Wednesday, 13 September 2017

BBQ Brunch

Last weekend was pretty chilled out, as Ella was recovering from yet another virus, this time a stomach bug. She had four terrible nights of sleep, where she basically just cried/screamed for over an hour and nothing we could do would calm her down. Then, on Friday morning, after what we thought was a “better” night (ie no screaming), we woke up to her throwing up in bed. Andy stayed home with her while she proceeded to throw up everything she ingested (mostly just water) for about 24 hours. Ah, the joys of parenthood! The only positive when Ella is not feeling well is that there are lots of cuddles to go around, which, I’m not going to lie, I do enjoy!

Sunday morning she seemed to be feeling much better, so we met up with Charlotte and Adam for a BBQ breakfast in Barkley Gardens. Barkley Gardens is a large 19th century park in the heart of Richmond. And what a fantastic park it is! The large grassy area has gravel paths winding through and across it, is beautifully landscaped and surrounded by huge leafy trees. There is a recently renovated playground, with lots of different pieces of equipment suitable for all ages. The most impressive piece is a gigantic climbing structure with a tunnel slide coming off of it.

We arrived around 10am and cooked some bacon and egg sandwiches on the communal BBQs. Australian’s love a communal BBQ - we definitely don’t take advantage of these as much as we should. Ella was in a pretty foul mood for the first hour or so, still a little bit unwell I guess. She wanted everything and nothing at the same time, so it was difficult to work out what would make her smile. Usually she is so excited to see Charlotte and Adam, but even they didn’t get any Ella love to begin with. While pushing her on the swings she constantly demanded “higher!” and would get upset if I was holding my coffee or (gasp!) talking to Charlotte at the same time.

After our breakfast we were joined by friends of Adam and Charlotte and their 8 month old baby. We had a lot of fun playing frisbee, watching the kids in the sandpit (Ella finally perked up and seemed back to her normal self after lunch), and of course all having a go on the climbing structure. Who says playgrounds are just for kids?!

It was such a nice way to spend a Sunday morning, and far less stressful than taking Ella along to a trendy café. I don’t know why we haven’t done this before, it was a lovely way to spend a weekend morning. It had made me very excited for warmer weather and the arrival of spring!

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Currently... August

A few days late, but here are a few of the things I’ve been up to in August.

Reading The Signature of all Things by Elizabeth Gilbert. I picked this up as I’ve read her other (very famous) book: Eat, Pray, Love. This book is historical fiction, so a totally different genre. I’m really enjoying it - much more than I thought I would given that the main character is a botanist and there is a lot of detail on this subject at times. But somehow that hasn’t bored me to tears, in fact I find myself struggling to get one more page in as my tired eyes try to close each night. I also read The Expatriates by Janice Y. K. Lee. It is told from the point of view of three expat women in Hong Kong, whose stories and lives intertwine. I was expecting it to be fluffy chick lit, but it actually explores some very emotional themes around friendship and motherhood. I loved it and read it within a few days. And at the very start of the month I read The Dry by Jane Harper, an Australian crime novel. It was an easy, engaging read. I am actually finding a lot of time to read lately, which is awesome. It is one of my favourite “treats”, being stuck in a good book, and I am tend to choose reading over TV watching as a way to unwind lately. (Not always of course, as you’ll read about in the next section…)

Watching The Handmaid’s Tale. It is so dark. I love it. I’ve never read the book - which is weird, as I feel like it was on every high school English booklist in Canada when I was growing up. We also watched Season 7 of Game of Thrones. I enjoyed the very short season (only 7 episodes!), but didn’t love all of it, like I have in the past. I found some of the story lines very unbelievable/borderline stupid (I won’t go into any spoilers here), but I did like seeing how some relationships developed between key players. For me the best scenes were not the epic, often drawn-out fighting scenes, but rather the quieter, tense dialogue involving only two or three characters at a time.

Enjoying slow, simple weekends. As you may have noticed, I haven’t updated the blog a lot lately, and that is mainly because our weekends have been pretty quiet. They normally consist of coffees, brunches, and playing in one of the many nearby playgrounds (or an indoor play centre when it’s raining), and a long afternoon nap from Ella as she catches up on sleep after a full week at daycare. It’s been nice to just relax and let the weekends happen, rather than trying to cram too much in. It’s also probably the reason I’ve got so much reading in, as I mentioned above!

Loving my new water bottle. Andy got us these memobottles which are Melbourne-designed and slip very easily into a handbag or backpack. I’m trying very hard to not buy bottled water so this helps! The sizes are based on standard paper sizes. Mine is the A6 size which is nice and compact, while Andy got the next size up, A5.

Wearing these HeatTech thermal leggings from Uniqlo. I bought them for the school camp I went on in May and they are sooooo soft. I wear them around the house and to bed and they keep me nice and warm in our chilly house, without being too warm under the duvet at night. I’ve just seen that they are on sale for $20 so I may need to invest in a second pair, or even a long-sleeved shirt to go with them. I totally recommend these thermals, they kept me warm while camping and are much more affordable (and comfortable) than ones I’ve had before from Kathmandu.

Cooking some yummy new dishes lately. I love, love, love this squash risotto, cooked in a dutch oven instead of standing over a stove, slowing stirring for 40 minutes. I did have to go out and buy a dutch oven to make it (and try not to giggle immaturely at the name “dutch oven”) and managed to find an inexpensive version that worked perfectly at Kmart. Gotta love Kmart! I also tried this Kale and Coconut Stir Fry last week, which again was a huge winner. So much so that I’m making it again tonight.

Missing riding my bike to work. Now that Andy works with me we drive to work together, which is great when it’s cold and rainy. But I miss the exercise and am struggling to get in the same amount of exercise with another activity. As the weather gets warmer I am going to try and ride once or twice a week again, provided Andy is happy to do the daycare drop off and pick up on his own!

Looking forward to the school holidays in three weeks. As teachers, we are forever looking forward to the next holidays. We have five nights in Noosa booked for the three of us, so definitely looking forward to some relaxing family time in the sun.This term seems to have hit us especially hard, with lots of illness in the family during the first five weeks, a change in job for Andy, and a stressful internal job application for me. It’s all worked out though, and we have found a better groove over the past two weeks. It definitely helps that we are all getting a full night’s sleep at the moment!

Pic of the Month: Loving the swings at the park!

Friday, 18 August 2017

Everyone is Sick!

Things have been pretty quiet on the blog so far this month. That is mainly because things have been quiet in our house, so there hasn’t been much to write about. And that is because for the past five weeks we have all been sick. We have been taking it in turns, passing germs back and forth, and man, I am so over it! Andy and I have both had time off work, and last week I was home with Ella for three days while she battled a constant fever. Ella is super snuggly when she is sick, so we pretty much spent those days cuddled up on the sofa together watching Finding Nemo (“watch fishies mummy”). As she is normally a very active toddler, I will take the cuddles whenever I can get them!

This week, Ella is back to her normal self and Andy and I are both sick again with the flu. Andy’s flu is actually man-flu, so of course his is worse. (Worse for me, that is.) I read this article yesterday saying that Australia is in the middle of the worst flu outbreak on record, so at least we are not alone in our misery. The article urges people to get their flu vaccine, which I got months ago, so fat lot of good that did! But I do work in a germ-infested school, and my daughter goes to an even more germ-infested daycare, so I’m probably more likely to get sick than others.

In my last blog post I wrote about all the diverse foods Ella happily eats. But while she was unwell she pretty much only ate mandarins and bread for about a week. Even though I knew deep down it was just a phase, it started to really stress me out. (And as I finish up this post, she did indeed have two helpings of Jamie Oliver’s Chili Con Carne for dinner tonight, so looks like all the worry was for nothing and she’s back to herself.) I got this recipe for savoury muffins from a mum-friend of mine, which I made in the hopes of sneaking in some veggies into a snack food Ella loves. It definitely worked, the muffins were a winner, so here is the recipe:

Savory Pumpkin and Zucchini Muffins
1.5 cups of roasted pumpkin
1 medium tomato (chopped)
1 zucchini (grated)
1 cup cheddar cheese (grated)
2 cups self-raising whole wheat flour
1 egg
1 cup milk
75g butter
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds

Mix together pumpkin, tomato, zucchini, flour and cheese. Season with salt and pepper. In a separate bowl mix together the egg, milk and butter. Create a well in the pumpkin mixture and pour your wet ingredients in. Mix wet and dry ingredients together, but don’t overdo it! Spoon into muffin tins (makes 12), and sprinkle each muffin with some extra cheddar. Bake at 180°C for 17-24 mins. Top with pumpkin seeds.

On a more positive note, I was told this week that got a new position I applied for at work. It comes with a raise and nice new office, whoop! It also comes with a request to return to full-time, so that will be an adjustment for us. I haven’t worked full time since having Ella. Andy and I have already agreed that getting a cleaner will be a necessary investment! The new job starts in November, so I will be making sure to enjoy my day off each week until then.

Andy has settled in well into his new job at my school. We drop off Ella together at daycare in the mornings and then drive in together. It’s nice to get a ride to work, especially when the mornings are rainy and cold, but I actually really miss riding my bike. Once I’m well again I am going to try and get back into cycling a few times a week as I am really struggling to fit in fitness at the moment. Last night I went on a spur of the moment walk once Ella had gone to bed, at about 8pm. I put on a podcast and stuck to busy, well lit streets, as it gets dark around 6pm at this time of year. It was great! I’m definitely going to try and incorporate some more night walks into my routine to try and get more activity in each day.

And that’s really all I have as an update. Thankfully it is Friday night, I am really looking forward to getting some rest this weekend!

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Ella Loves: Dinner

Welcome to a new series on the blog, called "Ella Loves". Each post will focus on a theme with Ella's current favourites in that area. This post is all about her (and our) favourite meals at the moment.

Eating with a toddler can be pretty tricky, and Ella is no exception. We've been lucky in that she loves to eat, so I've never been worried about her not getting enough food. Dinners can be very hit or miss though, especially now that she is developing her own opinions around what she likes and doesn't like. Ella is also pretty typical in that she can completely devour a meal one day, and then push it away the next, with no logical reason why. Well, no logical reason to us, anyway. She also does this in reverse, so if she says one day that she doesn't like something I don't take that as an absolute statement. It's more like: "I don't like that right now" and she might be perfectly willing to try the same thing at another time.

I try really hard not to make a big deal about how much she eats. I know that toddlers can regulate themselves really well, and if she is not hungry I am not going to push her to eat more than she wants to, just because I some predetermined idea of what is an acceptable amount. There are so many factors to consider: growth spurts, how much she has eaten at daycare, whether she is feeling under the weather, tiredness. We don't give her something different to eat if she says she is finished after a few bites, and sometimes she will come back around to eating more when she sees Andy and I eating the same thing (though she usually wants some from our bowl instead of her own).

After dinner our routine is to take her for her bath, and then she comes back to the kitchen for a small bowl of blueberries and Greek yogurt, followed by a book or two on the sofa, some milk and then bed. Sometimes I wonder if I should stop giving her the berries and yogurt if she hasn't eaten a lot of dinner, as she probably knows that she can skip dinner and just wait for her bedtime snack. I'm reluctant to do this though, as our bedtime routine is so lovely and easy at the moment, and I am hesitant to turn into a stressful time. The portion of berries and yogurt is pretty small, so I am happy to stay with it for now, regardless of how much dinner she eats.

With all that said, here are a few meals we have been eating lately that have been a huge  hit for everyone in the household.

So you know how I said Ella can absolutely love a meal one day, and push it away the next? That never happens with this one. It's a pretty straight forward slow cooker meal, and my only advice if you are short on time would be to buy pre-diced lamb shoulder, otherwise it takes ages to cut up yourself.

Burrito Bowl via Woolworths
This is by far my favourite dinner as of late. Ella will eat most of it (she tends to pick around the pumpkin), and Andy prefers it in a pita or wrap instead of just the bowl. I recommend following this recipe for the perfect brown rice.

Bean and Cauliflower Soup with basil oil from the book Super Legumes
This soup is very easy to make and super yummy. The beans make it more filling than I was expecting. I wasn't going to bother with the basil oil but it definitely added to the overall flavour, so it's worth the extra couple of minutes it took to make. This is one where Ella pushed it away the first night, and refused to eat it. When I served it again she tentatively tried some of Andy's and then ended up gobbling it up. I was so happy as cauliflower is a flavour that she has refused several times. Also I highly recommend the book that this recipe is from.
  • Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Add 1 leek (thinly sliced) and 2 stalks of celery (diced) and cook for 6-7 minutes, until softened. Add in 2 crushed garlic cloves, stiring for 1 minute.
  • Add in 1 small head of cauliflower (cut into florets), 750ml of vegetable stock, and 1 tin of cannelli beans. Bring to boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • While that is simmering make the basil oil by blending 1/2 a cup of basil leaves with 60ml of olive oil.
  • Blend soup, stir in 2 tbsp of freshly grated parmesan cheese, and season to taste.
  • Serve with basil oil drizzled on top, and garnish with basil leaves.

Lentil Bolognese via Woolworths
This one ticks all the boxes: it’s healthy, cheap and quick to make. It’s also vegetarian (or vegan if you leave out the cheese), but the lentils are so filling and tasty you don’t even notice that the minced beef is missing.

Hidden Veggie Sauce via One Handed Cooks
I pretty much always have some of this sauce on hand, frozen in cubes for the times when we have to work late and there is nothing to eat. I normally serve it with pasta and shredded cheese on top. It’s loaded with veggies and very tasty, and super easy to make.

I am so happy that Ella loves this soup as much as Andy and I do. It's my "go to" quick, easy meal, and I usually have all of the ingredients on hand. I use about half o the recommended amount of chili flakes to make sure it isn't too spicy for Ella. It is SO GOOD.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Currently... July

Written in bits and pieces throughout the month of July.

I’m currently sitting outside, yes outside, on this lovely winter’s afternoon, drinking a cup of tea and enjoying the feeling of sunshine on my back. Ella is napping, Andy is at football, and so the house is blissfully calm and quiet. Here is a peak of what we’ve been up to over the last month.

Reading a few books at the moment. I find I can read more than one book at a time if they are non-fiction; I don’t really have a problem flipping back and forth between books on different topics. That said, I do prefer fiction as a means of relaxation or escapism. I love that feeling of being totally engrossed in a book, or looking forward to when I have some time to read. I don’t get that same feeling with non-fiction, even though I find it interesting to learn about new things. This is a big section as I got through more books than usual during our school holidays at the start of the month.

I finally finished Shantaram at the end of June. I really wanted to love this book, but I just didn’t. I found it overly descriptive and therefore unnecessarily long. It took me about six weeks to read and I really wanted it to get better, and there were parts that I did enjoy. But overall… I would have preferred to spend that six weeks reading something else.

I read two other fiction books this month once I’d finally completed Shantaram. The first was I’m Thinking Of Ending Things by Iain Reid, which I randomly picked up from the library. It was good, with a crazy twist at the end that I did not see coming. But it was a complex twist, that probably would be better understood with a second reading of the book. I didn’t like it enough to read it twice though! I also read The Cows by Dawn O’Porter which I devoured in three days. It was like reading all of the best episodes of Sex and the City. There were parts and themes that were super cringy and I didn’t always agree with, but still I found it completely addictive and could not put it down.
The Whole Brain Child by Daniel J Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson is a fantastic collection of parenting techniques based on neuroscience. In reading the book you gain a (simplified) understanding of how the brain works, so that you can help your child successful navigate difficult moments. Some of the techniques are more suited to older children, but one that we have tried quite successfully is called “Name it to Tame it” and is about telling stories to help children calm down after something scary, disappointing, or painful happens. Say something traumatic happens to a child - in Ella’s case this has been limited to a bad fall - while comforting her we say things like “You were running and you tripped. Then you fell down and hurt your knee. That must have hurt. But then mummy picked you up and gave you a cuddle”. It has definitely helped Ella calm down quicker than when we say “Shhhh, it’s ok. Don’t cry”, which is closer to what we used to do.

I also read Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin. I read her first book, The Happiness Project, years ago and found it very relatable and easy to read. This book is similar in terms of readability - the author inserts a lot of personal examples and I find myself nodding along having had similar thoughts or experiences. The book is all about creating and keeping habits, and there were some useful takeaways for me. For example, the beginning of the book talks about how differently people respond to internal and external accountability. It was not only interesting to reflect on how I respond to these things, but to also realise why other people respond differently. Very helpful when considering teams of people I work with, students I teach, and also Andy! The author also talks about “treats” and reframing what we consider a treat. Right now, sitting outside on my balcony writing this post, with a cup of tea, is definitely a treat!

So as you can see, I’m hugely into reading at the moment, and it is definitely one of my favourite “treats” when I have a quiet moment to myself. I’ve even started following Instagrammers who recommend books to see what others are reading. So if you’ve got any recommendations let me know please!

Watching House of Cards season 5. I was a bit disappointed with the first few episodes, they were pretty slow and the plot is simultaneously unbelievable and scarily similar to current US politics. But the series does pick up and it gets as dark and shocking as ever. I just finished it last week so searching for a new series to get stuck in to. Oh and we are obviously watching the new season of Game of Thrones. Obviously.

Andy and I also watched a few documentaries over the school holidays: What the Health and Forks over Knives. Both advocate a plant-based, whole foods diet for optimum health, and tie eating meat and dairy products to higher rates of illness; mainly cancer and heart disease. While I know that research is cherry picked to support this message, it has given us a bit to think about when deciding what to eat. More compelling than the health risks for me are the environmental effects and humanitarian issues around eating large amounts of animal products. So we’ve cut back on the meat, dairy and eggs that we eat at home. I don’t think we are ready (and we may never be) to cut out animal products completely, but it is not difficult for us to eat them minimally. The hardest part for me is cheese, glorious cheese, which I am just not willing to give up right now. And Ella is definitely a carnivore, the girl loves her meat, so I don’t want to remove that from her diet when she is not old enough to choose for herself.

Loving the Yoga Nidra full app. I know I’ve talked about this app before, but I have been using it a lot lately, so just had to share again. Yoga Nidra is a “yogic sleep”, where you are both conscious but in a state of deep relaxation. I came across it through a workshop at my old yoga studio. I left that workshop feeling extremely refreshed and energetic after a terrible night’s sleep with Ella, so I investigated different apps that I could use to practice Yoga Nidra at home. I initially started with the free version, which is a 10 minute sequence. I listen to it almost every night before I go to bed, and almost without fail it sends me off to sleep. This is amazing considering that every since I was young I have had a hard time falling asleep. I then read this article about Yoga Nidra, and how a 20-30 minute session can make you feel as if you’ve had an extra hour or two of sleep. I downloaded the full version (which has 20 and 30 minute sessions, as well as a few extras like nature sounds to play in the background) and it was definitely $5.99 well spent! A few times when I have felt tired in the afternoon I’ve done one of the longer Yoga Nidra sessions instead of taking a nap, and I definitely feel so much better after. I highly recommend it!   

Drinking a lot of Peppermint Tea. The nights are cold and it’s such a cozy drink to have after dinner, once Ella is asleep and Andy and I have time to relax. Due to my recent sore throat and dry, hacking cough, I’ve temporarily replaced this with hot water, lemon and honey. I’ve also tried switching to coffee with almond milk in a bid to consume less animal products. I don’t mind it at home, but a few times I have asked for almond milk in my flat white in a café and have not enjoyed it. So I will probably continue to have almond milk at home, and regular milk when I’m out for now.

Trying to cook healthy, delicious meals for my family during the week. It is hard work! By the time we pick up Ella from work and get home it’s 5pm, and then it’s balancing act of Andy amusing Ella and distracting her from having a snack and me cooking. I’ve been using my day off during the week along with weekends to try and get some meal prep done, so there is less stress the other four days that I’m working. This soup is my favourite quick, healthy meal, I need a few more recipes like this up my sleeve!

Enjoying playing new games with Ella. She loves hide and seek (though she often runs out of her hiding spot while you are looking for her), and also drawing and playing with play doh.

Feeling cold and sick. Hello winter! I shouldn’t complain, we’ve actually had mostly beautiful winter weather so far this year, with bright, sunny, warm afternoons that don’t even require a jacket. But the house is cold at night, and all I can think about is the electricity bill when the heat is running non-stop. I’m also currently sick for the second time this month which has been pretty crappy. (Update: a few days after initially writing this, I’m happy to say that I’m feeling much better and as mentioned above it is decidedly not cold today, so yay, things are looking up!)

Wanting my mom to come back! Life was so much easier when we had some help with Ella.

Considering getting an activity tracker for the first time, like, ever. I primarily want to track my sleep. For the past three weeks I’ve been having terrible sleep, waking in the middle of the night and taking hours to fall back asleep (hence the love for the Yoga Nidra app, but even that has not worked sometimes). I’m sure this lack of sleep has contributed to me getting sick, and it’s also making work seem like a bit of a slog at the moment. I think that one reason I’m not sleeping well could be that I’m not getting as much exercise as usual. Now that Andy works with me, I drive to school with him instead of riding my bike. That is about an hour a day of exercise I’m missing out on. I’ve also only been making it to 1 or 2 yoga classes a week, where I used to aim for three. So it feels like I’m in a bit of a negative cycle: less exercise and less sleep, leading to getting sick, and therefore not feeling like doing exercise and not sleeping well. And repeat. So maybe an activity tracker will help to motivate me? I’m thinking of the Fitbit Charge 2 or the Fitbit Alta.

Writing a job application. My school have decided to overhaul the curriculum structure, making my current position non-existent next year. The proposed changes make a lot of sense, and I agree with them fully, but it does kind of suck to have to reapply for a new position. Especially as my current one has been working well with being part-time, and I’m not sure if I get a new position that I will have the same level of flexibility. I’ve actually considered just stepping down from having a leadership role but I’m not sure if that is what I really want, or if I’ve just been too ill and tired to think straight the past few weeks. There is no guarantee that I will actually get a new position anyway, so I will just try my best, and if unsuccessful I don’t think I will be too upset.   

Wearing a few new sweaters that I’ve treated myself to for winter. I splurged on a cream, wool Country Road number, which I love, love, love. I can’t find it on the website anymore so they must have sold out of them, which makes me happy I bought mine when I did - after thinking about it for weeks. I also love the fit of these Cotton On sweaters, which aren’t warm at all, but perfect autumn/spring, and look really nice on. I have the grey and cream colour, and for $30 could justify a few more colours. (I’ve just seen they are now Buy one, get one 50% off… tempting!)

Wanting these boots from Country Road. I haven’t bought a pair of boots since our first winter in Melbourne, four years ago, so I think I am due a new pair. My other two pairs are both flat, so I like the low heel on these, making them feel a bit dressier. Plus, I complimented a co-workers boots the other day, and she said they were from Country Road five years ago, and they looked almost new. So if I take care of them they should last me a long time.

Grateful for my parents, who are celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary in a week. 40 years! They are truly inspirational.

Pic of the Month Ella with her Aunty Charlotte, drinking a babycino. So glad Ella has people like this in her life!

Saturday, 22 July 2017

School Holiday Highlights Part 2

We've just finished our first week back at work, following three glorious, stress-free weeks hang out in Melbourne together as a family. I wrote about the first two weeks of the school holidays here. Our last week was pretty quiet as we were all a bit under the weather, battling colds at various stages. We spent lots of time in the local area, visiting our favourite playgrounds and cafés. It was nice to just slow down and spend time enjoying our days together. I got to do a lot of reading, listening to podcasts, and yoga, which are basically the ingredients to a perfect day for me. We did manage to go on a few adventurous outings through.

We started the week with a second visit to the Werribee Open Range Zoo. We got there right as it opened, so that we didn't have to wait for the safari bus tour. On our previous visit the week prior it was a 40 minute wait, which we thought was too long for Ella. We met up with one of Andy’s colleagues and his wife and son, who is a few months younger than Ella. The two little ones had a great time chasing each other around the park, checking out the different animals. The safari bus was pretty cool, open air and we saw a range of animals such as giraffes, rhinos and zebras wandering the grounds. It was nice to see them in more of a natural environment and with much more space and freedom than in a regular zoo.

Later in the week we caught up with our friend April at The Boathouse, located in Moonee Ponds along the Maribynong River. April is our first Aussie friend, she was our airbnb host way back when we first moved to Melbourne. I love that we are still friends with her! The Boathouse has a fantastic playground on the lawn with a kiosk selling coffees and small treats (muffins and cookies). It was great to catch up with April. She recently moved into her new house, bought at an auction a few months ago. She talked us through the process of buying a house at an auction, which seems to be the way most houses are sold here. It sounds like a pretty stressful and intimidating process!

Playground at The Boathouse
On Friday Ella had daycare so Andy and I went in to work for the morning. The exciting news around here lately is that Andy got a new job… at my school! We had a Design Technology teacher leave unexpectedly near the end of last term, so it all happened very quickly. Andy’s old school were very supportive and managed to find someone to replace him, and he was able to start at my school on Thursday. I know some people would hate the thought of working with their spouse, but we did it for about three years in London and it was absolutely fine. We work in completely different departments and areas of the school so chances are we won’t see each other during the day unless we plan to meet for lunch. And the nice thing is we get to both drop off and pick up Ella from daycare. I think I will miss riding my bike to school though, as it's such a good way for me to fit in exercise. So I might still choose to ride my bike on occasion so that I don't lose the habit totally.

Our last day of the holidays, we took Ella to the Eltham Miniature Railway. It’s open every Sunday from 11am - 5pm, and for $3 you ride around in a mini train. It was so cool! And as a happy surprise we saw my colleague Michelle, her husband Steve, and their little girl Gemma, who is the same age as Ella. Ella and I stayed with them at their beach house in the Mornington Peninsula during the first week of the school holidays, so Ella and Gemma were very well acquainted and happy to see each other. The train ride was about 15 long and was tons of fun. You ride through scenic bushland, passing other miniature trains on the way. It was definitely $3 well spent.

After the train ride we took advantage of the sausage sizzle and playground, with Ella and Gemma running around happily together. As we were about to leave we spotted pony rides for $5, which we just had to do! I don't know who had more fun: Ella and Gemma on the ponies, or their parents watching them!

All in all we had a pretty great "staycation" here in Melbourne. Usually we are so tired from travelling/jet lag over the school holidays that the week we return to work is torturous. This week was different though, I returned in a very positive frame of mind, feeling refreshed and ready for a new term. I even managed to wake up early on Monday morning to fit in some meditation and yoga… a very productive start to the term if you ask me!