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The Family Bandwagon

Our family is spread out across the country and across the world, and what better way to keep in touch than a collaborative digital journal?

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Happy Birthday, Damo

We haven't put birthdays on here for a while.. let's start that up again too..


Hope you had a great day!

Hokushin Camp

As you probably all know, last weekend was the Hokushin Camp here in Bendigo. It's taken a lot of work, including a few last-minute surprises, to get it all ready, but in the end the weekend went off without a hitch. Even the weather was as kind as it could be.

Here's a breakdown of what happened.

Friday I cleaned out the car, grabbed the last of the groceries for the weekend (about $350 worth all up), kissed the family goodbye and headed out to Axedale. I was there at 2, got the keys, put away the food and gradually people started showing up.

We had three from New Zealand, a busload of South Australians, and 8 or so Melbourne guys and Joel from the ACT. Everyone paid their fees, found beds (except 4 of the Melbournites who were sleeping in swags under the stars) and we headed out to Axedale Tavern for dinner. It was really nice! Back to the camp, and somebody brought out a couple of bottles of sake, some beer, and we sat around the fire and socialised. I'm lucky in that I knew almost every member of the camp - most of these guys only knew their fellow students, but they were soon all friends.

I toddled off to bed around 11pm, looking forward to sleep that never came. I was in a room with a snorer. Not a light snorer either.. it rattled the windows and scared off the wildlife! I did not sleep at all.

At about 4am I gave up, had a shower (there was one in our dorm) and went out to turn the hot water on for the shower block outside. I had breakfast at about 5am. Joel, my fellow dormmate, wasn't far behind me - he obviously hadn't slept either. The snorer had a wonderful sleep 0_0

At 7am Ali, one of our students, brought out bagpipes and woke the camp to the dulcet tones of Amazing Grace. Everyone came groaning out of their beds and gathered around the cold coals of last nights fire, no doubt warming themselves with its memory.  We did morning meditation before breakfast, then split up into instructors and students, and we instructors headed to Axedale Public Hall to train from 9am - 12pm. Seriously.

We got back to camp  to see the Win News cameraman was there, so we organised a few vox pops, had certificate presentation, and then lunch. Unfortunately I was outside helping out the cameraman while the students powered through 42 bread rolls, a kilo of sliced meat and maybe 500g of cheese. I got back and there was one roll and one slice of cheese left 0_0
Then Takeo cooked up 10 packets of Mi Goreng noodles.. but I was outside again trying to sort out whether we could go to Atisha Centre, and by the time I got back in that was all gone too! I ate an apple.

After lunch it was back to training. I had to leave early to take Takeo out to the train station and get him on the shuttle bus to the airport, and once I got back it was 5pm and things were winding down. The Melbourne crew cooked up a bbq for us, and of course there was more sake and beer and the like floating around, but I didn't stay up too late this time.

I was feeling pretty tired and sore by this point, which is probably why the flu managed to catch me. Saturday night I slept terribly again, with chills and a headache, and I was up at 4:30. Once again I turned on the hot water for everyone, had a stupidly early breakfast, and sat around praying for panadol. I did make the most of the time by cleaning up, washing dishes and sweeping out the hall.
That said, while I was feeling bad there were people who had just headed off to bed at 4 and not even the bagpipes could get them up :) We did morning meditation again and some tanden exercises.. like situps but using internal core muscles below the bellybutton rather than the abdominals. They're easier than situps.

Without Takeo here we decided to make things easier on Sei Shihan (he's 80 years old this year) and split the group up between Shihan Tao, Sensei Raymond, Sensei Joel and myself. We trained from 9 - 11 or so and then everyone came in needing water and sunscreen. Tao gave a great lecture on the history and purpose of Iaido, and then Cheryl turned up like an angel bearing 10 packets of bread rolls, more meat, cheese, and cake! It was so good to see her and the kids, and not just because it meant I actually got food this time around ;)

A few of the instructors had mentioned that they'd like to train with Shihan Tao, and Sensei Raymond had left just after lunch, so Joel and I took the juniors out to Axedale Hall for the afternoon. We trained from 1 - 5.. again, that's a long time. We had a half hour break in the middle and people were just lying down on the floor :) All the Melbourne guys left around 5pm, and then we made far too much pizza and pasta for everyone to eat.  I was expecting voracious appetites after a second day of really intense training, but I think everyone was just too tired to eat.

After dinner was a massive clean up - mopping floors, wiping benches, etc. etc. I knew people wanted an early start so we couldn't leave it until Monday morning to do it all. I reckon I spent a couple of hours or so just cleaning, after cooking, and with the flu. I wasn't happy :)

Joel and I both headed off to bed at about 8pm while the others sat up watching samurai movies - I consider that proof that it's harder to teach than learn ;) Thanks to panadol (Cheryl is wonderful) I actually slept okay on that final night.

Monday was final cleanup, which went fine, and everyone headed off. Shihan and one of the other students, Ijah, were both going to the airport on the same shuttle bus in the afternoon, so I took them into town to the Chinese Museum and gardens, and the Bendigo Art Gallery. Then out to Beechworth Bakery for lunch, and dropped them off at the station.

Then it was back home, finally, to some much appreciated hugs with Oscar and Lily. I can't thank Cheryl enough for looking after them while I was away, and for delivering food and panadol, and not complaining even once. She is a Saint!

So that was my weekend. I'm back at work now, thankful that I have a job that involves sitting down. Unfortunately tomorrow I kick off the Great Cycle Challenge, and next week I'll start Saturday Iaido classes as well. Ah well. Ganbarimasu!

Monday, 29 September 2014

Church St chatter

Did consider waiting until Wednesday so I could be first in October. Where has this year gone?

I've been......dancing. Eaglehawk on Thursday without Clive since he had worked at the Races Wednesday and again at the racetrack on Thursday and Friday. Sat out a few dances.It is so much better to have a partner. On Friday we went to Kyneton, Saturday Majorca (as passengers) and Sunday afternoon again as passengers but with different people.We had a fabulous weekend.  Tonight we'll go to Spring gully. Tomorrow Nana and I are going to a lunch/fashion parade to raise money for Cancer in Kids Association(CIKA). I'm modelling a couple of outfits with hats. I'm yet to see the hats.
Weather has been great mostly. We did have 34mm of rain and my roof leaked severely. Garden was thrilled as it has been very dry. I just watered some tomato seedlings and picked snow peas. I have one tomato plant that survived the winter. I have it in a pot in the fernery and hope it will give me very early tomatoes.Just needs to last through a couple of weeks of me going off on a cruise.
The cruise and planning what to take etc is another thing I've been doing. I have managed to prune the wardrobe a little while looking through my options.. Some to the op shop and some to friends.
This morning I called on Lisa to check out he bunks and the painting. It looks great. Stayed a few hours to help with the lounge cleanup. It was the only time I had. I warned the girls to keep it tidy until I return to check again at the end of October.
Len Thomas may be interested in the Buick. He is bringing a couple of friends to look. If they can't make it Thursday we'll leave it until November as I go away and then he goes away.
Keep up the posts everyone.I love to read what you have been doing.

Madhouse Mumblings (aka Shaft St S#!%)

School holidays, maybe that's why I have more time to post - or Dayna guilting us all into updating more regularly LOL

It's been an eventful week. Monday involved more tidying attempts in the living room before visiting Julie-Anne and Mitchell. Julie-Anne had gone outside Sunday night to find a wild duckling following her cat. The kids had a great time playing with it while I helped Julie-Anne with some decluttering. I left her with 2 full bins, luckily it was bin night. Tuesday we had lunch with Nanna, Mum, Clive, Damien, Oscar, Carolynn and Jarrad at the Stadium (Schweppes Centre) just down the road. We came back here for coffees and to show off the tv unit. Wednesday was another day in the girls' room, I got rid of a lot of the stuff under the beds. In this case "got rid of" means either "stored in my room" or "moved to another part of the house". Having said that, I filled a couple of bags for the op shop and put them in the boot of the car as I went. Then I had to take it all out to go to the supermarket because we ran out of pet food and milk, so we did the week's shopping. Then the bags went back into boot...

Thursday I went and looked at the bunks/loft with storage style beds. They are awesome! The people selling them had a trailer and I chatted to the woman while her hubby and Jared packed up the beds. He followed us home and helped us put it all into the entrance (which I'd also tidied up by storing stuff in the laundry, did I mention we have too much stuff) We were home by lunch time so I took the girls' old beds apart and started cleaning walls before we visited mum. Mum made a comment about painting while the room is mostly empty like we did when we moved Jared in to the room that had been Carolynn's. It sounded like a lot of work... but she was right, I hate the colour of every room in this house. It's dirty white. Every wall in every room is the same, except Jared's room obviously, it's now a nice pale apricot. And now the girls' room is pink. I took the paint from mum's that was labelled "Brew" (Peach Blossom, laundry and bathroom had been crossed out). I added some pink I'd had mixed up to paint the dolls house (still not done) and went to work. I did ask Ian first, but I told him I was going to use the same colour as Jared's room... it's far more pink. So I did the cornice with more pink. If Ian isn't happy I'll paint over it when (if?) we move out.

Trinity slept on the floor in the living room and Daria slept in with me Thursday night. I started the second coat on Friday morning before taking the girls to the Botanical Gardens to meet Julie-Anne, Mitchell and some of Mitchell's friends for lunch. We took salad, cheezels, biscuits and sipahh straws (milk flavouring). Between the other mums we had chicken and salad rolls and the mums got coffee. It threatened to rain but over all it was a fantastic day. Until we went to leave around 3pm. Julie-Anne's car wouldn't start. I stayed with her while she waited for the RACV. The guy said it was probably her starter motor, he couldn't jump start the car, and he offered her a tow. It would be free to their East Bendigo shop where they'd put together a quote, or between $88-95 to tow to a place she chose. She rang her dad for advice and he said he'd hire a trailer and get the car home so they can work out what to do. Trinity sat in the car playing with my phone while Daria and Mitchell rode Mitchell's scooter up and down the path. We got home at 6pm after a drive to pick up a borrowed tent and drop the 5 bags of stuff at the op shop on the way home. Thankfully during my busy run-around morning I'd thrown apricot chicken into the crock pot so I did a bit of rice in the microwave and tea was done. I did the second coat on the walls after tea, it's not a great job but it's a vast improvement on how they looked before.

Saturday saw me finish the cornice before breakfast, then we had to start thinking about packing the car to head to Ballarat. Pat and Bree have an amazing new house/property and threw a house-warming party. Sophia and Marius had 3 friends each staying. The plan was to camp out, they have a big paddock behind them and in the middle of that was a bonfire. We set up a tent in the back yard, it's huge too. In the end the girls (Sophia and friends) stayed in their tent and we slept in ours - everyone else ended up inside, including Carolynn and Jarrad. Marius and his friends didn't like the wind. It was a very cold and windy night but the girls still thought it was fun - if scary. Sophia and her friends are around 14-15, and our Jared was the only teenage boy - he certainly seemed to enjoy the attention from 2 of Sophia's friends LOL

Sunday we headed to Tamara's. She was pretty stoked, and had lasagne, chicken, salad, garlic bread and a huge amount of fruit. We had lunch and tried to work out what's wrong with their laptop before heading home a bit after 2pm. We got home and moved the parts of the girls' bed in to their room and put it all together, with some help from Carolynn and Jarrad. We ordered pizza for tea and watched last week's episode of Dr Who, then it was bedtime. For me as well, I was asleep by 9.30pm.

The girls are asking what we're doing today - more cleaning up!

Will try to update next week!

A Hop Across the Pond - New York

I've had an interesting week - caught up with a friend on Monday; spent Tuesday at a team meeting in London and got a free make-over on the way to the train station (Kat & I decided to do some window shopping and turns out it was a fashion week event and shops were all doing special things - like giving out gin or offering make-overs); Thursday we were at a careers event in Neath Port Talbot; Wednesday and Friday I spent in the office but there's still a lot to do.  I have a LOT of events coming up in October, so I'm going to have to try really hard to write my updates. And even harder to update the Six Month Challenge site - because I actually have to DO something before I can update that one. :-)

In the meantime, here's the next little bit of our trip...

New York

We arrived late on Wednesday night. It had taken ages to get across the border - a bus load of people all having to go through immigration and have papers checked! Luckily we'd booked a late-ish flight, so it didn't matter that we were half-an-hour late arriving at the airport.

We stayed in New Jersey, just across the river from Manhattan so it was really easy to get in and out of the city (and check out the view from the bus stop below!). We spent very little time in the apartment - there's just so much to see and do in New York.

We had three full days in New York City, and we walked a LOT. We bought the City Pass and tried to do everything that was in the booklet...
  • We went up to the top of the Empire State Building - twice (once in the morning and then again at night - I forgot to collect my tripod both times.. oops). 
  • We walked through Harlem and along the length of Central Park (the park itself is about 4km!), stopping for lunch on the rooftop of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (about half-way along the park). We made sure we checked out the art whilst we were there - it's an incredible collection. 
  • We saw the longest running show on Broadway (Phantom of the Opera, for those who didn't know) - we were in the second row, so it was almost like we were IN the show. :-) 
  • We took a cruise that went past the Statue of Liberty (but there were so many people on the boat that you couldn't move from your little plastic seat). 
  • We shopped in Macy's and window-shopped in Tiffany's (but didn't have breakfast in the jewellery shop), visited Grand Central Station and spent some time in Times Square.
  • And on our last day in New York we managed to fit in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the American Museum of Natural History AND the Guggenheim Museum. 

Looking at it all like this, there's no wonder we were really tired by the time we got to Montreal.

But you'll have to wait till the next instalment to find out what we did back in Canada. :-)

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Gordon St Gossip

Hey all, a quick one from us too :)

Ossie's enjoying school. He doesn't like that Lil gets to stay home while he has to go, but when he's there he has fun, and has been building up his confidence - he's finally playing with friends who aren't Daria ;) He got a cold on Day 1 of the school holidays, of course, but he's getting past it now so hopefully he can enjoy the second week a little more. They're off to the Melbourne Zoo with School next term.

Lil's been going to playgroup and the Library for Toddler Time and generally singing, dancing and enjoying herself. She can't decide whether she's "only little" or "a big girl now".. it depends on whether she wants to do something (like play on the iPad) or we want her to do something (like pack up her toys) - that said she does like helping with the cooking and even gives washing dishes a go.

I've been pretty focussed on Iaido. Numbers have dropped a bit in class (down to 8 or so, so still acceptable) but it's possible the people who have left will come on Saturdays when I start that class - a few have said Tuesday is a bit tricky for them. This weekend is the camp. It's been a learning experience organising it to be honest - I was hoping I would just have to organise the accommodation and bookings, but it's turned out I've had to work out a lot more (food, payments etc). It's the issue with having a "committee" I think - more than 3 or so people and everyone thinks someone else will step up and do the work. Once we're past that I'll think about how to handle trying out a kid's class on the Saturday as well.

Chez has been volunteering a lot at Ossie's school, working in the canteen. I for one enjoy the odd spare dim sim or dino nugget she brings home ;) She's also been going to Pilates on Fridays, which means her legs are sore just in time for the weekend. And of course the full time job of "looking after Lily" which may also include participating in the aforementioned singing and dancing ;)

Oh and it turns out the government have been massively underpaying our Family Tax Benefit so we got a big boost at the EOFY. We're going to buy a car! At some point in the future ;)


Monday, 22 September 2014

Who's the slackest of them all?

Ok, so the last time I posted an update was December 2013... really?

So Daria's in Prep and Trinity is in grade 3. I've been working but now it's school holidays again so I'm off until the kids go back to school and then we've got about a month or so until the contract will be up. I've had to join a job network but they paid for me to do my First Aid certificate. I basically go in once a month for a 10 minute "nothing's changed, see you next month" until my job finishes. Then she's aware that I'm unlikely to work through the summer holidays so once January ends I hope to find something. It's all because now I'm a single parent and my youngest has turned 6, they've made it all much harder on single parents with Centrelink and Job Networks and agreements. I get a whole one day's notice that I have to go into Centrelink. Once Daria turns 8 I'll be put onto Newstart Allowance so I'm hoping by then I'll have something permanent. The stupid thing is that all they've done is made things harder on the people that want to do the right thing - the ones that they should be looking at is the single parents having baby after baby while on the pension. It's just so frustrating.


You'll have seen on Facebook that my team at work (the HIPPY Lippies) are trying to raise awareness (and of course money) for women's mental health. I've been having a bit of fun with the different colours, but from the start I knew green, yellow and orange were going to be awful. I guess that's why they have 6 shades of pink - I only bought 2. The link to my donation page is here -


I've also been using mum's old crock pot a lot since borrowing it. It's great! I've got fudge in it at the moment, takes about 2 hours to cook but since I usually ruin it if I try the 'fast' way this is much better. When I'm working I try to organise myself enough in the morning to throw stuff in the pot, then give it a stir when we get home. It's much easier than trying to sort out tea at the end of the day, I wish I'd borrowed it sooner. But of course storage is part of the problem, I needed some bench space, and even now the crock pot hasn't really got a 'home'.

On decluttering - I've bought a new (secondhand) tv unit which prompted a big rearrange of the living room. Next step will be the girls room, as I'm planning to get them some bunks with storage that I found on Gumtree. I'm at the point where I'm over the constant mess so the girls have been warned, I will ask them to pick their things up, anything left on the floor goes in the bin. I'm also filling op shop bags... see how long it takes to get this house under control LOL

That's about it I think. I'll try to update on Sundays but I may need reminding :)

-The Roberts-French Madhouse.

A Hop Across the Pond - Niagara Falls

Lovely to talk to Mum and Lisa today (and Jared - briefly). We all agreed to update the Bandwagon more frequently - and this goes for everyone. :-) Even if it's just a sentence to talk about the week. Okay?!

A Hop Across the Pond

We've done a heap of stuff since July - the most exciting thing was our recent holiday to North America. We spent two weeks and visited four cities: Niagara Falls, New York, Montreal and Toronto.

Niagara Falls

We stayed on the Canadian side, along with all of the other tourists! The Falls are amazing - every single minute there's enough water going over the Falls to fill one million bathtubs.

In order to make the most of our two days, we bought an Adventure Pass. The night we arrived we collected our passes (they didn't have enough 'adult' ones, so ours had "ADULT" scrawled in black marker pen over the "child" label on the front), donned a blue plastic poncho and headed to Niagara's Fury. We learnt a little about Niagara's history and got very wet (one of those "4D" movies). We spent some of the evening watching a fab sound and light show that was in the park opposite the Falls. The lights were projected onto water jets and looked amazing.

The next day we walked along the Whirlpool Rapids, went on the Hornblower - the boat that goes to the bottom of the Horseshoe Falls (we got a red plastic poncho), and did the Journey Behind the Falls - that is, we wandered through some tunnels and looked the water rushing past a couple of openings (and we got yellow plastic ponchoes). We also had a good look around Niagara Falls, including all of the (slightly tacky) 'man-made attractions', like Ripley's Belive it or Not, or dinosaur mini-golf. We didn't go into any of the attractions - it was fun enough to walk along the street and people-watch.

Our second night we spent in the Hilton hotel with views of the Falls (the first of our three 'fancy' things booked on our trip). It was great - we even got to watch the fireworks from our room! And they were below us!!

All in all, Niagara Falls was very touristy but a fascinating natural beauty. Just remember to have patience and that everyone else is there to see the same things as you. ;-)

I'll post this now and update on the other cities very soon.
The (very very abridged) photo album for the trip is here.