Monday, April 29, 2013

Swimming and Cycling

Now before I start I need to make clear that none of this is particularly a boast - I'm not trying to set records or brag about how I've run back-to-back marathons in under 10 hours. For the last 12 months though I've been measuring both my cycling and swimming activity. Not for anything in particular, but just to see how far I go. I've got a fancy GPS thing on my phone which makes measuring cycling easy (but obviously just have to count laps in the pool).

I'm fortunate as I live only a stones throw from work (just over 3.1 kilometres to be exact). It means my commute is a dream compared to some who sit on congested roads for hours with nothing but the car stereo for company. As a result I've been cycling in (on Amy's bike!) to my work for the last 3 years. I don't really consider it exercise as much as just a form of (cheap and of course environmentally good) transport.

Similarly fortunately a new swimming pool opened half way along my cycle route to work. When we moved to Canberra it used to be a dark and dingy swimming pool with rust falling off the ceiling into the water (I'm not exaggerating) but they knocked the old eyesore place down and built a shiny new 25 metre pool in its place. It seems like Canberra's best kept secret - sometimes I'm the only one in there and sometimes the water is almost too warm to swim in (like a bath).  I took out a 20 swim pass (but I'm sure I've long since exhausted that but nobody on reception seems to know or care). Oh well.

Anyway, here are my stats;

In the last year I've ridden a touch under 643 kilometres (or 400 miles). It's about a fifth of the Tour de France and I did it over a year rather than 21 days. I also didn't take a single anabolic steroid on my way round. It's also worth noting that this is only my commute - apart from the odd trip to the shops I don't really go out riding. Canberra is full of crazy cyclists who knock of this kind of distance in a weekend, but I've kind of managed this without trying.

Similarly with my swimming I managed 31 kilometres (just short of the 35 kilometres which would have got me across the English Channel (had I had 12 months to complete the swim). Again this was really without much effort. You can see there's assorted troughs in the bar charts representing times when (cycling) it was probably raining and (swimming) I probably had a cold.

I'm going to endeavour to keep it all up and share even more monumental stats in the next 12 months!!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Eli's 4th Birthday

It's hard to believe our little boy is 4. Time goes so quickly.

Like many four year olds Eli loves Thomas the Tank Engine and so it seemed appropriate that we'd take him to Kingston Model Railway.

We hadn't been before - the tracks are tucked away behind exclusive apartments - an oasis of 'old' Canberra in the midst of expensive developments.

The railway is staffed by volunteers - almost exclusively old blokes. Most of them deaf, but clearly all fervent train enthusiasts and all of them equally happy to see their trains used by the groups of childrens' parties who came to use the trains which they lovingly run and maintain. It's a long track which weaves around the grounds and great fun for adults and kids alike.

We had booked a table and barbecue. All shaded under trees. We were blessed with beautiful Autumnal weather (25 degrees) and our lovely friends came with their kids and shared the day.

Eli was so excited to see all of his mates in one place. A few from school, a few from his daycare days and a few people we knew along the way. I think we had 15 little boys and girls there in all.

The barbecue was a hit (although in truth the kids preferred the party food to the more 'sensible' sausages) and Eli loved his Thomas the Tank engine cake. Amy had made it and I had decorated it. It took 3 attempts to get the face of the engine look ok - the first couple gave Thomas a slightly sinister grin!

Even after the party had ended (and a few stray balloons had floated away above the trees) Elijah was still on cloud nine. Happy Birthday little boy.

Leo, Eli (mucking around) and Darcy

Eli grinning by his cake

Chloe, Tommy (with Jack in the background)

Remy looking cool

Tricky blowing the candle out in the wind!

All aboard!
Eli with his mate Ryan

Audrey peeking

Greater Western Sydney versus Gold Coast Suns

I'd been to a couple of AFL (Aussie Rules) games a few years ago - strangely in London at the Kennington Oval. I've got no memory of who was playing, I just know I met Rolf Harris there and he drew me a Rolf-a-roo!

Sport in Australia is strangely regional - Victoria and South Australia play AFL, Queensland and New South Wales rugby league and pockets of the country play rugby union. All states plays cricket in the summer. Football (soccer) still sadly tends to have fans based on racial backgrounds (mostly Greek and Italians) which stunts its growth and appeal and besides anyone who is good tends to go to play in Japan or Europe anyway. All sports are desperate to extend their reach, some of them doing more effectively than others.

They've been trying to promote ALF in Canberra (a rugby stronghold) and our 'local' team Greater Western Sydney (GWS) currently sit bottom of the league (called 'ladders' here). They play in orange kits too - it all seemed sadly familiar with what I was used to.

My friend Duncan had bought tickets for me and his father in law and so I went along to watch them getting soundly beaten in front of about 7,000 die hard fans.

It was lovely weather though and really nice sitting sunning ourselves in the open stand (it would have been a whole different experience in the rain and wind of the UK).

GWS are a new team, the 150 v 100 representing their naivity being only their 2nd season. AFL is a simple, but strangely complex game. Much of it is blood-and-thunder, no slow build ups and pass backs and 0-0 draws, but big  boots forward and great catching and jumping. All of the players are without exception strong chiseled sportsmen - mostly about 7 foot tall. The action is breathless and (even though I didn't understand a lot of the nuances) was fairly exciting.

The subdued crowd headed home with GWS still bottom of the ladder and likely to remain that way for some time.

The action (a long way away in this picture!) at Manuka Oval

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tree planting at the Cotter

To celebrate our 6th wedding anniversary, the four of us went to the Cotter with the local 'See-Change' gang - lead by our neighbours Phil and Nina (and Greening Australia) to plant native trees.

We've been in previous years and the kids were old hands at digging holes and planting saplings. Amy and I probably planted 20 or so plants - in all the area was re-planted with around 400 native trees.

Highlight of the day for Eli was my discovery of a small skink. It's also worth mentioning the fantastic scones and jam we were all treated to at the end.

It was a beautiful day - the small valley we were situated in was a bit further than we'd been to before into the Cotter. We drove back along the Uriarra Road which I think is one of the most scenic roads near to Canberra. Hopefully the urban spread near Mount Stomlo won't expand too much further.

Here's some pics;

A wattle prepares to be planted

one more sapling in the ground

Eli wielding a mattock!

Audrey looking at a wombat hole

One day all this will be covered in trees

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Fantastic Feijoas

There’s an alleyway near where we live which has five feijoa bushes growing (out of the tarmac) in it.

If you’re not familiar with the feijoa (which I wasn’t until a couple of years ago) it’s a small fruit about the size of a small chicken egg with a taste somewhere between a kiwi, lemon and pineapple. They’re tangy, and a little gritty(!) but also strangely ‘fizzy’!

I’ve taken a couple of trips up there to pick windfalls (the fruit is ripe when it falls off the bush) and the other night the kids accompanied me and by torchlight we excitedly picked up over 50 fruit.

There’s a variety of ways to eat them, but the kids love having them in half and scooping the fruit out (like a kiwi fruit). I’ve also drunk the juice, once pure (which was very syrupy) and a second time mixed with pear juice (which was just about perfect!)

On Sunday we were also given another stash of the fruit (from someone’s garden who had too many) so we’ve been eating feijoas with every meal! Here's some pics of our feijoa hunt!

back from our hunt!
up close feijoas

Eli admires our work

Monday, April 15, 2013

Hats off to the National Museum!

Nanny and Poppy took Audrey and Eli to the Discovery Space at the National Museum where they were running a 'Bunting, Badges and Bowties' session.

They came back with these wonderful creations - roll on Ascot or the Melbourne Cup!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Cross Country

Audrey took part in her first Cross Country race this afternoon.

We'd done preparation for the race (stretching) and she had a big breakfast as well as pasta the night before. Unfortunately she missed the starting 'Go!' and so had quite a lot of work to do to work her way up the field from the start. Still it was a good showing and she ran all the way round which was quite an achievement as it was a long course. Audrey was in the Green Team (the 'Mighty, Mighty Green Team')

The deputy principle of the school lead the way on his bike - defining the course and also making the whole thing a bit like a greyhound race! Here's some video of the occasion!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Breakfast at the Arboretum

We had breakfast at the Arboretum on Sunday. Pancakes cooked on a barbecue(!) with yoghurt, berries and maple syrup.

It was a lovely sunny morning and we went for a bit of a walk around the ever growing attraction. The kids play area hasn't quite been finished off but I'm really excited to see what it will be like. Here's some pictures of our morning.


Eagle's Nest

Sydney Easter Show

We bought an excellently priced CountryLink package which gave us a return train trip to Sydney, 2 nights accommodation and entrance and travel to the Sydney Easter Show.

As our kitchen is currently undergoing renovations we seized on the chance to get away from the mess and destruction(!) and at 6.40am on Good Friday morning (having miraculously survived a death defying taxi ride in a taxi driven by a driver who had been driving for 16 hours!) we boarded a train to Sydney.

The train was about to pull away and poor Eli was sick onto his lap (fortunately there were good supplies of tissues and plastic bags and the poor boy continued to be ill throughout the rest of our 5 hour trip). Eli was then tired and lethargic for the rest of the day – not even terribly excited by our hotel room and big tele. We sat and watched Puss in Boots which Audrey enjoyed and re-enacted ‘soft paws’ for the rest of the day.

Fortunately by Saturday Eli was back on his feet and the four of us headed out to the Easter Show. Huge crowds of people weaved their way to Olympic Park but our CountryLink ticket provided a short cut through a turnstile and we were soon in. It’s a vast show – with rides (the obligatory show bags – which we avoided) and tents of animals, crafts and food.

We did some wool craft(!) and then we watched some heifers competing for a prize in a large tent. The cattle were in attendance with young teenage boys and girls – Audrey loved one of the girls and after the show was over went over to her to say that she wanted her to win (she finished 2nd). We then headed to the main Sydney showground arena.

It was difficult to get a seat at first, but when we did we were treated to some motorbike tricks – incredible overhead somersaults. It’s awful to say, but as an adult the attraction of these things is in the accidents(!) but viewed through a child’s eyes it was the most amazing show ever. Audrey and Eli stood and applauded. We watched some considerably more sedate show jumping and then headed slowly for the exit taking in more animals (alpacas) along the way.

It was a great show. I don’t think we’ll make it an annual trip but we’ll definitely be back in a few years.

The next day we spent in and around the pool – both the kids loved the roof top pool which despite being Autumn was still a lovely temperature.

The train journey home was long – we were joined by a couple of enthusiastic kangaroos who hopped alongside the train as it came back in to Canberra station. The taxi ride home was similarly scary and reminiscent of the one we had taken a couple of days earlier. Fortunately we got back on Sunday evening ready for a day’s rest before school and work.

A woolen caravan!

craft time!

motorbike in the sky!

tired boy

Audrey eats noodles in China town

good old CountryLink!