coloured contact, painted some wooden letters, cut things out, glued and decorated and made one jewellery case and a miniature house.

No rules, no instructions, just imagination to re-use whatever was in front of them.

Tomorrow I'll post about about our brushes with the local wildlife - of the slithery kind...
Tonight we have a grown ups dinner party in this house, so best be off to tidy up!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Making the most of this city.

You know that your child is growing up
when you are frantically holding on to any childhood activity
with a super strength grip!
Take the annual Santa visit for example...

too tall to ride the Santa train...
We had an early start to the day yesterday with a breakfast in the city followed by a wander to see the Christmas window in one of the big stores. Sibs and a couple of friends then decided that they wanted to go inside to see Santa. We hadn't really broached the subject much this year...

There was the initial disappointment that they were all too tall to ride on the Santa train but the consolation was that they got to join the queue to see Santa quicker.

still joy and wonder in those 9 year old eyes.

Sibs's letter to Santa
From the city we walked across the bridge to the library and then to GOMA (Gallery of Modern Art). They usually have some child friendly exhibition or activities on and we had a bit of fun in the sticker room.

there's a piano under there somewhere
There was a magical area that was almost 'Willy Wonka like'
where you are encouraged to lie on some huge cushions and stare at the colours and lights.

pip and pop at GOMA

GOMA are holding a special  Matisse exhibition and there was a gorgeous open space
where you could take a sketch pad and get inspired.

"no photographs please madam"....oops!
On the way to catch a bus home we strolled through the Art Gallery
- it's so peaceful in there (and wonderfully air conditioned)

A great day with some lovely company making the most of some of what this city has to offer.

Good Life Wednesdays

Monday, 12 December 2011

Finally....'s starting to feel like Christmas!

Each year our local community holds a Celebration of Christmas event
with different fun activities for the children ending in a Christmas Carol sing along.
Once I sing a carol it starts to feel like Christmas!

Not sure what the traditionalists will think of this as a Christmas carol...but it is funny.
 I posted about the Australian version of Jingle Bells last year - read the full version here
(The men in the front are a take on The Wiggles...not the real thing!)

There were the old favourites of course and the cute little children dressed up for the nativity play.
We were also shown a video of the Christmas story- it is one of the funniest things I've watched.
Here is the clip - dare you not to laugh!

Sibs and her cousin found the craft tables and patiently made some fairy angels.

They had great fun with the farmyard animals and this little piggy was so comfortable that it fell asleep.

Some energy was exerted trying to get as far as they could whilst harnessed to the back of this device.
I love the concentration  in the middle shot .

Then we had an ice lolly for the walk home under the stars.

This week we are making the most of the fact that school is finished.
Tomorrow morning we're off for an early breakfast in the city and then for a wander around South Bank.
There will be play days and sleep overs with friends, some Christmas baking and crafting,
some swimming and chilling at home.

Christmas in Australia...

Friday, 9 December 2011

A quiet proud moment.

Another school year over, another chapter completed.

I came back from my trip to Melbourne in time for the last school assembly of the year.

Each week, the children start the school assembly by standing to sing the Australian National Anthem and they are accompanied by a small recorder and percussion group from the older grades.

Sibs loves anything musical and a few weeks ago asked her music teacher if she could have the anthem music score to play at home. Her lovely teacher then asked if she wanted to join the older children in the last assembly of the year to play along.

She dutifully practised at home (sometimes at some ungodly hour - sorry neighbours!) and then yesterday skipped along to stand at the front and take her place with the band.

It was a quiet proud moment - no certificate or principal recognition, but a very proud shared moment between mother and daughter. We knew.

Monday, 5 December 2011

A few days in Melbourne

I have left the sunny state and ventured a few hours south to Victoria for a few days. Melbourne is a short plane journey from Brisbane yet it's such a different city.

First of all it felt freezing when I landed. Well okay, not exactly freezing....just considerably colder. It's quite a jump from 27 to 15 degrees! Even though it's December and therefore Summer, people are still wearing boots and coats here. I have a feeling that my one and only packed cardigan will be well worn for the next few days!
Last night I went out for dinner in Federation Square and the restaurant had those gas heaters on - I wasn't expecting that.

I think Melbourne has quite a European feel to it and has some stunning architecture and buildings.

The city experienced tremendous growth during the Victorian gold rush from the 1850's onwards and the population swelled. This has continued and there are approximately 4 million people that now call the city home.

On one hand it appears to have maintained this great wealth with an array of top end designer shops, yet this evening I was asked for money by two rather disheveled individuals begging in the streets.

I don't necessarily venture into the city of Brisbane at night, but it does appear to go to sleep not long after the city commuters have left. Melbourne however is still bustling well into darkness. The streets are still busy, cafes are open and people are out and about. That's very European too.

So what else have I learnt about Melbourne?
Well, sport plays a big part in the life of Melburnians and everyone has a favourite team that they are passionate about - usually their local AFL team.
Black seems to be the colour of choice.
Women wear very high heels and men wear smart shoes that point up at the toes!
On a slightly more intellectual level - the city has the world's largest tram network, and is the second most populated city in Australia.

Even though Elton John and David Beckham are in town...I'm actually here to work. I have another full day tomorrow ending with dinner at the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground), so off to bed.

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Sunday, 4 December 2011

A local Saturday morning

What better way to spend a Saturday morning than people watching at a local cafe for breakfast.

Okay, maybe Sibs needs a bit of a lesson on a slightly less obvious people watching technique!

Breakfast for me usually consists of a piece of toast whilst flitting around the kitchen doing this and that. On a weekend though I like to sit and enjoy some family time. Australians certainly know how to breakfast! None of this greasy bacon and eggs stuff either. Yes, you will find the good old English fry up if you look hard enough, but boy would you be missing out if that's what you ordered!

This is chilli corn cakes ( yes, there were two corn cakes ) with spinach, hummus and bacon....just a little portion!! In the background is a child's sized pancake with maple syrup. I couldn't finish it and have hardly eaten another thing all day. I guess the saying that a good breakfast sets you up for the day is true!

So after that mammoth meal we needed to walk it off so we set off up the road to browse and people watch a bit more.

In the antique centre Sibs fell in love with the vintage clothes and spent ages "choosing" a wedding dress. 

The classic moment for me was when she spotted an old typewriter and asked me how it worked and where was the screen!  After I explained, she was fascinated with the fact that you had to feed paper in and couldn't save or delete.

Lazy Saturday mornings all too quickly become crazy Saturday afternoons. So it was home, quick change before ballet and then some friends over for a sleepover. 

I'm up late writing this tonight. I needed to occupy myself as I've been waiting patiently for the Wales v Australia rugby match to start. I think there's a few minutes until kick off so I'll sign off.

Happy weekend.
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