Saturday, February 18, 2017

Sydney, again and again.

I feel like I have had a year's worth of trips to Sydney in just two weeks. So much for the quiet, country life!

The first trip was one I was rather dreading. Me, a teacher, and five drama students in our car, up to Sydney to see OnStage (last year's best HSC drama performances. Andrew told Joss' drama class last year, that he would be willing to drive them all. Unfortunately for me, something came up at Andrew's work, and I had to do it!

I don't drive in the city. I'm not a bad driver, just not overly confident when I don't know where I am going and there are millions of other cars about.

Thankfully, Joss' teacher was lovely, so 12ish hours in the car was fine in terms of conversation. The city driving, however, was as bad as I thought it might be! I also got stuck in an elevator for several long minutes, and didn't manage to have any dinner, but this room was a great consolation.

Also, I got my steps up with a pretty decent view, and the humidity saw to it being a good workout.

Look how many people!
We went home the very next morning, through torrential Sydney rain. We got everywhere safely, but I wouldn't very much like to do it again!

I had Wednesday and Thursday at home, then, when the Wagga weather was forecast for 44, I got up before five to catch the plane to Sydney for an Indigenous Services Unconference. It was really interesting, very productive and fully air-conditioned.

Just inside the Mitchell Library
We saved the best for last, and on Tuesday, Andrew and I drove to Sydney to see James Taylor! We stayed in the coolest hotel, with a free minibar, glass elevators and stairs up to our comfiest ever bed.

It was right behind Darling Harbour, so we strolled to the venue and sat with what seemed like a million others to hear James Taylor, sounding as good as ever, being funny, humble and kind.

Tracey works with me, and we bought the tickets together. We all loved the concert, so. very. much.

A little bit of sustenance for shopping and a leisurely drive home. I think I'll stay put for a while and listen to James.....

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Swing of Things

Once all the washing was done after Kiama, Andrew's sister and her three children came to stay; it's a tradition that the cousins would not like to forgo. There is much late night talking amongst three girls in one bedroom, lots of trampolining, ice cream eating and game playing. It's a highlight of our summer holidays.

We also had a great evening down at the river, celebrating Steve and Mike's birthdays. The menfolk swam with the kids while we enjoyed a bit of grown-up conversation under the trees.

We had one last week of holidays, when I got up each morning and left before anyone stirred, and then, no matter how hard they clung to the holidays, it was time for the kids to go back to school.

In fact, Bethany has started somewhere new. Yes, the baby of the family, is in high school.

She was a bundle of excitement and nervousness, but relaxed into a wonderful first day.

The excitement levels elsewhere were pretty well contained.

There are, as one would expect, a lot of things I will miss about the holidays, especially as extra-curricular activity mounts, but there is something satisfying about getting in the swing of things; being organised.

I am not one for New Year's Resolutions. If you need to make positive changes, just do it; but I did make some tongue in cheek ones. I posted on Instagram that I want to read more, burn more candles and drink more tea. I think it's important to set oneself up for success. I also plan to write more letters (and obtain more fountain pens and paraphernalia), so when Tim alerted me to the existence of InCoWriMo (International Correspondence Writing Month), I decided to get involved.

I will be writing a letter, postcard or note every day in February. Tim is getting the first, but if you want to be on my list, let me know in the comments!

We have had Mum and Dad here for a couple of days, which has been delightful. Extraordinarily hot, sometimes windy weather does make for spectacular sunsets, best enjoyed while taking an evening stroll.

Thursday, January 19, 2017


I think Andrew and I were under the impression that we had found "our spot", the place we would always go for beach holidays. We went to Bermagui for five summers in a row, but somehow, in our last summer, we (some more than others) felt ready to move on.

So, this year, we drove the quite different route to Kiama. We got to drive through the Southern Highlands, which I love, and then on the rather hairy road down the mountain to the coast.

There were plenty of rocks to climb, which kept Toby happy.

We stayed across the road from Jones Beach in Kiama Downs. Far more suburban than Bermagui, and much busier. There were lots of overseas tourists in Kiama, which we never saw in the little coastal towns, but also many more shops and restaurants which kept the kids happy.

Kiama even manages to keep a book shop!

Toby turned 15 while we were there, and we celebrated with his favourite, Italian food. We also ate plenty of fish and chips, Hungry Monkey burgers, ice creams and some great Mexican food.

We went on so many walks (pick the couple with new Fitbits).

Andrew and the kids spent a day at Jamberoo, which they loved so much, though they all got burnt. I stayed home and read all day!

We arrived home this afternoon; the washing is on, Milo is loving all over us and we are looking forward to sleeping in our own beds. Kiama was great, maybe we'll go again next year.

Now, to get ready for visitors, then school!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017


2017 is a big year of new things for us! After 12 years at the Christian College, all three children will now be at TRAC; all in high school. One is doing her final year at school.....

To get in the spirit of change, I didn't stay home on New Year's Eve. It's not a celebration I care much about, never enough to get a babysitter, certainly. Joss is always at summer camp, and last year Toby went into town for the big, town celebration Andrew plays at, so I happily stayed home. This time, Bethany was keen to join in with 12,000 or so other Wagga folk at Andrew's gig, so I went too.

Darren Coggan is an old Wagga boy, and he hosted again this year. The theme was going through the decades, so Andrew's band played the 60s and 70s, and it was so good! Darren Coggan seriously sounds like Cat Stevens, I do hope I can catch his Peace Train show one day.

Sadly, the band who played the 80s only did Oz rock, so we listened to them for a bit (so loud I felt the drums in my chest) and then the 9.15 fireworks were let off above us. Being right under them was pretty spectacular, if a little ashy.

We went home after that, feeling the love for a town where you can park less than five minutes walk from a big event, and relaxed until 11.15. Bethany was still firing, so we went back into town for Andrew's last set (this decade) and the midnight fireworks. This time, we actually got ash in our eyes! It was a lot of fun, and we had to wake Bethany up at 12.15pm the next day!

In order to say goodbye to her Christian College friends, we had a get together at the pool in town.

Good exercise coupled with chocolate, chips and lollies; it was great.

I especially enjoyed it because I got to hang out with this little miss while her big sister was at the party, and her dad was in the pool with her brother. She didn't like the pool last time she went with her family, but she had a great time paddling with me! I wished we both had swimmers because she wanted to get all in!

Then she was all tuckered out. You can see from my face how much I didn't enjoy it!

Andrew and I were back at work for the first week on January, but then we started another two weeks' holiday, mixing it up by going not to Bermagui, but Kiama. More of that tomorrow.....

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Merry Christmas

The week before Christmas is hard. The school presentation nights are all finished, the Christmas parties for work and stamping are also over, but you still have to go to work for a week! This year, I took Wednesday to Friday off, so I only had to work the first two days of that long week, and it was so good.

There had been a flurry of festivities the week before. We went to the Magpie's Nest for my work Christmas party. It is a gorgeous restaurant, and we had a beautiful meal and a great time. The sunset was spectacular.

Cynthia and Tracey were also spectacular, and the phone could only capture one or the other.

I had my card makers' Christmas party, too, and with 13 of us making cards, drinking tea and coffee and eating chocolate pavlova, I didn't have time to take any photos. That, and the fact that I forgot. As always.

It was Andrew's birthday on Sunday, and after church he hopped into a car with some band mates and headed down to Melbourne for a Steve Gadd gig. All the way there and back again in one go, he climbed into bed at 3.30am! 'Twas an awesome gig by all accounts. Phil and the kids came up from Melbourne on the same day and stayed with us on their way to Mum and Dad's. They good-naturedly came along to the Carols in the Park event in town, as I was hosting. Jane sent me this photo during the carols, clearly taken by a mutual friend in the crowd at the beginning of the puppet show. Goodness, I have bad posture.....

This was my view while the puppet show was going. Phil had a very funny view, as from his angle the lights were shining on the side of the theatre, illuminating Lachlan with his hand up Gaffles!

I was pleased to have that job over and done with, and after my two days at work, I was finally on holidays! I celebrated by cleaning the house and packing so we could leave for Sydney on Wednesday morning.

We took a leisurely drive up, stopping at Berrima for lollies and coffee scrubs. We spent two days in Sydney, hanging out with Andrew's family, doing some last minute shopping and Joss even squeezed in a visit to Manly with friends.

Friday morning saw us driving up to Broke and settling in for a family Christmas in the vines. We had delicious food, plenty of pool time, cousin fun, gin and tonics, and games of Uno (as long as we pronounced it the proper Italian way).

My husband knows me very well. It's a clutch bag and I love it so much.
The drone was a big hit for Toby

 Tim also brought up a remote control car, which was fun to drive and hilarious to watch as Sunny barked at it and chased it, until it turned around and chased him!

G&Ts on the verandah. 

Selfie challenge from P&K
It was sad to say good-bye, but we came home yesterday, to a rainy Wagga, our own beds and several days before we go back to work. Relaaaaax.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Getting there

What a few weeks! Here is an attempted catch up; I might start with the most recent stuff first....

A young friend from church works for the Civic Theatre, and she did the lighting design for a local show playing at the Botanic Gardens. She was given a whole free table (dinner and the show), but lots of her friends are away. When she told Jane and Steve that she had spare tickets to a Eurovision show, they knew just who could fill those seats! It was last night, and Andrew couldn't come, but we know plenty of Eurovision tragics. Benjamin even dressed up. It was so good; really funny, great music and so much fun that I couldn't get to sleep afterwards!

On Friday night we were at Joss and Tobes' school presentation night. Toby played in the band (drums for the song Crazy) and orchestra (keyboard for a piratey piece of music), and he got a history award. Joss was announcing the year nine awards (the last person she announced was Toby!), she received a drama award and was announced as House Captain. The whole night was great, I barely even looked at my book.

Twenty five years ago I came back from ten months in Japan, on exchange. While I absolutely loved the experience, I have never been keen on having an exchange student stay with us. I am sad about my lost Japanese and just feel awkward about having a strange teenager in the house, unable to speak English. Joss was so very desperate to have one, though, and Andrew was on her side, so I agreed, and Mao came to stay for ten days.

She was completely delightful! As soon as she arrived, we dropped off her bag and headed in to town to buy Christmas decorations. I have been hoping to have a colour co-ordinated, aesthetically pleasing tree for a number of years, rather than one covered in pre-school produced decorations and Celtic baubles. I went for blue and silver, and though there are some other coloured items that could not be parted with, they are mostly around the back, and it looks great. I think Mao really enjoyed it.

Mao ate everything I cooked, especially loving the pasta. She is the gentlest, sweetest girl, and she and Joss had such a great time together. Joss took her all over town, and to the licorice factory with friends. She was especially easy after school as she just slept! Being in another culture is exhausting!

I pulled out my old yukata (summer kimono) and put it on Bethany. Mao ran to get hers so they were both dressed up.

It had to be done. Mao knew she wasn't going to like it, but she bravely tasted the Vegemite.

The pavlova went down a bit easier! We played Rummikub together and went out to see the Christmas lights. As one of the teachers said, we found out that teenagers everywhere love their mobile phones, eating and sleeping!

Japanese girls also love the Snow app, which gave us all ears, whiskers, huge pupils, pink lips and glowing skin. Sometimes it even gave us paws. There does not seem to be a situation where whiskers and ears aren't required.

The farewell dinner - no ears for Toby

I'll confess, there were tears when we said goodbye. Joss, Beth, Mao and I all cried! Mao was just lovely and we miss her. I don't think I'll have another exchange student because this experience was just right and I don't want to mess with it.

Continuing my backwards story, the day we picked Mao up, we had just arrived home from Sydney. We went to see Aladdin; a treat booked by Andrew months ago.

It was a great show, and the kids also enjoyed the train ride (!) and a wander around town. Joss and I shopped for makeup (OK, I read my book in the corner of Sephora) and Toby, Bethany and Andrew went up whatever Centrepoint is called now. We stayed with Mal, Marlee, Alannah and Jordy for two nights, which was really lovely.

The cousins in age order

The cousins in height order
We left for Sydney on the Saturday, and I had just come back from a library conference on the Friday. It was held in Ulladulla, a six hour drive away, and was well worth the trip. There were great speakers like Deng Adut, Gillian Hicks and Matt Finch. I gave the conference summary, which you can read here if you are interested in what goes on at a library conference!

My super highlight was meeting Jennifer Byrne. I gushed a little bit and told her that when I interview authors for One Book One Wagga, I pretend I'm her. She was very lovely and very tiny.

Before the conference, the big event was our women's Christmas event at church. Over tea, coffee and dessert we made necklaces and heard a Christmas talk. I made three cheesecakes, three blueberry crumble cakes and oversaw the kitchen on the night. I was rather relived that the friends I invited couldn't come, because I wouldn't have seen much of them!

Hmmm, I think that's about it. We can start going forwards again, now. Two weeks to Christmas! I'll just leave you with another couple of photos.....