Wednesday, 9 April 2014

49 Beds

Since leaving Edinburgh in November 2013 to begin our round-the-world honeymoon we have slept in 49 beds* and visited seven different countries: England, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada.

Along the way we have caught up with friends and family around the world

We have also...
Driven on the left and right sides of the road.
Grown two teeth (Rafa)
Learned to love swimming and the beach (Rafa)
Rover family, California, March 2014
Failed to learn to surf (Jon and Sandy)
Had a bath in an esky (Rafa)
Visited some Hobbit holes
Hobbiton, Middle Earth (New Zealand) March 2014
Got married (again) and blessed our darling Raphael at the seaside
The Conran Wedding, and Celebrant, the lovely Bobbi. Australia, December 2013

Gained two new suitcases and a menagerie of stuffed toys, much to the delight of airport staff and fellow travelers around the world.

We have eaten Vietnamese noodle soup, frogs legs, kangaroo, my mums lasagne, freshly 'caught' mussels, tacos, sushi, fish and chips – obviously, possibly the finest desert of my life (an Italian lemon thing in California – Amazing) biscuits and gravy, bbq pork (we ordered nachos – but the pork was great so we did not send it back), prawns on the barbie, my family's Christmas dinner (thanks Jeffrey), bbq salmon, our second wedding feast, two lovely wedding present dinners out, a bbq at Wilsons Prom, Chicken Parma's, microwaved dinners and more motel breakfasts than we care to remember.

A local lunch in Saigon, Vietnam, November 2013

The baby has tried to eat pizza crusts, watermelon rind, banana, avocado, stewed apples, rockmelon, strawberries out of his nanna's garden, mushy peas (London), sweet potato, potato chips, sand, his dad's crocs, beer coasters and most recently rice pudding.

As he has traveled our son has grown into a charming, friendly smiley lad, who loves eating (shoes), swimming, sand, wind and walks.

In answer to the oft asked question, 'What is it like traveling with a baby?' I have to say we have loved it. Rafa is great company. With him we slow down. Instead of trying to do everything we do one or two great things and take time out during the day to do nothing - and in doing nothing we learn about the waitresses grandson (born on the same day as Rafa), we picnic and smell the sulfur in Rota Rua, sit in the park and look at the Golden Gate Bridge and take in the new bit of the world we are visiting. The correct way to travel no?

Rover family about to depart Heathrow, November 2013

Round-the-world Rafa back in London, April 2014


*This number may be inaccurate as it is based on a rough count during a jet lagged game of count the beds played by my husband and I.


Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Appointment Necessary


There are moments in life when you should just follow your gut instinct- when a decisive –
rather than an expedient or polite reaction to a situation can make all the difference. Don't walk through that darkened park, don't give that guy at speed dating your phone number, don't buy the lipstick the salesgirl just 'LOVES '...

I had one of those on my birthday. After a lovely relaxed morning at the beach with my family, my husband and the baby and I drove over to a nearby town pondering what to do with our afternoon. I remembered something I had done in my pre-baby life, a relaxing, pampering type of something that seemed perfect for a birthday girl. I would get a haircut!

Rover and her mum at the beach

The first hairdressers we saw was closed so we wandered on – knowing that the spur of the moment appointment may not be forthcoming. When I spied the second hairdressers I was perhaps a little too quick to be pleased about the 'No Appointments Necessary' sign in the window.
The moment I should have followed my gut was not on entering, but a little later. I was already in the gown and sitting in the chair. I undid the braid my hair had been in for three days – and saw that it was a good hair day for me – a good hair day being that my hair was not in one giant clump at the back of my head but hanging in limp clotted mess around my shoulders.

The moment I should have left was when I asked her if she could wash my hair before she cut it and she told me - as I sat in front of the hair washing sink – NO they did not do hair washing. If I had stood up at that point and said thanks but no thanks I could have had a shot at my relaxed afternoon of pampering. But no, instead I got a brusque lady wrenching a comb through my poor sorry hair and lecturing me on the terrible state I had gotten it into. 

I am a new mum; there are probably many things I could do better in my life – but spending time on personal grooming is low on the list of priorities just now. Which it is why an impromptu afternoon at the hair dressers is a treat. It is not just a new hair do that makes you feel like a new woman, it is the 20 mins or so guilt free reading of glossy magazines on the sofa waiting for the hairdresser, falling asleep while you are having your hair washed for you – 'a head massage? Yes please', the buzz of the salon around you, the cup of tea the apprentice makes for you and the styling that you could never possibly do for yourself. 

Rather than leaving feeling like a relaxed yummy mummy with a birthday bounce in her step and a beautiful, tangle free hairdo I left with damp, stringy hair that was slightly shorter than it had been when I went in and a sour look on my face that my husband could see from a block away.

a swim at Mallacoota

Instead of correctly and regularly conditioning my hair this summer I have been swimming, swimming, swimming. As a family we swim in the creek at my mums every afternoon. We have been to every beach in Gippsland that we can and quite a few rivers too. Rafa loves it, and smiling back at my beautiful son while he experiences the wonder that is 'swimming' is irreplaceable.

Family swim at Betka Beach, Mallacoota

I haven't added bad hair to my list of things to feel guilty about – the list is long enough already -
and includes:
going to the toilet when the baby wants to play/ be fed/ have a cuddle
trying to eat the baby wants to play/ be fed/ have a cuddle
trying to sleep when the baby wants to play/ be fed/ have a cuddle

But I have crossed that particular hairdresser off my list of places to return to.


Rafa and Rover mum swim in the Boggy Creek - Nowa Nowa
Rafa and his dad swim in the Boggy Creek - Nowa Nowa


Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Rafa and Dargo dog

One night Rafa and his mum and dad were on their way to visit Nanna Helen in Nowa Nowa. They drove for a long time and nothing exciting happened. 

Then all of a sudden, when they were half way between Stratford and Bairnsdale there on the road ahead of them they saw an animal. Dad slowed down the car. 

'Is it a wallaby?' Asked mummy Sandy.
'Is it a koala? Asked daddy Jon.
'Is it a bandicoot? Asked baby Rafa. 

They soon saw that it was non of these things. It wasn't a wombat or an echidna or a rabbit or a fox either.
It was somebody who did not live in the Australian bush at all.
It was a little lost dog.

Dad stopped the car. They all agreed that a lost dog could not stay on the road. But how should they catch it?.
'We need a torch.' said mummy.
'We need a lasso.' said baby Rafa.

But they needn't have worried. As soon as daddy opened the car door the lost dog wagged it's tail and hopped into the car.
'Can I hold it daddy? Please!!' Begged baby Rafa.
Daddy thought the lost dog looked like a very nice dog, but he did not think baby Rafa was quite big enough to hold onto a lost dog just yet. He gave the lost dog to mummy Sandy.

The lost dog turned around in her lap three times, sniffed and then settled down in her lap for a sleep.
Mummy looked out the window, and because they were going past the Dargo turn off she decided that the lost dog would be called Dargo dog.
'Dargo dog. Dargo dog, Dargo dog,' sang baby Rafa.
'Go to sleep baby Rafa,' said mummy and daddy together.
Soon baby Rafa and Dargo dog were fast asleep. 

Mummy and daddy were wide awake. They wondered where Dargo could have come from. She was not a puppy, she was quite clean, and liked people. There were no farm houses that they could see, so they decided Dargo dog had better go with them.

When they arrived at Nanna Helens it was very late and very dark, but she had left the light on for them. Mummy carried Dargo dog and daddy carried baby Rafa.
Nanna Helen got a big surprise when she saw that mummy Sandy was not carrying Baby Rafa.
'We found a dog!' she announced.
Nanna Helen rubbed her eyes with surprise, when she had her eyes open properly she agreed that Dargo was a very nice dog.
'Dargo dog. Dargo dog, Dargo dog,' sang baby Rafa.
'Go to sleep baby Rafa,' said mummy and daddy together.

That night Dargo dog slept in the dog pen at the side of the house. She had a bowl of food, a bowl of water and a nice warm dog house. It smelt a bit funny, but it was much nicer than the scary road with all those loud cars and headlights. But she missed her home.

Before they went to bed that night mummy and daddy wondered what to do with Dargo dog. Could they keep her? Did they know anyone else who would take her and love her? What if she had a family who were missing her?
'Dargo dog. Dargo dog, Dargo dog,' sang baby Rafa.
'Go to sleep baby Rafa,' said mummy and daddy together.

In the morning Dargo dog was very happy to see them. Daddy and baby Rafa took Dargo for a walk along the river and they were all very happy.
But they knew they needed to try to find out if Dargo dog had another family.
Mummy and nanna Helen took Dargo dog to the vet in Orbost. Daddy and Rafa stayed home and played, but they both wondered what was happening with Dargo dog. 

Baby Rafa learns about Australian animals


At long last the phone rang. It was mummy, ringing to say that Dargo dog did not have an identity chip, and no one had reported her missing.
Mummy I could look after Dargo dog,' said baby Rafa. 
'No.' Mummy said sounding sad, the vet had taken Dargo dog away to the Pound.

'I told the vet that we could look after her,' said mummy, 'but she said it was the rules.'

When mummy got home she and daddy and baby Rafa had a big hug. They remembered how special their family was already – but they were sad not to have Dargo dog anymore.

That night they imagined Dargo dog in a cold kennel, with lots of other noisy dogs around and no one who knew what a special dog she was. Even though the nice lady vet had promised to try to find Dargo's family daddy said he would use the internet to help Dargo as well. 

'Dargo dog. Dargo dog, Dargo dog,' said baby Rafa sadly.
'Go to sleep baby Rafa,' said mummy and daddy together.

In the morning daddy put a photo of Dargo dog and a description up on the East Gippsland Lost Dogs Facebook page.

Dargo dog

Twenty minuets later he came running in to where nanna Helen, mummy Sandy and baby Rafa were playing.
'Guess what,' he said, 'Dargo dog is called Biscuit!'
'Biscuit?' said baby Rafa. 'How do you know?'
'Because I got a reply to my Facebook message.'

They all sat together to call Dargo dogs owners. None of them could quite think of her as Biscuit, but they were very pleased that she had a home to go to after all.






Monday, 30 September 2013

A Tale of Two Apple Cakes

Rafa has recently become happy to be in his pram - two weeks ago when we went out with him in it he just wailed ‘I’M ABANDONED, I’M ABANDONED,I’M ABANDONED!!!’  - not relaxing.
It is lovely to carry him in his sling, but my back appreciates the break - so on Saturday morning with the weather still lovely in Edinburgh it was a pleasure to linger at the Cramond estuary after the husband did the parkrun. However, hanging about in the sunshine by the water to show Rafa the birds, boats and little waves (ok he was asleep, but we enjoyed it) did leave us rather short of time for other Saturday tasks. 

Edinburgh Park Run - Cramond, September 2013
With friends dropping over in the afternoon, the baby to be fed again and me wanting to get out for a run of my own, the task of baking a cake for afternoon tea fell to the husband. Baking cakes is not something either of us does often - but we had a recipe left behind by my mother - and a pantry with ingredients - so it seemed to make sense to bake rather than buy. 
Getting back from my very pleasant run along the sunny canal bank I was impressed to find: One - the smell of a cake baking, and : Two - no baby wailing. 
As I got through the door however there was an overlay of burn to the pleasant baking aroma. Since we have a rule of no babies in the oven, and the husband was playing with the baby I checked on the cake - and it was rather black on top. 
On questioning it seemed that the husband had mixed up centigrade and fahrenheit.
It was a little crispy in places but otherwise quite tasty. It all got eaten in one sitting and one of our guests was even kind enough to ask about the recipe.


On Sunday with the weather still lovely we made up a picnic, put Rafa back in his pram - where he promptly fell asleep and went for a walk along the canal. As featured in the previous post the blackberries are out at the moment - and after lunch our forward momentum was interrupted when I found a good crop. I thought I was going to be berated by the husband for meandering, but instead he joined in the picking.  There were a few traumatic incidences with thorns, wasps and nettles but we managed to pick quite a good haul.
When we dragged ourselves back inside it seemed only logical that I attempt the cake this time - with blackberries as well as apples.
First issue I had was a lack of scales. When I asked the husband how he had dealt with this he just shrugged and said he had guessed - resulting in rather too much sugar but otherwise a cake - which though burnt was a very tasty confection.
I made my own estimations and spent a pleasant hour peeling apples and mixing my ingredients in the kitchen while the husband napped with the baby.
Somehow the results were tasty, not burnt - but rather solid. My cake entirely different from the one produced from the same recipe the day before. We ate some of it for pudding with custard that evening.
After bathing and feeding the baby that evening we complemented ourselves on a perfect cheap Sunday-and we acknowled that we both still needed to work on our baking skills - and perhaps invest in some scales.


If you have scales - or skill at baking, have a go at the recipe below and perhaps you can let me know what the cake is supposed to turn out like.


German Apple Cake -


100grms melted butter
100grms castor sugar
200grms self raising flour
2 eggs
2 apples, peeled, cored, quartered and sliced
70grms raisins
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp demaera sugar
lemon juice


Preheat oven 375 f / 150 c
Grease 18cm spring tin
Melt butter, place in a large bowl.
Stir in sugar, sift flour and stir in. Add one egg at a time. Stir till it forms a soft dough.
Press 2/3 dough into tin.
Cover with apples.
Add remaining dough.
Bake for one hour. Cook 15 mins before transferring to serving plate.   
(the blackberries were a very tasty addition, even if the actual cake I baked was a bit of a brick)

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

a poem for Rafa

I am thrilled to announce that our lovely son Raphael has arrived in the world. I have been busy getting to know the little fellow and occasionally snatching some sleep - so have not managed to write so much as a shopping list of late. Luckily as well as the safe arrival of our son we have also been blessed by having my mum come from Australia to meet Rafa and help his parents out. She has  written a poem for Rafa - which I am publishing here with her kind permission.  



A story of blackberries
I came to Edinburgh to meet you,
To be family in real time and space
To breathe you in to my heart and mind
Tiny new person of many countries  

A new child
There are so many questions
What will the world hold for you Rafa?

When you were just 10 days old your mum and I took you for a walk
Along the canal path in the baby carrier
I took a picture
Of Sandy picking early blackberries

Rafa and Rover picking Blackberries on Union Canal - Edinburgh




It reminded me of when your mum was just one week old
Her Dad and I took her
To collect apples and blackberries
from an abandoned orchard
there is a treasured picture of this time.

Rover and her Dad, apple and blackberry picking, Murrungowar - 1981.




Blackberries are a weed in Australia
A curse on some landscapes
Where they are out of control
Despite campaigns to eradicate them
With poison, burning and slashing.
They belong here in Scotland though,
A wild food great for foraging
Your other grandma arrived on her first visit
To meet you with a blackberry pie
Telling the story that once upon a time
Many people went to collect the fruit
But now a friend was the only one.

These events came to mind
When a man at the Book Festival – (Graeme Gibson)
Spoke of the way people were changing nature
Less birds, animals and plants
He told us that in the dictionary now
Apple and blackberry are no longer about fruit
But computer brands and gizmos
That tie people to their work 24 hours a day
Your Dad has one of these
I have a picture of you with him
Walking through the Edinburgh Fringe
On the way to register your birth.

Rafa and his dad on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh



I am hopeful that the toughness of blackberries
Will ensure their survival
So that you too will take your billy
and collect the ripest, blackest and juiciest
of these sweet wild foods.
Then I can add that picture to this story.

Love Nanna Helen

September 2013
Edinburgh 


Rafa and his Nanna Helen in sunny St Andrew Square, Edinburgh.