Thursday, 31 May 2012

It's finally happened....!

It was this morning at around 7am....

It's been quietly following me around for a while, occasionally tapping me on the shoulder,
making me turn around...

Then this morning it was time for it to make a full blown appearance.

Middle age gate-crashed my party....uninvited!

My optician warned me it was coming!
Whilst I was rejoicing that my short signtedness was 'getting better', he was having a little chuckle whilst explaining that this is common in people of my age....just before the need for reading glasses kicks in!

So that's it....

Yesterday I managed very well thank you and today I had to give in. The blurred text message on my phone was decidedly more blurred than usual! I can't grow longer arms so the reading glasses will have to be worn.
It's such a sign that time is flying by and it scares me. I don't think I know how to become middle aged.
I certainly don't feel it.

It conjures up images of reaching a peak and the way forward is the way home. The second leg, the home straight...

Goodness, that sounds a bit morbid!

So enough wallowing in self pity. My body might be disagreeing, but my mind can trick me all it likes that I'm a mere 'slip of a girl'. I recall an incident about 20 years ago when I was visiting a school to give a talk to the teachers and the Head said in a rather loud voice, "Why have they sent me this slip of a girl, what does she know?" I was most put out! I was desperate to be seen as mature and wise.

So let's embrace maturer and wiser. Never mind the fact that I have to swap glasses between watching tv and reading a book in the evening. My laughter lines are part of me and show a life that has included smiles.
I can't remember where I read it, but someone once said "I'm just grateful that wrinkles don't hurt."!
I like that.

So in true inner nanna style, I'm off for a cup of tea to watch 'Upstairs, Downstairs' on the sofa with a blanket to guard off the evening chill!

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Life is for living.

You know when you pack so much into your days that last week feels like last month?
It's been a bit like that around here recently.

Autumn is such a perfect climate here in Brisbane.
The mornings and evenings can get pretty cool and chilly, but the daytime sunshine is just the best.

We were on dog sitting duty this weekend and took them on lovely long walks along the creek. 

There was time to have a bit of a relax as well, and I caught a few quiet moments on the front deck of the house with Twmff the cat watching the world go by before getting myself ready to go out with the girls for a meal.

Sunday morning breakfast skyping friends in America.

Sunday morning tea up the mountain catching up with family.

Sunday evening into the city to the theatre.

Guess where I was on Monday morning?

I love and hate that place! I go with a list of things that I want and before I've gone past two minutes in the store the exact opposite of what I thought I'd chosen slaps me in the face and screams
"What about me instead? 

Anyhow, three trolleys later I manage to manoeuvre myself out
and organise home delivery that got to the house about 20 minutes after I arrived home...!
Now that's service.

Then to start the week we sampled a new Japanese dining bar that's just opened up the road.

They will be seeing more of us...

 So Tuesday came around again with my yoga class in the morning and after a quick scramble to do the grocery shopping I managed to squeeze in a massage before school pick up.
The house is now quiet and it's time for this night owl to get to bed at a half decent time for a change.

Nos da,

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Instagram on your blog

Today has been quite a day - hence the maltesers next to me!

Nothing terrible, just one of those days when the clock ticks just a bit too loud and time just slips through your fingers. I've had a busy day at work - a day that's challenged the old grey matter. Part of me enjoys the push though and the feeling that I've earned my pennies! Before I knew it the place was dark and quiet and I realised that I needed to get my skates on to get to after school care before the dreaded deadline. Last Thursday I was running a little late and got nabbed on the way home by a rather gruff policeman who was handing out fines like there was no tomorrow!  

 I did manage to get a walk in the Botanical Gardens lunch time so that I can get those steps counted. I mentioned before that I'm taking part in a Global Corporate Challenge which is a sixteen week team programme designed to get you clocking up a minimum of 10,000 steps a day. Today was day one...I need to run up and down the stairs a few more times to get to my target number of steps. The cats will think I've gone mad!

Anyway, I'm waffling on and what I actually wanted to talk about was instagram.

For those that don't know, intagram is a photo sharing app. Just go into your app store on your phone and search 'instagram' - it's free. You can take a photo on your phone, edit it if you want to and then share it via a range of social media. You can also choose to keep photos private if you wish. I've really been enjoying experimenting with the editing filters on the app with different looks for the same photo. Instagram can make even on okay shot look pretty atmospheric.

my little ballet girl

This was a Christmas gift from Sibs a few years ago and sits on my work desk.
Every now and then she tops it up with kisses. x

Now I'm no technical whizz, but I've managed to link up my instagram feed to the side bar of my blog and to my Facebook page to share the photos that I want to share. If you want to do this then you need to follow a few easy steps. They may sound complicated, but trust me here...

To link instagram to your blogger side bar: 
  1. You need to get a html code to insert a gadget in your blogger layout, - click on this link to take you to the code - Badge plz
  2. Choose the icon that says generate a badge to show your Instagram profile stats and photos.
  3. Type in your instagram user name and make any changes you wish e.g. number of photos to be displayed.
  4. Click generate to make the badge
  5. Copy the html code given.
  6. Open your blogger dashboard and choose layout
  7. Click on add a gadget and this will open up another page with a list of gadgets. Scroll down until you find HTML/JavaScript
  8. Click on this and paste the copied html code in the box and save.
  9. Your instagram gadget should now be in place. You can check by clicking on  preview and if you're happy with it click save arrangement.

 I think that should cover it.
Let me know how you get on.

Happy instagraming.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Delusions of grandeur, and some interesting properties.

I think that in a previous life I was a 'lady of the manor'
I think I was Mrs Darcy...!

I adore old historical buildings and can imagine myself gliding down a wide staircase in a flowing gown...but knowing my luck I would have been the servant rather than the mistress!

We are slightly lacking in old buildings here in Brisbane...So as part of my planning for our next trip home to the UK I thought it would be fun to stay in a stately home or somewhere that has a real sense of history. So this week I have been doing some research and some reminiscing.

See this grand place?

Auchinleck House LINK HERE

I lived here once. 
Actually, it was twice.
 Well, okay, maybe just for a few days...

A group of friends that were spread out across the UK would get together and organise long weekends in amazing properties. The one above is in Scotland and is part of the Landmark Trust. The properties are beautifully restored and preserved and apart from some modern day comforts such as heating and light they are presented close to their original state echoing the colour schemes and furnishings of the period.

The grand living room/library at Auchinleck House

We always had a huge open fire whatever the month. I seem to remember that there was always a scrabble game on the go too, and plenty of milky coffees and hot chocolate following walks in the local countryside. Meal times were real occasions and each couple would take a share in the cooking.

This is another roaring fire in another property in Scotland, on the Isle of Bute. Sibs had her first holiday here when she was 8 weeks old. It was also the place where we said some of our goodbyes to friends during one of the last weekends before we emigrated....there were tears...

The photo above is a typical early evening during one of our get togethers - someone preparing dinner, a baby being fed, dogs under the table, a bottle of champagne, magazines, a novel, lots of catching up...oh, and pink slippers! (it was very relaxing)

I have so many photos of these weekends but they all show lots of people having lots of fun....not so much of the actual properties. I guess, I never thought that I wouldn't continue to keep visiting ....

This is a shot of the dining room from the above house on the Isle of Bute. 
Photo from the The Landmark Trust website - HERE

I'm in deep, serious planning mode now....
I wonder if this castle will be available?

Clytha Castle, Wales
Or maybe this early 18th Century property- Marshal Wade's House,
right in the centre of the city of Bath, overlooking the Abbey?

Marshal Wade's House, Bath
photo link HERE

Too many decisions... There's the flights to book first, but this research is much more fun! I'll have to let you know where we end up choosing. In the meantime, if anyone is interested in finding out more about this organisation and the fabulous properties here's the link The Landmark Trust

It's State of Origin rugby here tonight. (Last year's post about it all - HERE)
I might watch, or I might indulge in a Jane Austen novel....I hear Mr Darcy calling!

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Bare Foot Bowls - mufti...?

(Something went a bit funny with blogger this morning as I posted this and it disappeared.
Hopefully it's where it should be now)

Thank you for the comments and messages regarding the citizenship issue. It's been somewhat reassuring to get positive thoughts from my family and friends...I even got a text late last night with the message "Do it!"and a link to the website.

It's on the cards. So let me share with you one of the reasons that living here is pretty good....

Now things could have changed in the last few years, but from memory, if someone back in the UK had suggested a school class get together at the local crown green bowls club I would have thought that it was a joke!

It's a place that I would associate with retirees (bit of a generalisation I know). It makes me think of hushed tones with the occasional clunk of the bowls, everyone dressed in white and immaculate lawns . However, out here in Australia it's quite the thing for all ages. Bowling appears to be a family pastime.

I was intrigued by the signs that promoted "mufti barefoot bowls" and have to admit that I thought it sounded pretty suspect! When we were invited to an evening of Barefoot Bowl  - mufti, I was more than intrigued and became almost a little concerned!
No need to worry - it means bowling in ordinary dress....phew.

So that's where we found ourselves early Friday evening just as the sun was setting.

impromptu soccer before bowls

Yes the kids are playing soccer....on a bowls lawn! A ball appeared from no-where and next thing they were away. Do you know what? - the bowls club officials didn't bat an eyelid. The kids were having a good time so they were happy enough. ...It's very relaxed out here!

The adults helped to organise some teams and gave instructions to try and not throw the bowls quite so much, but apart from that we left the children to get on with it. They got the hang of the curve and encouraged their team mates with much whopping and high fives. (Definitely not the hushed tones of my memories...) They played on until the light faded and they couldn't see anymore.

Then it was time to gather everything up with lots of cries of  "where's my shoes?" (kids) and "I can't carry everything!" (parents) and head into the bowl club. Inside we all sat down to a Chinese banquet to round off the evening.

the all important measuring to work out the winner

Happy kids, happy parents, lovely Friday evening.

I'm off to my yoga class this morning -
so that I can come back all relaxed to face the mountain of ironing that's been breeding in my laundry!

Monday, 21 May 2012


Good morning Monday.
 Let's get those bedroom doors open and let that glorious Autumnal sunshine in.

I'm a little chirpier than I was this time last week post school fete and in the middle of the visa fiasco!
 (You might want to read my last post HERE to catch up on the visa story)

Thank you for the messages and comments - Neil is safely back on Australian golden soil
and number one job for the week is to sort out Australian citizenship!

(Now I have to be on my best behaviour this week as my blog is being featured on The Decorating Forum HERE...Pretty exciting stuff!

I joined this forum a while back and dip in to view and read about some pretty amazing renovations, builds and gorgeous interiors and get some great hints and tips. It's not just about decorating though, there are sections on topics such as travel, kids and books. Well worth a visit HERE)

So back to this citizenship thing...

I'm finding it really tricky to put into words how I've been feeling about it...

I love living in Australia, really love it.

My girl is having the kind of upbringing that I would have dreamed up for her.

We embrace the opportunities that have come our way.

We celebrate being free to live here.

Australia day celebrations

I feel very fortunate to have fabulous friendships and a job that I can truly say I enjoy.
Sounds pretty much like we've settled to me?

Our long term planning involves being in Australia and no-where else, so what's been wrong with me?
Why have I been delaying making our life here "official"?

I guess the closest explanation that I can give is the analogy of the couples who make a commitment to each other in every way, yet decide that they will not marry....

That's how I think I've been  feeling about taking Australian citizenship.
... Everything is good, so why change it?

So even though it's been on a mental list for a little while, it never moved to the white board in the study list. (That's when it's serious!) 

Then last week when my complacency was questioned, when Neil was away from Australia and all the worst case scenarios went flying through my mind. Ridiculous I know, but there was a tiny irrational fear thing going on.....! I realised that Australia was more than just where we live.
Australia has become home...and I didn't want anything jeopardising that.

So this morning I'm adding "apply for citizenship" to the white board list.
I'm changing that mental commitment to a recognised one.

Wish me luck with the test!

(I'm also adding - make a decision about new sofas....somehow, I think that could be even harder!!)

Saturday, 19 May 2012

" I don't want you to worry, but..."

...don't you dread those words?

I sort of know that it's nothing too terrible, but my heart still stops for a second as my brain tries to work out just how much worrying I will be doing in the next few seconds!

If you lived with my husband, you would hear those words quite often....

He is what is commonly known as a bit of an accident prone individual. If the best china is going to be smashed, it will be Neil that drops it. If there's a nail on the driveway Neil will either stand on it or reverse the car over it. If it's going to go wrong, then Neil will be involved in some way....

(In his defence it's not always his fault...and by the way, he's the best dad, husband and friend and he knows I love him dearly   )

The latest episode in the "I don't want to worry you, but..." conversations happened whilst he was travelling overseas during the last couple of weeks. Now when it comes to travelling Neil has a truckload of tales about his adventures.

....There's the time when I was at home and pregnant and he got stuck in Bangkok and I had to sort out all manner of bureaucratic nightmares...

...Then the time he got on an express train with just his ticket in his pocket and 'forgot' to get off at the right stop and ended up having to stay on until the end of the line which took him to London - (hours South from where he should have been.) It was before mobile phones and I was just about to report him as a missing person!

There's more, lots more, but I won't embarrass him too much!

Anyhow his latest escapade involved a visa issue....

Neil leaves Australia for a quick trip to France and Italy. As he is leaving the "nice man" at the airport points out that his Return Resident Visa has expired. "Don't worry" says that nice man, "as long as you sort it out before you return, you'll be fine".

So I get the "Don't want to worry you, but..." phone call from Neil and he asks me to just get the details for the Australian Embassy and he will pop down during a break in his work and get it sorted....

Hmmm, not quite so easy buster!

After many hours of telephone calls and pressing 1 for this and 2 for that and 3 for the other (ahh, SO frustrating!) I finally sift through the conflicting bits of information and get some sense of the project ahead. Here's the gist of a few days worth of research.

  • The Australian Embassies in France and Italy do not handle visa issues. When in France you contact Madrid and when in Italy you contact Berlin!
  • He will need to post an application ....along with his passport....which will then take around 10 days to process. (Longer than the trip!)
  • Australia would allow him entry into the country on a temporary 30 day visa. However, there's a possibility that he will not be allowed to board his return flight as the airlines do not want to risk a possible ''no entry' passenger.
  • It's very easy to renew a Return Resident Visa whilst in Australia.-  Each time I was told this I had to take a very deep breath to stop myself from shouting saying "this-does-not-help!"
The time difference didn't help the situation here either. So on an evening when  I should have been baking the pledged goodies for the school fete I was on hold to London, or maybe that was Paris??

Eventually it transpired that he could provide a colour photocopy of his passport and send this by post along with a lengthy application form and keep his fingers crossed that it would be processed in time. The Australian Embassy in London were amazing and extremely patient. Providing that he could use a UK address as a constant base they would process his application.
Anyhow, off went the application and we waited....and we waited....

Talk about eleventh hour, this was getting a bit close to the eleventh minute!

At last a text from Neil - "Approved".

Two minutes later "Do you want an Italian leather handbag...?!"

Panic over....until the next time!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Food memories - Le Caveau, Skipton

Do you find that when you get that rare opportunity of a child free night and you know that you should probably take advantage of the fact that you can go out but you just can't be bothered with the dressing up part or the agreeing on a restaurant...?

During the recent long weekend Sibs went for a sleepover birthday party. Neil and I looked at each other, both willing the other to suggest staying in....

So we decided to re-create a meal from 'the old days' from a lovely little French restaurant called  Le Caveau in Skipton, North Yorkshire. (website HERE )

When I say little French restaurant, I mean little. If you didn't know it was there you would walk past it. It was on old 16th Century dungeon type jail, down some ancient stone steps on the corner of a cobbled street.
There was a tiny bar where you were greeted and where you sat to peruse the menu and enjoy a drink.

Le Caveau bar and restaurant.
I always knew what my entree choice would was always the garlic mushrooms...always!

So I tried to transport myself back to Le Caveau days and remember the ingredients in order to make this dish. Yes, of course there were mushrooms and garlic and cream, but what else made it special?
I thought that I had it cracked when I remembered the blue cheese, and then Neil recalled that there was some bacon on the top.

It was put together and  in the oven and we opened a bottle of French Champagne (just to be authentic you know!)

I don't know why I didn't think of it before, but whilst it was cooking I decided to have a look online to see if the restaurant was still there...

Not only is it still there but look what was on the Spring 2012 menu -

Market Fresh Mushrooms
Cooked in garlic butter and fresh Dales cream, flavoured with Stilton cheese, topped with crispy bacon


Okay, maybe my cream wasn't from the Yorkshire Dales, or the Blue cheese wasn't the real Mc Coy stilton....but it was close.

Oh how that taste took me back....

There wasn't a real favourite with the Le Caveau mains, I would often just go with the special. So we cooked roast belly pork with parsnip and greens - real comfort food.

Our open plan Australian kitchen didn't quite hit it with the same intimate atmosphere of Le Caveau, but the reminiscing and the memories that we recounted made it feel like we were almost there...

(photos of the inside of the restaurant from the Le Caveau website HERE)

Funny how one dish from one restaurant can evoke such memories....
(I must put it on the list of places to go on our next trip back)

Monday, 14 May 2012

Happy crying and other weekend stuff.

Someone turned down the thermostat overnight and we woke to a chilly Brisbane this morning. It was a scramble to find the uggs boots to be able to get out of bed. I smile when I hear Sibs complain how freezing it is as I check the thermometer and it's 12 degrees... It will soon rise into the 20's during the day, but she went to school looking as if she was going on an Arctic expedition!

So before I tackle the mountain of chores that awaits after a week of just doing the essentials (school fete really does take over), I have to record a few things from the weekend.

Saturday was as full on as expected, but good fun. I think I was on my feet for most of the 10 hours. The sun shone and the local community came out in their thousands to support the school. There were many highlights to the day but the huge anticipation of the event - the fact that Sibs was tall enough to go on The Dominator....well, it never happened! 
My poor girl. By the time she plucked up the courage the queue was so long....and one thing after another meant that she never quite made it. I don't think it really mattered, she certainly enjoyed her day without it.

I mentioned that there had been some secret planning for Mother's Day.
Well I have to say that my girl reduced me to happy crying.
She had telephoned a local coffee shop and booked a table for the two of us.
All by herself...

placing the order and paying for mother's day breakfast.

It was special...really special.

Before all of that, I had to stay in bed whilst Sibs and her friend (who was sleeping over) clattered and pottered about in the kitchen. There was lots of giggles...
Eventually I was allowed out and had to follow the arrows to this -

mother's day table

best chocolate cake - EVER!

As I had been baking up until Friday night there were no eggs in the fridge, but a cake was made anyway!

I didn't care that it was made egg less! It was fabulous!

We had a late tapas lunch in Paddington with some friends
and then Sibs and I went to watch the Queensland Reds rugby.

It was a great game (although pretty tense at times)
and a win for the Reds finished off the best Mother's day.

Caru ti Sibsy x