Friday, December 26, 2008

Early tomorrow morning..

we're leaving on our holiday. Yes we're off again! I spent today packing the van - I'm totally exhausted because it's been really hot. I think I'll have a relaxing bath tonight with some of the bubbles that Santa brought me!!

We're heading north to Stuart's Point on the NSW mid-north coast. This is our 5th year (I think) of going up there - the caravan park is lovely and very friendly, it's on the river inlet which is nice & calm for kids to swim in, and as an added bonus we go up with family.

I will hopefully have some sporadic internet access so may do the occasional post, and twitter. If not, I'll post when I get back!

If you're travelling as well, travel safely.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Xmas to all - and to all a good night!

We've spent the day making shortbread, gingerbread men & fruitcake. Well, apart from a quick unexpected trip down to Newcastle to pick up my new glasses.. (So unexpected that I now have to clean up the kitchen tonight from the aforementioned baking..)

We've opened presents from family & friends that were under the tree (thanks H - love the calendar and the t-shirt fits perfectly - will send a photo when I take one!). "Twas the night before Xmas" has been read as we do every year, the snack is out for Santa (gingerbread & beer with water & a carrot for the reindeers), the sacks are laid out under the tree and one very excited boy has finally been put to bed. I'd say sleep is still some time off yet though!

To all my blogging friends, have a very merry Xmas. I hope Santa is good to you!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Handmade Xmas

We had our "Xmas lunch" with Pete's family yesterday, so now I can share the presents I made for the nieces and nephews. I'm still not confident enough with my crafting abilities to just go handmade, so I added a couple of little bought things with each present.

For 8 year old Nephew E I made a drawstring bag for him to take stuff to sport etc. I printed out the logo of his favourite football (soccer) team onto printable iron-on transfer paper and ironed it on to personalise it. I included a couple of small pool toys in the bag.

Nephew L (no prizes for guessing his name lol) starts school next year so I made him a drawstring book bag out of pirate material, cut his name out of felt and sewed it on. Included an art pad & textas.

Their youngest brother (Nephew I) I made a set of counting beanbags from calico - I grabbed the idea from One Inch World. Again I used the iron-on transfer paper, printed out a suitable clipart and put 1 - 5 pictures on each.

The really cool thing about this pattern is that each bean bag is slightly bigger than the next, so they stack in order as well. I was pretty stoked with how these came out - but boy it took a while to make!

Niece C likes butterflies (or at least her Mum does as she's only 1 year old lol) so I turned this gorgeous fabric into a butterfly shaped cushion / pillow for her. It should hopefully be the right size to take in the pram etc.

For Nephews X and L and Niece M (2 year old triplets) I made up a dress-up box to share. I made a cape (could be super-hero, princess etc etc etc), apron (chef, builder etc) and a head scarf (pirate, sling etc). I also picked up a handbag, neck scarf and tie from the op shop, and Billy donated a builder's hat from his toy cupboard (yes he was aware that he did!)

So all presents for my nieces & nephews were handmade. To be honest, it would've been much quicker to go and buy something, but I really enjoyed making them and giving them, and its 7 less pieces of plastic junk in the world.. (Plus my sewing skills really got a work-out!)

I think they went over well - everyone opens their presents together in one big flurry of ripped paper so it's a bit hard to tell. Oh well, I'm please with them anyway..

Saturday, December 20, 2008

No more spending!

I've been catching up on our finances the last couple of days, transferring money from savings to pay for our holiday and realising what a dent it's made in the account! One of the worst things about taking a holiday when you're self-employed is that not only does it cost you money but you don't get paid while you're away :( Double-whammy :(

We used the credit card a lot while we were away just so we didn't have to carry large amounts of cash - we didn't go much over budget - I was roughly estimating $100 / day and it cost us around $120 / day. However it's been too easy to just keep on using the card since we got back, and I'm sure we've bought things we could've done without, just because we "put it on the card".

Add to that the uncertainty of Pete's work atm - they've offered voluntary redundancies with a chance of forced redundancies after that - and it's time to take the head out of the sand, buckle down, use lots of cliches and stop spending! I'll be trying to spend only on essentials until the end of January (hopefully longer).

I'll be using twitter to log how I'm going - I'm not really sure how you "follow" me using twitter, but you can see it on the right on my blog.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas crafts for kids

Here are some things Billy has been making over the last couple of weeks.

Potato print Christmas cards

Take one old motley potato and cut in half.

Cut a design in the potato half (ok, so my potato carving skills leave a lot to be desired lol).

Cover raised part with paint and stamp onto cardboard.

Voila - homemade Xmas cards! Billy used these to give to his friends and teachers.

CD Case Photo Frames

A nice simple craft that's a great gift for grandparents etc.

Take an unwanted CD case and take all of the paper & plastic inserts out of it so that you're just left with the outside.

With the hinged part to the top, stick a photo to the inside (I used double-sided tape), and then go mad decorating it.

The frame will stand up by opening the case a little bit. I also added a piece of cardboard behind the photo so that the light didn't shine through.

Billy also got me to teach him how to hand sew (not that I'm an expert!) - and here he is making me a pincushion. I haven't seen the final result yet - it's wrapped up under the Xmas tree!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Menu Plan Monday - 14th Dec

Notes on last week's menu:

To use up this week:
* roast chicken

Menu Plan this week:

Monday - Sausages & caramelised onions
Tuesday - crumbed steak, mashed potato & veges
Wednesday - creamy bacon pasta
Thursday - beef stir fry & rice
Friday - tacos
Saturday - party to go to
Sunday - 'Xmas lunch' with Pete's family & then possibly a party in the evening

For more exciting menu plan ideas, see Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Eating from the garden:
* Tomatoes - mmmm!

Planting this week:
* Not planting anything more until we get back from holidays.

See my "Quick Updates" over on the side to see what I've been up to in the garden lately.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Day in My Life - Dec 14th

I had a rather restless night's sleep - not sure why, but the strong winds probably didn't help.

I heard Billy getting up about 7:45 and woke up enough to join him about 8am. Turned computer on, checked emails, made breakfast & some jelly for morning tea, ate breakfast while reading blogs.

9am - realised it was the 14th when I read Jenny's reminder post! Pete pointed out that our server's anti-virus was out-of-date so I ran around confirming that. Decided I couldn't cope with that until I'd had a shower, so went off for that. Made the beds, gathered washing baskets and put the first load of washing on.

Cut out and sewed 3 pirate scarves - 2 for gifts & 1 for Billy. Rang the reseller about the anti-virus, but it was too hard for the weekend staff.. *sigh*

This is my wonderful sewing machine - a hand-me-down from my Mum. I think it's as old as me! Since she got it going properly for me, it hasn't missed a beat. I'm even playing with some of the 'fancy' stitches it does!

10:30 Put the first load of washing out, 2nd load in. Made a kid's apron - in between served Billy jelly for morning tea.

12pm. 2nd load of washing out - rescued the clothes that had blown off the line! Stopped for lunch.

1pm Back into it. 3rd load of clothes out. Made a kid's cape (ie superhero / princess / whatever they want) - it took me over an hour just to make the straps and get them turned in the right way! Next time I'll buy bias binding or something!!

3ish Stopped for a break and read some more of my book. Made Billy a pair of Xmas shorts using the same pattern I used before (it only took me about an hour this time!). Got the clothes off the line. Put chicken in the oven for tea.

5pm. Tidied up my sewing & took some photos of my handiwork! Folded the washing I'd brought in, then made myself a cup of chai tea and sat down to work out the menu plan for the week.

6pm. Finished cooking tea - made Yorkshire Pudding for the first time in ages - MMM! I use the recipe from my Mum's old Commonsense Cookbook, which is in imperial measurements, so I have to also use my grandmother's old measuring jug. I love the way cooking brings the generations together! Ate tea.

7pm. Wrote out & addressed the Xmas cards we want to send. They're ready to post now - one more thing off the list. Started chasing Billy to tidy up and get ready for bed.

8pm. Started putting this post together. Pete is on the phone to his mum, and Billy is waiting his turn on the phone so it will be a late night getting him to bed! Ironed the work clothes while B finished talking and then he & Pete read together. Started planning what I need to do this week. Finally my turn for kiss & cuddles with Billy, and a chapter of Treasure Island.

9pm. Caught up with stuff on the computer, paid some bills, answered emails, read some blogs. Looked for a simple pincushion Billy can make - he wants me to teach him to hand sew tomorrow, so I thought he could make me a pincushion for Xmas :)

9:45pm. I'm about to go and get ready for bed. I hope you've enjoyed this peek at my Sunday!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Scheme 3785 in teaching Billy personal responsibility...

Wait, I don't think he's been alive that many days :) Oh well, it seems like it!

I've had enough of the pig sty that passes as his bedroom.

I've had enough of buying him stuff every time we go out (usually craft stuff that then gets shoved into a cupboard - or onto the floor) - because I'm weak and can't say no.

Because he has so much stuff, he doesn't take care of any of it. While we were away he lost a (cheapish) hand-held video game that my mum gave him - we remember last seeing it when he took it into a cafe for lunch, so presumably the next customer got a good treat! He begged us for another one but we told him he has to buy it himself.

I've tried confiscating - but he has so much that it doesn't seem to affect him; with-holding treats - but he doesn't seem to care etc etc etc but I don't follow through with them so of course they fail.

I always had the belief that he should do things like keep his room tidy just because he's part of the family, without expecting a reward - well, that obviously doesn't work..

So... pocket money begins... with a star chart above his bed to mark off each day. At this stage the only thing I have on there is to keep his room tidy. Once he masters that (ha ha) I'll try adding other things one at a time.

Putting it above his bed will force me to see it every night, so hopefully I'll keep enforcing it.

He'll have his own money so I won't keep feeling obliged to buy him stuff.

$2/week pocket money is probably less than I spend on stuff for him anyway!

Maybe if he buys stuff himself he'll start to learn to take care of it - especially if he's had to save up for it.

It all sounds good in theory - right??! Please tell me it will work!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Our trip - Part 4

After we got the van set up on Graeme's front lawn (a colleague of Pete's) in Melbourne, we jumped in their car and headed down with he and his wife to the Mornington Peninsula. (How's that for a run-on sentence?!)

We stopped at a brewery at Red Hill for lunch - the food was delicious. Apparently the beer was too! By the time we left there, it was too late to visit Fort Nepean which had been our original plan, so we drove around to Cape Schank to look at the lighthouse. We didn't get to tour it, but had a lovely walk around the area.

Just out of the car park, we saw this little fellow - an echidna. He was right next to the path, digging away for ants, and was quite unconcerned about us watching him and taking photos! That's the first time I think I've seen an echidna in the wild, so I was impressed!

This was one of the views around Cape Schank - the rock in the middle is known as Pulpit Rock. Look familiar to anyone from a previous post??! :)

And here's the lighthouse.

We had dinner with Graeme & his family back at their house, and left early the next morning to negotiate our way through Melbourne traffic to Ballarat.

We checked into a van park in Ballarat, then headed out to get some lunch and have a look around. We took it easy that afternoon with a round of mini-golf - there was an 18 hole mini-golf course at the caravan park. That's the first time I've played it and by the 18th hole I was starting to figure out what I was doing lol.

Billy had a play on the playground and the giant jumping pillows. These were so cool - we came across them in a few caravan parks. No idea what they were inflated with, but they inflate them up every morning and deflate them every night. They were massive - at one park there were probably 30 kids jumping at one time!

Ballarat came to prominence in the 1850s when gold was discovered in the area. The city has absolutely beautiful buildings from the wealth of the time. One of the biggest tourist attractions in the area is Sovereign Hill - a recreation of how Ballarat would have been at the height of the gold rush. The employees all wear period costumes and act in character. You can watch demonstrations of things like lolly making, candle making, gold pouring & musket firing. You can go underground in an old mine and see how they used to mine. They teach you to pan for gold and you get to keep what you find (they seed the creek every morning with gold shavings lol).

I went there probably 30 years ago and loved it! I was really looking forward to going again, and luckily it lived up to my expectations. Some of it was a bit more 'disney-fied' than I remember, but that seems to be necessary for the youth of today! We spent the entire day there (about 9 til 4) - the weather was great and it wasn't too crowded.


Soldiers parading down the street

A bit of steam machinery - I think it crushed the excavated rock.

Posing with a soldier with the pit head in the background.

Panning for gold - Billy likes to tell everyone he's rich now :)

Sunday, December 07, 2008

And the invention of the year goes to - the seam ripper!

I'm exhausted! I spent this weekend sewing - and since I'm not much of a sewer it was hard work! Most of the things I made are presents for various nieces & nephews for Xmas - and since I know a couple of my SILs read this blog at times - I'll save unveiling them until after we have our Xmas celebrations. I got 4 presents made, and while I can see the flaws, on the whole I'm pretty happy with them. How "homemade" will be received is another matter though..

While I was in the sewing spirit, I also replaced the too small elastic in a pair of Billy's pj pants, and made him a pair of shorts using Stefani's Bandanna pants tutorial using some cute pirate fabric I picked up at Spotlight. Due to failing to understand a vital part of the instructions in one of the first steps, I made them up, all the time thinking "these just don't look right"... Tried them on him, nope they didn't fit right.. Went back and studied the instructions again, realised what I'd done wrong - and then had to completely dismantle the pants and sew them up again - the *right* way!

In the end they looked pretty good though and I am stoked with myself! That's the first item of clothing I've sewn *all by myself*! B is still wearing them around several hours later, so they can't be too bad!! (Note to self - next time make them a bit longer from top to crotch, these ones sit about the hips)

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Our trip - Part 3

I developed a theory while we were away that the state of the person who booked you in at the van park tended to mirror the state of the park itself. The one we stayed at in Lakes Entrance was a good example of this - the owner was tired, and so was the van park..

Anyway, we left the next morning and headed inland through Sale & Traralgon where we ran into rain! Good heavy rain - great for the farmers, not so good for us lol. We were going to spend a day looking around Wilson's Prom, but with the rain decided to give it a miss and headed straight for Phillip Island. The rain was starting to clear by then so we booked in to watch the Penguin Parade that night.

Phillip Island is home to a colony of Little Penguins (they used to be known as Fairy Penguins) and every night you can go and watch them come home after a hard day's fishing! They are just so cute to watch waddle up the beach. Having been there before and sat with the crowds in the main viewing platforms, we opted to pay a bit extra and go for the Penguins Plus viewing. This meant we watched from a different set of platforms - closer to the penguins (and to the hill so it was warmer lol), limited to a set number of people (150 I think) and with our own ranger in the area to talk to. It was a well worth paying the extra.

I don't have any photos of the penguins as you're not allowed to take any, but here is one from their website:

The following day we had a look around the rest of Phillip Island. We couldn't resist going to the Phillip Island Chocolate Factory where they handmake chocolates - and give out samples - mmmmm! We watched them making some of the chocolates in the viewing room, and then of course, had to buy some to take with us!

Then we headed off to a place called Amaze'n Things - a place of puzzles, mazes and optical illusions. It was quite expensive, but we did spend a couple of hours there.

There was an optical illusions room where the floor was tilted but everything else was perpendicular to the floor, so you had water "flowing up hill", you could "lean right out" without falling and other things. Honestly I couldn't stay in there for long enough to appreciate it - it was really making me feel sick! I retreated to the safety of the other side of the room to take photos :)

They also had optical illusions like this one where it appeared that Billy's head was on a platter, and rooms full of giant games.

Outside was a giant 3D timber maze with 4 different coloured flags. You had to find your way to each flag. Luckily Pete has a great sense of direction, otherwise, I'd still be in there!

After lunch we went out to "The Nobbies" - another nature reserve on Phillip Island - you can walk out on boardwalks to a blowhole. The scenery was gorgeous but it was COLD and windy!!

The walk takes you through a seagull nesting area - the number of gulls was just incredible - as was the noise! I don't think I'd ever seen a baby seagull before - they are so cute and so unlike their parent!

We spent a cold night in the van (next time I visit Victoria a few weeks before summer starts, I'll remember to pack a heater lol) - and headed off for the outskirts of Melbourne the next morning. We'd been invited to park the van in the front yard of a guy Pete knew through work, so we took him up on the offer.

Coming up next - Mornington Peninsula, Ballarat

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

BBQ Pizza

No, not BBQ flavoured pizza - pizza cooked on the BBQ!

It was hot today (about 33 C) and pizza was on the menu plan - I didn't feel like firing up the oven but I DID feel like pizza!

Enter a bit of thinking outside the box, the BBQ and this site.

No photos - as it got scarfed down too quickly - but result: success! Great crispy base. The only problem is there's only room to cook one pizza at a time and it takes 2 to feed our (small) family. It just meant a bit of a delay between courses!

Our trip - Part 2

After leaving Kiama, we stopped in at the Fleet Air Arm Museum at the Navy base HMAS Albatross in Nowra. It's a Naval aviation museum full of old planes, helicopters and other related models and paraphernalia.. To be honest, I found it slightly interesting but not overly riveting - but that's probably just me! The 'boys' seemed to enjoy it - Billy particularly enjoyed the couple of cockpits they had that you could climb in and play with the controls..

We were there for about an hour and then continued to Batemans Bay where we were staying for the night. Other than introducing Billy to the delight of second-hand bookshops (he's now started a Dr Seuss collection), and having fish & chips on the waterfront for tea, we just took it easy for the afternoon.

(For those that know the area, we certainly weren't travelling very far each day but it was enough!)
Day 5 (?) saw us continue south - we stopped in at Bega at the Cheese Factory Heritage Centre. Unfortunately we arrived there at the same time as a busload of school kids and a busload of pensioners - you couldn't get near the tasting area without risking physical harm :) We did manage to buy some vintage cheese and have a quick look at the display of old cheese-making equipment before we gave up!

We stopped at Eden for the night. Eden is an old whaling town, so a visit to the Killer Whale Museum was a must. This was when the trip started to get quite surreal as I visited places that I'd visited as a kid 30+ years ago!

This is a photo of Pete, Billy & "Old Tom" - a full killer whale skeleton. Somewhere my mum has a photo of me & old Tom from when I was about Billy's age!

They had lots of other stuff in the museum as well, including an exhibit about Ned Kelly - Australia's most famous bushranger and to some, folk hero. Even though it wasn't planned, Ned Kelly ended up as a running theme through our holiday.

In the afternoon, Pete & Billy went for a swim in the park pool while I sat in the shade and tried to read my book.

Our next day was a long one compared to what we had been doing. We drove from Eden to Lakes Entrance - the biggest fishing port in Victoria. It was HOT - about 35 deg C (95 F) - and with little escape from the heat, we jumped back in the car, put the air conditioning on, and drove out to visit a nearby winery! Did some grocery shopping on the way home, went for a swim in the pool and waited for it to cool down.

(Photo courtesy of Billy)

More later - off to cook tea.

I really didn't need this..

As if I didn't have enough to do... The webhost I use to host most of my client's websites seems to have vanished into thin air. I only have an email or fax no for them (they're a small 2 man business) - I'm not receiving replies from any emails to them, including ones I sent before we went away. I even sent them one on Sunday asking if they were still in business and received no reply...


That means that I have to assume they're defunct and transfer all of the existing sites across to a new webhost, test them, make sure everything works the way it used to & wrestle with any issues that arise. And I need to do it ASAP - their servers are up and running now, but I'm scared that if they go down there will be no one there to turn them back on.

And if they're not defunct, they soon will be by not answering their support emails!

(And did I mention I have to fit this in around other scheduled work - and of course I don't get paid for it...)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Our trip - Part 1

To give a brief synopsis of our trip - have a look at this map of Australia - find Sydney, then follow the road down the coast until the bottom, go across to Melbourne, up to Ballarat & Bendigo, then cross through Albury to Canberra, then back home (near Newcastle). That was roughly our trip.

We finally left after several hectic days of packing - Pete got home from work early, we threw the last few things in and set off - a whole half an hour away to my Mum & Dad's house in Cessnock! It was my Mum's b'day so we wanted to spend some time with her before we left. We had dinner with them and stayed the night in their yard.

Up early the next morning, and then we left Billy behind while we started on our holiday - on purpose! Pete & I drove down to Sydney, got the van set up in the caravan park and then went to the Opera House to see a Bell Shakespeare performance of "Anatomy Titus Fall of Rome". I'm still not sure if I liked it or not - it was very gory & confronting, but better than I was expecting!

Meanwhile, Mum, Dad & Billy caught the train down to Sydney where we met up with them after the performance. We took Billy, and Mum & Dad caught the train back home. (Thanks again to Mum & Dad!)

We left the van park pretty early the next morning so we could head from Sydney down to Wollongong. The traffic was pretty light fortunately and we made it without incident. We settled in at the van park and then headed off to the Nan Tien Buddhist Temple - it's the largest Buddhist temple in the Southern Hemisphere. It was built not just as a place of worship but also as a place to educate people about the Buddhist faith.

We booked in for the guided tour - $4 each for an excellent tour that lasted about 1.5 hours! We were shown through the 2 temples, the pagoda and the museum, as well as around the outside, and had a lot of the symbolism explained to us. I thought it was one of the highlights of the trip - I really enjoyed it, learnt heaps and was left wanting to learn a lot more.

The next day we drove to Kiama after a fairly late start, booked in to the van park & headed off to Minnamurra Falls. The rainforest walk took about 1.5 hours - it was all on paved tracks or boardwalks but it was quite steep in places! It was really pretty but like most places was suffering due to lack of water.

On the way back, Billy & Pete were slightly ahead and I heard a chattering in the bush alongside the track. I stopped to investigate - and was really excited to see a lyrebird! I didn't get a very good picture of him though as he was hiding (as they do!), but I was still really stoked..

We did go for a look at the blowhole in Kiama - but it was such a nice day, it wasn't blowing! It's very pretty around there anyway.

More later..