Tuesday, December 21, 2010

New kids on the block

We've been looking around for a new kitten, for ourselves and to help make Sunny happier again. Our dear friend Willa (who is a vet) recommended this lovely kitten through Northern Rivers Animal Services, a volunteer-run pet rescue and rehoming organisation. He was born at the carer's home in late August (the lovely carer supplied a whole CD full of kitten photos and clips!). He is Siamese in shape, jet black in colour, and he purrs constantly. We've named him India Giles Raven and he's here to stay :-)

Sunny's very happy with him and so are the girls, so to see!

Another 'new' arrival (well, appearance really) is the Eastern Rosella fledgling of the two rosellas who made their home in the nesting box I made. Unwilling to disturb the precious nest, I have resisted my burning curiosity and not looked in the box so we had no idea how successful (or not) the breeding season was for the young couple (click for previous posts).

Today Mr Eastern Rosella (we call him Captain Rainbow) the proud father was feeding his young one through the hole. I managed to get a blurry shot of the fledgling peeking out ...

Not to worry, the cats cannot reach the nesting box, and are locked up at night to help keep nocturnal native wildlife safer.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Night time shenanigans

I wrote the description of night time shenanigans, below, in an email to various family members. They'd like me to share them with you. To reap the full benefit :-) you need some background information:
- Sunny is our ginger cat. He used to care for Remy our Russian Blue by providing food (mice, rats and rabbits) for him, which he would announce by yowling loudly until Remy came running.  Remy was killed on the road. Sunny misses Remy a lot.
- My father did recently accidentally chop through his foot with an axe (blocksplitter actually). 
- Marc my brother lives in the Netherlands, and he has six children, the youngest of whom are twin girls just turned five years old. Naturally, his children speak Dutch.

Saturday, 3 am:
Sunny comes in yowling vociferously. He doesn't stop yowling. He wants us to see this amazing, incredible thing he caught. We've GOT to come and praise him for his magnificent efforts. He is actually willing to DONATE this massive meaty gift to us, poor insipid humans whose diet is peppered with green things.
He doesn't stop yowling. The walls are reverberating with his half-siamese yowls.
Oh, ALRIGHT, I'll come look. I shamble out of bed.
Sunny's sitting on the rug with a teeeeny, quivering mouse.

He's caught a baby mouse, I call to John. John hoots with disbelief "A mouse? Is that all? With all that noise I was expecting him to have brought in a wombat!".
I peer at the catchling, grinning. I can just picture Sunny lugging in a wombat...  Nope, just a baby mouse. Maybe it was a hard mouse to catch, who knows.
A snort of laughter emanates from the bedroom.
The mouse scampers away and Sunny hoofs off after it.
I go back to bed.

Sunday night, we're in bed, asleep ...
2 am, Sunny comes in carrying a large, extremely cross rat and offers sweetly to give it to us, on our pillows. He's very modest about this one. "I brought you this small token of my esteem", he says, "Nobbut a stripling", he manages to squark, though his mouth is stuffed with rat fur.
I take a look and shiver. That's not a rat, that's a small yak, I think.

Well, that gets dealt with and we go back to sleep. But not for long.

Same night 3.30 am, my mobile phone rings .... rings out, then rings again, and then the bleep signalling a voice message.
Uh oh, says John, this might be your parents, maybe something's happened?
I'm thinking, maybe Pap has put an axe through the other foot? Unlikely at this time of night but you never know.
I shuffle through the living room and kitchen looking for my phone. It rings again, briefly, then stops before I reach it, but at least that's helped me locate it. I look at the screen. It says "Marc".
I bring the phone back to my bedside table. It was Marc, I say to a very sleepy John. Well if he rings again I'll pick up. I hope everything's OK... Not much I can do at 3.30 am though ... I'll listen to the message in the morning.

At 5.30 when our alarm goes off, with some trepidation, I listen to the message. My furrowed frown quickly gives way to snorts of delighted laughter. I hit the replay and give the phone to John. Here listen to this. His sleepy looks are quickly replaced with a huge grin, he shakes his head in delight and hands me back the phone.

The voice message is this:

[a five-year-old's voice, distantly]

"Ja, kijk, die knopjes ... drukken maar... "

[translation: "Yes, see, those buttons .... Go on, push them ..."]

Friday, December 3, 2010

Holiday week one: renovations and restorations

John painting the ceiling boards
Both John and I were really needing a holiday, so we took two weeks off work. The first week was quite fraught really: having been so busy we had not really had time to work on our relationship and family, so there was some serious renovating to do on that front. Parenting is a minefield anyway but we have a blended family and that brings with it a unique set of issues, which require upkeep and attention. The stats on blended families are not cheering: 90% don't last five years, sadly. If anyone reading this would like more information or support on this topic I can recommend the University of Florida "Stepping Stones for Stepfamilies" series, and a number of other sites.

But we also had some serene times that week. We listened to some marvellous ABC RN  while we worked on restoring the interior of the living room, which when we bought the Grange was panelled in gaudy 1970's plasticised sheets. My brother Marc helped us pull those down quick smart, when he was here last year, bless him! The hardwood boards underneath were damaged but whole, though shrinkage had left many gaps in the walls. We fixed those with flexible gap filler (we used 17 tubes on the one room). Then sanding and filling of the many holes and finally a nice coat of paint. I still need to make more architraves (which had been removed in years gone by and are lost alas) and finish the cornices / scotia and skirtings. Good hard work but the net result is much better. Before and after shots are below.

I think the relationship is much better after the week's renovations, too.

Prior to purchase
Nearly finished
The living room after panelling removal but before painting.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

50 years of love: Ton and Ellen, my parents

"You must remember this, / A kiss is ..."

My parents have been together for 50 years. To celebrate the anniversary of this lasting relationship we organised several special events. On the Friday we had a pub dinner for 50 local friends and family at our lovely local Eltham Hotel. Fine food, good guests, music and dancing followed.

On the Saturday we organised a catered formal dinner for another 50 people (well some of them were remarkably similar to Friday's crew ;-) ) at the enchanting Clunes Old School site, a federation building in lovely parklands in our village. Many old friends and family travelled from afar to join us: my sister Anna from Melbourne, our dear family friend Sybille from Adelaide, Mary Daly from Sydney, Heather (nee Russell) from Inverell. Speeches, more speeches, champagne, performances by our 'own' family ensemble groups: myself on guitar, Hans and Tess and Yarrow singing. The superb food was capably provided by Laura Hayward, a young local caterer just breaking into the market.
Heather came over from Inverell!
Diana M. made this amazing cake

Saturday's venue: Clunes Old School
Inside the Old School with teak floors

Sybille, Mam and Briony at Clunes

Dancing with the girls :)
Finally on the Sunday afternoon we finished up with a BBQ at our own place, The Grange. John cooked up a storm on the verandah bbq, Katka and I made salads and all ten of us gathered around the large kitchen table and had a chatty and relaxed lunch.

In all it was an excellent weekend and I think my parents really enjoyed it. Many thanks to all those who made the huge effort to travel so far and help us celebrate half a century of love!!

Resuming posting and catching up

Every now and then Life takes over and Things get too busy... I know I've not been posting much recently. I was quite busy with work; struggling a bit with health issues (I think my immune system was a bit compromised after the huge flu I had this semester and I got a staph infection on my thigh which slowed me down and made sitting down eXtremely painful!); feeling a bit down. But much has happened these past weeks which I will post in the near future, so stay tuned for updates on the following:
- My parent's 50th anniversary - we celebrated their lasting love with a whole series of festivities over a couple of days.
- John and I took two weeks holiday. The first week we did some excellent renovating on the house; the second week we went on an exciting motorbike tour...
- The eastern rosellas are inhabiting the nesting box: hopefully nestlings galore :)
- Romany Ruby Smudge our foal is now 3 months old and is changing her foal coat for her new adult look: a surprisingly smoky mocha body on siamese-coloured legs. For those of you who knew Skaila: well, *that* kind of colour.
- John and I have 'broken in' Rascal the affable pinto, who thought the whole process quite amusing and entertaining. Much training still to do yet but he shows promise.
- Major building work on the proposed back deck is about to start with our small project crew of local craftsmen and  women. Very exciting and much looking forward to it.
- Lot Three, the third clutch of this season's rare Belgian bantam breeding program is due to hatch on 6 December. Several of Lot One are with their new owners, Julie & Jenko; and Kevin & Steve. Lot two (there was only one of Lot Two) is still small and is promised to Gio's friend David when she's a bit bigger and can have a mate (a lucky rooster of Lot One).
- An Axe-ident happened! My Dad chopped through his foot with the blocksplitter. Incredibly, he hasn't severed any major tendons or bones, though he did manage to go right through his foot. Though in much pain, he's retained his sense of humour: he told the hospital staff at the Emergency Department it happened in a "split" second.
Postings and some photos of various to follow.