Monday, December 28, 2015

Basket ball hoop

I bought the kids a basket ball hoop for the trampoline - it's been a big hit!

Christmas Day Pictures

Here's some pictures of our Christmas Day.

We had a nice morning opening our presents and Skyped with Ralph's family and Mom on Christmas morning.

The kids were pretty happy with their collection of presents. Audrey didn't get her wish of a swimming pool(!) but everything else came good. The basket ball hoop for the trampoline was a big hit.

We had lunch at the Hyatt again with friends. They put on a huge spread and the kids love father Christmas arriving (even though this year's santa was probably in his late 20's!).

It was a nice day. Emotional at times though and I think we all had a cry as well as a laugh.

Santa brought the much coveted bubble mix again

and a pair of football/soccer boots (they weren't as large as they look in the photo!)

Eli making snow!

Eli gets his goody bag from Santa

Me and my two beautiful children

Eli and his mate

Veggie Patch

The veggie patch is going well with loads of tomatoes, zucchini/courgettes, beans and cucumbers. We had a big rain storm a couple of days ago so really freshened things up. It's going to hopefully be a good harvest! 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Angle Crossing and Tharwa sandwash

Over Christmas a large percentage of Canberra's population de-camps to the coast or heads to family living in Melbourne, Brisbane or Sydney.

On our doorstep though are a number of beautiful spots which people ignore for the lure of the coast, choosing three hours drive over twenty minutes.

We often head to Casuarina Sands for a float in our (cheapy) tubes. Today was beautifully sunny, but with a lovely cooling breeze so we headed to Angle Crossing for a swim/float and from there onto picturesque Tharwa Sandwash. We'd not been to either place before, but we'll definitely return.
Both places were deserted apart from a couple of fisherman and a friendly ranger told us the best spots to enter/exit. Sometimes it pays to stay in the 'Bush Capital' and not follow the crowds.

Beautiful Tharwa sandwash

getting into the water at Angle Crossing
Heading down the short path from the car
Heading down from the car
Where the bloody hell are you?

Christmas lights

Some people take Christmas lights seriously. Very seriously.
The number of houses bedecking their entire house in Canberra with lights seems to be increasing every year. I'd think it was a habit spread from the US (see Griswolds Christmas Holiday) combined with the proliferation of cheap LED lights. Love them or hate them they're certainly a modern day enigma. There's now a website and app to help you find them and after hearing one chap on the radio discussing his display I decided to head out to nearby Kambah to see for ourselves.

We parked the car and found two houses completely covered in lights. Wire reindeer stood on their lawn and cotton wool snow was laid everywhere. What made the spectacle more impressive(?) than most was that they had a brass band playing on their driveway. Not to be outdone the neighbours had a 10 piece choir taking carol requests from passers-by.

The family had converted their (double) garage into a grotto and a small train happily puffed round a snowy mountain. The kids of course loved every minute.

I spoke to some people there about how amazing it was and they said "Yes, but you have seen the bigger house haven't you?". It turned out that a short walk down the hill was a huge house (owned by a builder - who have the majority of wealth in Canberra) again bedecked with lights but this time with a full-size Tardis and snow machine!

At our second stop what was even more amazing was the fact that all the neighbours had 'joined in'. Every house was covered in lights and the twinkling cul-de-sac had been renamed 'Christmas Street'. People sold sausages from their driveway and a storm trooper gave out lollipops to the kids.

Afterwards the kids started planning for our own display next year. Hopefully over the course of the next few months they'll forget. Either that or I'll have to put my order in for the 5 metre inflatable snow man sometime around July.

Christmas Street

Audrey encounters the snow machine
I think Audrey's face says it all

In the grotto/garage
The brass band plan how they're going to drown out the neighbours choir

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Amy's ad campaign with University of South Australia

Not long after she left University, Amy was asked to do a promotional campaign for University of South Australia. She starred on bus shelter poster adverts and buses. I think(?) somewhere buried in the garage there may be pictures of the ads.

Something prompted me to do a search to try and find something and found that Uni SA do keep an archive of their promotional campaigns.

Whenever the kids do well at school I tell them it's because of their Mum's genes not mine. I maintain that Audrey and Eli succeed in spite of me rather than because of me! Amy would hate that I posted this - she was always much more modest about her abilities than I ever have been with my much more meagre successes.

Here's what it reads;

I decided to bite the bullet and just do it

Amy Doidge

I was a travel agent for 12 years and although I enjoyed the work I felt it was time for a change. I had thought of going to university and finally decided to bite the bullet and ‘just do it’.

I have always been interested in international studies, particularly politics and international relations. Studying at uni made me more aware of political and historical situations in other countries and how these affect Australia.

My UniSA lecturers were enthusiastic, easy to talk to and always available if I had questions. One lecturer had worked for the government and passed on his experience in that area - which was great!

I am currently working and training in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade where I prepare ministerial briefings and correspondence, monitor both political and trade issues (nationally and internationally), and liaise with other government departments. The work is varied and stimulating and there are many opportunities to work overseas to represent Australia.

Amy Doidge
Desk Officer, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Student, Graduate Trainee Program, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Graduate, Bachelor of Arts (International Studies) and Bachelor of Computer and Information Science, 2003
Winner, Australian Computer Society Prize, 2002
Winner, Scholarship for Academic Excellence, 2000, 2001
Winner, Dean’s Merit List, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002
Winner, Chancellor’s Merit List, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002
Member, Australian Computer Society
Member, Golden Key Honour Society

Dodging the white lines on our Sunday morning bike ride to the market

Carols in Town Park, Tuggeranong

We headed out to Carols in Town Park to meet up with some of our friends. We'd not been before in previous years, but it was clearly a big day on a lot of peoples' calendars.

It was a nice evening - loads of things for the kids to do - from pony rides to a few fairground rides and a lovely park with a nice amphitheatre.  The added bonus was that everything (apart from food) was free and the queues very short. Audrey had two pony rides and Eli two goes on the jumpy/bouncy castle.

The evening was full of Christmas spirit!

"No Audrey, you can't have one for Christmas"

the picnics surrounding the stage

National Carillon Open Day and carols

The National Carillon on Aspen Island
The National Carillon in Canberra sits on Aspen Island - a small island on Lake Burley Griffin - joined by a footbridge (named after John Douglas Gordon who played the first recital).

It was 'gifted' by the Queen to celebrate the naming of Canberra and opened by her in 1970. In many ways it's from a bygone era of sympathetic Commonwealth. It's hard to imagine Britain 'gifting' a bell tower to another country nowadays. Countries might give/sell weapons (or conversely overseas aid to pay for the affects caused by the weapons) but I can imagine quite a ruckus in Parliament if the current UK government decided to 'give' a belltower to their Australian cousins.

Anyway, 45 years ago, give they did.

The Carillon is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere and contains 55 bells. Apparently there's bigger carillons in the US (there would be wouldn't there!) but apparently the one in Canberra is particularly well regarded because there are no surrounding buildings so the noise from the bells carries quite a distance.

It's actually very unusual to be allowed into the belltower. It only opens once a year to the general public and there were only 10 short tours of 8 people so the fact that the three of us made it into the tour was quite an achievement!

While we waited for our turn we lay on the grass and spotted animals and other shapes in the clouds. It was good fun listening to the childrens' imaginative minds.

It was also really nice seeing the kid's reaction when we reached the top and saw the largest bell (none of the guides were quite sure what it was called) as Audrey and Eli hadn't seen anything like it before and Audrey was quite taken aback by the size.

Afterwards a small choir sung carols and the bell chimed Christmas tunes in unison. Audrey wanted us to stay and sing, which we did. A lovely afternoon out.

I think they were laughing at me!

the back of the keyboard (the wires connect to the bells)

Some of the 55 bells

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Another day another party!

We had our annual meet up with a group of friends at Black Mountain Peninsula at the weekend. It's a lovely spot and there are good barbecue areas and plenty of space to kick a football or fly a kite.

It was a really relaxing way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon!

Christmas ten-pin bowling party

We had a lovely Christmas bowling party with some of Audrey and Elijah's friends. The kids love bowling - unfortunately my aim was 'off' compared to our last game (for Audrey's birthday) but it was still a lot of fun.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

School Christmas concert

Friday was the school Christmas concert. It's a big deal at the school with kids preparing for it for weeks and the songs being shrouded in mystery. Audrey and Eli had been sworn to secrecy about the songs they were due to sing, but as the day grew closer could not help themselves practicing during breakfast.

As the play involves every child the audience therefore extends to every parent (plus extended families) as people try and jostle for position to get a coveted 'good spot'.

Both A&E sung well and the final song (sung every year) never fails to leave a lump in the throat. It was beautiful to see the kids perform but also really sad that Amy wasn't there to see it too.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Camping trip to Merimbula

Merimbula is a little town on the South, NSW coast. It's probably a three hour drive from Canberra but the trip is well worth the effort as it's a lovely tranquil part of the world with a nice sea-sidey feel.

We headed down for a weekend of camping with some friends and their kids. Audrey was the oldest by a year and also the only girl in our whole party. Funnily she took along three of her teddies and it was the teddies that became the focal point for the boys who spent hours playing assorted games with them.

We spent Saturday playing cricket, tennis and swimming in the lovely (and empty of people) pool. As it's the end of Spring the weather was warm but a little overcast. It was actually good as the cooler temperature kept the flies and mosquitoes away. It was a lovely time and a really nice short break.

(I do admit that I forgot to pack any spare t-shirts for Eli - I did remember pants, socks etc - but the poor boy had to wear his Brumbies t-shirt throughout and it grew increasingly grubby during Friday-Sunday)

our little encampment. Ours is the green tent

LOTS of friendly parrots
The park had a number of pedal cars which provided loads of entertainment

For Audrey too!

spikey haired boys!