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Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Floral Fever

When I first moved to Sydney I got a job in Human Resources for a large global company. My direct manager was an Aussie expatriated to London. One year for my birthday she sent me flowers from Grandiflora in Potts Point. OMG! I had never seen flowers, or an arrangement, like it. Incredible sculptural and unusual flowers. When Arran and I got married I wanted flowers for our wedding from Grandiflora, but they were closed over the Christmas period, (we got married on the 28th December) and they recommended another amazing florist (who unfortunately I can't remember the name of). The flowers made the (very) hot and humid day. They helped create a beautiful space for the wedding and party. 

The following two photos were taken by Andrea Thompson of our wedding flowers. You can read a bit more about Andrea here or view her website here.

For my birthday this year Arran bought me a digital SLR Camera, a Canon 60D and a digital SLR course with Sydney Photographic Workshop, which I completed in October. The course was great and I highly recommend it. I practised some of my new skills on a road trip to Parkes. The next two shots I took in Orange at this lovely old park we stopped at on the way. You can see it was spring when we were there. All the flowers were in full bloom.

The other three shots were taken at home when I was doing some more practise.

So why all the shots of flowers? Mum bought me this amazing book for Christmas, by the florist Saskia Havekes from Grandiflora and it inspired this post. It details some of the large events she has styled flowers for. The book is called "Grandiflora Celebrations". I have just finished reading about each of the events and drooling over the glossy shots, in between looking after Aiden and Charlie and getting ready to go on holidays for a week. It strikes me that Saskia is much more than a florist. She is really an artist and architect who just happens to work with flowers as her preferred medium. Her writing is also "blog-like". It is like she is having a conversation with you about each event and some of the challenges. Very inspiring.


Sunday, 25 December 2011

Christmas Lunch - BBQ at the Beach

This year we stayed in Sydney for Christmas. We usually travel to Brisbane to be with our family but this year, with the arrival of Charlie we decided to stay put. We were invited to friends, Simon and Julie’s for Christmas lunch, an invitation that no sound person would decline. I have written about Simon and Julie’s cooking prowess before. You can read about them in this post.
Simon and Julie had been planning and thinking about Christmas lunch for about 3 months. They often trial meals before they cook them for guests and spend much time sourcing the best ingredients. This year they settled on the theme “BBQ at the Beach”, maybe because we are holidaying together soon at Mollymook. The menu was traditional at heart with twists of an Aussie seafood Christmas. Julie's brother helped out with the cooking and we ended up eating ourselves into a stupor on the delicious fare.
Lunch under construction on a wave-board
Roast pork sandcastle, surrounded by oyster rocks

Turkey breast roasted with prosciutto on a bed of 'sand' cous-cous.
Luscious and tender. 'Seaweed' spinach rounded out the meat platter 
Confit turkey leg and fresh tiger prawns
Black pudding 'rocks' and marine garnishes round out the presentation

My favourite shot.

Friday, 16 December 2011


Back in August I wrote about Caring 4 Aiden and the great work his child-care centre Caring 4 Kids do as well as the amazing support we get from Vision Australia. In addition to Anna from Vision Australia working with “the girls” at Caring 4 Kids to ensure his development stays on track, Anna and another Occupational Therapist, Cathy, run a playgroup for kids Aiden’s age and younger at their premises in Enfield, Sydney. All the kids have a vision impairment with some having Albinism like Aiden.

Vision Australia have this amazing indoor sensory playroom to help encourage children who are blind or visually impaired investigate and be stimulated by their surroundings. It’s very cool. I reckon any kid would like going there. There is a big ball pit, slides, a bridge, a small trampoline, tunnels, small dark rooms with LED lights, things that make noise, bikes, a section of floor with different textures, little tables and chairs for craft or morning tea….Let’s face it, if I was a bit smaller I would there using all this stuff with the kids!

Aiden with Anna checking out a toy
Racing around with a bright trolley!

Vision Australia play group is not just for the kids though. It’s a chance for the parents to chat with each other and with Anna and Cathy and get tips to help their kids.  At the December playgroup I was reminded of how important it is for parents to be able to chat with other parents of children with Albinism, particularly parents whose children are older. When your child is first diagnosed there are a lot of unknowns and seeing how other parents have dealt with different situations and stages of development is comforting.

When your child is small one of the first things are you confronted with is people making comments about them when you are out and about. Often the comments are about their amazing hair colour and sometimes about their eyes, which are moving left to right because people with Albinism have Nystagmus. Dealing with these people can be a problem. For the most part you are still working out stuff for yourself so what do you tell them? Do you give a stranger who you will never see again a detailed spiel on Albinism or tell them to mind their own business and bugger off? I genuinely believe that most people are well meaning, kind and just curious. In these cases I will give a response that ranges from just nodding, or “yes his hair is amazing” to giving a short explanation of his condition. This can lead to further questions and sometimes unhelpful comments; glasses will fix his sight won’t they? They won’t.

I realised recently that working out how to deal with these people was one of my big questions when Aiden was little and had forgotten about that until I was asked how I dealt with it. Full circle. I guess I have just worked out a way to gauge how much to tell people based on the situation eg how the person approached me (in line at the supermarket vs having a coffee in a café) and my patience level for that day and time. I have also got my Albinism spiel down pat so that makes it easier too. If I have the time it’s a good chance to raise awareness of Albinism as most people don’t know much about it.

I think it just takes practice and patience to deal with complete strangers asking questions about your child and I have found that its not such a big issue now that I have gotten good at dealing with them.

So why am I telling you about this? It’s really to raise awareness of Vision Australia and the amazing work they do. They provide a huge range of services for blind and visually impaired people, many at no cost. Bringing parents of visually impaired children together to share their experiences is a very small part of what they do in the community. To continue to do this work they need funding. If you would like to know more about their Christmas appeal there is info here

You may also like to watch Vision Australia’s Carols by Candlelight, on Christmas Eve!
Charlie getting into the Christmas spirit at Vision Australia

Mirror, mirror on the wall

So there has been a "flurry" of activity in the house over the past couple of weeks. Well flurry is probably a stretch but I wanted to somehow work the word “flurry” in! I finally got around to doing some more things I have been wanting to do for ages. Arran was house-bound due to getting sick towards the end of last week and the appalling Sydney weather, so we got to work!

We purchased a mirror for our lounge room about 12 months ago, on a trip down the South Coast of NSW, and we have just managed to hang it. Yes we are slack. 

We often drive through a pretty little place called Milton and for some reason we actually stopped and had a look in some of the shops. We had been thinking that a mirror would work over the fireplace beside our Datner Dining table. I had in mind a large traditional mirror that would fit with the Victorian features of the room, but Arran fell in love with this one in a home-wares and furniture store in one of Milton's side streets. And I must admit it looks pretty cool. It does seem to work with the more contemporary furniture we like and is a great contrast to the navy blue walls.

Love the reflection of the ceiling rose and chandelier
It took a long time to hang because, firstly it took a number of months to have it delivered. The owners of the store, by coincidence, live in Glebe and offered to deliver it. Unfortunately they kept forgetting! Secondly, once we had it in the house, it took ages for us to buy strong enough picture hanging hooks that could take the 30kg or so, and that would hold in the old soft brickwork. I think we were also a little chicken to take on hanging such a heavy piece. Anyway, we purchased some hooks a month ago and put the mirror up on Sunday. Yah!

We hung a second mirror on Sunday. Our current house in Bridge Rd has a funny little downstairs toilet. I think the previous owners converted the pantry into a toilet so you didn’t have to climb lots of stairs, which is very handy.  Its off the kitchen and I have always thought that it needed a mirror over the basin. I saw a round one in last week’s Target catalogue on special for $59 and I thought it would be perfect . It was purchased on Thursday and hung on Sunday.
Nice, hey?
As we had the drill, drill bits, measuring tape and picture hooks out, this artwork finally found pride of place in our kitchen, hanging above the wine fridges the previous owners kindly left for us. They look great.

I had a visitor here from Milwaukee on Wednesday night for dinner who threatened to steal it and wanted to know what it was. It’s a cool story. Each piece is a ‘die’ from an old shipbuilding workshop that existed in the backyard of a Balmain house. They were used to make parts for ships and boats. A collegue I completed my Masters with purchased the house while we were studying and was cleaning out the large workshop/small factory. I was looking for original artwork for our Glebe St house and she offered that I could take anything I wanted.  I like these because they are unique and abstract and represent the working history of the area, much of which has been turned into very expensive housing. I like the contrast between the industrial and dirty and the clean creamy modern walls. The top piece has the name of the shipbuilder in the metal. H G Wise. 

What else? I have been changing my mind every week (Arran would say every day) on what to do with a large expanse of wall that runs from our kitchen to the back door. We currently have a bright orange Delta King Furniture lounge up against it and I have been oscilating between putting wallpaper up or paint. I know I want to hang bright artwork and photos on this wall and want an interesting backdrop. The latest issue of Belle Australia Magazine (Dec 11/Jan 12) features an amazingly colourful Miami holiday house. I absolutely love it! One of the walls featured in the photographs is a purplely-blue which is a great contrast to orange, turquoise, green and yellow design elements of the room. Check it out!

I'm thinking of using this photo as an inspiration for my room. I have tried to match the colour on this wall with Dulux colours but can’t quite find the right one. 

Have also tried Porters Paints. I think the one on the left is quite close and I’m loving the turquoise. What do you think?

And finally Christmas has struck. Our Christmas tree is up and looks pretty nice and I even have a wreath on the front door. Its nice that it hasn't been stolen. Yet. We even have some solar powered twinkle lights in a tree in the back yard.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Spring in Glebe

Have I mentioned before how I love to walk around Glebe? While there are obvious fitness benefits to walking, I like the mind benefits as well. I find walking to be meditative and mind clearing. When I’m working it’s a great way to wind down, get the day’s worries out and calm the chattering mind, before going to sleep. While I have been on leave its great to have an hour to myself without the small boys, out in the fresh air. I never wear earphones and listen to music as I want to give my mind a break. Its also not a good idea for personal safety. I like being aware of what’s happening around me.

Throughout winter this year I walked a lot at night when it was very dark and very cold. It seemed like this year’s winter in Sydney was the coldest in the 10 years I have lived here. I bought a parka for camping and got more use out of it for walking. Most nights it was so cold that even though I got warm enough to unzip it, it was never warm enough to actually take it off!

Since day-light-saving started, walking around Glebe has become much more pleasant. To start with most walks at least commence during daylight, which seems better for the soul somehow. Also as the weather is improving the flora around Glebe is looking amazing and the homes are becoming less secret.

This year I have really noticed the Jacaranda trees and the Hydrangeas. Jacaranda trees are heavily dotted around Glebe. Their purple ‘show’ each year are a great contrast to the green foliage of the old established trees throughout the suburb. They are just about finished now but I managed to get this photo on an evening walk recently.

The Hydrangeas have been amazing this year. They might be an old-fashioned ‘nanna’ kind of flower but I like them, even if Madonna doesn’t! They seem to be making a comeback both as a shrub for the garden and as a vase filler for your home. I went to a lovely high tea baby shower yesterday and there were pale green and creamy white bunches of hydrangeas arranged in dusty green vases. They were a perfect complement to the pastel macaroons and crazy teacups that were carefully arranged on the tables.

There are big well-established Hydrangea bushes in many of Glebe’s gardens. I have been admiring the massive pink, blue, purple and white flowers on my walks over the past weeks. I’m not big on wanting flowers in my small garden and will be pulling out the straggly lavender bushes and cottagey roses out of the garden I can view from the kitchen. But I do love admiring the flowers on my walks. 

The other thing that’s nice about walking in Glebe at this time of year is that people start to open up their homes. As the weather becomes warmer, curtains are pulled back and doors and windows are opened. As I walk around the quiet streets in the early evening I am able to get a peak into hallways, lounge rooms and get a sense of how Glebe residents live in their old homes. People start to sit out on their tiny but very pretty balconies and verandahs. There is only room for a couple of people but perfect for contemplating at the end of the day with a cool drink as the sun goes down.