Thursday, December 23, 2010

The nativity like you've never seen it before

With just two sleeps left before Christmas is upon us for another year, I'd like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. Take a look at this digital version of the Christmas story. It's brilliant. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A night with Bon Jovi

Most of us could easily name at least one Bon Jovi song. He’s an artist whose career has successfully spanned a number of decades, hair styles and fashion trends. And after seeing his second Sydney concert, there is no doubt he knows how to entertain.

While I’m not a huge Bon Jovi fan I do own at least one of his CDs and definitely enjoy his music. So when the band announced their Circle tour in 2009, I fired off an SMS to my hubby suggesting we go. And so last night we did. We joined about 36,000 other fans at the Sydney Football Stadium for one of Bon Jovi’s last Australian shows.

I was definitely impressed. We both had a great night. At almost 50, Jon Bon Jovi still looks and sounds fantastic. And the same goes for his band. They performed for more than two and a half hours with barely a break. He didn’t talk to the crowd a lot – instead he told us he was going to stop talking and start squawking.

The crowd was a reflection of just how diverse Bon Jovi’s fan base is. We were surrounded by people of all backgrounds, young and old. Women of all ages were everywhere (as evidenced by the length of the queue for the ladies).

While lining up for a snack, I struck up a conversation with a teenage girl. She was at the concert with her middle aged mum. With a Bon Jovi bedspread, pillow, posters and t-shirts her mum had been waiting 20 years for the chance to see her pop idol in concert. She informed me her mum had packed an extra bra, just in case the opportunity to throw one at Bon Jovi eventuated. I felt seriously out of my depth.

I have always enjoyed his music, his hit It’s My Life, released in 2000, is one of my favourite Bon Jovi songs. And I do know the words to Livin’ on a Prayer. But I’ve never adorned my bed in his image or paid hundreds of dollars for a concert ticket. But in saying that I don’t think I was alone in last night’s crowd. There were certainly quite a few die-hard fans.

But there were also fans of music in general who were out for a great show and night out. I think it’s safe to say my hubby and I fall into the second category. And for us Bon Jovi certainly delivered.

Enjoy a clip from last night’s show. Apologies for the shaky footage – I was too busy bopping along to the music.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A little bit of Christmas spirit

Yep, it's that time of year again. The calendar has flicked over from November to December and Christmas Day is 19 sleeps away (according to the cute little app on my iPhone).

I'm a big fan of Christmas. I admit to groaning when I see the Christmas stock in October, but once December has arrived I get into the spirit of family, cards, decorations and the fun of the season.

Right now I'm writing my Christmas cards and thinking of those dear to me - my family and friends. Some may be wondering why I send Christmas cards in these modern times of emails, facebook and twitter. But to me, receiving a Christmas card in the mail is a wonderful feeling. I love receiving Christmas mail. Beats the usual mail box contents of bills and flyers. Someone special has gone to the effort to purchase a card, write on it, pop it in an envelope, lick the envelope, pop a stamp on it and place it in a post box. There's a whole lot of love and commitment in those steps.

I'm more than halfway through writing my Christmas cards and so I hope my family and friends get as much joy out of receiving my cards as I do in sending them.

Am I alone in continuing the tradition of sending Christmas cards in the mail? Let me know.

Monday, November 15, 2010

What happens when you combine a dog and an egg?

As per past posts I have been enjoying my new SLR camera and trying to be creative and inspired by the people, objects and nature around me.

When I heard about the Canon Weekend Today competition I jumped at the chance to unleash the creative within. The brief: the photo must feature an egg. How could I creatively photograph an egg? Hmmm.

The idea - to give a raw egg to our dog Max and see what happens next.

The result: a pic of our little dog Max enjoying the eggcitement of a new toy (pardon the pun).

The result is not based on a public vote. Instead it's up to the experts. With almost 200 entries to date, there are a lot of creative photographers finding inspiration from a humble egg. It's worth checking them out. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

This week I'm thankful for...every little moment

It's been one of those weeks when you gain a little perspective and realise the things that matter most. 

For me, it was the death of a close family friend. It makes you stop and consider what is truly valuable in life. It's not an expensive home, a fancy car or a designer handbag, but it's the people in our lives. The ones we love and care for. They are what make our lives special and worth living. 

I'm guilty of getting caught up in the grind of daily life. I also know I'm guilty of getting wound up and stressed out about the little things. For me, the loss of someone I know and care about has been a reminder of the importance of letting go. Of not sweating the small things and recognising the importance of those little moments that make up our lives and give us our precious memories. 

I have a simple mantra pinned up in our home, life is a balance of holding on and letting go. 

I need to remind myself of this and not sweat the small stuff. Instead take the time to appreciate and value the people and little moments that really matter. To recognise what is worth holding onto and what we should let go of.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The right to choose but at what cost?

I've had an issue floating around in my head for a few weeks now. It's a current issue but one that has become more personal in recent weeks. It's a topic most of us would have an opinion on and one that stirs up fierce debate - the highly emotional issue of euthanasia.

I lost my two beautiful grandmothers to the insidious disease that is cancer - that awful c word. I don't for a moment think I'm the only one to have lost a loved one to cancer and sadly I know I won't be the last. My grandmothers faced cancer for many years and both lost the fight aged in their 40s, far too young. They left behind children, husbands, siblings and changed the course of their family's lives forever. I have always felt a void or actually two voids in my life because I've never had the privilege of knowing my grandmothers.

A close family friend is currently in the final stages of cancer. He has resisted it for as long as possible but is now in hospital as the end nears. For my parents and my father especially, these last moments of life and hours and days spent in hospital rooms bring back many memories. Of watching loved ones battle this same insidious disease. There is no cure, no hope for a better future. The person you love is dying and you are forced to stand by and watch helplessly.

I visited and said my goodbyes a few months ago. We all knew it was a final goodbye. I dreaded the visit because I was frightened I would be overcome by the enormity and finality of it all and end up a tearful mess. To visit each and every day as my dad has been doing takes a lot of courage. I know my dad doesn't want to say goodbye but wants the pain and indignity of it all to end. In his view his mate deserves more than a hospital bed and endless pain killers.

I believe in a person’s right to dignity. I was brought up to treat people with respect and I would hopefully be treated with respect in return. Unfortunately many terminal diseases including cancer wear their sufferers down and leave them with little dignity and a fraction of the quality of life they once enjoyed. I also strongly believe in a person’s right to choose.

So what is the place of euthanasia in our society? I support euthanasia in principle and the right to dignity in your final moments. The right to choose you don't want to exist in this way and ultimately to choose your own ending. However I'm not sure how as a society we can make euthanasia a realistic option.

What about those with a terminal illness who are worth more to their family dead than alive? As much as we don’t want to think about it, those situations do exist. Or the medical system crying out for much needed beds? Euthanasia has to be about what the individual wants and requests, with no pressure or influence from family or medical staff. But how can we as a society know that every person who wants to take the euthanasia path is doing so completely for their own reasons. This is my stumbling block and the reason I'm not totally convinced euthanasia can realistically work in our society.

It may seem like I'm sitting on the fence on this issue. But I do believe in the right to choose euthanasia. I just need to satisfy both my head and my heart that it will always be about protecting the individual and respecting their dignity and their right to choose. Not for any other reason.

If you have a view I would love to hear it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

This week I'm thankful for...toeless stockings

Yep that's right. This week I'm thankful for toeless stockings. And here's why.

I popped into Myer earlier this week for a couple of pairs of stockings. I came across toeless stockings that promised to look like a tan. At $15 a pair I was a bit hesitant but thought they might be worth a try.

And they were. They were fabulous. After I managed to squeeze my toes into the little holes.

No streaks from tanning moisturizer. No stripping down to my underwear for a spray tan. Instant tan = thankful.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The perfect ingredients for an afternoon tea

Friends bring joy and laughter to our lives and what better way to spend an afternoon than with friends, laughter, good conversation and yummy food.

And that’s how I spent yesterday afternoon - a ladies afternoon tea. I invited a group of beautiful girls to share our newly renovated home over some delicious treats, tea and a good old chat.

I know I had a wonderful time and I sincerely hope my guests did too. I love the experience of high tea; the tradition, the style and the timeless elegance of another era. The Tea Room at the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney offers the experience and it’s definitely worth a visit. So with all that in mind, I set about planning and delivering an elegant afternoon tea.

The menu

Herb, garlic and parmesan pastry rolls
Cucumber and tzatiki sandwiches

Ham and tomato sandwiches
Cherry ripe chocolate cupcakes
Mini vanilla cupcakes with pink buttercream icing and sugar butterflies

Apple and cinnamon muffins
Cookies and cream truffles

The girls brought some delicious dishes of their own to share:

Chicken and vegetable rice paper rolls


Lemon pie with hand made pastry

Rich chocolate cake (containing four blocks of chocolate and double cream)

All accompanied by a selection of tea.

With my new camera in hand, I snapped some images to share. A huge thank you to my gorgeous friends for a lovely afternoon, despite the mid afternoon downpour.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The model pooch

Instead of writing today, I'm going to let my photos tell a story.

Our little dog Max has spent most of the weekend with a new camera in his face. Here are some of the results. I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I enjoyed taking them.

I think he'll be making another appearance on the family christmas card this year. His first appearance was a huge hit. Amazingly the Christmas cards are still pinned to the fridges and work cubicles of quite a few family and friends.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Distracted...but with good reason

I've been a little distracted this week. I usually aim to write a new post a couple of times of week. I would love to write every day but unfortunately I just don't get to it (after an 11 hour day of travel and work it just doesn't happen).

I usually get my self organised for a Wednesday post to write about what I'm thankful for each week. Unfortunately this week I missed it. Oops.

But I really did have a good excuse. Hubby and I bought a new digital SLR camera yesterday and of course after lugging it home, I had to try it out. So I spent the night delicately unpacking all the bits and pieces, briefly reading the instruction booklet, charging the battery (hate that part) and then taking photos of my poor husband (very camera shy) and our little dog Max.

And before I knew it and after a phone call to my mum and sister, it was bed time. So my poor little blog was neglected for the night.

But the great news - be sure to look out for some photos as I attempt to get back in touch with my creative side. For those who are wondering we got a Nikon D3100 aimed at the beginner level SLR photographer.

I did a bit of photography at school, college (that was in the days of film) and I do still have a good old film SLR (that I can't bear to part with). However we thought this was the best option for us. The camera is for both of us, it's been a while since I regularly used an SLR and any fancier and it was out of our budget. Plus it's a great size and it offers full HD video.

Anyway, after a few weeks of ownership and driving my friends and family crazy as I shout cheese, I will share my thoughts on the camera and what it offers. But for now, I'm just going to play.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Kitchen renovations are officially done!

Ok, we’re done! Kitchen renovation is complete and now we’re enjoying our new kitchen.

It’s been a hectic and expensive nine months. Our bathroom renovations started in January when we attempted to get a plumber, 19 enquiries to plumbers later and we had one. We met the deadline of Easter for a functioning bathroom when my family came to stay thanks to a stylish brown tarp as a shower screen.

We then worked on finishing the bathroom and en suite and ensuring they were as stylish as could be. Then as we were beginning to plan our kitchen renovation, our oven which we suspected was nearing the end, gave up the ghost and we were suddenly in the thick of organising a new kitchen.

We opted for a semi DIY. I've written about our renovations a few times, including our bathroom, a before shot of our kitchen and progress along the way. Hubby removed all the tiles and the cupboard doors and completed the painting, and the professionals came in and delivered new doors, benchtops, splashback and appliances. Hubby then finished off the floor tiles and the blind. I threw in a few design ideas and we now have a stunning, sparkling kitchen. Finally it’s time to enjoy!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Time for a little respect

My visit to the Berlin Wall 2005
Freedom is something that most of us take for granted. Here in Australia we are free to express our opinion, free to associate with who we want to, free to vote and free to travel. There are and have been parts of the world where these simple freedoms are simply not allowed.

I came across this story during the week and my first reaction was how insensitive and then how sad. According to the Daily Telegraph story, a new virtual game is set in 1976 in Germany and allows players to take on the role of an East German border guard or an East German refugee trying to escape.

Have we as a world really forgotten about the awful events experienced by ordinary people as little as 25 years ago? Did we not learn anything from the Cold War when basic freedoms were denied to people in countries a lot of us visit today? A little bit of background.

My mum has a friend in Germany, a friend she has had for 40 years. At the age of 15 my mum as a young girl living in country NSW started a friendship with a young German girl living in the eastern or communist half of Germany. The Berlin Wall was erected by the German Democratic Republic in 1961 and momentously torn down in 1989.

They wrote for a number of years before my mum at the age of 18 visited Europe and bravely crossed Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin in order to visit her friend. For me, I still find that incredible. A young country girl crossing into a communist country at the height of the Cold War to visit a friend she knew only through letters and had never met. That trip was a great success and both my sister and I have visited with my mum on two separate occasions. However, we were nowhere near as brave and our visits in recent years have been to a united Germany. My mum’s friend and her family have also visited us on their first visit out of Europe.

I find this period of history incredibly interesting, partly because of this personal connection. I asked a lot of questions of our friends in Germany; sometimes to the point where Mum at times felt she needed to ask me to ease up. I wanted to know what life was like in a communist country, did you want to leave, did you wonder about the rest of the world, what did you know about the rest of the world, do you miss it?

There are a few stories our friends have shared with us about life in eastern Germany during this time. Many of them are private and very personal. They do include tales of letters and parcels being opened and inspected before continuing onto Mum in Australia and vice versa. Innocent letters and parcels between teenage girls.

Around the time of my visit to Germany, I read a book by Anna Funder, Stasiland, which shared some of the experiences of Germans during this period. Files and investigations were conducted into citizens that had aroused the suspicions of the Stasi or Security Police. Did such a file exist on my Mum’s friend, or even my Mum? As a foreigner entering Eastern Germany she attracted attention. Was her friend ever in danger because of a friendship with someone in the West?

So getting back to the story I read this week, did the people who created this video game stop and think about the people in Eastern Germany for whom this experience was more than a video game, it was a reality. For those behind the Berlin Wall who made the decision to risk all for freedom? For some it was a success, but for others it was met with imprisonment or worse, death. Many of those who attempted to cross were young people struggling to cope with life under communism or socialism as our friends refer to it as.

What about the young guards, for many the time spent guarding the wall was part of national service. Imagine being faced with the prospect of being ordered to shoot someone attempting to cross the wall or being imprisoned yourself? Such a decision may still haunt people alive today. The game was due to be released today - October 3; the day Germany celebrates 20 years since reunification.

I guess this all comes back to respect. Respect for those who have suffered and how this is not the appropriate content for a video game. The stories behind the Berlin Wall are too real. They have an important place in the world’s modern history - to serve as a reminder of what war and fear can do to the lives of innocent people. These are the stories of real people and for that they deserve our utmost respect.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

This week I'm thankful...that even celebrities make mistakes

It's been one of the most talked about issues in Australia today...yep what has now been dubbed Australia's Next Top Muddle.

For those who are puzzled as to exactly what I'm talking about - here is the clip. Last night's live announcement of Australia's Next Top Model winner on Foxtel went horribly pearshaped when the wrong girl was named winner. There's a whole lot of debate about whether the gorgeous Sarah Murdoch was told the incorrect name or misheard it and whether it was all a stunt.

It all appears to be quite genuine and it's not something I could imagine Sarah Murdoch being part of. She's far too classy for that. However, it just shows that absolutely everyone makes mistakes, whether it was Sarah Murdoch or the producer feeding the result through.

Making mistakes is not fun - we've all done it and we've all felt our stomachs drop or our heart start beating as the reality of our mistake sinks in. Oh to be able to turn back the clock a few moments and do it right. But we're human and the reality is humans make mistakes.

And for mere mortals like me, it's reassuring to know that everyone, no matter who they are can make mistakes and experience the odd oh no! moment too. Thanks Sarah for making us all feel a little better about that. But in closing, can I just add, well done on handling it so well!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

What beauty products make you feel fabulous?

My beauty drawer is a collection of tried and tested products, representing a range of product names and prices. Over the years I like to think I've learnt enough about cosmetics and my skin to determine what works best for me. Maybe, maybe not? I am however willing to give most products a try! And a good recommendation always helps.

I freely admit I can be a sucker for luxurious brand names, like my Chanel and Dior lipglosses, but other times when I realise how ridicously expensive beauty products can be, I try a cheaper brand and am usually pleasantly surprised by the result. So I thought I'd share a few of my favourite beauty products; products that I really do adore and that make me feel a million dollars.

Chanel lip gloss. I love lipgloss and this one goes on like satin. It also doesn't have the sticky feel that some lipglosses have. Plus there's something to be said for occasionly splurging on a luxurious lipgloss.

Elizabeth Arden Pure Finish mineral powder foundation - I have tried quite a few foundations in the search for a flawless finish. I think I may have finally found it in this product. Because it's mineral foundation, it's light and lets my skin breathe. It can be lightly applied for a more natural look or built up for better coverage or a night out. A brush set can be bought for this product as well and it includes a little one that folds into the compact. Perfect if you need to retouch during the day.

Savvy by DB concealer - I'm pretty fussy when it comes to concealer largely because I do have shadows under my eyes. This product for a bargain price of $4.99 is pretty good. It gives good coverage and blends in under my foundation.

Benefit instant eye brow pencil - as a natural redhead I am lucky to have darker eyebrows naturally but they're not very thick and tend to thin out at the ends. I was introduced to this pencil with a brush to blend the colour in. I am slowly building up the confidence to apply this product and am really liking the results. I'm starting to realise what a difference eyebrows can make to your face.

Bloom organics rosehip oil - this is a great product to apply at night before a moisturiser. Rosehip oil has a number of benefits including hydrating the skin and reducing the appearance of fine lines and any scars or marks.

Eyeshadow - I love eyeshadow and beautiful colours. I refuse to buy any more eyeshadow until I use what I already have in my busy little makeup drawer. Too many colours and shades and not enough eyelids!

Oh and another tip, I'm a huge fan of for my tried and tested cosmetics, hair care and perfume. It doesn't always have what I want, but when it does it's always a huge saving. Gotta love that!

If you have any tips to pass on or a favourite product/s to share, I'd love to hear.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

This week I'm thankful for...unconditional love

There aren't many people in our lives, aside from our parents, who offer unconditional love. It's a rare gift.

However those who have a pet will know unconditional love is par for the course. Pets bring so much joy to our lives and they ask very little of us in return. Food, shelter, a warm bed, regular exercise, some play time and cuddles.

Max is our little maltalier - our gorgeous little puppy dog - who makes up our little family. I have written about him before and will continue to do so. I am willing to be accused of bias, but Max is an absolute pleasure. He's a happy little dog with so much personality and love to share. On arriving home from work each day Max is there to greet us with excitement, cuddles and lots of licking. We can't ever claim to feel unloved with Max around.

He is smart, kind and gentle. There have been occasions when I have been upset and he has come to me and put his little paws on my knees and snuggled in with a cuddle, as if to say, 'it's ok, don't forget I love you'.

It's the simple pleasures that keep Max happy - a walk around the neighbourhood has him wearing a grin from ear to ear, a bone to munch on, a game of fetch in the backyard followed by a snuggle on my lap while enjoying the warmer weather. He doesn't ask much of us but gives us the priceless gift of unconditional love in return.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

What would you do if you suddenly found yourself at war?

One of my favourite teenage novels has been made into a movie and after seeing it on the big screen last night it has raised a lot of questions for me.

Tomorrow, When the War Began is an Australian movie based on a novel of the same name by John Marsden. The first novel was so successful it went on to become the Tomorrow series with seven books and a follow up series of novels, The Ellie Chronicles.

Tomorrow, When the War Began is a story set in a fictional country town in Australia. A group of seven teenagers – Ellie, Homer, Corrie, Kevin, Robyn, Fiona and Lee - head off for a weekend away before they begin their final year of school. The main character is Ellie Linton, a likeable independent country girl. They trek to a beautiful and remote camping spot named Hell. During one of their nights in Hell a few of the group are woken by jets flying overhead and while a little perplexed don’t really think further about it.

On returning from their camping trip, they discover Ellie’s family dog dead and her home empty. On further inspection there is no power, no telephone signal, no television reception and no internet connection. Puzzled and a little panicked they move onto the next home – Homer’s – and are met with a similar scene. After visiting the homes of Kevin and Corrie, both of which are outside the main town – they come to the conclusion that something tragic has unfolded during their absence and that it is linked to the planes they saw a few nights prior. The next home they visit is Robyn’s which offers a view over the town. Here they discover the whole town is in darkness apart from the showground and the local hospital. They make the decision to split up – Robyn and Lee to check out Lee’s home in the centre of town, Homer and Fiona to do the same at Fiona’s and Ellie, Corrie and Kevin to try and discover what is going on at the showground.

Ellie’s group manages to get to the showground and see that residents of the town are being kept there with large numbers of foreign soldiers on guard. Ellie creeps a little closer and sees her parents behind a barbwire fence and after witnessing a man killed for arguing with a soldier, she quickly departs and attracts the attention of the soldiers. Running from the soldiers, Ellie is forced to stop them by blowing up a ride on lawn mower and seriously wounding, possibly even killing the soldiers.

From this point on the teenagers begin to fight back and undertake a form of guerrilla warfare. Combined with their local knowledge and experience around firearms, machinery and explosives gleaned from their rural upbringing, they cause plenty of problems for the invading army.

The movie was remarkably true to the book and most impressive. There was no cringe factor which is sometimes evident when a book becomes a movie, or as sometimes occurs as an Australian watching a local film. It was a nice feeling to see the characters on screen and I developed a real liking for Ellie – she was wonderfully brought to life by actress Caitlin Stasey. Homer was another character I really liked from the novel and I wasn’t disappointed with him either.

When I first read this book, as a teenager, I did wonder what I would do if Australia was invaded. Could I be as brave as these young characters and fight back to defend loved ones, would I struggle with the idea of killing other people as one of the characters does, or would I simply be too scared and surrender? It’s a confronting question and one I hope that I never have to answer.

There were moments during this movie that I was emotional and despite these characters being fictional I felt deeply for them. I also shed a few tears as the movie explored relationships and the thought of losing loved ones.

I asked myself why I was so emotional about it (aside from possible hormonal reasons) and I’ve come to the conclusion that my emotions are partly influenced by a book I am currently reading. It’s called the Strength of a Nation and it tells the real life stories of the many Australian men and women affected by World War Two and the threat of invasion Australia faced during the war years.

It tells of the heroics, sacrifices, mistakes and bravery that cost the lives of so many young Australians on shores far from Australia and those who fought in the Pacific to prevent a possible invasion of Australia. These young men and women, not much older than the characters in Tomorrow When the War Began, were real people with families and friends. The non-fiction book I am reading tells us more about who these people were and the enormous sacrifice they made to protect the innocent from invading forces.

One important note, John Marsden doesn’t ever reveal the nationality of the invading forces but states Australia has been invaded because neighbouring nations are overpopulated and they believe Australia should share its territory and natural resources. The movie however depicts the enemy as Asian soliders without defining a particular nation. With Australia’s neighbouring nations predominantly within the Asia region, it’s a common assumption that most readers of the book would have made.

On a final note, my recommendation is to take a few hours and see this movie. It’s impressive, great casting and it will make you consider a whole range of issues. Plus it’s a great chance to support our local film industry. It’s well worth it. I highly recommend Tomorrow When the War Began.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Time to unveil our new kitchen

We’re done. We now have a sparkling, beautiful and oh so clean new kitchen and it’s time to take a break from renovating, enjoy our handiwork and put some more dollars away for a rainy day.

The task of renovating the kitchen was easier than the mammoth bathroom and en suite and caused considerably less disruption to our lives, but no means was it an easy or stress free task. But we’ve made it through our renovations and can now enjoy the improvements to our home.

After four and a half years in our home, it’s nice to look around and list off the work we have done and the mark we have made on this house. The house was not unattractive when we bought it. As soon as we walked into it we really liked the house and could see the potential.

We started off with small improvements like painting and redesigning the garden and then moved onto the big ticket improvements like the bathroom and kitchen. Our vision was to create a stylish and modern home that flowed from room to room while always adding value.

We also wanted to create a house that would appeal to as many people as possible. While we really enjoy this home, it is not where we see ourselves for the next 10 years. So with the intention of selling in the next year or so, we wanted a house that would feel like a home to prospective buyers. And I truly think we have achieved that.

I actually think I’m in love with our new kitchen. I’m not sure if it’s ok to be in love with a room, but if it’s possible I am. It is shiny and bright with a gorgeous new oven and cooktop and with a new dishwasher to boot. The kitchen didn’t have a dishwasher when we moved in, although there was a rather large gap where one could/should have been. At times it was as if the kitchen was taunting me – that very large space under the bench is just perfect for a dishwasher, come on why don’t you just get one to fill the space. Well that space has finally been filled and I am loving it.

The gorgeous vase of roses on the bench was a gift from my hubby. We spent Friday night and Saturday morning cleaning the house together. I had a girlfriend coming to visit for morning tea and after a few weeks of non-existent cleaning and crap everywhere it was time for a big clean up. Who doesn’t love a deadline? So with the house clean, muffins in the oven and minutes to spare, my hubby headed out for a game of golf. He came home a few hours later with a beautiful bunch of roses in his hand. His reason: just because I can. When really it was me who was so appreciative of his work to get us over the line moments before the doorbell chimed for morning tea.

We have a small list of things left to finish in our home including adding some vibrant plant life to the garden and replacing the much loved grey carpet. And we are waiting on a new venetian blind for the kitchen window. For now however, we will take a few moments to smell the roses and enjoy the improvements we have made to our home and to our lifestyle. Take a look and see what you think.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

This week I'm thankful hubby

This week I'm thankful for my hubby. To clarify I am grateful and thankful for him constantly, but over the past little while he has given me many extra things to be thankful for and all without complaining.

My hubby has planned, demolished and rebuilt a bathroom and en suite, tiled, painted and all the jobs in between. He has then moved onto the task of renovating our kitchen. We hired professionals to do the more technical and involved tasks like the bench-tops, plumbing and electrical work, but he pulled the old tiles up, removed all the old doors, cleaned out the cupboards, painted the window and retiled the kitchen floor. During this time he has worked full-time, kept our garden and vegie patch looking beautiful, helped with chores and shared the cooking and washing.

On top of all this he has not blinked an eye when I had a weekend away to help a friend with the election or spent a long weekend with my family interstate. And each and every day he is my best friend, my entertainment, the one who listens to me rabbit on about my day and who celebrates my achievements with me and commiserates on the frustrating moments.

So each and every day I am thankful for my hubby, but this week I am particularly thankful for all his effort, love and commitment to our home, our family and our relationship.

Monday, September 6, 2010

A touch of gown envy

If you have plans to visit Brisbane in the next few months, be sure to take a few hours to see the Valentino exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art at Southbank.

I spent the weekend in Brisbane with my mum and sister and we spent a bit of time at Southbank, to see Mamma Mia! on Friday night. I first saw Mamma Mia! in London with my Mum and loved it. The Brisbane show didn’t disappoint.

We ventured back to Southbank the following day for a visit to the Valentino exhibition. It was just gorgeous. So many beautiful and timeless dresses and fabrics! I had a few favourite dresses, but one of my favourites would have to be the stunning dress Julia Roberts wore when she won the Oscar for Best Actress in 2001.

Many of the dresses on display were from the 1960s and are timeless. Valentino used classic fabrics and colours and as a result they would not look out of place on a red carpet today.

The exhibition is well worth the $20 entry fee. You’ll leave with a feeling of old world glamour, sophistication and a touch of gown envy!

Rekindling the relationship

I'm back! It's been a hectic few weeks but I have finally rekindled my relationship with my blog. I missed my blog and the wonderful people who read it.

When I booked my weekend in Brisbane with my sister and mum, when I committed to helping out a friends election campaign and when I said I'd love to attend a friend and former boss’ tribute dinner I had no idea that they would all occur one week after another. But hey that's life and I’m so glad I could actually do all three. So my weekends were pretty full combined with the air and road travel to get to the events. My weekdays have been filled with work and my weeknights have been a mixture of kitchen renovations and holiday planning.

Yes our kitchen has been made over. Photos to come. We also booked a holiday and third wedding anniversary celebrations to the US. So all in all I have been a busy little bee.

So today I have had a day at home. It has been 21 days without a day or even half a day at home so it's nice to finally have had a free day to myself.

I’ve only had a few tasks today: my blog, a haircut for Max and the grocery shopping. Max is looking a lot like a little apricot sheep at the moment. When I dropped him off for his haircut I should have asked about whether there is a niche market for apricot fur with a woolly feel, we certainly have enough of it at the moment.

Each of my weekends away has been fantastic for a multitude of reasons! Catching up with old friends and spending precious time with family.
I have missed blogging and the moments taken to read others blogs. But I have returned and I won't go missing for this long again I promise purple notepad!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

This week I'm thankful for...chocolate coated licorice

Organic licorice coated with Belgium chocolate. Yes this week I am thankful for this fabulous treat!

As mentioned in my last post I ventured home on the weekend. One of the best things about the part of the world I am from (and there are many) is the locally produced licorice. Mix it with chocolate and you have a perfect combination.

I had a list of things I wanted to do while home for the weekend and one of the jobs at the the top of my list was to load up on chocolate treats from the Green Grove Organics Junee Chocolate and Licorice Factory. The chocolate coated organic licorice, macadamias and almonds are just some of my favourite treats.

In addition to the chocolate available at this heavenly location, it's also a great place to visit for a tour of the factory and a devonshire tea.

Thanks Green Grove for your fabulous licorice and chocolate. I am one happy and contented lady!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Politics can be a funny business

Politics can be a funny business. It has the ability to divide people, start debates and fire people up. But it also has the ability to unite people, inspire people and give people hope for a better day. I’ll be the first to admit this election campaign has been lacking inspiration and substance, but last night I experienced firsthand the commitment and passion of a regional community and how important a good representative is.

I have just returned from a weekend in my home town helping out a friend standing as a candidate for Federal Parliament. I grew up in regional NSW in a great part of the world. Despite moving to the city four years ago I still feel connected to and passionate about rural and regional Australia.

For many people living in the city, life in the country is hard to imagine. And I know in many cases it’s not because city people don’t care (although I’m starting to realise some of our city politicians don’t give a damn) but because they haven’t experienced it. They haven’t had to pay to see a general practitioner because bulk billing is available, they haven’t had to travel for hours to visit a specialist or travel to a capital city and be away from their family and support network while they undergo cancer treatment and they haven’t had to experience the heartbreak of drought. It is for all these reasons and many more that I feel so strongly about the bush and rural and regional people having services on par with their city cousins.

So yesterday I spent the best part of six hours handing out how to vote pamphlets to voters in the Riverina at various locations around the electorate for The Nationals candidate Michael McCormack. Michael is someone who is committed to the region and will work hard to represent the interests of the rural and regional electorate he now represents. He will fight for his constituents, ensure that services and funding continue to flow to the region and represent their best interests.

It was a great day; there was no animosity or rudeness at the booths, despite the fact the Liberal Party also decided to stand a candidate running the risk of splitting the conservative vote. All of the volunteers were there because they believed in their candidates, National, Labor, Liberal, Green, Independent and so on and what they in turn stand for. So whether you agree or disagree with their political views it's impossible not to admire and respect them.

After the polls closed, the waiting for the results began. While the rest of the nation was on a knife edge (and still is) the news came through in just under two hours that Michael McCormack had been elected the new Member for Riverina.

You might be asking why I would go back home to help out on in an electorate I no longer live in. My hubby and I are country people at heart. We both care about rural and regional communities, particularly the ones we grew up in and where our family and friends live. One day we may return to live in the country and I’d like to see this part of Australia continue to grow and flourish. We need more people to stand up for these communities and understand the issues that they face. And finally I wanted to support a friend who has always supported me in my endeavours.

It was a tough campaign but at the end of the day, the people of the Riverina chose to elect a candidate they believe will stand up for them and fight for their interests in Canberra. I know Michael will do just that. Looking around the campaign celebrations last night I was inspired. Inspired by the former Member for Riverina Kay Hull who has dedicated the past 12 years of her life to the region and has delivered above and beyond, inspired by the new Member for Riverina who is full of enthusiasm and so committed to doing the best job for his region and finally inspired by the tireless volunteers who have worked so hard for this result. It was impossible not to be inspired, to believe and to be united by hope for the future.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

This week I'm thankful hairdresser

This week I’m going to be totally vain and be thankful for my hairdresser! Yep, that’s right my hairdresser.

I had my regular appointment on Saturday and it’s one of my luxuries. I love the salon, the service, the product and most of all the way I feel after each and every visit. I feel like a million dollars and wish that I could visit my hairdresser every couple of days for a wash and dry, because we all know that no matter how hard we try our own styling never looks as good as the hairdresser.

I have friends who view a visit to the hairdresser as a chore and others who get home from an appointment and wash their hair straight away. Not me, I look forward to my hair appointment for at least a week before I go and try to get as long as I can from my wash and blowdry. Dry shampoo helps drag it out another day if I’m really loving my hair style.

For me, a visit to the hairdresser is also a chance for some pampering, a hot chocolate, some gossip and an excellent sampling of the latest magazines. An added bonus is that my hair salon is located in Paddington so it’s a great chance to check out the Paddington markets or Oxford Street. Not good for the credit card, but oh so good for the soul!

Anyway, like I said it’s totally vain but this week I’m thankful for my hairdresser and his ability to make me feel great after every visit.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The renovations continue...

A week or so ago I wrote about the plans for our new kitchen and the choice we had to make on floor tiles. Well with just one week to go until the tradesmen come in and perform their magic my hubby and I (read hubby) have been busy little beavers.

The splashback has been removed and clearly a home handyman who was not so handy decided to tackle that job when the current kitchen was installed. We were left with one last window frame of ridiculously bright yellow and that has now been painted over. My style is to start with a neutral base and then add brighter colours to accessorise. We’ve based our renovations around that idea and I think it makes our home feel more spacious and more homely. I’ve never really understood using the rainbow of colours in an open plan house or for that matter any type of house.

Anyway, so back to the kitchen. Hubby has set up a temporary pantry in our office, which he is calling our own Masterchef pantry. Check out the photo – it’s pretty clever. This will sustain us for the week and then I’m off for the weekend while my hubby does the last few required jobs before the professionals turn up Monday morning.

Four days of takeaway and paper plates later we will have a new and transformed kitchen. And I haven’t mentioned the best bits – a sparkling new oven, big pot drawers and wait for it, a dishwasher!

Stay tuned.

Friday, August 13, 2010

There's more to New South Wales than Sydney

I’m angry, frustrated and fed up about an issue that has been part of my life for a number of years and I’ve finally reached the point where I just have to let it all out and let the world (or my little band of loyal blog readers) know I’ve had enough.

Ok, some background – I was born in a city in regional New South Wales, Australia and spent the first 20 odd years of my life in this community. My family had been part of this community for generations, I was educated there, worked there, met my husband there, have lifelong friendships there and I still feel a very close connection to this city and community. I have fought for this community, been proud of this community and most of all it will always be my hometown.

This city serves a much larger region. As the regional centre, people come for education, business, shopping and most importantly, medical services. With buildings from the 1920s and 1960s, the city’s public hospital is past its use by date. A new hospital is desperately needed yet the NSW State Labor Government doesn’t give a damn.

As a safe NSW Liberal seat, this community after years of successive Labor Governments has been totally ignored by leaders who see no importance in providing much needed funding for a new hospital. As I said I have watched and participated in this debate for what feels like years and it’s always been a source of frustration. Frustration that NSW Labor Governments have not taken responsibility for this issue, frustration that they want to pass the buck to the Federal Government and frustration that they don’t even care, or pretend to care.

People in regional and rural areas work hard and pay their taxes like all taxpayers yet are continually subjected to sub standard services and a complete lack of disregard because their vote doesn’t seem to count.

The NSW Labor Government has recently shown a complete disregard for another regional community. They have decided to close the local hospital now and build a medical centre. Sounds ok – except the time between closing the hospital and the opening of the new medical centre will be months, possibly a year. So in that period, locals will have to travel to the next town, which as a regional NSW health facility possibly has its own issues. And the Health Minister has the audacity to claim it’s a ‘win, win situation’ for all (Channel Nine News, 6pm, Sydney, 12 August 2010) Excuse me?

Check out this article about the issue and well done to the locals with their Save Gulgong Hospital website.

So I’ve vented my frustration at the complete lack of understanding and willingness of the NSW Labor Government and I do feel slightly better that I have had my say. But it brings me back to my central concern and frustration, why are we as taxpayers and citizens of this state forced to put up with sub standard health services and decisions made by people in government who either don’t have a clue or simply don’t care? Why should the people of this state have to fight so damn hard for basic services.

The other thing that makes mad about the inaction of this government is that the city where I grew up like many others in this country is a can do community. About 10 years ago, my home town was tired of having to send its residents off to Sydney and Melbourne for cancer treatment. For many the travel was isolating, expensive and so very hard for families forced to be apart while a family member underwent treatment. For others, the travel was too much and they were forced to forego treatment, resulting in death. So this community banded together and raised the millions required to establish its own cancer centre. They raised the money, obtained the necessary commitments from the Federal Government thanks to an incredibly hardworking and dedicated member of parliament and built a life saving facility.

So don’t think for a second these people don’t care or aren’t committed to their community. They are, but at a time when they need the understanding and commitment from a government, they are left on their own to fight this battle.

I’ll climb down off my soapbox now!

And it's Flog Your Blog Friday so check these awesome blogs out!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

This week I'm thankful for...a hint of spring

Ok it’s Wednesday which means I’m sharing what I’m feeling thankful for this week.

I’m feeling thankful for a little bit of sunshine and a hint of spring. I don’t enjoy winter – it’s cold, it’s dark and the days are far too short. I’m more of a spring and summer person. I love those seasons for the warmer weather, the sunshine, longer days and daylight saving. While I love the warmer months, I also have to take extra care with my skin since I am a red head with fair skin to match.

The weekend weather consisted of cloudless blue skies and the right amount of sunshine. I took a few moments to relax in our backyard with our little dog Max. I took stock of the vegetable patch, herb garden and the peace and quiet while Max snuggled into my lap. It is in these moments that I remember why a backyard was a must have when we bought our home and why we spend hours each day commuting to work.

So with less than three weeks to go until the end of winter, I’m eagerly anticipating the start of spring, the onset of warmer weather and daylight saving (love those extra hours of light at the end of the day).

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Renovations are go...again!

Renovations are underway again in our home. I have been enjoying our beautiful bathrooms for the past few months. Hubby and I managed to clean away the dust, paint and rearrange the furniture. It’s a nice place to be at. No dust, no banging, no disruption. But it was never going to last for long.

Yesterday hubby set to work on pulling up the tiles in our kitchen. Yep, next project is the kitchen. Work starts in a few weeks and ideally the floor tiles need to be selected, ordered, laid and grouted all in preparation for our new kitchen. Fortunately for our sanity, professionals will be coming in transform our kitchen from a tired and dated kitchen that really has seen better days to a sparkly, shiny and yes new (I love new) kitchen exuding some serious sophistication (well that’s the plan) all in the space of four days. How awesome is that!

So the tile hunt is on. This is the second weekend we have been tile hunting. We found two tiles last weekend and brought them home for a second look. One was quickly eliminated. We ventured off again yesterday.

Sometimes I have an ability to select a colour or a style and know it will work. Other times I am so indecisive it’s painful. I thought I knew what I was looking for and then I met a saleswoman who completely took charge (which can drive me insane) but yesterday she made it work. A friend had recommended this particular person to us saying she had a real talent with colour and style.

We walked in with our samples and handed them over. She suggested a couple of tiles to ease us in and then bam! hit us with her recommendation. And it worked, boy did it work. I loved the look so much that I didn’t ask the price until we were at sample ordering stage (very economically irresponsible of both hubby and I). The sample is due to arrive sometime this week and then it will be decision time. Which tile will it be?

Here’s a photo of our current kitchen with the floor tiles missing (I didn’t get to photograph it before hubby started ripping tiles up). Stay tuned for the tile decision and the transformation!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Proof that great things come in little packages

Meet Max!

Max is our little baby and our practice run at parenthood. I told my hubby at the outset that if we screwed the dog up then we knew we were not destined to be parents. So hubby and I agreed that if we could feed it, care for it, love it and generally spoil it, then we’d have some chance of succeeding as parents (hopefully!).

The good news is Max has more than survived, he has thrived and so have we. Max is a Maltalier, a designer breed of dog but simply put he is a cross of Cavalier and Maltese. And he leads a pretty charmed life.

A little bit of background as to how and why we settled on the dog that we did. Growing up I always had a family dog. Our last family dog died about 12 months before I moved out of home to live with my boyfriend (now husband).

After buying our first home and getting married, we decided the time was right to get our own little puppy. I grew up with fox terriers and jack russells while my sister chose a chihuahua when she moved out of home. But after a lot of research and talking to people, we decided on a maltalier. The reasons were mainly because of the cavalier influence. I had been told that cavaliers were wonderful pets, especially for families and children, and were very easygoing and not too hyperactive. I received positive comments from most people I spoke to and most of the information on the net. However when I called the vet my family had always dealt with to seek some advice, she promptly launched into a lecture about the problems of cross breeds. At that point, I doubted our initial decision to select a maltalier. My sister-in-law who at one point in her life had bred dogs pointed out the family vet was actually a breeder herself, of pure breds, and so may have been slightly biased towards cross breeds. My sister-in-law reassured me with some good advice – do what feels right for you and what you’re comfortable with. How right she was.

So we went with our initial decision and I have not regretted that decision for any moment of the past two and a bit years we have spent with Max. Hubby and I have both said to each other on many occasions that Max has been one of the best decisions we have made. My parents-in-law have even commented on how much more relaxed and comfortable we have become since Max arrived.

Max has proved to be the perfect choice for us. He is a very chilled out and relaxed dog who is happy to go with the flow and adapt to the situation. He absolutely adores people and loves nothing more than a cuddle. And boy can he lick. He licks everything, everyone and even licks thin air.

We bought Max from a breeder in Bathurst, NSW. I found the breeder online, spoke to them and requested a maltalier with a strong cavalier influence. The breeder placed us on a waiting list in December 2007 and we received an email in mid April containing photos of two male puppies. We picked a little apricot puppy, named him Max and waited for the four weeks to pass until we could collect him.

We prepared ourselves for his arrival; bought a little bed, blankets, soft toys, bowls for food and water, collar, leash, treats and anything a puppy could possibly want. It was finally time to collect him from the breeder. We met the breeder at a local park who was carrying a tiny, furry little bundle in his arms. He gave us the rundown on this little puppy; what to feed him, vet information, etc and then I signed a couple of forms, parted with our money and he was ours. The breeder also revealed that he had placed the puppy on the floor in the backseat of the car in a little box and the puppy had crawled through to the driver’s seat and snuggled up in his lap. Looking back, this was an indication of the personality of the dog we were taking home with us.

Dogs are incredibly loyal and loving. It's one of the amazing attributes of dogs. And Max for us is certainly proof of this love and loyalty. The excitement he displays each night when we come home from work is evidence enough of that.

Next week...Max goes to puppy school

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

This week I'm thankful for...

Life throws us all types of curve balls and challenges. When we think we’ve dealt with one hurdle and some smooth sailing would be good for a while, bam another obstacle presents itself. Fortunately or unfortunately this is life and all part of the journey.

Often we hear about the sad events, the tragedies and the negative experiences of life. Sure we all have happy moments and good experiences, but sometimes the positive moments of life are overshadowed by the negative and they go unnoticed and unappreciated. So this is my attempt to try and record some of the things in life I am thankful for. My intention is to do this every Wednesday. It’s halfway through the week and if my week isn’t great, then hopefully it will give me a jolt and remind me of all I can be thankful for.

I will come up with at least one thing I am thankful for. If it’s more than one, I’ll note it down as well.

So today I’m going to start with being thankful for the right to vote. Thankful that there were people in our history brave enough to campaign and fight for the right to vote, something so many of us take for granted.

We’re all aware the 2010 Federal Election has not been the most exciting election campaign to date. There is a lack of passion and debate and we’re left wanting something more from our politicians. I know I want to be inspired by the vision each leader and their party has for our nation. And I’m left wanting more.

However, the election is an opportunity for Australians to have their view and express it by casting their vote for the party they believe will deliver the best future for this nation. In my view, the right to vote is not something we should belittle or complain about. Throughout history, people fought and died for the right to vote. Today in countries around the world, people are desperate to vote in fair elections. I think we should remember this come August 21 when we take a few minutes out of our day to cast a vote. My wish is that every Australian does this responsibly.

I'd love to hear what you're thankful for this week.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

A trip down memory lane

I took a surprise trip down memory lane yesterday and relived the cartoons of the 1980s! I’m a child of 80s and while as adults now we look back on that time and laugh at the culture, mainly the fashion, music, television shows and society in general, the reality is that time in our lives is part of who we are today! And what was really wrong with fluro, perms and scrunchies?

Do you have a favourite cartoon from your childhood, maybe it’s been remade in recent years or the original still lingers in your memory? If so and you remember the 1980s, then take a look at this online slideshow titled 'the top 20 greatest '80s cartoons' and enjoy!

For me, as a child in the 80s life was pretty good. I have many fond memories of that time, the television shows, the toys (my parents owned a toy store when I was growing up so my sister and I were incredibly lucky in the toy department), the music, the fashion and of course Australian culture. So when I came across this slideshow online I had a great time flicking through the 20 most awesome cartoons of the 80s.

When talking about our childhood, my hubby and I can both recall a lot of events, television shows, music and movies, but because there is a three year age difference there are often things I don’t remember. Plus I spent a lot of my childhood immersed in books which is something he didn’t experience to the same extent I did, since he was too busy being a boy and playing sport.

So after I came across this slideshow we sat down together to see what cartoons we could remember and reminisce about our favourites.

Here’s my top five (which blew out to my top seven)

1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

2. The Smurfs

3. Babar

4. Duck Tales

5. Gummi Bears

6. Chip and Dale’s Rescue Rangers

7. Inspector Gadget

Further note – I love The Jetsons and while the first series of episodes was recorded in the 1960s, further episodes were produced in the 1980s (thanks Wikipedia).

Let me know what yours are!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Bathroom renovations - we made it!

I'm currently in love with my new bathroom and en suite! Renovations are now pretty much complete and I'm enjoying our new, clean, fresh, bright, modern bathroom and en suite.

Let me explain. Hubby and I moved into our first home just over four years ago. We had saved up for a deposit, found a house within our budget and importantly a house we really liked. We recognised it had some features we would definitely need to change and to update. First job was painting. The previous owners in an attempt to update it prior to sale decided to paint it. A job that most home owners would appreciate. To be honest, we wished they had thought twice and possibly a third time before picking up their paint brushes. The hallway was a shocking shade of royal blue, one wall was orange, another green and a whole other rainbow was scattered throughout the house. First job - find a neutral colour and paint quick smart.

The second job was the bathroom. We put it off for as long as we could while we redid the tile roof, got married and enjoyed an overseas honeymoon. We also bought a new car and a few other important things.

The bathroom was on par with the paint job - it was crying out for a makeover and we were both well and truly over the way it looked and functioned.

So by the end of last year we were ready to turn our rather large bathroom into a slightly smaller bathroom and an en suite. We played around with different plans and designs and ideas and finally came up with a design that maximised the space and would work (my hubby is very clever and deserves much of the credit for our gorgeous amenities). Hubby set about finding a plumber. A total of 19 calls and three quotes later we had a plumber (we accepted the first two quotes from local plumbers) but they decided not to turn up. By this stage it was early March and we had a serious deadline. My mother, sister and brother-in-law were due to arrive for Easter and we desperately needed a semi functional bathroom.

So hubby set to work. On coming home after the plumbers first visit, I discovered that when I agreed to the toilet being moved to make work easier I had agreed to a non flushing toilet. So it was out with the bucket of water after each bathroom visit. I also forgot that it was no longer cemented into the floor so after almost falling off and wearing the entire contents of the toilet bowl I learnt very quickly to remain still while on the toilet.

I was rationed down to one bath a day, one professional wash and blow dry a week and a trek to relatives and friends for a weekend wash and blow dry. It took a month, but we got there, delivering a semi-functional bathroom by the time my family arrived. Not long after our cute little en suite was also finished.

Hubby and I are now enjoying our beautiful bathrooms and have just upped the guest accommodation by another star. Thank you to my very talented husband for the gorgeous bathrooms he created. A few before and after pics below for your perusal!


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