Vintage Bridal Shower!

Since I’ll be in the UK when Yolly and Casey get married, I was pretty happy to find out that her bridal shower was the weekend before we left, and I would be able to fly up from Melbourne to join it.

The blushing bride

The blushing bride

I arrived on Friday evening, pretty late, and went to pick up my rental car. I’d booked a “Nissan Micra, or similar” to drive out to Fernvale and back on Sunday, I’m more used to small cars … when I found the parking spot they directed me to, I was shocked to find a pretty big Toyota sedan … that’s not a small! It was pretty comfortable and easy to drive, luckily, once they helped me figure out where the “hand” brake was …

On arrival at Yolly’s, she and Claudia were still up, so we (well, I) had a couple of glasses of wine and we admired each other’s outfits for the party, which was a Vintage Tea theme. Yolly’s mum had given her a beautiful tea set with roses, which was all laid out ready on the table, and Clauds was all set to get the food ready the next morning … it was going to be an early start, luckily I was an hour ahead!

Making posh sandwiches

Making posh sandwiches

Sandwich factory

Sandwich factory

Yum

Yum

I was sleeping in the girls’ room as usual, on the top bunk above Ivy. At 6 the next morning when Yolly and Clauds got up, I sat up and looked over to see two small, giggling blond girls in the other beds. I know I must look a bit of a fright in the morning, but surely not THAT funny … they seemed to think so though!

Ivy, by Mya

Ivy, by Mya

I want the camera!

I want the camera!

One of many bum shots

One of many bum shots

While we ate breakfast and started preparation for the food and decorations, the girls were full of energy – I gave my camera to Mya to see what came out, there were some very cute photos but also a lot of our bums – I guess that’s what you can see from that height, the poor thing!

Claudia and I made plates of sandwiches, with posh fillings and crusts delicately cut off. We had paper decorations for the garden, I hung them up along the deck, but not before trying them as earrings on the girls …

Mya with earrings

Mya with earrings

We got all dolled up in our dresses, Yolly’s was a gorgeous colour and she looked a bit like she was off the roller disco, Clauds also looked amazing in her yellow dress, and had a very cute hat to set it off. I loved the colours in mine, it was from a local vintage shop and made me feel really happy wearing it, I think the previous owner must have loved it too.

Claudia's outfit

Claudia’s outfit

People started arriving and Claudia made up some fruit punch, which tasted pretty yummy with champagne :) Everybody looked so good, and very different. As a special surprise, my aunt Michelle, who was in town for the wedding, also came along! I hadn’t seen her since Barry’s wedding over a year ago, and I hadn’t expected to see her on my upcoming visit home, so it was lovely that she was there too.

My dress

My dress

Yolly had a tiny blackboard and chalk for people to write messages on for her – Casey’s family obviously had a good sense of humour, they were writing things like “Run!” and “There’s still time …” :) Meanwhile, all the kids who were there were having a wonderfully messy time bouncing on the trampoline with water and fairy liquid …

After a suitable amount of champagne had been consumed, and the sun was making it pretty hot and sweaty outside, Claudia gathered us in the living room for games. For the first one, we scored points for items that we had in our purses. I thought our team of three weren’t doing too badly; we had 16 points thanks to phones, plasters and a drinking straw that Steph hurriedly stole from the table. I should have known better – in a room with a number of mums, they had bottomless bags full of everything they could possibly need, compared to Steph’s teeny vintage bag with only a lippy and cash card, we were stuffed. I think the winning team had around 50 points – ouch!

Friends of the bride

Friends of the bride

The second game involved reading a fairly well known passage from an old magazine for housewives about how to treat your husband. Cue a lot of groaning and “as if!” from the group – it was definitely from a bygone era, thank God! For the next game we completed a quick quiz, Steph got full marks which we found highly amusing. And then it was back to the vintage tea, posh sandwiches and bubbly …

Teaching Mya to write my name

Teaching Mya to write my name

Ivy came to sit on my lap for a cuddle while she ate chocolate biscuits, it was lovely, but I can’t believe how many biscuits she can fit in for such a small person. Mya showed me how she can write her name on the blackboard and I tried to teach her how to write mine – it’s pretty short, after all – after a few times writing it backwards, she got it! Very cool.

She got it!

She got it!

The party wound down and Yolly opened her gifts before a small group of us headed out to a local bar for some dinner. After the early start, I was ready for bed by 9:30 – Mya had asked if I’d sleep in their room again so I curled up on the top bunk and was out like a light …

The next morning Mya was up with her usual energy, but Ivy was a bit slower. Her hair was still tied up in yesterday’s bunches, and when I took the hairbands out it went into a crazy blond afro. She looked very cute but was too tired and grumpy to smile for photos, I could only get a bit of a pout, pretty good all the same.

Leave me alone, it's not even 9am ...

Leave me alone, it’s not even 9am …

It was another flying visit, after breakfast time to head back again. I hadn’t seen Silvio in nearly a week, but at last his stint working away in Sydney was over, so to finish off a fab weekend, we were off out to celebrate :)

Claudia’s 30th!

My gorgeous cousin Claudia turned 30 a week ago! I hadn’t seen my Queensland family in a while, so it was a good opportunity for a quick trip up to Brissie :)

Me and some of my Aussie family

Me and some of my Aussie family

With all the moving stuff going on it had to be a flying visit, but I did it in style, starting off with a nice relaxed glass of wine in the Qantas lounge … Which pretty much set the tone for the rest of the evening. Caseyand Justin picked me up at the airport – Claudia had gone off to get her make-up done, so I met up with her and Yolly at her place for bubbly, gifts and dress choices before heading out to the Mexican party. It was also her brother Harry’s 18th birthday on the same day.

Birthday girl

Birthday girl

Harry's balloons

Harry’s balloons

Blowing out the birthday candles

Blowing out the birthday candles

It was a fun night, plenty of food including an amazing cake (I went back for seconds the next day!), cocktails (with rosemary?!) and more bubbly stuff …

Suffice to say I was a bit worse for wear the next day. We went for brunch at Ruby’s – amazing, bubble and squeak hash browns with eggs and hollandaise sauce, freshly squeezed juice, I wolfed the lot before I remembered to take a photo!

Winter in Brissie

Winter in Brissie

The weather was absolutely beautiful, high twenties at least (in the middle of winter!), so I spent most of the day soaking up the sun on the balcony and recovering. We stopped by to say hi to Clare and eat MOAR CAKE before I had to head back home.

The Waiting Game.

When I was skyping my cousin Julia recently, she mentioned that I hadn’t been doing very much on my blog recently. She wasn’t the first person, I think Mum had mentioned it too, a week or two ago.

I’ve been meaning to post for some time about my new job, but other than that, I haven’t felt like I had very much to say. Over the last six weeks, I’ve been trying to get my head around some significant changes in my life: a new job and a new relationship, both of which are fantastic, but bring their own stresses – like being six thousand miles apart from the person I most want to be with, most of the time.

And if that wasn’t ENOUGH excitement, in one more week I’ll move house. I always seem to try and do everything at once, but the last few months seem to have been one long waiting game :) Maybe this year I will finally learn patience. Andrea has also spent the last two months travelling for work, so my social life just hasn’t been the same!

Since getting back from Malaysia, it seems like most of my time when I’m not working has been spent either on Skype or exercising. After several months at Fight Gym, I switched to Virgin Active, an old friend from the UK – much as I liked the Fight Gym, I needed to do something different. VA manage to change it up with new stuff pretty regularly, so now I’m “enjoying” body attack, body pump and cardio routines on the powerplate – although the boxing classes are not as good as before.

Exercising at 7am on beautiful beaches like Dee Why is a great start to the weekend … but hard work!

I also flirted for a little while with outdoor fitness classes at 7am on a Saturday. For three weeks, I got up before 6 and rode my bike up to 10km to varied locations along the northern beaches, where trainer Penny Walsh shouted at a surprisingly large group of us to run up sand dunes and hills in between crunches, push ups and step ups – with REALLY big steps.

On the fourth week though, sitting in the Wharf Bar with Viv on a Friday night, the temptation of a second bottle of wine to share was too much … luckily I was off the hook when I discovered the class was cancelled anyway (it was, honestly!). That was over two weeks ago, after that I was attending a conference on a Saturday which ruled out the morning workout, and last weekend I just couldn’t face it. I was so tired and needed a nice, long lie in! In a funny way I do like the 7am class, the beaches are beautiful and empty and I feel amazing afterwards, but it’s really hard to get past the fact that the mornings start off so dark and freezing cold! Maybe I’ll try it again when it warms up a bit more :)

One thing I have kept up is running: from being able to just about manage the 5k from home to Shelly Beach and back, I’ve worked up to now running over 10k on a fairly regular basis. I’ve found a small group of guys at work who come running on Thursday lunchtimes, and they’re all faster than me, which has had a positive effect on my speed. Last week was the best yet: ~7.5k in 42 minutes, well over 10kmh which was my original target.

Lastly, I keep promising myself – and other people – that I will go climbing some time. There is a wall at the gym, and a group at work who go every week, but so far I’ve bottled out. This can’t last forever though: Silvio is a keen climber, but perhaps this is something to save for later in the year :)

All of this is paying off though: I still have a little way to go to my target weight but I’m closer than I have been for a long, long time. With the big wedding looming in just a few weeks, this is definitely a good thing!

As part of the new routine, I also tried (hard!) to cut back on alcohol – but there’s still been room for indulging!

I’ve spent many happy nights at the Wharf Bar putting the world to rights with Viv and Rach, including the night when Lucy, still jetlagged after just getting back from the UK, locked herself out putting the rubbish out … poor thing! I’ve also had some lovely chilled evenings cooking at Viv and Rachel’s, and discovered that I can actually rustle up some pretty good dishes, given time, wine, and good company. I can’t wait to try my skills out on Silvio when he gets back from India … luckily for him, I haven’t yet learned how to cook curry :) Anyway, hopefully there’s a future blog post coming up on that!

The next few weeks are looking promising: moving house this weekend, Andrea returns on Thursday, the end of (financial) year party at work, which is currently shrouded in mystery, and then my first ever Christmas party in July, just before I head off for a few days of skiing in Falls Creek. So hopefully I’ll have lots more inspiration to actually write some posts again!

On holiday with the family.

Tuesday morning, we jumped in the car and headed out to the airport. We were off to see the Aussie branch of our family (well, some of them, anyway) – my gorgeous cousins Yolly and Clauds, and Yolly’s kids Mya and Ivy.

View of Sydney on the way up!

Sydney from the sky

Above the clouds and looking down

Everything went pretty smoothly, except for my case being a kilo or so over (happens every time) – we got the train out to Brisbane, taxi to our hotel and then it was just a case of getting organised for dinner. There was a hitch in our plans for the next day though – with the bad weather in north Queensland, the roads from Cairns to Port Douglas were blocked – one by a landslide, and the other by flooding. It wasn’t clear whether or not we’d even make it through to our hotel in the morning … which left us all feeling a little stressed out.

Family shot

We had planned to meet in a restaurant for dinner that evening, but decided in the end to just stay in our hotel instead. It was easy enough for the others to get to and pretty kid-friendly. Yolly stopped by for a coffee in the afternoon and Mum brought out the gifts she had for the kids – Ivy was in a good mood, chilling out on Mum’s lap, Mum looked delighted.

Ivy

Is it Mya ... or Gran? Hahaha.

Ivy and Yolly

Yolly headed off before showing up later for dinner with Clauds too – it was so nice to have everyone together. We took loads of photos as usual – including some particularly cute ones with the kids trying on Mum’s glasses – Mya is a dead ringer for my gran :)

It was all over too quickly … and so was the night’s sleep … at just after 6am the next day, it was time to get up and head to the airport for yet another flight. I think we were all feeling the strain of too much travel already! I rang our hotel at 9am and it was good news – the buses could get through! However, instead of the usual hour along the coast road, we’d be travelling for over two hours along the mountain roads – but at least we’d make it. We were prepared to have to wait for some time at the airport as well, so all in all it wasn’t quite the relaxing trip that we were hoping for!

High rivers on the way to Port Douglas

Some areas were still flooded

Great views from the mountain road

On arriving at Cairns, we found our luggage remarkably quickly, as well as our representative from the coach company. We had a short wait in a coffee shop – far from the chaotic welcome we’d been prepared for – then we were off, in a small coach with a luggage trailer. It struggled up the steep roads through the hills, dropping in to second gear as it screamed along with its heavy cargo. I think Mum and Dad were secretly delighted at the photo opportunities along the way though! I dozed and daydreamed through the journey, gazing out across bright sunshine on semi-flooded plains and wondering whether we’d actually hit any exciting wet patches of road (we didn’t).

Our apartment - upper floor on the left

It was a long way, nearly three hours compared to the hour long trip it would have been had the other road not been blocked, so we were pretty happy to finally arrive. Our apartment was gorgeous – two big adjoining suites, Mum and Dad’s had a living room and both had balconies.

Our apartment in Port Douglas

Sunset across the trees


We headed out in search of the beach and some food, ended up walking slightly further than we’d intended, but eventually found the supermarket … Dad kept asking me, “Is it this way, Jo? How much further along is it?” Now I know how he felt when I was a kid …

We went for a quick dip in the pool before dinner – it was sooooo warm and humid, starting to rain but it didn’t even matter. For a few days at least, life could just slow down.

Pool area at the resort

The next day was bright and sunny – we’d been expecting hot, humid and probably a fair amount of rain, so to have such gorgeous weather was great. We spent the day lounging around the pool, reading, cooling off in the water – Mum and Dad were planning to head out on a boat trip the next day to see some of the Barrier Reef, and I booked to go on a dive boat and see it up close. It was too hot to want to do anything much, so we didn’t :)

No diving ... but we will anyway

Relaxing by the pool

Relaxing in the pool


It was an earlier start on Friday, my pick up was around 8am. I was the only person on the bus with a huge back of diving kit … I wondered if I shouldn’t have taken it all along after all, but I’d much rather dive in my own gear. I still haven’t quite figured out my Suunto computer yet, so when they discovered I was an instructor I did take a little teasing for that too … luckily there was another English girl on board who was a bit more clued up and helped me out.

Me diving!

I was a little bit disappointed with the actual diving though. The water was beautiful and warm, but slightly murkier than I’d expected – similar to diving in the Maldives after a spell of bad weather though, so maybe the recent rain had caused that. We saw loads of small, pretty fish and coral, but nothing large – I guess the turtles were all staying home that day :( That said, Mum did see a turtle or two out on her boat! I did see some of the hugest giant clams ever though, patterned in purple, black, white and blue. There were also plenty of Christmas tree worms, which reminded me of diving in Bonaire – I love waving my hand across the top of them and watching them dart away – and some unusual sponges. I found a few Nemo’s lurking in the anemones too, and a giant lobster – I wasn’t sure if it was alive or dead, as it was pretty still, but I didn’t want to find out so I snapped a quick shot and swam away!

Diving the barrier reef

The dive boat

Giant clam


A lot of the coral around the reef is bleached and dead, which was pretty sad – a visible effect of the warmer ocean waters. All in all though, it was a really nice day out diving, but not the incredible experience I had hoped for.

Mum's dive buddy

Dad enjoying the boat

More of the reef


By the time I got back, I had a bit of time to myself before Mum and Dad returned from their trip. They had been in some kind of glass-sided pod and Mum insisted that she had photos of her “dive buddy” … she did too, she showed me later a guy who had been swimming along around the edge of them!

Chilling in the pool

We spent our final day and a half on Saturday and Sunday morning once again lazing around the pool, with plenty of wine and beer, eating in together in the evenings and generally just enjoying relaxing and spending time together. I bought some “pool noodles” from the supermarket and had a bit of fun floating around the pool with them … we also headed into town to explore some of the shops and take more (yes more!) photographs!

Shops

Slightly stormier day

Coming back to the harbour

Finally it was time to pack up and head back to the airport for the flight home. The journey back was much, much easier – only an hour along the coast road this time and we were at the airport. One plane, train, ferry and taxi later and we were home … well, home for me anyway!

Mum and Dad had one last day to chill out and hang around Manly before heading back home. I had plans for the afternoon, so we spent a couple of hours together in the morning and then ate out later in Manly. Next morning, we all met up and dragged the cases down to the ferry terminal and on to the peak hour ferry.

I left them at Circular Quay. I was determined not to cry, until Mum hugged me tight and we couldn’t let go, and my eyes leaked just a little. I headed straight into work and then out after work for the evening – it helped to get my mind off of them going, although homesickness did hit me pretty hard later that week. It was fantastic to have them here though … to share “my” Australia, to see a bit more of what theirs had been, and just having family time … amazing, and hopefully worth the journey for them too :)

A long awaited visit.

I’d been counting down the weeks and days, and finally it was the morning: Mum and Dad had arrived from the UK! I set off early (so I thought) but got caught in craaaazy traffic on the way out of Manly … nothing I could do but sit in it and hit the wheel in frustration, I’d been waiting ages to see them but the last hour or so was definitely the longest. Dad texted me and called from the airport, “where are you? Hurry up, been waiting ages!” I know, I’m hurrying as much as I can … finally, finally I made it, and as predicted, both me and my Mum had rather leaky eyes (she was worse, honestly).

Coming in to land ... I was still stuck somewhere between Manly and Sydney!

Dad enjoying Manly Beach

Exploring around to Shelly Beach


The weather was beautiful – after a fairly wet summer, Manly turned on the charm to welcome my family. We found their apartment, and then it was time for me to head off to work, leaving them to explore the beach alone. If only I’d had a few more days holiday – I so wanted to turn around from the ferry terminal and spend the day with them instead.

After work, they met me at the ferry wharf – typically, with cameras. Nothing like getting off the ferry after a long day with somebody snapping away at you! They were doing pretty well considering they’d landed at stupid o’clock that morning, we made it out for dinner at Yok Thai, but by the time we’d finished they were both starting to droop a bit!

Manly Wharf!

Exploring around the Opera House (and Opera bar)

Walking across the harbour bridge


I had to work from Wednesday through to Friday, but Mum and Dad managed to get out and about and see far more than I have of Manly, at least judging by the (hundreds of) photos they did, anyway. They walked across the Harbour Bridge and around the Botanic Gardens – two things that are definitely on my list of things to do while I’m in Sydney. We spent the evenings together – wandering around Darling Harbour (and of course taking endless photos … there’s a theme here), and eating some good old home-cooked meals! Outside their apartment in Manly, a row of trees played home to a growing group of bright green parrots every evening, the noise was insane.

Me and my Mum!

At the weekend, we headed out to Brighton-Le-Sands near Botany Bay, where Mum and Dad used to live some 40 years ago. Armed with a handful of old photographs, we tried to find some of the places they’d been – starting out at the St George Tavern, which used to be known as the Hotel Rockdale. They tried to recreate the old photos, the outside looked so different now! Sadly, the weather wasn’t playing nice either, but they managed to get the photos done before the rain set in. We headed inside for a beer (for me) and coffee (for them), and they showed the bar tenders the old photos – probably taken nearly twenty years before they were even born.

Recreating the old photos

Next stop was to find Banks Street. TomTom got us pretty close, with Dad reminiscing about the roads he used to drive down to go to work, and the nearby beach, and after driving around a bit we found their old house. It was fairly rundown, which was sad, I wish it could have been looking beautiful and looked after, but what do you expect after 40 years? The fence that was there in the old photos was still there, the front porch that Mum was photographed sitting on was extended now, and even the old mailbox was still in place. Dad described the days of checking the mailbox every morning for news from home, making and sending cassette tapes to the family back in the UK. All these years later, when Skype, email and cheap phone calls make keeping in touch so much easier, I can’t imagine how hard it would be to be so cut off.

The house where Mum and Dad lived, 40 years on

The same tree where Mum was photographed 40 years ago

The old Rockdale Hotel

We wandered along the beach – it was fairly windy, and Mum wanted me to write a message in the sand for Nan back at home, then take a dozen or so photographs of it. I obliged for a while but there is one shot with some rather rude hand gestures … sorry, Nan, that one was not for you! ;) The kite surfers were out in force, jumping over the waves despite the angry and leaky sky. I usually love the beach but I was kind of glad when we eventually made it back to the car that day!

I got a bit fed up of the photos by this point

Kite surfers leaping in the wind

Hugs with Mum

I’m glad I got to see where Mum and Dad lived all those years ago, it was kind of strange not having the memories that they had of how it was but trying to create a picture in my head from their reminiscing.

On Sunday, we planned to go out to see the Blue Mountains – I was up bright and early, but my lazy parents stayed in bed far too late and it was mid-morning by the time we got going. We started off heading to Echo Point to see the Three Sisters – funnily enough, the same place that I’d visited only a few weeks earlier with my friends. It was cooler but just as beautiful – we didn’t go down the staircase this time (thank god, as I didn’t like it much last time!)

Echo Point

We wandered a little way through the forest, then back to the car to head on to the next sightseeing spot. We stopped at Govett’s Leap, to see the water leaping off the rocks and shimmering in rainbows on its way down, and then at Wentworth falls, where we took a short hike down a lot of stony steps to get a better view of the waterfall. We watched the clouds closing in across the mountains and threatening to soak us before we finally headed back up to the car park.

Rainbow in the waterfall

Watching the rain come in

View from near to the Hydro Majestic

There was a bit of excitement going on with two police officers trying to get a closer look at an unidentified white object a couple of hundred metres down the side of the cliff. They thought it might be a car – I’ve no idea how it could have got there – and lots of tourists were trying to use their cameras and binoculars to get a closer look. We never did find out what it was though.

Police and nosy tourist

We stopped in at Solitude before heading back home, the restaurant with amazing views where Andrea and I enjoyed lunch on our last visit. We made it nearly all the way back home until the niggling set in (after this much time together, it was bound to happen eventually!) Dad took a wrong turn and blamed my TomTom, I took it personally and we argued our way through the busier streets of Sydney city centre until he pulled over and told me to bloody well drive then. I headed back towards the bridge and would have missed the turning myself if I hadn’t been that way a few times … OK, OK, TomTom can be a bit unclear sometimes I guess.

Accidental wrong turn took us over the bridge

Driving across the bridge

View from Andrea's apartment


After a day relaxing on the beach on Monday – them, unfortunately, not me – we headed over to Andrea’s for a barbie. Predictably, the cameras came out when they saw the view, and Dad quickly took over cooking the barbie – we had yummy kangaroo steaks, corn, salad – mmmmm!!

On Tuesday it was time to leave Manly and head out to Brisbane and Port Douglas for a bit of a holiday … I’ll save that for the next post :)

Photo credit: all the photos in this post are Mum’s – with two cameras and at least twice as many lenses, I didn’t bother taking my own out!