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memories

I can already feel the shadows growing in my memory. The moments and memories that I brought back from one of the most amazing experiences in my life are less crisp. As each day passes they are slowly, but surely, beginning to fade.

Moments and memories like this one.

And this one.

And this one.

I’m lucky, because as time does what it always does and the memories from our time in Australia begin to fade, I’ll have the posts I wrote about our adventures and the hundreds of pictures I took, to look back and regain some of the vividness of my memories. These moments and the many others we had will never be gone completely, I’ll always be able to look at a picture or read a post and bring them back.

I want Maya to remember her trip too. She may not remember much, she may only remember a single moment or a feeling. But I want her to have something to hold onto in her mind. The things she got to experience are things that some people dream their whole lives about but never get to do. I want her to have something to spark her own tiny memories, so I’ve decided to make a book for her. I’m working on getting all the posts I wrote about our adventures, along with some of the pictures, bound into a book for her. I hope that as she gets older and she only has some distant memory of being in a land far, far away when she was very young, that she’ll be able to look at the book, read the stories, see the pictures and for just a moment remember how incredible the spring of her 4th year of life truly was.

2 full days and 2 partial days, 2 plane rides and 4 train rides, 3 very tired people, and 300 pictures later and we are back in Brisbane from our whirlwind trip to Sydney. What do you get when you try to cram a week’s worth of adventure into just a few days? You get a whole lot of excitement, adventure, sore feet, exhaustion and pure fun. We may be tired and it may take us all week to recover from the trip but it was absolutely worth it.

5-15-11 Sydney Harbor [640x480]

When we planned this trip to Sydney we knew we were going to have to fit a lot of stuff into the few short days we were there.  Sydney has a lot to offer, there is a ton to see, and we wanted to do and see as much as we possibly could.  I don’t quite know how we did it, but we somehow managed to drag ourselves around the huge, very crowded and busy city that is Sydney to see and do all we set out to.  We had such an amazing time.

Our first day in the city was a short day since it was also the day we flew in.  We had arranged our travel so that we’d arrive in the morning on the first day and scheduled an early check in at the hotel in hopes that we’d have most of the afternoon to explore a bit of the city.  Our plane was on time, actually it was a tiny bit early, and the train got us into the CBD (central business district or downtown) very quickly.  We made our way towards the hotel from the train station, stopping for a quick bite to each along the way.  We arrived at the hotel just in time for our 12pm early check in.  Unfortunately, the hotel was not able to get us or any of the other guests who filled the lobby waiting on their early check ins, into our rooms.  Bummed, we made our way to a park near by and killed a couple of hours there until we could finally get into our room at 2pm.  We quickly dropped off our bags and headed out to make the most of the few hours of daylight that remained.  Given the limited amount of daylight that remained we didn’t do a lot that first day but we did manage to wander around Hyde Park, check out the magnificent St. Mary’s Cathedral and wandering around some of the extremely busy downtown streets.   It was a good first day in Sydney.

5-14-11 Anzac Memorial in Sydney [640x480]

5-14-11 Magnificent church [640x480]

5-14-11 A View of Sydney tower [640x480]

Sunday was our first full day and we had a packed itinerary intending to make the most of our time in Sydney.  We woke early Saturday morning and headed out the door with a plan to head down to the harbor front to check out the world famous Sydney Harbor, Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbor Bridge.  We had discovered the evening before that there was a half marathon going on in Hyde Park and parts of the Royal Botanic Gardens on Sunday morning so we made our way to Hyde Park first to cheer on the runners before meandering into the outskirts of the botanical gardens, along the water to make our way down to the harbor.  As we walked along the water front path we stopped often to admire the views of the water, the city skyline and the first glimpses of the opera house and harbor bridge.  Our walk down to the harbor that first day was beautiful.  Getting to see the world famous attractions of the harbor, the opera house and the harbor bridge was just incredible.  It is amazing to see things you’ve only ever seen on television or in photos in person.

5-15-11 Family shot with opera house and Sydney bridge [640x480]

5-15-11 Sydney Opera House [640x480]

5-15-11 Up close shot of the Opera House [640x480]

After strolling along the harbor front and wandering around the Sydney Opera House for a while we made our way over to the Sydney Harbor Bridge.  We walked part way across and stopped at a lookout to check out the incredible views afforded from being so high above the water.  You can pay to climb up the bridge, and I”m sure it is amazing way up at the top, but it is seriously pricey and they don’t allow young children (they probably don’t allow pregnant women either, but I didn’t check).  We were happy with the views we got from the walkway across the bridge.

5-15-11 The Sydney Harbor Bridge [640x480]

5-15-1 Maya and Lorne on Sydney Harbor Bridge [640x480]

5-15-11 Our view of the city from Sydney Harbor Bridge [640x480]

As if that wasn’t enough fun and adventure for one day we decided at the last minute to check out the Sydney Aquarium as well.  After consulting our map we headed back through the downtown to cross a different bridge into Darling Harbor, home of the Sydney Aquarium.  Our feet and backs definitely regretted the decision later but it was worth it.  We had a great time checking out all the marine life.  Maya especially loved watching the sharks swimming all around us as we made our way through the glass tunnel that runs through the middle of the shark tank.  It was a great ending to a perfect day.

5-15-11 Close up shot of a shark at Sydney Aquarium [640x480]

Monday, full day number 2, was another jam packed day of fun.  The plan for our second full day was take a ferry across the harbor to Taronga Zoo and spend a fun filled day with the animals.  We were up and at ’em bright and early again to make our way back down to the harbor front in order to catch our zoo ferry.  The ferry ride across to the zoo was awesome.  We had heard that seeing Sydney from the water was an absolute must, and it is.  The views from the water of the skyline, the further away suburbs, the opera house and the harbor bridge are incredible.  However, to our surprise the best views of the day awaited us on the other side.  The Taronga Zoo is built into a very steep hill with the entrance to the zoo being at the very tip top.  There are two ways to get up to main entrance, either by bus or by gondola.  We went for the obviously more fun option of the gondola ride.  The views back across the harbor and down on the animal exhibits were amazing.  Even more amazing views awaited us in the zoo.  We saw some amazing views back across to the city from the zoo as we meandered through the animal exhibits.  The giraffes definitely scored the best view.

5-16-11 Family shot on the zoo ferry [640x480]

5-16-11 Checking out the view back at the city skyline [640x480]

5-16-11 The giraffes have quite a view [640x480]

We spent the whole day hanging out with the animals and had a fabulous time.  After exhausting ourselves at the zoo we made our way back across the harbor to get some dinner in The Rocks, one of the oldest areas of Sydney.  We had pancakes to die for at Pancakes on The Rocks a very popular restaurant that specializes in dessert style pancake meals.  I had found this place a few days before we headed down to Sydney and was really looking forward to eating there, and boy it didn’t not disappointed.  Our dinner of pancakes, fresh strawberries and ice cream was delicious.  So yummy, aren’t you jealous 😉

5-16-11 Digging into our pancake dinner at Pancakes on the Rocks [640x480]

Our final day in Sydney was another partial day since we had a plane to catch at 2pm.  We got yet another early start as we wanted to make the most of the few hours we had before we had to head to the airport.  We loaded up the stroller with our bags and headed out.  The plan for the morning was to wander around the Royal Botanic Gardens before heading to Circular Quay on the harbor front to catch our train for the airport.  The gardens were beautiful.  Since it is almost winter here in Australia there weren’t a ton of flowers in bloom, but the plant life that was thriving was beautiful.  We saw a ton of cockatoo parrots throughout the gardens and several trees filled with sleeping bats.  Plus we go to see some more amazing views of the city and catch a glimpse or two of the opera house from deep within the gardens.  It was a nice, relaxing way to end our trip to Sydney.

5-17-11 A ton of parrots eating under a tree [640x480]

5-17-11 The trees at the gardens were filled with sleeping bats [640x480]

5-17-11 Pond with city view at the gardens [640x480]

It may have been a whirlwind of a trip but it was absolutely incredible.  Our goal was to make the most of our time in Sydney and that we did.  We filled our days to the brim and had aching feet and backs at the end of the day as our reward, but we did and saw all the things we intended, plus some.

There is definitely something about seeing things in person that you’ve only ever seen on television or in photographs, things you thought you’d never see in real life. Sydney is a world famous city filled with world famous attractions.  The skyline, the opera house, the bridge, it all more than lived up to my expectations.  I hope that one day I’m able to get back to Sydney to see it all again.  Until then, I’ll hold moments like this in my memory and marvel at the fact that my 3 year old daughter has done things and seen things many people will never get to do or see in their lifetime.

With Maya’s 3rd birthday looming just around the corner and the fact that we’re having such a hard time getting pregnant with baby #2, I’ve been thinking a lot about the things I’ve loved about being a mom so far.  I’ve been reminiscing about all the wonderful memories I have of my sweet Maya.  I’ve been thinking about what my favorite parts of each stage have been.  I’ve been trying to cement the moments into my memory, into my heart.

It comes and goes so quickly.  These moments that make up our life right now, that define us as parents.  They all come and go so quickly that I’m afraid if I blink I might just miss them entirely.  I’m only 3 years into this gig and already some of the moments are fuzzy.  Some are almost gone entirely from my memory.  What will it be like 10 or 15 or 20 years from now?  What will I remember?

I want to remember it all. I want to remember, vividly, the late night moments spent cradling my sweet new baby in my arms while she nursed.  I want to be able to close my eyes and picture her with that beautiful milk drunk look on her face as she slept peacefully in my arms after eating.  I want to breath in and be able to smell the sweet mix of new baby, milk and softness.  I want to be able close my eyes and hear the sweet sound of baby laughter, the babbles and even the cries and whimpers.  I want to remember what it was like to sit and watch her explore and learn and fall in love with the world around her.  I want to remember the sparkle in her eye as she dreams of being a princess.  I want to remember the sweet sounds of her singing songs as she goes about her day.  I want to remember the feeling of her little arms wrapped tight around my neck as she hugs me and tells me she loves me best.  I want to remember it all.  I know as time slips away so will some of these moments, some of these feelings, but I will always, always remember the warmth in my heart that comes from knowing I’m her mom, and being her mom is the best thing I’ve ever done.

Motherhood is an ever changing thing.  We are always learning new things, always growing.  The moments that fill our hearts and our minds are ever changing.  Our children grow up so fast, they change so much before our very eyes.  Yet one thing is always constant, always the same.  It is that feeling of our heart swelling in our chest just at the sound of their voice, just at the sound of someone saying their name.  Even though I won’t remember everything.  Even though moments I want to hold onto forever will fade, it’s okay, because I will remember a lot and what I remember will be wonderful.

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For as long as I can remember these shortbread cookies have been a staple at Christmas.  Every year my Mum would bake at least 2 batches (usually more).  We’d always eat them as fast as she could make them.  They were always the cookie of choice to bring along to Christmas functions such as the church potluck luncheon or our school Christmas parties.

Maya and I made a batch yesterday (pictured above).  Maya’s favorite part was adding the sprinkles :)

Here is the recipe for my Mum’s world famous Shortbread Cookies.

1/2 cup Corn Starch

1/2 cup Icing Sugar

1 cup Flour

3/4 cup Butter

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

2. Sift together the corn starch, icing sugar and floor.

3. Add the butter and mix well until a smooth, soft dough forms (my mum uses a spoon but I often use my hands because I find it goes faster).

4. Shape the dough into small balls and place them on an ungreased cookie sheet.

5. Flatten each ball with a fork and put on the sprinkles (sprinkles optional).

6. Bake at 300 degrees for 20 to 25 mins or until edges are lightly browned.

Recipes about 3 dozen cookies.

This is a great recipe to make with kids because it is so easy and there aren’t a ton of ingredients or steps.

If you decide make a batch for your family let me know what you think.  I can tell you I have yet to find a person who doesn’t like these cookies :)

At this time of year I feel his absence more than at any other time of the year.  At this time of year it always feels like something, someone is missing.  Through all the joy and happiness I feel a tug in my heart.

A little over 8 years ago my mother’s dad, my Gramps, passed away after suffering a massive stroke.  It happened at the end of May when spring was in full bloom and summer was right around the corner, but after the shock of it all sunk in the only thing I could think about was Christmas.  My Gramps is a big part of Christmas for me.  One of my fondest childhood memories involves my Gramps and Christmas. It is hard for me to separate one from the other.  The idea of him being gone and no longer part of that big Christmas tradition crushed me.  And, today, 8 years later, it’s still hard.

For as far back as I can remember my Gramps has been the one to play Santa and hand out all the presents as we celebrated Christmas with Mum’s side of the family.  It was his thing.  We would all be sitting around my Nana’s living room staring longingly at the presents under the Christmas tree.  My Gramps would be standing a little out of the room, usually partially in the dining room with his full head of thick white hair and his handle bar mustache that curled up just perfectly at the ends.  My Nana would finally pipe up and say “Harry, do you want get started handing out the gifts.”  He would smile and say “Oh, ya, you want me to do it, sure.”, like it wasn’t exactly what he did every single year.  He would light up, you could see the pride glowing on his face, as he walked into the living room.  He would kneel down next to the tree and start searching through the gifts.  He would find one for each of us so that we all had something to hold, then he would find one with his own name on it and with pure surprise in his voice he would say “Oh, look there’s one for me.”  We would each take our turn to open a gift and “ow and aw ” over what everyone got, then it would all start over again until the area under the tree was empty and we were each surrounded by that year’s bounty.  I can remember looking over at my Gramps and seeing his face bright with a smile and I would just smile back at him.  You could just see it written all over his face that he was doing one of his very favorite things.

For the last 8 years there has been an empty place beside the Christmas tree at my Nana’s house.  Someone else sits there now, usually someone different each year, but the spot still feels empty.  I love Christmas and the day we spend at my Nana’s is one of my favorite of the season but it is hard each year to realize that he is not there, that he will not be the one handing me my Christmas gifts.  Someone’s missing from that spot next to the tree, but he sits firmly in my heart and in my fondest of childhood memories.

I miss you Gramps.