Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Catch Up
I have not had much of a chance to blog about what I have seen or read recently. All my spare time has been taken up in the garden, weeding and putting down thick layers of mulch. Plus, the whole family caught some horrid viral thing which meant lots of vomit and other stuff. Thankfully we are all over that now.
While in Avoca I read "A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian". One of the reviews on the cover of the novel says that is is extremely funny. I did not find this to be so, but rather it was rather tragic and sad. I did however learn a little bit of history about the plight of Ukrainians during WW2, and the role of the tractor in shaping society. I also liked the way the sisters banded together, and at the conclusion had reached a better understanding of each other.
For years, Nadezhda and Vera, two Ukrainian sisters, raised in England by their refugee parents, have had as little as possible to do with each other - and they have their reasons. But now they find they'd better learn how to get along, because since their mother's death their ageing father has been sliding into his second childhood, and an alarming new woman has just entered his life.
Valentina, a bosomy young synthetic blonde from the Ukraine, seems to think their father is much richer than he is, and she is keen that he leave this world with as little money to his name as possible. If Nadazhda and Vera don't stop her, no one will. But separating their addled and annoyingly lecherous dad from his new love will prove to be no easy feat - Valentina is a ruthless pro and the two sisters swiftly realize that they are mere amateurs when it comes to ruthlessness.
As Hurricane Valentina turns the family house upside down, old secrets come falling out, including the most deeply buried one of them all, from the War, the one that explains much about why Nadazhda and Vera are so different. In the meantime, oblivious to it all, their father carries on with the great work of his dotage, a grand history of the tractor. (Penguin Books Synopsis)

I also read the "Life of Pi" last week. A story I have been meaning to read for a couple of years. It was very interesting, and I enjoyed it with greater enthusiasm, the further I became immersed in it. Once again, I had a preconceived idea of the story, from a review in the cover, that used the word 'fable' to describe it. In my mind this gives a story a gentle feel, but the "Life of Pi' was anything but.
Pi Patel is an unusual boy. The son of a zookeeper, he has an encyclopedic knowledge of animal behavior, a fervent love of stories, and practices not only his native Hinduism, but also Christianity and Islam. When Pi is sixteen, his family emigrates from India to North America aboard a Japanese cargo ship, along with their zoo animals bound for new homes.The ship sinks. Pi finds himself alone in a lifeboat, his only companions a hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra, and Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal tiger. Soon the tiger has dispatched all but Pi, whose fear, knowledge, and cunning allow him to coexist with Richard Parker for 227 days lost at sea. When they finally reach the coast of Mexico, Richard Parker flees to the jungle, never to be seen again. The Japanese authorities who interrogate Pi refuse to believe his story and press him to tell them "the truth." After hours of coercion, Pi tells a second story, a story much less fantastical, much more conventional-but is it more true?Life of Pi is at once a realistic, rousing adventure and a meta-tale of survival that explores the redemptive power of storytelling and the transformative nature of fiction. It's a story, as one character puts it, to make you believe in God. (Reading Group Guides)
I have also been to see "Death at a Funeral". A very silly and funny movie. Good for a laugh. The cast is a string of familiar British actors, and all the possible funeral gags are there.

And Philly and Zac came over for a visit on Friday. I had not seen Zac for a number of weeks. He now loves studying patterns on t-shirts (as he is doing below), and has a beautiful open mouthed smile. I think he possibly looks like Brad here.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Happy Birthday Deb
On the weekend we celebrated Debbie's 28th birthday with a picnic in
Centennial Park. I have to say, after all my years of living in Sydney, I have never been in to Centennial Park before. Here is a little blurb from their website:
Centennial Park was dedicated by Sir Henry Parkes as a public open space in 1888 and was the venue for the inauguration of Federation in 1901. Centennial Parklands occupies a special place in the heart of the Australian nation as it includes a monument to the birth of the nation, the Federation Pavilion. Covering more than 360 hectares, the Parklands is one of the world’s finest and most used urban open spaces. It is situated less than five kilometres from Sydney’s central business district and just a few minutes from the city’s popular eastern beaches.
While we were there the kids found an amazing tree they made into a cubby house, and spent hours transporting food over to it, and climbing in its branches.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Right or Left Brain
This is fascinating. I could only see the dancer twirl clockwise. What can you see?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Australian Images

I am teaching my students to resize an image, then copy and paste it into another document to create a patchwork design. Our overall theme is 'Australian Identity', so we are using iconic Australian images. This is an example I created this evening - I get quite excited about doing this sort of stuff!
There is nothing better than sitting outside, having a lazy lunch with friends.
Brent's parents, Maureen and Allen, were flying back to New Zealand today, so our get together was for them.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

OnceWhile I was in Avoca I took myself off the the little cinema there to see a movie. I knew that I probably would not get a chance to see it whilst at home, as it is not showing in mainstream (is that the correct word?) cinemas.
I really enjoyed "Once". It was gentle and gritty, lovely and sad, and the music was great. The lead characters are played by Glen Hansard (from the Frames) and Marketa Irglova.
An (unnamed) Guy is a Dublin guitarist/singer-songwriter who makes a living by fixing vacuum cleaners in his Dad's Hoover repair shop by day, and singing and playing for money on the Dublin streets by night. An (unnamed) Girl is a Czech who plays piano when she gets a chance, and does odd jobs by day and takes care of her mom and her daughter by night. Guy meets Girl, and they get to know each other as the Girl helps the Guy to put together a demo disc that he can take to London in hope of landing a music contract. During the same several day period, the Guy and the Girl work through their past loves, and reveal their budding love for one another, through their songs.
There is a great review of the film here.
We have just spent the last 4 days of the school holidays in Avoca with Andrew's parents. They rented a house for a week and invited any members of the family, who wanted to join them, to come and stay. It was wonderful. Despite the fact the water was icy, I went in swimming and it was so refreshing. I love the ocean.
Lunch on the deck of the house. A fabulous view down to the beach.While we were there we caught up with an old friend, Jo, and met her kids for the first time. I don't think we have seen her for 12 years, and it was great to catch up and talk about funny memories, and people we have in common.
Lou and Chris, and the boys, dropped by on their way home from Fingal Bay, and we had lunch with them.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Bogong Moths
Sydney is in the middle of a bogong moth plague at the moment. Apparently they are migrating and are attracted by the lights of the city (and its suburbs!). Everytime the washing comes in there are moths caught up in the clothes; and they seem to like to hide in the crevices of the the car doors, so when the doors are opened they flutter into the interior causing mild panic (for children) and great annoyance (for adults).

There is some information about the moths here, including a recipe if you feel inspired to reduce the population by eating some.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Rugby World Cup
There was great sadness in our house today. Australia was defeated by England in the semi-finals. Andrew however did state that the only sweetener was the fact that the All Blacks lost too.
Bawley Point
On Friday we headed down south to Bawley Point, stopping off at Corrimal to denude some of my parent's garden of agapanthus (thanks Mum & Dad). We arrived to see the smiling faces of Jane from her glassed in living room, and Cath standing on the road's edge waving.
Oliver discovering some local wildlife.
After some hellos, a bit of settling in, and a quick trip to the shops for nibbles and a bottle (it was nearly 'wine o'clock'!), it was down to the beach for a dip in the ocean.
Beach hair! And our reason for visiting Bawley? Jane and Darcy were turning 40, and it was time to celebrate. They had a BBQ lunch at a local winery on Saturday, and it was gorgeous. Unfortunately my camera's battery lost all power and I was unable to capture any of the event. I did take lots of photos using Jane and Darcy's camera ( was a magnificant Canon EOS digital SLR) , and hope to get some copies from them.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

I took the kids to the movies today and saw 'Hairspray'. The girls had been looking forward to it for awhile. Especially to see John Travolta dressed as a woman (they recently saw 'Grease' and were amazed it was the same man), and Zac from 'Highschool Musical' fame.
Taking Oliver to the movies can be a mixed experience. Today not so great. He complained that there were too many adverts before the film. True.
He announced any changes in lighting in the theatre at the top of his voice. I'm sure not so endearing to other patrons.
He drank two bottles of juice in the first half an hour (after being told not to) and therefore had to be taken to the toilets...AGAIN.
He shuffled around his seat and regularly kicked the chairs in front of him. Once again, not so endearing.
He asked to go home more than once during the film.
As a result, I think I enjoyed the movie...what I saw of it when I wasn't hissing at the boy.

I did like the character Penny Pingleton, and her mother.
FriendsA friend from university days, Sue, and her husband Andrew and daughter Phoebe stayed with us last night. It was so lovely to see them. They had an early start this morning in Sydney and I farewelled them at 5.50am this morning.
Madeleine returned yesterday from her time away in Orange with a school friend. The cake in the foreground is one that Oliver and Lauren made as a welcome home for her. Oliver especially missed Maddy while she was away, and was often teary about it. It is surprising how children react to change at times. Although Lauren missed her, she was pleased for a chance to be the oldest and 'in charge'. I was touched at the emotion Madeleine showed on her return - the hugs and kisses, and the expression of missing me. That makes motherhood all worth it.

Monday, October 01, 2007

A Lovely Treat
Andrew organised a night away to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary. We stayed in the Shangri-la hotel in the city. Our room overlooked the Opera House and the harbour. It was pure indulgence and luxury.

The last time we stayed in a swish hotel was our 10th anniversary. I was pregnant with Oliver (who arrived 2 weeks later), and I unfortunately threw up everything I ate.
Below is one of the walls of the cafe where I successfully ate breakfast this morning.

I have taken some photos from the Shangri-la website, and the others were taken using my phone. The lounge area picture below is on the 30th floor, and was where we enjoyed drinks and canapes last night.