Sunday, February 06, 2011

Christmas & New Year 2010/11

So after we trotted down the escalators with our Santa hats on we gave Dawn and Tam a huge hug and straight away asked how Dawns bump is (she's due on March 18th!), she looked very cute with a little bump.

Unfortunately it was pouring with rain at Brisbane airport so we were rushed into Dawn and Tam's car and drove back to their house in 'Toowoomba'.  Toowoomba is about 2 hours inland from Brisbane and sits right at the top of a range of mountains, the residents refer to it as 'the range'. It's a really pretty city and is nicknamed 'The Garden City' as everyone takes such pride in their gardens, they have open gardens during one of the winter months and residents win prizes.  Because of all the rain the town was looking very green and lush - really pretty.

outside Dawn & Tam's house

Sunset at Dawn & Tam's on our 2nd night
We got back to Dawn and Tams lovely house about 12am and had a big cup of tea! aaah. Oh and more importantly we met 'The Girls'! Dawn and Tam have 3 little dogs, Pippa is the youngest, Tobi is the eldest and Georgie is the middle one.  Tam has had Tobi and Georgie since she was about 19 and they've travelled the length of Australia with her.  When she lived in Adelaide she even took them to the beach with her and Tobi would jump in the sea and ride the waves into the shore..haha!

George on the bump


The Girls

Pippa and Dawn
Then came the real treat... our own room...!!! Aaah no bunk beds or snorers in sight! It was heaven.  Double bed with screened windows and a little bedside table and some shelves and a rail for us to unpack our rucksacks... felt so good to put unpack the ruckies and not have to get up again the next day and sort them all out. Plus, we managed to get quite a lot of washing done, which was fantastic.  Dawn and Tams hospitality was fantastic and within a couple of hours we felt so at home.

Dawn cooked us a brilliant fry up the next morning whilst we all listened to a few Christmas songs and then we all headed into the local shopping mall to get a few last minute Christmas bits and pieces, got home and ate a wicked roast dinner cooked up by Tam.

Christmas Eve
The next morning was Christmas eve, so after I had a little morning jog about (in the rain), Mart and I wrapped up a few pressies.  Later in the day we drove 5 mins to the top of the range for a BBQ at Tam's sisters 'Jenny's' house - WOW! What a house!! It sits right on top of the range overlooking the city and also overlooks a mountain called 'Table Top' that is an ancient Aboriginal sacred meeting ground - the Aboriginies would climb up the mountain to hold their meetings most often to settle their disputes..even in the midday summer heat with quite a few snakes around that area too.  Jenny often sees kangaroos at the front of their house, but sadly there weren't any whilst we were there, but they did tell us that they'd had a few snakes in their pool whilst the kids were swimming in it! Not something that UK parents would need to worry about whilst their kids were having a swim!

Christmas Eve dinner

Tam's Mum Elva, Dawn, Tam & Mart

Tam with her two nieces, Holly and Michaela

the view from the patio

We all sat out on the patio overlooking the mountain whilst drinking some wine and lots of cheese and crackers! Oh and this was our first encounter of an Australian dish we've never heard of before 'The Cheeseball' - basically in a bowl you would mix soft cheese, gherkins, green peppers, red peppers, shredded cheddar cheese, then mould it into a ball shape and roll the ball in some curry powder and paprika, you'd then serve it with crackers and slice a piece off with your knife to put on a cracker, was pretty good.  

We had a brilliant BBQ cooked by Jennys husband Craig and their son Ryan - our first proper Aussie barbie!  During the meal Martin and I were quizzing everyone on Aussie wildlife and we left Jenny and Craigs feeling a little bit more wary of our surroundings! Tam has another sister who lives up on a large farm about an hour away from Toowomba, they have quite a lot of Brown Snakes up there and they often attack and kill their working dogs which is really sad, apparently they're quite a pest up there and one of the only ways to get rid of them is pour boiling water down their hole! no thanks! 

This is a Huntsman spider we found under the gazebo at Dawns house, harmless thank god! 

They also have tons and tons of Cane Toads in Queensland, these were introduced quite a few years ago to kill the beetles that ate all the Sugarcane (which worked), but have now become an overpopulated pest. They quite often sit in a bowl of water that belongs to the working dogs of farms (or sometimes residential areas) and secrete their 'poison' into the bowl (only poisonous to animals, not to humans) then the dogs drink the contaminated water and die.  However, these Cane Toads are notoriously hard to get rid of... put it like this, if you drove over one, it can hunch down and put ridges up on its back and could potentially give you a flat tyre! A couple of (controversial) methods of eradicating these toads are:

1. Freeze them. Some people have large chest freezers and save a section of the freezer just for Cane Toads. They'd collect them up, put them into plastic bags and then put into that section of the freezer and 24hours later, they're dead.

2. Golf. Hmm .. not sure I fully agree with this one, but apparently Cane Toad Golf is quite popular in Queensland, creep up behind one, take a big swing with your driver and see it fly off into the distance, however, many toads have been known to hop off afterwards, so not as foolproof as method 1!

Christmas Day
The next morning Mart and I were snoozing away and we heard a little knock at the door ... Dawn was up! hehe! So in our PJs with cups of tea we all sat and opened our pressies from each other (Mart and I both got some cool flip flops (thongs, sorry!), a tshirt and some little sweets and smellies, thanks guys!) - Oh have to mention that it was still raining outside, it hadn't really stopped since we arrived! It was still pretty warm though, about 30degrees.  But at least with the rain it felt a little bit more like a British Christmas! 

Tam's Mum came over for lunch with her Dad and they said that its the first time its rained on Christmas Day for about 30 years! They're ALWAYS outside with the BBQ on and nipping back inside every now and again to feel the air conditioning, so was a definite change to the norm for them.  Trust us though, our only Aussie Christmas and it rains the whole time.. haha .... all year we'd been dreaming of our Christmas day baking in the sunshie and look what happens!!  

It was all good though, as we had a wicked lunch with some massive king prawns and salads - and plenty of wine too!! Ah and Tam's Mum made an amazing Pavlova! That night we had Skype calls with our families back in the UK, was very strange seeing them mid-morning on Xmas morning and we'd already had our day.  Was pretty emotional too, especially as I missed my new niece's first Toddy Christmas :-( 

me with my pressie from my Mum and! Thank youuu!

on the Wii

THE best Aussie Pavlova!!!

still raining!

Boxing Day
On Boxing Day Tam had arranged a family gathering at their house for everyone to come over for a BBQ (about 25 people)...however... it was STILL raining so the day definitely turned into a more UK style Boxing Day... the whole family squished into the living room ... as opposed to the usual BBQ and backyard cricket in the sunshine that they're used to! 

Was a great day though, brilliant to meet Tam's family and eat some more prawns..oh and NOT to forget - we WON the cricket! Needless to say we were the only ones watching it after about an hour in the Aussies gravitated out of the room...hehe!  

We did have an Aussie celeb join us later in the day, a guy named 'Ben Lowe' who plays for Sydneys Rugby League Team the 'Rabbitoh's' (the team is owned by Russel Crowe and only 2 days before Russell had called him to chat about a club issue) - apparently this guy is a pretty big name in the game over here and one of Tam's nieces hadn't met him before so was straight over to the buffet table to get her piccie taken with him, she was going so red bless her!! 

Here's another Aussie dish that we were introduced to on Boxing Day from Tam's sister Karen: 

Cob Loaf
Toast a hollowed out (unsliced) loaf of bread in the oven
Whilst that's toasting up put the following into a saucepan to melt up:
soft cheese, bacon, sweetcorn and onion
Pop the chunks that you kept from the inside of the loaf into the oven to crisp up also
Then take out the hollowed loaf fill it with the saucepan mixture and use the inside chunks to dip into the mixture and eat up

So whilst we were around town in Toowoomba we collected a few new Aussie sayings\words:

A Loose Unit - used to describe someone that's a bit crazy/a nutter
That's bullshit! - meaning that's really good (?!)
Fliffo - you would say "that woman pushed in front of me in the queue, that's a bit fliffo"

I'm sure we'll hear a few more beauties on our travels!

Between 27th to New Years Eve, it was pretty much raining the whole time, non-stop in fact.  Luckily whilst we were in Toowoomba there wasn't any flooding, there were some roads that were closed but nothing too serious. There were a few towns in the surrounding area that were getting pretty high water levels.  

Debs and Gary (Tam's sister) own a farm about an hour inland from Toowoomba, they left us on Boxing Day evening and by 28th had lost thousands and thousands of dollars worth of crops and cattle to the floods, it was really sad. Their farm is right next to a river and had incidentally moved to this farm only a year ago so that the moisture from the river would help their crops develop better during the droughts/hot summers. So it was a massive blow to look out over their new farm and see it all underwater.

During this time, we definitely got into hibernation mode, watched lots of cricket and movies, ate lots of cheese, sweets, cakes drank a lot of wine (cherryade for Dawn!)! (I've def piled on the pounds, at least I've enjoyed myself even if I now have chubby hamster cheeks to show for it!) So pretty much the same as our Xmas/NY gap in the UK eh?

On New Years Eve it was boiling, so we sat in the garden with our books for a while, making the most of it.  In the evening we had a quietish one, which was fine by us as we'd been on the move for so long and with Dawn pregnant too we couldn't all go out and get on the sauce, so we packed up a few nibbles and some more wine (which I know I've mentioned before, but it's SO cheap) and headed back upto Jenny and Craigs house.  We all sat around their pool, popped Dawn into the dinghy with her Elton John sunnies and saw the new year in together :-)

It was absolutely brilliant to spend Christmas and New Year with Marts sister and Tam - it probably won't happen very often in our lifetime we guessed, plus they were such amazing hosts, we felt so looked after and quite spoilt too! Thank you guys, love you both loads

doing what those two love the most

Ems & Mart


  1. (a) gosh and crikey - the spider.

    (b) i have to compliment 'Tam' on the quality of her forward defensive stroke when playing criket. head over the ball, high elbow, looks like a fine follow-through, straight bat so you can see the maker's name.. all in all - 'textbook'. geoffrey boycott would be proud of that one.

  2. PS that was 'alan' what posted that.. no idea how to be anything other than 'anonymous' due to my increasingly severe techno-berkworthiness [i think it's called]