Friday, June 29, 2007

A bit of a brag

Yesterday Boak and I popped into the Genetics Society of Australasia Conference at Sydney University (as you do) and I was moved to tears by a presentation entitled "MHC Diversity in the Koala: the 'immune genes' which drive the adaptive immune response".

It wasn't simply because I was being told how these cuddly little Aussie icons are threatened with extinction by diseases like Chlamydia and Cryptococcosis.

It wasn't simply because this aging brain of mine only understood every third word, phrases like Class II MHC molecule, heterozygote advantage, cysteine bridges, and Tryptophan and Asparagie residues having no place at all in the vocabulary of an ex-English teaching Arts graduate.

I was moved to tears because the beautiful young woman presenting the preliminary findings of her PhD research to her first scientific conference was my daughter, Sarah.

From the time we give birth to them we teach our children - to speak, walk, read, and face life's situations. So for Boak and me to reach the day when our little girl turned the tables on us and dazzled us with her professionalism and passionate knowledge of her chosen field of work, and opened my eyes to a new area of learning, was simply wonderful.

I was so glad she had invited us to be there - and so proud of her!

[Now she just needs to ask me to show her how to play her iPod through car radio - she doesn't know everything yet!]

Monday, June 25, 2007

A personal message for you, my gentle Reader

Dear Reader,

Strange as it may seem, you are not the only blogophile who regularly checks my pages for new snippets 'n' scraps from my life - a fact that I've only learned recently after falling behind in my homework over the past 2 months.

Although my blog entries would seem to suggest otherwise, my life is not all patchwork and parties, and I must apologise for my silence over such a long time, when the tyranny of the urgent, and the humdrum, overcame me.

But now ..... I've got a grip, spoken severely to myself, given myself a little slap on the wrist, and made myself write out a thousand times "I must keep my blog updated regularly".

If any good has come from this, it's the heartwarming discovery of just how many readers my humble little blog has, and I find this so encouraging. Thank you very much!

So if you'd like to read the more interesting things I've been up to over the last 2 months, just scroll down until you come to where you were when I fell silent. You have a lot of homework to do!

Alexanne and Chloe

When wanting to learn to ride a horse, one is advised to begin with something smaller. A golden retriever will do, if you have a spare one lying around the house.

Even a golden retriever like Chloe seems huge when you're only 12 weeks old! Chloe wasn't too impressed with her role either as she normally tends to keep quite clear of little children.

But being a gentle, patient dog, Chloe eventually allowed Alexanne to play "horsey" for a brief time.

Sunset over Sydney Harbour

I took this photo several weeks ago. It was at the end of a delightful Sunday spent entertaining English visitors by showing off our beautiful harbour, when the clouds turned a rich rosy pink delicately brushed with violet. With the magic of my digital camera I managed to capture it to share with you, dear reader.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

An occasion for much merriment and feasting

Sunday lunch on the June long weekend was the setting for Moo's second annual Queen's Birthday Celebration, a riotous repast of all things regal.

The house was dressed in red, white and blue for the occasion, as were many of the guests at what has become, in only a short time, a tradition we eagerly anticipate, even beginning the menu planning in January. Everyone has his or her allotted task, and the meal is a team effort, culminating in a truly spectacular table!

Queen Victoria would NOT have been amused, I suspect, as we ate and drank to her memory, overindulging in bangers and mash and mushy peas, queen pudding, sherry trifle and gloucester, leicester and stilton cheeses, accompanied by some cheeky colonial wines.

After the Loyal Toast we sang "God Save the Queen", then broke out the sparklers for "Rule Britannia" and "Land of Hope and Glory".

Then it was time for Moo to blow the whistle, rally the troops, and lead the customary march around the garden and through the house, as we played our improvised instruments - a toy drum, triangle, saucepans, claxon horn etc. (Those without instruments to play - not mentioning any names here - merely played the fool.)




As you can see, our joy was complete. Good on you, Moo - the hostess with the mostest!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Breast Cancer Quilt

In my local quilt group we've each made a block for a quilt to be raffled later this year in aid of the breast cancer research, and this is my block - finished on time!

The guidelines were simple. We were given 3 pieces of fabric - a pink floral, a green tone-on-tone, and a creamy white tone-on-tone background square. All these had to be used in the creation of a 12 inch block, of our own devising, and at least one heart had to be part of the design.

Since my love for pink and green borders on the fanatical, I found the challenge an easy one, and went on to embellish my heart-shaped flowers with yellow embroidered stamens and tiny pink beads.

Now the work of stitching the 25 blocks together begins. I'll share photos of the finished quilt with you in time, but until then I'm afraid you'll just have to be content with this sneak preview.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Diamond Wedding Anniversary

My parents, Mary and Trevor, thought they were going out for a quiet, romantic lunch for 2 to celebrate 60 years of wedded bliss. However, the grapevine was working very efficiently and, one by one, members of the family just happened to drop into the garden centre where they were lunching, so that soon there was quite a large tablefull of well-wishers to toast them and their great achievement. What a wonderful example they have been to us all.

Everyone I spoke to, from the woman in the newsagent where I bought a greeting card, to the florist who made up the pretty pink bouquet in the photo, was amazed to hear that a married couple had actually notched up so many years together. I guess it helps if you were married as young as Mary and Trevor (at 21 yrs and 24 yrs respectively) and have your health as they do.

Only 3 weeks earlier Boak and I had celebrated 35 years of marriage with a quiet lunch at the yacht club. When asked if he has ever considered divorce, Boak is fond of answering, in the famous words of Lady Longford, "Divorce, never! - Murder, many times!". He's such a romantic!

The latest photos of our Pin-up Girl

Alexanne was 9 weeks old when we took these photos. I think she's as cute as a button!

Don't laugh - a girl's gotta have a "bad hair day" every now and then!

Two really GREAT Great-grandparents!

My mother is the same age as the Queen, and I took these photos of my wonderful parents, Mary and Trevor, on my mother's birthday, when we called in for a visit on our way to a birthday afternoon tea. For her 80th last year I made her a quilt. This year her special gift was a gorgeous little bundle called Alexanne - their first great-grandchild.

The Mugunghwa Quilt

It's been a great delight meeting Sunny's parents, and such a wonderful support for Sunny having them here to ease her into motherhood. Perfect timing, too, arriving as they did just a few hours before little Alexanne made her entrance.

For the past 2 months Sunny's mum has run the house for her, doing all the cooking, cleaning and washing - a Korean tradition apparently - and we've been the fortunate recipients of many containers of delicious noodles, fish, sweet sesame nibbles, and other Korean delicacies, whenever we've visited, or they've come to us. They have been so generous and loving that I wanted to give them something to take home to remind them of their stay.

What else would I give them but a quilt?!

I decided to incorporate Australian wildflowers into the design - but after that my creative ideas dried up.

A couple of years ago, when I was going through an enthusiastic needleturn applique phase, I designed and made a "Rose of Sharon" medallion block, set it on point and surrounded it with a couple of borders - but after that my creative ideas dried up.

Do you see a trend emerging here? I'm such a good "starter", but not a great finisher!

As I was dithering about, Boak, the voice of reason, suggested that, since time was of the essence in the making of this quilt, perhaps I ought to use the already completed "Rose of Sharon" medallion as a starting point. I dismissed his helpful suggestion, preferring instead to let my fingers do the Googling whilst I researched Korean cultural sites for better ideas.

I should have listened in the first place for his suggestion turned out to be quite inspired - not that even he realised it at the time.

Did you know that the "Rose of Sharon", Mugunghwa, or hibiscus syriacus, is the national flower of South Korea?

Wow! I had found the starting point for my quilt, and it had been hanging on my design wall in front of my eyes all this time! My good friend Robbie kindly donated a handful of charm squares in Australian wildflower prints, I added several more, Gail spent a morning helping me pin it before I machine quilted it, and before you could say "Bob's your uncle" my Australian-Korean quilt came together.

I think Sunny's parents liked it - they were certainly excited when I gave it to them, and insisted on standing barefoot on the couch so I could take their photo with the quilt reaching to the floor.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Come fly with me...

...said the Birthday Boy's stepmother, Joy, when she realised they would both be celebrating significant birthdays this year.

This, by the way, was only the latest of many treats Joy has given us, including dinner at Maxim's in Paris and taking us to afternoon tea at the Ritz in London.

So, after a laughter-filled dinner the evening before, hosted by Moo in her usual splendid fashion, we three met at Rose Bay to join our morning flight to Palm Beach by sea plane.

For years, as I've sat on the nearby beach, I've watched the sea planes taking off and landing and imagined what a thrill it would be to hop aboard one of these little craft and fly north for lunch. A little like the idea of flying from London to Paris for lunch - but not quite as ritzy!

There were 5 passengers, so someone had to sit in the cockpit beside the pilot. Guess who volunteered for the job? Doesn't he look the part? The headphones were to muffle the noise of the engine which is very loud in the tiny cabin. Conversation is a challenge so sign language becomes the order of the day.

I had fresh admiration for my nephew Matthew (see earlier blog entry describing his wedding) who proposed to Michelle during one such flight over North Curl Curl Beach. No wonder her initial answer to his romantic proposal was to shout "What????"

The flight was spectacular. The day was one of those sparkling autumn days Sydney does so well and the harbour waters glistened as we took off. The plane flew low up the coast, and the sea was emerald - really!

In around 30 minutes we landed gracefully on Pittwater and taxied to the wharf where a car transported us to nearby Jonah's Restaurant, perched high on the cliffs at Whale Beach. You can just see the sea in the background of the photo above.

Such an exciting flight north, full of promise and picturesque delights, would be hard to top on the return trip, I imagined. However our pilot managed to have us gasping with delight as we circled Sydney Harbour several times, amazed by our bird's eye view of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.

We even flew close to our home! In the photo of Darling Point above, the red arrow points to it. If it weren't for the giant Port Jackson fig trees you'd be able to see it.

I have always maintained that you'll never, ever get me in a small plane, thank you very much. So why wasn't my heart in my mouth in this tiny craft? Call me senile and deluded (many do), but I told myself that since our little sea-plane had "water wings", and since we were flying over nice soft water and not hard ground, if we ran into any trouble we would gently land on the water and float. Of course I now realise this was nonsense - the sea would have made a mighty hard landing strip at high speed!

Wow, what a spectacular finale to the "Season of turning Sixty"!

"Spoiled!", I hear you mutter? He certainly was! So much for a "no fuss" birthday!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Rave Revues for Robyn! The celebration continues...

Robyn's ability as a consummate hostess is such that she can attend church, play an excellent game of golf, and prepare an intimate birthday dinner for eight - all in a day! It was a wonderful way to top off a super Sunday, and as you can see we had fun (some a little more than others).

Janet and Ian

Donald and Liccy

Pamela, Di and Robyn

Growing older is inevitable...

...Growing up is optional!

The lovely Mia looked after the cloakroom.

The Birthday Itself - A "Sparkling" Occasion

It's impossible to keep your 60th birthday under wraps when you're a clergyman and it falls on a Sunday - and some creative folk in our congregation had a couple of surprises up their sleeves.

When the Birthday Boy rose to give the notices at the 8am service he was interrupted by the full choir and pipe organ (joined by the congregation) launching into "Happy Birthday".

And when he entered for the 10am service we had another surprise for him.

You don't have to be a Sydney Anglican to appreciate the humour in this, but it does help. As you may be aware, candles in church are somewhat frowned upon in this diocese, for theological reasons. However our friend Janet had brought along 100 sparklers and several boxes of matches, which were distributed along with the hymn books as people arrived.

So just as the Birthday Boy walked in to begin, the organ started up, the sparklers were lit, and we sang "Happy Birthday" yet again - this time with a light show!