Monday, December 29, 2008

Happy Christmas!

Amy's parents (Ivor and Wendy) are visiting us over Christmas. It's been really nice to see them and they've enjoyed spending time in Canberra and seeing Audrey (and hopefully us as well!)

We've taken them round some of Canberra's many sites. We had a lovely picnic on Boxing Day in the Botanic Gardens (one of my favourite spots in the city) and spent yesterday at Cockington Green a minature village just north of the city centre.

We also took in the new Portrait Gallery. Audrey particularly enjoyed racing around the galleries 'talking' as she went while me and Amy took turns in pursuing her. Note to self: investigate reigns!

The weather has been lovely over the Christmas period with temperatures in the high 20s but still with a nice breeze. We've also had a couple of big storms that have kept the plants growing.

Audrey, Amy, Wendy, Ivor and Trevor by the edge of Lake Burley Griffin

Sunday, December 28, 2008

On the hazards of sleeping on a blow-up mattress when your in-laws come to stay for Christmas..

Our blow-up bed has sprung a leak, so they’re lying when they say,
It gives you rest that is unique, aren’t they?


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Canberra Storm

Just in case you think it's always sunny in Canberra I thought I'd include this to balance things out a bit, it shows a big storm we had a couple of days after Christmas. The thunder was right over-head.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Audrey Opening Her Presents

Here's a short video of Audrey opening her presents on Christmas morning. It's not really an acadamy award winner but never mind. I'm sure the excitement around Christmas will build as she grows older (at 16 months old she doesn't really know what's going on other than seeing that a wilted tree has appeared in the corner of the room)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Ho Ho Ho!

Today was Audrey's playgroup Christmas Party. The group met at Edison Park in Woden in a nice shady spot under a tree. It was lovely for me to see everyone again (I took half a days leave from work) and the party was held in beautiful weather (it's forecast to be 30 degrees C for Christmas)

Everyone was in the mood for Christmas. People brought lots of tasty bites to eat and the kids really enjoyed charging around the park together.

One of the highlights of the party was the arrival of Father Christmas who delighted/scared the children in equal measure. I'm not sure how he found Edison Park en-route from the North Pole, but he looked kind-of familiar. I was especially surprised to find that he had an English accent!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Quiz 2008

Last year I did a Christmas Quiz, which a few readers enjoyed. It'll help pass the time during Christmas day, just before watching Live and Let Die for the fifteenth time. Here is 2008's offering - you should be able to print it from here...
Christmas Quiz No.2

Alternatively you can view it here...

Christmas Quiz No.2

If you have no joy from either of these routes, then drop me an e-mail and I'll send you a copy.

Audrey at Christmas Drinks

Our friends Tam and Andy organised Christmas drinks on Sunday. Everyone had a really nice time and it was great to catch up just before the hectic Christmas break begins.

Andy took some lovely pictures of Audrey in their garden which I thought I'd share (thanks a lot Andy)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Tree, oh Christmas tree

We bought our Christmas tree last weekend. Real Christmas trees aren't a big seller in Canberra unlike Warsaw where in the lead up to Christmas they were for sale on the corner of most streets around the city.

One of the reasons perhaps is to do with the longevity of cut trees in the respective countries.

Our tree had already started to droop as soon as we got it out of the car boot. By the time we had carried it into the house and decorated it, it looked decidedly sick. Despite generous watering it hasn't really pulled round.

In terms of decoration, the tree seems to have drooped from the top down, which makes a star/angel completely out of the question. The bottom branches seem fine, although baubles at a low level of course, enter the territory of an inquisitive 15 month old. It's only got 6 days to survive now - just hope it makes it...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas Jokes

I'm proud to admit that one of the highlights of my week is when the free Canberra Chronicle arrives in our letter box.

It's not the most high-brow of journals, certainly no Financial Times or Economist. It probably is even a step or two down from most free local papers of its type. It contains the usual stories of birds making nests in garages, bizarre letters from residents about the state of the roads, and gardening/cooking columns

The highlight comes in the form of the Chronicle Kids Club page. A small section of it has one liner jokes and I'm an absolute sucker for them. This week they went beyond themselves and listed Christmas jokes. As your unlikely to ever be lucky enough to get your own copy of the Canberra Chronicle here are some of my favourites....

Q What did the cow say on Christmas Day?
A Moo-ry Christmas

Q. What do you call people who don't like Santa?
A. Claus-trophobic

Q. Why does santa have a garden?
A. So he can ho ho ho

and my favourite...

Q. Why does Santa always go down the chimney
A. Because it soots him (geddit)

This stuff is GOLD! (perhaps I should just get out more)

To see 2007 jokes (not unfortunately from the Chronicle) click here

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Audrey at the Party

We went to a really nice engagement party at the weekend. Congratulations to Alex and David. Here are some pics of Audrey in her party dress.

She's become really attached to a doll recently - going by the name of "Baby!" It goes everywhere with her and is gradually growing more and more grubby!

Saturday, December 6, 2008


An artistic legend came to Canberra today. Bigger than Hockney, Done or Damien Hirst it was Rolf Harris. He was here to help celebrate the opening of Canberra’s Portrait Gallery. It’s a tremendous building on the shores of Burley Griffin which opened for the first time last Thursday. Rolf was leading a children’s drawing session outside of the gallery and we joined the gang of parents and kids waiting with easels for his arrival. Amy pointed out that it was probably the parents who wanted to see Rolf more than the kids (I knew in my case this was most definitely the case).

He strolled into the area unannounced, dressed in paint stained trousers and trademark akubra hat and led us through a 30 minute session, on how best to draw portraits. Rolf’s a really unassuming character and was really good with the kids, wisecracking and chatting as he went through his show. Despite being 77 Rolf remains ageless. The Peter Pan of the art world. After the show he signed a book for us, and as we left he was surrounded by 30 children all clamouring for his time, wisdom and skill. Thanks for coming to Canberra Rolf, you made my day.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Audrey Showing off Her Footballing Skills...

A future Wolves star in the making perhaps?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Over the Moon

We managed to catch an excellent astronomical event last night when Venus and Jupiter aligned in the night sky to give the crescent moon a smiley face. It's something that happens every few years and with the clear nights we got in Canberra last night we got a really great view from our back door step. Perhaps the moon knows that Rolf Harris is in town at the moment!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Southside Farmer's Market

On Sunday morning the three of us went along to a nearby 'Southside Farmer's Market'. It's only a short drive from our house and I guess if we feel energetic we might even walk there one day.

It's a lovely time of year in Australia for such a thing as there were loads of fruit in season and we bought a big bags of nectarines, cherries and apples home with us.

The cherries are particularly tasty - I suspect we may well make the trip there again next Sunday!

don't worry - we got the pip!

Aisha's Birthday Party

Audrey was invited to a birthday party on Saturday morning. It was held at 'Kid's City' in the North of the city.

Kid City is essentially a big warehouse full of screaming kids, ball pools, climbing frames, slides and the obligitary cafe selling sweets, cakes and Cherryade so as to drive the kids into a state of hyper-activity. I think it's one of about 5 such places in the City.

Audrey had a really good time, although she's obviously still a bit young for most of the equipment there.

She did enjoy watching the hoards of other kids though. There was also a disco room (closed off from the rest of the hall) where the kids could play musical statues and other dancing games. Fortunately Audrey's also a bit young to be embarrased by her dad dancing to the chicken song.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Trip To Sydney

Last weekend the three of us took a trip to Sydney. It's about 3½ drive from Canberra. The drive takes you through some lovely countryside and we stopped a couple of times en route to give Audrey a break from the boredom of being strapped in her car seat.

By the time we hit the outskirts of Sydney though poor Audrey had really had enough. Trying to navigate a busy highway in the rain, while trying to listen to a sat-nav' whose instruction is being drowned out by your daughter's high pitched scream wasn't really conducive to a relaxing drive. I think we were all relieved to arrive at Tim and Hayley's house in Sydney.

It was lovely to see them and catch up. We hadn't seen them for nearly 2 years and their two children (Alex and Ted) were both really lovely and really friendly towards Audrey (even after the turmoil of her journey into the city). We spent a nice couple of days in their company.

On Monday Amy and Audrey visited Sydney harbour and encountered some Ibis (Audrey loved them) . Amy also bought Audrey a doll which she has remained attached to ever since.

We headed back to Canberra on Tuesday, and despite it being a tiring time for all of us we agreed that we had enjoyed our time in the 'big smoke'.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Train Trip to Bungandore

On Sunday the three of us went on a steam train ride out of Canberra to visit a small town called Bungandore to the east of the city. The rail trips are run every couple of weeks or so to a variety of destinations around the city by the Railway Historical Society of the ACT

It was a lovely way to spend a sunny day. The train was packed with day-trippers of all ages. We passed through stunning countryside on our journey and even spotted a couple of kangaroos enroute. The trip coincided with Bungandore's Spring Fayre and we had a couple of hours exploring the stalls and wandering round the town. We then enjoyed a picnic lunch in the park before returning home.

Poor Audrey went most of the day without sleep. It's a dangerous thing, as a lack of sleep seems to impair her co-ordination causing her to stagger when she walks, burst into tears without warning, be short tempered and in fact act not unlike a drunken student. Fortunately she finally dozed off when we were about 15minutes from Canberra.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sausage Sizzle at Bunnings Warehouse

The Friday playgroup that we go to organised a 'Sausage Sizzle' at Bunnings Warehouse the other weekend and I went along to help out. For the uninitiated (i.e non Australians) Sausage Sizzles are an Australian institution where the cheapest available sausages are cooked on an enormous barbeque then given away or sold. The cheapest white sliced loaf is always used to hold the sausage (NEVER bread rolls) and diners are recommended to use lashings of tomato sauce and plenty of onions to hide the flavour of the cheap meat.

Actually they're pretty good fun (and that coming from a vegetarian). I was shocked by the length of the queues at the event and we were sucessful in raising $1200 for the playgroup which was great as well.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Lest we forget...

Today Australians everywhere should celebrate the Anzac spirit, true mateship, good defeating evil, making a difference to the World......yes, today is officially Steve Irwin day!

Even before he died Steve Irwin seemed to have become a caricature of himself. Venomous snakes, crocodiles, stingrays(!) all in the name of conservation of course (not forgetting the millions of dollars of of merchandise that got flogged to the USA and the miles of Queensland real estate that got bought with the proceeds). Then the tragedy of his death, the candlelit vigils, the tears, the desire to see the footage of the accident on youtube... how would 'Australia zoo' and the Irwins survive??

And then out of the ashes comes Bindi exercise videos, Terri cooking videos, the Crocoseum, phew the empire is saved, the dream is still alive, the cash starts rolling in again, the $50 million dollar property empire is saved...hurrah!

I'm off to don my khaki shirt in honour of it all.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Dora and Shrek

Today was mine and Audrey's turn at Friday's playgroup (sadly my last) to organise the 'craft' session.

We chose to make loo-roll animals/characters and so the kids there helped produce an army of Dora the Explorer and Shrek animals.

It seemed to go down pretty well, with not too much glue spilt/eaten, even though Audrey later chose to pick the google eyes off her Dora.

If you fancy making some loo-roll animals of your own - here's a really good site.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Some Photos from this weekend

We had a busy weekend with a 4th birthday party on Saturday at Cotter Dam (a lovely spot just outside of Canberra) and a trip to the lake in Tuggeranong on Sunday. Here's some pics we took..

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Jazz at Calthorpe's House

We went to Calthorpe's House this weekend, where they laid on a few hours of 'Cool Jazz' in the gardens. Calthorpe's House is a historic building built in 1923 (snigger). It wasn't a huge event - I guess it could be described as intimate, but it was a lovely way to spend a Saturday lunchtime - the music, weather and gardens were beautiful. We took a picnic, and Audrey (despite the nasty cold she's got at the moment) seemed to enjoy the music and the attention she received from the rest of the audience.

Watching Grass Grow

In Australia mowing the lawn is undoubtedly a mans job. It become apparent the moment you try and buy a lawnmower. The huge array of big masculine mowers come complete with butch brand names such as 'Toro','Hustler','Victor'. It seems if you can't afford a Harley Davidson then a petrol mower is a good second place.

I went in search of a 'Flymo' but its name (and even the concept of an electric mower) was far too effeminate for Australia.

Instead I was advised to pick my mower based on engine capacity, gears, no. of spark plugs, turbo boost etc. Into the bargain I went for the chrome model and a 'Power Mulch'.

The salesman showed me how to tune, fuel and start/stop the mower and I was ready to go.

When you wake the machine up with the pull cord you're greeted with a powerful roar as it growls into life. Even though much of our lawn is steadily turning to dust as we approach summer, the mower eats what greenery it can find and spits it out (as mulch)

I may never get to ride bareback across route 66, but cutting the lawn in Canberra with my new chrome 4-stroke mower surely comes pretty close?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Audrey meets the ducks

Me and Audrey went to a Playgroup 'expo' today in Ainslie. It was a pretty big affair with bands playing, a play-dough table(!), lots of stalls, a rather scary clown, a fire engine and a Petting Paddock.

We had last encountered the Petting Paddock whilst at Floriade, where Audrey had been scared witless by just about every docile animal in there. The piglets scampering around were one thing, but she seemed similarly petrified by the sleepy rabbit which was used to being patted by thousands of children per day, and completely refused to approach it.

Together with her newly learnt walking skills, Audrey seemed to have also acquired an improved confidence around animals (perhaps she feels she can now run away?). Although an initial close-encounter with a large ewe left her a bit puzzled she showed nothing of the terror that had been in evidence only a couple of weeks earlier. Here's a pic of her enjoying spending some time with a gaggle of ducks (not sure if that's the right collective noun?)!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Audrey in House and Garden

A few recent pics of Audrey in and around our house. Her walking is coming on fantastically - she's gone from one or two ponderous steps to a real 'toddle' in a few days. It's been lovely to watch her master the art of walking!

The Big Draw

We went to the 'Big Draw' at the National Gallery on Sunday. It was pitched as a 'family day' but actually it wasn't really terribly kid-friendly at all.

Admittedly Audrey at 13 months old isn't much of a Van Gough - (perhaps more of a Jackson Pollock?) but the sculpture gallery where we ended up didn't allow for any other media other than 6B grey pencils (not exactly that much fun for kids?) and the guy in charge of the gallery was terribly upset when we parked Audrey's pram in the vicinity of a big sculpture. He was nearly apoplectic when she reached out to try and touch a shiny brass block.

It's a shame really as the gallery is a lovely place and the family day was a great idea - just not terribly well executed.

Still, we had a nice lunch there and a nice walk in the grounds (and sculpture garden afterwards)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Black Mountain Peninsular

Last Sunday we went for a picnic to Black Mountain Peninsular together with our friends Tam and Andy and their two lovely children. Here's some pictures we took of the place.

It was a really pleasant way to spend a Sunday lunchtime. The peninsular has a great park and overlooks Lake Burley Griffin. I'm sure we'll be back lots of times!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

In Homage to Polska

Here's a picture of the petunias growing outside of our house taken this morning...

Australian Wildlife Encounters No.2

One of the things they conveniently forget to mention in the Australian Tourist Brochures (aside from the sharks, crocs, jellyfish, spiders, snakes, AC/DC etc) is the Australian Magpie.

It's a bigger and tougher version of the European one, and this time of year is prone to 'swooping' people. In our short time in Canberra I've witnessed three or four 'attacks' - the birds seem particularly keen on stalking unsuspecting postmen. I watched one particularly nasty bird chase a postman 200 metres down the street (he was on a motorbike as well!).

Anyway, I saw this poster on the walk into Playgroup this morning - I'm going to find it difficult pushing the pram while holding an open umbrella!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Australian Wildlife Encounters No.1

I've been painting a chest of drawers recently and when I went to move them on Sunday this guy ran out (and terrified the life out of me!)

I'm used to tiny house spiders who scurry away when disturbed but this one turned and faced me!

I think I'm developing arachnophobia...yikes!!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Mentalist

There is a TV show on Australian TV at the moment called 'The Mentalist'. It's an American show, but stars an Australian Simon Barker as an independant consultant with the CBI who solves crimes using his skills of observation and a touch of paranormal. It's such a weak plot for a show - probably one of the weakest since Frank Cannon graced our screens in the 70s.

It set us thinking of other plots we might be able to sell to CBS. Amongst our favourites were

The Ventriloquist - "I'm guilty", "I didn't say that!"
The Cyclist - "I lost track of the criminal when he drove up hill"
The Naturist (!)
The Apiarist - bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Audrey on Her Motorbike

Audrey on her motorbike in our garden - again a bit more of a demonstration of her walking skills!

Audrey takes some steps

Audrey has been mastering her walking skills over the last couple of weeks. What began as one or two tentative steps has quickly turned into a lengthened walk. It's been lovely to witness.

Being such a proficient crawler, crawling still appears to be her preferred mode of travel but she's gradually stepping out more and more. Here's a short video clip of Audrey walking around in her bedroom. If you've got sound on your machine it also gives you some idea of what a chatterbox she is!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Breakfast with the Birds

We enjoyed a lovely trip to the Botanic Gardens last weekend and had "Breakfast With the Birds".

The morning trips only run for a short period during Spring, and we were lucky enough to get a booking. Unfortunately our booking co-incided with the start of Summer Time and so our 7.30am start actually transoformed into a 6.30am (urrghh). Still, it made a pleasant start to the (chilly) morning to be in Canberra Botanic Gardens so early.

Our guide informed us that the walk would last one and a half hours (I had expected a 30 minute stroll followed by a cooked breakfast) so with rumbling tummies we set off through the Gardens.

During our walk we saw many birds from the obvious, Cockatoos and Magpies, to the more exotic wottle birds, superb fairy wrens, Chuffs and even a Gang Gang (honestly) which flew overhead. We even disturbed a family of 3 large kangaroos who hopped off into the garden.

By 9am we were getting pretty peckish (geddit) and so returned to the Visitor Centre for a yummy breakfast. (pics to follow)

Friday, October 3, 2008

Greening Australia

Last Sunday we took part in a nature conservation project organised by 'Greening Australia' and DFAT.

We drove over to a beautiful spot just west of Cotter Dam, a lovely area about 30 mins drive from Canberra. The plan was to plant 1,000 or so local trees and shrubs. The area had been destroyed by the bush fires which had devastated large areas of Canberra in 2003. Previously the hillside had been planted with pine trees (there were still plenty of charred remains) and the plan was to encourage the re-growth of indigenous plants and trees - thereby stopping the topsoil from washing into the Dam!

There was a great turnout of probably 50 cars. Everyone was equipped with a bucket of plants and a pick or shovel (nobody really got my 'take your pick' jokes - I blame cultural differences) and we headed off to the hillside.

The lady from Greening Australia showed us how deep to dig our holes, how to water our foliage etc and during her demonstration a HUGE spider hopped out of the hole she had started to work on. I was ready to get straight back in the car and drive off, but Amy persuaded me to stay - I think we were probably only a couple of hours drive to the nearest hospital!

We planted and watered our bucket of plants. It was great fun - we had predicted that Audrey would get tired of it all after a while, but she loved playing in the dirt(!) and fortunately didn't encounter any more spiders.

We had a sausage sizzle for lunch (v.popular!) and they even laid on veg-burgers for me which was great. It was a lovely day out!