Tuesday, December 27, 2011


For the past two weeks some very busy bees have been building this hive onto a branch of the silver birch tree just outside our living room.

The wonderful Lyn and her Pat from the Canberra Beekeepers Association came early this morning to remove the hive and transfer the bees to a safer location away from little kids and pets.

It was a fascinating process to watch. First they used some brilliant DIY gear to remove the hive from the branch........

......then transferred each layer of honeycomb to its new home. Lyn examined each piece really closely - checking to see where the Queen Bee was, apparently. Look at her doing this with her bare hands!

The bees got a bit feisty after a while so they set up a smoker to calm them down. There were at least four chunky layers of honeycomb in our hive.

The Queen Bee sighting proved to be elusive however.

Lyn says there is no honey in our hive...but it was full of pollen, for all the baby bees. She thinks it's Grevillea Robusta (Silky Oak) flower pollen - very yellow.

The new home for the hive will sit under the tree for 24 hours to collect any remaining bees that may have missed out on the move. Lyn and Pat will then collect the hive and take it to its new location.

Although it was a fascinating process to watch both Rob and I got caught out 3/4 of the way through - lost our focus a bit and both of us ended up being stung. I got stung on the face and Rob got stung on the back of the neck. I had forgotten how much a bee sting hurts - especially on the face. And to make it worse the bee got stuck in my hair so it was a horrible few minutes until I was sure it was gone.

Lights, action

We joined many thousands of other people on Christmas Eve at Bissenberger Crescent, Kambah. The mood was mellow, the sky was lit with over 80,000 Christmas lights (90% of them LED - and that was just from number 47) and the collection of gold coins for the various charities was growing by the hour.

I presented Ella with a new red hat for Christmas and was very amused by her decision to wear it for the next 36 hours, including throughout our sunset viewing of the Christmas lights.

The mellowness of the evening continued on to a very laid back Christmas Day for us. With everyone somewhere else this year we had lunch together with Mum at Rydges and spent the rest of the day doing very little. We thought a lot about loved ones near and far of course, as you do at Christmas!

Monday, December 19, 2011

More feasting

Jennie and Wayne continue to host our yearly pre Christmas gathering at Murrumbateman despite this time of the year being such a busy one for farming folk. We all love this opportunity to share some Christmas festivity and prepare a feast of food with some wonderful wines. After all these years it's the tradition of it all that is a big part of the fun too:

...the kids entertaining us with Christmas music (although this year Sophie took on this role by herself) as the sun sets behind the vineyards.

.......Maddie telling us her school survival stories, and Maggie having the opportunity to pretend she's a farm dog for one night of the year.......

.....and Thomas being totally cool and confident about his up and coming Year 12 Graduation........

...and us exchanging presents and long standing jokes....... and enjoying the chance to share wonderful food together.....while we catch up with news of family and country life. We enjoy meeting up with Shane the grafter again. He's almost finished grafting onto all the old sauvignon blancs, turning them into far more interesting (and valuable) Sangiovese and shiraz vines.

Roland only allowed us one ingredient per couple this year. We had to make a plated dish AND a finger food (to have with our pre dinner glassES of Majella) with our one ingredient. I was very challenged this year when I drew couscous, which I thought would be impossible to make into finger food.

My solution was to bake mushrooms stuffed with couscous, pine nuts, Sicilian olives and a few other things, topped with Sheep's milk cheese - which ended up quite delicious! I made a lamb tagine for my plated dish which was not very Christmassy but which went well with our D'Arenburg Shiraz.

Jennie did wonders with her "seafood": delicately sauteed scallops on crisply fried peppery salami as her finger food and Narooma oysters and smoked trout mousse as her plated meal, served with a beautiful Reisling from Alsace.

Judy scored duck as her ingredient and presented a truly stunning and very seasonal warm duck salad with beetroot and pomegranate as her plated dish. Amazing, delicious and so very French!

Maxie's ingredient, cranberries, presented some challenges too, as you can't get fresh ones anywhere in the Southern hemisphere. Yottam Ottolenghi was the inspiration for this gorgeous tart, which Maxie plated artfully with chocolate scrolls, cranberry coulis and fresh berries. I loved Maxie's cranberry based finger food too: caramelised onion, walnut and cranberry on puff pastry rounds. Yum!

With the Murrumbateman feasting done for another year we know that Christmas Day is just around the corner now!

Girls in Black

We were lucky enough to have visit from Melbourne Erin this weekend. Ella has always thought Erin was pretty special so when she arrived Ella tried to be as entertaining as possible, doing her best tricks for her on the swing set, sending the best paper aeroplane flights from the new tree house and taking lots of portraits of her with Rob's camera. The mild sunny weather on Saturday afternoon created the perfect backdrop for our relaxed girl time together in the back garden.

Although by early evening things had calmed down enough to do some quieter puzzles and craft together.

Sunday morning the whole Canberra branch of the family gathered together at our favourite breakfast cafe. The kids all greeted Erin warmly but I was amused to see how quickly Angus got back to examining his Top 10 Singapore travel book while the rest of us socialised. He even managed to get Ella interested in his new favourite travel destination!!

The start of 2012 will bring with it a big year for baby girls in our family. We all agreed that Jody and Erin and their baby girls looked absolutely beautiful this morning - especially against the backdrop of the courtyard garden at the Hyatt. Their black outfits were very "Melbourne" I thought.

And how impressive, with 10 or so weeks to go, that these two beautiful girls are still able to crouch down for the sake of the group shot (and get up again) so gracefully.

Coincidentally I dressed very "Melbourne" too............

...along with all our beautiful girls...............

Monday, December 12, 2011

So this is Christmas

I hope this collection of photos captures some of the fun we had yesterday at our family (early) Christmas celebration. We started at midday with the little ones waiting patiently while the adults unpacked their contributions to lunch and their bags of presents - and had their first glass of Marjella poured.

But then it was time to open presents.............

In the pic above Ollie is wearing his present from Ella-a handprinted T-shirt with an Ella original design. In the pic below Ella is wearing Ros and Pete's present from the Coff's Coast. She LOVES this dress and describes it ecstatically as her "dress that looks like money".

Star Wars Lego continues to be a popular choice of present.

It is lovely to have so many adults around to help with the unwrapping , including a full suite of grannies and grandpas (and even a great-grandma).

Ollie loved his new chess set. Better watch out Pa Pa!

Things were on the verge of being out of control at times, but we managed to keep just this side of total mayhem.

Ella enjoyed unwrapping a whole new wardrobe under the tree this year. These board shorts are heading straight to Coogee after Christmas, for lots of swimming in the ocean with her Daddy!

But then, we were ready for lunch. Rob and Rod averted a mini disaster by getting the chicken cooked before the first of Sunday's big storms hit around 2.00pm.

We struggle to get group shots of the kids.......this one worked for Ella but not for the others. We'll keep trying!

Our lunch was a great success. The kids were happy and delightful company, the food was wonderful and we'd kept it all so simple and low key this year that everyone felt very relaxed. The gathering storm outside just made us feel even more cosy and cocooned inside together.

And we even managed to get a great group shot of the these gorgeous kids (thank you Claire)!

Rob had got the new tree house and swing set all set up ready for our celebration today. Unfortunately the stormy weather meant it was never properly launched. When the really big storm hit around 7.00pm last night I thought there was a chance it might float away in the rapidly rising flood that was our back yard by then. No chance of that however with the number of screws and bolts in this safe construction!

Merry christmas to all our loved ones who weren't able to join us this year!

Bom Funk

It was time for the end of year Bom-Funk Dance Studio Showcase XIV concert last Saturday night. The performance of Claire's preschool class was of special interest to us as was Ollie's Boyz Funk group. Jeremy had the job of keeping the preschoolers calm and focussed before they were due on stage. The pic below sums up his success at that particular job.

But once on stage the preschoolers transformed themselves.......

Their dance told the story of a jewellery heist - complete with gangster thieves, laser security beams (that's the red wool), dramatic tension and lots of opportunities for stylish dance solos and group sequences. These 4-5 year olds had a full 5 minutes of dance moves to memorise!

6 months ago at their last performance it seemed like Claire had achieved miracles just getting them up on stage with the occasional set of dance moves from isolated individuals done in the correct sequence. Now look at what she has achieved with them!

Totally cool and confident performers!

While Ollie's Boyz Funk group is as hip and happening as ever (and spot Ollie's cameo appearance in the jewellery heist scene, above)!


We've been lucky to know Thomas for (exactly) 18 years now. He was born in December, 1993 just as we were preparing (training in Sydney) for our big 6 week Canada/US trip with Ice Hockey Josh. So we didn't get to meet blue eyed baby Thomas, and start our relationship, until our return to Canberra in early February 1994.

He's always had an air of quiet, calm, self assurance which no doubt has contributed to his consistent success at school, especially in mathematics, science and languages (thank you for all the translating you did in France for us Thomas). His musicality blows us away (and thank you for all those impromptu performances) and what he doesn't know about Soccer isn't worth knowing.

Jurgen celebrated Thomas's birth all those years ago with a 21 bottle purchase of the 1993 Bailey's Shiraz (from Rutherglen).

Thomas was legally able to enjoy a glass with us this year. We thought it tasted better than ever!

Thomas has two sisters so is better equipped than most 18 year old males to stay calm in testing situations. It is no wonder they adore him.

Happy birthday Thomas and may your future continue to provide opportunities for you to use your wonderful talents and education.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A jolly weekend

Maxie's birthday and other end of year celebrations combined to make this an unusually jolly weekend.

We started on Friday with an 18th birthday shopping expedition and lunch afterwards with young Thomas L. Saturday we celebrated Maxie's big birthday family style at the green and shady Lowe Street Park in Queanbeyan, then a big night out afterwards with work friends. Sunday it was playtime with Ella in the morning and catching a movie in the evening (The Ides of March - brilliant!) with friends and a late dinner at Mecca Bah afterwards, once again in celebration of Maxie's big birthday.

Last night it was out again; this time catching up with Hugh and Joanna and all their travel tales before the end of the year. We've had fun but it has been a marathon of enjoyment!

My 97 year old Mum will treasure this pic of gorgeous Ollie enjoying a cuddle with Great-Grandma.

The bikes and scooters were out in force. Ella's bike is a fully restored vintage model that her Daddy spent many hours (and dollars) modifying to meet her specifications (must be painted red and purple and have pink streamers!).

Some relaxed family time together....

....... and our old favourite birthday carrot cake. Ella was waxing lyrical about the joys of icing ---she wishes "it would rain icing" ---- while O and A just got on with demolishing their portions.

We organised Secret Santa and sorted out the menu for next weekend's family Christmas lunch, very inefficiently thanks to my having drunk two glasses of sparkling shiraz.

Our end of year fancy dinner that night was at Waters Edge Restaurant, with my work friends in the RED group (and partners). It was a beautiful wintry cool Canberra evening on Saturday and we enjoyed our big night out at this fine restaurant in its special lakeside setting.

We were up early Sunday morning ready for some time with Ella while her Mummy and Daddy got Christmas shopping organised. I thought she would enjoy a visit to the Kingston Bus Depot Markets but they proved to have limited appeal so we spent some quality time nearby, checking out one of her favourite sliding places - the Telopea Park skate slide.

Rob captured us having a d & m at this point. From memory I think we were discussing the relative merits of macarons and meringues.