Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Book Week 2017

The kids went dressed as Geek Girl (Audrey's favourite book series at the moment) and an Oompa-Loompa from Charlie and the Chocolate factory. Eli was pretty brave with his face-painting (which was poster paint) When I picked him up from school he told me that his face felt stiff...

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Audrey's (snowy) birthday

I'd done quite a bit of preparation for Audrey's birthday - from making the horse cake, to preparing 'Frog in a Pond' (blue jelly with a jelly frog at the bottom). The plan was to have a 'Pony Party' at the riding school where Audrey learns to ride.
On Saturday Canberra's weather had been glorious. The last chills of our (long) winter seemed to be disappearing. I'd sat outside without a jacket and things had looked rosy.
On Sunday morning (the day of Audrey's party) I'd checked the weather and noticed that they were forecasting a 70% chance of rain in the afternoon. The weather forecasts in Australia tend to be remarkably accurate. There's not so much 'chance of showers' which is the line almost every UK forecast trots out with annoying regularity. I guess the size and scale of the country allows forecasters to see fronts appearing more clearly.
It was dry all morning but then as we drove to the riding school (car boot full of precariously balanced party food) it started to rain. By the time we'd driven the 15 minutes out of town to the centre it was bucketing it down and by the times we were at the car park for the riding school the rain had turned to a frosty mix of rain and sleet.
After speaking to the staff along with a slightly crestfallen Audrey we decided to cancel the riding. I quickly googled films showing that afternoon, but unfortunately there was a range of 'contains violence' movies. Eventually I found Dendy in the city had a series of Ghibli films showing. They're anime Japanese films (mostly) for kids. We've seen a couple and they're good (albeit weird at times) so we headed there as an alternative.
Sure enough the film was weird (and loooong) but everyone feasted on popcorn and Fanta and we got to sing and cut the cake at the end so it was all ok. We'll do the horse riding another time, perhaps in a few weeks when the chance of snow(!) has passed.
The birthday crew
the cake


Friday, August 25, 2017

Jo visits!

Our friend Jo visited from Adelaide and we had a nice sunny walk to the kid's school together. Unfortunately Audrey was on school camp, but Eli was chuffed to see her nonetheless.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

"I've just pulled my tooth out!"

Conversations you have with an 8 year old during breakfast....

Sunday, August 20, 2017


The daffodils in our garden seem to be out unseasonably early this year. I had a friend in the UK who used to hate daffodils (they felt they had too much of a weed like quality) but I've never agreed. I really like the dash of colour they provide at the end of winter reminding you that Spring and Summer are only round the corner.
I'm always surprised that there aren't more growing in and around Canberra as certainly the city seems to have the climate for them. Perhaps I'll do some guerrilla plantings next year!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Mulligans Flat Twilight Tour

The kids and I went to a fabulous night tour around Mulligans Flat in Canberra's north as part of Australia's Science Week.

Mulligans Flat is a large sanctuary encircled in a highly scientific (and quite brutal) electric fence that is designed to prevent feral predators, particularly foxes and cats entering the reserve. The entire area has been cleared of them as well as rabbits and huge efforts taken to return the woodland back to a pristine condition.

In the place of feral predators there are now reintroduced native species - quolls and bettongs as well as native mice, wallabies and birds. Of course many of Australia's animals are nocturnal and so viewing them at night time is perfect.

A fair number of people showed up (probably nearly 60) and we divided up into three groups led by three Phd students. Our guides were both passionate and well informed. We were led to a wonderful sheep shed which now serves as an information centre and told the history of the centre. A bushtail possum (who lives in the roof) stretched out through a hole to observe us with perfect timing.

Afterwards, and armed with torches we walked round for probably nearly an hour. We spotted three or four bettongs scurrying in the undergrowth as well as hearing the piecing and shrill call of a curlew (strange looking birds). Our guide explained that curlews are actually quite delicate/stupid. She told us that one of the introduced birds had killed itself by falling on a stick! We were led round one of the number of dams and Eli delighted in the fact that he was first to spot a (tiny) frog on the bank. Croaks of other frogs joined in with his excitement. Towards the end of the tour we spotted a ringtailed possum. Much less common than the brushtail it didn't seem to mind that we were all shining torches into the branches that it was resting on.

It was a shame to leave the animals at the end of the tour. We stopped at a really nice cafĂ© (Frankies at Ford) for a (late) dinner on the way home. A late one for a school night, but definitely worth it.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Clearing out stuff

One of the parts of my widower status that I've liked least of all is clearing out Amy's 'stuff'. 'Stuff' has got a broad definition from hats and shoes to photos and ornaments.

I'm a member of a couple of on-line widow/widower groups and it is a common theme that comes up on the discussions that people in my situation have. People have differing approaches; from clearing everything all out straight away - 'a fresh start' if you will, to putting everything in boxes and putting it in storage.

I must admit I've been pretty slack, driven in part by laziness (as well as the constant demands put on me by an active 8 and 9 year old) but also because every item I find, every shoe, hat, glove, lip-balm of Amy's that I find seems to carry with it some kind of sentimental attachment. Ridiculously even old jotted notes and shopping lists which I know can never be replaced. It's not helped by the fact that I'm a bit of a hoarder at heart anyway(!)

I did a (very small) spring clean today and cleared out assorted clutter from the house. I chucked out a few bags of outgrown childrens' clothes, an work old suit of mine which I hadn't worn in years and reluctantly made space in the cupboard which holds our coats by sending one of Amy's old jackets to a charity shop.

As I folded the thick black coat into the bag I could remember Amy wearing it and I almost put it back on the hanger, there were a couple of bits and pieces in the pocket, a button and an unused hankie. I could find every reason to hold onto it - perhaps Audrey would like it when she's older?

In the end I was able to let go. In truth it was an old coat, not even one of Amy's favourites. If she'd have been around I suspect Amy would have tossed it out without a second thought. It'll go to someone who needs it, keep someone warm from Canberra's chill, someone unaware of why such a nice coat should end up in charity shop.

In part I guess it's the feeling, the knowledge that Amy won't be coming back to wear the coat again and the memories that possessions hold.

91 Storey Tree House book launch

The Tree House series is quite an institution in our household. It's a series of books written by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton. They've clearly hit on a winning (and lucrative) formula and are pumping a book out annually. Andy does the stories and Terry does mad-cap illustrations. The kids love the books and they clearly are well pitched to appeal to the sense of humour of a 7-11 year old.

We went to a launch of their latest book (the 91 Storey Treehouse) on Saturday. I bought our tickets early(!) courtesy of a friend I have at the theatre box-office, so we had seats on row A in the middle. The kids are becoming accustomed to great theatre seats and seemed not to notice the throngs of other kids and their families sat behind us! Audrey seems to think anything further back than the stalls are just seats reserved for 'poor people' (I think I might have been guilty in teaching her that).

It was a great show, pretty much adlibbed I'd have thought. Audrey got called up on stage which made her a brief mini-celeb as among the audience were a number of her school mates who knew her. We got signed copies of the book to take home.

This is what seat A21, A22 and A23 look like!

Audrey tangles her hair on some barbed wire

Yes I know I should have helped out rather than snapping a photograph, (but it was a little bit funny)



Sunday, August 6, 2017

Towers of Tomorrow

We went to a really cool exhibition at the National Museum; 'Towers of Tomorrow' which was a representation of all of the world's largest (and landmark) buildings entirely made out of Lego. It was the work of one man (Ryan McNaught) who designs models for Lego (for a living). In all there were 12 buildings.
Most remarkable was the length that had been taken to ensure all buildings were architecturally correct - McNaught had worked with architectural drawings, as well as architects themselves to ensure that all of the dimensions and quirks of each building was accurately captured. Lego of course comes in a large number of colours (23 I think, but don't quote me) and on one building because the grey brick colour had been slightly 'off' they had lit the building differently to ensure it was as close as possible to the real thing.

There was a ton of lego bricks as well, so you could try your hand at making your own building which the kids loved - Audrey and I built Big Ben. The exhibit has been travelling around Australia and was extremely popular. Lego is so ubiquitous and its popularity is so broad that there was queues of people there when we visited the exhibition on the first weekend, and I was glad we had booked ahead.
a model of Burj Khalifa (in Dubai)

Our model of Elizabeth Tower (aka Big Ben)

Empire State Building