Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Meet Bolke!

This is Bolke. Our new family member. As you can see, he's right at home. He's 20 months old, and a real Beagle. He is the most gentle and friendly dog I've seen. Very interested in Minnie, the cat, too. After four days Minnie and Bolke often are in the same room together, but Minnie does a lot of hissing when Bolke gets too close. 

Bolke and Nora together. This requires some careful management, with lots of cuddles, praise, and  treats. Bolke finds Nora very interesting, probably because she's the same size. It is great to see Nora imitating our sounds and gestures when she wants Bolke to do something (mostly about giving her some space, that is). Bolke loves Nora's toys. He takes them outside to the lawn, one by one.

Nothing beats a good pasta dish.

Merry Christmas!

Men on the roof, installing our new solar panels. This took one whole morning. They also got a visit from a health and safety officer, to check whether they're complying with the safety procedures. Maybe many men fall of the roof during installation?

Nearly done, 18 panels in total for a 4.5Kwh installation. Vege garden on the right :-)

And done. Quite neat, is it?

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Car and dog

After a year filled with troubles with both cars we decided to bite the bullet and get ourselves a new car. I decided I wanted a tank. Something that's sitting high on the road. Everybody here rides a tank and it's quite annoying not having one too. You can't see a thing when there's one in front of you, or in the lane next to you. But if there's anything I hate then it's looking for cars on some car yard. We've done that quite often in the last couple of years and it's soooo time consuming and those salespeople are soooo ugh. And somehow it's always 37 degrees too, when we need a new car.

But Age came up with something very smart. He prepared a powerpoint presentation with the ten most common suvs here in a certain price range (or something like that, don't know, maybe he choose just the ones he liked?), and had me shuffle them in the order I liked. Then he came up with a review report in which they'd all been tested and reviewed and based on that and my opinion he went to check out the Jeep Cherokee (too expensive, but very nice), and the Ford Kuga. So yesterday we all went for a test drive in the Ford. Nora in her car seat, Age and myself, and the saleslady who went with us. Long story short, we'll probably have it around Christmas.

Ford Kuga

Then we've been talking a while about getting a dog. A beagle, to be precise. We think that Nora would love it, and it may help prevent Minnie (the cat) from being attacked by other cats. Minnie is being bullied by the three cats of our neighbours, and we've racked up quite the vet bill. But it's clear the she can't do it alone, those cats keep coming back. They're not bad cats, it's just that Minnie can't win. They're at least twice her size to start with. So we thought we'd either get another cat, or a dog.

This is a beagle
Unfortunately at the moment there don't seem to be any beagle puppies in South Australia. Puppy time was about two to three months ago. We'll keep looking though.

I also went to see a five year old one, who had to go because the youngest son of the family appeared to be allergic. I went with Nora, also yesterday, but Nora hated it, because the first thing the dog did was jumping up. And that was that. And I don't think it was a beagle after all. It looked quite different from the beagle pictures I've studied on proper breeders' websites.

Then I found an advert for beagle puppies a couple of hours' drive away from here. We thought it'll be neat to make it a day out in the Christmas holidays, with our new car, but when we looked closely at the ad it was a litter with Beaglies. And that's a cross between a beagle and a spaniel. Not something we fancy, so that plan went out the window too.
And a mature one

This is also a beagle

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Weird little things

Some of the odd things that happened this week:

  • A colleague of mine has a cherry orchard with about a thousand trees and a lot of different varieties. It is part of the house they bought a couple of years ago. They don't really want to do much with the orchard, actually they're planning to cut the trees down and let the native bushland regenerate. In the meantime however, the trees have flowered and produced a bumper crop this year. So all friends and family were invited to get ready for pick your own cherries. A website was created with information on pricing and how to pick - you have to do this such and such as to not destroy next year's buds - and it was just waiting for the green light, the moment the cherries would be ripe and at their best. Well, that moment was last week, and before anyone could even think about a date to come over and pick, the birds came in and ruined everything in two days. Everything! And what do those silly birds do? They just peck the cherries once or twice and move to the next cherry.
  • I drove around with Nora in our Subaru and suddenly the charge light came on and at the same time the power steering was gone. Lovely, just what we needed. Another repair bill. And hassle. Anyway, all is fixed now, it was one of the belts, ripped apart, of course damaging the radiator in the process too.
  • Because the Subaru was at the mechanic, I drove around with Nora in our BMW, when some girl drove into the back of the car! Totally unnecessary as we were standing still in a queue, and just when I saw a gap and drove off, she sort of drove off too, too fast and bumped us. More hassle to come, with insurance companies involved :-(
  • Today my two friends and their toddlers, plus Nora and myself celebrated our own little Christmas, at our house. It was lovely, quite chaotic, but the children did all very well. I'd asked them to bring some toys of their own, so that Nora didn't have to share everything, as we all know how well that goes. It proved to be an excellent strategy, all of them playing with everyone's toys, and their new toys from Santa. Early in the afternoon, after lunch, it was all over again, so we also had a bit of a lazy day at home, and only went out for coffee and cake in Stirling.

Nora in a cubby house at a cafe. She loved it.

Relaxing with 'Ben and Holly'

Friday, 28 November 2014

In the meantime...

And what have we been up to? Quite a lot and nothing much at the same time. My mum has been here for three weeks and is back home in The Netherlands again. Her visit was an interesting one; contrary to last year's visit when Nora was just six weeks old and doing nothing much but sleeping and eating, this time Nora made very clear each day that this intruder in her home wasn't to be tolerated. Neither in the car. Or at the table. Or when she touched the pram while Nora was walking beside it. Or when she sat on the couch very close to Nora's designer toy rabbit. Add to that her sudden recurring night waking, and we have a slightly exhausting situation. But a day or two before my mum would return home, Nora showed some careful approach techniques.

Then the vege garden. Corn is coming up beautifully, we've eaten endive, all sorts of tomatoes are growing enthusiastically, dwarf beans are flowering, so do the courgettes. Cucumber was slow starting, but now growing rapidly. Same with rock melon, eggplant, capsicum and chilli. We're already eating a couple of strawberries a day, and blueberries too. And now and then a raspberry. The herbs are exploding. Rhubarb is difficult, not doing much.

The roses I planted have all been flowering, and are working on their second round of flowers.

We've had the 'Bug Boys' round to spray insecticide around the house, as we came across too many spiders, especially red backs in plain sight quite low to the ground. The house is now a graveyard, so many insects! Lots of spiders falling down from the pergola in the first two days, and that has stopped now. But this stuff lasts for about six months, so the bugs continue to fall. Especially millipedes, too many centipedes to our liking, pissebedden (no idea what they are in English), cockroaches, beetles. You name it and it drops dead when it touches the outer walls of our house. Ask my mum, as she was a witness of this intriguing adventure. Her first time in Australia in summer, when all the creepy crawlers are out and about. She loooooved it. No, let's change that into: there was a lot to discover.

What else? Ah, Age. Well, I expect him back home any minute from another week interstate. I've hardly seen him the last month, there is a lot of consultancy to be done at the moment. But they've taken on another person to especially take over the travelling part of Age's job, so that he can focus more on product development. A bit unlucky that their first trip together started with a nasty vomiting bug for the new colleague, and diarrhea for Age. Such fun!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Interesting wildlife and 37 degrees

When we were being picked up from the airport back home here in Adelaide, my friend Olivia mentioned that there apparently was a very large number of redback spiders around. And the snakes were awake again too.


A couple of days later I nearly stepped on a blue-tongue lizard in the garden. They are not dangerous, but they look a bit like a snake, depending on the angle you're looking at it.

Then last weekend I found a redback sitting on one of our flower pots. And I had one on my golf buggy - which had been sitting in the garage for six weeks. And I suspect another one but I haven't been able to find it yet. I've sprayed the buggy, and my golf bag, and in every club cover, and the pockets in the bag a couple of times, so there shouldn't be one anymore, but still.

Then I cleaned the windows - the result is awesome - but found a couple more redbacks. And other species. So off to the Bunnings we went to buy surface spray, because we decided we'd now had our share.

And then last Sunday with golf I headed straight for a brown snake, on a concrete path connecting one green with the next tee. The lady behind me on the path saw it and gave such an almighty scream that we all jumped up a metre in the air, and we'd never hit the ball as far on the two next holes as we did that day. Talking about adrenalin.

Then lastly, today is our first 37 degrees of the season. And it's already quite dry too; there hasn't been much rain in the time we've been away, and certainly not after we've come back. It might be another hot, dry summer.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Our trip within our trip

So we went to The Netherlands for six weeks, in August and September, to see family and friends. This time we thought we make it a nice long break, with a real holiday for us somewhere in it too. That way we would be able to see some more from Europe, as we were thinking of going through Germany to Switzerland and back via France.

Luckily for us, Age's parents have a campervan - a real proper campervan, too! So after only a couple of days in The Netherlands and lots of visits of our family and siblings, we took off for a round-trip of two weeks.

At a campground in Enschede (NL). Playing with Nora. She took up a liking for pebbles. To eat.

Our homely home.

Dinner is about to be served, but Peppa Pig is important too.

Somewhere in Germany, I can't remember where it was. A riverside camping. Campervans had to park onto the paved area, which was not very level.

Doing the dishes with Nora in the carrier. It became very quiet on my back, as she'd fallen asleep.

Somewhere in Germany, just off the motorway. We stopped in this village for lunch.

It was market day.

We all know what Nora is having for lunch! The scratch on her cheek is from a fall off the main bed in the camper on the very first evening. Age and I were discussing how to arrange Nora's bed in the front, while she fell off the bed on the floor behind our backs. It was awful. Her cheek has seen all the colours of the rainbow :-( It didn't bother her very much after a good cry, I think we were more affected by it.
Our first proper stop (two nights) was in Freiburg, in the South of Germany. I had once been there on a conference and quite liked the little old city in the Schwarzwald. Our campsite was quite close to the town centre, a pleasant 2 or 3 km walk through the hills. It was the first day with milder weather.

A real shepherd, with sheep and dogs.

There it is, Freiburg.

Walk, walk, walk.

There it is again, the city centre. And a steep hill with vines.

Someone got quite good at walking.

As said before, Nora loves her sunglasses. For two seconds, that is.

Yummy, raspberries.

Nora explaining something very important.
Next post: Switzerland and France :-)

Sunday, 12 October 2014

So, what has happened?

So what happened in the meantime?

Nora made her first proper art work. She really took off learning to walk.

And started eating with a spoon - with mixed results

She loves sunglasses

Loves everything Peppa Pig

Plays the piano very well

And can sit on her own little chair.

Nothing much happened over winter, we just worked and were happily at home in our spare time. The winter vege garden wasn't a huge success, it was just too wet. But we did eat a couple of radishes, lettuces, and beetroot.

In August and most of September we were in The Netherlands. A whole six weeks to see our family and friends, and to go on a little holiday within our holidays. More on that in the next post.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Here we go again :-)

Not yet, but it won't be long. Got too many complaints about quitting the blog. So we'll pick up where we left, somewhere in May if I'm correct. But first Age has to upload tons of pics from our camera onto the computer, and then sort them a bit, which always takes a lot of time - but our stories are a lot better with pictures than without :-)


Friday, 2 May 2014

Birthday girl!

Our little Nora turned one this week! A bit strange, a birthday on a Monday, with both of us having to go to work. So we only had the early morning to do birthday-like things, like singing and giving presents. When I got Nora out of her bed we went to our bedroom, to the big bed, and crossing the family room and kitchen she noticed above her highchair the garland we'd hung there the night before. That was rather cute.

In the carrier on a nice walk. There is a bit of surf out there, and we saw a dolphin surfing in the surf, just like it was sculpted in glass, quite special.

Us singing to her was something she found quite interesting, but she didn't give a hoot about the presents. The only things she wanted - as usual - were our phones on the bedside tables and the ipad on the bed to Skype with pake and beppe in The Netherlands, who were going to bring her a serenade. And because we don't want to encourage screentime too much she got grumpy as hell. Very promising for the rest of the day at childcare, and that on her birthday.

See the pebbles (and the stacking cups) on the ground?

But when I picked her up from childcare in the afternoon she apparently had had a very good day, phew. At home again she got another serenade, now from cousin Susan, playing the flute. Nora was very busy crawling through the house and pulling herself up on every piece of furniture she encountered throughout her conversation with Susan and Granny Judith, but the flute concert got her attention.

And now she's one! Amazing, isn't it?

We've also had a week off with Easter. We've done lots around the house, like organising the garage, tending to the vege garden, altering the remaining curtains, installing more curtains, re-organising Nora's room and Age's study, buying outdoor furniture... And we've enjoyed fantastic weather the last three weeks. People were calling it an Indian Summer, with temperatures in the early twenties most days, clear blue skies, and cold nights. The turn has arrived however, as I'm writing this. It's been wild and windy today and the chance of rain is quite high for the rest of the week, with temperatures dropping below 20.

In our week off we also have done lots of walks - to allow proper digestion of the banoffee pie I made -, with Nora in the carrier, which she loves. She quite happily sits on my back, humming along, or loudly singing (well, we think it's singing). And always after a while she falls asleep.
We take a backpack with a picnic and at some stage sit down for a bite to eat. Once when we had our picnic sitting on our coats on the ground, she got pieces of grapes, which Age was giving to her. Then I heard him say 'hey, what's that?' And he opened her mouth and got a big pebble out!

And on another day, when I was playing golf and Age and Nora had the day to themselves, he found her in the kitchen next to Minnie's tiny bowl with 'extra special' cat biscuits, munching on something. And it was too far gone to take it out of her mouth. Apparently she wasn't very impressed with it. So now when she comes across the little bowl she points at it, and looks into it, but doesn't touch them.
Now that I'm reading this back I realise I'm lying about this, as this morning she tried another dry biscuit. So they're still attractive.

The time has come to let Age crawl through the house to see what Nora could come across on her adventures, and be one step ahead of those little fingers.

Walk along the coast and river mouth in Noarlunga.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Project continues, the vege garden is a fact

Lots of hard work, last weekend! But the result is amazing - a big bare patch of dirt. So I think we can easily conclude that the vege garden is a fact.

Age busy digging. These plants are very spiky, so his arms and legs look a bit ragged now.

Age dug out all the trees - more or less on his own, because we didn't have two shovels. We were lucky in a way, because about 30 cm in there is a tough clay layer, preventing the roots of the trees to go through and root deeply. I don't know what this will mean for my leeks and carrots, will they become short and thick??

Still digging.

We had two interested parties for our plants, both expecting to spend the day digging, but when the first couple arrived Age was just busy with the last one. Which proved to be toughest too - no layer of clay!
They loaded about a third of the lot onto a trailer and decided that that would probably be enough for their garden.

Always handy. But why do I always get a huge clump of mud sticking underneath?

The second couple came later in the afternoon, with two cars. One tiny car and a bigger one, and they somehow managed to shove the leftover four huge trees in the tiny car, and the flax and a couple of little trees in the big car. It is a miracle that they arrived home safely, as there was no way that Hannah, the driver of the small car, was able to see anything besides through her side of the front windscreen.

Leveling the patch. Minnie is very interested in this new litter tray. The hoses you see are for irrigation and will be put under the soil again.

They picked up the two remaining trees the next day. In the meantime I spent some time leveling the now bare patch, measuring plant beds, and planting some of my lovely seedlings. We also bought a lime tree, so now we've got an orange, a lemon and a lime - all visible from the kitchen window.

Leveling the last bit.

And.... Nora is crawling! Olala, she's suddenly not there anymore where I put her. Need eyes in the back of my head.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

New project: the vege garden

I've started a new project: the vege garden! When we bought the house I saw immediately the perfect spot for it, on one of the retaining walls at the side of the house. It's been too hot the past months to do anything, although I was very antsy to get started. I got punished for planting a couple of new plants in another spot in the garden - they all succumbed in the hot weather, so I decided to stay put and do nothing till we got into the cooler months.

Portulaca Sundial Mango, a nice succulent for the rockery, they say. I've planted heaps of them to liven up a narrow retaining wall at the back of the house. They're doing well.

Yes, we've still got our Spanish pots. They've seen a bit of the world. Pelargoniums are in it at the moment. Nora loves touching them.
Well, the time has come, it's autumn, temperatures in the early twenties, now and then some rain, so I couldn't wait any longer. One little hurdle is that the patch-to-be is still planted with fairly big, prickly trees. I mentioned this to one of my friends here, because they were doing some work in their garden, and they're happy to dig ours out and plant them in their own garden. A nice win-win situation. So a plant transfer lunch is coming up soon.

These plants need to be dug out
In the meantime I found my vege garden plan from New Zealand back, and decided to use it for here too. A lot of time went into that plan, to sort out the veges I wanted, and where to put them, when to sow, when to harvest, etc. Officially, climate-wise we're living in the same temperate climate, so I should be able to use the same veges and sowing times as in NZ.
Because I couldn't wait till the trees have been dug out, I bought little seedling boxes, seed, seed-growing mix and started sowing those plants that are suitable to sow right now: it's the good old winter veges like broccoli, leek, brussel sprouts, onions, lettuce, endive, and baby beetroot. And when those trees are out I can sow a few more winter veges directly into the soil, like kale (boerenkool), radishes, rhubarb, parsnip, swede, carrot, kohlrabi and fennel. Exactly what I had in NZ. And I didn't get further than that, because we moved house. But this time I'd like to complete the whole circle, so eventually we'll also have potatoes, capsicum, corn, courgette, tomatoes, cucumber, beans, passionfruit, apple, and some citrus and berries too. Yeah...

Seedling boxes
I'm curious which veges will succeed and which won't. In NZ I couldn't get the carrots to grow, the broccoli got eaten by butterflies - rather, caterpillars, the leeks were good but thin, the radishes were a success, although Age hates radishes so I won't sow these anymore, the sprouts got eaten by the same caterpillars, the endive worked well, we had lovely parsnips, although thin, the swedes were good, the fennel too, as well as the beetroot. A shame that I made beetroot-relish from all my lovely beetroots, because it was a terrible relish recipe and we threw that in the bin.

So a new adventure is starting.

The first seedlings have emerged after not even a week, and I've thinned them to the strongest ones. They can now grow a bit more before planting them out - and for that to happen we need the trees gone. And the soil prepared. When it's all done I'll have 10 beds of 150cm, with 30cm paths between each bed.
According to my garden book you need six of these areas to provide year-round vegetables for a family of four - a total area of about 100m2. Wow. Not aiming for that :-)

Sprouts, broccoli and lettuce

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Lots of days over 40 degrees

Nora in Brighton on a mild 33-degree day, very interested in a group of birds eating chippies
In the news was that South Australia is experiencing some kind of record in the number of days above 40 degrees, breaking a 117 year old record. I think I can say without doubt that everyone here is completely over the heat. Working is not that bad, in an airconditioned environment. But getting into the car, which is trying to be an oven, is hugely annoying. Airconditioning in the car is fine, but on those days you're still sweating like a pig behind the wheel. And just everything else that you have to do in the heat is annoying really.

Then there are the people who somehow can't resist the urge to lit fires on 'catastrophic fire danger' days. It's the highest possible rating the fire service gives out for certain geographic areas, usually on very hot and very windy days. Schools then close, sportsgrounds too, National Parks, childcare centres, golf courses, etc., everything where members of the public come closes its doors. Residents in those areas are advised to activate their bushfire plan - if they have a plan that is. For a lot of people it means to be alert and on standby, packing a box with much-loved belongings, waiting for a bushfire to happen.

Last Saturday was a catastrophic fire day, it was hot and windy, and sure enough, suddenly four fires in Belair National Park, which is a ten-minute drive away from us. That made us antsy! We followed the news updates, heard that 100 firefighters and seven water-bombing aircraft were deployed to battle the fires, and that at some stage residents at the Southern side of the NP were advised to leave their homes while it was still safe to do so. Luckily the fires were brought under control, didn't cross the road, so no substantial damage and people could return to their homes.

I played golf the next day, as a cool change set in that night, so we had a great breather after such a sweltering couple of days. Finally a good day to get out and about. In my golf group were three ladies who had been really anxious the day before, and one of them got evacuated, and the other two more or less fled their homes and spent the day in a cool shopping centre and at the movies. Being confronted with the possibility of losing your house and garden isn't really what makes people happy. And they were still quite nervous, because we're only halfway the bushfire season, which ends the end of April.

While I'm writing this I'm sitting in my lovely airconditioned study, while outside the temperature is around the 40 degrees, again. But...we're in for a cool change tomorrow, and... rain! Can't wait to do a rain-dance. The people battling a bushfire that has been going for more than three weeks now in the Southern Flinders Ranges, will be dancing too, I'm sure. Cool in this case means 30-ish degrees. Funny how we adjust, because when we had our first day of 30 degrees in October or something, we, new mums, cancelled a trip to the beach as it would be too hot for our babies!

Nora out and about with Age while I played golf. Eating cheese.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Eeks, another heatwave under way

Just saw the temperatures for the coming week: four days around 40 degrees. And that while we're trying to lower our energy usage - because we had a massive bill and apparently we're spending twice the amount of electricity than average. We've now got a couple of devices to track real time energy usage, so that we can figure out why we're using so much electricity. Mind you, we don't have gas, or solar panels, so all our energy consumption comes from the use of electricity. But still, twice as much as average, that's weird.

It won't be less the coming days, that's for sure.

What else...
We've had some interesting animals around the house. A koala in the big eucalyptus tree close to the back of the garden, near Nora's bedroom. It's a funny one, because it's smack in the middle of someone's backyard, so that koala must have been thinking 'that's a nice tree, let's cross the road, see if I can get into those people's garden, and then climb in that tree.' It is the closest we can get a koala, so I thought it was quite nice.

Then another day I was handling the bbq. Yes me, not the man of the house. The meat was done, and I was just about to turn off the gas, when I spotted something unusual on the knob. A spider as big as my hand! On the knob to turn the bbq off and my meat was done! And I'd just had my hand on it to turn the bbq on - where was it then, hmmm?? I got Age out of his lazy chair and had him taking care of the spider with my bbq utensil. It was a big huntsman, racing to a safer spot in the garden, nothing special...

And then yesterday we were eating our dessert in our 'outdoor entertaining area', when Age said 'look, there's a tail coming out of the bbq'. Yeah, that bbq, just standing there attracting wildlife. So I looked and yes, from behind the screen that's hiding the gas bottle from view there was this curly monkey-like tail. And curling and uncurling its tail. Very strange. Upon careful closer inspection we found out we had a little possum sitting there! Not sure what it was doing there, and later, when we all went inside and Age had another look it was gone.

Eventful, eh?

The good life in the garden on my birthday. I got a new baby bath and croquet!

Missy in her tent

Tipping things out of containers is now her big thing, so I spend my days filling her bucket with toys, and then Nora empties it and throws everything away in a wide circle around her.