Monday, July 28, 2008


Boys go to Jupiter to get more stupider...

Ms 9 is heading out the door to school this morning, thinking about what to expect today.

"Oooh!" she gasps. "Today is going to be the BEST day!"

"How so?" I enquire.

"Because most of the boys are going to be away at a footy day somewhere!"

She skipped out with a broad smile.

There's not a lot to look forward to at school this year in other ways - ie. in the teacher department - so I guess, as a Year 4 girl, you takes your breaks when you can get them! A day at school with hardly any boys mucking up and being ANNOYING! Yee ha!


Thursday, July 24, 2008


Not too far from the truth.

Today I signed up to do a freebie TAFE course designed to help women get back into the workforce. After all, I'm so on top of everything else I should be doing/should have done, it should be no problem fitting in three days of classes.


Mind you, this is a flexible course, and given my "qualifications", I don't need to attend every subject... I am hoping this might be the catalyst I need to figure out what I want to do job-wise.

I'm experiencing a mild sense of panic about how this will chew into my week - but if I can't manage a mother-friendly, 9 till 3, three-days a week classes, then how the hell do I think I could actually WORK?

[First step - get to bed earlier than midnight? ]

Sunday, July 20, 2008


Vegetation a little off.

Elizabeth's comment on my last post, though intended as a comparison for Canadian snow scenery, is right on the money. The vegetation was indeed a little off. As we rolled into Perisher, Marc and I were taken aback. Stark, stark skeletons of trees. Where were all the leaves? What was going on with the usually beautiful snow gums?

We figured that it must have been the bushfires, but were confused. They were five years back weren't they? You usually see much more growth of eucalypts after fires, up all the trunks of the burnt gum trees, and in 5 years, things are looking pretty green again. I talked to a park ranger a few days later, and she confirmed that it was indeed the January 2003 fires, and while many species of Australian trees regenerate quite profilically after a bushfire, snow gums regenerate from lignotubers underground. So sadly the old growth above ground is dead, and we are talking 'decades', rather than just 'years' before the stands of snowgums have regenerated to anything like they were before the fire. She told me that when she worked at Perisher in the 70s, the trees were still recovering from the fires of 1939.

This picture, of burnt snowgums on the left there, taken as we drove into Perisher, is the best one I have to show the regrowth at ground level.

On our way across from Cooma to Yarrangobilly, the forests of (what I found out later to be) Alpine Ash looked similarly decimated, but with them, apparently, the whole tree dies, leaving new seedlings generated from the fire. [ "Fire kills most Alpine Ash but triggers the release of millions of seeds which are protected from fire by woody capsules high in the canopy.The seeds quickly spring into life aided by increased light levels and the nutrients in the ash bed. Alpine Ash takes 30 years to mature and produce seeds, so fires of less than30 year intervals would kill trees that have not yet had a chance to produce seeds and could result in the death ofthe Alpine Ash forest. "]

[Scientific evidence tended at an enquiry into the 2003 bushfires stated that "for some of the snow gum country you are probably looking at in excess of 50 to 75 years before you will see full recruitment and composition of those communities that existed before".]

While I'm on a scientific educational bent, here are a couple of interesting links -pretty much all I could find online that was relevant. I did expect to find more information out there, and have been a bit disappointed.

The first is a pictorial account of the aftermath of the Perisher fires - only a month later. The areas they mention are pretty much the areas we skied around - given we didn't travel too far from base with the kids.

This one is a longer report, but interesting.

It would be great to take the kids further afield to experience the wonders of back country skiing in the region. (And to areas unblemished by those fires.) I don't know that logistics will allow us to do so every year, but I did read somewhere that the impact of climate change on Australia may mean that in another 30 years it simply won't snow on the Australian Alps anymore. Of course in the meantime, the risk of more bushfires increases.

A sobering and saddening thought. It makes me wonder if we should seize the chance while we can. What is happening to our world?



Saturday, July 19, 2008


There's sno' business like it..

[more to come]

Friday, July 18, 2008


Home again home again, jiggety jig

"Cheers". We're home again! And it's a lot warmer here, I have to say! (Which is very good for drying mountains of washing!)

OK, so we did go seeking snow. Which requires cold. Some might say we actually brought the snow to The Snow, because it dumped in the few days before we got there. (And the first day we were there too, but 'snowing' is not something you can complain about when you want the stuff to ski on!). Given that two weeks ago it was looking more like we'd be bushwalking than skiing, Mother Nature was certainly looking after our interests.

So our whole trip, in the main, went pretty well, albeit with the occasional hiccup.

The highlights:

I found my thin thermal/polypropolene gloves the day before we left! This was good! (I also like to use them under old, stretched gloves for cold weather bike riding.) Then, I was stupid enough to leave them 'for a short time' on the heater, and one thumb kind of ..melted... making one glove unwearable. This was not good. Fortunately I had a few alternatives in the glove department - so no cold hands on the Sunday - just the knowledge that I'd ruined something through sheer stupidity, and will have to source, and pay for, another pair.

After fitting the girls with their hire skis and boots on the Friday, they went off for an hour and a half lesson, while we set out to re-familiarise ourselves with cross country skiing - in our antique/retro/totally out of fashion gear. ("Gee, you don't see those three pin bindings and leather boots these days!") Within 10 minutes, I realised the plastic 'basket' at the bottom of my stocks had shattered from the brittleness of nigh on 20 years lying in sheds. Some time wasted (but only $7) getting new ones bought and fitted. (And the new style of nordic ski boot certainly looks interesting, but still, ours worked. After all, the snow is still the same as it was 20 years ago!)

I had been a bit concerned about how the old bod would cope with the unaccustomed muscle use and exertion that XC skiing is reknowned for - but I didn't anticipate the main problem being my THUMB! Yep. Tracey goes cross country skiing, and her left thumb hurts - from the loop on the stock? maybe? - so much so she can't hold the stock properly by the third day, and the usual jobs done by one's thumb in the course of a day bring tears to her eyes. [I did get a sharp pain in my back too, but that dissipated by day 3, thanks, presumably, to a good sleep and lashings of Deep Heat.] The thumb was just plain weird (and painful) - but even more weird given that painkillers on Sunday night seemed to ease it, and by Monday all was back to normal. Go figure.

We transferred all the photos we had taken - from the netball through to the second day of skiing - onto Marc's laptop, but forgot to delete them off the camera before taking another batch on the third day. To cut a long story short, I queried whether the memory card would be getting full, but realised we couldn't just 'delete all', but Cait kinda sorta accidentally had a BRAIN SNAP and very efficiently deleted ALL the ski photos (despite our conversation) meaning we'd lost ALL those taken on the Sunday. I was just a teeny bit upset about this. We hadn't taken any on the Friday because of the weather, so it meant we'd effectively lost half our ski photos - with, I'd seen, some pretty nice looking 'family snow' shots.

Fortunately my husband is not only resourceful, but techno-savvy enough to have the ability to get online (in a motel - in Gundagai - at about 11pm!) and locate some recovery software. A free trial version showed the missing photos were recoverable - the big catch was that it would cost $40 to buy the full version to recover them. My decision. Was it worth forty bucks?

... I decided it was. I pay nearly that amount per child for a set of school photos that aren't that great. What price do you put on a few potentially good family photos? (I'll get to putting up a few in the next post - I'll mark the ones I would have lost - and you can tell me whether I made the right decision. At any rate I am already planning a large photo frame to showcase this latest family adventure of ours...)

The girls and the whole cross country ski thing? They kicked arse! In attacks of negativity about this whole idea, Marc had questioned the wisdom of taking them cross country skiing. "Maybe they aren't old enough to appreciate it. Zoe is probably too young" - "The age range - 15 through to 9 - won't make for very easy family skiing." Yadda yadda.... Well, the biggest threat turned out to be Alison having a cold, and being understandably a bit miserable - so Marc and Cait skied on a bit further on the Saturday. But we fixed her up (we reckon) with a take-away curry - that wasn't "mild" even though it was supposed to be - on the Saturday night, and all together we covered at least 10 km on the Sunday. Zoe was really getting the hang of the gliding, and I did comment that it was lucky she was a bit slow on the downhills, otherwise I would be the one getting left behind, and that wouldn't do at all!

Alison possibly still thinks downhill skiing is more fun, but the other two liked getting away from it all with the cross country - especially when we got off the groomed trails and cut our own tracks across fresh snow. Overall? I'm very glad we took them.

Our scenic and social detour home was fairly uneventful - though yesterday Cait, quite bizarrely, did have several bouts of real hiccups. They all, of course, proved that siblings will be siblings, and did the usual back seat fighting and bickering - you know, the type that makes parents wonder why they left home at all. - and basically two weeks of other beds, and other showers, make you pretty happy to be Home Sweet Home.

But if you never left home you'd probably not appreciate it as much, would you?

And you'd never get photos like this to put on your wall either.


Thursday, July 10, 2008


Shopping therapy

We're packed and ready to go after an early lunch. The kids have a last couple of hours to play (and argue) with their cousins, and Marc has time to do set up some stuff on my dad's computers. Last chance to use the internet for a few days so I may as well make the most of it.

We've used the opportunity of being back in the big smoke to do some shopping. Like kids in a candy shop, we were, Marc and I, "deprived" as we are living where we do. (Anyone would think we lived out in the bush like Bush Babe! We don't, but the thriving coastal metropolis of around 60,000 that we call home still lacks a bit in shopping choice in some areas.

You guessed it, of course. We're talking outdoor shops! And Katmandu had a sale on! Poor old credit card. We girls are now kitted up with fleecy thermal pants. (Marc still fits into his woollen army pants. I don't know whether to be miffed that he can still fit into clothes from 20 years ago, or humoured that he'll really look the antique part, given I'm sure there are not many people these days, even on cross country skis, who dress like that.)

Marc and I found long sleeve cycling jackets (matching of course). A great kids size polar fleece for Zoe.

Anyhoo... worth the stay (despite the bed...)

So Marc now needs my dad's laptop for computery stuff... so I'll sign off, yet again. Psyching up to head for colder weather - can't believe how cold it is for Sydney. Can only hope that it means it's 'coming off the snow'.. which is what we want, of course, though I wouldn't mind three lovely sunny days!

Ciao for now.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


Reporting to you....

... from my old home in Sydney. We have three nights here at my parents' place - a chance to regroup and reorganise for our snowy mountains escapade. Three nights in a squishy double (ie. not queen size) bed (and how DID I live here for that many years of my childhood?!!It's so bloody cold even on a reasonably fine winter day - and the gravity feed hot water system means not much water pressure in the shower - and *sighs*.....there's no place like home really, is there? Why DO we travel? Home isn't here anymore, unfortunately.

The girls had a successful netball competition, coming 9th and 10th, respectively, in their age division which was within Division 2 (out of 3 divisions.) For each this was out of about 25 teams, a pretty impressive result - particulary for Ali's team from our tiny little netball association!
They played on alternate timeslots across the three days, so we had our work cut out getting from one court to another, and it was pretty much impossible to watch everything of every game, even without going to the toilet and buying coffee! I wore a pedometer each day, for interest's sakes, and I clocked up almost 10km each day!

The girls have seen their cousins today, and Marc and I have been out shopping. We've bought a roof pod for the car - something we've been intending to do for a while - and the purchase at this particular point in time will rescue us from a bit of stress over all the extra baggage we have on this trip because of all the now unneeded netball gear.

A few last minute clothing items required for our snow trip, and we're heading off on Thursday, hitting the snow on Friday. We have our now antique, I am assuming - because they are 20 years old - cross country skis, stocks and boots, with us, and we'll hire all that stuff for the girls. They have had some snow in the past week or so, and more is forecast for this week, so hopefully it will all be just riiiight for when we get there.

And so that's the news from me for now. Better get up and set the table.. No internet access, really, between now and getting home, so I'll be back in just over a week!

Thursday, July 03, 2008


The dog is called Max.

As I mentioned in my last post, we are going visiting - and one of our ports of call is at a friend's farm out the back of Parkes. Needless to say, despite living in 'regional NSW', we are still suburbia slickers (inbetweens, we are, we don't rate as city slickers ...) so directions sent by the friend, who will be at work till 5pm, quite tickled me...

(I've edited out specific roads and towns for the sake of anonymity.)

At [town] ... turn right at the pub .... Go around the clock in the road, travel about 2km north towards [bigger town] .... then turn right into ..... xxx Rd (just before a railway crossing), go about 4.94km, watch out for the culverts, turn right up a dirt lane as the tar bends left after a longish straight. There is a rusty 44 gallon drum mailbox. A km of dirt and you will be at the front gate, it will be locked, key hangs on the 2nd steel post to the right. Wander through the trees and you will be here. Make yourselves at home, door is open. The dog is called Max.

I'm looking forward to meeting Max, and getting an all too brief (this time) experience of life in 'the bush', as well as catching up with our human friends.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


The long way home.

Commencing countdown, engines on.

Commencing panic attacks over the packing, anyway. Leaving Friday, day after tomorrow, expecting to be away 2 weeks, and covering the route which you see above. Needless to say, I won't be around to blog in that time. (Like I was blogging with intensity in recent times anyway... pfffft!)

I plotted a really rough 'bikely' route for those with any remote interest. (Hello E!) Bikely is designed more for bike (ergo, shorter) routes (duh!- BIKEly) so it was a bit of an epic to plot more than 2000 km. (And then I didn't finish it - gave up when we rejoined the Pacific Highway after our big/scenic detour.) Still, it answers Jeanie's question a few posts back about whether we were covering other states on our 'scenic route home'. The answer being 'no' !

Northernmost point is starting point, home. We head south to Newcastle to watch more than 50 games of netball over three days. (This year the girls play alternate timeslots. Marc thinks it is great. I'm wondering when I get to eat and buy coffee!! I am going to wear a pedometer to see just how much ground I cover walking between courts!)

A few days to recover and regroup at my parents' place in Sydney, then off down to 'The Snow' (ie. the Snowy Mountains) - the southern point of the route. I hope there is some. Snow, that is. They have had some over the past few days - so I have optimistically booked cross country lessons for the girls. Two nights in Jindabyne, with a motel night either side in Queanbeyan and Cooma.

Marc is just asking whether I think we should take a camping stove to cook lunches on. If he says "It was your idea to go cross country skiing' one more time, I swear I will never suggest another frigging holiday idea again. I am stressing enough about clothing for all the kids, never mind myself, and wondering why I have these grandiose ideas. Gear and equipment is not my forte, and I'm wondering how I'm going to pull this off.

We are then heading home via Tumut (to visit one 'old' friend and his family), and then up through Parkes to visit another former colleague of Marc's. And then back a very scenic route , apparently, (and a night in an old fashioned pub at a place called Moonan Flat. )

From there through Barrington Tops , for the very, very scenic views (and reconnaissance with regard to camping there sometime) and rejoining the Pacific Highway at a place called Nabiac for the well worn trip back up the highway to home. (Nabiac is where I stopped plotting the route! - because I know the way home from there! Straight up the highway a few hundred kilometres.)

It is definitely a 'for old time's sake' trip - We are also staying with friends 'from years ago' in Newcastle on Sunday night, and having dinner with someone else from 'way back' when we are down in Jindabyne.

We'll also touch on a few places we covered during the Big Rides we did in 2006 and 2007 - so bringing back some memories there (from the comfort of a car!) - but also taking us through a few places the kids certainly haven't been before (and even I haven't.)

Over and out.

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