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Moons and Showers

3 Aug The Three Sisters

Stick the word baby in front of ‘moon’ and ‘shower’ and you have two events, which have become almost rights of passage for women these days prior to having a baby.  Depending on where you live, the nature of each varies, but in Australia, a baby shower seems to be as common and as expected as in the US. The baby moon, previously the time after the birth, is now known as the short holiday before the baby is born.

I have to say I was not planning on doing or having either, but with James back for such a short time before leaving again, I was keen that we did go away, just for a couple of nights. I never thought of it as a ‘babymoon’, but if you are going to adopt the newly-used definiteion, then yes, it was a short break, where we could get away, enjoy some time as just the two of us and try to make the most of that, knowing in a few short weeks, things will change. Time as a couple is becoming precious and now James has gone again, I really have no idea how much more time we will actually have together before we are a family of three.

I booked us into a hotel in the Blue Mountains – a little luxury for a couple of days, to relax, go for walks, indulge in a nice meal and uninterrupted, adult conversations! In many ways it was an early anniversary gift to each other as well.

Lilianfels hotel

Lilianfels hotel

View from hotel gardens

View from hotel gardens

Hotel gardens

Hotel gardens

Admittedly, the walks were a little shorter than they might have been eight months a go but enjoyable all the same and as much as I dislike feeling as if I’m less capable now, there was nothing nicer than getting back, having a warm bath and curling up in the hotel lounge in front of one of the two big fireplaces. It was the first time we got a taste of winter, for it has been fairly warm in Sydney this year, apart from a couple of cold snaps lasting just a few days. Warm jumpers, hats and cosy log fires were just what we were after.

The Three Sisters

The Three Sisters

Blue Mountains views

Blue Mountains views

Blue Mountains walking trail

Blue Mountains walking trail

Admiring the views

Admiring the views

Walking the trail

Walking the trail

Mountain trail

Mountain trail

Post walk drink

Post walk drink

Evening by the fire

Evening by the fire

We couldn’t resist the high tea, offered by the hotel but felt we had earned it after our walk! Well, I am eating for two now… Right?

Post walk high tea!

Post walk high tea!

Relaxing in the lounge

Relaxing in the lounge

Warming up with a hot chocolate

Warming up with a hot chocolate

Sunset from the hotel

Sunset from the hotel

It was just a couple of days after James left again that I had my baby shower. A couple of friends asked if they could throw one for me, which was very touching, and of course, I was delighted, although specified I was not after anything extravagant and was not going down the route of a gift registry, which many people do. The word ‘shower’, implying I would be showered with gifts, actually makes me feel a little uncomfortable.

Initially I was hoping to have a joint party with James for a modern-day twist; less baby shower, more a bit of fun with our friends before the baby arrives. However, dates were limited and eventually we settled on a low-key, girls-only, tea party at our apartment. I have to admit I did enjoy making a cake and putting together some home-made thank you gifts and tags, which involved baking several trays of macarons… Patience and lots of willing later, I think they actually turned out ok!

Macaron thank you gifts

Macaron thank you gifts

To be honest, I could not have asked for anything more and I was completely blown away by the generosity shown by our friends and the efforts they had gone to, to create a fantastic party. Beautiful decorations, flowers, food, activities and gifts; a room full of women, love and general support; a lovely occasion, which given the timing, was a good way to enjoy myself during my first weekend with James away again.

Clouds and feathers

Baby shower decorations

Baby shower decorations

Party details

Cake what I made

Cake what I made

Baby bunting

Baby bunting

Baby clothes

Stringing up the clothes

Fantastic friends & Party Planners

Fantastic friends & Party Planners

Baby shower friends

Baby shower friends

Showing the nursery

Showing the nursery

Everybody who came brought flowers, a tray of food and gifts. I admit I even shed a few tears when they played a short video montage compiled of clips from a few friends and my sister back in the UK, wishing me well. Saying that, I can cry at the drop of a hat these days… I blame the hormones.

Food and Flowers

Food and Flowers

Quilt made by talented friend

Homemade baby quilt

Special gifts

Baby shower present

Friends

Shan & Sophie

Generous friends

Generous friends

34-week bump

34-week bump

End of the day

End of the day

With so many lovely things, the ‘nursery’ (read corner of our bedroom for now) is now pretty much set up. One of James’ jobs the past fortnight was to build the cot. We have a mini one, which expands to a full size cot when required, and I love it. Now I just need to start washing a few more little clothes and should probably think about that hospital bag!

Just need a baby now

Just need a baby now

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To everything there is a season

2 Apr

The months of March and April we used to associate with days growing longer, temperatures getting warmer and winter melting away.* Of course, now we’re in the Southern Hemisphere, this is completely reversed and where spring would have sprung, autumn now starts to fall. We have begun to notice a slight chill to the air first thing in the morning and until our clocks go back at the end of this week, it is a very dark day we wake up to when the alarm goes off. Easter was a time of  blossom on the trees and lambs and calves wobbling about, trying out their new legs. Having said that, with the temperate weather here, it appears lambing can also happen in autumn so at the Sydney Royal Easter show there were enough baby animals to satisfy anyone pining for a burst of spring (probably something the UK is in need of right now.)

We went along to the event on Easter Monday: a huge fair at the Olympic park with rides and attractions for children, exhibition halls for food, wine, produce, fashion and home styling, arenas for animal  judging and stadiums for parades and spectacles. My highlight was petting the adorable baby goats, lambs and calves, which due to my fear of cows, was quite an achievement! James’ highlight was the wood chopping championships. I have to admit I disappeared to the craft hall at that point and left him to watch great hulks of men wield axes over great hunks of wood. The event dubbed the ‘Wimbledon of Wood Chopping’ attracted huge crowds and despite the heat, the arena was packed. (If you are interested the New Zealand team won the World Championship and these men can hack through a tree stump in under 60 seconds.)

P1080571

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The Easter weekend itself, we travelled to the South Coast and stayed in a small B&B in Berry in an idyllic spot, run by the parents of one of James’ Navy colleagues. If it seemed like spring in Sydney (or still summer if we’re honest right now) we woke up to a truly autumnal morning in Berry. Fields (of cows) were shrouded in mist as the sun came up and the temperature was below 20 degrees for the first time in a while.

We drove into the Southern Highlands, up through Kangaroo Valley and to Fitzroy Falls and went to Gerroa in the afternoon to try and take the paddle board for a surf but the wind made it very difficult. That evening, we walked over the rocks, saw dolphins jumping through the waves and then had a meal at the Hungry Duck in Berry – highly recommended.

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We took a big detour back to Sydney, back through the highlands and then Kiama to walk the coastal path (more cows but I gave a wide berth) and stopping at the Scarborough Hotel for a drink and a pretty incredible view.


Back to the city and the only cow was the one on our plate that evening at a friends’ barbecue. Fantastic Easter weekend.


*We note that this year, spring seems to have ignored this rule in the UK.

Creative Christmas

30 Nov

I probably said it last year but I’ll say it again: going Christmas shopping in Australia feels wrong. Despite the shops festooned with Christmas trees and baubles, it is hard to feel festive while wearing a sundress and flip flops and taking refuge in the shopping mall from the 30 plus degrees heat outside. If any further evidence were needed that the Northern Hemisphere rules culturally – just browse the shops in Sydney at this time of year when, in the middle of a heatwave, the tunes are blaring out: ‘Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow’ and glittery snowflakes adorn the window displays.

This year I broadened my shopping horizons from the local Westfield to explore an annual Christmas market, held in a nearby National Trust property. I wasn’t even aware it existed until I saw the market advertised and it was a good way of visiting the house at the same time. Lindesay is a historic Georgian House overlooking the harbour in Darling Point. As I entered the gates, I was immediately taken back to an English summer fete: there was the house with its manicured lawns, marquee, tea shop and ladies selling raffle tickets. Despite the summery weather, it is as close to feeling Christmassy as I’ve yet come. Inside the house, each room had been transformed by lots of different stalls appropriate to the room it inhabited. In the cellar were the gourmet food stalls: jams, chutneys, Christmas puddings, cakes, infused olive oils, vinegars and an English toffee stall! In the dining room, a grand table display showcased everything you could want for your Christmas table from decorations, cake stands, silverware, dainty macaroons and china. The bedrooms housed all the stalls selling clothing, textiles, scented candles, bed and bath wear and toiletries and outside was a large marquee full of other stalls selling everything from gardening dibbers and baby blankets to decorations and jewellery. I could have spent an absolute fortune but it was a lovely setting for a fair and one I’ll definitely drag James around next year!

I was trying to get a bit more creative with my gifts this year, especially as around this time we have lots of birthdays as well. (Don’t worry – you won’t all be getting handmade presents, which look as if a five-year-old has had a fit with a paint brush!) As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I wanted to attempt making macaroons at some point but after having read how fiddly they were, I was a little daunted about giving them a go. Anyway, I did, and once the first salted caramel batch were successful, I then went on to make chocolate and pink with white chocolate ganache.

Macaroon cases

The finished macaroons

Salted caramel macaroon

I found they also made perfect presents, especially when presented in a handmade box.

Gift macaroons

On the subject of getting creative and festive, I’ve also been getting the cards underway… Do be expecting one of these. Get your orders in now folks!
Handmade Christmas cards
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