Thursday, 30 June 2011

Holidays and a birthday

Well these school holidays are whizzing by...
A few days ago we celebrated Neil's birthday with a morning stroll around
Mount Coot-tha Botanical Gardens.
little girls and ladybirds....

Mount Coot-tha is only a few minutes drive from our house,
it's the mountain where Neil likes to run up and down for a bit of exercise!
 It's a real treasure trove of tropical and native plants,
 and you always spot something different on each visit..
This time we made our way to the Japanese Gardens
and then followed the Children's Activity Path around part of the parkland.
In true Sibs style she skipped and danced around the place.

instead of the easy stepping stones (on the far left) we had to negotiate the trickier ones.

We then had some birthday cake and thermos flask coffee and hot chocolate under a tree next to the lake.
Each time we visit there is a water dragon who roams around this area
...and after a while we spotted him with a moorhen following him around.

I showed Sibs a few things on the computer yesterday and above is her handywork.
She wanted to put  her version of the photos on the blog, so here it is.
(One of the shots had a party hat on the head of the water dragon
but I managed to persuade her that that wasn't such a good look!)

These school holidays are about spending some quality time with my girl and hopefully we're doing just that.
Mornings are lazy and relaxed, then for the first few days there was vacation ballet school for a couple of hours. We followed ballet with a library trip on Monday, a play with a friend on Tuesday and yesterday I took her out for lunch. We have also had dinner guests for a couple of evenings.
 Today is serious chill out day - no plans.

 Time to be able to do things like say 'yes' to the request of "can I make the coffees?"

Time to be able to enjoy a proper morning tea tray.

Talking of's Neil's birthday breakfast and then evening tray.
The compulsory breakfast in bed tray, and then the grown ups 'child in bed now let's chill' birthday tray!

The olives are from the wonderful place where we olive picked during the Easter break and we managed to find some real Italian Parma cheese to go with the Prosecco - a little taste of Europe across the waters.

Happy Birthday Neil, and Happy Holidays us.

Off now to make a lemon cake - we have an abundance as they were on offer at the markets.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

School holidays through the eyes of a child

The school holidays have started here, two glorious weeks of freedom.

We have decided to stay local and holiday from home.

There are plenty of things on our list that we would like to do but it feels great not to have too much planned. These two weeks will be a time to re-charge the batteries, catch up with friends and spend time enjoying ourselves. I'm looking forward to slowing down, ditching the usual routine and I will strive to spend as much time as I can just enjoying living in the present, and having fun.
I'm taking my inspiration from Nikki Gemmel and her book 'Why you are Australian'
and from my girl Sibs...who seems to be able to find the simple fun in most things.

This is Friday afternoon watching the Queensland Reds rugby team train after school.
As her dad watched the rugby Sibs decided that it would be a bit more fun to do rolly-poley down the hill and swing on some bars.

On Saturday morning she chilled at home.

and managed to find plenty to do.

On Saturday afternoon she smiled all the way through her dance lesson ,

and even enjoyed a quick dash to the supermarket.

I may not quite take a ride on the supermarket trolley these holidays, but I will be making the most of them.

Happy times...

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

I've got a new book...

...and I can't put it down!

There are so many jobs that I haven't done today...

I have been sitting on my front deck in the Winter sun with my ugg boots and fleece and book.

I was hooked right from the start with the description of the intensity of the
light in Australia for her British born kids when they stepped off the plane.
Yes, I remember that so vividly in the first few weeks here.
(In fact I still can't leave the house without my sunglasses.)

 In a nutshell "Why you are Australian" is about
an Australian woman who brings her children from London to her birth country
for three months so that they can experience childhood as she knew it.

It's going to be a late night....

Monday, 20 June 2011

Dinner conversation and meeting Snoopy

It's was a gorgeous Winter's weekend here in Brisbane.
The sky was a shimmering blue, the sun was shining,
and there was nothing to do except throw open the doors and enjoy it!

Sibs went to stay with her aunt and uncle on Saturday night and we went out to a dinner party - a proper grown ups dinner party. We drove along the Storey Bridge at night to cross the Brisbane river and the lights of the city made it feel magical and almost Christmas like. I felt like a small town girl hitting the big smoke.

 We were wined and dined and enjoyed great company. The conversation was varied and moved from music to sport to food, to Jane Austen then to some more sport, but the underlying theme of the evening was the joy of living in Australia.
Now this was especially interesting to me surrounded by people who had called Australia home for many more years than me. Since I wrote a post about moving and settling in Australia and forming an Australian identity for my girl, it seems that everywhere I turn there is a reminder of why Australia is a great place to be. (Here if interested)
Anyhow, the company on Saturday night consisted of first generation Australians; some who had moved here as young children; one from Hong Kong who had lived here in the past and us newbies.

These people had travelled extensively and we shared some great stories of wonderful experiences, but they kept returning to the fact of how lucky they were to be brought up living in Australia. They painted a picture of a nation that pulls together whenever there is a need (as the dreadful January floods all too painfully showed). An almost classless society where hard work and determination can ensure success. A free and safe environment for children.
It all sounded pretty idyllic and I lapped it up!

But one of the most interesting things for me was their association with their past. The visits that they had made "home" and what this meant to them. How they understood that this was part of who they are today. (Not one of them would know that I write this blog so this conversation was a complete coincidence...)
Travelling and exploring the world had educated these people far beyond their paper qualifications.
Those that had children had instilled a confidence in their offspring to travel and see a bit of life beyond the comfort of home.

Next morning over coffee I was planning a Europe trip for 2012 and Sib's gap year in 2020!!

However, before I could complete these plans we headed up the mountain to pick up our little girl and to meet Snoopy a six month old new addition to the Dr Doolittle house.

Snoopy is a Bull Arab cross and he is adorable. All floppy ears and big paws.
Sibs was completely smitten.
It's been 'Snoopy this' and 'Snoopy that' since!

I'm waiting for the "when can we have a dog?" question...

As usual when we are up the mountain we get to see the wonderful birds that come to visit.

the parrots

Crimson Rosellas

Oh yes, this is a good place to live!

Following on from my last post the painting in the hallway is of Mumbles, Swansea,
or as we would say in Welsh - Mwmbwls (pronounced Moom-bools)

Thursday, 16 June 2011

A luggage rack and a painting of home.

Watch out, I've been let loose with a can of silver spray!

When we renovated our bathrooms they removed one of these cute little hat/luggage racks.
(They remind me of what used to be on old fashioned trains.)
It was quite handy to hold spare towels, but I didn't think that it quite fitted the new bathroom, so it was put in the garage until I decided what to do with it....and there it stayed...for quite a while.

When I get a bit bored one of the things I love to do is to swap furniture around.
 So there is a corner in our hallway that is constantly changing... sound familiar to anyone?

One day whilst rummaging around for something in the garage I stumbled upon this old luggage rack and decided to give it a clean to see if I could re-use it and hang it in the hallway.
 I soaked, scrubbed, then soaked and scrubbed some more, but it still looked awful.
Someone told me to try cola, so I even let it sit in cola for a few days, but the cola just turned mouldy!
Then I spotted a chrome/silver coloured one in a magazine for $$$ and I thought -
"I can do that, I'll give up trying to clean it and just turn it silver!"

So off to the hardware shop where I parted with less than $20 and away I went with the spray.

It was easy. I took it apart, cleaned it, put the small parts in a cardboard box and  gave it two coats of spray.
The larger parts I just placed on some newspaper outside.
(Note to self, take into account the breeze - I now have a bit of a silver tint to a few red bricks...)
It's not pristine, -  it had some worn and rusty spots that I couldn't remove,
but that's ok, it gives it some character!

Not one to come between a man and his tools I requested some help from Neil in putting the thing up. I spent ages with the tape measure and the spirit level and marked off where I wanted the top of the rack...

Unfortunately 'the top of the rack' and 'the top of the fixings' got a little confused!

Consequently, it's been placed just a touch too high...oh well, life isn't perfect...
So a quick remedy to close the gap was found in the shape of a small frame of pressed flowers that Sibs gave me for Christmas a few years ago and a hanging clay heart.
I'm now on the lookout for something else to spray...

Ok Welsh friends - anyone recognise the location in the painting above?

Oh, the memories...
This was a gift from my mum when we moved to Australia,
and is possibly the only thing in the hallway that doesn't move.
It's a glimpse of 'home' every time I open my front door.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

My 'girly' girl?

searching for bait

My little girl Sibs has always been a 'girly' girl.
She's been a princess and fairies type of little girl who adores purple and pink.
She's loved pretty dresses and dolls and jewels...

Just this last year I've noticed that my little 'girly' girl has been changing...

This last weekend she spent a couple of days with just her dad, her uncle and her cousin - all males.
She had an absolute ball!
She has not stopped talking about all the things that they got up to. 

During bed time last night she was still telling me all sorts of tales, including -
"Guess who did the loudest trumps??"
Umm. not sure about that one!

Our Australian outdoor lifestyle has given her these opportunities to explore and to have adventures.
She no longer turns her nose up at a game of cricket or a kick around of a football. 
 She loves going to watch a rugby match and knows an impressive amount of the rules!
She enjoys running and has a bit of a talent for long distance.
She has shown a bit of a passion for fishing - guts and all!

early morning, afternoon and evening fishing - all in the same day.

But just to remind me that there is still a little bit of a 'girly' girl in there somewhere
she was spotted practising her ballet on the jetty...

I'm proud of her.
Proud of the way that she is living life to the full, taking in all it has to offer.
I think I need to keep up. I think she can teach me a thing or two.
So next time they head up to the beach, guess who's going too?

Monday, 13 June 2011

A thank you and sharing some ramblings...

Hello there people who read this blog...what a lovely bunch of people you are.

Thank you so much for such kind thoughtful comments and messages
that you took the time to write after my last post.
I was touched, moved and grateful.

Writing something can be a cathartic experience and that last post and your responses made me realise
that I need to embrace my dual identity and not feel that I have to 'hold onto' my Welshness
at the expense of not enjoying my new life.
(I love this blogging....)

last Winter

I have had some thinking time here. My lovelies are away at the beach. Those who have read here before will know that the beach is not my favourite place so I stayed at home. I really enjoy this time, and have to keep re-assuring Neil and Sibs that I will be absolutely fine on my own. Yes, I miss them, but I also treasure alone time.

A year or so ago I met a man called John Tickell who told me something along the lines that everyone should make a promise to take 9 days a year off to themselves. (He's pretty famous in Australia, but at the time I had no idea who he was....back to that 'belonging' thing again!). Anyhow, I don't have a problem with this theory at all...

So whilst Sibs has been fishing, going on 8km bike rides, eating home made soup and bread and generally having a fabulous time with her Dad, uncle and cousin, I have been having an equally fabulous time home alone.

* I baked a few cookies...

I have to 'thank' Georgie from SJW  for telling me about this recipe. (she got it from here)
It's super easy -

500g butter, tin condensed milk, 1/2 cup of caster sugar, 5 cups of s-r flour.
Cream butter, sugar and milk, add flour and add any other ingredient you fancy
(in my case Chocolate chips and I used about 200g)
bake for about 15 mins at 180c.
They are melt in your mouth delicious!

* I admired my new mantle clock bought from The White Shed

just what I was looking for...
I have been looking for a small clock for ages and whilst blog hopping the other day I stumbled upon a header image that had just what I wanted. Upon investigation, the blog owner had an online store and a few days later I had my new clock!

* I tried out my new mop that I won courtesy of Natasha at 5 mins just for me blog.
This is the post that she wrote here that got me all excited over a mop!)
 (Is it normal to get so excited over a new mop??)

This mop is pretty cool - no more wringing out over a bucket of dirty water.
The water and detergent go into a canister and you just spray as you go.
The mop head swivels to wherever you want it to go too.
It's called a Rubbermaid Reveal mop

* I curled up on the sofa with the fire blazing and watched Jane Eyre....again.
I didn't move for hours...
I think the 2006 BBC version is spectacular. Ruth Wilson is just how I imagined Jane Eyre.

* I am making a lamb curry for the arrival of the lovelies home.
It's marinading away as I type....and I better get a move on!

So there you go, not a spectacular weekend, but one spent at my pace, doing my thing.

I hope everyone had a lovely weekend and if in Australia enjoyed the Monday public holiday.
(Dare I tell my UK friends that it's a day off to celebrate the Queen's birthday!)

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Some thoughts on moving and settling in Australia

Moving from the UK to Australia is relatively easy as big moves go.
Yes it's literally the other side of the world, but the language is (kind of) the same,
you can drive on the same side of the road, the food is similar,
the education system is not that different,
and to top it all the sun shines most days.

However...when you move away from your home to another country you leave behind a lot of your history. Your whole sense of  'belonging' shifts and it takes a while to get used to the fact that you have only existed in this new place for such a short space of time.
 Everything that you have done up to this point was part of something else.
Your home, your career, your education, your family traditions...
what feels like your whole identity belongs elsewhere.

It takes a little while to get used to the fact that when you go to the local shop no-one knows you.
When you drive around the place, no-one waves in recognition.

You feel invisible for a while...

Keeping in touch with your old life is a roller coaster - you want to hold onto everything that you know and that is familiar, yet you realise that you have to learn to live with new new surroundings.

This was a big challenge for me... At certain times of year and when events happen thousands of kilometres away, the challenge returns.

Our move here was a positive one. We tested the place out for a year, liked what we saw, took a little while to weigh up the situation and made a decision to move based on the belief that it was a good place to bring up a family. There was no 'running away' from our old life, no feelings of having to escape. In fact, we were very happy living in rural England and enjoying small town and village life. Leaving that behind for something even better was bound to be a challenge.

However, it struck me recently that I have begun to settle here...
Slowly but surely I now feel part of this community.

I walk to school in the mornings and experience the odd wave from a passing car. I know the back roads and short cuts to places. My phone contacts include a painter, plumber and joiner!  I have work colleagues again, and friendships that I trust and treasure.
There is no magic time frame or formula to feeling settled in a place.
It -just -takes- time....

Even though for the foreseeable future Australia is my home, I don't want to let go of my old life - it is part of who I was, who I am, and who I'll always be. My challenge now is to hold onto it and keep the memory of 'life before Australia' alive for my daughter's sake.

You see, my history is entwined with Wales and being Welsh, and I was conscious when we lived in England that Sibs would not have the same exposure to this 'Welshness' that I had as a child. Now that we are here in Australia it's even more difficult to keep this as part of her life.
I continue to converse with her in Welsh but it pains me that her exposure is so limited. Once or twice recently she has asked me to repeat something in English...
Her life is an Australian life now - and I chose this for her so I can't really complain can I?
I think I am still having an internal battle with myself on how to accept this and to let her be the little Australian that she wants to be to fit in.
Of course I want her to feel settled here - to feel comfortable and secure. This is where she is creating her identity, but I also hope that she will have enough of an understanding of her heritage and history, (be that Welsh and English) so that as she grows up she feels some connection to that as well.

I wrote this post just over a week ago and never pressed 'publish'. I don't really know why, sometimes I write something and then it just doesn't feel right to 'put it out there.' Then something happened. On Tuesday night I went to the theatre and watched some talented dance students and choreographers put their souls into performances of contemporary dance. One piece was about a girl who struggled to find her identity as an Australian born Finn. The dance "Dirt" was the creative outcome of a Masters research project  - "Making Finnish connections with Aboriginal Land through Dance"

“This work emerged out of a desire to explore my connection to the land of my birth. I was born on Kalkadoon country, Australia and my cultural heritage is the Southern Savonia region and the Gulf of Finland. I am first generation Aussie born Finn.”
…Tiina Alinen

So much of the narrative that accompanied this powerful piece
and the messages portrayed in the dance struck a chord with me.
It made me think about the way that I am shaping Sibs's life; the way that I parent...
It made me question some things...

I don't want to change who I am and I don't want to change who Sibs is...
I just want her to understand where I came from, and for me to understand who she is
and to positively look forward to where she's going and who she'll become...