Friday, 19 December 2014

A little update!

I thought it was high time for a bit of an update.. since I last wrote we have had three new teeth, two lots of illness, one wedding, multiple frosts, and a lot of work in our home!

I miss Australia like mad, but the happiness we are getting from being close to family and old friends is immeasurable, and the more 'novelty' perks of being back in the UK are still going strong. The list of small things which make us happy to be 'home' are endless… a cold and festive run up to Christmas, Sky TV, calling friends and family in the same time zone, John Lewis 'Click and Collect' (my goodness, that's dangerous!) ... even Dave Lamb's voiceovers on Come Dine with Me!

Tom tries not to think about what we have left behind (remarkably positive for him really!), but I can't help missing my mummy friends, easy walks and the favourable climate. We are still awaiting our belongings which have now been absent for three months. I think once they arrive and are situated in our house my brain will finally realise that they aren't still sitting in our old Melbourne apartment!

There is plenty to do to keep me occupied however. Not a minute of nap time is wasted as aside from all the normal household chores, there have been Christmas presents to buy and wrap, unpacking and sorting to do, and the small matter of re-establishing my photography business here in the UK. I'm totally re-branding my business, making a new website and hope to launch in early 2015.

Sienna is now approaching 14 months old.. she has tested us with teething and temper tantrums, but most of the time is a happy and delightful little soul. She enjoys walking whilst holding our hands and can pull herself up to her knees, but not quite to her feet. She can stand whilst holding on to something, but hasn't yet gone for a 'cruise'!

She has four teeth, loves 'round and round the garden' and blowing bubbles.. is happiest in the bath, and could eat the world out of avocados if we'd let her!

Here are some photos from recent weeks…

Showing off her new skills in the cot

Visiting the reindeer at Garson's Farm in Esher

Giving 'kisses'!

Playing on mummy and daddy's bed (mattress on the floor still!) and (middle bottom) 'round and round the garden'

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Is it really October?

20 degrees at Branksome Beach... what day of the year is it? Hallowe'en! To have this temperature and a sunny day on 31st October is rather unusual, but we made the most of it with a trip to the beach with Granny Pam and Grandad.

There were people in t-shirts!! I'm still in shock!

Sienna enjoyed some laughs on a bench on the prom..

.. before some walking practice in the sand with Grandad...

.. and finally a little look at the sea!

I'm sad to report that the temperature dropped to 9 degrees today, just three days later! Oh well, time to buckle down for our first British winter since 2008... if my fingers do not freeze I shall continue to blog ;-)

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Sienna's first birthday party (lessons learnt and photos taken)...

Just like everything else on the parenting spectrum, children's birthday parties are a learning curve. With one down, it's time to compile a list of things I've learnt for next year..

1. Cake - start earlier.. OR be less ambitious OR outsource to willing grandparent

2. Decorations - balloons are adored by children, but if buying one three times the size of the birthday girl, give her time to get used to it before attempting a photo shoot!

3. Food - cater for the number of guests you have attending, not three times the amount!

4. Venue - definitely hold a children's party in a house that you are about to redecorate - no worrying about the carpets!

Despite being less than a month after we landed from Australia, in a home with next to no furniture, we had a lovely little celebration for Sienna's first birthday. The theme (due to lack of furniture) was 'teddy bears' picnic', and grandparents and a few close friends with young children gathered to eat food plucked directly from Sainsbury's and onto the plate!

Here are some photos of the occasion...

The day before, Sienna's first birthday 'photos' in the gardens in front of our home. I was lucky to get a dry day and lovely sunshine!

Sienna with her Granny and Bubba (Tom's parents), opening her first gift - a doggie walker! As she can't push it yet, we are using it as a ride-on!

All dressed up in her party clothes... I still want to eat her up!! Does this feeling ever go away?!

Granny Pam, Grandad, Sienna, Granny Sue and Bubba

Time for cake with Mummy and Daddy!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Sienna turns ONE...

Happy birthday to Sienna!

Today marks Sienna's first birthday and the first anniversary of Tom and I entering into the crazy world of parenthood... our tiny 3kg bundle of baby has grown into not-quite-9kg of smiles, giggles and cuddles, and we couldn't feel more blessed.

Sienna marked her first birthday in style by cutting her very first tooth, and in between the party preparations, cake making and present wrapping, I stole a few moments to consider the fact that we have survived a whole year!

Having a baby is the most wonderful gift, but also the hardest job in the world. The learning curve has been steep and we are still on the incline, but Sienna has taught us so much more than how to look after a baby. She has taught us patience and resilience, shown us that there are more important things in life than work, and filled our hearts with more love than we thought there was space for.

At 12 months she is a happy little lady who loves to babble (dadada), clap and wave. Her favourite foods are pasta, avocado, Babybel cheese and yoghurt... She can push up to her knees (just!) and bum-shuffle a fair distance. She is learning to walk when we hold her hands and takes adorable giant steps with high knees and stomping feet!

She has slept through the night precisely 16 times, which means I've had at least 349 broken nights. If you're surprised that I've counted these, your baby sleeps better than mine....

I've spent the equivalent of 25 solid days nursing (that's 621 hours, give or take a bit). If you're surprised I've counted this, then you need to get to know me better :-)

Sienna has adjusted well after the huge upheaval of moving from Melbourne to Surrey, and just to record this in writing for my own personal benefit, I do not plan on moving 10,000 miles with a baby ever again. I don't plan on moving even 10 miles with a baby for a while...

Happy first birthday darling Sienna May, we love you more than we ever imagined possible. With hugs and a million kisses from your Mummy & Daddy xxx

Pictured above, Sienna's first 12 months.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Goodbye Melbourne...

I've been composing this post for several weeks. It's all about us leaving Australia, and it feels like a 'biggie'.

I've written a few 'big ticket' blog posts in the last five years.. leaving the UK, our wedding, Sienna's arrival... I write mostly for myself, to capture my thoughts for future reflection. I find it therapeutic to write blog entries on the big events in life, but they have also generated a greater response than I ever anticipated.

So here goes...

Five years. It's a big chunk of my life, our lives. It's longer than I spent at junior school, at university.. one sixth of my lifetime..  We came to Melbourne for a two year 'fling' and ended up falling madly in love with this wonderful city. It's welcoming, live-able, vibrant, sporty, foodie... a place we will always feel at home.

We arrived in October 2009, uncommitted and free from responsibilities - me, an accountant, and Tom a management consultant, totally unaware of how our Australian adventure would change our lives forever. We leave as a happily married couple, with our beautiful Aussie girl Sienna, and me, a budding photographer, and Tom, a sports marketer. We didn't just find sun and travel in this land down under, we found things that we are both truly passionate about. Tom took the plunge with a total career change, and has found his happy place in the world of sports marketing. I discovered my overwhelming joy for portrait photography and set up my own business doing something that I truly love.

Moving to Melbourne was the scariest thing I had ever done, but has turned out to be one of the most rewarding life experiences. It taught me that being a little bit afraid can be a good thing... had we stayed in the UK, I bet we would not have discovered our new passions in life.

It's not just the place, but the people here that we have to thank for amazing memories that we are taking back to the UK... I want to mention a few people here who have played a huge role in my Australian life, and who I will miss dearly when we leave. I'm taking a risk by naming a few people that there will be others who I've left out.. so sorry if you're not mentioned in person, but I promise I do love you too :-)

In no particular order..

Christie... how bittersweet that my closest friend here still lives in a different city. I'm SO glad I found you at the Tamara Lackey workshop back in 2011. We bonded over a passion for photography, and sealed our friendship with a shared struggle over babies that won't sleep through the night (although we love them dearly of course). You are an inspirational photographer and a dear friend who has captured my family in photographs that I will treasure forever (including the image at the top of this post).  I expect you will be able to get a bit more done in your days now that we are in opposite time zones and can no longer have a continual day-long conversation via text message. There's nothing quite like an hour of CreativeLive/ClickAway/AIPP viewing with live chat between the two of us! How you juggled two kids and that many messages I will never know. Lets keep the dream alive for another photography workshop before too long..

Shelley... my mummy-friend from parenting classes... we were destined to cross paths. We have known each other only a year but you have been not only a trusted friend but also an absolute hoot to hang out with! You are eloquent and expressive, passionate and ambitious... an amazing mother to Hugo and oh-so-sweet with Miss Sienna. They shall remain betrothed to one another despite the distance, and I expect many a Skype chat with you in the future to continue the laughter... This is only just the beginning of our friendship..

Claire... my goodness how I will miss you! Our Tuesday swims, late afternoon meet ups at the park, and chance meetings in the supermaket... you have made the first year of motherhood so much easier with your advice, sympathy and cheerleading. We share a mutual obsession with baby sleep, let's not get started on temperature... We will miss you and Matilda so much, and here's hoping our paths cross again soon and the 'swim twins' can be reunited :-)

Lou.. I first met you nearly five years ago, whilst you were in labour with Ben! I thought that was pretty random at the time, but as I've got to know you I've realised that going to a party whilst in the early stages of labour is just how you roll, and of course I love you for it! You and Sam have been a constant support to my family over the years... always able to provide child models, emergency baby advice, a good talking to, and a great laugh! I will miss seeing your little 'mates' grow up and your new house take shape.. Please keep in touch 'tidylou'... xx

(Kevin I know you will love that your are photobombing this image!)

Jac... without you we would not be here. We only found Melbourne because we found you! You hosted us on our 'reccie' back in 2008 and immediately I knew that Melbourne was the city for us. My early education at 80 Strand in the Australian delights of Tim-Tams and Fairy Bread stood me in good stead for what I was letting myself in for! Thank you for the connections and the welcome that have made this experience so fantastic. (Below photo is from 2007!)

Lisa and Ali.. I couldn't have asked for a better work 'family' than you two.. Supportive both professionally and personally, our experience here in Australia would not have been the same without you. You have guided me on my career and given me opportunities i will always be grateful for. Lisa you were the first person to meet baby Sienna, and you've both let me into your lives to photograph your nearest and dearest... If we make the move back Down Under, I will most definitely be in touch... (sorry no photo here!)

My mother's group.. it has been harder than I envisaged to wave you goodbye. Whilst Sienna will sadly not remember her little friends, but I will never forget the friendship, kindness and fun times that we've created as a group. Clea and Ella, Aneta and Lachie, Martina and Felix, Lucy and Claribel, Bree and Isla, Nikki and Makenna, Nicky and Jess, Carla and Harper, Liz and Tyler, Andy and Mason, Claudia and Clara, Tania and Perry, Viktoria and William, Antonio and Salome... we will keep in touch and hope for a reunion one day.

My fellow YLTers... what an experience. The year we all spent together was inspirational and thought provoking. You supported me through the tougher times of 2012 and inspired me to strive for the things that make me happy in life. In particular.. Lauren.. thanks for being my rock, Ben... your chaos inspires me (embrace it!), and Will, I hope our families paths will cross again because there are more good times to be had!

Tom.. I wonder if he will ever read this? He's not a big reader of this blog, so this message may remain unread for years to come. When you do read it, I want to record how grateful I am to you for this wonderful journey you've brought me on... we both know that I came here for you, and you are leaving here for me. I wouldn't have done this without you, and am so glad we did it!! You'll absolutely HATE this public display of emotion so I'll stop there, other than to say I hope the rest of our life can be as happy as the last five years have been :)

We leave as not just Brits but Australians too, making a return Down Under one day a realistic opportunity. For now, we bid you farewell. Thank you, Australia, for welcoming us with open arms and changing the course of our lives forever... x

Monday, 15 September 2014

Five very random things we will miss about Australia...

1. Cheesy music in the supermarket

I love food shopping to music. It makes me feel good. Last week Coles played The Spice Girls, Dirty Dancing and Craig David all in the space of one food shop. They know their audience, and I spent a fortune!

(Incidentally I think Australia might be the only country still regularly playing Craig David songs in public venues... please let me know if not).

2. Healthcare freedom

Here we can visit any GP, anytime. Pick whoever you like, no geographical boundaries, get an appointment same day, even shop around for multiple opinions. It's amazing..

... on the flip side however, I still cannot comprehend a health insurance system that only covers inpatient care. Why oh why can I not get private health insurance that also covers me for outpatient appointments? Somebody please tell me!

3. Traffic lights without the amber

In Australia, traffic lights do not show amber before green... Only before red.. And Tom LOVES it! (Yup, weird.)

4. Squeesy tomato sauce

Does this UK have this invention yet? Perfect for applying ketchup to your meat pie with the ultimate precision, the squeesey tomato sauce packets are a feat to behold..

5. Total ignorance of any type of watershed

The threshold of 'inappropriate' is WAY higher in Australia than in the UK. A number of words that would be 'bleeped' on British television are thrown around casually on Australian family TV shows, and it's not uncommon to listen to a radio phone in about sex, broadcast on a major station during the school run!

Friday, 12 September 2014

Highlights from Down Under...

In the first of a multi-part blog series to mark our departure from Australia, I've decided to look back at some of the highlights of our time here 'Down Under'.

This is going to be a bit like one of those TV shows that just takes existing footage and re-plays it with new commentary over the top... yup, nothing 'new' here folks but hopefully some fun trips down memory lane...

Most ill-fated trip: Uluru

This blog entry makes me laugh. We had quite possibly every problem that could have occurred on this trip - illness, lost luggage, cancelled flights, diverted flights, delayed flights.. sensing a theme? We had a great time though! I must have written the blog entry in a fit of rage and it still makes me laugh until this day.. it's worth a read, not just for the gorgeous photos of the most impressive and imposing rock I've ever seen...

Read it now: The Uluru Saga

Besties-for life: Richard & Tamara

Our fab Canadian friends Richard and Tamara moved to Melbourne in the same month as us. We spent an awesome 18 months having tonnes of fun and good times until they sadly 'dumped' us during a trip to Adelaide and moved back to Canada! Our parallel lives have been the source of much entertainment.. we got engaged just months apart, married in the same year, and both 'Ramara' and 'TomKat' welcomed a first born with the initials SM in 2013. What's next guys?! We miss you SO much... I'm glad I documented some of these fun times that we had together:... (none of which are linked but they are there somewhere!)

If you're feeling at bit miffed at not getting a mention.. sit tight.. there are a number of individuals who have made a huge impact on our lives, and I will be expanding upon you guys in a future post...

Visitors from Afar: Rosie wins the prize

We've been blessed with so many visitors from afar, to share in our fun times and great view. The Woods have visited not just once, but twice and Tom's parents, Sue & Peter, have been three times! We've welcomed EmmaKatie & Chris & SimonTush & Andy (honeymooning no less!), Telfy & Ant, Rich (fleeting return, but long enough to meet the real Peter Alexander!).. and possibly more people who we might have forgotten?

I asked Tom to name his most memorable visitor moment.. and Rosie Wood you have won the accolade! We award you the prize for your absolutely outstanding bravery amongst 'eagles' (known to me and you and cockatoos).. here is the video evidence:

Most-unwelcome visitors: Eight-legged friends

(there is no picture to accompany this 'highlight', because the images are already etched on my brain forever)

I'm not much of a spider-lover. I have insisted that we live on the seventh floor to minimise the risk of disruption to my daily life (this has succeeded with one week to go), but could not control the 'company' that we would find when travelling around Australia.

There are three horrific arachnid moments that stand out in my mind. All were met with the type of 'solution' that would probably win £250 on You've Been Framed...

- Just weeks into our move, we were holidaying at a B&B in the middle of a dense forest (why did I not see this coming) with Tom's parents and a GIANT HUNTSMAN. After the B&B owner attempted to catch it with his hands and dropped it several times in and around our luggage, Tom and his Dad spent a good half hour performing a thorough check of both our rooms! More here...

- I arrived at a rental cottage in Daylesford for a girly weekend with some work friends, to discover half our group in a flap at yet another giant huntsman on the wall! After decided we couldn't hoover the beast up, two brave souls gassed him with spider-spray. Ugh... if you want photos see: Daylesford Spider

- Finally, I picked up a rather nasty species-unknown-but-huge spider on my wing mirror one day at work. After noticing it on the freeway I was pretty proud of myself for not crashing in horror. I refused to park in our garage for fear of polluting it with arachnids and so made tom come out into the road with a long handled broom to brush the offender away! I can't bring myself to link to the photo, it's too yucky.. but it's on the blog somewhere!

Favourite holiday state: Queensland

We have enjoyed travelling all over Australia, but our favourite state has to be Queensland. It most closely represents stereotypical Australia to us, with gorgeous beaches, tropical weather, koala cuddles and tropical reefs. We've been to the amazing Whitsunday Islands twice, visited the tropical North, toured the best of Brisbane and surrounds with Merryl, and spent a day unsuccessfully looking for whales with the Sea World crew. We've also worn the obligatory stinger-suits on more than one occassion, in an attempt to convince ourselves that snorkelling is a fun activity (it's not).

Best sporting moment: Tom's career change

Melbourne is a great place to be for sports. During our stay here we've been to four Australian Opens, four Formula One Grand Prixs (pural spelling?!), three AFL Grand Finals, two Ashes tests, multiple horse races, a million AFL games.. and just one soccer game (A-league is not that great!).

Perhaps the best sporting moment has to be Tom's career change to the world of sports marketing - a bold move that has proved life-changing for Tom and our family. Such has been his passion and dedication to the Western Bulldogs over the past three years, that his departure warranted 'Lister Week'.. a full week of celebrations, gifts and heartfelt words of appreciation. He received not one but two rather hilarious video presentations, a ginormous signed print (complete with engraved plaque), and some gifts-of-words that brought us to tears. Ever modest, he wouldn't admit to any of this, but I write safe in the knowledge that he won't read this to get embarrassed!

Milestones for our family

We got engaged in Margaret River in May 2010, had an Aussie wedding party by the beach in Port Melbourne in February 2012, and welcomed our best-Australian souvenir Sienna in October 2013. I have lots more to say on these topics but this is a strictly non-emotional post so will save those words for next time!

Okay.. that was epic and took AGES! I thought this was a quick summary re-hash post? I hope you've enjoyed this trip down memory lane. Nowust go and pack.... 

Saturday, 6 September 2014

A Day with the Daffodils

Today was our last trip to the Mornington Peninsula, a place which has given us many happy memories during our time in Australia. Our good friends Shelley, James & baby Hugo invited us to lunch at the family smallholding. Not only was a delicious lasagne on offer, but the daffodils were in bloom. Marvellous. Where is my camera?!

As if the daffs didn't provide enough photographic inspriation, Granny Pam had knitted matching jumpers for Sienna and Hugo.The outtakes are cute as cute as the 'successful' photos!!!

Shelley and James, thank you for such a happy, happy day. The sun shone and a great time was had by all. Good photos, great food, even better memories...

Monday, 18 August 2014

We're moving!

After five fantastic years in Melbourne, we've made the difficult decision to pack our bags and head home to the UK. Both incredibly exciting and terribly sad, it is a bittersweet decision which leaves a wrench in our guts but also fills our hearts with happiness.

We can't wait to see our family and friends back home without the cloud of an upcoming 'goodbye'... we are returning to our old house, will be close to great friends, and equidistant between our families.

I'm literally overflowing with words about our experiences here in Australia and the friends we've made. Be warned there will be a blog post of epic proportions before we leave.

We now have five weeks to pack up our life.. wish us (well, me probably!) good luck..

Friday, 15 August 2014

I hate my hat!

This little lady does not like to have anything on her head! So... my attempt at a photoshoot with her hot pink sun hat was always doomed to failure!

(Thanks Granny Pam for the hat, I'm sure she will tolerate more one day...)

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Sienna is nine months old...

Hello again, thanks for coming back to read :-)

Sienna has now been 'out' longer than she was 'in'! Today marks her nine month anniversary and it was a beautiful winter's day. I could not resist but take her to the park for some late afternoon photos. The locals seemed rather amused as I rolled around in the grass juggling a rather large camera with a koala puppet to attract her attention...

Here are some facts about Sienna at nine months (again more for my records than your interest, but feel free to read)...

- Sienna can shuffle backwards on her tummy at quite a speed and covering a fair distance. She often gets her legs wedged under a piece of furniture!
- She is now very confident at sitting and rarely topples over
- She has (finally!) started sleeping through the night and has done it six times so far.. (when you've waited nine months for this moment, it is not usual to count the number of times the miracle has occurred)
- She has no teeth!
- She loves to eat squares of buttered toast (don't we all)

... and here are some photos...

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Sienna Travels : Part 4 - Family, Friends & Pizza

It's taken a while to write this final entry due to the sheer volume of images that needed editing first! But, with Tom working tonight and Sienna asleep, I'm finally going to complete the series. It's taken nearly a whole packet of KitKat bites (try them!) to complete the editing, but hey-ho, never mind.... Tom would say that's unhealthy but I can guarantee he will not have read this far to find out....!

Like all good stories, in this final instalment of our 2014 UK blog series, we've ended up back where we started - in Poole. The end is by no means close however, as we have an astonishing number of people still to meet!

In chronological order....

Our first guests were Rod and Christine (my Uncle and Auntie), plus my cousin Emma, her husband Marc, and their kids Jake and Daisy. Jake is my godson and we skype with Jake and Daisy from Australia, so they had met Sienna via the computer, if not yet in person. It turns out nine-year-old Jake is a natural with babies, and the oh-so-kind Daisy gave Sienna a cuddly toy elephant which I had given to Daisy when she was a baby. Said elephant has since become a *huge* hit with Sienna, so thank you Daisy :)

 Also visiting on the same day were Uncle Toby and Auntie Melissa!

In between visitors Sienna enjoyed hanging out (read: taking over) Granny Pam's daybed, and soon also commandeered her iPad and magazine! Grandad, meanwhile, continued educating Sienna in the rules of 'Peepo!'

We also had lots of family friends visit whilst we were in Poole. Pam and Bob are long-time friends of the family and Pam has knitted some marvellous creations for Sienna (so has my mum, it must be something about the name Pam and being great knitters!).  In fact, a hat that Pam knitted for Sienna as a newborn is still worn everyday at eight months old!!

We hosted an 'open' house one day, and along to visit were Margaret (my Godmother) and Gordon, Roland and Pauline (family friends), and Gully & Mr B (my ballet teacher of many years). It was lovely to have a house full of guests and Sienna enjoyed all the attention.. prior to our visit to the UK she had been a very timid baby, but she was very obliging in giving cuddles to all who requested!

The next person to meet was Mum's longtime friend Marion! It was a HOOT.. no more explanation required!

One essential stop-off every time we visit the UK is Pizza Express! Tom and I splurged on two pizzas AND two side salads, because, you know, we only go to Pizza Express once a year or less! It was divine and I cannot wait for the next time....

Sienna also paid a 'get well' visit to Aubrey and Valerie:

The final people for Sienna to meet, numbers 62 & 63 on the list but by no means the least important, were Di & Si! We had a fun time catching up with the Tammam family, and neighbour Val popped in for a cuddle too! [I know that sounds random, but it actually isn't - Val's daughter Amy lives in Melbourne and is a friend of ours, so Sienna and Val had already met during a recent trip. Are you following all of this? There will be a quiz at the end.]

On our final night we had a Hague family get together, which included a joint birthday dinner for Dad/Grandad (who turned 70 this year), Toby (age undisclosed!), and Tom (age undisclosed, but close to mine!). Mum made her legendary rice-krispie cake, and the three men did a great job of looking incredibly awkward as I made them pose for a photograph....

We also took an updated family photo:

On our final day it was all about packing and trying not to dwell on the upcoming goodbyes. We took some gorgeous photos with Uncle Mat, who lives in Bulgaria, and so has aptly been named Uncle Bulgaria (after the character from The Wombles). Mum thought it would be cute to get an Uncle Bulgaria toy. So did Mat. So now we have three Uncle Bulgaria's - two stuffed and one real! Obviously the real one is the best :)

We also took some really sweet photos with Granny Pam and Grandad and I really hope you've all stuck with me and are still reading because these photos just MELT MY HEART! I cannot believe that I have taken this sweet thing away from her grandparents and brought her back to Melbourne because these photos just symbolise a very happy time and will be cherished for ever. Moments like this make the distance, the expense, and the upheaval of travelling 10,000 miles all worth it.... we will be back!!!

Congratulations if you've read this far! You win 100 points! Points can be redeemed for cuddles with Sienna at your next opportunity :-D