Monday, 15 September 2014

Five very random things we will miss about Australia...

1. Cheesy music in the supermarket

I love food shopping to music. It makes me feel good. Last week Coles played The Spice Girls, Dirty Dancing and Craig David all in the space of one food shop. They know their audience, and I spent a fortune!

(Incidentally I think Australia might be the only country still regularly playing Craig David songs in public venues... please let me know if not).

2. Healthcare freedom

Here we can visit any GP, anytime. Pick whoever you like, no geographical boundaries, get an appointment same day, even shop around for multiple opinions. It's amazing..

... on the flip side however, I still cannot comprehend a health insurance system that only covers inpatient care. Why oh why can I not get private health insurance that also covers me for outpatient appointments? Somebody please tell me!

3. Traffic lights without the amber

In Australia, traffic lights do not show amber before green... Only before red.. And Tom LOVES it! (Yup, weird.)

4. Squeesy tomato sauce

Does this UK have this invention yet? Perfect for applying ketchup to your meat pie with the ultimate precision, the squeesey tomato sauce packets are a feat to behold..

5. Total ignorance of any type of watershed

The threshold of 'inappropriate' is WAY higher in Australia than in the UK. A number of words that would be 'bleeped' on British television are thrown around casually on Australian family TV shows, and it's not uncommon to listen to a radio phone in about sex, broadcast on a major station during the school run!

Friday, 12 September 2014

Highlights from Down Under...

In the first of a multi-part blog series to mark our departure from Australia, I've decided to look back at some of the highlights of our time here 'Down Under'.

This is going to be a bit like one of those TV shows that just takes existing footage and re-plays it with new commentary over the top... yup, nothing 'new' here folks but hopefully some fun trips down memory lane...

Most ill-fated trip: Uluru

This blog entry makes me laugh. We had quite possibly every problem that could have occurred on this trip - illness, lost luggage, cancelled flights, diverted flights, delayed flights.. sensing a theme? We had a great time though! I must have written the blog entry in a fit of rage and it still makes me laugh until this day.. it's worth a read, not just for the gorgeous photos of the most impressive and imposing rock I've ever seen...

Read it now: The Uluru Saga

Besties-for life: Richard & Tamara

Our fab Canadian friends Richard and Tamara moved to Melbourne in the same month as us. We spent an awesome 18 months having tonnes of fun and good times until they sadly 'dumped' us during a trip to Adelaide and moved back to Canada! Our parallel lives have been the source of much entertainment.. we got engaged just months apart, married in the same year, and both 'Ramara' and 'TomKat' welcomed a first born with the initials SM in 2013. What's next guys?! We miss you SO much... I'm glad I documented some of these fun times that we had together:... (none of which are linked but they are there somewhere!)

If you're feeling at bit miffed at not getting a mention.. sit tight.. there are a number of individuals who have made a huge impact on our lives, and I will be expanding upon you guys in a future post...

Visitors from Afar: Rosie wins the prize

We've been blessed with so many visitors from afar, to share in our fun times and great view. The Woods have visited not just once, but twice and Tom's parents, Sue & Peter, have been three times! We've welcomed EmmaKatie & Chris & SimonTush & Andy (honeymooning no less!), Telfy & Ant, Rich (fleeting return, but long enough to meet the real Peter Alexander!).. and possibly more people who we might have forgotten?

I asked Tom to name his most memorable visitor moment.. and Rosie Wood you have won the accolade! We award you the prize for your absolutely outstanding bravery amongst 'eagles' (known to me and you and cockatoos).. here is the video evidence:

Most-unwelcome visitors: Eight-legged friends

(there is no picture to accompany this 'highlight', because the images are already etched on my brain forever)

I'm not much of a spider-lover. I have insisted that we live on the seventh floor to minimise the risk of disruption to my daily life (this has succeeded with one week to go), but could not control the 'company' that we would find when travelling around Australia.

There are three horrific arachnid moments that stand out in my mind. All were met with the type of 'solution' that would probably win £250 on You've Been Framed...

- Just weeks into our move, we were holidaying at a B&B in the middle of a dense forest (why did I not see this coming) with Tom's parents and a GIANT HUNTSMAN. After the B&B owner attempted to catch it with his hands and dropped it several times in and around our luggage, Tom and his Dad spent a good half hour performing a thorough check of both our rooms! More here...

- I arrived at a rental cottage in Daylesford for a girly weekend with some work friends, to discover half our group in a flap at yet another giant huntsman on the wall! After decided we couldn't hoover the beast up, two brave souls gassed him with spider-spray. Ugh... if you want photos see: Daylesford Spider

- Finally, I picked up a rather nasty species-unknown-but-huge spider on my wing mirror one day at work. After noticing it on the freeway I was pretty proud of myself for not crashing in horror. I refused to park in our garage for fear of polluting it with arachnids and so made tom come out into the road with a long handled broom to brush the offender away! I can't bring myself to link to the photo, it's too yucky.. but it's on the blog somewhere!

Favourite holiday state: Queensland

We have enjoyed travelling all over Australia, but our favourite state has to be Queensland. It most closely represents stereotypical Australia to us, with gorgeous beaches, tropical weather, koala cuddles and tropical reefs. We've been to the amazing Whitsunday Islands twice, visited the tropical North, toured the best of Brisbane and surrounds with Merryl, and spent a day unsuccessfully looking for whales with the Sea World crew. We've also worn the obligatory stinger-suits on more than one occassion, in an attempt to convince ourselves that snorkelling is a fun activity (it's not).

Best sporting moment: Tom's career change

Melbourne is a great place to be for sports. During our stay here we've been to four Australian Opens, four Formula One Grand Prixs (pural spelling?!), three AFL Grand Finals, two Ashes tests, multiple horse races, a million AFL games.. and just one soccer game (A-league is not that great!).

Perhaps the best sporting moment has to be Tom's career change to the world of sports marketing - a bold move that has proved life-changing for Tom and our family. Such has been his passion and dedication to the Western Bulldogs over the past three years, that his departure warranted 'Lister Week'.. a full week of celebrations, gifts and heartfelt words of appreciation. He received not one but two rather hilarious video presentations, a ginormous signed print (complete with engraved plaque), and some gifts-of-words that brought us to tears. Ever modest, he wouldn't admit to any of this, but I write safe in the knowledge that he won't read this to get embarrassed!

Milestones for our family

We got engaged in Margaret River in May 2010, had an Aussie wedding party by the beach in Port Melbourne in February 2012, and welcomed our best-Australian souvenir Sienna in October 2013. I have lots more to say on these topics but this is a strictly non-emotional post so will save those words for next time!

Okay.. that was epic and took AGES! I thought this was a quick summary re-hash post? I hope you've enjoyed this trip down memory lane. Nowust go and pack.... 

Saturday, 6 September 2014

A Day with the Daffodils

Today was our last trip to the Mornington Peninsula, a place which has given us many happy memories during our time in Australia. Our good friends Shelley, James & baby Hugo invited us to lunch at the family smallholding. Not only was a delicious lasagne on offer, but the daffodils were in bloom. Marvellous. Where is my camera?!

As if the daffs didn't provide enough photographic inspriation, Granny Pam had knitted matching jumpers for Sienna and Hugo.The outtakes are cute as cute as the 'successful' photos!!!

Shelley and James, thank you for such a happy, happy day. The sun shone and a great time was had by all. Good photos, great food, even better memories...

Monday, 18 August 2014

We're moving!

After five fantastic years in Melbourne, we've made the difficult decision to pack our bags and head home to the UK. Both incredibly exciting and terribly sad, it is a bittersweet decision which leaves a wrench in our guts but also fills our hearts with happiness.

We can't wait to see our family and friends back home without the cloud of an upcoming 'goodbye'... we are returning to our old house, will be close to great friends, and equidistant between our families.

I'm literally overflowing with words about our experiences here in Australia and the friends we've made. Be warned there will be a blog post of epic proportions before we leave.

We now have five weeks to pack up our life.. wish us (well, me probably!) good luck..

Friday, 15 August 2014

I hate my hat!

This little lady does not like to have anything on her head! So... my attempt at a photoshoot with her hot pink sun hat was always doomed to failure!

(Thanks Granny Pam for the hat, I'm sure she will tolerate more one day...)

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Sienna is nine months old...

Hello again, thanks for coming back to read :-)

Sienna has now been 'out' longer than she was 'in'! Today marks her nine month anniversary and it was a beautiful winter's day. I could not resist but take her to the park for some late afternoon photos. The locals seemed rather amused as I rolled around in the grass juggling a rather large camera with a koala puppet to attract her attention...

Here are some facts about Sienna at nine months (again more for my records than your interest, but feel free to read)...

- Sienna can shuffle backwards on her tummy at quite a speed and covering a fair distance. She often gets her legs wedged under a piece of furniture!
- She is now very confident at sitting and rarely topples over
- She has (finally!) started sleeping through the night and has done it six times so far.. (when you've waited nine months for this moment, it is not usual to count the number of times the miracle has occurred)
- She has no teeth!
- She loves to eat squares of buttered toast (don't we all)

... and here are some photos...

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Sienna Travels : Part 4 - Family, Friends & Pizza

It's taken a while to write this final entry due to the sheer volume of images that needed editing first! But, with Tom working tonight and Sienna asleep, I'm finally going to complete the series. It's taken nearly a whole packet of KitKat bites (try them!) to complete the editing, but hey-ho, never mind.... Tom would say that's unhealthy but I can guarantee he will not have read this far to find out....!

Like all good stories, in this final instalment of our 2014 UK blog series, we've ended up back where we started - in Poole. The end is by no means close however, as we have an astonishing number of people still to meet!

In chronological order....

Our first guests were Rod and Christine (my Uncle and Auntie), plus my cousin Emma, her husband Marc, and their kids Jake and Daisy. Jake is my godson and we skype with Jake and Daisy from Australia, so they had met Sienna via the computer, if not yet in person. It turns out nine-year-old Jake is a natural with babies, and the oh-so-kind Daisy gave Sienna a cuddly toy elephant which I had given to Daisy when she was a baby. Said elephant has since become a *huge* hit with Sienna, so thank you Daisy :)

 Also visiting on the same day were Uncle Toby and Auntie Melissa!

In between visitors Sienna enjoyed hanging out (read: taking over) Granny Pam's daybed, and soon also commandeered her iPad and magazine! Grandad, meanwhile, continued educating Sienna in the rules of 'Peepo!'

We also had lots of family friends visit whilst we were in Poole. Pam and Bob are long-time friends of the family and Pam has knitted some marvellous creations for Sienna (so has my mum, it must be something about the name Pam and being great knitters!).  In fact, a hat that Pam knitted for Sienna as a newborn is still worn everyday at eight months old!!

We hosted an 'open' house one day, and along to visit were Margaret (my Godmother) and Gordon, Roland and Pauline (family friends), and Gully & Mr B (my ballet teacher of many years). It was lovely to have a house full of guests and Sienna enjoyed all the attention.. prior to our visit to the UK she had been a very timid baby, but she was very obliging in giving cuddles to all who requested!

The next person to meet was Mum's longtime friend Marion! It was a HOOT.. no more explanation required!

One essential stop-off every time we visit the UK is Pizza Express! Tom and I splurged on two pizzas AND two side salads, because, you know, we only go to Pizza Express once a year or less! It was divine and I cannot wait for the next time....

Sienna also paid a 'get well' visit to Aubrey and Valerie:

The final people for Sienna to meet, numbers 62 & 63 on the list but by no means the least important, were Di & Si! We had a fun time catching up with the Tammam family, and neighbour Val popped in for a cuddle too! [I know that sounds random, but it actually isn't - Val's daughter Amy lives in Melbourne and is a friend of ours, so Sienna and Val had already met during a recent trip. Are you following all of this? There will be a quiz at the end.]

On our final night we had a Hague family get together, which included a joint birthday dinner for Dad/Grandad (who turned 70 this year), Toby (age undisclosed!), and Tom (age undisclosed, but close to mine!). Mum made her legendary rice-krispie cake, and the three men did a great job of looking incredibly awkward as I made them pose for a photograph....

We also took an updated family photo:

On our final day it was all about packing and trying not to dwell on the upcoming goodbyes. We took some gorgeous photos with Uncle Mat, who lives in Bulgaria, and so has aptly been named Uncle Bulgaria (after the character from The Wombles). Mum thought it would be cute to get an Uncle Bulgaria toy. So did Mat. So now we have three Uncle Bulgaria's - two stuffed and one real! Obviously the real one is the best :)

We also took some really sweet photos with Granny Pam and Grandad and I really hope you've all stuck with me and are still reading because these photos just MELT MY HEART! I cannot believe that I have taken this sweet thing away from her grandparents and brought her back to Melbourne because these photos just symbolise a very happy time and will be cherished for ever. Moments like this make the distance, the expense, and the upheaval of travelling 10,000 miles all worth it.... we will be back!!!

Congratulations if you've read this far! You win 100 points! Points can be redeemed for cuddles with Sienna at your next opportunity :-D