About us

We are a family of four. Sarah, Andy, Finn & Isla and we are on the emigration path to Sydney, Australia from Somerset, England. We arrived on Tuesday 24th August 2010 and this is our story.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Latrodectus hasselti

Or affectionately and more commonly known as the Redback spider.  

I suppose it was bound to happen sooner or later as we are somewhat in the trees where we live but I am still a little surprised to have come eyeball to eyeball with a Redback.

I was opening the garage door (manually, which is a little unusual in a place where virtually every house has electric roller doors) and when it was half way up I saw the arachnid in question.  Unassuming, small, black spider with sharp looking legs and that unmistakable red spot on it's back.  I was taken aback for a moment and then common sense kicked in and I realised this one had to be dispatched.  Until now we have not needed to do this as we have only had one Huntsman in the house which we caught and posted outside.  Huntsman are generally very large, ugly and desired spiders as they eat other insects which as far worse!  Plus, can you imagine squishing one of those on the walls......?  You would have to redecorate.

So, with the children safely buckled in the car still I chose my weapon.  The flap from a used box from Christmas.  Perfect.  I went for the squish and unfortunately didn't get it square on so it scrambled a little and dropped to the floor. OMG, I couldn't see where it had gone to start with and was pretty worried that I now had a cross Redback on my hands.  Thankfully I spotted it quite quickly and ensured it's departure.  Phew.

This whole moving to Australia thing has made me quite a bit more able to deal with things that I used to find made me a bit squeamish.  I can dispatch spiders, remove lizards, clear webs and generally deal quite well with the insects.  However, there are more then I ever imagined possible.  We all had tea in the garden last night and we spotted what looked like a wire running between some trees about 20 feet apart.  It was then that we realised it was in fact a spiders web thread.  Seriously yuck and focus' the mind somewhat!

I can also deal with prawns in the shell which I never could before, and dare I say it.....I quite like shelling them now!  Prawns for tea tonight...yum.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

A toasty hot Christmas

....or at least not a freezing cold snowy wintry Christmas like it is back in Somerset, UK.  We had some friends fly over and visit us for 4 days over the break and we had an amazing time.  The weather was a bit of a disappointment considering that we are in Sydney, Australia and it is the Summer! We went in the pool on Christmas Eve and day but those were the only times it was warm enough.  In fact it was only sunny on Christmas day and for the rest of the time was overcast.  Our house guests had come all the way from Perth where it was in the high 30's and blazing sunshine every day!  A bit of a shock for them.

I had a lovely feast planned for the holidays and so after popping down to the airport on Christmas Eve morning we headed over to collect our seafood from the local fishmonger who had in fact opened at 3am that morning!  Madness.  Anyway we rocked up at around 11 and the queue was through the shopping centre and around the corner!  We joined the queue with Gloria Jeans coffees in hand and thankfully it only took around 45 mins to get to the front.  I bought 2kg of the most amazing pre-cooked Australian medium king prawns and 4 Moreton Bay Bugs.  All of it was totally delicious and the best prawns I have ever had.  The rest of our festive party concurred!

A dip in the pool helped with the jet lag and refreshed us all.  Andy came home and the festivities really started!  Surf and turf for tea and then Finn & Isla went off to bed after leaving some food out for the reindeer and Father Christmas himself!

Finn has reached the age where he really gets Christmas and was therefore pretty excited....a 6:10 start for us this year....!

 Father Christmas came!
 New Christmas PJ's!
Super cool sunnies from Father Christmas

It was a hot and sunny day so after breakfast we headed out into the garden and spent a great few hours in the pool.  Andy had a practice on his body board which I gave him!

We then cooked some chicken on the barbie which turned out pretty well - we experimented with beer chicken which was good!

 Christmas happiness is up to your elbow in a Pringles tub next to the pool after a refreshing dip!

The chicken turned out very well! 

We had a late lunch/early tea before flaking in front of a film and then off to bed.  A very different Christmas day for us but it was nice.  I had been struggling with feeling festive but having children and their excitement is contagious!  Spending time with the people you love makes it easier.  The first time in decades that Somerset has had a white Christmas and we have missed it though....typical!

On Monday we decided to brave the beach as the weather was not great, a bit chilly and overcast but Andy really wanted a go on his new bodyboard.  So we decided on Manly as it has the beach right next to the town so we could head there for lunch.  Without further ado, here is the evidence:

 Look at that cloud cover.  Seconds later Andy went under that wave and out the other side!
 Post body boarding - he looks good in a wet suit!

Chuffed with his accomplishments!

Back to normality now really, the tree is still up and we plan to try and see the 9pm fireworks on Friday night but our guests have gone.  Finn & Isla were very lucky and have had some lovely toys which are their current favourites!

One last pic which is so cute, Isla was given a beautiful tea set and wooden cake stand from Granny and Grandad and she and Finn had such fun on Christmas day having a tea party in her room.  Too cute!

Thursday, 16 December 2010

That golden hour

So, I hear that there is a great time to take good pictures and that is sunrise and sunset and they are known as the golden hours!  I very nearly made it out for sunrise the other day but bed and a slight (2 kids!) lie in beat me in the end.  Anyway, I made it out at sunset on Tuesday and visited Turimetta beach as planned.  I spent a good 2 hours on the beach which was very therapeutic and took some good photos (I think!), learned a lot and now I want more....!

My favourite. Wish the sky was a richer blue.  It was a very cloudy night.

Need a spirit level for my hot shoe (squiffy horizon line!).....please Santa....?

The last 2 are a little dark but I still like them, it was at this point that I looked up the beach, realised that there was no-one around anymore, it was actually pretty dark and got a little scared.  Always have been a scaredy cat in the dark!  A brisk walk up the beach with my torch (very organised I know!) and one last glance down to the beach from the headland and I was gone.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Hawkesbury River and beach days

We took a drive up to Wisemans Ferry on the Hawkesbury River a few weekends ago and happened across the Bridge to Bridge race by chance.  It was pretty hot day in our opinion, around 32c and we did all sweat a little!  We played in the park while waiting for the water skiers and when they did arrive we certainly knew it.  These little pocket rocket boats have engines on the back about the same size as the boat!  They make quite a noise which was echoed through the valley of the river.  It was all over pretty quickly as the water skiers zoomed past our vantage point at speeds up to 200k an hour.  

A couple of pics of Finn & Isla from the day:

We had a picnic and then headed across the Wisemans Ferry and headed up into towards St Albans and our first unsealed road experience!  We have previously only ever had rental cars in Australia on holiday and therefore were not allowed to drive them on these roads.  Now we own a car!  So we headed onto an incredibly bumpy dirt road and started to explore a little more and saw some Kangaroos, which are pretty elusive.
Look close, real close.....(in the middle of the pic)!

We found a lovely little settlers pub to visit for a late lunch, sat in the garden and listened to the live music.  Nice.

A leisurely drive home and we made our way back to the ferry to cross back over the river to home.  Turns out the large car ferry had broken and so they were using the emergency ferry which only carries 6 cars rather than the normal 15.  2 hours later (OMG!) and we had crossed the 100 ft of water.  We must be getting with the Aussie spirit of laid backness as we just opened the car doors, sat back and waited in the sun.  The detour was around 140k's so it is questionable which would have taken longer!

So skipping forward a few weekends to the one just gone and we visited a beach I found recommended for a place to take great photographs.  Turimetta.  I think this will currently go down as our favourite beach as there is a good mix of sand, cliffs, rock pools, shallow paddling pools and lots of sea life!  Andy caught a fish in a bucket for us to have a look at - he was just as surprised as me!

We spent about 4 hours there paddling, playing, exploring and splashing.  Finn and Isla had an amazing time and just thinking about it makes me smile.  In fact we visited it on Saturday and Sunday as it was so good!

I am now planning a dawn visit to the beach to get some pictures of the sea.  Think I may go this weekend.

Saturday was our 6 year wedding anniversary and we celebrated by taking a stroll around Manly, fish & chips, Ben and Jerry's and then a beach stroll so a perfect day.

Here are some pictures of our sandy adventures this weekend.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Night photography

We had our night photography field trip last night and it just happened to coincide it with a light up of the bridge and Opera House in bright red to raise awareness for World AIDS day.

A complete coincidence which resulted in some of my best photographs yet I think.  I really, really enjoyed the experience and there is nothing like getting some OK results to motivate and spur you on!
So, without further ado here are my 5 favourites from the night.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Things I have learnt so far

Bugs/Creepy crawlies/spiders

I have been unfortunate to have a couple of incidents with the existing residents.  I have to say I am a little freaked out.  Still. 

The first shall go by the code name of Operation Huntsman.  Andy and I were reclining on the sofa one evening enjoying an episode of the American Office (love it) and darkness had drawn in.  An unassuming moth cannoned into the patio doors right in front of us in the way only moths can.  All of a sudden there was a flash of movement and a Huntsman spider as big has my open hand leapt across the glass and grabbed the moth.  Andy and I jumped.  Significantly!  The spider proceeded to sit there and tuck in.  Gross.  Really, really gross.  Andy went outside and shone the torch on it so that we could get a good look and it didn’t budge.  Huge, hairy, fat, bulbous eyed Huntsman.  Yuck.

The second shall be called Spider assault.  We had a few problems with our water tank so had a maintenance guy here.  There was a small gap between him, the hot water tank and the washing line which I walked through and completely and utterly didn’t see the spiders web spanning the gap or in fact the huge residing spider.  Said web and spider are deposited on my shoulder.  I feel the unmistakable stick of cob web and whip my head around to inspect.  Only to come eyeball to eyeball with the spider now sitting on my blinkin’ shoulder.  I am not afraid to admit that I screamed.  Loudly and right next to the maintenance guy who was mildly concerned and amused at the same time.  I commenced the funny spider dance and ran around through the towels hanging on the line to unseat my unwelcome friend.  Thankfully this worked and he was nowhere to be found.  If I hadn’t been so scared I may have been embarrassed at my hysterical outburst.  This one was about the size of a tennis ball including legs but was fat and hairy which magnifies the repulsiveness of spiders in my view.  Again.  Yuck

My third significant incident was with and small skink like lizard in our laundry room.  The first I knew of his presence was a frantic writhing lizard tail on the floor.  I thought initially that I had managed to chop it off in the door but have since learnt that the whole tail writhing things is their way of getting away from any predators.  Anyway, there is the tail flapping around and a little tailless lizard over by the skirting.  The horror.  I swept the tail up with a dustpan while it continued have a mind of its own.  Next, out went the lizard.  Shudder.

All of this within a couple of weeks.  I have had my fair share of the wildlife so far I think.

Separation anxiety and familiarity

Nothing can prepare you for that feeling of not having your support network around you.  People who have known you for years and know where you have come from.  We are making friends but nothing prepares you for that feeling of newness you have with everyone you talk to.  I feel myself drawn to fellow British Expats.  I think it’s because they obviously know the country I have lived in for the last 30 years and we immediately have that common ground and understand the challenges of being an expat.  I have always wondered why in the UK you have groups of nationalities of people living in their own little communities.  I understand now.

Internet shopping

Browsing the World Wide Web for purchases is shockingly appalling here.  I knew it wasn’t going to be very good but come on.  The shops that have moved into the 21st century and gone online have very limited stock and are completely uncompetitive.  It really is terrible. 

It is so easy in the UK.  Too easy.  But I know which one I prefer.  There is no Amazon in Australia.  Please come here Amazon!

I read something awful in the paper the other day.  Big stores like Harvey Norman et al were lobbying the government to get the $1000 tax free import limit lowered.  This is because they say that Aussies were internet shopping outside of Australia and getting stuff shipped in because it is cheaper.  Rather than get competitive, move with the times, up their game, lower their profit margins, be less lazy.  Call it what you will.  They would rather handcuff customers.  Come on guys.  Move with the times.

Sunshine and water

When the sun shines and it is a stinking hot day there is nothing better than getting in the pool and cooling off.  We are so lucky to have a pool.  It is so nice.  I have already become so much more confident in the water.  I was never good out of my depth and always used to have a bubble of panic in my tummy.  After a few hours messing about, learning to dive I feel so much better and can confidently swim out of my depth and really enjoy it!  Having your own pool means being able to mess around without looking like an idiot in front of many, many strangers.  So, I can now dive.  I am so very chuffed. 

We are having some lovely hot days that demand sun cream, hats and ice lollies but then a cooler, wet, cloudy day will sneak up on us and catch me unawares and generally I won't be dressed appropriately for the weather.  I will be glad when things even out and summer starts in earnest.  1st day of summer is tomorrow so bring it on!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

What we did at the weekend

There has been a burst of hot sunny weather amongst the downpours this weekend so we grabbed the opportunity for a day out while we could and headed off here.

We found a little place in the park that had road access to a river feeding into a small estuary before heading out to sea with a lovely little beach only accessable by walking along the boardwalks.  We took a picnic and are getting quite adept at packing for a full day out.  We loaded up the car with a laden eski (pre cooked chicken, salad, wraps, chips (Brits read crisps!) watermelon etc - check me out!), 5L of water, squash, camp chairs, rug, dumper trucks, spades etc.....  So, we set up for a picnic by a little waterfall.  Local water lizard turns up and begs for food - I kid you not!  A very successful picnic was had and then we started to explore.  Several hours were spent playing as demonstrated below:

This was the view out to sea from where we were.

 We picniced under those trees

 We spent most of our time on top of those rocks where the water cascades over the rocks and into the estuary.  Those people were jumping off and down around 60 feet into the water!

We took a drive back along the tourist route.  We have been caught out in Australia with those before.  What looks like a 20 minute detour on the map turns out to be at least an hour!  Anyhoo - we took punt and went for it.  So glad we did as this view greeted us as we made a turn in the road.  This snapshot really doesn't do it justice.  It was really breathtaking even on a cloudy day.

So on reflection; organisation, a good picnic, suncream, hats and some water make for a great day out.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Summer is on its way

The temperature has cranked up a notch and we are coping well so far.  I approach summer with a little trepidation as although we have been here during December and January when it is pretty hot, we are not on holiday now!

The thermostat in the car reported 32 degrees pretty consistently today and I have spent the day with Isla at a shopping mall making a huge dent in the Christmas shopping.  What a relief to have around 75% done by early November.  Finn has been at pre-school so it is ideal to shop when I only have 1 littly with me!  Isla and I were ladies that lunched.

I picked Finn up a little early as it was scorching hot and I thought the best and most fun we could all be having would be at home in the pool!  We have the paddling pool on the deck and if I leave it uncovered then it gets to a tepid bath temperature which is just lovely.  As the children walked through the door they were pulling off their t-shirts in anticipation of a good cool down.  I have a convoluted system of parasols, pegs and sheets to shade the pool completely when they are in it.  I then profered a toe in the big pool and found it was in fact warm enough for a dip that wouldn't necesitate sharp intakes of breath!  So I took the children in one at a time to practice their swimming.  Back to the paddling pool for more playing with toys and I joined them.  The deck behind our house where the paddling pool is juts out over the garden and looks into the bush behind our house.  Lying in the paddling pool with Finn & Isla, lounging over the edge, watching the parrots I could almost believe I was in an infinity pool - we have a poor man's infinity pool!

Andy came home and after a 30 minute commute in his leathers he was a little sweaty......  I told Finn to suggest Daddy jumps in the pool.  Finn pads in and I hear him tell Andy to strip and jump in the pool!  Chuckle.  So he did.  A few refreshing laps and he tried his hand at diving in.  Never been his forte apparently.  There is some room for improvement!  ;)  He has all summer to up his game though....

I reflected on this couple of hours that we all had and smiled.  What a wonderful opportunity for Finn & Isla.  What great fun.
Pool days

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Water baby

....and now for my other water baby.  Taken in the paddling pool on the deck this afternoon.  After a day of the sun beating down the pool was a lovely temperature and Finn & Isla spent a good hour and 1/2 in there playing, splashing, kicking and 'swimming'!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Swimming lesson

Finn has really found his swimming legs!  In fact they both have.  Isla is like a little fish and in her typical gung-ho fashion will just jump in.  We went to the Olympic pool at the weekend and we all had a blast.  I was really keen to get them into swimming really quickly as it's kind of important here for them to understand the proper way to behave around water and be safe.

I love the swimming classes that they have as they don't use floatation aids to teach swimming as they maintain it is important that they understand the water.  So far so good.  Little vid of Finn from this morning.  This is his 4th lesson. 

Tuesday, 9 November 2010


I feel a little like I am in a bubble at the moment.  I'm used to knowing how everything works.  How a government functions, the council operates, Police, hospitals, dentists etc....  What is going on in a country through the news, who famous and recognisable people are.  You get my drift.  Whereas now I feel a little lost in that I haven't got a grip on any of the stuff above.  I know it's only a matter of time but I remain a little in the dark!

I read the Sydney Morning Herald website most days which is starting to familiarise me.  I also read the BBC website for the British news and tend to look at the Asia Pacific region on there too.

We don't watch any Australian television (we have so far failed to get our freeview box to work) and rely on and enjoy acquired British and American programs like Spooks, Grand Designs, Desperate Housewives, Brothers & Sisters etc.  Really this suits us as a) we don't have much free time to watch television and b) we like those programs anyway.  However, this also doesn't really help the Australian way of life education as we don't watch the news or any other topical programs.  We always know of the major things occurring here and around the World but none of the 'fluff'!

Honestly, I think one of the biggest stars of Oz could walk past me on the street and I would happily carry on oblivious while leaving a startled, unrecognised and offended star in my wake!

The upside is that Finn & Isla are not victim to any advertising dross which invades peoples lives on a daily basis.  And neither are we!  This does help to keep them pretty innocent and untainted by advertising and the media.  It also means that we sit down and watch a movie together which is fab.  We all watched Wall-e the other night and all really enjoyed it.

Hmmmmm, not many conclusions to draw here but the pondering's of a new immigrant....

Monday, 1 November 2010

Birthday weekend

My little baby girl turned 2!  We have had a much needed long weekend together and it has been fabulous even though the ever changing weather has been....well, changeable!  Rain, sun, wind, extreme heat.  We have had it all which makes it a litle difficult to plan a wardrobe as we never seem to know how it's going to turn out.
We visited the Hunter Valley Gardens on Saturday and it must have been 28-29c.  Slathered in sun cream and wearing hats kept us safe but wow it was hot for us unseasoned poms.  We took a little stroll down memory lane and wandered out past a restaurant that we visited on our honeymoon - Roberts.  We had amazing food in this little restaurant that really doesn't look like much from the front but was like a little fantasy hansel and gretel cottage inside.  I took a stroll around the next door winery and took a photo of a beautiful old tree next to the cellar door.
So, then we started driving back along the road and I happened upon a little line of lovely Aussie letter boxes.  Cute!
So we woke after a very decent lie in considering we have a 2 & a 3 year old at 07:40 on the morning of Isla's birthday and were greeted by her lovely little voice exclaiming at the numerous balloons outside her bedroom door.  She knew it was her birthday and was very excited and could tell us that she was 2!  Present opening ensued and she was very excited by the addition of a few wooden Thomas engines to their already pretty substantial set.  She also had a huge dolls house which was not received with quite the same amount of enthusiasm which is typical!  
We headed down to Huntley's Point and caught the ferry over to Darling Harbour for a sumptious seafood lunch at Nick's.  We had a seafood platter and they dug in with Isla typically making a bee line for the prawns and then the lobster.  She is going to have expensive tastes like her Mother I can see!
The excitement peaked for Isla when we came home and watched the Tinkerbell Movie which is her absolute and utter favourite!  She can say Tinkerbell and it is so cute.  We also took a dip in the pool and all 4 of us can conclude that it is still a bit cold!
The birthday girl.
We had today (Monday) all together as well so decided to drive down to Bondi and take in the Sculptures by the Sea exhibition.  It was pretty windy and the coastal path that it is on is a little treacherous for small unpredictable people but we managed to see some of it.  Finn & Isla enjoyed the walk and particularly some sculptures of what looked like Boston Terriers.  We had a look at the very brave people who has ventured into the Bondi Icebergs pool.  It literally makes me shiver just thinking about it!  Burgers for lunch in a nice little place on the front at Bondi and then home just before the rain started.  A very good weekend.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Ration pack

The first of many cadbury chocolate ration packs has arrived from my Mum (hint hint....keep them coming bird..!).  Oh the heaven.  After tea tonight I opened the parcel and sneaked the corner of a label out to see if it was recognised by my own miniature chocolate connoisseurs.  Squeals of delight and I deposited a bag of chocolate coins between them to share.  Silence reined for a good 5 minutes and I captured a few quick snaps of the ecstasy!

 Isla triple parking.

 Contemplating the seriousness of the task ahead....

Like a little hamster.

One bag of coins all gone but thankfully there are still some left!  1 bag of coins, 1/2 bag malteasers and one large slab of dairy milk remain for now.....