Friday, 6 December 2013

The holiday we shouldn't have had…

About three months ago, Sham and I booked a week and a half off work. This wasn't with the usual excitement of planning a holiday…. This was the week and a half that included what should have been Hayden’s due date (thank you for the lovely messages and cards) and my birthday – one I REALLY didn't want to celebrate.

We hadn't thought about how we were going to spend it, we just knew we needed an escape from everyday life for that time.

We ruled out going overseas based on the fact that I still haven’t applied for my Australian passport (too much other stuff going on!)… we considered various places around Australia, but in the end, we decided to do something a bit different… we decided on a NSW road trip! We booked some of the accommodation, but gave ourselves the luxury of being able to stop in any of the towns along the way for a few hours or even the night if we wanted to. It was great loading up the car without any weight restrictions… no worrying about which shoes I had to leave behind (I actually only took a pair of trainers and some flip flops as I knew this was going to be a relaxed, no fancy dinners type of holiday), Sham took his golf clubs, we packed the cooler bags full of snacks (including a home made banana bread!) and we were ready to hit the road!

No need to travel light...

The trip officially started on Thursday… and approximately 2.5km from home, we made our first stop… the obligatory road trip McDonald's!

The next stop wasn't for another three hours… we were going to stop at Port Stephens, but Tea Gardens sounded so pretty, we decided to stop there! Thanks to my trusty iPhone, we arrived at The Boathouse Resort. It was 5pm and Stuart the manager was just closing up reception as we walked in to see if they could put us up for the night. He was lovely and gave us an apartment for the night, told us about the local restaurants and pubs and left us to get settled (or as settled as you can for one night…) We walked to the local chip shop and enjoyed dinner on our balcony with this lovely view!

The next morning, after we checked out, Sham repacked the car so that his golf clubs were easily accessible, as Stuart had told him that the local golf course was great. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be – there were no tee off times available until 3pm, and we needed to get back on the road….

Next stop Seal Rocks. A lovely beach at the end of a long, winding dirt track! Worth the drive though! We stopped for a picnic lunch before heading through Harrington to Crowdy Head to see the views from the light house.

We had used Airbnb to book two nights in a town called Urunga - just outside Coff's Harbour. The place had good reviews, but we weren't expecting it to be as nice as it was! 

The owners of a big house had turned their garage into a granny flat for her parents and when they weren't using it, she rents it out... she was really nice and told us lots about the area and recommended a nearby town called Bellingen for lunch and shopping.
Our second day and night in Urunga was a bit of a write off as it rained - A LOT! It meant that Sham missed out on another round of golf, but we stayed indoors watching films and having an afternoon nap... so no complaints from me!
While we were stuck indoors, Byron Bay (our next stop) was being battered by storms and golf ball sized hailstones! By the time we arrived on the Sunday, it had passed, but the locals were still cleaning up the mess.

We stayed in a lovely villa just outside of Byron bay in a place called Ewingsdale. It was really quiet and yet a five minute drive from the hustle and bustle of Byron and the beach.

The view from our deck


We loved Byron Bay so much, we extended our stay there (we were going to do a stop over on the drive back, but Sydney had some storms so we decided to not bother!)

We didn't do much in Byron - walks on the beach, eating lovely food, strolling around markets, a couple of rounds of golf for Sham (finally!) and a few massages for me! It really was a fantastic holiday.

Our drive back as all in one go (around 11 hours including a few pit stops).

Almost 2000km driven (ALL by Sham!)

The night before we set off, I had a text from my boss’ boss:

"Enjoy your holiday and the healing and reflection it brings"... this was the perfect way to describe the holiday I was dreading!

To finish on a more happy note, Sham and I found the winner for our favourite game of "find the funny signs" - what do you think??

Monday, 14 October 2013

Something different for the weekend!

I recently had to go to Perth for work. I managed to time the trip cleverly around an event that we were sponsoring (as Marketing Manager, I get to decide what we sponsor!). The event was a comedy and music festival at Rottnest Island. I charmed the organisers into giving us accommodation and tickets for an additional two people (we had already given away 12 tickets as prizes) and we booked Sham's flight to Perth.

The festival was great fun - we got to see a number of local and international comedians, a few Australian bands we had never heard of, and some Quokkas! These strange looking animals are obviously used to sharing the island with humans, because they were really friendly (not that either of us would actually touch them!)

Our "accommodation" was pretty basic (yes, those are 2 bunk beds you can see on the right of the picture!!!). But it was clean and the location was fantastic. We were only there for one night, and considering we are planning on camping over the summer, this was a good introduction. It might surprise you to know, I was more comfortable than Sham was!

Waking up to this view made it worth it though...

It was nice to get away from the city for a short break and see something new... Although it was a flying visit for Sham as he left on Monday to get back to work while I stayed a few more days to work in our office in Perth.

Friday, 16 August 2013

4 years, 8 months and 11 days...

... four different visas, endless forms, an interview and test later, we are proud to officially call ourselves Aussies!!

Monday, 29 July 2013

The hardest lessons I have ever had to learn

As most of this blog's readers know, we have had a few awful weeks. This post is not about the bad things though... I wanted to write about the few positive things I have learnt during the worst six weeks of my life:

I am the lucky one in my marriage
Sham has been a rock... He has taken charge, organised, planned, consoled, explained and dealt with everything and everyone so I haven't had to. And he has done all this while he was processing and grieving our loss too.

I will only ever be as strong as the people around me
The strength I have been given by Sham, my mum and the family and friends who have been checking in on me almost daily will never be forgotten. 

I might feel lonely, but I have never felt alone
I have been completely overwhelmed by the love of family and friends near and far. The lunches / coffees / walks, the flowers,  the messages of support, the sharing of stories and secrets and the offers of help (and baked goods and haircuts) have shown me how distance is irrelevant and that support comes in many forms, but means the world. I have had seen kindness in people that I have been amazed by - sometimes from virtual strangers.

I have a strength I never knew I had
If someone had told me two months ago what was coming, I would have said that there was no way I would survive this... but I have. I am still having some incredibly low days, but I am also having some good days. And it is those good days that keep me hoping.

I am lucky to be living where I do, when I do
We will always be thankful that we were in a position to be able to have a choice. We hate that we had to make it, but we feel lucky to be living in a country that supports people who have gone through this. I will continue to try and practice the live-and-let-live attitude I was raised with, but I will now appreciate personal choice in a way that I have never fully understood.

There is nothing anyone can say to make it better...
... But thank you for trying. Knowing you are looking for the right words is enough.

As we start living life as it is now, these are the things we will hold onto - we will never take "normal" for granted and we will always be grateful for what we have while we grieve for what we have lost.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Many happy memories for 70 years (mum's birthday surprise)

My mum turned 70 in April and although we weren't going to be with her on the day, we wanted to do something special to celebrate this milestone birthday. A friend at work had recently taken inspiration from this and done something similar for her dad's 60th. I thought it was a great idea and decided to go change it slightly and create a keepsake book.

The project started back in January when I sent an email and Facebook message out to lots of family and mum's friends asking for their help:

Hi and Happy New Year from a very sunny Sydney!
As you may know, my mum will be celebrating a milestone birthday next year. Its looking unlikely that Sham and I will be able to be there to celebrate it with her, so I thought it would be nice to try and organise a special gift for her. I am hoping to put together a book of memories that her nearest and dearest have of her - and I thought 70 would be a nice significant number!
And this is where you come in!
If you can spare a few moments in the next month or so, I would be so grateful if you would write down and post or email a favourite memory you have of the lovely Pushpa. It can be anything - the more nostalgic the better! You are of course more than welcome to send me more than one memory - I am aiming for 70, but would love to have more. If you have any photos that go with your memory, I would love to include them - I will scan and return them to you, or you can scan and email me a copy.
I am sending this to anyone I have email addresses for and will also send facebook messages etc, but please feel free to send it to anyone that you know that might want to send something for this gift - the more the merrier! In particular, I might have sent this to the younger people who I have details for - please can you ask your parents etc to join in too?
Please remember, I am not asking for a birthday message, I need a memory that you have of my mum that will make her smile (or cry) when she thinks of it. It can be in English or in Gujarati - I know it will make her smile if some are in gujarati!
You can send them in the post to me if you would like to send a handwriiten message,or you can email it to me!
I am aiming to have all of the memories by the middle of Feb so that I can put together the book, get it printed and send it to her.
Thank you all so so much for taking the time to do this - I know how busy everyone is and I really appreciate you taking a few minutes to help me put together this present for my mum as I know she will love it!
Lastly, please don't mention this to her as its a surprise! I will write about it on the blog when its done! for those that don't subscribe!
Let me know if you have any questions!
Thanks again
I started getting responses within a few days and after a reminder message, I was well on my way! Fast forward a few months (I left it quite late to start the book... we had a few other things going on!) and voila - look what we all made! I am not putting the link to the pdf on here as this is a public blog, but if you would like a copy, please leave me a comment or email me and I will send it over!

We gave the book to mum after a family dinner during our recent visit to London. I cannot begin to tell you how overwhelmed she was by the effort everyone had gone to for her!

A MASSIVE thank you to everyone that took the time to send me memories and pictures - I could not have done this without you.

Friday, 17 May 2013

A lovely relaxing weekend with a VERY old friend!

Before I tell you about our fantastic weekend in Millthorpe, I want to give you a bit of history about my friendship with Jvala as she hasn't appeared in the blog before, but anyone who knew me as a kid will know of her!

Her family moved to Kingsbury in 1986 and she joined my class (2J) at Roe Green. On her first day, the teacher picked me to look after the new girl, show her the ropes etc.... it turned out that we lived about 300 metres from each other so we ended up being inseparable throughout primary school! We would walk to school together and play at each other's houses after school. I wish we had pictures of us from back then - I reckon we were pretty cute little 8 year olds! We then went to big bad high school and even though we went to the same school, we lost touch. We were in different sets and had different groups of friends. 

Fast forward 25 years and add in the power of Facebook - the only way to 'keep in touch' with 'friends' you haven't seen or spoken to for decades! Jvala knew through mutual friends that I now lived in Sydney and when her husband Terry and her decided to road test Sydney for a couple of year, she dropped me a message to say it would be nice to meet for a drink. The rest, as they say, is history! We now see Mr and Mrs Nolan quite often as a couple, the boys play golf together almost weekly and Jvala has joined in with a couple of our girls nights out. 

So a few months ago, we started talking about organising a weekend away... we were going to try our hand at camping, but the weather is a bit unpredictable in Autumn (not as unpredictable as the London Spring, apparently!) so we decided to play it safe and booked a weekend in beautiful Millthorpe - A tiny town three hours North West of Sydney, close to the pretty wineries of Orange. When we booked this trip, I was very excited about the wine tasting... by the time we went, I was 11 weeks pregnant so ended up being the designated driver! 

The ANZAC Day public holiday was on a Thursday this year so we took full advantage by taking the Friday off too. 

We drove over in separate cars and the Nolans arrived just long enough before us to get the fire going!
The house was sooooo pretty - a cottage with everything you could need for a break from the city - and a few really cute personal touches like his and hers bathrobes, a cheese platter and lots of biscuits and chocolates!

We had planned meals with military precision - dinner on Thursday was prepared by all of us (the boys in charge of the BBQ and the now infamous 'paprika potatoes') and the girls in charge of all prep, salad and indoor stuff! Team Shah did a fry up breakfast on Friday (I actually needed a nap after breakfast cos we ate so much!) and Team Nolan prepared a lovely healthy breakfast on Saturday.

All other meals were while we were out and about touring the pretty wineries of Orange. We did also manage a lovely dinner at Tonic.

The weather was absolutely perfect for us - crisp sunny autumn days and chilly evenings perfect for eating cheese and crackers and drinking wine (no wine for me!) and chatting.

We had taken playing cards and board games with us, but we never got round to playing games!
It really was the perfect weekend of relaxing, eating and giggling with friends and we are already planning our next one!

In the meantime, see you soon London!!

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Three Mrs Shahs under one roof!

Sorry it has taken me a while to write about mum and Sudha aunty's visit - it feels like its been a fairly busy few weeks since they left - mainly because we have been making the most of the end of the summer, rearranging the kitchen and catching up with everyone we didn't see much of while we had visitors!

It was really nice to have them here - there was plenty to eat (and some still in the freezer), they kept themselves busy while we were at work and we got to spend some proper time with my aunty... something we wouldn't get to do otherwise.

They managed to fit a lot in in four weeks - the zoo, the Blue Mountains, Hunter Valley, lots of beaches, a few markets, Canberra, lots of visits to friends and family, LOTS of cooking (and teaching me a few new recipes) and playing cards and chatting after dinner most nights! We made the most of the weekends too- filling them with picnics and shopping! We hope Sudha aunty had as much fun with us as we did with her and she comes back to visit again soon!

Dinner in the sunshine!

Roadside picnic in the Hunter Valley

Sudha aunty walking at Palm Beach

Sham and mum chilling at Manly

Friday, 1 February 2013

A most special dinner!

On Australia Day this year, we were lucky enough to be invited to join my friend and ex boss Sue as she celebrated her 50th - in a LOT of style!

Sue has recently moved into a beautiful house that we are sure she will be very happy in for years to come (we would be!) and she hosted a lovely four course private dining dinner for 14 people. The added treat was that the chef that looked after us is actually a contestant on the current season of Australia's Masterchef Professionals.

The attention to detail on the day was phenomenal and we had an absolute hoot!

I didn't manage to take too many pics as I was to busy having fun, but here are a few... they were taken on my phone so you will have to excuse the rubbish quality.

The Birthday Girl and the Chef!

It really was a great evening... Sham and I are already trying to think of a excuse to host one of these... although I think Sue's lovely house was absolutely perfect for this type of thing. Thank you again to Sue for inviting us and the lovely folk at Evoke Private Dining for looking after us on the evening.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The end of 2012

December 2012 was a blur of catching up with people before the end of the year! The silly season actually started in November with a reunion of ghosts of CMC Markets past and present. My friend Emma and I decided we were long over due a catch up with everyone and set up a Facebook event to try and get some old faces together. It turned out to be a great night with around 30 people turning up and catching up late into the night. Thanks everyone that made it, and for those that didn't, we will definitely do it again soon!

Sham's work Christmas party was at a lovely little Jazz Club on the river in Brisbane this year. As we had spent all of November living out of suitcases while Sham was working in Melbourne, we decided not to make a full weekend of being in Brisbane this year. We arrived at lunchtime on the day of the party and left the morning after. It was, as usual, a lovely evening and it was nice to see some old faces and meet some new ones!

The following Friday was my work Christmas Party. It was very different from most Christmas parties I have been to! We left the office at 10.30 in the morning to make our way to the lovely Clark Island. It is a little Island that's a 15 minute water taxi ride from the City.  Once we were there, we enjoyed a lovely relaxed day in the sunshine: eating, drinking cider, playing games and having a sing along (!)

Kev and  the laydeeez! 
The MOST relaxing Christmas party ever! 
The whole company (just missing two I think)

Our transport
By 5.30 we were back to the city. Some of us did kick on to a couple of the pubs at The Rocks, but after a whole day in the sun, I only lasted until 7.30. I got the bus home and was in bed by 9pm!

The weekend before Christmas was a busy one socially! We headed to Balmoral Beach - one of our favourite places in Sydney for Christmas carols. It was a lovely evening and we got to meet our friend Terry's parents who were visiting.

On Sunday we headed back to Balmoral (told you we love it!) for our annual Pre Christmas Gang Get together. In the past, we have done this in the pub and tried to have a roast dinner - its always been really hot! This year we decided to keep it casual and have a picnic / bbq. This is also starting to be the best thing to do with the gang as there are two toddlers and a baby in the group so we need room for them to to run/ crawl around!

We woke up on Christmas day to hear the rain! It has rained for each of the five (!) Christmas's we have had here, but this one was the worst! It rained the entire day and it was cold (well, it was cold for us!). You would think that the thought of not spending Christmas morning on the beach would make us sad, but it actually felt like we were having a Christmas day as it should be - cold and wet and miserable - PERFECT!
Christmas lunch was hosted by Mr and Mrs Watters again (despite Mrs Watters being nearly 8 months pregnant!) and it was a fun day of eating, drinking, Pictionary and Only Fools and Horses!

We woke up early on boxing day morning so that we could Skype the families... it was lovely to see everyone and to share the exciting news that we will see you all in 2013!

The last major social occasion for 2012 was a New Years Eve get together at our place. The weather was lovely so we had around 10 people over for a casual BBQ and then walked to a park near by to watch both sets of fireworks. We were too busy cooking and keeping the Pimms glasses filled so don't seem to have any pictures of the evening! The highlight (apart from the fireworks) was the quiz that Neal had spent a long time putting together for our entertainment! The girls won (obviously!) and the agility round was definitely the most controversial!

I was wise enough to book the time between Christmas and New Years off. In the past, I have always worked it because a) I never seem to have enough leave and b) I begrudge using up annual leave when no one at work is doing a full day's work! That was until last year! I finished up at CMC just before Christmas and didn't start my new job until the first week in January, so I had two weeks off and it was A.M.A.Z.I.N.G! I did have my aunty and uncle here to hang out with and that made it even more fun, but I had had a taste of having a summer holiday and I think I will probably never go back (until I realise I can't don't have enough annual leave again that is!). 

Hope you all had a fun Christmas and new year!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013


Thank you to everyone who has been checking in on us to make sure we are ok!
The answer is, yes, we are hot and flustered, but no, we aren't in any danger.

This week we are seeing the downside of the single biggest reason people move to Australia - the nice weather!

The crazy weather started with South Australia hitting mid 40s (Celsius) and has pretty much spread across the country during the week. It hit Sydney yesterday. I have just read a headline that says there were 1500 firefighters trying to get 140 fires under control in NSW alone yesterday.

We were lucky enough to be in air conditioned offices for most of the day, although it was still 31 degrees at 1am this morning!

Several areas around the country are still fighting bush and grass fires. It has been really sad to read about all the people who are losing their homes and some even their lives. It felt silly complaining about being hot when in the scheme of things, one bad night's sleep is not exactly the end of the world.

Today, the day after we hit 44 degrees, its a cool 21 in the city - we could be in a different part of the world!

It seems that we probably haven't seen the last of the heat this summer,  though...

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