Family Fun Day

Another quick day of travel. We haven’t been able to spend a lot of time with Mum on this trip cause she works nights and hasn’t had any time off while we were here. Thankfully today is a public holiday so we organised to spend some time with mum and the some of the other folks in the family.

We drove down to Sydney from the Central Coast, it’s almost an two hour’s drive. They are roads we’ve driven on hundreds of times before but always leave me to marvel at man’s ability to carve his way through the environment for his own convenience.

F3 Roads
F3 Roads

We really didn’t do much. Had a BBQ for lunch and hung around Jennifer’s house. The day was more about spending time with our family than trying to do too much.

The afternoon was spent with everyone on their iPhones, iPads and iPods playing Words with Friends. It’s truly a changed world when family board game time is spent on individual phones. In a way it was better than if we played a single game of Scrabble, for a start we couldn’t all play cause only four people can play Scrabble and we were playing one on one games so there was no waiting for your turn as there was always a turn going around.

As you can see from the couple of games below, I did all right and then not so good.


David and I left for his mum’s house before dinner and after the long drive stopped at Tuggerah for some dinner as we figured his parents would have already had dinner. We decided on TexMex, not our best decision to-date. The food wasn’t all that and we could neither recommend it, nor would be be going there again any time soon, even if they do claim to have won the award for best Mexican food in the whole of New South Wales.

Mad Mex

But the time we got back to the folks’ house we finally got to watch a movie on the new Apple TV. David parents need to upgrade their internet if they are to get it to work right. It took ages for the movie to come to a point when it would play.

We watched “Devil” which I had already seen. For a movie where nothing much happens, it’s about 5 people in a lift, it is pretty fast-paced. And like all M. Night movies I can’t write much about it cause you’d figure out what the movie is all about.

Terrible Terrigal (Sydney 2010, Day 9)

Well it wasn’t really terrible, but the weather was.

Turns out when we left Jody’s we left Bill’s cocker spaniel bowls behind. They cost about $30 bucks each.

Luckily Jody, Greg and the kids were coming up the coast for a week and were able to bring Bill’s bowls with them.

They were staying at Terrigal over night before heading further up the coast to Shoal Bay, near Nelson Bay.

David and I headed out to meet Jody and collect the bowls at Terrigal.

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We arrived a little earlier than they, so we took a walk around and I took some photos.

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terrigal

There was a weird shape moving around in the water, I first saw it in the wash near the boat ramp mixed up with the sand so it took a minute to figure out what it was, but as it moved out I could tell it was a massive stingray. I’d never seen one as big as that with my own eyes before. Not that the photo really shows it, but it will be a good reminder of what I saw.

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There were also a few pelicans hanging around. You see a LOT of pelicans up on the Central Coast of New South Wales. Thankfully they are my favourite bird.

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Soon it started to rain so we retreated to the car to wait. About 20 minutes later Jody and the crew arrived. We got Bill’s bowls back and headed back to David’s folk’s house.

We didn’t really do much for the rest of the day. But for dinner David treated us to savoury pancakes. These things are delicious. Mine had mushrooms, pineapple, corn, sour cream, zucchini and BBQ sauce on it. It’s cooked on the BBQ and is really filling.

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After dinner we checked out the Apple TV, tried renting a TV show on it, David’s mum watches Brothers and Sisters so that’s the one we selected. Unfortunately it came up telling us the TV show would be ready for viewing in 6 hours and at times got all the way out to 15 hours. Looks like the show will have to wait until tomorrow to watch. Not sure why the Apple TV is acting like that. Will have to investigate when we get home with ours.

Boxing Day (Sydney 2010, Day 8)

Today started with omelettes made by Greg in their omelette maker. It makes a little omelette perfectly sized for a muffin. It was a little bit spicy and was a great kick-off to the day.

Muffin

After breakfast Jacob and Maygen assumed the roles and positions they had been in all day the day before. Jacob on the couch with his headphones on playing xbox, oblivious to the world around him, while Maygen was behind her hair-styling head (a Christmas gift) using her new products, the hair dryer, crimper etc.

Jacob
Maygen

After breakfast we left Jody and Greg’s and followed Sharon and Peter (David’s mum and dad) up the coast.

It’s always weird being back up here in New South Wales. Up here there is warning about speed cameras, they aren’t (yet) hidden like they are in Victoria. Not that we have a problem with that now we have cruise control. So when you see the signs you know to slow down, if you were speeding in the first place.

Heavy Fines

There is also a section of the freeway that has a variable limit depending on the weather. Just another oddity.

Slower when raining

The rest of the day has been spent recovering from our big meals yesterday. And relaxing. David and his dad spent the morning rewiring the entertainment system to accommodate the new Apple TV they got for Christmas.

And David’s mum loves teddy bears!

The Bear Room

It’s Christmas Day (Sydney 2010, Day 7)

Oh what a day. So much happiness, so much food.

The day started at Jody and Greg’s in Ebenezer. The whole family had arrived the night before so we could all be there for Christmas morning.

I have to say I don’t know what is wrong with kids these days. When we were kids we were up by 4:30, clamouring to see what Santa had left in the stockings at the end of our beds. We were only allowed to go through these and weren’t allowed to leave our room (all four kids would pile into one) until our parents had awoken.

In our day it was Pez dispensers and orange flavoured tic-tacs in christmas baubles with a toy in the top part. Chocolate and maybe a Star Wars figurine.

These days the stockings contain enough to rival all that we got on Christmas day, with clothes and shoes as the Vessi waterproof shoes perfect everyday ear and also little robotic gerbils and other gadgets for the kids. And of course still a good array of chocolate and other lollies.

Early Morning

Today I was awake at about 5 and sat up with David, Santa had obviously been because the beer and biscuits had been munched on.

Santa's Booty

We waited in the lounge room until around 6:30 when the kids finally awoke. As always the kids went crazy when they saw the tree, they couldn’t wait to open all of their gifts.

Maygen quickly gathered a whole bunch with her name on them. The kids took turns opening their presents and were wowed with each gift. Maygen’s big presents were a whole bunch of Zhu Zhu Pets (which I’d never heard of before then), her own hair dryer, straightener and crimper. For Jacob they were an Xbox 360 and his Skull Candy, Skull Crusher headphones. When he tried them on he exclaimed “Wearing these is like going to another world.” Other than those gifts they got a bunch of clothes and lots of other little toys.

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We had a great breakfast of croissants and the kids tried out their drinking glasses which provided some amusement for the whole family.

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You’d think that would be the prefect bunch of toys and gifts. But Maygen was in for a surprise. About an hour after they’d opened their other gifts everyone went out to the shed. Maygen’s eyes went large when she saw a motorised scooter.

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Then Greg told Jacob that Maygen had another part of her scooter in the shed and asked that he get it. When the door went up, so did Jacob’s eyes and the sides of his mouth into a large grin. He was speechless for a good five minutes as he stared at his biggest gift. A new (to him) KTM 125. It was almost too big for him. And seriously he didn’t stop grinning for a good hour as he took it for a spin around the yard.

Jacob's Big Reveal
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Jacob and his bike
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Jacob then quickly got into his gear and headed down the back of the property to try it out on the track. He took to it like a duck to water and was throwing it around the track like he’d always ridden a bike that big.

Everyone watches Jacob ride his new bike
Jacob rides his new bike
Jacob rides his new bike
Jacob rides his new bike
Jacob rides his new bike
Jacob rides his new bike
Jacob rides his new bike
Jacob rides his new bike
Jacob rides his new bike
Jacob rides his new bike
Jacob rides his new bike
Jacob rides his new bike

It was a hot day and I was thanking to gods for air conditioning as we sat down to an amazing Christmas lunch. David had made some salads and the others had cooked a pork, turkey. Accompanied by beautiful baked potatoes and pumpkin and other veggies. There was also some traditional ham. This was followed by one of the most perfect pavlova made by Jody. It all tasted fantastic.

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Shortly after lunch David and I headed over to Brian and Belinda’s for dinner with my family. When I say dinner, it should be “dinner” everyone was so stuffed with food from their respective lunches that dinner really was no more than an exercise in grazing on leftovers and the salads that David prepared.

We gave Rourke his gifts before he had to head off to his dad’s place for Christmas dinner. After Brian and Belinda were back from dropping off Rourke we gathered everyone around to give Alek his gift.

The poor little bugger had to wait the whole day for his gift as it was a big gift that everyone went in for he hadn’t really gotten many other presents on Christmas day.

I missed the unwrap as I was the one who handed him the present, I should have held back and taken photos because his reaction was priceless. He unwrapped his iPad, cheered and hugged the box to his chest. Big grin and a lot of joy. I had to get him to pose with it a little later on.

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After he got his gift he joined some of the other in the pool and was soon joined by Bill the Doggin.

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Other than that the day was full of great fun, family cheer and general all round love fest.

David and I returned to Jody’s place around 9pm hung out for about an hour before hitting bed, full of food and tired as.

Tomorrow is boxing day, we don’t plan on doing much other than taking a trip to David’s parents house.

Merry Christmas One and All

Twas the night before Christmas (Sydney 2010, Day 6)

It was a low-key day today. Not much happened. We went out early to grab some stuff from the local Coles stopping at Maccas on the way for breakfast.

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Alek loves hash browns
Alek and hotcakes

When we arrived at Coles we were left extremely disappointed by what the Coles at Carnes Hill thinks is an acceptable-sized beetroot. They were teeny tiny little things. We grabbed the other items we needed figuring we could get the beetroot from the Fruit and Veg shop. Only problem being there was no such store in the shopping centre.

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So we went looking for another centre or a grocer. In the end we ended up at the Casula shopping complex. They at least had a fruit and veg shop but their beetroot were still so tiny it was making us sad. We needed beetroot for David’s beetroot salad and were a little disheartened to not have found any.

Thankfully the Coles in the same centre did have beetroot and they were large enough to use.

Other than that we really didn’t do much for the rest of the day. Alek went riding on his bike and we watched TV at Jennifer and Pete’s while we waited for them to come home.

At around 4pm Jennifer arrived home and Pete shortly after. Then it was time for Alek to go to his Dad’s for Christmas Eve. His step mum is American and they hold to the tradition that they each get to open a gift on Christmas Eve so he’s always keen to go.

We were joined by Pete’s brother, his wife, Kirsty and daughter (Mikala) for a great dinner. The meal featured BBQ cooked by Pete, salads by David and potato bake by Kirsty. It was a delightful night.

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There were even Christmas bonbons (or crackers), as you can see from the photo below I didn’t win either the one to my left or to my right. :(

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After dinner David and I went to Jody’s place to sleep the night so we’d be awaken on Christmas day to spend the morning with David’s family before heading over to my brother’s house for dinner on Christmas night.

On a side note: When looking through my sister’s cupboards for some glasses I realised she must have awesome weekends*

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* in Australia Aerogard comes with a tagline, “Remember the Aerogard and have a good weekend.” So I figure with that much Aerogard Jennifer, Pete and Alek must have amazing weekends.

Baritones, Bikes, Birds, Beaches and Burritos (Sydney 2010, Day 5)

As has been the case so far this week, I woke quite early and was sitting outside when Alek arose from bed and came straight out, obviously still half asleep. Half-asleep kids can be funny things. They look funny and they do funny things.

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The previous night I had charged his phone up and put the Bruno Mars album on his phone and the first thing he did when he found out was to start miming his way through “Grenade”. Well that’s not completely true, at first he was signing out aloud along with the track, but when I started recording he reduced is performance to a mime.

It was pretty funny to watch. I’ll add a better version of the video when I get home.

After we’d gotten ready for the day we headed off to Jacob’s house for a morning of riding the bikes and taking some more video and photos for the movie they want me to put together for them.

Before we could go down the back though, Maygen had to have her noodles and Jacob had to finish washing his mum’s car. So while we were waiting I was playing with the new Polaroid Camera App on the iPhone.

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And Maygen was showing off her new nails.

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Then down the back we went. Going down was easy, the kids rode their bikes down the hill to the back of the property.

They did a few jumps, we recorded some video (to come later) and took some more photos. Maygen wasn’t very cooperative when I was trying to take some group shots of the three of them. I don’t think I got a single one where she wasn’t pulling a face.

Alek, Maygen and Jacob
Maygen and Jacob
Alek and Jacob
Jacob
Maygen
Jacob in Action
Jacob in Action
Jacob in Action
Alek
Alek in Action
Alek in Action
Alek in Action

After a while the boys became tired and wanted to go back up to the house. But there was no way they were going to ride their bikes back up the hill. Lucky we have the new car and we could fit their bikes in the boot, but only one at a time. So we ferried them back to the house.

Then it was time for us to head home, drop Bill The Doggin off and go shopping for a present for David and I as we hadn’t yet procured anything for us for Christmas.

Tired Kids

On the way home we stopped at KFC for lunch. Being the uncle you get your nephew what ever he wants, even if it sounds crazy and even if you know for sure they kid is never going to be able to fit all the food in. So when he asked for a Twister combo AND a Chicken Fillet Burger I said sure. You know what though, he ate it all, except for the few chips he shared with Bill. I was amazed. I guess all that bike riding of the morning built up quite an appetite.

After we’d eaten we headed out to Westfield Miranda for some shopping, to get the afore mentioned gift for ourselves. I can’t tell you want it is cause I had to erase all knowledge of it from my memory so I could be surprised when we unwrap it on Christmas day. :P But I’m sure it’s amazing.

Westfield Miranda
Miranda Christas Tree

Once we were done with shopping we travelled around the corner to collect Jennifer to take her with us to dinner.

Cronulla BeachCronulla Beach

Before dinner, we had to wait for Pete to arrive so we went down to Cronulla Beach to check it out. On the way back from the beach we ran into Glen, Olga and Austin. They gave Alek his Christmas present which he opened, it was a T-Shirt from their site TeeProject.

Alek and his new Shirt

To eat we went to Sombreros, a mexican restaurant. We had an array of food. Trios Dips to start then a main each. Enchiladas, nachos and quesadillas. The food was nice, even if I was, at first, a little concerned about the cleanliness.

Sombrero's Mexican Restaurant
Alek and the double corn chip
Sangria
Alek's Dinner
Pete's Nachos
My Dinner

The nighted ended kind of early as we were very full and very tired from the heat of the day. Tomorrow it’s shopping and preparations for Christmas Day. It will be our most routine day for the whole trip.

Lunch with Mum (Sydney 2010, Day 4)

Today we visited mum and went out for lunch with her. We also finally got her something for Christmas.

The day started with David and I waiting for Alek to come home from his Grandmother’s house where he went last night for his birthday dinner while Jennifer and Pete headed off for a day at work.

Alek arrived home about 10:30 and we quickly headed off to visit with mum, take her shopping and out for lunch.

When we arrived at mum’s she was already ready to go, but it was a little early for lunch so I looked around a bit in her yard to see what she’s been up to lately, given that I haven’t seen the place for twelve months.

Mum's House
Mum's Turtle
Mum's Plants
Mum's Gnome 2
Mum's Gnome
Praying Mantis

After going round the yard for a short time we bundled back into the car and headed to Penrith. Alek was kind enough to show off David’s favourite book and let me test out a couple of settings on the point and shoot camera.

Alek, Reader of Martha Stewart
My Nephew Alek
Alek in the Backseat
Alek in the Backseat
Alek in the Backseat

Our first stop was Bing Lee to get mum a new modem for her ADSL, she’s had no internet for a couple of months because her old one kicked the bucket and she wasn’t sure which one she should buy and was bamboozled by the sales people the last time she went in. We ended up finding a Belkin modem and bought it for her for Christmas.

Mum's Present

Then we headed over to Penrith Plaza for a bit of shopping and lunch with mum.

We tried to go to Hog’s Breath Cafe but they didn’t want to sit us at a decent table, one that would accommodate us and our bags. So we left and went to the cafe next door to eat. We started with nachos and followed it up with Spaghetti Bolognese for Alek, Chicken Parma for David, Mum had the fetucchini and I had the vegi burger. The food wasn’t that great and we probably wouldn’t recommend going to the place. But the service was a whole lot better than Hog’s Breath Cafe.

Alek's Bolognese Lunch
David's Chicken Parma Lunch
Mum's Fettucini Lunch
My Vegie Burger Lunch

We also did a spot of shopping buying Alek a Bracelet and checked out some clothes. Grandma bought him a new jumper that he wanted and he saw some boardies he wanted but will have to wait a while for as it would have taken some time for him to grow into them had he insisted on purchasing them. In the end he decided they could be his “after” photo for The Biggest Loser.

Alek's New Bracelet
Alek's Biggest Loser "After" photo

We then dropped mum back at home cause she had to go to work in the afternoon.

On the way back to Jennifer’s house we decided on a prank we could play on my sister. We were going to get something for Alek that would look like he had gotten his ear pierced, something his mother would hate. We found some sticky diamond-like things in the scrap booking isle and headed home, stopping for a sundae on the way.

Arriving at Jennifer’s house I saw something slithering in the gutter, a red-belly black snake. Just a little one, it was near the small outlet drain at the front of Jennifer’s front yard. It took David and Alek a couple of seconds to believe me, when they finally saw the critter as it was scurrying into the darkness drain.

The Drain

A few calls later and it became obvious there was nothing much we could do about it. The council doesn’t have snake handlers and WIRES wouldn’t come out unless the animal was injured. So in short, there is a red-belly black snake around about here. It only freaks one out for a little time before realising that there are actually probably a few around all of us all the time. In reality it probably came from, and has already returned to the creek at the end of the street. There’s a lot of redevelopment work going on down that way that has probably scared it out of its usual habitat.

Not too scared of the snake, Alek joined some of the local kids out the front (avoiding the drain) and was jumping on his new BMX he got for his birthday yesterday.

Alek Jumping
Alek Jumps
Alek Jumping

Some dude named Corbin Harris has scribbled on his helmet that we bought him for his birthday last year. Alek says this is a good thing and also has a poster signed by the guy. Apparently a professional skater dude.

Alek's helmet signed by Corbin Harris

When he was done with jumping we put the rest of our pranking plan in place, affixing the fake earing to Alek’s ear. And waiting for his mum to arrive home. Pete beat her home and checked out Alek’s ear, saying it looked good, but he had to make a closer inspection not believing we’d get something like that done without Jennifer’s approval.

Alek's Latest Addition

Alek was outside when Jennifer got home and two things became quickly obvious. Alek had no respect for the build up of a prank AND he can’t lie to his mum (probably a good thing). After only a couple of questions from the car and the statement “If that’s real you’d better take it out right now”, Alek removed the sticker and tossed it away. Oh man we could have had her going for at least another 5 minutes I reckon. :P

For dinner we had garlic bread, pastitsies and left over pizza from last night. David then made the most awesome dessert pizza, a chocolate pizza with banana and marshmallows. It tasted awesome.

Garlic Bread
Chocolate Pizza

We rounded out the night watching clips on YouTube, including Fail Compilation November 2010, a couple of Lady Gaga Parodies and some stuff from Kurt Hugo Schneider and Sam Tsui.

Tomorrow we’re back off to Jody’s so the nephews can play together. Alek wants to take his new bike and his jump ramp, not sure we can fit both in the car so he may have to settle for just his bike. If it fits. We follow that up with Mexican at a restaurant in Cronulla, Pete says it’s the best mexican around.

And on an ending note I have to say four days in, the weather has been awesome. I was expecting Sydney to be a hot sticky mess of humidity, but i’s been quite nice. I’ve even gotten a little bit of a sunburn.

And finally some cute random photos of Bill The Doggin.

Bill Looking Cute
Bill Looking Cute

An Overnight Success

I was awoken about 4:30 this morning by a wet nose on my nose. And I couldn’t have been happier. Bill was nuzzling me awake because he wanted to go outside to go to the toilet.

Not a big bit of news for most but the only part of this trip we’ve been dreading is the fact that Bill isn’t traditionally house trained.

At home he uses a thing called a pet loo. It’s synthetic grass atop a plastic base that funnels the whizz into a collection tub that you can clean out. Because he has this at home he can go whenever he feels like it. We weren’t sure how he would be without it at someone else’s house but he’s awesome.

So he nuzzled me awake and I put him out, he did is business then trundled back inside and back to bed. A success for sure.
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Here’s some photos of him chewing on his bone, just because he looks cute.

Bill and his bone
Bill and his bone
Bill and his bone