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.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Travel bug

I really enjoy going away with the children and we have always holidayed with them from the get go so they are really good travellers.  I wanted them to be flexible and adaptable and thankfully they are due to their character and the fact that we have taken them to places from a young age.  I mentioned to my Mum this morning that they really are very fortunate and have already travelled a reasonable amount.

Finn went to Singapore and Australia in April 2008 at 11 months and we took them both to France in May 2009 and America in October 2009.  Soon they will both be going to Singapore for 4 nights before we arrive in Sydney in August.  This isn't counting holidays and weekends away in and around Great Britain.  We have always shared a room as a family of 4 when we go away and surprisingly, so far, it has always worked really well.  The children have a bath as usual and after stories get into bed, we dim the lights and maybe have the bathroom light on and read books and have a drink.  Generally as we have usually had busy busy days they are out like a light.  We have booked a weekend away and a week in Cornwall over the last few days.

The first on the list is 2 nights in London planned for next weekend and I am really looking forward to it.  I by chance found out about the Rainforest Cafe today and have booked a table for the Friday night.  It is a themed family restaurant experience based on the rainforest funnily enough!  I'm sure Finn & Isla will really love it and there will be so much going on for them to look at that it should be relatively easy for us!  We also plan to visit the Eye, Covent Garden (again - but I really love it!) & The National Gallery.  I like to take them to Museums as I feel that it's good for them but we try to keep it brief at the moment as they are quite young and generally have the attention span of a gnat.  I also don't want to bore them as I want them to enjoy this sort of activity for years to come.  I also don't want to spoil the experience for everyone around us by forcing our toddlers on them if they are fractious and impatient!  Anyway, the National Gallery is free so we can go for an hour or so and nothing is lost if our visit is brief.  Aside from our rug rats requirements I really enjoy visiting places like this.

The holiday we booked in June is in Newquay and for a week.  My BFF Bronnie and Charms are going to visit for the Saturday and Sunday night with me and then Andy and the children are coming down on the Monday for the rest of the week.  We are going to The Headland Cottages which are set just back from Fistral beach and are affiliated with the Headland hotel where The Witches was set and we can therefore use all of the hotels facilities.  Pool, sauna etc.  It should be a lovely lovely week and being walking distance from the beach I'm sure we won't stray far from our cottage.

Cute moment of the day:

We went to a Crafty Rascals session today and then into the soft play which Finn and Isla both adore.  Isla had tottered off around the corner of the ball pit and Finn followed after.  A few seconds later they both appeared back into site holding hands and Finn informs me that 'we are holding hands Mummy'.  My heart melted and every moment of sibling jealousy that has been displayed by number one son dissipated into the background and they were surrounded by a rosy pink glow in my eyes.   Ahhhhhh.  So cute.

Monday, 22 February 2010

While the cat's away

My Mum has been away for the weekend so we have had some time to ourselves for the 1st time in around 4 weeks and it has been blissful.  I hadn't realised quite how much I had missed it.  But I had.  The weekend started well with Andy having a 1/2 day on Friday and after a lovely lunch in the local Harvester we visited Tiverton swimming pool.  There is a lovely baby pool that doesn't make you gasp as you get in.  We are trying to give both of the children confidence in the water as I intend to enrol them in swimming lessons when we get to Sydney.   I would like them to become nippers if they enjoy the water in the future.

Isla and her ice cream at the Harvester.  For one so young she is surprisingly capable with a spoon when it comes to the cold stuff!

My childhood pony who is normally cared for by my Mum has fallen to my responsibility over the weekend and it's been really nice pottering around on the yard with the children in wellies and the sun has been shining which has helped.

We had had lots of lovely walks and as Isla is now walking she has been breaking in her 1st pair of wellies over the last few days.  After a wobbly start she is now getting on pretty well and we have spent a lot of time splashing in puddles and squidging through the mud which they have loved!  Here are a few choice moments of loveliness.

Muddy jeans demonstrate a little fall!

 Boys love sticks.

Big blue eyed girl.

Superhero Finn.

After a fall in the mud.

Getting pretty good on those pins now.

Too tired to walk any further.

That's Finn on my pony.  Start 'em early.

Over the weekend wehave - had a relaxed Sunday lunch, made fairy cakes, watched Bolt, had a chinese - all 4 of us for the 1st time, splashed in the mud & puddles, kicked around in the leaves, wandered across the fields, visited my Grandad - next door!, examined the new tractor on the farm - both children had a sit in, said hello to the cows & sheep and overall had a fabulous weekend.

I have such a lovely family.  I am so lucky.

Friday, 19 February 2010


I'm a believer in trying not to pass any fears or phobias that we may have as parents on to our children through observation of our behaviour.  If we can....

I am not a huge fan of the spider but as long as they are a meter or so from me then that's fine and I can happily catch them in a glass and deposit them outside.  In light of our pending relocation to Australia - the home to lots of poisonous spiders, we have considered it pertinent to start teaching the children that spiders are/can be dangerous.
We talked about doing this a while ago but the perfect occasion to start this arose a couple of days ago when Finn pointed to a spider in the hall and started talking about it.  Andy and I exchanged a look which non verbally confirmed to each other that we should start now.  Therefore Andy started to explain to Finn that spiders could hurt you and that he shouldn't touch them.  This event did make my stomach lurch in a 'Oh my god we are moving to Australia' kind of way. 

Having been to Australia a few times over the last 9 years I have only ever seen 1 really big spider:


This was in Brisbane in 2008 and it was in the rafters of a BBQ shelter.  It was pretty big and did give us both the shivers!

However, I can be quite pragmatic about the presence of spiders and although there are nasty ones in Australia I know that you don't see them that much.  However, to be on the safe side I will be buying a bug bomb to deploy in our new rental when we move in.  I know, I know the Huntsman is good for Australia and they aren't poisonous but they are feisty and I really don't want them in our house!

Of course it's not just the spiders that are venomous!  Here are a few more toxic inhabitants of that great big continent that we are soon to call home:

2. Irukandji (A Jellyfish)

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Tickets, please!

Up until now we've not done anything massively undo-able... we've sold the house, everything has gone into a container that's not left yet, we've not actually handed in our notice at work, my passport now has a vista stapled to it, etc, etc.

But now we've actually booked our flights!  Granted, you could argue that again that's not an undo-able thing as of course we could just not turn up at the airport at the right time but that's not the point...

Getting the flights booked was a real pain, though.  I've come to the conclusion that airlines don't really want you to be able to redeem your airmiles without jumping through a load of hoops and that's probably true - they are in the business of making money, after all.

My belief is that a given journey should be worth X miles, you have Y miles, you go ahead and book your flight and then you can do some pro-rata thing where you get a discount based on Y divided X, but of course it's not that simple.  You need to have at least a certain % of the miles to even be considered for any kind of discount, the discount appears to be one some kind of exponential scale, you can't add any children, etc, etc.  To make use of the miles that Sarah and I have already we'd have had to make two separate single-seat bookings for just the final leg (Singapore to Sydney), try and make sure they were sat together, and THEN phone up their hotline to get Finn and Isla added on.  Then we'd have to book ANOTHER flight from Heathrow to Singapore for all of us, and because we're effectively making four separate flight bookings the overall cost is actually more than a simple 'all of us flying from Heathrow to Sydney, via Singapore, full fat price' - ridiculous :-(

So we're going to accrue even more miles by the end of the trip which we won't be able to use because Singapore Airlines don't fly internally in Australia and they don't have any Australian airline partners.  Sarah's suggestion is we can use them up flying back to Singapore to meet our first lot of visitors "really cheaply" (she says) but to me that's like 'buy one, get one free' of something you didn't want in the first place... but that's just me, tight.


Monday, 15 February 2010

Aspiring for crab boy

First on our list today was a quick poddle around Beer.  Isla walked the whole way while holding hands and protested vehemently if she had to be carried across the road!  We picked up a couple of tubs of prepared crab from the harbour for tea and then continued on our way for a lunch stop.

We went to a lovely place called Branscombe on the South Coast as we have several times before.  It truly is a lovely little place with a steep pebble beach and fantastic views across the channel.  We had a lovely lunch in the Masons Arms (which I can highly recommend - but it gets very busy so go early) then headed to the beach.  There is a little ford crossing the road which Finn has played in many times before.  Sometimes in the summer in sandals or today in wellies.  Unfortunately it all ended pretty swiftly when he slipped on the algae covering the road underneath the water and landed smartly on his behind.  He did raise a gasp from the other occupants and exited the very cold water pretty quickly after that.  Thankfully I had packed a full change of clothes for just such an occasion as this had happened before.  Fresh clothes and then playing on the beach while Isla had a snooze.

So very tired but happy we wound our way home for a yummy tea of crab, fresh bread and cucumber.  Would Finn try it...?  Would he heck.  I am left pondering - how am I going to get crab boy if he won't eat crab?

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Everyday life

Finn has been a little unhappy to go to nursery for the last 4 times and I wonder if that is because we have moved house and he is feeling a little unsettled.  How can you tell though?  He is 2 3/4 and his speech is really very good but I don't feel he could identify any feelings of change by the move and successfully converse them to us.  I wonder if we are only going to see how he feels if it affects his behaviour and how he normally behaves.  It's half term next week so he will have a bit of a break which may help and may not!

An example of our ever entertaining conversation in the car this lunch time as we drive through the winding lanes home:

Finn:  Mummy, slow down.  Be careful.
Me:  I am driving slowly Finn and I am being careful!
Finn: You might crash.  (does he have no faith in my driving ability?)
Me:  We won't crash Finn, I am a very good driver (Andy - keep that thought to yourself ;o))
Finn:  Then there would be trouble!

I rolled around in the car laughing, he is just at that age when he can be absolutely hilarious without even realising it - which makes it even funnier!  It did make me think about where I could store this amusing little anecdote so it is not lost for ever in the depths of my memory possibly to be never recalled again.  Then I thought of this blog.  A perfect place for the funnies of our daily life.

We are looking at booking our tickets to Sydney this weekend and we are planning a 4 night stop in Singapore for a bit of R & R; well as much as you can get with 2 children!  Last time we went to Brisbane in 2008 we stopped for a few nights and stayed in the Pan Pacific.  Wow - what a lovely hotel.  We had such a good time there with Finn and I loved seeing a little tiny snapshot of Asia as I had never been there before.  I've just had a quick reminisce through the pictures and have picked out 3 that I'd like to share.


The lifts in hotel and they were on the outside too!

This picture reminds me of really good times.  30c heat, gorgeous pool, BBQ terrace, plush robes and the best company in the World.

A bit grainy, not very well lit, a home style shot that makes me smile.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Reality bites.....well, a little nibble

It's all go here for the homeless nomad Stewarts!  Andy (lucky boy that he is) was granted a permanent residency visa for Australia yesterday.  All thanks to my Mum being a '£10 pom' back in 1970 and chancing her arm on a 6 week sail to a life Down Under and then of course having me (which is where Andy is really lucky!).  I can't believe it really as it has been pretty straight forward for him to get the visa - he applied the 1st week in December after a frantic 2 weeks of evidence gathering of our relationship as the house had sold.  A case officer was assigned the next day and medicals and a police check asked for as expected.  No further evidence was required, we did include quite a lot though and we have been together 7 1/2 years, married for 5 and have 2 children.  It's quite hard to get into Australia now and non shortlisted skilled workers are being delayed until 2012!  Of course they still have to pay the money up front and play the waiting game.  It's pretty pricey to even apply and if they knock you back that's your money gone!

So, all in all I think we are pretty fortunate to have a relatively smooth path to Australia and it's nice to have another task ticked off the list.

Now in a truly indulgent moment of appreciation of the littlies of the Stewart family here are a couple of pictures from the month of January.

Wow!  What a train set.

In London - it was very cold!

Looking very industrious.

Slippery when wet.

Love her.

Love him.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Completion and celebration

Well, it's happened.  We have completed.  I was prepared to feel a bit strange driving past 'our' house and seeing other people living there and not being able to just walk in when we felt like it.  It took me a little while to get over our previous house and I was prepared to have to drive a little further and avoid driving past for a few months.  However, this has not been necessary.  Rather, I drive past with a large amount of curiosity to see what is being done to our house.  Well, I can report that as the new owners are horticulturists there are an awful lot of pot plants.  Hundreds litter small acre which was previously purely used for parking Andy's car (the beast!).  Nothing else looks any different as yet although I'm sure it's just a matter of time.

Therefore we breathed a huge sigh of relief that this particular stress was over and celebrated with some bubbly and a steak on Saturday night.  Mum had come into the kitchen to cook tea before us so we cracked open a bottle of red before which I could definitely get used to on a Saturday night while gossiping over the kitchen table.

I met up with the girlies from my NCT class for dinner on Friday night which was lovely as we are normally surrounded by demanding toddlers so can't really talk.  However we met in Zizzi's and had good chats and lovely wine!  We have known each other since we were all around 6 months pregnant and have met every week since.  We reminisced a little about what we have all experienced over the last 3 years and it was good to properly talk for once.  I will miss all of them and their children when we are in Australia.  It is a little sad that Finn won't be seeing them regularly anymore but I'm sure we will catch up when we come back to the UK.

Back to reality next week as Andy and I return to work after a week off.  Anyway must start planning a holiday in Cornwall in June......

Sunday, 7 February 2010

A mouse took a stroll through the deep, dark wood

I (and the rest of the family) have a real soft spot for 'The Gruffalo', enforced even more by the recent animated short shown on Christmas Day, 2009.

We really like everything that Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler have done together and have bought pretty much all of their collaborative children's stories, but the highlights for me at least are The Gruffalo, Room on the Broom and a recent addition - Tabby McTat.

We've read The Gruffalo to the children pretty much for as long as we've read them stories and we can recite the entire story from memory but seeing the animated version has really added an extra element... seeing all the additional story detail that's been added or expanded on to make the film a reasonable length has created a new slant on the story as I've had it in my mind.  For example, I never imagined that the Gruffalo's first 'Amazing' statement could have been sarcastic rather than heartfelt - I know that Julia Donaldson was involved in the screenplay so I wonder if that's the sort of thing she 'brought to the table'.

We've seen the stage version of Room on the Broom but unfortunately missed the Gruffalo play when it came to town.  I'm sure we will be first in the queue for tickets the next time it comes around...  I hope that Julia and Axel's books are readily available in Australia, if not then it will be time to go to the Book Depository.  Check out their 'watch people shop' interactive map!


P.S. Good luck to Scotland in the Six Nations this year!

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Blog fodder

Oh, where do I start, my cup runneth over!  I have to be careful to moderate what I write on this blog as my muse in this case is also an avid follower of my writing.  Which introduces a whole other subject matter: censorship, a topic for another day.  I feel she will only have so much patience for my chortling at her expense.  Anyway, onwards and upwards another blog inspired by the ups and downs from living with my Mum, or in Andy's case 'The Mother-in-Law'!

It is fair to say that my Mum (and her husband!) are pretty stuck in a routine.  Having lived sans children for a considerable while they have been without criticism, moderation and ridicule.  This has led to a pretty strict regime at 'The Old Stables' which we are now victim too.  A classic demonstration of this was witnessed by me this morning as Andy finished his shower in the very flashy newly installed bathroom and felt obligated to use the window cleaner squeegee to remove any water residue from the extensive expanse of glass shower panels which is helpfully left in the shower for just such a job.  I will elaborate.  It hasn't been requested of him but he has felt the need as we are gently reminded of the MIL's fastidiousness!

There is a large list of idiosyncrasies that I could list which would be comprehensive, verbose and pretty amusing but I do feel I may already be pushing my luck.  So I shall end it here and save the MIL's blushes and just drip a few choice other anecdotes over time.  Poor Andy though!

The packers have finished at Iona today and most of our worldly positions are now wrapped to within an inch of their lives in a warehouse in Avonmouth.  I have to say they have done a sterling job and so far I would happily recommend them.  Our house is bare and all that remains is to have a hoover and general clean up tomorrow before completion on Friday.

We left the packers to it this morning and spent a very lovely day at Bristol Zoo en famille in the rain.  We discussed that this time next year we will be doing this at Taronga Zoo, I'm sure that we will be slathering on the sun tan cream but after a wet and grey today that does seem preferable.  I have to say though that we have had a lovely day and it's nice to be getting back to doing things as a family again.  It seems like all we have done for 2 months is pack up our lives in preparation for the big move.  Finn & Isla had a great day looking at the animals and both have been very animated and conversational.  Bristol Zoo is great for little legs as there is plenty to see over a relatively small acreage.  Good times.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

I guess we really ARE moving

I've just come back from a quick trip back to our old house... I say 'old', it's still ours until Friday but we've already moved into my in-laws house as I'm sure has been mentioned in earlier posts.

I had to pop back for a quick task but I took the time to wander around a bit to see what's going on.  The shipping guys have been in all day boxing, packing and whatnot but it turns out they don't need us around so we've been out and about as usual.  Anyway, even though of course on a practical level I know we're moving out and will soon be on our way to Australia it kind of hit home a little bit seeing the house we've lived in for the last 3½ years sitting there in a partly packed state.  It was quite echoey and looking into the already-packed rooms I saw evidence of our life there, mostly kids stuff...
  • Some duplo blocks
  • A Landrover Defender I gave Finn a few months ago
  • A solitary drumstick
  • Two mismatched jigsaw pieces
  • A flat-head screwdriver (that's one of mine!)
But as Sarah has already said it's not really the house but the people in it that make a family home, I'm sure that once we've found our ideal place in the Sydney suburbs about 18 months from now we'll start making many good memories there the same way we have in Somerset.


Monday, 1 February 2010

Baby it's cold inside

Now, I grew up in an 18th century Farmhouse.  I know cold!  I remember not so fondly awakening and having to brace for the exit from a warm bed into a pretty chilly bedroom and the mad rush that ensued to get into some heat inducing layers.  I used to delay getting out of bed, just another 5 minutes....

So, 15 years on staying with Mum I was expecting a slightly warmer abode.  I am now used to central heating so it was a bit of a shock to be in her 'all mod cons' barn conversion conservatory and be quite cold!  Much discussion was then undertaken along the lines of - how the bloody hell can we warm this room up.  Now Mum has been out and bought a lovely cosy carpet to make the slate floor a little more inviting for small hands and feet which is great but when the ambient temperature is 16 degrees it's not a huge help.   I was woken at some unGodly hour as Andy reached his arm around me and it was like being spooned by the abominable snowman.  Andy's arm had ice block qualities.  I took a peek at the baby monitor to see what the damage was and it was reporting 14 degrees, yes that's right a heady 14 degrees!  That's 2 degrees BELOW the legal minimum working temperature.

Anyway, it's all come good now as the heating has been cranked up, the meter is ticking over at a nice frequent speed and The Stewarts are warm.  Hallelujah.

The heating issue aside everything is going swimmingly.  Finn & Isla have settled well.  We have enough space and our own living room downstairs with TV, table, sofa etc so it's all good!  I'm sure it's going to be a lovely 6 months and I'm looking forward to it.

We have exited Iona and it was hard work but it's done now and the shipping company arrive tomorrow which is pretty exciting.  Our home looks more like a house now as we are not there.  It's all of us that make it home.  The adventure continues.