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!

Thursday, October 2, 2008


Floriade is a BIG deal in Canberra. It is an annual flower (and cultural) event that takes place in the centre of the city. It's a fantastic show (free admission too!) and is mobbed everyday with visitors.

This year the theme was Australian film, and so the flower beds were laid out to represent Australian Films (Muriels Wedding, Kenny, Crocodile Dundee, Shine etc).

It's a lovely day out and Audrey seemed to enjoy the bright colours of the flowers.

She enjoyed the 'Petting Paddock' slightly less! There was a small paddock given over to children where kids could pet assorted farm animals from cows(!) to sheep, ducks, chickens, rabbits etc.

I'm not sure if Audrey has ever held onto me quite so tightly - even the docile and placid rabbit seemed to terrify the life out of her. Once we start giving her pocket money we can get a pet (so she can pay the vets bills)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Still no sign of the PC

Still no sign of our computer, and the digital camera is officially dead. I'll try and keep a few posts going with my trusty disposable camera ($6.99) and the occasional visit to the post-office/library internet pc.