Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Bathroom renovations

So here is bathroom number 2...

...a rather sad looking toilet
...small bath with shower over and a very
dodgy hot water tap!

...no bath, but I LOVE the shower

Isn't is funny how exciting one gets over a new bathroom? It feels a little self-indulgent to be writing a post about it...but I suppose it is part of everyday life here, and that is what this blog is about.

So now that I've justified that to myself I'll continue!

Upstairs bathroom was just as blue as the guest room one, except it didn't have the cage like tiles or the leaf tiles on the floor. If you want to be reminded you can read and see here. We deliberated quite a while about removing the bath from this bathroom, but in the three years that we have lived in this house I haven't used the bath once....seriously!!
(OK, explanation needed - subtropical Queensland weather lends itself to showers....lots of cool showers).

So out came the bath, and then we had the room for a dream walk in wet area shower. I'm so glad that our water restrictions have been lifted, because I'm afraid that I am using up my water rations daily! Oh, what luxury now that I don't have to battle with the 'little bit more cold water' then the 'little bit more hot - that's too much!' scenario every time.
The banging on the floor screaming "turn the kitchen taps off please!" is an almost distant memory  already. (kitchen taps used to make the shower water ice cold).

The 'clever' part of this bathroom is the laundry shoot. The whole bathroom was designed around it. Basically, there is a hole in the floor that connects to the laundry room underneath. For the benefit of UK friends - a laundry is like a utility room where the washing machine, etc is stored. It's very rare to find a washing machine in a kitchen here, and almost every home has a laundry. I'll show you my laundry room soon...

bye bye dirty clothes, see you downstairs in the laundry!
 The decision about which vanity to buy was made around the fact that it had to have a right hand side cupboard for the laundry shoot...little things eh?

So now it's all over...weeks of pouring over magazines of amazing bathrooms (I actually typed 'purring' over magazines, and with some of the show bathrooms that was also quite true!!), weeks of decision making - how many different taps are there? Weeks of dust and mess....and finally....we're there.

Now I just have to pretty up bathroom number 2 a little bit. It's a small room, and the large matt white tiles can look a little clinical at times? Maybe if I find a little left in the bathroom budget (big 'pfff" from husband!) I'll get some new towels. Any other ideas greatly appreciated. x

Friday, 26 November 2010

Preparing for Christmas

I know it's not quite December, but this year, to break from my usual tradition I am getting into the Christmas mood a little earlier that usual.

My past Christmases have been associated with cold weather, dark nights, getting wrapped up to go late night Christmas shopping and of course food and drink. Australia deceives me and tricks me into thinking that Christmas is ages away. -  It's getting warmer by the day, the schools are getting ready for the end of the academic year and the summer holidays and there's not a mulled wine in sight...

Christmas preparation in the UK consisted of a getting the turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, all the vegetables that you can name(!), plum pudding and mince pies. Now on top of that we had our favourite Christmas time foods and traditions...

Christmas isn't Christmas for me without a glass of Harvey's Bristol Cream sherry on Christmas morning. Two years ago my lovely husband searched for a bottle just so that I could have a glass whilst putting up the Christmas tree (the only other time I will drink sherry).
Husband is a 'northerner' i.e. frugal...! He was "not paying that much for a bottle of Harvey's!"
Consequently he purchased what is commonly known as cooking sherry.....it's still in the pantry and is used for cooking!

So, this weekend we'll...
  • Make a decision on whether to splash out on a real tree (you have no idea how expensive they are!). Nothing beats the smell though....
  • We'll argue discuss about where to put the tree....and then I'll move it anyway!
  • I'll bring out the box of decorations and we'll spend way too long reminiscing over each one as each decoration has its story - I love it.
  • We'll fill the boxes of the advent calendar with lots of little goodies.
  • We'll put on the King's College Cambridge CD of Christmas carols and eat mince pies (and maybe have a glass of sherry??)
  • We'll start planning the menu and then the sleeping arrangements - it's usually a full house at our place.
  • I'll make one of umpteen lists
  • I'll consider a second mortgage so that I can buy some After Eight mints, some Thorntons Continental chocolates, a Terry's Chocolate Orange and a tin of Quality Street....not forgetting the Harvey's Bristol Cream!
  • We'll wonder what happened to 2010....


Happy weekend

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Nice new things...including a bathroom

I have been lucky enough to have some nice new things recently. I'll start with a gorgeous candle and shiny Christmas decoration courtesy of Jenny from The Five Year Project. How exciting, first to win something, and secondly to get a parcel in the post. The candle smells divine, thank you, and I can't wait to hang that decoration - I have a feeling it will find a place to stay hanging way after Christmas.

Now onto some new bathrooms. I have waited a couple of years for these bathrooms...

Here is a before shot of the guest room en-suite - complete with some tape marks for the new stuff. It was all very colour co-ordinated, but it used to make me feel like I was in a cage with those tiles!


  Fast forward a few weeks and we have a much simpler version. We managed to get the ideal separate bathtub and wet area shower that we wanted. Remember the small stress about the shower head and power points here? This is the result of the power point dilemma...

clever eh?

..and the simple fix for the sliding door was to insert an internal stopper (before they rebuilt the wall) to prevent the door from opening fully and crashing into the shower bits. You can tell I'm very technical about these things!

Result = one happy lady

I have taken some very blurry photos of the upstairs bathroom, but even with all the enhancing that I can throw at them, the shots are sooo bad as my camera is refusing to focus....Which brings me onto the next nice new thing- a new camera will be arriving before the weekend. Once I get to grips with it, (as it has a few more buttons and gizmos than my current model), I will share bathroom number 2.

I can also.....drum roll please.....take some photos of the new pool fence - (story here). Yes, the fence man eventually turned up. The fence is a nice new thing, but the patio/courtyard area isn't so flash. The fence man is obviously not a 'red brick paver' man! Luckily we still have his money....

Thank you/Diolch  for the comments and messages re Words. It sounds like it's a familiar bilingual situation in other ex pat Welsh homes :(

Wednesday, 24 November 2010


shells used to be "pretty"
now they're "awesome"
 I've recently been observing a bit of a change in the language, phrases and words that my little Sibs is using. She seems to be at that age where she is becoming more and more influenced by her peers. Just this week I've heard her say -

 "that's wicked"  "that's sweet"   "no offence"      
 I've also had a bit of a smile when she chats to her friends and they refer to everything as "cool" or “awesome” and to each other as "dude"! 

(...please stop growing up so quickly...)

Anyway, it's slowly dawned on me that we have moved out of one phase where she mispronounces words and into a phase were she uses words that are "hip" and "happening".

Here are some words that we as a family still knowingly mispronounce, just because....well, just because!

mazagine , vallina , upposed to, definikely, square word   (swear word)

I have caught myself using 'mazagine' and 'vallina ice cream' quite a few times, and then having to explain that it's a family thing... but I like the fact that we have our own words for things.

Anyone else have any quirky 'family' words?

Being bilingual I also find myself using a welsh word occasionally in the middle of an English conversation. Sibs and I have completely bilingual conversations - I speak Welsh to her and she replies in English. The fact that she replies means that she must understand all that I say...?
It was just wonderful to see her during our recent trip to Wales, playing with other Welsh speaking children and conversing using this bilingual method. I wonder how long this will continue as her exposure to the Welsh language is limited to me, Gu (grandma) and the occasional telling off that she gives to the cats. (Confession time - to get her to try and speak the language, I told her that the cats only understand Welsh!!)

Children have such a natural acceptance...

tan tro nesa'
until next time

Sunday, 21 November 2010

My weekend

This weekend I missed my girl.

On Saturday morning I waved goodbye to husband and daughter as they were going to the beach for the day. In my wisdom, I had decided to stay at home and potter and clean up the bathroom renovation and pool fence work. (I'll take some photos and share soon.) Now everyone thinks that being in Australia we all head to the beach at any opportunity. I have a confession.....I don't like the beach. OK now that I've said it I might as well be really honest....I hate the beach and will use any excuse not to go - even cleaning on a Saturday! All that sand and salt - it just reminds me of being a child down the beaches on the Gower peninsula in South Wales, with warm orange squash and soggy cucumber sandwiches.
Now usually I relish the peace and quiet and love my 'me time', but this weekend I didn't. To make it worse they were having such a good time that they sent a text (!) to tell me that they had decided to stay overnight. My good-night telephone call was a bit teary as a tired little Sibs told me that she was missing me and that her eye was sore and she needed me to kiss it better... Apparently, two minutes after the phone call all was well again, at least with her - I was the emotional one.

breakfast this morning at the beach shack
it's not always sunny in Aus...

They were home early and we sat over morning coffee and pain au chocolat and she told me all the fun things that she had done with her cousin and dobbed her Dad in over a few things! Some stories I didn't really want to know about...!

We then had a family Sunday at home. A spot of d-i-y, some preparation for the arrival of the grandparents this week, a quick tidy up, steak for tea and early bed for a little girl.

It was certainly a case of 'absence makes the heart grow fonder'.
Oh, I missed husband a bit too!!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Morning coffee with Josh Hartnett...

picture Kidston Liam
source: Courier Mail
Guess what and who I saw today? Seriously.....

I was walking to my place of work this morning past the city Botanical Gardens and saw something that looked quite interesting, so I decided to have a bit of a nosy. I worked out that it was some kind of a film set and just thought that it would be some student group working on an assignment.... I do work at a University.
 As I got closer I thought to myself  "rather big budget student assignment" (!) and then realised that I was walking straight through a real movie shoot - oops!

The (younger) girls at work soon put me right and told me that Josh Hartnett was filming a movie called 'Singularity' at Government House. A bit of excitement for a work morning?

So when it came to caffeine hit time, I had to walk past again to get to the coffee shop - and there he was, in full costume. So...OK I didn't actually have morning coffee with Josh Hartnett... but I did walk past him holding my take away skinny flat white!

I was way too chicken busy to go star hunting again, so the girls took my camera (that now permanently comes with me wherever I go) and took a few shots of the action.

trying to be discreet....
"I am taking a photo of my friend!

I so need a better zoom lens...

look closely...!

Hope your day was just as exciting.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Family conversation box


This box of tricks makes an appearance quite often at our dinner table at home. It's from Kikki.K a gorgeous Swedish stationary store that entices you in with it's bright organised display and makes you wonder that if you actually bought all the things in the shop, how wonderful life would be! I don't know if the store is worldwide, but it's definitely a hit here in Australia.
Sitting down almost every evening and eating together as a family is a treat that I don't take for granted... Working close to home was way up high on the tick list of things that we wanted when we moved here a few years ago. I know husband hated the days that he would leave and kiss Sibs goodbye in her bed and return just in time for the final story that  I...w a s...m a k i n g...l a s t  so that she would still be awake. Anyway, another tale, another time...back to the conversation cards.

We love to choose a card each and then go around the table having a bit of a conversation (as it tells us to do on the box!) I'm sure Sibs has learnt quite a bit about her parents from these cards. I have a feeling that she's storing up some of the stories and tales and that they'll come back to haunt me someday. Have a look at these beauties....

 Last Christmas we got this box. Now I think it's about time I got a bit more festive so tonight after dinner we'll pick a card and start to get into the Christmas mood.

It's a glorious day here in Brisbane - about 27 degrees and rising!
Not very Christmassy.....but I'm getting used to it!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

End of a busy busy few weeks

 It's been pretty hectic in our house this last few weeks. As I think I mentioned, Sibs has been performing at QPAC with her dance school. The performances were Thursday and Friday evening and Saturday matinee and evening. It's been a thrilling ride! We had to get super organised and there have been lists galore...It started with notes on paper and quickly progressed to cupboard doors - (I hid all the permanent markers!!) Getting Sibs to write her own list really helped her to take some responsibility and she loved checking and double checking that she had the things needed.

life of a ballerina!

We have a weekly planner to remind us of who's where and when....Remember the post here about only holding eight things in your brain??...(Hats off to those with big families by the way.) Anyway, I noticed that at some point in the week little Sibs had written relax in the Sunday box for us all.
So after husband returned from a silly o'clock run up a mountain for Movember, we indulged in a relaxing day. (I'll try and persuade him to let me show a photo of his moustache for Movember.) 
relaxing on Sunday
 Sibs and I baked some cupcakes and chocolate brownies; we watched some pre-recorded rugby....enough said about the Wales v South Africa game OK? Then the weather was warm enough for a swim before an early tea - lovely.

All is now quiet except the hum of the laptop and the odd funny snore from one of the cats! I was going to spend 5 minutes just writing a short post tonight, but.....the very lovely and generous Jane from Life on planet baby posted about some of the photo packages  (picnik and Big Huge labs) that she has been using on her blog, and well, I've been having some fun with creating mosaics and sets of photos. I think I need a full day to get to grips with all the different tools out there, there's SO much to learn.

So the cupboard doors have been wiped clean, and we're back to some kind of normal next week.
Hope everyone had a great weekend. x

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Appreciating springtime - part 2

A little while ago I wrote about Appreciating Springtime - part 1 (you can read it here). Having a "part 1" after a post title sort of ties you to a "part 2"....?  Well....since then it's rained, and then rained some more, and instead of taking photos of springtime and bringing out the fans and testing the air con, we've been wearing cardigans of all things!!
Anyhow, this week I think things are finally on the turn and I can now do part 2 to my Appreciating Springtime post and show you some Aussie spring things!

On Sunday, we went for a stroll to Roma Street Parkland.
The flowers were just glorious in the park, so I took a few shots. They even had floating flower displays.

some of the Spring colours at Roma Street Park, Brisbane

Wait for it......I saw my first living snake!?! I was very brave and didn't run screaming to the hills! In fact I can't believe that I actually took a photo before it slithered away... yuck!

There were countless water dragons and lizards at the park - they were around every corner. One poor chappie had half a tail, maybe an unfortunate accident with a biker? (Not Sibs, I hasten to add!)

Roma Street Park, Brisbane

It's a crazy, busy time this week. Sibs is performing at QPAC in a ballet - Dancelot.  It's all terribly exciting...she's swanning around the house like a true diva! I will post about it when I have a minute to spare. This post has taken me nearly a week! I've just been catching a spare moment here and there.

I'll finish with some shots of jacarandas that we pass on our walk to school. They are just starting to drop now...which must mean that Summer is nearly here.
this is the 'witches broom' tree - the bit that sticks out to
the right?

Friday, 5 November 2010

"Remember, remember the fifth of November...

"Remember, remember the fifth of November, gunpowder, treason and plot."

It's Guy Fawkes day, or Bonfire night, and that is what we would chant as children, waving our sparkler in gloved hand. Over 400 hundred years ago Guy Fawkes was part of an unsuccessful plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament (or was that Houses of Lords?) and kill King James, and it's still a custom to celebrate the King's escape from death on that November 5th night in 1605.

It's not celebrated or acknowledged here in Australia...at least I haven't seen or heard anything in my part of the woods. November 5th symbolised the real start of Winter for me when we lived in the UK. As kids we would alternate between bonfire parties and fire works at home and a visit to an organised event where we would ooh and aahh watching the rockets, catherine wheels and jumping jacks. We would be wrapped up in umpteen layers, wellingtons on our feet, listening to the whistles, crackles and hissing of the fireworks. Then the bonfire would be lit and we would be treated to a toffee apple whilst gazing at the amazing glow of the fire for what seemed like hours. Fireworks seemed to be exclusive to November 5th when I was younger which made the night even more special and memorable.

photo credit Nic Suzer
Here is Brisbane the fireworks are out in their splendour for Riverfire which is held in September as part of the Brisbane Festival. About half a million people line the banks of the Brisbane river to watch the spectacular display of fireworks and to see the F-111 jets zoom past. We watched it this year at home on TV and ran outside to see the jets thunder past and light up the sky - what a sight...and noise!

Keep safe those who are out with the bonfires and fireworks, and light a sparkler for me! x

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Want to live with the fairies?

image from real estate
image from real estate
Not far from our house is this little heritage listed treasure aptly named 'the Fairy house'.  It's on the market having been saved from destruction a few years ago. There were local protests and even a Facebook page set up to 'save the fairy house'.
If you zoom in on the photo, you might just see a stone fairy statue figure on the apex. When we drive past at dusk or in the evenings we always have to slow down so that Sibs can have a nosy in....just in case the fairies are getting ready to go out on their nightly visits.

One night the door was open and the lights were on and she was adamant that she saw the tooth fairy getting dressed! I sometimes "see" the 'good girl fairies' getting ready and we have to zoom home so that she is in bed before they visit!
Wouldn't it be fun to live in such an interesting house?

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

The day the nation stops....for a horse race!

Yesterday was Melbourne Cup Day here.
I think this warrants a bit of an explanation to my non Aussie friends....

Melbourne cup day 2009

Melbourne cup day 2008

Melbourne cup day 2010
(Sibs was sick yesterday and had only
her 2nd ever day off school)
 The Melbourne Cup is a horse race....and yes, the nation does actually stop for this horse race. If you live in the metropolitan area of Melbourne and some parts of regional Victoria, you actually get a day off  - fancy that? Even up here in sunny Queensland everything stopped for a long lunch. As I drove home from work yesterday afternoon, it was a bit carnival like with balloons outside shops and people in their glad rags. There was even a very smart gentleman in a three piece tweed suit, carnation in his button hole, carrying a cane!

My introduction to this day was this story. On Melbourne Cup day in 2005 (my first year in Aus) there was quite a large spider crawling around the window in my (rental house) bedroom. I picked up the nearest shoe, thwacked the spider and spider and shoe went through the pane of glass!! I calmly picked up the phone, tried to call umpteen glaziers and after a while got through to a mobile number. The slurred voice at the end of the phone said

"You have no idea what day it ish do you?"
" Umm...Tuesday?"
"It'sh Melbourne Cup Day....no-one worksh thish afternoon. Patch it up I'll be there in the morning!"

The following afternoon he came to fix the window and told me all about the day that stops the nation.

As I'm a bit of a history lover, I thought that I would share with you some facts about the Melbourne Cup.
  • it's the richest and most prestigious two mile handicap horse race in the world
  • it's held on the first Tuesday of November
  • the first Melbourne Cup was held in 1861 (a long time ago in modern Australian history)
  • this year the total prize money was AUD$6 million
  • the winner got $3.3million, with 85% going to the owner of the horse, 10% to the trainer and 5% to the jockey......what about the poor horse??
  • lots of people get really dressed up and have parties.
  • school kids even get involved, and at Sibs's school they dress up as jockeys or as ladies who go to the races!
(Most of the above facts were taken from Wikipedia)

So if you were part of the festivities in Australia, I hope you had a good afternoon and maybe some winnings? My horse came in unlucky 13th :( 
Maybe next year?

Monday, 1 November 2010

What's your eighth thing?

I was reading in The House that A-M Built blog this morning about 'senior moments' and it struck a chord with me.  It also took me back to another life and another continent to an old workplace. There was a lady there who often responded to many questions with "I don't know the answer, I've slept since then!"  Being a mere whipper snapper of a girl back then I couldn't quite get it, but now....I'm right there lady!!

The other thing that I remember about this workplace is another colleague sharing with me that one can only hold seven things in the brain at any one time.
When the going got a bit tough we would just look at each other and one would say, "that's the eighth thing, what do I let go!?"

There's even some science to back this up as I believe that some psychologists discovered that on average, the longest sequence a normal person can recall on the fly contains about seven items.  

I try to adopt this thinking at my current workplace and I thought that I would share as it can help to keep a sense of perspective and reality. I must admit, that some days keeping two or three pieces of information in my brain is a challenge...!

So we're not all losing our minds, it's just that pesky eighth thing!