Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Daffodils herald Spring

I grew up in Perth, Western Australia, where you occasionally saw Spring daffodils in private gardens. The bulbs had to be dug up and stored in a cool place to be replanted every year, so they were are real treat and nowhere near as prolific as here in England! I have been enraptured with the daffodils this Spring and amazed by the variety out there, in the fields, in private and public gardens and by the road.

I now understand why my British friends who live in faraway lands, miss the Spring daffodils so much. I don't want it to end, but the end is in sight, the daffodil season nearly over. Here are some of my favourite photos taken over the last few weeks, from Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and even Hertfordshire. Enjoy their sunny little faces!

UK Daffodils

UK Daffodils

UK Daffodils

UK Daffodils

UK Daffodils

UK Daffodils

UK Daffodils

UK Daffodils

UK Daffodils

UK Daffodils

UK Daffodils

UK Daffodils

UK Daffodils

Tuesday, 23 April 2013



ANZAC Day (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) is the National day of remembrance for Australia and New Zealand and is held on 25 April, to mark the anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli during WW1. Our brave soldiers, landed, expecting to take a stronghold over the Turks, but were met with fierce resistance. Many casualties were suffered on both sides and the campaign lasted eight months. 

My paternal Grandfather landed on the Gallipoli peninsula that day, he fought, survived and made it home to Australia. He died long before I was born but I felt so close to him, when in my late twenties, I stood on the beach at Gallipoli. A beautiful, peaceful part of the Turkish coast. A sail boat, gracefully making it's way across the water. Tears streamed down my face as imagined the horrors my grandfather had seen and experienced. I puffed, as a very fit and healthy young person, as I climbed the hill and imagined our forebears, struggling up that same hill, carrying heavy packs, while under enemy fire. I crawled along the trenches. They were so close to each other, that during ceasefires, the ANZAC's and the Turks would throw supplies to each other, for a bit of variety in their diet. When they ANZAC's finally retreated, they left their provisions for the Turks to find. I will never forget the day I spent there, soaking in the history, the world's and part of my very own.

There is a tribute at ANZAC Cove, to the ANZACs killed at Gallipoli by Ataturk, the Turkish commander of the 19th Division during the Gallipoli campaign. I cried when I read it there and it still brings tears to my eyes

"Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives...
You are now living in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side in this country of ours...
You, the Mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears, your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace, after having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well."
Ataturk 1934

My girls and I have always gone to an ANZAC service in Australia and when we moved to Shanghai, we always attended, with my Kiwi husband, the dawn service at the Australian Consul General's residence. It was one of my favourite days of the year in China. The gathering of Australians and New Zealanders, always joined by the Turkish Consul, to remember our ANZACs. A very moving service, surrounded by our countrymen, women and children, time away from the hustle and bustle of such a huge, foreign city, time to just be Australian and New Zealanders, joined together in reflection. It is important to me that my girls know and remember our history. If my Grandfather had not come home, we would not be here either.

ANZAC Day, Shanghai

So here we are in England for ANZAC day 2013, last night, I had a batch of ANZAC biscuits cooling on the kitchen bench, my daughter was looking at the TV guide, saw that Gallipoli the movie was just starting. We settled down and watched a bit of our history...and a very young Mel Gibson. We planned our own dawn service. On Thursday, ANZAC day, we will head to our village war memorial, place a wreath, sing Advance Australia Fair, we will say The Ode:

"They shall not grow 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"

ANZAC Biscuits

ANZAC biscuits originated during the first World War, when the wives and Mothers of our servicemen, from Australia and New Zealand wanted to send care packages to their loved ones overseas. They wanted to send something that was nutritious and would not spoil by the time they reached them, as this could take months. The ANZAC biscuit is still enjoyed by Australians and New Zealanders, especially around ANZAC day when we pause to commemorate the landings at Gallipoli during WW1.

There are many versions of the ANZAC biscuit, Desiccated coconut is often in the recipe. I have not included it here, as this is the recipe I used when living in Shanghai, where it was nearly impossible to buy!

ANZAC Biscuits

You will need

1 Cup Rolled oats (not the instant variety)
1/2 Cup Sugar (brown or white...doesn't matter though I think brown gives a more chewy biscuit)
1/2 Cup Plain flour

90g Butter
1 Tablespoon Golden Syrup
1 Teaspoon Bicarbonate Soda

1 Tablespoon boiling water

ANZAC Biscuits

1. Put the flour, oats and sugar in a bowl and mix together.

ANZAC Biscuits

2. Melt butter and golden syrup.

3. Dissolve bicarbonate of soda in boiling water

4. Mix it all together.

5. Roll spoonfuls of mixture in hands and place on a baking paper lined tray, allow room for the biscuits to      

6. Bake in a preheated, moderate oven 180C-200C for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden brown.
    Leave on tray for a few minutes as they will be soft.

ANZAC Biscuits

7. Place on wire rack to cool, enjoy and remember our ANZAC heroes.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Guiding the way 4

The National Trust

We intended on becoming members of The National Trust when we arrived in England. After the move, settling in period, trying to squeeze a huge Shanghai apartment full of stuff into a small English house and finding our way around...all the National Trust properties were being closed up for Winter, so we waited for the reopening in March to join.

National Trust

The National Trust was founded over 100 years ago to preserve outdoor spaces and protect them from being built on. They protect historic houses, gardens, forests, coast, countryside and more. Volunteers work as guides in the properties, a font of information on the history of the place. There to advise and protect. Volunteers also work in the gardens and much more. 

I used the online Direct Debit option and bought a 12 month family membership for £72.75, printed off a temporary card and arranged to meet up with a friend at a National Trust property. I found a postcode half way between us, popped it into the search on the National Trust website and chose Grey's Court, near Henley.

On a freezing, literally, March day we discovered a beautiful old building that was lived in until 2003, still feels like a family home.

Grey's Court

Gorgeous gardens and I love a Chinese touch!

Grey's Court

Found some beautiful flowers, I have no idea what this is if anyone can help!

Grey's Court

After many outings to the gardens of Hughendon Manor to walk the dog, I finally got to visit the house!

Hughendon Manor

Inside was a treasure trove of history from the home of former Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli.

Hughendon Manor

Loved the library.

Hughendon Manor

On another unseasonably, snowy and cold day, we ventured out and found the very impressive Waddeson Manor!

Waddeson Manor

Such extravagance. Would have loved to come here for a party!

Waddeson Manor

Beautiful silverware for true silver service.

Waddeson Manor

Tranquil gardens, with scattered, brave daffodils.

Waddeson Manor

On a sunny warm day, when Spring finally popped up, we headed over for an outside stroll around Cliveden.


Stunning buildings against a blue cloudless sky, with daffodils surrounding us.


Beautiful views down to the Thames.


I have a feeling my little family will be getting our money's worth out of our National Trust membership. All of these places were less than an hours drive from our home so we have much more to discover. The National Trust website makes it easy, just put a postcode into the search bar and you will be given a list of places close by. There are many things to do, gardens and  parks to stroll and picnic in, houses to visit, history to learn. The great outdoors with woodlands, hills and mountains, beaches and forests to explore. Lots of outdoor events are coming up for the summer. They have a great '50 things to do  before you are 11 and 3/4'  for kids, free for members if your kids are younger. My teen and tween girls have enjoyed their visits and learnt so much history, It's amazing to be inside houses that are older than our home country of Australia!

Our membership cards were sent in a pack with lots of information, a handbook and a sticker for the car. Looking forward to discovering so much more in the coming months. Reviews of the places we have been to  and those we have yet to discover will come soon!



Thursday, 18 April 2013

Five years of new beginnings and wedded bliss

If someone had told me at my birthday party in October 2006, that I was about to bump into my long lost love, realise we had never fallen out of love, get married and move with my girls to China I would have laughed my head off. I was a happily divorced single mother, enjoying raising my two daughters, working and slowly renovating my house. I had the support of great friends, we all had lots of fun times and they also helped me through some tough times. You never know what is around the corner!

That is exactly what happened, I bumped into a mutual friend I hadn't seen in years, in a shop I rarely go to, he was in town for a visit, his first in 18 years. She said 'he is single...you are single', I said 'That's crazy, he lives in China and I'm in Perth with my two girls! To cut a long, fairy tale story short, we met up with our friends, we reconnected. After many trips back and forth between Perth and Shanghai, where he was based, many emails and Skype calls, family holidays and a 'test' period with the girls in China, That is exactly what happened and on 18 April 2008, we married, 23 years after he proposed the first time!

We married on my Mum's birthday, sent some balloons up to heaven so she was part of our special day. I wore red, the colour of weddings in China. It signifies love, joy and prosperity. My husband married the three of us, promised the girls he would always be there for them and protect them.

Our first anniversary was spent in Shanghai, we had lunch with the girls at our favourite Aussie restaurant, Kakadu, went back to our apartment and sent some balloons up to Mum on her birthday.


In the evening we had a lovely, romantic dinner, just my husband and me with this fabulous view of what had become my favourite city, my new home, the incredible Shanghai.


Our second anniversary was very romantic...a bus trip out to the Shanghai Formula 1 race, my husband's favourite sport. Was a different way to celebrate but we had so much fun together!

Miao Minority

Our third anniversary was even less romantic...My husband stayed home with the girls while I went on a ladies weekend trip out to Guizhou Province for the Miao minority Sisters' Meal festival. A festival of courtship, which was somewhat fitting, even if we weren't physically together.

I did dress in traditional wedding attire for the occasion though!

Lingering Garden

Our fourth anniversary was spent in the lovely garden city of Suzhou for the weekend. We wandered the Lingering garden and had a relaxing, magical weekend together, our little family of four.


We now mark five years of wedded bliss, here in rural England...who would have thought. Looking forward to a nice dinner tonight and an evening to celebrate our lives together and plan for many more years, full of love and adventure together.

Happy Anniversary Honey xxx

Monday, 8 April 2013

Shanghai....A morning on the street

I really enjoy my daily walks around our English village with the dog, lots of fields to run in, fresh air to breathe and a whole lot of peace and quiet. Locals now stop to say hello...some even say G'day to make me feel at home. We walk through fields with sheep and cows and it's not unusual for a horse or two to pass by on the street.

It is now nearly ten months since we left Shanghai and I still miss my daily strolls through my local streets, a totally different experience to rural England. The weird and the wonderful, even after four years I still saw something every day that made me smile, most things became 'normal'! Here are some photos I took on a short stroll one morning when I visited Shanghai in December 2012.

Fan Dance, The Bund

Ladies practising fan dances in parks 

Bund Worker

Guy cleaning a gate with a feather duster...as you do!

Bund Worker

Ummm...you missed a spot!!!

Bund OH&S

Don't have any pedestrian safety barriers...no problem, just use some fire extinguishers and some coloured bunting!


You don't get held up at road works, no barriers here, you just drive around them!


Need a Sponge Bob, Angry Birds or Hello Kitty balloon at short notice, never fear, nearly every road has someone selling them off a scooter!

Chair seller

In fact, you can buy just about anything you can imagine off a scooter or electric bike!

Dressed Dog

Adidas seems to be the sport wear of choice for the pooches in this neighbourhood.

Dressed Dog

It's nice to be part of the 'in crowd'

Dog Clothes

Though there are many fashionable doggy outfits at the local canine couture boutique.

Going Out Pyjamas

Love the fashion, not to mention to comfort and warmth, of 'going out' Pyjamas.

Going out Pyjamas

Nothing quite like getting your morning shop done, the winter chills kept at bay by your quilted or fleecy PJ's! I admit to owning a pair. I admit to wearing them to take the girls to the school bus on freezing mornings in Shanghai. Maybe I could get away with wearing them on my morning dog walks in my village. If Spring doesn't arrive soon I may just give it a go!