Monday, 30 January 2012

Wet weather weekend

I just about managed to prise myself out of bed this morning to get Sibs ready
for violin ensemble that started at 7am.
 (What kind of a time is that to start school when you're nine....and on a Monday morning?)

Sibs is oblivious to mornings and can switch from asleep to wide awake in a nano second!
Let's just say I am not at my best in the mornings and when you couple that with the Australian Open men's final that went on until almost 1am, I was most definitely not at my best this morning.

Anyhow, once I'm up, I'm up, so might as well make the most of the day.

We had another wet weekend here and spent the day indoors on Saturday.
By Sunday mid-morning cabin fever had set in so we decided to brave the elements and venture out.
It was on with the rain coats and wellies and then this is what greeted us around the corner...

It looks like a bit of surface water collected on the road - however, this is at least waist high and fast flowing!

Again, this water is deceptive and when Neil waded through it was knee high and quite powerful.
Sibs and I decided that it was best to walk the long way around...

Everything is growing at a crazy pace with all the rain. Unfortunately that includes all the weeds!
This bamboo is slowly being surrounded by water but is holding its ground.

 We managed a short walk, but after a while decided to give it up and came home.

Even the local wildlife looked displeased with the rain.

So we got out of our wet clothes, chose a family movie ,battened down the hatches,
and made a good old Sunday roast.

 I'm off to Ikea this morning.
I couldn't find my list earlier and Neil swears that he didn't throw it away!
I might need a boat to get there at this rate!

Have a great week,

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Rain, coffee and Jane Austen

This is Brisbane today. 

When it rains here it can really pour and I don't know where the pool water ends and the surface water begins. Only a few days ago we were contemplating topping up the pool with water from the tank in the garden....oh, well at least it's saved us a job!

There are big huge rain drops dancing on the deck and on the tin roof.

The sky has lost the brilliant blue shine and instead there are grey clouds as far as the eye can see.
According to the weather channel we are in for some serious rain this week with warnings of flash flooding.
On the school run this morning I noticed that the drains were already overflowing.

So on a day like this when I'm recovering from very late bedtimes due to the silly times that those tennis players in the Australian Open finish their games, I needed some comfort.

Fresh coffee and a favourite read....
Is there anything better?

On the subject of reading, my girl has definitely been influenced by her mother.
She has just completed a version of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

Having watched a few different versions (TV adaptations and movies), she recently declared that she wanted to read the novel. She managed the first few pages and declared it just a little bit too hard. Then on a visit to the local library she independently quizzed the librarian about whether there was any child friendly Jane Austen novels. After a bit of research the librarian managed to find this copy and placed it in order. 

We waited a few months and eventually it was ready to pick up. 
It's a simplified version with some illustrations to accompany the text. There is also some reference to the original novel and some explanations to help the young reader to understand some of the concepts and customs of the time. All in all a great introduction and I would recommend it thoroughly.
I have found  a few Shakespeare plays in this series but sadly no more Jane Austen.

So after a day indoors, I'm off to do the school pick up before going to the weekly swimming lesson - well and truly back to routine.

Monday, 23 January 2012

It's the little things...

This morning was the first day back at school and it started at about 6am with Sibs chatting to her cats about what she was going to wear for her first day back.
Okay, it was a bit early but at least she was excited and getting herself ready.

I managed to drag myself out of bed and into the routine of pack up lunch duty whilst ensuring that breakfast was eaten and cleared.

All was going to plan...

The school bag was already packed, the pile of books and stationery was in another bag, teeth and hair had been brushed, school hat was waiting.

The only thing left to do was get her shoes on...

"They're too small!"

"What do you mean they're too small - we tried them on two weeks ago to check, they can't be too small!"

"Well I must have grown in two weeks!"

(I could almost believe this as I saw her standing there)

I was in no mood for any drama so I calmly suggested that she wears her trainers/joggers and we would sort the shoes out this afternoon.
A few minutes later a wobbly lipped Sibs comes into the kitchen.

"I can't find my trainers, and this is now the worst day ever! I don't have anything to wear on my feet, I'm going to be late for my first day, and there won't be anywhere for me to sit!"

Que my best counselling voice, and I eventually persuaded her that she was feeling a bit funny in closed in shoes as she had spent the last two months in bare feet or open sandals.

A quick stop for the obligatory first day back at school photo and off we went.

She was trying so hard to keep it all together whilst constantly checking the time. We made it to school with about five minutes to spare (not the leisurely twenty that we had planned). We rushed up the stairs, she found a place to hang her enormous back pack and entered the classroom with her books and pencil case.

I smiled and made small talk with the parents and turned around to make sure that she was okay and to wave goodbye.



In our hurry we had made our way to the wrong classroom - hers was down the corridor.
The first bell buzzed in our ears and my heart sunk for her.

There was no-where to put her back back, the classroom looked full....then out of the corner of my eye I spotted her friend...

"Sibs over here - I've saved you a seat."

I could have cried.

She beamed and ran to the vacant seat just as the teacher said "Good morning Year 5."

I waited just out of sight of the teacher until I got the thumbs up sign from my girl.
It was going to be okay.

As I walked home I couldn't stop thinking about that small, simple gesture of her friend saving a seat.

It's sometimes the little things that can mean so much.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

One more sleep....

...and it's back to routine.

Today is the last day of the summer holidays here. The school uniform has been washed, ironed and hung in the wardrobe. The new socks are ready, the books are prepared, the pencils, erasers, etc, etc all packed up.
(My British friends will be interested to know that parents provide everything needed for primary school here - every pencil, exercise book, crayon...even paper for the photocopier and a box of tissues!)

Anyway, enough about tomorrow. I've just been thinking back about what we've done during the holidays.
This year we decided not to travel away and have been enjoying doing some exploring close to home. Apart from the few posts that I have snatched a moment to write about here's a few more highlights of the last couple of months.

Want to have a look...?

There's been plenty of baking. This is a time when we made banana bread and I have to say one of the best that I have ever tasted courtesy of a recipe from Sarah at The Beach Cottage.(link here)

Some day trips including one up to the hinterland.
 I tried out a panoramic shot here to try and capture the scenery.

School holidays are great for catching up with friends and there have been numerous play dates and sleep overs. This is one invitation that was on the doorstep one evening.

The invitation was written on a pillowcase that was then decorated as part of the slumber party.
Sibs had a ball!She came home with a collage of photos of a jam packed time with friends.

Some days were spent indoors when the temperature was a little too high.

There's been some walking and exploring locally with friends including the four legged variety.

You never know what you'll find on your doorstep unless you look!

 One of the highlights of the holidays was the week that Sibs spent with Deep Blue.

A few months ago I took her to watch Deep Blue perform (link to post here) and she was really inspired by the show. We found out that they were offering a Young Blue workshop and she was lucky enough to get a place. The week was filled with instrumental tuition, but on top of this she learnt about confident speaking, stage presence, lighting, sound and recording. One day she came home and announced that she'd been to a seminar and that she's an 'auditory learner'!  
The week ended with a performance that the young musicians had put together - it was spectacular, and her smile at the end said it all (albeit a very blurry photo)

So another summer school holiday has been filled with memories...
I have watched my girl bloom and grow in front of my eyes.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Brisbane floods - where were you one year ago?

This time last year we were holidaying in New Zealand.

Driving around the northern tip of the country in and out of patchy Internet reception frantically trying to get news of home...

We left Brisbane as the city was bracing itself for a major flood.

Earlier in the week we had witnessed horrific scenes on the TV of the devastation in other parts of the state as the water claimed homes, businesses and worst of all lives...

We knew that Brisbane was next - but we didn't know what this really meant.

Waiting at the airport that morning was eerie. The skies were a strange grey colour, the staff and travellers all looked apprehensive. My phone kept beeping with texts from near and far checking we were ok. My work sent a text to tell me not to come in...
I felt like we were running away from something and part of me felt relieved and another part felt guilty...

After a delayed flight we reached Auckland and checked into the hotel. The first thing we did was switch on the TV. Nothing major appeared to have happened, just lots of precautionary tales of people barricading buildings and evacuating homes. A quick call home to check and again all seemed okay.

Next morning was different. Now the TV news showed familiar landmarks under water. The river swollen beyond recognition,  - water and much mud...

Another phone call - our home was okay.
The nearby creek was high and flowing fast but thankfully just making it under the bridges.

photo by Brooke Gillot
local creek Jan 2011

same creek Jan 2012

It was with some trepidation that I switched off the TV, checked out of the hotel and went to pick up our camper van. All conversations - hotel staff, taxi driver, camper van rental staff was solely about the floods.

Whilst Neil was checking the details of the van,  I was using the free wi-fi to find out as much as I could. News channels, local blogs, anything I could log into.
I saw a photo of a golf course under water - a few minutes down the road from our home and had a little panic!
Another phone call....yes, all was still okay.
Brisbane city centre was slowly being engulfed, but our suburb was still okay.

It took a few days to try and steer our thoughts away from home. I don't think we quite managed to switch off completely. New Zealand tried its best. It gave us glorious countryside, spectacular coastlines, miles of nothing - it was beautiful.

Northern New Zealand

We did have a lovely holiday. We were lucky.

Even a couple of weeks later as we returned home the Brisbane recovery operation had seriously kicked in. We only saw the aftermath. We heard the stories of rescue and of the volunteers that worked tirelessly to help those in need. We saw the businesses that were closed, drove past some of the boarded up homes and counted our lucky stars.

TV and news coverage concentrated on the clean up and the positives. This was Brisbane and Queensland in recovery mode.

Last night I watched a recorded programme on the National Geographic channel - "Australia's Great Flood". (It's repeated on Fri Jan 20th at 8.30pm). I couldn't take my eyes off the screen. I bit the side of my tongue trying to stop the tears...then I gave up and cried anyway.

The horror came back. The uncontrolled fear that those poor people must have felt.

Now a year on and most of the city is back to its former state. This last week or so there have been services of recognition and remembrance. Yes, there are still families waiting to return home and there are still business counting the loss of income.
There is still grief...
For some people they will never be able to forget the floods of January 2011.

Now that the wet season is here again, we'll keep everything crossed that it was a once in a lifetime occurrence.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Marvellous, Magical Mary Poppins

Yesterday was the much anticipated school holiday visit to the theatre.
We went to see the Cameron Mackintosh & Disney musical Mary Poppins.

The tickets were booked way back last August so when I say much anticipated I really mean it.

We put on our posh frocks and new shoes and Sibs and I had a girls afternoon.

Due to the success of the 1964 Disney film, the characters of Mary Poppins, Bert and the Banks family are very familiar and most of us will have some childhood memories of the movie. The stage version holds on to some of the well known songs and scenes but cleverly includes some of the stories from the Mary Poppins books.
Apparently when Cameron Mackintosh first met with Pamela Travers (the wonder behind the stories) she was 93 years old and she wanted him to produce a stage show that was brand new and didn't include any of the Disney songs. Through a number of meetings they eventually agreed on a combination of old and new. In my opinion this works wonderfully. Just enough of the Disney magic to feel comfortable with and then an unexpected twist to the tale here and there.

Pamela Travers the author behind the stories of Mary Poppins was born Helen Lyndon Goff in Maryborough, Queensland in 1899. She died in London in 1996. I didn't know she was from Australia until a recent trip up the Queensland coast.
We drove through Maryborough  and wandered around looking at the Mary Poppins references and history. We found this little statue of the character.

Maryborough, Queensland. Birthplace of Pamela Travers
author of the Mary Poppins stories.

I don't want to spoil any surprises for anyone who may be lucky enough to have tickets to see the show so I wont give too much away. As you would expect from a Cameron Mackintosh production the casting is pretty spot on, the choreography is slick, the costumes are exquisite and I will tell you that the set is very clever. It 's like a dolls house that opens out to reveal the different rooms - I loved it. Oh, and the ending is pretty special...

The Brisbane run is on for another few weeks.
Well worth a trip.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Some of Brisbane by night.

It's really warming up here today - up to 35 degrees by all accounts...

My de-cluttering is on a bit of a 'go slow' in this heat,
so I've stopped for a rest and have been uploading some photos taken over the weekend.

We enjoyed the company of some family from up the coast who also brought our 'adopted' Nona.
Nona emigrated to Australia when she was seventeen and has kept her gorgeous Italian accent.
 I hope my Welsh one will survive as long...

To make the most of a balmy Summer's evening we hopped on a City Cat
and gave Nona a bit of a city tour via the river.

Want to have a look at my city at night?

(The photos are a little blurry as the boat was moving and my phone was struggling to focus)

Brisbane city - pacific highway to the right with the go-between bridge in the background

There is something quite enchanting about how the city lights reflect in the water isn't there?

Brisbane Story Bridge

under the Story Bridge with Riverside area in the background

There are sixteen bridges that cross the Brisbane River with five being within close proximity of each other. There's also one cross river tunnel that opened in 2010. No wonder I found it difficult to find my way around the city when I first arrived here. One minute I'd be one side of the river and the next I'd be on the other. I can remember one evening driving about 50 minutes to eventually get to a restaurant about 10 minutes from home. We were river bank hopping for ages! Another funny tale is that my sat nav system has not been updated to include the newest Go-between bridge. Now if I cross it the little cursor flashes in the middle of the water and 'Dave' the voice instructs me to "turn back immediately - route re calculation"!

The numbers indicate a bridge. source

The Treasury
The building that is lit up is the former Queensland Government Treasury Building. Since 1995 it has been a casino. Thankfully they have kept the original look of the building and it looks pretty spectacular in colour. This weekend it was red, but it can change...

South Bank beach
 Directly opposite the Treasury on the other side of the river is South Bank Parklands.

 Our evening walk took us along South Bank Parklands and past the beach. This area was completely destroyed by the 2011 floods and re-opened mid year. It's now back to its sparkling best and was being enjoyed way past sundown on a Saturday night.

South Bank is a bustling area with boardwalks, cafes, restaurants, street entertainers and families enjoying picnics and plays.

Wheel of Brisbane next to QPAC

Just up from the beach is the Wheel of Brisbane which sits next to the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, and if you walk a little bit further you'll see the Museum, State Library and the Gallery of Modern Art. All places that we try and make the most of.

I think Nona got quite a taste for Brisbane at night.

Oh, well back to the task in hand...


Sunday, 8 January 2012

a day by the river

There is so much of this city that we have yet to explore.
fishing on the river at Nudgee
So last week to make the most of the Christmas and New Year holiday we took off with brother in law and sis in law, plus kayak strapped to the roof of the car, plus picnic and headed to Nudgee Beach where the river meets the sea. Even Neil took some well earned holiday!

Sibs was keen to try out her new Christmas fishing rod and life jacket so this was a great opportunity to get out and spend some time in the sunshine. It struck me that I very rarely, if ever sit in the sun. I lathered myself in factor 30+, donned a wide brimmed hat and sunnies and caught a few rays....just a few...enough to leave a very distinctive Birkenstock pattern on my feet! (oops, forgot to smother my toes in lotion).

Lesson one Sibs is to wait for the instructor!

"is this how I hold it?"

Sibs and her uncle had a great time kayaking across the water and they spent some time fishing from a sand bank. I had the binoculars on them at one stage and could just about see that Sibs was ballet dancing across the sand whilst uncle seemed to be doing all the fishing!

We watched the numerous dogs and owners having fun throwing balls and sticks into the water - it made me want a dog...

The chicken wing that they placed in the crab net seemed to attract a few small fish - but nothing worth keeping for tea - We had to call back at the fish shop to get some snapper fillets to cook on the bbq.

Oh the joy and freedom...
School holidays... carefree and fun.
Filled with long lazy days in the sun where time doesn't matter.

This weekend we have had a wonderful time exploring the city with family and extended family from interstate (just typing that word 'interstate' makes me feel Australian!)
I'll download my photos and during the week I'll share some of the sights of Brisbane by night.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

My 2012

Hello 2012, welcome to my world.

This year I am not going to let you fly past and complain that time is moving too quickly.
I'm taking charge!

2012 - I have decided that you are my year for taking control and getting organised.
(Sounds a bit dramatic when I write it down doesn't it?)

What I mean is that this is the year that I get on with those jobs that I always say I'd like to do
if I had the time...

Well I do have the time - I can make the time.

Don't make me call this a resolution (that's way too serious).

Let's start with that study cupboard - you know the one.
The cupboard that was a store for books that became the place to dump.
Yes, all that art stuff, the box of birthday cards, the wrapping paper, the spare cables,
the sewing machine, the empty boxes to keep 'just in case'....
It's time to go....everything will have its place.

Then there's that kitchen drawer.
We all have one....full of broken pencils and empty biros,
 batteries and odd coins from another country.
Yep, off you all go...

Just let me loose on the Tupperware drawer - how many sandwich boxes does a family of three need?

Next up - wardrobes (actually I'll need some serious strength before I go there...but it will be done!)

So you get the picture?

2012 is the year for de-clutter.
The year of simplifying and pairing back all the stuff that I seemed to have filled my home with.

What's that William Morris quote?
Something like if it's not useful or beautiful chuck it?
(It's probably a bit more eloquent than that!)

I do believe that getting organised and getting rid of unwanted clutter is the most common new year resolution (even though I'm not calling it that remember)

I don't usually get too influenced by what others have to say
but the little that I have read of Peter Walsh
and his hints and tips for getting organised seems to make sense.
Granted it's mainly common sense, but it's a good motivator and starting point.
website link here
I have warned the other two that I am on a mission here.
As I type Neil is on hands and knees in the study sorting out some filing - result!

A place for everything and everything in its place
- this will be our 2012 family motto and mantra. where did I put those car keys?!