Sunday, 31 July 2011

A herb garden

I was sitting outside this afternoon on the front veranda of the house, make that loving the Winter sun. There is something so soothing about Queensland Winter sunshine. You can just see your body melt into relaxation. Add in a good book and a cup of freshly ground coffee and it's a pretty good day...

However, after a while I got a little restless and began to mess around with the camera on my phone.
I've aways thought of it as a back up camera and haven't taken any serious shots with it before.
So I ventured down the few steps from my comfy spot and began taking photos of the little herb garden
I discovered that it has a zoom and a focus....and it's not half bad.

Mary, Mary quite contrary....

This is Mary who lives in the herb garden and is supposed to scare away all the animals that want to eat our herbs - she's  a little timid, so quite often the grasshoppers have a bit of a feast on the basil.

only a couple of grasshopper holes

Our little herb garden was put together by Sibs's uncle. He helped us to tackle the overgrown front garden at about the same time as Sibs was all excited about an edible garden that was being introduced at her school.
She is supposed to take complete responsibility for ensuring that the garden is kept tidy and for watering the pots...which of course she does every day!

coriander for curries

We have had a few different attempts at growing various herbs and vegetables and the most success has been in terracotta pots. The soil on the ground is not great so the pots work well,
and it also somehow prevents the possums from munching away too much.

a couple of lettuce varieties

Every good gardener knows the importance of light and water.
The light and sun takes care of itself here but we do need to give the herbs plenty of water
and to encourage Sibs to look after her garden the watercan is.....yes, of course, it's pink!

The bok choy is thriving and has outgrown the pot. We do enjoy a weekly stir fry in this house,
it's different every time, but there is usually some of this vegetable in there somewhere.

We have yet to sample any of these chillies...look out they are labelled as 'inferno hot'!

The ever popular chives. They are struggling a little at the moment...

I know it's not a herb or a vegetable, but I love lavender so there is a large specimen here.

It's been a bit of a struggle to grow,
but I persevered and it now seems quite happy to stay and produce it's wonderful aromatic flowers.

Maybe we should get a little more adventurous with our herb garden?
but for now, it's small and simple and manageable.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Sometimes you can bend the rules...

Last Friday Sibs and I took a day off.

It was all planned, - teacher got a note to explain the absence fom school
 and I organised my day away from work.

The original plan was to just take the morning off to go to a ballet exam...but as the day got closer I kept getting caught up in conversations about what we were both going to do after the exam.
As much as Sibs enjoys Friday afternoons playing touch rugby, she got me with
"but I'll get the chance to just hang out with you - and that doesn't happen very often..."
So I succumbed, and we just hung out together!

very relaxed and enjoying the preparations before the exam.

The obvious thing to do when you finish a morning exam is to head somewhere for morning tea.
(Australians are big on morning and afternoon tea).
So together with quite a few other post ballet exam girls we went to the Milk bar.....on a Friday school day!

big treat cupcake to go with the berry smoothie

We then headed to the shops where the staff made a bit of a fuss of Sibs's ballet hair and she got to spend a bit of pocket money.
We pottered about getting ingredients to make pizzas for tea.
We spent an age washing the hair spray from her stiff as a board hair - it took four washes, plus an extra dollop of conditioner!
By the usual 'just coming in from work time' we were cozy in our pj's (it's dark early here), the fire was crackling, the pizzas were made, the weekend had started.

Now and again it's good to stop and bend the rules a little...

linking up with Sarah
Good Life Wednesdays

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Sharing information

Writing this blog has been quite a learning curve for many more ways than one.

I have had to learn a few technical things along the way,
 but the biggest lesson has been what I'm learning about myself...

Having the opportunity to write freely about whatever I please is pretty liberating. However, I think when I started to write a blog I thought that the only people who would read would be family and lifelong friends who knew me well anyway!
I quickly realised that 'others' were reading...
so I became cautious...
and through this caution I became bored...
with my own blog!

I began to leave the odd comment on a few blogs. Then I began to 'follow' the blogs that I kept returning to read. At first this felt strange as I didn't know the writers. However, these comments were the first steps to getting to know the it feels like catching up with some good friends over a cuppa.

Ever so slowly I have moved to writing about what I really want, sharing experiences, everyday life events, emotions, thoughts...

As the blog has developed during the last few months I find myself  'conversing' with wonderful people from all over the globe! Unbelievable! My life is so much richer for it. The comments and messages that I received after writing about how it felt to move away from home and settle here in Australia were so thoughtful and supportive - thank you.
I am naturally quite the cynic. I need proof of something; I need to build up a trust. I don't think that any of this is necessarily wrong - it's just a trait. British maybe?? Having a young daughter I am so aware of the wonders and the dangers of the Internet so I tread carefully.
(I have to share that a few months ago I was told off by my mother for posting that I was home alone for the weekend! After my initial "Oh don't be silly" thought, it was quickly followed by a "should I have posted that?")

However, living in Australia has started to erase some of this.
Australians are much more open, welcoming and accepting.
Here, you're a friend unless proven otherwise.
I like that.

I still occasionally think about things too much, but I'm learning to accept more on face value.

Anyone else go through this thought process with their blog writing?

A couple of months ago a journalist contacted me after reading my blog. He was writing an article for British people moving to Australia or New Zealand and wanted to know my story. I sat on the email for a while and then decided that I should write back. We exchanged a few emails, he sent me a link to the magazine I googled him(!), before deciding that it was bone fide, and wrote a few answers to his questions.

The magazine is called 'Australia, New Zealand Outlook'. There is an online version (click here)  if anyone would like to read, (I can only link to the home page of the online mag, my article is on page 34) or the print version is available to buy at the end of July.

I'm still learning, but loving the journey...

Friday, 22 July 2011

Jo Malone goodies

I've been a bit of a Jo Malone fan for some years now and was thoroughly spoilt this week with a box of  goodies from the UK when Neil arrived home from a quick trip to England .
This was my selection.


Dark Amber and Ginger Lily...
a combination of cardamom, orchid and kyara wood designed to cleanse the senses and encourage calmness,
relaxation and positive thought


English Pear and Freesia...
 captures the scent of just-ripe pears, cooled by the air,
ready to twist free from the tree.
The surprising, sensuous freshness of sweet pears is wrapped in a bouquet of white freesias, on a subtle background of scrambling wild roses and skin-warming amber, patchouli and woods.

Pomegranate Noir...
uniquely composed around an intensely fruity pomegranate accord that warms on the skin to reveal an incredible sensuality through the combination of patchouli, frankincense and spicy woods. Seductive and utterly compelling.

Someone in that company has such a great way with words...

The other night I bathed in one fragrance, slathered on the body lotion in another fragrance and couldn't resist a quick spray to compliment the wonderful aroma that was engulfing the whole house.
If you're familiar with Jo Malone products you'll know that she suggests 'fragrance combining'. This is a clever concept to layer different fragrances to create your own scent. Her website ( here ) gives suggestions depending on the mood you want to create or feel. It's a great way of using just a few perfumes to create a number of different personal fragrances.
For my birthday a few years ago a couple of lovely friends bought me a cologne collection set of six small bottles, and I loved trying out the various combinations.

Sorry, Australia, as excited as I was to find a Jo Malone counter in the David Jones store, it's so much more expensive than in the UK. Based on current exchange rates some products are almost half the price in the UK...
So armed with my wish list Neil ventured into the Jo Malone boutique in the Victoria Quarter in Leeds, England, and came away with a few things. (I somehow managed to convince him that the more he spent the greater the saving...)
The Dark Amber and Ginger Lily wasn't on my wish list and he picked it out by himself - I was impressed -  very impressed.  Quite a few of the Jo Malone fragrances are suited to both men and women and I suspect that this one might just empty a touch sooner than some of the other bottles on my dressing table!
As long as it lasts until the next trip...

Monday, 18 July 2011

Appreciating the arts.

I went to see Dr Zhivago on stage at Queensland Performing Arts Centre yesterday.
 Australia is hosting the premier of this new musical
so when it was announced that it would be coming to Brisbane, well, I just had to go.

photo and information about the Australian Dr Zhivago link 
It was wonderful...

When the interval lights came up I realised that I had been holding my breath - it was that mesmerising. When the final act was over I was sniffling away with quite a few of my fellow theatre goers! Considering that this is a brand new, just been written production, it flowed beautifully from scene to scene re-telling the history of Russia at the start of the last century. Throw in a love story and you have a winner.

As I was brought up in Wales I was spoilt for choice with the musical talents on offer there. Consequently I think I probably have pretty high standards of expectations when I pay my money to go to the theatre. I wasn't disappointed yesterday. The music was at times quite breathtaking with plenty of power from a relatively small cast. The leads were spot on and each performer held the audience when they sang.
(Dr Zhivago opened in Sydney in February and has also played in Melbourne. The Brisbane season will end on August 14th and I don't think that there are any further locations planned at this time.)

Whenever there is an opportunity to go to the theatre or to a musical performance, be that a large scale touring production or a local amateur group I'm usually pretty keen. Thinking back, my love of drama, theatre and music was nurtured from an early age. From what I know about my family, music, poetry and performance was in their blood.
I wrote a post a few months ago about treasured books from past generations and it was no surprise to me that many of these books were associated with music and poetry.  (link here)

Apart from the family connection, I also think that my education and in particular some wonderful teachers shaped and influenced my appreciation of the arts.
  • I can still remember the thrill of being able to join the school choir with Miss Williams when I got to 'juniors' in primary.
  • One night a week I went to the Welsh equivalent of youth club called 'Urdd' and we would all huddle around the piano with the gentle Mrs Watkins teaching us some of her amazing compositions of 'cerdd dant' (where you sing a counter melody over another melody)
  • Talking of pianos, I had an ancient piano teacher called Mr Allen who had the most enormous cat that took up the whole seat of an armchair. Mr Allen used to scold me for letting my nails grow and making ticking noises on the piano keys...
  • Then there was Novella the eccentric harp teacher with the colourful clothes with matching tights and shoes...she also didn't want you to grow your nails!
  • During my high school years the arts became a part of everyday life - dancing with Miss Davies, singing and music with Mrs Rowlands, and drama with Mrs Edwards, - I loved it. I was lucky enough to be part of the first group to take 'A' Level (final/yr12/13) Drama through the medium of Welsh - that was 25 years ago ...25 years?? I can't believe it!! Mrs Edwards was an amazing drama teacher with a real passion for giving us a full understanding of performing arts. Theatre trips were a constant addition to curriculum studies - everything from contemporary dance to Henrik Ibsen. It all came alive during that time.
I could write and write until tomorrow and the day after about all the memories
that are just flooding back as I'm sitting here...

I'm sure that the seed to appreciate the arts was already there,
but those fantastic teachers allowed it to grow and nourished that growth than continues to this day.

Thank you...diolch.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

4 years on, before and afters (part 2)

I recently posted some photos of the progress that we have made to the outside of our house
four years down the track. (you can read it here)
Whilst we don't lay claim to being renovators and had no real master plan,
it's still surprised me how much we have actually done to the inside of the house,
so I thought that I'd capture some of it here.
Let's start with the hub of a house - the kitchen.

Here's the before shot. Nothing too terrible...well, ok, maybe the tiles?
And here's the kitchen this morning.

I completely fell in love with the little deck area just the other side of the french doors off the kitchen.
It's referred to as 'favourite place'.
 The other best thing about the kitchen is the spot where I stood to take the photo above.
If I spin around you'll see why!
kitchen wall removal to open up the space and let in the light.

We took down the walls that formed a narrow corridor and separated it from the rest of the living area.
 Now that made a difference.
All of a sudden the dark kitchen became a bright space that connected to the rest of the house.
The kitchen was upgraded pretty soon after we moved in.
There are still a few things to do, like take the pendant lights of their boxes and put them up!
We're getting there...

Then a few months ago we decided to tackle the bathrooms.
 (a few posts about the bathroom reno  here)

upstairs bathroom before


guest room before

guest room after

guest room after
Pretty plain and simple, but works very well.

The only other reasonably big change has been the fireplace that I have posted about here

the before, part way there and fireplace as it is now

 The rest of the house has just been given a bit of a paint make over.
The walls in the bedrooms were two tone 80's/90's style - they were a bit of peach and lime green, some blue and yellow... I suppose it was fashionable a few decades ago?

It's all shades of white, white and white now, with a couple of subtle colour splashes here and there.
Sibs's playroom has one wall that is the loudest shade of fushia pink you can imagine.
If one day it looks tidy enough to take a photo I'll share...but no-one hold their breath on that one!

So very much a case of slowly does it in this house!

Living and learning, learning and living. 

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Queensland rugby

It's been a big week for local rugby here.
Queensland won the State of Origin rugby league series on Wednesday
and the Super 15's rugby union competition on Saturday.

James Horwill lifting the Super 15 trophy and Darren Lockyer with the State of Origin shield

Being a Welsh girl there's some rugby (of the union kind) in my bones. When you're brought up in South Wales you can't help but become immersed in the sport.

My girl Sibs has become quite a rugby fan herself and has been fortunate enough to go to a few Queensland Reds Super 15 games.  We have taken advantage of the proximity of the stadium to home and soaked up the atmosphere of the games. She's become quite the little expert.

Just for interest - the Super 15 competition is made up  of 15 teams from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The games are played over a period of eighteen weeks from mid February and then the top six teams compete in the final rounds.

Last night, the Queensland Reds defied many critics and won the Super 15's competition. 
It was a thrilling and close encounter against The Crusaders from Christchurch in New Zealand with the Reds finally edging ahead to win by 18 to 13.

We went to meet up with the players this afternoon and Sibs even got to hold the trophy.
She said it was "really, really, really heavy!"

Sibs and her friend waited patiently to spot their favourite players who made a big effort to chat and sign autographs despite the rather obvious signs of a few sore heads!

If you buy a raffle ticket you never know what you might win!
This was won by our friend - who was rather pleased!

After the horrors of the first few months of the year, Queensland needed something to smile about.
Well done to both teams.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Childhood play

I have had a lovely day just catching up on a few chores and reading through some of my favourite blogs. An indulgence that I haven't had the time to partake in recently. I've been enjoying the freedom of the school holidays too much.

Sibs has a friend here and I've been sitting in the study watching them play outside. Making up silly rhyming games on the trampoline and trying (unsuccessfully) to get one of the cats to pretend to be their baby! Cat has now escaped to safety under the house.

They spent the morning ouside just exploring, singing and giggling together. There was a serious few moment when they conducted a funeral service for a bird that had died on the footpath. Sibs took the solemn service and we all put some flowers next to the bird.
When it got a bit windy the girls came in to make a cubby. They have found every cushion and pillow in the house and created a den for themselves. I love the homely touches of the flowers, phone and clock.

When I went to peek inside they were browsing through a souvenir of the recent Royal wedding discussing the various outfits and hats.

 I remember the day when I used to do the same with my sister in my grandparents kitchen. We would open up the drop leaf table and peg a table cloth around it and play house for hours. My lovely gentle grandmother would let us raid the cupboards and have all sorts of things in our make believe house - tins of foods, pots and pans, whatever took our fancy. So this morning when the request came for yet another thing to put in this den I have resisted the urge to think of the tidy up and gone with the flow.

When the confines of the cubby den got a bit much they went to change outfits as they decided that they were famous and were going to do a photo shoot. I was their manager and put  in charge of security and to keep papparazzi away!

Next it was back outside to find the skipping rope.

Some current childhood pastimes are a million miles away from what I knew
and yet as I watched these two play today it seems that some things just don't change...

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

'Good Life Wednesday'

Good Life Wednesdays

Hello, it's a Wednesday, and it feels like a pretty good life right at the moment!

So what's prompted that statement?

Well, there's this British girl called Sarah who has made the same move as me to this wonderful country.
She blogs about living in a beach cottage in what she refers to as 'the lucky country'.
Sarah reminds me to appreciate all that is around me and to take pleasure in this good life....

She has transformed her home on the Sydney beaches to a fabulous family cottage in a creative, thrifty, and stylish way, oh, and all with a wicked sense of humour!  You can go and have a nosy at her blog if you click here. (Warning - you may be a while, there's a lot of stuff to drool over!)

So in the spirit of Sarah's Good Life Wednesday, here is my take on what I'm appreciating at the moment...

lavender from the garden in a water bottle from my wedding reception

As we draw to the end of Winter School holidays I have loved being at home with my girl.

We have relaxed, spent time outdoors, baked, cooked (we even made pasta), been crafty, watched a few movies, played outside in the sunshine, spent time with friends, had sleepovers and generally had a jolly good old time.

Last Saturday was the highlight.
My ballet dancing rugby loving eight year old and I headed into the city to Suncorp Stadium to watch the semi finals of the Super 15 rugby competition. We were so excited! Sibs usually gets to go to the rugby games when they are played in the afternoon, but this was an evening game.
Mother and daughter caught the bus and eyed up all the fans (including the teenage boy that Sibs informed me in a stage whisper was "wearing red undies"!! - I hasten to add that he was also wearing rather low slung jeans!)

getting into the spirit
We had such a good time. Sibs cheered and chanted and was thrilled when the Queensland Reds won the match. We headed home on the bus and her eyes were still taking it all in, even though this bus ride was full of families, kids and the somewhat older generation of fans..
Within ten minutes of being home she was curled up in bed asleep.

Last Saturday was another sign for me that my little girl is growing up.
 I'm treasuring these days.

Good Life Wednesdays