book week

Eowyn costume in progress

It’s book week in Australia, and all over instagram there are photos of frantic costume making. I am no exception. The parade is on Friday, so this week I am working on Clare’s Eowyn costume. Just a zip, hems, an undershirt, and another lower sleeve to go. Somehow I only cut one lower sleeve, and I’m out of fabric. Stay at home dad has a trip to Darn Cheap ahead of him today….

Buzz

All my life I have wanted a cat.  Two cats, actually.  I dreamed about the day when I had my own house and the two cats that I would have.  I’d even chosen names.  Well, then I met the man I would later marry, we bought a house, and got a cat.  And my husband was REALLY allergic.  The cat was quickly given to a friend, and that was that. We were a pet free household.

Well, the girls have been asking for a pet for years and years and years.  I resisted, as I really didn’t want another responsibility.  However, I can see what a lovely thing pet ownership can be.  Since the girls are now older and more responsible, and there is currently an adult at home full-time, we thought that the timing was right.  So let me introduce Buzz!

Buzz

Buzz is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel crossed with Shih Tzu, and is six and a half years old.  We adopted him from the Lost Dogs Home, so we don’t really know his story from the last six and a half years.  He came to us on Wednesday, and has very quickly become part of our family.

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Now I’ll admit that I know very little about dogs and dog ownership.  I’ve never been what people refer as a “dog person”.  My husband has never had a pet (well, in his bachelor days he had goldfish and axolotls, but he’s never had a mammal as a pet).  My family had a dog when I grew up, but lived in a rural setting on a half acre block and the dog lived outside and pretty much roamed free (this was a long time ago).  We live in inner Melbourne, so Buzz is going to be an indoor dog, just staying outside when no-one is home.  He has already tried to escape from the back yard once, but now the gate has been reinforced and things are very secure.  We are limiting him to the downstairs part of the house – no entry to the sewing room for Buzz!

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So far Buzz is an absolute delight.  He’s been well trained, I haven’t heard him bark once, and he loves to walk on the lead.  He follows commands – even the rather confusing ones from Stella – and loves nothing more than to have his tummy rubbed or to lie on the couch next to you with his head on your lap.  He also likes to lick your hands, which I’m not so keen on but will probably get used to.  He does have a dog bed but it quickly became apparent that he is used to sleeping on the couch.  Oh well – six year old habits are possibly harder to break.  And the couch is already very grubby, so we might go along with that.  He is also very happy to be brushed.  Fortunately there is a dog groomer living two doors up from us, which will be very handy as Buzz will need regular grooming.  And I have sussed out local vet and dog training options too, and there are plenty.

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If you are interested in getting a dog and are pretty inexperienced with animals like we are, I highly recommend getting an adult dog from a shelter!  No puppy behaviour or house training to do, and you are rescuing a dog that needs love and care.  So far we are thrilled with our decision!  The girls’ friends are pretty happy about it too – Buzz is definitely the star attraction at the moment.

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Oh, as for the sewing content of this blog post? I made the pyjamas that Clare is wearing in the above photo – and shall blog about them eventually!

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Thailand day nineteen (Sunday) to Australia day twenty (Monday)

Well, that’s it!  We’re home, back in chilly Melbourne.  At least the sun was shining today when we landed, quite unlike last night when we took off from Bangkok!  Our last day in Khao Lak was really a packing up and saying goodbye day.  The kids had a last swim and Dan collected his tailor-made shirts.  We tried to have a last drink at Peter Bar but unfortunately were defeated by the high tide, so settled with a drink at the hotel instead.

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Our transfer to Phuket airport was at 1.30pm. It takes a little over an hour to get there from Khao Lak, and as always the drive there provided us with plenty to see through the minivan windows. We were taking a domestic flight up to Suvarnabhumi International Airport (the main airport in Bangkok). There was quite a gap between the arrival of our domestic flight and the departure time of the international one. However, this wasn’t an issue – Suvarnabhumi is MASSIVE! By the time we got off one aircraft, walked a massive distance to baggage claim to get our luggage, then found our way to the International departures area we were able to check our bags in.

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The airport is very well signed, and all staff that we interacted with were extremely helpful. We quickly went through immigration and found ourself in a huge shopping complex. All the luxury brands were there, as well as other shops hoping to tempt you with last minute duty free shopping opportunities. There were also some fun things along the way – statues, fancy video screens – and by the time we had a light dinner it was time to make our way to the departure lounge.

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The plane was late boarding and taking off – there had been thunder and lightning for some hours. Eventually we were in the air at around 11.00pm Thailand time, and attempting to sleep. Our flight landed in Melbourne shortly after 11.00am Melbourne time after a relatively uneventful night. Dan and I didn’t get much sleep – the air conditioning on the plane was freezing, and on a budget airline no blankets are provided – but the girls seemed to snooze for most of the night.

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Immigration and customs at Melbourne was straightforward too, as was the taxi ride home. We were struck by how tidy and ordered the streets and traffic are here – it’s surprising how quickly you become used to the busyness and disorder and relative mess of Thailand. There were good things awaiting us at home – my latest copy of Threads magazine, Dan’s 50th birthday present from the girls, a warm shower and favourite toys.

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The rest of the day has passed in a jetlagged haze, unpacking, doing some basic shopping and putting the washing machine through its paces. It’s hard to believe that this time yesterday we were still in Thailand. As Clare said before she popped up to bed tonight “I don’t think that I was home-sick while we were away, but I am a little bit Thailand-sick now that we are back”. Yes, we all miss it. What an incredible family holiday. There are lots of other things that I’d like to share about our time away and thoughts that I have about travelling overseas with a family and will hopefully get to that in another blog post soon. In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed that the planets will align for us and in 2016 we will be able to visit Chiang Mai, Cambodia and Laos! Thanks so much for travelling along with us. Your interest and encouragement has been wonderful.

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Thailand day eighteen – Saturday in Khao Lak

Yesterday (Saturday) was our last full day in Thailand.  So we made it a lazy one.  A slow, late breakfast, followed by a DVD in the room (Monsters University) while I did some admin then read some more.  It poured again for a short while in the morning.

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But just as quickly as the rain arrives, it vanishes again. And as always, it didn’t stop the kids from swimming. Lunch was at the hotel, I read yet more of my book, Clare played on her iPod, and Stella played with a new friend after a little bit of cross-balcony chat.

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In the late afternoon we headed up to the road to the Saturday market, first stopping to visit the Boat 813 Tsunami memorial. This area of coast was one of the hardest hit during the 2004 Tsunami, with casualties in Thailand registered as 8212 deaths, 2817 missing, 8457 injured and 7000 people displaced.  Absolutely horrific.  The police boat 813 was washed 2 kilometres inland to where it can be found today.  The memorial is still being established but even in this simple form it is a poignant reminder of the people whose lives were lost and of the phenomenal and unpredictable power of nature.  Our resort has tsunami evacuation signs around it to direct us to relative safety should anything similar happen.  I found the memorial and the makeshift memorials on trees around the beach to be incredibly moving and sad.

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It was rather incongruous to then simply cross the road to the market.  This market is held three times a week, and is a cross between a local market with food stalls down the centre – both cooked food and fresh ingredients – and tourist clothing and knick-knack stalls down the sides.  All fruit, vegetables and meats are on display, often without any obvious form of refrigeration.  Clearly things are bought super fresh then cooked pretty much immediately.

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Then it was back into a taxi to the resort for our final sleep in Thailand.  Sunday is packing and transit day.  My next blog post summing up our holiday will be written back home in Australia.  I’m ready to leave the resort, and Clare in particular is looking forward to seeing her friends again, but we’re still sad to be finishing up what has been a wonderful holiday.  More later!

Thailand day seventeen – Friday in Khao Lak

I’ve been getting up at around 6.00am most mornings.  It hasn’t been hard to do, because we’re usually in bed very early and I’ve definitely been getting at least eight hours sleep!  I tend to creep quietly out to the balcony, where I can sit and catch up with Instagram, Facebook and my blog feed for an hour before the rest of the family is up.  I love listening to the waves crashing while the light grows stronger and occasionally little storm flurries pass through.  Stella usually isn’t all that far behind me, and creeps out for a cuddle before returning inside to watch Hi-5 or whatever other english speaking television she can find.

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Breakfast was rather late.  We didn’t get to the pool until after 10.00am.  I went into the village briefly to visit the ATM and stock up on some snacks, while Dan and the girls went back into the pool.  Then I had the opportunity to sit and read some more.  Luxury!

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We headed around the beach again to Peter Bar for lunch.  The tide was a fair way out, and there were little hermit crabs scuttling.  So cute!

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I almost feel that I am becoming accustomed to the heat and humidity.  When you are near the beach and there is a breeze, or when there are fans available, it’s lovely to be outdoors.  The air conditioning definitely has its place too, but outdoors with air movement and the occasional dip into water is probably my preference.  I can’t say much for my appearance in a hot climate though.  My face is slathered in sunscreen all the time, so is always a bit shiny, and although I rarely wear makeup other than lipstick anyway I’m not even wearing lipstick most days.  My hair is a feathery mess, and I’m not wearing jewellery other than rings and earrings because necklaces and bracelets feel too hot against my skin.

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After lunch the girls and I headed back to the resort while Dan stayed to finish his drink and chat a little more to the staff.  One  young man was originally from Burma (Myanmar).  He told Dan that in Burma about 90% of the population were very poor, whereas in Thailand only 10% fitted into that category.  He was clearly very proud of his Burmese heritage and the country that he had left, showing Dan a YouTube clip of the giant Buddha statue, but also expressed how happy he was to be in Thailand where he was able to provide his young family with a better life.

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With the tide still out as the girls and I headed back we came across fish washed up on the beach and this clump of coral.  Stella said that she knew it was dead coral, because it was white and white coral was dead coral – the Octonauts had told her so.  See, kids learn things from cartoons after all…

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There was more blue sky on Friday than we had seen for a little while.  Dan spotted a kingfisher in the trees when he wandered back to the resort.  He also discovered that if you chase the little skittering sand crabs for long enough they will eventually get exhausted and just stop and face you with claws held high, poised and ready for any attack.

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We had massages booked for 3pm, one hour each, after which we returned to our room and rested.  I read more of my book, the kids watched more television, and Dan read the paper.  I eventually took advantage of the massive bathtub and lay back in the bubbles and read.  It’s SO long since I’ve done that – especially late in the afternoon!  We had dinner booked at the Talay restaurant (with one of our deal vouchers), which is the silver service restaurant at the hotel.  We were able to order from the kids menu for the girls, while Dan enjoyed lobster bisque then more seafood, and I had a delicious steak.  And Clare discovered that she really likes mango creme brulee.

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Thailand day ten – Friday in Chiang Mai (part two)

This post has been a little while coming! Most of you will have forgotten that there was a part two to come about Friday in Chiang Mai, but for the sake of a complete record here it is, completely out of order.

Once we were back at the guesthouse and the children were resting up in front of cartoons on the laptop (the free wifi comes in handy when the kids need to absolutely chill out) Gaye and I settled down to plenty of water and a couple of Chang and Leo beers while Dan flipped through a Thai recipe book.

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He was taking a cooking class with Orn in the afternoon, and had been told to select four recipes for dinner. He chose fried Chinese water spinach, red curry with roast duck, roast duck salad, and stir fried curry catfish.

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A vendor had arrived at Baan Boo LOo in the morning selling a massive fish, and Orn had already bought a large chunk in anticipation of the afternoon’s cooking class. Then she and Dan jumped into a tuk tuk and headed off to the local food market to purchase the remaining ingredients.

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Dan also bought a few “snacks” for us to nibble on while he was preparing the food. I can’t say that I was keen on the fried caterpillars, although I did at least try one. Neither of our daughters was interested, although the twelve year old daughter of our friends was brave enough to give them a go. Apparently they are cane grubs.

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Then it was onto the cooking, under Orn’s tutelage and the assistance of other staff. If only there were always people around to chop things up and clean up after you!  Apparently Orn told Dan that he knew his herbs and spices much better than most of her pupils. Dan does often cook Indian dishes at home, so his experience there had paid off.

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There were twelve of us at dinner that night; two Australian families and one American. It was a superb meal, with great company. Dan stayed up late solving the problems of the world with the American dad over a couple of glasses of wine. What an amazing day for everyone.  Ah, I am SO nostalgic for Baan Boo LOo.

Thailand day sixteen – Thursday in Khao Lak

I didn’t leave the resort at all on Thursday.  It’s taken me a while to get to this stage!  That doesn’t mean that we did absolutely nothing though.  After the buffet breakfast – which does change a little every day and always has a myriad of tasty options available – Dan went for a walk into the village while I supervised the kids doing water aerobics.

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There wasn’t any rain at all yesterday, so the pools and deckchairs were relatively busy all day. At midday Dan and I took part in a Thai cooking class at the restaurant. This was really more of a “give you a printed recipe, here are all the ingredients prepared for you, and some of you can cook them up” than a proper class, but we all got to eat the delicious proceeds. Dan and I were sitting next to two couples from New Zealand, so picked their brains a little in terms of a potential holiday there one day.

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The girls then took part in a cupcake decorating class. They always love some icing! Dan took the two of them for a walk turning left up the beach instead of right, to see what they could discover. I stayed in the room airconditioning and caught up on some administrative tasks while they wandered.

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Apparently the black sand is the remnants of the former tin mines deep under the ground, as tin was the prime natural resource that was exploited until the demand shifted to rubber.  Apparently the black sand is non-toxic.

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I finally took the time to visit the hotel tailor and admire the fabrics that were available, and we decided to order three tailor made business shirts for Dan.  After all, that allows me more time for selfish sewing – and helps the local economy!  And before we knew it the time had clicked over to happy hour and 110 baht cocktails in the Peace pool. This is the time of day when kids are allowed in the Peace pool – they are normally restricted to the Joy pool – so it wasn’t long before the kids were swimming with Dan and I was having a cocktail. It is a swim up bar, so people can have their drinks while sitting in the pool if they wish. There was even a little music from the in-house entertainers.

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Dinner was booked at the Floating Restaurant, one of the two restaurants at the hotel. It is located right next to the lagoon, but isn’t actually floating. They were putting on a BBQ buffet for dinner, with the duo from the bar having relocated to entertain us at the restaurant. The food was delicious, especially the steak and the ham, and the music was great too. Clare was excited to order a mocktail, and Dan enjoyed his first dry martini.

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The band clearly had an Australian 80s playlist – complete with Men at Work. It took about a minute before Stella began to entertain the crowd with her own brand of interpretative dance.  Those of you who know Stella know how if music plays, she can’t stay still.  This was no different.

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But the highlight of the program was the fire dancers! Four of the hotel staff also moonlight as fire dancers, twirling and spinning lit sticks and balls, and occasionally even blowing a plume of flame high into the air (thanks to kerosene in their mouths apparently!!!!! Eerrrggghhhh)

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It was an impressive performance. The band then returned, and pretty much all the kids at the resort joining Stella and Clare in dancing along. And at one stage Stella and another girl were given microphones – Let It Go!

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We didn’t get them into bed until around 9.00pm. Everyone was tuckered out, but it was a great day.  The resort certainly provides an excellent program to entertain the guests.  Almost everyone we have spoken to is here on a deals package.  We bought our package from a special offer advertised in the local paper, but the price and inclusions were pretty much the same.  Massages, a meal at each of the restaurants, airport pickup, late checkout, breakfast included, cooking class, cocktail making class.  If you are looking for a resort holiday, deals is probably well worth checking out.