Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Australia's Olympic atheletes welcome home

History books will show that the London Olympics was fairly mediocre from an Australian point of view. The heroics of Britain's successful home Olympic athletes (Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah and Bradley Wiggins amongst many others) were not really replicated by Australia.

There were definitely Australian highlights - Sally Pearson tore up the track on her way to 100m hurdles gold and Anna Meares broke British hearts with her win in the velodrome by beating Victoria Pendleton in the Women's sprint. The hockey team got bronze and Australia succeeded in a number of sailing events.

The days of Australia dominating in the pool and having strong rowing teams seem to have gone though. London 2012 definitely saw the rise of British athletics and a demise of Australian. I'm sure there must be a strong correlation between funding the athletes received on the lead up but I'm sure home territory also played a big part.

Either way it was excellent to see the Australian Olympians when they visited Canberra as part of a gruelling Australian tour (7 cities in 9 days). Whoever planned the Perth leg of the trip to precede the Canberra visit clearly needs to look at a map. The four of us went along to a chilly Civic Square to greet them along with throngs of school kids.

There was a meet and greet and some samba dancing - it must be amazing to represent your country at any sport. Well done to all the Olympians, whether British or Australian (or in fact from anywhere!)

The athletes on stage


How could I have forgotten not to get Eli to wear his Team GB t-shirt!

Eli's flag

Audrey's colouring of Usain Bolt

Monday, August 27, 2012

Trip to Barbara and Paul's

We took a trip out to nearby Wamboin (not Wombourne) a few kilometres outside of Canberra.

Our friends Barbara and Paul have built a spectacular house there. When we last saw it they had just put the roof on the property, but it is now (beautifully) fully fitted out. We enjoyed a large brunch and then headed out to see their chickens. Even the hen house was pretty well situated. The only 'problem' is that many of the trees which Barbara has planted have been chewed on by the mobs of kangaroos which hop around the place.

Eli loved the chickens and found an egg. There was plenty of water around too for him to jump in in his wellies/gum boots!

Eli meets a chicken

Eli holding an egg

Two new additions to the family

Our guinea pigs Dora (Diego) and Boots had their latest litter on Saturday. It's probably baby number 20 or 25. To be honest we've got a bit lazy about giving them names (although Eli has given these latest ones the names Georgey and Grace). They typically stay with us for 8 weeks and then head off to the pet shop.

Here's Eli with baby guinea pigs.

Audrey's Fifth Birthday

When you're 5 birthdays are a pretty big deal. Audrey spent several weeks leading up to her birthday telling almost anyone she met that her birthday was on August 24th. When the actual day arrived she announced that it was her birthday to everyone who came in contact with her - her enthusiasum was almost to the extent that if you were in Canberra on Friday you probably already knew that it was Audrey Hickman's birthday.

Audrey got a stash of presents - including much excitement around a Disney Princess handbag and necklace and a double feature of Octonauts DVDs. Her little brother got in the act as well with a few presents of his own - it is handy occasionally to have an older sister.

This year Audrey has managed to achieve a birthday celebration spread over several weeks. We've delayed her "party" - a trip to go and see the new Tinkerbell film until the eagerly awaited release at end of September. We decided though to give Audrey a night out on her actual day with her good friends Abbey and Will - her choice of venue the nearby Hogs Breath Cafe - a slightly disappointing decision (for adults at least) but chosen, I am sure, because they serve curly chips. If you're just turning 5 then culinary considerations pretty much come down to whether the resturant serves curly chips. At least there's decent beer on tap for the Dads.

Here's some pictures of Audrey enjoying her day.   It seems only yesterday that we were in Warsaw and a very pregnant Amy and I were being run to the hospital by our good friends Mike and Pene. How time flies.

Audrey with her stash of presents

Will and Audrey

Audrey's cake

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Spring is on its way!

A lot of people in Canberra have been complaining about the severity of this winter. We have seen a particularly chilly winter with snow on the nearby mountains and several relatively hard frosts in the morning. For us though it was our first winter in Canberra with heating in our house, so the days of wearing hats and coats indoors while we eat our breakfast are hopefully behind us and we've actually found that the winter months haven't been too bad (even if I did get really cold hands on my bicycle ride to work)

We've got a couple of bunches of daffodils springing up around the garden - the kids like counting how many of them have opened up each morning and they're a cheerful reminder that warmer days (and nights!) are not too far away.

Nice birthday cake

We were invited to Eli's friend (Ryan) 3rd birthday recently. Audrey was invited too as she's friends with Ryan's sister Erin. It was a nice party and we were particularly impressed by the birthday cake!

Building site hard at work

Monday, August 13, 2012

CSIRO Open Day

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is Australia's national science agency and last weeked they held an open day at their centre in Canberra.

There was a whole array of activities there for kids of all ages from painting plaster trilobites through to a room full of balloons, plus the chance to meet lizards and snakes and witness simple (but sometimes dazzling) scientific experiments.

The kids loved it and we stayed for a few hours. There were a few odd aspects - A significant display advocating a healthy diet and the rise of obesity was somehow counteracted by the cafe which only sold pizza, potato wedges and fizzy drinks.

Here's a few pics

Eli paints a trilobite

Eli the tiger

Chimes (the kids bashed them for about 20 minutes)

more painting

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Day trip to Mount Selwyn

The scenery as you drive towards the Snowy Mountain snowfields is spectacular. Trees, rivers and lakes give way to snowgum covered mountains and the whole incredible scene is punctuated only by the winding sable coloured road on which you drive. The car journey to Mount Selwyn where we were heading is a little under 3 hours but the vistas that you see on the way are breathtaking.

Audrey, Eli and I had taken a day off work (Amy had a kid-free day back in Canberra) and we were going in search of some of the last snow of winter. The daffodils now flowering in our front garden heralding the oncoming Spring (and warmer months) and reminding us that there wasn't much time to see the snow before it retreated for another year.

We'd been to a snow resort called Perisher a couple of years ago, but this time we were heading for Selwyn which we'd told had gentler slopes and was more 'child-friendly'.

About an hour south of Canberra is the country town of Cooma, which we reached just after 10am, and resisting the regular offer of snow chains for our car tyres we stopped only to buy mittens to protect the kids hands from the cold snow (blue and pink mittens obviously). Cooma is an interesting town, seemingly entirely reliant on the nearby snowfields and the convoy of visitors from Canberra to the snow. The kids loved the (wooden) snowman who paraded along many of the shopfronts there - I think we must have waved at almost every one of them as we drove out of town.

From there we headed north and reached Selwyn just before lunchtime. After parking in the nearby carpark we hired our toboggans, blue and purple (pink wasn't available) and ate our sandwiches in the small but chiqui lodge besides the main slope.

Then we headed onto the slopes. Both Audrey and Eli were tentative at first, it took a couple of rides with all of us squeezed onto a single toboggan before they really got going, eventually both of them embraced it with gusto.

Unfortunately Audrey and Eli's growth in confidence didn't bring with it an increase in steering ability and it was tricky at times trying to get them to avoid the bigger kids or adults, but everyone was very understanding but in truth being midweek we didn't have many others to contend with.

We took a short break to build a snowman - Amy had ensured that Audrey and Eli came prepared with carrot nose (which Eli promptly ate) and then we headed back for more fun.

The afternoon sun was melting the snow and our shoes and socks were sodden by the end of the day, but cold feet were more than compensated for by the fun we'd had.

We headed back to Canberra in late afternoon, the sky over the mountains turning pink (to Audrey's delight) as we got back in the car. Audrey and Eli slumped in their seats until we reached the warmth of the fish and chip shop in Cooma and then two tired children (and a tired Dad) reached Canberra just after 8pm.

Arriving at Selwyn after our drive

By the main slope

First tentative ride

Memories of Sedgley Beacon

With snowman

Eli eats the nose

Audrey gives the snowman the treatment

Monday, August 6, 2012

Smithers-Sheedy and Smiths come to visit

Our friends Tim and Hayley were in town this weekend and so we caught up with them and Justin's family. I first met Justin and Sophie via Tim and Hayley so it was a really nice get together for everyone.

Since we first met everyone has multiplied so it was good to finally meet Harper and Albie (Justin and Sophie's two boys) for the first time. There was a bit of an age gap between all of the children, but everyone played ever so well together, first at our house and then the next day in Commonwealth Park.

We had breakfast at a cafe called The Deck which offers lovely views across Lake (Burley) Griffin.

Here's some pictures.

Teddy and Eli

Audrey, Teddy, Alex and Eli

Eli on the slide at Commonwealth Park

Audrey and Alex

Albie and Eli
Everyone (except Tim!)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Mousetrap

We had our second night out without children in a fortnight (such a rare rare thing that I really don't think it's happened in the last 4 and a bit years) to go and watch The Mousetrap at Canberra Theatre.

We were invited by my friend Justin Smith who was playing one of the lead roles in the play and offered Amy and I (excellent) tickets while the play was doing its run in Canberra.

The Mousetrap is the longest running play in London's West End and has played uninterrupted for decades. Now it's doing an official Australian tour, which could last up to 12 months. All 9 nights in Canberra were sold out ages ago and it next heads off to Perth for 10 days and then Melbourne for a further 3 months.

I hadn't seen Justin for quite a few years, when he and his wife Sophie visited Newbury. He's a respected actor in Australia now and played the lead role. It was amazing to see someone you knew on stage in front of a sell out audience. I've seen a couple of friends and an old school teacher in am-dram performances, but they were inconsequential when compared to this.

The Mousetrap is a murder mystery set in England just after the war. All of the characters are pretty eccentric and all of the actors pulled off the English accent admirably. Justin had hundreds of lines. It was a really 'tight' performance, with all of the (really accomplished) actors playing their roles well, making for a tremendous performance. Obviously Justin was star of the show, but then I guess we were biased.

The Mousetrap (Justin is second from right)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Tim Freedman at the Street Theatre

A band called the Whitlams were a big thing in Australia during the 90's. Like all good bands they've gone through numerous line up changes, but the one ever-present was Tim Freedman.

Amy was/is a fan and I once owned one of their albums. We went along to watch Tim Freedman's solo show at the Street Theatre in Canberra.

It was a really mellow show, with Tim Freedman sat behind the piano and taking the audience through the rise, fall and rise again of the Whitlams. He reflected that a lot of the bands success lay in their choice of band name (Gough Whitlam is a popular ex-Prime Minister of Australia who played a big part in the formation of Triple J an innovative youth focussed national radio station). As a result Freedman suspected that they got a lot more air-time than they otherwise might have. His big tip for up and coming bands was "to choose a good name" which seemed pretty apt.

At the end of the show we bought a CD and Amy met her hero. He seemed a really nice guy and posed for a couple of pictures. A nice (child-free) evening.

Amy and Tim

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Play School at the Albert Hall

We've always been big fans of Play School. The iconic children's programme (which was dumped by the BBC in 1988 after having been the first programme to air on BBC2) continues as an institution here in Australia.

All the old favourites are still there, Big Ted, Little Ted, Jemima and (a slightly less grubby looking) Humpty.

The show was full of nursery ryhmes, singing and dancing and the kids really loved it. The presenters Jay and Abi were also fantastic. Jay Laga'aia is was a big hit with the mums in the room and had a few funny lines for the adults.

Here's some pictures of our day

I'm a dingle-dangle scarecrow

Audrey as a little tea-pot


More Geocaching

We've continued to hunt for geocaches, small (and sometimes large) hidden treasures that are scattered around the world (we're now up to 9)

Last weekend Audrey and I hunted one down by Yarralumla Yacht Club. You know the co-ordinates but not necessarily the box/container where the log book is held.

After 20 minutes searching amongst the fallen leaves we found a fake dog poo (yuk!). Here's Audrey somewhat cheekily showing off our cache!