Saturday, December 31, 2011

One Red Paperclip

This book lived up to my expectations - even though it has sat on my To Be Read pile for ages, sent on by my patient Bookcrossing friend Skyring.

I love stuff like this - random, ridiculous pursuits that grow from a silly idea. Other favourites in similar vein are Round Ireland with a Fridge by Tony Hawks; Living Oprah by Robyn Okrant and Join Me! by Danny Wallace.

In the spirit of the book combined with its Bookcrossing journey, I want to pass it on to someone who appreciates the point: so email me to let me know why you should be this book's next reader.

Friday, December 30, 2011

A Pinteresting Year

How timely to realise (by browsing my Facebook Timeline) that it is a year since I joined Pinterest! So I thought I might recap some of my Pins that actually made it into my life!

These made it off my Wishlist Board and into my home :)
I bought one of these while I was away - before I even got to add one to my wishlist :)These were added to my lounge room today - no, sadly not the sofa - the cushions. But two of the sofas would be just perfect too!I think these will be my next yoga pants!!!LOL on a day like today, but I fancy some of these for my sore hands when the cold gets into the joints. Catch 22 - to knit them I would probably need to be wearing them!I want to buy a copy of this to hang in my altar and inspire me!

While this made it off my Inspire Me Board and onto my leg!!!!

Have been thinking a butterfly as well as a rose ... maybe a purple butterfly?

And this did inspire me to cover a table with Scrabble letters with the same technique:
Penny Tiled Desk - this is what I am planning on a small table with Scrabble tiles :)

And this was served for Christmas Breakfast
Bacon and eggs to go. Need to remember this for our Chrsitmas morning breakfast - even just cooking th aggs like this would be so much easier! No photo of my own ... a little busy at the time!

And these inspired me to create my own
Crochet Bag Pattern

For my new lappy?

So, while there are still plenty of things i would like to tick off the list, I feel pretty good about the ones I have!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Ghost of Christmas Past

As families gather over food and drink, here is such a moment captured in time.

May all my friends and family enjoy this glimpse of the past, enjoy the present and look forward to the future.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2011


I was at an event the other day where a woman made a disparaging remark about someone she knew who had 300 Facebook Friends, saying she never made time to see any of them so they weren't really friends.

I chose not to announce I have over 1200 Friends, as I got the feeling she wouldn't understand!

So - I got to thinking and wondering if I should hurriedly cull my Friends list just to people I see regularly IRL. And that thought made me sad.

I don't think friendship can any longer only be defined in terms of those you people you know from traditional networks like school, workplace or social /sporting groups etc. The internet has allowed us to connect with like-minded people beyond geographic boundaries. How far we have come from that time when you knew those in your village and that was about it! Our village has grown to encompass the whole world and I think that is a wonderful thing.

Through social media, I have connected with people interested in many of the things I enjoy - from breastfeeding support through scrap-booking, photography, reading, family history, writing, art and more. I have "met" wonderful women who I know I could spend HOURS chatting with, if it wasn't for the fact we live on opposite sides of the globe! And the fact we will (probably) never sit down over a cup of tea and talk doesn't lessen the reality of our friendship.

Not only am I connected with old friends and new, but my family bonds are strengthened through sites like Facebook. How else could I keep track of cousins around the country and beyond? Rather than extended family being distant, it is like we all live close by.

So yes - every single Friend I have online is a friend indeed. And it isn't about the numbers or who has the most friends - it is about making connections which make my days shine and my heart feel full.

Thank you to everyone who takes time to read my Ramblings - this is for you. Merry Christmas

Saturday, December 17, 2011

"Sorry, madam - turns out you can do that here" - more breastfeeding in public news

They seem to come in waves, working their way through my Google Reader. Stories from the World (but mostly the US, UK and Australia) about women erroneously told they cannot breastfeed in some public space.

The stories tend to come in similar installments:

  • The mother's outrage
  • The apology
  • The opinions
  • The protest
For some reason, the second point rarely gets the coverage the others do and so the message retained by the masses is "the mother was wrong" - even when relevant laws, company policies and other facts are highlighted.

So, what's currently doing the rounds in the blogosphere?

Breastfeeding 'too wild'
A BREASTFEEDING mum has received an apology from a Queensland water-slide park where she was instructed not to breastfeed in public.
Two weeks after the incident Ms Lang made a complaint to the theme park and was happy with the response.
"The lady I spoke to was fantastic. She didn't try and make excuses, she addressed it and apologised and said they will put measures in place to train staff members on the correct way to deal with this sort of situation."
Wet'n'Wild spokeswoman Renee Soutar said women are "absolutely" welcome to breastfeed in the park.
"We have never experienced a guest breast-feeding while riding one of our rides (the Calypso Beach attraction) before and so the lifeguards asked Ms Lang to stop breastfeeding as they felt it may have been a safety risk to her and her baby. Staff are to be given training and we are very sorry for any inconvenience to Ms Lang," she said.

Target Employees Harrass Nursing Mother
"Target were aware of our legal rights as nursing mothers, but that Target has different policies because they are a family friendly public place."

(This is great - Target (USA) feel they can ignore the law if it differs from company policy ... the mind boggles with potential exemptions!)
However, when she called Target's national hotline, she was told that the employee and store manager were the ones in the wrong and that corporate policy was that nursing mothers were welcome in Target stores. As such, Target has responded with a public apology and the following statement:

"Target has a long-standing practice that supports breastfeeding in our stores. We apologize for any inconvenience the guest experienced and will take this opportunity to reaffirm this commitment with our team members," company representative Kristi Arndt said.

"For guests in our stores, we support the use of fitting rooms for women who wish to breastfeed their babies, even if others are waiting to use the fitting rooms. In addition, guests who choose to breastfeed discreetly in more public areas of the store are welcome to do so without being made to feel uncomfortable.
Breastfeeding mom accused of indecent exposure, files charges
A breastfeeding mother in Washington was recently told by security guards to stop feeding her four-month-old baby in the Henry J. Daley government building, in Washington, because it was "indecent"
In a blog post Dos Santos writes in the Washington Post, the attorney said, "In a stern voice, a guard who was monitoring the metal detectors at the building's entrance, told me I could not sit on the floor. I acknowledged her but continued to nurse.
"I planned to get up once he was finished eating. But the guard was adamant. I removed my son, buttoned my shirt, and slowly stood up. But I knew he wasn’t finished eating. So I leaned against the wall and started to nurse again."
That's when the second guard approached Dos Santos and said because the area was "public" she was guilty of "indecent exposure" of her breast. Dos Santos questioned the guard who reportedly said, "Well, this is a government building, and you can't breastfeed in a public corridor of a government building!"
Dos Santos cited, according to the District of Columbia Breastfeeding Coalition which says, "On December 7, 2007 Mayor Adrian M. Fenty signed a new law. This law is called the “Child’s Right to Nurse Human Rights Amendment Act of 2007” (Bill B17-0133). The law makes it legal to breastfeed ANYWHERE a woman has the right to be with her child in DC."
The attorney says she then called her office and asked about the law, and in Washington DC, and 28 other states, breastfeeding is exempt from public indecency laws. Additionally, according to National Conference of State Legislatures, the District of Columbia is one of many states and districts which have a law that "specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location."


This Is a Courtroom - Laws Don't Apply Here
Natalie Hegedus of Michigan was recently in court to contest a boating ticket, and while waiting for her case to be called, she began nursing her 5-month-old son.

When her case was announced, though, she approached the bench with her baby still suckling away, at which point Hegedus had the following exchange with Judge Robert Hentchel:

Hentchel: "You think that's appropriate in here?"

Hegedus: "It's not against the law; I have to feed my son."

Hentchel: "Ma'am, it's my courtroom, I decide what's appropriate in here . . . . You have to understand that a judge-the laws don't apply in a courtroom. The judge's law applies, do you understand that?"

We need to stay tuned on this one, as there doesn't seem to be a resolution, other than "Michigan isn’t one of the 45 states that allows women to breastfeed anytime and anywhere." which just shows they need to get their act together and join the rest of the country!

In fact, three out of four of these women is protected by relevant laws in her State and/or Country and those laws should still apply when you are in Target or a court of law.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Tale of Two Cats and a Mouse

Our household is controlled by two felines, brother and sister, Frodo and Merry, recently turned 12.
 Frodo was bonded with Second Daughter, while Merry bonded with First Daughter. As both daughters have left the family nest, the cats have made other arrangements - Frodo substituting myself and relocating to our bedroom, while Merry maintains First Daughters bedroom, now converted to a study for the Man Of The House. Sworn enemies from birth, they maintain a mostly peaceful truce, with occasionl meltdowns over turf.

As indoor cats, the have no experience of life in the great outdoors, other than through the floor length windowns opur home features giving a range of views.

About a week or so, Frodo was hanging out at the end of my bed when he excitedly spotted a passing rat in the garden! He took on the position of Mouse Police and set up an "oppo" for suvaliance, perched on my yoga bolster. Later that week, he was rewarded with multiple visits by a small mouse (we have had a lot of rain).

Then the strange thing happened. Suddenly, Merry took up duty on the bolstor, doing Frodo out of a job and really pissing him off. Yet she can only have known if he communicated the news of rodent watch to her.

So do cats chat over dinner? Or do the taunt verbally "well, I have rodents to watch and you don't!"

Whatever it is, it reminds me of the days they spent on birdwatch when we were caring for two young magpies 5 years ago!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Year 27

Planning for 2012

Two weeks from today is Boxing Day. Once the Christmas Chaos is all done and dusted, I get a couple of weeks off work and transition gently from the old year to the new.

This has been a really hard year for me and I won't be very sorry to wave it goodbye, so I have lots of hopes for 2012.

Over the past couple of years, I have used a wonderful Creating Your Goddess Year workbook, planner and calendar from Goddess Leonie of I can't wait to get stuck into the 2012 edition and get my life back heading in a positive direction. Here is how she describes it:

The 2012 Creating your Goddess Year workbook, planner & calendar is an incredibly popular & useful tool to help you plan out & make happen your most incredible year yet. Over the last three years, thousands of women have used this workbook with the most amazing results. It’s the best planning tool available to help you make your year more inspiring than ever.

It’s filled with over 100 pages of worksheets & a printable calendar to help you dream, manifest, set your intentions, plan & cultivate your amazing new year. The workbook has been lovingly handwritten & rainbow illustrated… perfect for you to print out, soak up the rainbow colours of & get thoroughly inspired by!

You’ll get clarity on what you need 2012 to be. What you want to create during it. And most importantly, how to make it happen.

I love Leonie's colourful approach to Life, which fits so well with my own. Her pages inspire you to look back - and look forward: there is even a mini-calendar you can print out to help you plan your year.

I have mine all set to go for my holiday reflections - downloaded and ready to print. Go get yours!

Friday, December 9, 2011

All roads lead to England

I seem immersed in England and life there right now. I am coming to the end of 30 CDs of unabridged Dickens, as Bleak House finally finishes after months of commuter listening. I am ten books into  a 15+ series of fiction set in an English village. My family history quest has me hopping all over the country with ancestors seemingly in every part. And my co-worker Kintara is busy blogging about her family who are holidaying there for four weeks! Even as I write, Midsomer Murders is keeping me company! Oh, and my daughter Melissa hopes to visit next year for a wedding!

If a bucket of money fell from the sky, I would be off with her like a shot. Melissa and I have a shared interest in English history, folklore, geography and scenery. We could quite easily drive from Lands End to the border and beyond - and lets throw in Wales, Scotland and Ireland while we are there, because they hold just as much appeal!

Living in a country where even the oldest of old buildings cannot be more than the 200 or so years of white settlement; where even my convicts arriving in 1818 can still only mark 7 generations, it is hard to comprehend the sheer age of England and the rest of the UK and Europe. As a fan of Edward Rutherford, who writes immensely detailed histoicral novels tracing families through time, I have deep interest in all the stages of British history. Finding genealogy that flows back 30+ generations, with the Norman Invasion coming to life as suddenly names change and watching the families living through times of war, plague and more, just increases the wish to visit as many pieces of the puzzle as I can.

But for now, I can only watch on from the other side of the planet.

Kintara freezes at Stonehenge!!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

So this is Christmas ...

I am struggling to get into the season this year. I think it is mostly because time has flown too quickly for me in 2011 and I don't feel ready for the end-of-year celebrations and reflections. I am frustrated by what I haven't done this year, hamstrung by invasive health issues. A black cloud of depression makes it hard to reflect anything, even wonderful, positive experiences.

So the festive season perhaps feels like one more thing I am having to modify and I resent that. This has always been a favourite time of year, full of traditions which bring my close family even closer. Even though my children are now all adults, there is no sign of them scaling back on childhood rituals - they are, in fact, even more determined to keep them going.

This week we made our annual trek to the Christmas Tree Farm to select our tree. Rather than a leisurely day trip followed by trimming the tree and decorating the house, it was a window of opportunity at the end of my working day - just an hour between my returning home and the tree farm closing for the day. This due to clashing work timetables making family time on weekends impossible. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, all three off-spring made the most of that time and smiled as they selected two trees: one for the family home and one for Melissa's. Kaitlyn and Ashley decided not to get a tree this year as their rental home has been put on the market and they are looking to move.

Arriving home, I just wanted to crawl into bed and sleep. It had been an especially big day: the builders had finally arrived at the office to commence our long-awaited re-fit and Kieran had been allocated to receive the delivery of our new mattress at home, which needed unwrapping and the bed re-made before I could crawl under the doona anyway. So, we compromised - the tree was mounted on its stand by Kieran, watered and left standing bare, like a lady waiting to be dressed! She had to wait til I came home from work the next day. Kieran and Kaitlyn went to Melissa's house to help her get her own tree standing and decorated, so my little helpers were away in any case. Rodney had been away all week for work.

So Thursday, Kieran put the lights in place and I hung ornaments. We made the "annual dash to Big W for ornament hooks and light globes we could have sworn we had extras of the year before" and then Melissa came around to get her share of the globes for the extra lights I had passed on to her. I set up my Willow Tree Nativity and Kieran hung the card holder, on which I hung the first card received - the one that each year is a celebration in itself, a hand-made creation from an old friend. Yet, still, I couldn't feel in the season. The remainder of decorations sat in their boxes for another night. I finally got back to them on Saturday, yet as I write on Sunday, boxes remain.

As I have throughout this year, I am trying to put it in perspective: in the course of my life, I can look back and know that most years I greeted these tasks with delight and will again. 2011 is a blip that will fade into memory and the future will bring better times. Just as my health dips down, it will rise up and my activities will be less restricted by pain and fatigue.

And those boxes will still be there tomorrow.

(There was intention to photograph the completed tree to adorn this post, but taking it just seems like too much effort in itself right now. More evidence I am truly not myself.)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hopping mad about bed-sharing

  • Bed-sharing is the practice of an infant sleeping in the same bed as its mother. 
  • Co-sleeping is the practice of an infant sleeping in the same room as its mother.
Since time immemorial, bed-sharing has been the normal practice of mothers around the world. Indeed, the majority of the world continue to practice bed-sharing. I practiced bed-sharing with all three of my now-adult children. My mother was found by a nurse with me asleep beside her in hospital. It is nothing new!

So why is it now an issue of fear-mongering from coroners and other health professionals around the world? Take, for example, this appalling poster campaign recently released in the US:

I think this is a heartless way to highlight ANY health campaign and can only imagine the outrage if such images were used to highlight the health risks of using infant formula instead of breastfeeding.

Coincidentally, just as these images were making news in the blogosphere, this equally emotive image also appeared in my news feed:

Regardless of decisions consiouslly made by parents, something like 25% find themselves sleeping with their baby at some stage. Therefore, campaigns which highlight potentially high-risk circumstances make more sense than those designed only to frighten parents. An example is the brochure "Is your baby sleeping safely?" which is available on the website of the Australian Breastfeeding Association and which I regularly give to parents seeking information at the Breastfeeding Centre where I work.

In 2010, the South Australian Coroner issued strong warnings against bed-sharing, based on a review of five cases of sudden death in infants sleeping with their parents. I sought out the report online and read it, distressing as the cases were, and discovered that 4 out of 5 cases were instances of blatantly unsafe bed-sharing practices: in fact, some involved sleeping with an infant on a couch or arm-chair, not a bed at all.

Today, the Victorian Coroner has been quoted making similar warnings. 
In the first Australian study of its kind, the Victorian Coroners Prevention Unit recently found that of 72 infant deaths reported between 2008 and 2010, 33 were of babies who had slept on the same surfaces as an adult.
Now, look at those numbers and imagine if that prompted a campaign against babies sleeping in cots - after all:  39 out of 72 babies were NOT sleeping in bed with their parent!

Much research has been done to demonstrate the safety of bed-sharing when practiced by breastfeeding mothers who are non-smokers and not affected by drugs or alcohol, which surely should be the standard we should be aiming for.

In fact, bed-sharing enables successful breastfeeding AND enhances safe sleeping in the infant and mother. the work of Dr James McKenna is recognised for the SAFE bed-sharing guidelines which maximise the benefits and reduce the risks. It is such guidelines that coroners and other health professionals should be highlighting:

Safe Cosleeping Guidelines

Guidelines to Sleeping Safe with Infants:
Maximizing the chances of Safe Infant Sleep in the Solitary and Cosleeping (Specifically, Bed-sharing) Contexts, by James J. McKenna, Ph.D. Professor of Biological Anthropology, Director, Mother-Baby Sleep Laboratory, University of Notre Dame.
Below I have summarized and highlight some of the issues to be concerned with as you make your own decisions about where and how your infant should sleep.
What constitutes a "safe sleep environment" irrespective of where the infant sleeps?
Safe infant sleep begins with a healthy gestation, specifically without the fetus being exposed to maternal smoke.
Post-natally safe infant sleep begins especially with the presence of an informed, breastfeeding, committed mother, or an informed and committed father.
Infants should sleep on their backs, on firm surfaces, on clean surfaces, in the absence of smoke, under light (comfortable) blanketing, and their heads should never be covered. 
The bed should not have any stuffed animals or pillows around the infant and never should an infant be placed to sleep on top of a pillow.
Sheepskins or other fluffy material and especially bean bag mattresses should never be used. Water beds can be dangerous, too, and always the mattresses should tightly intersect the bed-frame Infants should never sleep on couches or sofas, with or without adults wherein they can slip down (face first) into the crevice or get wedged against the back of a couch.
Bed-sharing: It is important to be aware that adult beds were not designed to assure infants safety!
  • Bottle-feeding babies should always sleep alongside the mother on a separate surface rather than in the bed.
  • If bed-sharing, ideally, both parents should agree and feel comfortable with the decision. Each bed-sharer should agree that he or she is equally responsible for the infant and acknowledge that the infant is present. My feeling is that both parents should think of themselves as primary caregivers.
  • Infants a year or less should not sleep with other children siblings -- but always with a person who can take responsibility for the infant being there;
  • Persons on sedatives, medications or drugs, or is intoxicated - -or excessively unable to arouse should not cosleep on the same surface with the infant.
  • Excessively long hair on the mother should be tied up to prevent infant entanglement around the infant's neck -- (yes, it has really happened!)
  • Extremely obese persons, who may not feel where exactly or how close their infant is, may wish to have the infant sleep alongside but on a different surface.
  • It is important to realize that the physical and social conditions under which infant-parent cosleeping occur, in all it's diverse forms, can and will determine the risks or benefits of this behavior. What goes on in bed is what matters.
  • It may be important to consider or reflect on whether you would think that you suffocated your baby if, under the most unlikely scenario, your baby died from SIDS while in your bed. Just as babies can die from SIDS in a risk free solitary sleep environment, it remains possible for a baby to die in a risk-free cosleeping/bed sharing environment. Just make sure, as much as this is possible, that you would not assume that , if the baby died, that either you or your spouse would think that bed-sharing contributed to the death, or that one of your really suffocated (by accident) the infant. It is worth thinking about.
Aside from never letting an infant sleep outside the presence of a committed adult, i.e. separate-surface cosleeping, I do not recommend to any parents any particular type of sleeping arrangement since I do not know the circumstances within which particular parents live. What I do recommend is to consider all of the possible choices and to become as informed as is possible matching what you learn with what you think can work the best for you and your family.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Family Ties

I have been a family historian for many years but it has taken a backseat lately due to other commitments and pursuits. However, contact by several people querying relationships prompted me to upgrade my Family Tree Maker software so I could open my files on my new laptop, which runs Windows 7. I also fired up my account.

More and more people are joining and that means you get a lot more hints as the program finds people who match those in your tree. It is great fun clicking on the waving leaves that attach themselves to your family members and confirming those who match. Before you know it, further generations are added on and time tumbles away before your eyes.

Well, I was quite giddy to find that a previous brick wall - my paternal grandmother's family line Fenn - crumbled before my eyes and missing links appeared, leading me back to the original name Fiennes, then de Fiennes and time was marching backwards toward the Norman conquest of England! And then beyond even that. Before my eyes, family history crossed into world history and I was faced with my pedigree running right back to the Emperor Charlemagne! How exciting to be one of the 10% of the population who are descended from this historical figure! My kids were quite impressed and my son fired up a world history timeline on the internet and started plotting the family names against historical events.

A day or so later, I asked him what could "top" an Emperor and Pope. I asked if a Saint would do? You see, I had stumbled across another famous connection, this time on my mothers maternal line, where just a few generations back and to the side, who should appear but Mary MacKillop, Australia's first Saint! Turns out, she is my second cousin, four times removed! A newly-found third cousin who had connected with me via just a few weeks ago confirmed this was known in her family line and there were stories of her giving aid to family members!

Only a couple of years ago, I visited Temora cemetery, where my great-great-great grandfather Hugh Lindsay Sinclair is buried, alongside his wife, Mary McDonald.
Hugh Lindsay Sinclair 1815 - 1906
It is Mary McDonald's family that includes Mary Helen Maria Ellen MacKillop, daughter of Alexander MacKillop and Flora Hannah McDonald - "my" Mary and Flora were first cousins! Mary Helen Maria Ellen went on to become Mother Mary MacKillop who was recognised as a Saint in 2008, just a couple of months after I had seen those graves in Temora.

There are a whole lot of family photos here on the official website!

Isn't it amazing what you can find out with a few clicks of the keyboard from the comfort of your own home?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Piggy Bank Method of Expressing and Storing Breastmilk

If you express your breastmilk in the early days after your milk comes in, you will probably get more than your baby needs for a feed – indeed, you might feel you have enough milk for all the babies in your ward! You head home confident that expressing is quick and easy and start to plan for the extra freezer you will buy to store all that expressed breastmilk in.

So you are really disappointed when you try expressing for the first time after the early postnatal period and only get a few mls for your effort. If you are expressing to have a supply of milk for your return to work or a special occasion away from your baby, you will probably start to panic and worry that you need a different (better) breast pump or you have a poor milk supply.

Guess what? Everything is okay!

Once breastfeeding is established and milk production is in sync with the baby, the breasts no longer stockpile excess milk, just in case it is needed. Instead, baby’s feeds are made-to-order, with just a little spare kept on hand in case it is needed.

So, instead of you having an endless supply you can call on whenever you want – like an unlimited credit card – now you are living a credit-free life where you need to save up for what you want. Just like the financial world, now you need to think about a savings plan and how much you need to put away each week to meet your goals.

You might like to think of these first few goes with your breast pump or hand expressing as practice sessions, where you learn the tricks and tips to maximise your expressing skills. Then, once you have worked it all out, you can start banking your milk towards the future. Most mothers find it takes about 15-20 minutes after the let-down to pump each breast and they can collect more milk earlier in the day than in the afternoon or evening.

If you just want some breastmilk in the freezer for a “rainy day”, then you can just express whenever you have a little time between feeds. But if you have a set goal in mind – enough milk for the first week or two back at work; two or three feeds to cover your sister’s wedding day or one feed each week while you are at yoga class – then you will need to do a little maths and work out a plan.

Say you find you average about 20-50mls each time you express and you work out your baby will need about 70mls each feed, then you will know it takes you roughly two sessions to save up one feed. A few practice runs with your partner or other caregiver feeding your baby EBM will help you estimate how much you might need. But remember breastfed babies take varied amounts at each feed and you can never accurately guess an exact amount, so divide your “piggy bank” into small amounts of frozen milk until you get an idea of what he needs. You can buy Breastmilk Freezer Trays which hold 30mls per section and this is a good amount to work with.

So, just as you did when saving for your childhood hearts-desire, get in the habit of putting a little bit away on a regular basis and you can be confident you will have enough when you need it.
See also: ABA booklet Expressing & Storing Breastmilk $5.00

Saturday, November 12, 2011

My Happy Place

I have had a really BLAH couple of weeks - the normal come-down after a holiday, plus a misery-making cold and a visit from the MS fatigue fairy.

However, I could not resist the draw of the sunshine today, as I left my MS support group at 2pm, the afternoon stretched ahead and there was only one thing for it - I drove home, grabbed the dog and our assorted walking gear and headed to the beach.

We are so blessed to live in a beach-side town, on the edge of the metro area. While we don't live within (reasonable!) walking distance, it is only a few minutes drive and we are there. I often fantasise about a beach-side cottage, where the waves lap gently only a few steps from the door - but then we have a massive storm like we did this week and I am thankful we live up the hill!

Celebrating the final two weeks before the doggy curfew kicks in next month, Molly and I were able to enjoy the daytime beach, along with visitors making a day of it. The sand was host to lots of those little tent shelters and just a couple of umbrellas, while most people bared their lily-white winter bodies to the full sun. The boats were out at the yacht club, the jet skis disturbed the peace at Olivers Hill and small children shivered in wet towels - the water looks inviting, but it is still early in the season for full immersion - although the usual teenage boys and young men were doing their macho act in the cold.

We stopped for gelati - Molly and I share, to the wonder of passing children "That dog is eating ice cream!!!!" and then continue our walk. We are stopped often -  "Can I pat your dog?" - and Molly paddles up to her self-imposed tide line. The skeleton of a freshly-filleted Schnapper tempts her in the shallows, but not enough to get Too Wet!!!

The beach is my happy place and the sunshine, salt water and sea air work together to wash away the BLAH. It is time to go home, even though Molly actions a Sit Down when we reach the point where she realises we are leaving, clearly not ready to leave. but I am, so we do.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Like they'd been hit by a train.

On my recent trip, I was able to talk to my uncle about a family story of which I had little detail. On my return, I received his written account, which I share here.
"My father Harry had two '27 model Dodge cars that they had cut down into utilities, the utes were always driven by George as Dad had an accident with a car and lost his nerve. One day in 1950 they had a social trip to Ilabo where they were to have a few beers and a yarn to the stock and station dealer. they swapped rego plates on those two utes to which one was running best at the time, on the way home they were driving beside the railway line. About three kilometers out of Ilabo they made a sharp right hand turn to cross the line. As the gates at the crossing had been incorrectly left open, George kept going straight and the Riverina Express 38 classic locomotive doing 100kph and the canvas hooded ute hit the connecting rods on the main driving wheels. This swept the ute between the 38 loco and the gate post. A gap of about 1.2 metres. As the gatepost was made of two pieces of railway line the car was smashed to bits. The Express was put out of action and when it stopped the guard's van was level with the gate. the guard stepped down from the train, saw Dad standing near the gate with very little left of the car. The guard asked "are you alright?" "Yes" Dad replied "but I can't find my brother" so they had a look about and found George in the grass looking for his pipe. A piece of the car went through the gatekeepers water tank, spilling most of his only water supply, another went through the window of the house which was over 100 metres away. Their injuries were a grazed nose to dad and a cut to George's right elbow tendon. This injury caused his little finger to wither away, this never bothered George as he never went for any treatment." Alan Buckley 2011
Just a short while before my visit, Uncle Alan had found parts of the car wreckage at the site, more than 60 years after the event! He gave me a piece to bring home.

 Curious, I Googled both the car and the train:

The 'Riverina Express', 1946

1927 Dodge Truck
You can see from this photo of a similar car the section that my uncle is holding in the previous photo!

So, now the story is told - although I am sure both George and harry would have a lot more to add!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Road Trip 2011: Epilogue

I learned a lot over the past two weeks:

  • Four-poster to futon: I slept on six beds over eleven nights and had comfortable, uninterrupted sleep in them all. Two nights home in my own bed, all my aches and pains have returned. We need a new mattress, stat. Either that, or the dog, cat and husband need their own room!
  • You do not need to have previously met people IRL for them to be friends. Spending time with people I had only known online was great - thank goodness for ABAChat and Facebook.
  • Solo travel is great. Solo travel as a female is still great. The single downside is there isn't anyone to watch your carry-on luggage when you go to the loo at the airport, so you have to squeeze it into the cubicle with you!
  • Apps are ace: I used two apps on my Android phone which made everything so managable:
  1. Tripit was amazing - it even tracks your flight details for you: it knew my gate had changed before I did! (If my phone hadn't been flat on my return trip, it might have told me Qantas had issues!)
  1. Packing List  was terrific: I was able to work out all I would need to take, divided up into various bags and then just gather it all ready to go - and check I had it when I left each stay.
  • If you are going to use your mobile phone as a GPS in a rental car, yes - do pack your dash mount. I didn't.
  • Audio books on CD make long drives much more enjoyable, as does your whole music collection on a memory stick.
  • My aunt once queried the modern trend to carry drink bottles of water everywhere. I have worked out this is because we don't tend to punctuate our days with multiple pots of tea! It is much more hydrating than you think.
  • B&B accommodation wins hands-down over motels at much the same price and cuts out all the middle-men - your money goes directly to the owners.
  • Cousins morph into your aunts, uncles and grandparents over the years - quite disconcerting when you haven't seen them in a while!
  • I much prefer art to depict real life in a way I can see it - abstract is too abstract for me.
  • Second-hand bookshops are always staffed by people with a passion for books, a tendency to chat and piles of books they are getting around to shelving. The best ones have a resident cat or dog and the ultimate also serve tea!
  • It is much wiser to post your book purchases home by mail than try to squeeze them into your luggage.
  • The Goodreads app is essential to prevent doubling-up! There are two - I prefer this one
  • The BEST gadget I had with me was a last-minute purchase at Coles before I left - basically a double adapter with two USB points - I could charge my phone, Kobo and laptop all at once with access to only a single, standard power point. I think it was $15.
  • Don't take your tripod and really don't lug it to dinner at Parliament House, just in case - you won't use it!
  • Do use the Facebook check-in feature - it keeps the family informed you are safe, let's hosts know you are on your way/made it safely and is fun for everyone else to track your travels!
  • Finally - I could so make this a regular habit! Which State should I visit next time????

Oh, and I so want a new car! I hired a Kia Sportage and fell in love! 
Dear Santa, I have been a very good girl ...

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Road Trip: Day Twelve

After a good night's sleep, a shower in the wonderfully-rainbow-tiled bathroom, breakfast of pancakes, I was on the road again for my final day.

My rental car needed to returned at the airport at 2pm and my flight checked-in at 3pm, so I had a few hours to play with. I headed straight to Glebe, to visit the book-mecca of Gleebooks, famous among used-books buyers and Bookcrossers. What I wasn't expecting, though, was to find the suburb of Glebe so much to my liking! With multiple book-shops along its strip, including one with a cafe where I drank chai, and the absolute bonus of a huge outdoor market where i browsed happily until I headed to the airport.

All went well with my flight and it was only as I and the other passengers waited for our bags that we found out we were, in fact, the last flights to touch down with Qantas for some time, as the news spread that the company had gone into lock-out mode in defiance of ongoing strikes and stop-works in recent months. I had just escaped being stranded in Sydney and while I would have, no doubt, plenty of beds offered, and a three-day buffer til I need to be back at work, others were not so fortunate. My shuttle bus home included a woman who should have been flying home to Macau, but was - instead - returning to her friend's home while alternate flights were found. This is the news  on a global stoppage which will affect many. Thankfully, I was headed home to bed!!!!

Road Trip: Day Eleven

Waving farewell to my cousin Bruce, I set off to catch up my cousin David! Bruce is my father's nephew, while David is my mother's yet it turns out they both live in the Parramatta area! David an I caught up over tea in the local shopping centre and he told me we hadn't seen each other since my daughter was born in 1987: I told him she turns 24 this weekend, so it had been that long!!

To ensure I didn't go too long without tea, I headed straight off to visit my friend Linda for her birthday!

(Yes, I changed shirts in between, due to the heat!)

Then I set off for an unexpected, but delightful addition to my trip: an invitation from Nicole to take part in her group's Movie and Dessert night and an offer of a bed overnight! She and her family made me so welcome - and I was thrilled to see the wonderfully decorated home they share, which is painted with my favourite primary colours and decked out with Ikea furniture! In fact, their home is to be featured in an upcoming Ikea family magazine and, by coincidence, Nicole and her lovely baby Quinn, were featured in the Sydney Morning Herald the day after my visit!!!

Photo from SMH article

The evening was wonderful, such a vibrant group of mums and babies - and desserts! This group take their home-baking seriously!!! I was made so welcome and it was fantastic to see the breastfeeding DVD I had heard about but not seen - Baby Baby Oh Baby which you can preview here. I am going to buy a copy for the Breastfeeding Centre as it will be great for the classes we run there and the mums who visit.

Road Trip 2011: Day Ten

I spent the day driving around Sydney, first visiting the NSW Branch office of ABA - the Sydney equivalent of my own workplace, where I caught up with Liz and Linda and drooled over their extensive refurbishment since my previous visit in 2005. Inspired by our own Breastfeeding Centre, they recently established a Breastfeeding Lounge and have rearranged their office space to provide private and public consultation spaces to support breastfeeding mothers. You will notice they also embrace purple as a theme colour!!

There was a slight detour to a bookshop and the bonus of just the orange backpack I have searched for for ages - half price! - and some lunch, then back on the road.

Next stop was to see  my lovely friend Anne and give her the the crocheted hat I made just for her. Chemotherapy is her focus right now and I was so happy she was up to a visit. We talked and laughed and she loved her hat, then showed me her beading, giving me a beautiful necklace of purple and just a hint of gold-orange. Before we knew it, there was only time for her husband to take photos of us giggling like school-girls, she bedecked in a purple jacket and scarf and her new hat, setting off her jammies just perfectly! And she donned Winona, her new wig, which made her look like a wild, young thing.

This is how Anne made sure I saw her house, with a string of Helpline stickers, which I completely missed as I was giving way, along with all the other traffic, to a slowly strolling Brush Turkey crossing the road!

(I don't drive with camera in hand, so this is someone else's turkey!)

Back to my cousin's house and then out to dinner at Darren and Amy's and more baby cuddles :)