Monday, April 29, 2013

What makes you happy?

Happiness #photoshop #bokeh

I was sitting in church with our grand-daughter Jacey yesterday.  She was on my lap, facing away from me, when she twisted her head back to look meaningfully into my eyes from only a few inches away.  She cupped her little hand around my cheek and, eyes looking straight into mine, said, "I love you". 

This would have been heart-melting at any stage, but Jacey is not even 18 months old yet, and while she has a few words, like 'bye bye', she'd never said anything like this before.

'Thank you, Jacey!'  I hugged her, 'I love you too!'

Happiness is..   well for me it was this.  And it's knowing our children enjoy being together, and it's having my husband plant a kiss on my shoulder when he gets into bed at night and thinks I am already asleep.  It's having beautiful fresh flowers in the house, and curling up under doona covers with a good book on a rainy day, and getting caught unexpectedly in a rain shower, laughing while I run for cover.  Or, even better, giving in to getting drenched and walking through heavy rain...

It's watching an awesome summer thunder storm bend the trees and pummel the earth from the safety of our home, especially when the children used to crowd around me in excitement. It's hearing the call of a kookaburra, and it's the quality of late afternoon, slanting sunlight in the tops of the gum trees, or slipping into the freshness of clean sheets at the end of the day.  It's being fascinated with the new beauty of ever-changing cloud formations, and the way fairy floss disappears on your tongue.. 

It's words like, 'giggle' and 'chuckle'.  It's waking up after a beautiful dream, even when you can't quite remember it.  It's sunlight glinting off water, and the gurgling sounds of a small stream gushing over rocks, and the turquoise colour of the ocean.  It's watching and hearing the crash of waves at the beach.  It's artful fashion and design.  It's a windy day, tearing at my hair.  It's the smile of someone passing on the street. It's the chiming sounds of an old clock.  It's seeing kindness in action, and it's a long drink of cold water on a thirsty day.  It's all this and a million other things.

For some people it's animals, for some it is technology, or food, or smells, or popping bubble wrap.

What makes you happy?


Friday, April 26, 2013

'Behind the Scenes...'

I'm a very happy stay at home looking after my babies Mum, but while I was at uni and until I had my little cherubs, I worked in a kebab shop, as a waitress at a restaurant, as a musician for weddings, as a typist for hearing impaired people at a university, as a tutor, as a receptionist, and then as a teacher.

I kind of loved working in all of these jobs.  I really enjoyed working in random industries, seeing how things work behind the scenes!

The kebab shop was my first real part-time job.  I loved the Turkish family who owned the business, and the stories of them coming to Australia and started out selling a food nobody had ever heard of way back then.  I loved learning about their food, and even some of the language!  They made their own tzatziki (yoghurt/garlic) and hummus and tahini sauces in the back of the shop, as well as a bunch of the 'front window' food.  I loved learning how to make all the food, and call me crazy but I loved serving all the customers!  The ordering of stock, managing the hours for the staff, advertising, I found it all interesting to learn about and see happen.  I loved being behind the scenes!

Then was the waitressing job.  Behing behind the scenes in the kitchens, welcoming and serving patrons, learning how the cheese toast came and was cooked (haha - okay, know where I was working yet? :)), staff discounts, storage, refills - loved it all.  Loved working with difficult restaurant-goers to fix anything they're upset about and seeing them leave happy. I loved see the 'other side!'

Musician for weddings was fun, because you're working with people on the happiest day of their lives!  And may I just say that in my experience, 99% of people want to hear Pachabel's 'Canon in D' as they're coming down the aisle.  And you're working with the venue people and the sound people and the celebrants to make sure everything goes smoothly.  So much fun!

Typing was interesting - learning about the support systems available at universities, learning to communicate better with people who have hearing impairments, working with lecturers, that whole academic environment but as 'staff' while I was there as a student.  Interesting and such a fun job!  I also completed the lectures for 2 x human services degrees, 1 x business degree and 1 x nursing degree in addition to my teaching degree.  Impressed??? lol :)  I just wish I could have taken the exams - after typing every word I'm pretty sure I would've passed!

Tutor wasn't that enlightening in terms of learning 'behind the scenes' stuff - it's pretty much what you'd imagine it to be like, and I loved pretty much every second of it!

Receptionist, I loved.  See that quote I put up there? I think I was one of the rare girls who actually really wanted this job lol.  I thought it would be fun to dress up everyday in cute outfits and a hot little pair of heels and go into the city for work.  It was so much fun too - the receptionist sees everything that goes on, and deals with everyone in the business.  The business I was in was media, and I loved dealing with advertising executives who thought they were the most important people on the planet, actors coming in for auditions, kind of famous people coming in for shoots, as well as the friendly camera crews and all the people inbetween.  Fly on the wall extraordinaire - you'd be amazed at what people talk about in the reception area - I guess they all thought I was either mute, or ridiculously unimportant ;)  My boss was a perfectionist, which intimidated some people but if you've met Mum you know I grew up with one, so I was able to keep up with everything.  And I gotta say, the dressing up for work part never got old - loved it :)  I should say at this point that it was only a couple of days a week while I was at uni.  Full time airhead might have gotten boring - but as a break from study it was awesome! :)

And then there's teacher, and I've already written about things on the 'other side' of school - assignments, marking, all much bigger and harder on the other side than I ever could have known!!!

And now I guess I'm on the inside of the 'mum' business.  Where you find out that small children don't just walk out of their bedrooms every morning fully dressed with their hair nearly done, get themselves breakfast and take themselves off to school! - what an eye opener!! ;)

But this job is definitely the most fun of ALL - and I can dress up whenever I want!  :)


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Lest We Forget...

I'm sorry I'm so late to post! - like, late by a whole day!!  Had a wonderful ANZAC Day today, going to a local dawn service (Okay, an 8am dawn service!) and breakfast BBQ at the park, and then spending some time together with our little family - James off work and all (yay!!)

On Monday night we had Family Night as usual, and for the lesson, we talked about the ANZACs.  I LOVED teaching our girls about our country, and about those who have sacrificed so much for us to live in peace in our communities today.

I was excited to take them to a service now that they're old enough to comprehend at least the reverence and respect of the occassion.  I loved teaching them to say 'lest we forget' at the end of the poem.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Lest we forget.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

1000 Awesome Things

For Christmas last year, my Aunty Leah sent me this book:

Not only did I love it, but I was also excited to see that the book is actually based on the blog 1,000 Awesome Things, written by Neil Pasricha and which has won the Webby Award (for the best blog in the world, seriously, lol!).  And it really is an awesome blog.  He's a witty and funny, and each day he posts about one of lifes small pleasures, that - if you remember to notice and acknowledge it - is completely awesome.  From managing to peel your orange in one go, to arriving at your destination just as the perfect song finishes on the radio, to the cold side of your pillow, the smell of a bakery, or finding five dollars in your coat pocket.  There's the perfect mix of  'feel-good optimism' and humour and you often find yourself laughing and thinking 'yeah, I don't know if I've ever really thought about that before, but it is totally awesome!'

Anyway, I came across this TED talk with the author where he tells the story of how his life lead him to start the blog and the success as it all took off. It's poignant and funny in parts, and I really enjoyed it -

So, what tops your list of 'Awesome'?

xo Tammy

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Love and Laughter at Any Age

On Saturday Tammy and I gave a ride home to an elderly couple who had attended a Red Cross meeting where we were.

To get to the meeting this couple had walked, caught a bus, then walked some steep hills for another 30 minutes.

I actually wondered at them even being at the meeting - first, because of their age (I felt curious about what service they could give to the Red Cross?), and secondly, I wondered at them making such a big effort to be there.  It was a de-brief meeting, where we heard about the experiences of five volunteers who were deployed during the recent Bundaberg floods.   Interesting, but I don't know if I would have gone to the efforts they had to be there..

We got to know them a little on the drive to take them home.  Tom was 83 years old and she was his wife of three years.  She had been married before and had five children (one of whom had died).  She also had grand-children.  He had never married before; he had always cared for his parents.

At the age of 70 he was an alcoholic.  Then he met a lovely couple who gave him a place to live in their home when he had nowhere else to go.  They took him to church with them and two weeks later he was baptised - and stopped drinking.

"I'd be dead now, if not for that," he said, but in his broad Scottish accent, that I could barely understand -although Tammy has a knack for that, thank goodness, and was quietly translating some of what he said for me.

"I couldn't understand most of what he said either!" his bride laughed, and her laugh was a happy trill that was glorious to hear.  Not one person in a five thousand has a laugh like that!  She was short and perhaps a little dumpy, and she wore a bright wedgewood-blue skirt and top, with a matching wide-brimmed that she kept on her head the whole time.  Her laugh had youth and fun and sunshine in it.  If that laugh could be bottled we would all be wanting some for Christmas!  And perhaps because she was so good at laughing, she laughed often.  (Or perhaps it works the other way around?)

He met her at church activities.  He rang and asked her to marry him when she needed to move interstate.  "I was more surprised than anyone,' she laughed.  "Now I think of it, he did always carry my bag for me!  He didn't want me to go away without him." 

"He needed you," I said, and she answered, "Yes, and I need him too!"

We let them off at their rented home, him so tall and lanky and with a satisfied twinkle in his eye, and her with her youthful, abundant smiles.

Then Tammy and I smiled all the way down their street, and on our way.

"How wonderful that they have each other!" we both said.  And it really was.

Friday, April 19, 2013

DIY Family Genealogy and History Calendar

We like to give home-made presents in our family each year for Christmas, so have collected quite a few ideas for DIY gifts over past years.  One idea that pops up regularly in different forms, is a family calendar.  I'll do another post sometime, showing some of our other family calendar versions, but this particular one has a  Family History theme.  

Although a calendar about your genealogy can take a while to put together, once it's completed it can be printed off for as many people as you think would like to receive it.  I also think it's a wonderful family resource and keepsake, and the information quite fascinating when it's your family being written about.   

I'm posting about this now, rather than closer to Christmas because you may want to get a head start on collecting and inputting the information you will need, if this idea appeals to you.

This is the front cover of the calendar.  I constructed each of the calendar pages on the computer using Publisher, then printed them out double-sided (a family history page on the top and a calendar month page below), on A4 paper, using our home printer.  I've used protective clear plastic covers on the front and back, then bound all the pages into booklet form using our home binder.  (You could get all of that done at Office-works if you prefer.)  Although it isn't shown on these pages, we finished off each calendar by punching a hole through the top centre of each page to allow it to hang from a hook.

You'll find a selection of free, downloadable calendar templates on the net that you can adjust for your calendar months.  Or compose your own calendar grid using Publisher or another program.  Although I haven't shown any of them, each facing page of these pictured pages was a grid of that calendar month, with birthdays, anniversaries, public holidays, etc, added in.

The facing page for January was this seven-generation chart above: Neil and me, our children and grandchildren, our parents, grand-parents, great-grand-parents and our great-great-grand-parents.  (Sorry about the terrible quality, but I've removed the information about living persons and fuzzied up the page for privacy.)  Where we had photos of our ancestors I have included them, along with the place and date of birth for each.  Perhaps you won't have as much information about your family history as this, but could put in whatever you do have.  It's a wonderful resource to have all this important information compiled on one page.   Although you can't see it here, I also gave each ancestor on the chart their own number (eg our children were all number 1, Neil was number 2, I was number 3, his father was number 4, etc.), which helped to match the people on the chart with the people being written about in the calendar. 

(You can click on each individual page to see it more clearly.)

I played around a bit before I finally determined upon a format for the family history pages.  There were 13 pages to do altogether, because I had calendar pages for January to December, plus January for the following year.  The seven-generation chart occupied one of those pages, leaving me with twelve facing pages still to fill.

Should I just highlight 12 individuals?  Give half a page each to a chosen individual?  You can see from the generation chart that between us, my husband and I have (like everyone has :), 4 parents, 8 grand-parents, 16 g-grand-parents, and 32 g-g-grand-parents: 50 individuals altogether, not counting Neil and me.  Of course, we had a lot more information on some of these ancestors than we did on others.  I could have written a small book on some individuals, but had barely a few lines of data about others.

As I read through the histories of the ancestors I did have some information for, it seemed to me that I was able to pick out distinguishing characteristics for many of the individuals.  Eventually I decided that nine of the pages would highlight the characteristics of some of our ancestor couples: each set of our parents; all four sets of our grand-parents; and three sets of g-grand-parents.  The remaining three pages were devoted to getting in as much information about our other ancestors as possible under the three headings: 'First Fleet and Early Pioneers to Australia'; 'House of Bedwell - Adventurers and Explorers'; and 'Academics, Artists, Writers and Musicians'. 

As a finishing touch I included a list of all the contact details - phone, email and addresses - for all of our (living) family on the inside back cover. Below is a copy of the calendar's back cover. 

It was a lot of work putting this together, but also incredibly interesting and satisfying!  Everyone loved their present, and hopefully we all knew more about our family history by the end of the year :)

How to search out your family history - 

If you would like to search out your family history, you can start as easily as by Googling an ancestor, including all of the information you already have for them. Your search will most likely take you to one of the genealogy sites such as, where you can search further.  FamilySearch is another site that will help you get started.

You will need to verify that you have discovered someone who is actually in your line, by matching as many details as possible - such as the names of spouse and children, before you know for sure it is them.  As you follow the threads you will start to become conversant with various census findings, military records, etc. - and to be honest, you'll probably find yourself getting completely hooked!  

One of the most wonderful things about studying out your ancestors is to find that others in your line have very likely already begun, and you can often find the information they have compiled available on the net.  This means that you will sometimes find many generations of information all from one name.   It's like the best game of treasure hunting you can imagine!  You can't know how exciting it is to track down your ancestors until you have done it!

I know this post began as a home-made Christmas present idea - and seems to have morphed into a post about genealogy instead!  But enthusiasm for genealogy is a side effect of doing your family history that you should expect to encounter too!

So, where do you come from? :)


Thursday, April 18, 2013

"Look for the Helpers"

I loved this quote I saw on Facebook the other day:

I've always been horrified by things I see on the news, and am one of those people who ends up being afraid of everything!

I hear the stories about the people who help, not just in big tragedies but in ones that only affect a small group of people - spreading the word, raising money, rushing into help, diving into fires, lifting cars, to help people they don't know from a bar of soap - and I've never thought to take the comfort I should be in that!  There are so many helpers!  I think that pretty much everyone I know would rush in and help!  How wonderful is that!!  I think I need to try and focus more on that.  People are wonderful.  Thinking this reminds me of a quote from Gordon B. Hinckley (Ensign):

"I see so many good people everywhere - and there's so much of good in them.  And the world is good.  Wonderful things are happening in this world.  This is the greatest age in the history of the earth. ... 
We have every reason to be optimistic in this world.  Tragedy is around, yes.  Problems everywhere, yes. ... You can't, you don't, build out of pessimism or cynicism.  You look with optimism, work with faith, and things happen ."

So that's what I'm trying to focus on - the 'good people everywhere'.

Brisbane flood volunteers, Feb 2011

Firefighters, September 11 2001

Boston Marathon Bombings, 2013

If my baby wasn't sick and crying I'm sure I could find hundreds more examples!! But I need to go :)

"Look for the helpers"!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

One of My Favourite Websites

One of my all time favourite websites is

The blurb:  TED is a non profit organisation whose self stated mission is to 'share ideas worth spreading'.  It started in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from Technology, Entertainment and Design fields, but since then it's scope has expended to pretty much anyone from any field, who has an idea worth sharing.

And these aren't just 'any' people.  These are the worlds foremost brain scientist talking about new discoveries, or  crazy intelligent inventors talking about new technologies, or humble refugees talking about their experiences under an evil regime  or a famous sports person talking about their approach to a famous race etc. etc.  And at each conference, these speakers are given just 15 minutes, on stage, fairly conversationally, to share their ideas or experiences with the audience.

And the website is full of the recordings of these talks. They also have transcripts of all of them.

I don't have much time to sit on TED and watch talks unfortunately, so I admit I'm not on there all that often.  But every now and again (about once ever other month), I'll jump on during lunch or something, browse to a topic that jumps out at me, and spend fifteen minutes learning something new, and almost always, something very interesting - delivered by an incredibly interesting person.

The last three talks I've watched were excellent, and I thought I'd share them with you in case you're interested:

Hyeonseo Lee:  My Escape from North Korea
This one had me in tears, sad and happy.  Such an inspiring story and one that's worth hearing. 
I would definitely recommend it.

Roger Ebert: Remaking my Voice
When film critic Roger Ebert lost his lower jaw to cancer, he lost the ability to eat and speak.  But he did not lose his voice.  In a moving talk from TED 2011, Ebert and his wife, Chaz, with friends Dean Ornish and John Hunter, come together to tell his remarkable story. 
This one had me laughing out loud so many times, but it was deeply touching and had me teary a few times too.  Here is a truly wonderful example of the kind of attitude I'd hope to have if I went through a trial of this magnitude!

Edi Rama: Paint the Town for Hope
When former Painter, mayor and current leader of the Socialist Party of Albania, Edi Rama, campaigned to add a few coats of colour to the buildings in his city of Tirana, even he wasn't prepared for how it inspired optimism in its residents.  In his impassioned talk, he makes that case for hope in politics and the citizens ability to impact change. 
I'm not sure if I'd agree with all of his politics, but I loved this story and the points he made.

As you can probably tell, I favour the 'Human Story' talks over the 'Latest breakthroughs in heart surgery' talks :)  But it's a fabulous site, and I'd recommend exploring it on your own some time.   You can also explore the videos through TED's YouTube Channel, which is another good way to go.

Enjoy!! And let me know if you come across a good one, I'll love to hear about it!

xo Tammy

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Why I Loved Living In Sydney

(Guest post by Bethany.  Thank you Bethy! :)

In our first year of marriage, 2011, my husband and I lived in Sydney. He was in the Navy and posted there at the beginning of the year.

I did not want to move to Sydney. I am very close to my family, and I had lived in the same house for as long as I could remember, been to the same school from Pre-school to year 12, ordered the same thing every time from Subway or KFC or Kebabs or any other kind of take out food.

I didn't like change. I wasn't used to change and I had no interest in building a relationship with it.  And to move to the enemy state!?  Where everything would be blue come State of Origin series?  Incomprehensible.  Add to that that at the time we didn't know we would be there just for a year (thought it would be for at least several) so I was a little dreading it.

But move I did. And you know what? I loved our year there! Yes, I missed my family and the goings on and I got so excited at the chance to see them, but I really am grateful that we got to have that experience. We made some awesome friends, I had a job that I loved, and we had a lovely apartment.

I think what made the difference between our time there being amazing or possibly not so, was the location where we were living.

Thanks to the navy (Robbie was posted at Balmoral base) we had an apartment in Mosman, which is a suburb about 10 mins from the city, and about 3 mins from several different bays. It  was also about 10 mins from my work, 3 mins from Robbie's work, and 5 mins to church. It was a massive blessing that we got to live in Mosman. Very limited defense housing in that area (it's extremely expensive!) and even his friends in the Navy envied Robbie for being able to live there.

Some of my favourite places -

1. Balmoral Bay

My favourite place to go while we were in Sydney was Balmoral Bay. Bamoral was only a few minutes from us and it is beautiful. We would go there a lot. Robbie's base was right on the bay so sometimes I'd drop him off at work and just sit and read there for a while. Sooo relaxing and sweet :)

My absolute favourite view of the bay was driving down the road to it, which is a very steep hill, and suddenly the scene opens up and you can see the blue, blue water, with a headland on one side and a cliff with a lighthouse on the other. This photo doesn't do it justice but I just loved it:

Balmoral is a really family friendly beach and has a lot of great parkland too. It was a perfect place to go for a swim during summer, go for a walk along the sand, or sit on the rocks and enjoy the late afternoon sun. 
This is a picnic spot Robbie and I liked on one of the hills:

I loved this gorgeous gazebo at Balmoral Bay. Sometimes they'd have plays there and people would put their towels down and eat fish and chips. We were there when a theatre group performed 'Shakespeare by the Sea', which we got bored of quickly so we left (after we'd finished out fish and chips) but it was a cool concept and felt really cool to be a part of!

2. Georges Head. 

Georges Head is a gorgeous lookout with about a 250 degree uninterrupted view of Sydney Harbour. You can see the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, Sydney Tower, Balmoral and other bays, and nearby Manly. Absolutely gorgeous on a sunny day with dozens of sailboats on the water. No photos can do it justice. It's also cool because it's the site of the old Georges Head Battery which was built in 1871 and was one of the three forts in the area that were built for the purpose of defending the outer harbour.

I couldn't find a suitable photo of us at this lookout so I've put up one of some friends (hope they don't mind! :P) 

3. Bradleys Head. 

Bradleys Head has this fabulous amphitheater that we happened to stumble across one day. It has large grass spaces and a jetty and you can literally walk into the water of Sydney Harbour. The Harbour Bridge and the Opera House are so close you almost feel like you can touch them. You can also see Sydney Tower and the city. It's such an awesome place to have a picnic! It's enclosed by trees so it feels  like you're in your own private little piece of paradise :)

Please excuse this photo (I was pregnant, a legitimate excuse! Not a good looking time I'm afraid...) but don't you just feel like you're practically in the water?? I remember Robbie did try to push me in.....

And what a cool place to have a wedding!!

4. Being on the Harbour

I went on two Harbour cruises while I was in Sydney, both courtesy of Tammy :)  And though I only have photos of one of them, which was unfortunately a rainy day, the harbour is incredible magical when the sun is out. This is something I would recommend!

SO, if you're ever visiting Sydney, these are some gorgeous places if you love views and the water :)

Monday, April 15, 2013

'The Magic Strawberry Patch'

'What goes around comes around.'

That's a saying my husband frequently employs.  Some call it Karma.  I call it the consequences and blessings of laws that I believe are eternal.  'Just deserts', you might say.

I remember reading a story about an elderly lady who cared for her farm's large strawberry patch.  Her strawberries had well-earned their reputation for being the biggest, juiciest, most luscious and delicious strawberries anywhere around.  The farm where this lady and her husband lived was not overly prosperous and the couple were not wealthy, so the money they made from the sale of the woman's strawberries was very helpful to their budget.

Except that the woman gave so many of her strawberries away!  She gave them to new mothers, grieving families, homes where there was illness, homes that needed cheering up, hungry passers-by who came looking for a handout, and to neighourhood boys who might have felt the need to sneak into the patch if they hadn't been freely invited.

The story was written by the woman's grand-daughter - who felt enormously exasperated by her sweet grandmother's naive generosity and complete lack of business acumen.

"It's all part of the magic," her grandmother would smilingly explain.

Eventually, the farm was sold, that old couple moved away, and the farm and strawberry patch came under new management.  There were plans to finally turn the delectable rows of strawberries into a profitable concern.

When the grand-daughter's family felt a hankering for the familiar taste of those wonderful strawberries the following year, they returned to the farm to purchase some from the new owner - only to find that the strawberries were 'puny' and nothing like they had been.  "I plain don't understand it," the frustrated farmer exclaimed.  He had done everything the same, but was getting only half the yield and nothing like the quality there had previously been.  The strawberries were so disappointing that the patch was eventually plowed under the following year, and the land given over to another crop.

Do you believe in that kind of magic?  I do.  I don't know if this was true, or just a story, but I believe that the principle it highlights is true, even if we can't always see it straight away.

I gratefully acknowledge the amazing generosity of the multitudes of talent-packed Bloggers out there who have shared with me their recipes for rhubarb pie, ideas for how to design our new house, and everything in between.  It's been a great help to me on many occasions.  We're sometimes called a cold, hard and heartless world, but that is actually getting harder to believe - because the world has so many people in it who are nothing like that description!

What goes around comes around.  And thank you  :)