Saturday, April 30, 2016

National Folk Festival













National Folk Festival - 24-28 March

Leaving before dawn on Good Friday to drive to Canberra
arriving, with harp for a 10am rehearsal.
the bells of Morris Dancers heard downstairs.
Booking my harp into instrument storage
setting up my tent, a baby tent in a row of grownup tents
heading off on foot to explore the festival -
so many excellent artists playing, Irish, Cajun, vocal, bluegrass, Canadian ...
Dancers from all ethnic groups, in their costumes
playing in fiddle workshops,
some clothes shopping,
some coconut-drinking and eating.

Figuring out how to get my harp to the Spiegelzelt
setting up our 10-piece orchestra on the stage, with mirrors and leadlight and a red and gold fabric roof.
alternately sweltering, panicking and enjoying throughout our one hour performance
Watching the dancers waltz as I played my solo,
surely what the spiegelzelt was built for, 97 years ago.
Enjoying a drink after all that.

Finding a delicious paleo-style dinner
seeing too many amazing artists to list, playing in so many different styles.
heading to the Session Bar late at night and joining in with whoever is playing there, till after midnight, surrounded by hundreds of other musicians and onlookers, all having a great night.

Walking alone through the empty festival and back to the campground.
Cosy in my tent, listening to folk rock boom-booming in the distance until 1.30am
then up to fry eggs on the campstove
before doing it all again for two more days,
loving every minute.

       *    *    *
Some of the artists I loved:

Andy Salvanos
Co-cheol
Matthew Dames
Colum Sands
Black Market Tune
The Young'uns
All our Exes Live in Texas

Saturday, April 23, 2016

A holiday at Killcare






















A family holiday
squeezed in between uni assignments, college days and work
just one hour north
a hop and a skip from Barranjoey Head

ocean views
quiet
a big deck
a small house 
bright and white and clean inside

lots of reading
colouring
movie-watching
playing games
sitting
feeling lazy

the beach
too cold for me after a few minutes in the water
walking on the rocks
sitting on a beach towel watching the waves and the people

bbq dinner
apple crumble
avoiding shops
managing with what food we have

short walks for me
recovering from a cold
lots of tissues
long exploratory hikes for Steve

time to stop and think
back over the term that has been
and compare life to a year ago
 when we had our last holiday
and wonder what the next 12 months will hold.



Monday, April 18, 2016

Emily's 18th birthday party







At the end of January, Emily celebrated her 18th Birthday with about 30 girlfriends.
Originally supposed to be a Garden Party, (for which we did considerable work on the garden), the party moved indoors at the last minute after a few  intermittent showers. Emily decorated the living room with the streamers she'd made for the front garden, and made tissue paper flowers, thank you favours and cute drinks labels.

That's my girl.
I can see she will make a great wedding planner one day :)



Laura and I worked hard while the girls chatted to provide a feast with vegetarian, nut-free and vegan options, while Steve was off playing quartets at music camp. At the end of a great party, we three girls tidied up and then collapsed on the sofa for a TV dinner.

A year of changes


2016 has been a year of a lot of changes. 

Last year I did some casual teaching at about 8 local primary schools. I enjoyed it, mostly, but there was one school I really liked teaching at, and I was sorry not to be called there at all during Term 4. I used to daydream about getting some regular work there. Until one afternoon towards the end of term, when I had a call from their principal, asking about my availability for 2016. I told him I was available, and he said he would call back in a few days, sounding like he might have a position for me.

I waited, glued to my phone at all times. I spoke to him again in the last few days of school, but he had no news for me, the school's enrolment had dropped a little and they weren't sure how many teachers they needed. The school year ended, and I tried to forget about it all, wondering if I might hear from them again as school went back at the end of January. But on the 7th Jan I was surprised with a call offering me a temporary job as Teacher Librarian at this school that I really wanted to teach at!



This seemed nothing short of a miracle, because I am not a primary school teacher (but a high school teacher) and have no library experience. However that didn't seem to bother them! I accepted the job and spent the rest of January researching to find out what a Teacher Librarian actually does (and preparing for Emily's 18th birthday party). I met the retiring librarian of 26 years service before school started, and began the job at the end of January.


 I am loving spending my days with books and kids. This seems like the perfect job for me :)


Of course, I have plenty to learn, about children's literature, running a library, and teaching information literacy. But I'm finding it all a good challenge and coping well so far with working full-time again. It still seems amazing that I have this great job, and didn't even have to apply for it!


(Not sure why I didn't open the blinds for these photos?)


Over time, I might make some changes to the layout and decor of the library. You can see that the library is very well laid out and holds thousands of good books. For now, I'm content setting up the occasional display and making minor changes to add to the smooth running of my day :)


I've gotten to know two lovely ladies at school, one is the library assistant, who works in the library 2 days a week, accessioning books and doing the administration. My other friend is a teacher who shares the library office with me 3 days a week. If it wasn't for them, my job could become a bit lonely if I didn't make the effort to get to the staffroom, since the library office has everything I need for lunch and working, and I'm not working in a team as the classroom teachers are.

In addition to teaching full-time, I'm studying part-time by distance education to be fully qualified as a primary teacher, to keep my future options open. I'm not sure how long my great job in the library will last. My job seems easy in comparison to my studies, which could quite easily fill my every waking hour, but I'm just managing it all, somehow. 

It's a big year of change for Emily, also. She's studying Events Management, and won a huge scholarship to pay for her course, for which we are very thankful. Her full-time course takes just two days a week at college, and she works occasionally in a part-time job. 

Laura is in Yr 11 this year, so need to be studying a lot more, and even Steve is doing some studies as part of his job. I'm still teaching piano, but not leading bible study this year. There's a lot of driving the girls to do in the evenings, to their various activities, and occasionally on the weekends we can fit in some driving lessons for them. 

So, as you can imagine, almost every moment of every day is filled, which is such a change for me after years of being mostly at home, choosing my activities, setting the pace. But God is good, and we are all coping, I am loving it all (except when I have assignments due) and I am thankful for these new challenges and opportunities for us all.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Almost grownup




Emily turned 18 a couple of weeks ago. (How did this happen?) 
She is an absolute joy to us, and we are so proud of her.

We celebrated with a family dinner out on her birthday, plus a visit from grandparents, and gave her her choices of a Pandora bangle, and a pop-up soccer goal!

Last week Emily had her wisdom teeth out (plus two supernumerary teeth, 'cause she's extra special!). Her recovery has been pretty smooth, and she has coped with all that very well, but is looking forward to being able to chew properly again one day.

This year she's planning to study Events Management, she's in the process of finalising her course decisions now. 

And on Saturday we're throwing an 18th party! A garden party with all her girlfriends. So the Event Management skills are already being used. Of course there's a fair amount of events management needed by yours truly, and plenty of baking to do in the next 48 hours. We're just hoping for fine weather, and something cooler than today's temps of 38degC. Stay tuned!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Looking back on 2015



Well, here it is, New Year's Eve again. It's very much a summer's day, the sun is shining, and cicadas are singing.

I haven't blogged so much this year, and for that I partly blame the iPhone. Because it's too easy to take photos on my phone rather than my camera, and to post them on Instagram if I want to share them.
And because that's the way bloggers seem to have gone in the last few years, to Instagram. Plus, it's hard to use Blogger on the iphone. I even started a new wordpress blog during the year because it was easier to manage with the phone, but that fell by the wayside, too.

Besides all that, it's been a busy year, with lots of good things, but also a few hard things to deal with.

But I still love blogging, and the chance to write a bit more at length about life, minus the hashtags. I'm expecting a busy year ahead, but am hoping to blog more regularly than this year, perhaps with shorter posts and few photos.

So let's recap up to where we left off ...

January : school holidays  - plenty of time at home, with some crafts, but some nice outings too, including a day at Palm Beach, and a big family picnic on Australia Day (or thereabouts). Emily got her Ls, a year after she could have. I painted in an art journal. Our new minister started at church, along with his wife who I knew at school.  And in the last days of January, the First Day of School, Emily's last-ever.



February : Back to school routine, Emily busy doing her last year of school. Apparently I had nothing to blog about in February. But I know I did some decluttering and organising for the year, and started teaching music and leading bible study for the year. Dietwise, I was eating very healthily but still having some digestive problems (too many nuts!). The girls both joined youth group at our old church, going every Friday and Sunday night, and Laura continued to iceskate every Saturday morning and do ballet on Thursday nights. I had about 10 piano students and two recorder classes at the local primary school. I resigned from Stampin' Up, after a very happy 6 years selling and (more often) buying stamps and craft supplies with them. Our church started to grow, and continued to do so all year.


March : We had another Japanese student, Akiko, come to stay. Akiko was lovely and we were very sorry to say goodbye to her. Sadly we have lost touch since her visit. After she left, I had a call from Steve's mum and before I knew it, was in the full throes of helping her clear out and sell her townhouse. With a huge family effort, we got her moved into an apartment at a retirement village and the townhouse sold at auction in April, phew.

In this month my nutritionist put me on a super-strict gut-cleansing diet to finally solve my ongoing digestive issues - selected cooked vegetables, chicken, lamb, fish, eggs and tiny amounts of fruit were my only foods for a while. I lost more weight and felt good but restricted. It's hard to munch on cooked broccoli when others are eating cake ... however it finally did the trick, and over the months I was able to add more foods back in to my diet. Emily began rehearsing with accompanists for her music performance and worked at her art major work, in between doing all her other schoolwork.



April : We had a great week at Green Point, near Forster. Beautiful scenery and plenty of time for relaxation. We also had a week at home and then it was back to school.

I finally went around to the local schools to put my name down for casual teaching, something I'd been meaning to do ever since we finished our upstairs extension! (Up to then I had been teaching only at one local school, where I also teach recorder).

I attended my first Parish Council meeting, having been voted in at the March AGM. It was pretty scary at first, surrounded by many intelligent and influential accountants, lawyers, businessmen and directors, but I've enjoyed being part of it over the year, turns out it's not so scary after all ;)



May : The casual teaching started flowing in, sometimes in a trickle and sometimes as a downpour. Six of the 8 schools I had registered at called me this year for teaching, sometimes to teach Music, but mostly to teach general classrooms. I loved it, but it took some getting used to - being in a new environment each time; the stress of not knowing if I'd be called or not.

Emily and I went shopping for a dress for her Yr 12 formal, and thankfully found the perfect dress that day. Laura got her braces off after two years, what a relief! Steve and I did some major decluttering of the workshop and shed so that the workshop could become a mancave. Later in the year we moved our laptops and desks out of the study to make it more of a music room rather than home office.

The girls went to band camp. Emily, being in Yr 12, took on the responsibility of running all the entertainment for the 3 days. She enjoyed that so much that she has decided she would like to go into Events Management in the future.

I chalked a sign at last on the beautiful frame my bible study gave me last year, reminding me that no matter how much I chase after things, or feelings, or achievements, only Jesus is really enough.



June : More casual teaching.  A good church weekend away, looking at Daniel and 1 Peter. Or perhaps 2 Peter. But excellent, in any case. We celebrated my Mum's birthday here with lots of family members over for lunch. At the end of June we had a a few days away with my family at Nowra, which was great.



July : Two weeks of school holidays. The first week was busy with Emily's HSC - driving her to rehearsals, travelling to Redfern twice to get photo printed professionally. The second week Steve's mum was diagnosed with cancer (for the second time in 6 months) and I took her to a lot of appointments. So it was really not a relaxing holiday for me (or Emily, or Steve's mum, of course). Steve's mum had surgery the following week, and a good recovery over the next months. We were thankful that she was taken care of at the retirement village and no longer has to cook or clean for herself, or care for her less-able husband.

Laura began piano lessons with a "real" piano teacher. (As opposed to her mother, who is a real piano teacher but isn't treated like one by her daughter, and who sometimes forgets to teach her daughter altogether). I began rehearsing for a performance at a folk festival, and we celebrated my cousin's son's 1st birthday.


August : With the HSC getting closer, Emily worked harder than ever, and started going to college open days. I had more casual teaching, and really enjoyed teaching primary classes. It occurred to me for the first time that I could actually do some study and become approved as a primary teacher (not just as a casual teacher whose real subject is Music). I began to slowly think about it. I got permission to eat some raw vegetables again, making mealtimes and snacks a little easier and more interesting. It's the little things ...


September : I had a lovely birthday. (Which was as far as I got blogging the last few months of the year) It was a very stressful month for Emily and us as she worked away on art and music and finishing other assessments. I had a fair amount of teaching, with 8 days at one school and random days at other schools, and began to research uni courses to do primary teaching. I made the decision to enrol at Charles Sturt Uni, where I can study entirely by distance in 2016.

Finally everything of Emily's was handed in and she graduated from high school on 18th September, ready to spend the next 5 weeks studying before her HSC exams began.

At this point I headed off to Yass to for my first ever public harp performance, playing in an orchestra for a performance at the Turning Wave Festival. It was totally nervewracking but also a breakthrough for me, as were the masterclasses by a visiting Irish harpist. Just getting myself to Yass was an achievement, really, for someone who doesn't venture much from home, and rarely alone. After that came two weeks of holidays.


October : We had very quiet school holidays, with Emily studying hard. We girls did have one fun shopping and afternoon outing. The HSC began on October and Emily was there to the bitter end, with the last exam Visual Arts being on 5th November. And so we entered a new phase, in which Emily was home most of the time and Laura was the only one going to school regularly.

I began making Christmas cards, having not stamped much all year, and got hooked into coloring with Copic markers, going back to the local craft shop for a few more at a time. Steve's mum broke her wrist around this time, so she was back to hospital for the third time in 12 months, poor her. We are grateful to have many family members to help her at times like this, it seems that when one or more members of Steve's family are away or busy, 1-2 others will have more flexible time to help.


November : Emily was finally free of all school requirements in early November, and began to look forward to the Yr 12 Formal and her schoolies week with friends, at Port Macquarie. We had a family dinner out at the local Indian restaurant, to celebrate the end of the HSC. We organised hair and makeup and on the night of the formal Emily looked absolutely stunning. One of the mothers hosted a pre-formal party, to which parents were invited also, so I got to chat to some parents, some of whom I had never met before and will never see again, but others who have become friends over the past 5 or so years of party-pickups and girls visiting our home.

Laura turned 16, and got her Ls. we had a book party for her 16th, and also celebrated my parents' golden anniversary and some family birthdays.

I began a pre-uni Maths course, to brush up my maths in preparation for studying and teaching maths. I also spent a lot of time colouring Christmas cards, and pretty soon found myself having terrible headaches, neckaches, shoulder aches and eyestrain after so many hours at the computer or looking down shading tiny details. I basically had to use my eyes as little as possible, avoid the computer, and read for very short periods in certain poses only ... which was all very frustrating. Eventually I improved, thanks to my chiropractor Sara, who has helped me in so many ways this year, and to new glasses which I was finally able to get in mid-December.

I had more casual teaching. Emily had a great week away with her friends, and got a casual job on the checkouts at Woolworths.


December : It has been a lovely December, on the whole. Somehow the end-of-year didn't seem quite as crazy as usual, perhaps because the girls are growing up. Just a little casual teaching, and I wound up my year of piano and recorder teaching.

My little "recorderlings" performed Frosty the Snowman beautifully, at the school carols night, complete with singing and choreography. From the morning of 1st December we had Christmas music playing, and I put up the decorations around the house slowly those first few days of the month. On the 5th we put up the tree and everything felt right at last to lead into Christmas! This year we extended our family Kris Kringle giving to the kids also, so there was even less gift shopping to do than in previous years. Steve had a work Christmas party at the Hydro Majestic, 1920s gangster-style.


With my eyes still a problem I wrote my 80+ cards in small batches, and posted them with much relief around 10th December. We hosted a street party one night, and in the week before Christmas managed to do most of the traditional things (baking cookies, walking around streets with Christmas lights, seeing Santa on a firetruck) in between Emily working and days of rain.

Christmas Day was lovely, with beautiful fresh mild sunshine, and due to a smaller family gathering this year, the main part of the day was calmer and quieter and more relaxed, all just perfect.

Since Christmas, we've been sitting around, reading and watching DVDs, or gardening, or doing household jobs (Steve), and yesterday we had a perfect picnic at McCarrs Creek Reserve. I've been able to get away with eating many more treats this year without dire results, including chocolate and dried fruits, which I haven't eaten much at all for over 5 years. So perhaps my earlier deprivations have done some good, after all.

Emily got her HSC results, which were really quite good, early in December, but now is in a limbo phase, not knowing which course she will be doing until the uni places are offered on 20th January. She expects she won't get her first choice of uni course, but is already enrolled in a private college so she can always go ahead with that.

So that brings us up to New Year's Eve. We'll be having a quiet one. Emily has worked this afternoon and we'll probably have a BBQ dinner then play some games or watch a movie.

Christmas day portrait - nothing like setting up a tripod and self-timer as we rush out the door to church!
Thanks for sticking through to the end of the world's longest blog post. Since I don't seem to get any scrapbooking done either these days, this blog has become a record of our family life as well as my interests, and I felt the need to record our year here.
























Wishing you a wonderful 2016, dear readers, all two of you. Maybe three.
love,
Fiona