Ringing in the New Year!

Our typical Aussie Christmas continued with a wonderfully relaxed Boxing Day at the home of our long-time and dear friends the Hannigans – lots of delicious food again with great conversations and cooling off in their pool.

Reliving childhood – Boxing Day in the pool!

After a recovery day there were more celebrations as it was Sarah’s (our daughter-in-law‘s) birthday.

Sarah’s birthday started here!

Sarah’s favourite gift (which was made by our son Ben) was a wonderful “duck cuddling” bench – built from a large slice of raw wood onto which he had attached four short legs. Perfect for purpose!

The perfect gift for Sarah – a duck
snuggling bench
It’s good for cuddling dogs too
Molly seems to like it.

After gift unwrapping the six of us (our son and daughter and respective partners) went for a fabulous celebration brunch at an outstanding Shakespeare themed restaurant called “Method to the Madness”.

Nothing to do with Shakespeare but lovely flowers regardless!
Inside Method to the Madness
Waiting for brunch to arrive!

The following day we all drove to Alberton on the Gold Coast to watch Pieter our son-in-law enjoy his Christmas gift – ten laps around a dirt circuit in a V8 Race Buggy, followed by a couple of “extreme” hot lap circuits being driven by a professional driver.

V8 race buggies – waiting to be driven!

He was very thrilled with the experience and even managed to get the buggy airborne!

Briefing time before being let loose on the track

In the lead up to New Year our son Ben with Pieter’s assistance, constructed a very mighty and fine fire trailer, complete with tank, pumps and fire hose – an essential item for the New Year’s party as we were planning to have a massive bonfire!

Pieter checking out the new fire trailer

First we had to get permission from the local Fire Warden attached to the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services who came to examine the huge pile of timber that had been sitting in the “picnic paddock” since long before Ben and Sarah moved on to the property.

The mighty trailer ready to go

Judging by the big smile on their faces, Ben and Pieter had had good fun constructing the trailer but even better fun trying it out!

Yes! It works! The smile says it all

At New Year Ben and Sarah and their best friends decided to camp in the paddock where the bonfire was to be. They started making camp mid afternoon and by 5pm a small village had been erected – complete with gazebos, a fully equipped home made bar, barbecue, tables and chairs, as well as fairy lights in the trees and tents set up for sleeping.

Setting up for New Years Eve
Gazebos up
What a great tree to camp under!
All set up and ready to go

As darkness fell the bonfire was set alight and we soon became mesmerised by the flames leaping up to lick the sky.

The bonfire is lit!
Getting hot now!
A fine blaze

The party was amazing! The bonfire was absolutely enormous and there was lots of good music, good laughs and a great BBQ.

The barbecuing begins
The newly made bar (from pallets and packing cases) lit up with fairy lights

Having been in the fresh air for most of the day, by 11.30pm most of us were ready for bed! But we stuck it out and did the big countdown to see in the year 2023.

New Year approaches

Shortly afterwards the non campers headed up the hill to our comfy beds in the house leaving the campers to enjoy the fire for a little longer!

We left the campers to enjoy the fire
for a little longer!

As we made our way back up the hill, I reflected on what a great year 2022 had been – visits to some of Türkiye’s most amazing ancient sites including Ephesus, the mineral rich thermal waters of Pammukale and the Ancient Greek city of Hierapolis; a trip to Konya where we witnessed the strange hypnotic dance of the “whirling dervishes”; then onwards to Cappadocia where the fairy chimneys looked enchanting in the sparkling snow and we were amazed at the open air museums where rock formations were filled with caves that were once dwellings or churches, and then on to an incredible six or more-storey underground city. We slid our way down the mountains escaping the minus six (and descending further) temperatures to the coastal town of Side and from there visited old haunts along the coast on the way back to Didim. After driving from Turkey to the Netherlands in our camper van we had a great time with our daughter and son-in-law. Covid restrictions were then lifted by Australia and we were able to pay a long awaited visit there after two and a half years of not seeing our son and daughter-in-law and other family and friends due to Covid restrictions. That was the real highlight!Then back to the Netherlands, a quick solo trip to the UK to visit family and back to Turkey to sail slowly, slowly, from Didim to Istanbul, once again stopping in some amazing places including up the famous Dardanelles Strait. Later on in the season we had lots of guests to stay (which was another highlight!) and explored Istanbul by land and by water (heading up the Bosphorus). We also visited Gallipoli and the City of Troy and made another wonderful trip to Cappadocia (this time without the snow!). And finally back to Australia again for a much longer stay. What a blast we have had – we feel so very lucky and look forward with bated breath to whatever 2023 has in store for us! Happy New Year all!

Christmas Aussie style

Our Christmas celebrations started in a a truly Australian way – drinks and snacks on the deck of an old “Queenslander” (an iconic architectural style of a timber house with wraparound balconies), surrounded by dogs and horses, listening to the sounds of the Australian bush on a warm steamy night.

Iconic Aussie Christmas Eve celebrations
The horses munched on grass while we ate some delicious cheese and other yummy things
The dogs all had a great time (and loved the smell of the cheese!)

The Queenslander, which is the home of our son and daughter’s lovely neighbour Jan, had a typical Aussie bush Christmas tree – a bare stick from a gum tree – decorated with sparkling lights and with presents arranged around its base.

A typical Australian bush Christmas tree
Having fun catching up with Ben
and Sarah’s neighbours

It was a lovely prequel to the following day!

A very relaxed Hannah and Pieter

Back home later that evening we set the table for the Christmas feast and did some other last minute decorations and preparations.

All ready for Christmas Day!
Hannah made a lovely festive display
on the mantelpiece
Preparing the present game
Everything wrapped and ready to go

Christmas Day started with Champagne and (for some) orange juice and while we opened presents we ate our usual festive breakfast of fresh fruits, pastries and croissants.

Champagne to start the celebrations
Cheers!
A colourful Christmas platter
Fruit and pastries – our usual Christmas breakfast

The grand dogs were very excited as they knew they would also be receiving gifts. When it was their turn they joyfully ripped off the paper to discover what new toy they were getting.

The dogs waiting expectantly for their gifts
Christmas love!
Mine’s bigger than yours! Sarah was thrilled with her machete
Sarah – Warrior Princess
Opening presents

Lunch was a wonderful family affair – the six of us and Jonathan’s brother and sister-in-law, their two adult children and partners and four grandchildren – 16 of us in total.

Thank goodness Ben and Sarah have
a huge oven!
Lunch is about to start
Hannah and Pieter
Our nephew and his son
Our daughter-in-law Sarah with
our niece’s husband
More family poses (thanks to Carole King for her family photos)

Everyone brought something to share for lunch and in true Christmas tradition we loaded our plates full of turkey, freshly baked salmon, various vegetarian alternatives including an amazing stuffed baked cauliflower, gorgeous salads, roast potatoes and much more besides.

Last minute barbecuing
Just two of the fabulous festive salads
More food!
The stuffed baked cauliflower – delicious!

At the table small envelopes instructed each of us where to sit. When we opened our envelopes there was such a beautiful surprise – organised by our daughter-in-law Sarah. We all received a beaded bracelet and a card which informed us that a donation had been made on our behalf to help save an individual wild animal. Some of us had turtles, others had elephants, polar bears and even sharks. The wonderful thing about these gifts is that you can use them to track “your” animal through online. If you’re interested in doing this next Christmas or for a birthday for that hard to buy for person, search here for myfahlo.com.

The envelopes each with a name on

After we had recovered somewhat from our long and delicious lunch we played the “present” game where cards instruct you to open, exchange or steal a gift. The great nieces and nephews did a fabulous job of compering the game, delivering the gifts and keeping us smiling and laughing the whole time.

The great nieces and nephews did a fabulous job of compering the game
Looks like someone took “my” gift
The great nieces ad nephews kept us smiling

Although there wasn’t much sun we still listened to Tim Minchin’s sentimental but heart tugging song “White wine in the sun” with tears in our eyes – just as we had during the two year’s of Covid when spending Christmas with our loved ones was impossible.

Listening to the sentimental but heart tugging “White wine in the sun”

“And if my baby girl

When you’re twenty-one or thirty-one

And Christmas comes around

And you find yourself nine thousand miles from home

You’ll know whatever comes

Your brothers and sisters and me and your mum

Will be waiting for you in the sun

Whenever you come

Your brothers and sisters, your aunts and your uncles

Your grandparents, cousins and me and your mum

We’ll be waiting for you in the sun

Drinking white wine in the sun….”

Unlike the past two Christmases, we had tears of gratitude and happiness in our eyes rather than of sadness and longing. How marvellous it felt!

Wiping the odd grateful and happy tear away

And the surprises just keep on coming …..

After our big surprise 70th birthday party, secretly organised by our two adult children and their partners, you’d think that would have been the end of unexpected but wonderful events. However, the following weekend brought about not one, but two, such astonishing happenings.

Our friends waiting for us to arrive at our surprise party

The first event was one I had known about for some weeks before. I can tell you it was a struggle for me to keep from inadvertently “letting on”! Fortunately, I didn’t let the cat of the bag and the surprise belated “hen’s do” for our daughter Hannah was a huge and happy success (she and her husband Pieter married with only their parents present during Covid).

There were no guests (other than parents) at Pieter and Hannah’s wedding

Organised by two of her best and oldest friends, Tilly and Nina, the day began with a surprise picnic breakfast followed by a private yoga session.

The first surprise was a picnic breakfast
Then there was a private yoga session

That wasn’t the end of it! After the yoga session her two friends suggested they went for lunch. Little did Hannah know that a group of her besties were waiting for her at a beautiful rooftop cocktail bar and restaurant in Brisbane’s famous Fortitude Valley!

Some of Hannah’s besties at her Hen’s lunch
An emotional moment with Hannah’s
oldest and best friend Tilly

The surprises didn’t end there either, as later on, Hannah’s husband, the two of us and some more of her oldest friends, were waiting to see her at another popular spot – Felons Brewing Company situated on the Brisbane River under the Storey Bridge at Howard Smith Wharves.

Hannah’s friends lead the way to surprise drinks with more of her favourite people!
Aww cheers to the bride and groom
Such a wonderful surprise!

What an amazing post-wedding hen’s “do”! Hannah was completely overwhelmed – happy tears were flowing all day and she was just so grateful to her friends for all the surprises.

A truly amazing belated “Hen’s “do

The final unexpected event was one that I had organised for Jonathan’s birthday, not knowing that a joint party had already been arranged for us (and which happened the previous weekend.)

Happy birthday Jonathan!

It was his actual birthday and I had invited a few good friends to a special lunch at Ben and Sarah’s home – including our yachtie pals Mike and Jill from S/V Yantara and one of our Sydney friends, Jackie.

More eating and drinking and it’s not even Christmas yet!

I had done very well keeping it all under wraps until at the last minute I sent a message to our son Ben and daughter-in-law Sarah about sleeping arrangements – completely forgetting that Jonathan was also in the Whats App group I used!

Hannah and Crystie recall their Australian Girls Choir days as they serenade Jonathan

It didn’t spoil the fun however, and we had another really fabulous day of eating, drinking and reminiscing with excellent company.

Cheers ladies!

There were plenty of other highlights sandwiched between all the unexpected events!

Loving the walks on Ben and Sarah’s property

Both the Bookclubs that I have belonged to for many years had Christmas get togethers to which I was invited. Well I actually offered to host the first gathering at our tiny townhouse. Sadly I was so excited to see everyone that I forgot to take any photos but it was a great night despite being a little squishy!

The second bookclub (of which I was one of the founder members) was started in 2007 and now consists of a lovely group of ladies some of which I have been good friends with for many years and others who I don’t know well but are great friends of the members I know.

A lovely group of ladies

Partners were invited to this celebration and we had a fabulous time catching up and amongst other things, discussing the latest book!

Let the celebrations begin!
Checking out the “book reviews” book –
started in 2007

Interspersed with these events have been some great catch ups with friends and family including a visit from our good friends Lesley and Denis who we had known from the time our children were in kindy and playgroup together in Sydney. We hadn’t seen each other for more than 25 years (although we had been in touch via social media) so there was much to catch up on!

A great catch-up with old pals

In amongst all these lovely events we also had some great family times – making memories to help sustain us when we are far apart.

A wonderful day at the beach
It was very windy though!
The waves were crashing onto the rocks
at the headland
The empty beach in the background – we had it all to ourselves!

A windy day at the beach with a fish and chip lunch and the whole beach to ourselves; long walks with the dogs on Ben and Sarah’s property; sunset drinks at their lookout and having goes with the yellow tractor are all things we will look back on with the greatest of pleasure and re-live once again when we return to our wanderings on the other side of the world.

The dogs enjoyed the picnic
Back at Ben and Sarah’s, the dogs doing what they love to do
Wild ducks on Ben and Sarah’s driveway
Fun riding in the back of the ute
Another glorious sunset
Pieter at the tractor controls
Off he goes!
Making amazing memories to sustain us while we are apart

SURPRISE SURPRISE!!

Almost a month to the day since we arrived in Australia, we picked up our daughter and son-in-law from Brisbane airport.

All together again!

This was their last port of call after a three month trip through Central and South America, India and Bali before their return home to the Netherlands.

One of Hannah and Pieter’s many adventures in South America

Their arrival in Australia meant that for the very first time ever we were going to have Christmas with both our kids and their partners!

Our first ever Christmas together

But first there was all kinds of other celebrations to be had – one of them a complete surprise!

Just a few days after they arrived, Hannah and Pieter suggested we drive to Scarborough Beach about an hour and a half’s drive from Ben and Sarah’s (our son and daughter-in-law’s) property.

Hannah on Scarborough Beach

We thought that Ben and Sarah were going for a barbecue with their friends when in fact while we were out they were preparing their house for a surprise 70th/71st party for Jonathan and I!

Preparations for a surprise party
were being made!
70 plus one!

In the meantime, totally unsuspecting, we went for a lovely walk along the seafront at Scarborough the highlight of which was revisiting the gnarled cotton tree “forest” that my kids loved when they were growing up.

One of the pines at Scarborough
dressed for Christmas!
A highlight of our walk was revisiting the gnarled cotton ttree “forest”

It’s a magical place for a child as the branches of the trees intertwine with each other so they can move from one tree to another while their imaginations take them off on amazing adventures.

It’s a magical place!

Of course Hannah had to relive her childhood and climb up into these fabulous trees with Pieter.

Hannah reliving her childhood!
Watching Hannah and Pieter climbing

Later on we walked a little further along the coast, admiring the vibrant cliffs that give the Redcliffe Peninsula its name.

Enjoying our walk along the seafront
The cliffs at Scarborough on
the Redcliffe Peninsula
The deep red of the cliffs that give the Redcliffe Peninsula its name

It was then our turn to take a walk down memory lane – having lunch at the Yacht Club near the marina where we kept our two previous boats – first Sunbird and then Bali Hai.

Lunch at the yacht club

After lunch we strolled back to the car and set off homewards. On the way back Pieter and Hannah suggested we stop and have a look at a vintage car meet (we didn’t realise this was a delaying tactic!)

At the vintage car meet

We all enjoyed our stroll round looking at all the magnificent old cars. Our favourite was a VW Microbus in fantastic condition dating from the 1970s and still with the original decor! Ah, Jonathan and remembered well the orange and brown psychedelic fabric from our youth!

We all enjoyed our stroll round looking at all the magnificent old cars
Some serious grunt under this bonnet!
Old beauties on display
The interior of the VW microbus – still in its original colours

On the road again and almost home, we received a phone call from Ben asking us if we could make a trip to the hardware store to buy a washer as the kitchen tap wouldn’t turn off properly (another delaying tactic!). We ended up getting five different types costing a total of $75!

Ben told us that the tap needed a new washer!

When we arrived at Ben and Sarah’s the dogs came out to greet us as normal and still unsuspecting we went inside. As we entered the hallway I noticed the door to the living room was closed but didn’t think anything of it until Jonathan opened it to big yells of “SURPRISE” and a bombardment of streamer with blowers going off! We were stunned to say the least!

SURPRISE!!!

Everywhere there were the familiar faces of old and dear friends. The room was beautifully decorated with balloons and streamers and there were party lights on the deck where we danced the night away!

Everywhere there were the familiar faces of old and dear friends
It was a wonderful shock!
It was so amazing to see everyone!

During the evening we grazed on lots of nibbles prepared by Ben and Sarah and their lovely friends, and later on an absolute mound of delicious gourmet pizzas of every variety was delivered!

A special hug from our son Ben
Chats round the camp fire

Our beautiful family had also organised a fantastic vegan and gluten-free birthday cake which disappeared fast!

The amazing birthday cake
Jonathan’s brother made a speech

What a wonderful surprise and a special belated celebration of our 70th birthdays last year (during Covid) and this year’s 71st. A massive thank you to our Ben and Sarah and Hannah and Pieter and of course to everyone who celebrated with us!

Has Jonathan got something in his eye?
We managed to blow our candles out! (note the piles of pizza boxes behind!)
Dancing the night away!
We were overwhelmed to find people had brought fantastic gifts!

The following morning we had an excellent recovery breakfast for those who stayed over and then had a lovely walk with the dogs and their friends around Ben and Sarah’s property.

Recovery breakfast
Walking with the dogs
Then they hitched a ride to the lookout
A quick stopover at the creek
The views from the lookout are pretty special
The view the other way

A couple of days later we finally got round to decorating the Christmas tree. It was so special doing this with the six of us for the very first time.

Decorating the Christmas tree
It was so special doing this all together
for the first time
Things are beginning to take shape

It’s always difficult to get into the spirit of Christmas when the weather is hot and the sunrises at 4.30 am! However, with the help of Christmas music, the tree decorating and a few bubbles to imbibe we soon felt surrounded by the magic of the festive season!

Cheers everyone! And Happy Christmas 2022!

Australia delights

Our first few weeks in Brisbane, Australia have been a delightful combination of enjoying the peace and beauty of Ben and Sarah’s (our son and daughter-in-law’s) glorious 100 acre property on the fringes of Brisbane, unpacking storage boxes in our townhouse and catching up with family and friends.

We have delighted in the peace and beauty of our son and daughter-in-law’s new property
Their home borders state forest so there is bush all around their 100 acres
We have spent many days unpacking storage boxes and setting up furniture
We’ve caught up with some friends too

It has been so special spending precious time with our Australian tribe and particularly with Ben and Sarah and our granddoggies and grand ducks in their new home.

The entrance to Ben and Sarah’s home
It’s been so special catching up with them
Reunited with our grand dogs!
….and the grand ducks

We have so appreciated the opportunity to totally unwind from the busy-ness of getting our boat ready for her winter’s rest and to explore Ben and Sarah’s rolling acreage in this really stunning part of the world.

It’s been wonderful to unwind in beautiful surroundings
Exploring the new property
A third dam has been discovered!
Looking down the drive towards the front gate

One of the things we have enjoyed so much is the bird life here. Every morning we wake to a cacophony of raucous, rumbustious, birdsong.

A cheeky kookaburra sits in an old gum tree

We lie in bed with the sun shining brightly at 5am listening to the kookaburras cackling and laughing, the screeching of the sulphur crested cockatoos, the magpies carolling with their flute-like voices, the male whip birds “cracking their whip” and the females replying with three bright chirps, the storm birds high pitched and haunting “coo-ie” and many more squawks, chirrups and melodies from birds we have yet to identify.

Spot the Willy Wagtail sitting on its nest

We have also loved the evening walks, seeing deer and wallabies grazing in the paddocks and the turtles and wild ducks swimming in the three dams.

Wallabies in the early evening

One evening we drove in four wheel drive vehicles with Ben and Sarah and their best friends to the creek to give the dogs a swim.

Friday drinks
Then off to the creek….

After the “wolf pack” had enjoyed leaping into the creek to catch balls we headed to the top of the highest point on the property to watch the sun go down.

…,so the “wolf pack” could have a swim
Then we headed to the lookout to
watch the sunset

What a fabulous view and brilliant sunset!

Such a lovely sunset
Night has fallen
Time to go home!

Most of the many trees on the property are eucalypts but there is also a variety of coniferous trees and when we first arrived there were a scattering of jacaranda trees in bloom – their vibrant violet foliage glowing amongst the profusion of greens.

Most of the trees on the property are eucalypts

One of the unusual things about some Australian eucalyptus trees is that they shed their bark at the beginning of every summer. This seems very strange to people brought up in the northern hemisphere!

Many eucalyptus trees shed their bark

Once all the bark has peeled off, the trunks of the trees are left looking smooth and fresh, clean and beautifully renewed.

Once the bark is shed the trees are left looking smooth and fresh

We have spent most days travelling the 25km to our tiny townhouse so we could unpack the many boxes we had stored in the garage and set up the house to rent out again – but this time fully furnished.

Why oh why have we kept so many things?!

It was like Christmas – unwrapping all the bits and pieces we had in storage for seven plus years but honestly, we wondered what had possessed us to hang on to some of the stuff!

Once we had set up the house we decided what to take to the local “recycling recovery centre” (otherwise known as the “tip”), what we were going to keep in storage and what we were going to take to a charity shop or give to the charity “Bookfest”.

Cleaning up at the recycling recovery centre

In the meantime, I celebrated another year around the sun and had a low key but lovely celebration on the day because poor Ben came down with Covid!

Birthday dinner!
A delicious birthday cake

The following weekend Ben and Sarah took us to a lovely winery in Tamborine Mountain where we had a wonderful wine tasting session followed by a delicious lunch. It was a very special day!

More celebrations!

Ben and Sarah also had a very beautiful but very energetic visitor – a handsome border collie named Jessie. He certainly pepped up our elderly grand dogs who loved playing lots of games and going for longer walks than usual!

Jessie (left) is young and extremely active but learns very fast!
Two border collies together
Jessie enjoying the creek
…..and the big dam

This will be my last blog of the year so I would like to wish everyone who reads this a very Happy and healthy 2023. Thank you so much for travelling with us this year. I have been writing this blog for almost eight years now and it still amazes me that people actually want to read it and from so many places across the world – 80 countries this year which just blows my mind! So thank you everyone and happy travels (armchair or otherwise) for 2023!

Full moon in Queensland
December 1 was so cool that we lit a fire!