For History homework, Connor had to present something from Chinese culture. Being born in the year of the Dragon, he chose to make a Chinese Dragon in miniature, so with a bit of team effort from Mum and Dad in the design department and some bloking up in the shed with wood and tools, here’s what he came up with. As always, click small pics for big pics.

A few of the male staff at work are rocking the designer stubble at the moment. I think it actually started with one guy whose electric razor seized up so he started just trimming regularly with the clippers on the side. Nonetheless it worked for him and there’s a few people being relaxed in their shaving routine.

I have clippers for my goatee, which have an adjustable spacer on them, and the other day when I tapped some trimmings out of it I accidentally knocked it down to the Number One setting, didn’t realise and cropped a whole path through my beard. The only thing to do then was trim the whole thing to one and hope for the best. Then I noticed that was about the same length as the stubble I had yet to shave, so I thought I’d just trim that to number one and join the designer stubble set.

I didn’t mind it although I think Mon wasn’t really impressed. It got worse though. It may have been OK if I’d kept up the maintenance every few days, but after a week or so of scruffy growth, it became painfully evident that there is a hell of a lot of white in my beard. So much for keeping up with the young and cool people. I’m 39 tomorrow, just saying :)

Well my “babies” are starting Year 12 and Year 7 – how the heck did that happen?
Here’s some photos of today, and a comparison with 2006, the last time they were first and last years of school. I can’t seem to find Ash’s Year 7 shots on dig, so will have to try and locate them amongst the actual photos.

I know this will be out of order, but thought you might all be waiting to see how Connor has gone with his lego.

Ta da!

Ash’s 16th birthday
I know this came around just way too soon, but there you go, Ash turned 16.
Again high cake stakes, although this time Jase was the master chef:

It was inspired by her birthday present:

Ash’s party was loads of fun (well for them – we weren’t really allowed into the playroom). There was Twister, dancing and cake – what more could you want?

Connor’s 10th birthday
Connor had a sleepover and it turns out that 10-11 year old boys (and girl) go a little bit nutty under these circumstances.
Thank goodness we have a great playroom and they could just entertain themselves with whatever we have in there.

It was Mon’s turn for cake cooking and she set the stakes high:

However Connor was actually away for his birthday. Cuboree occurred at the same time and Connor, not being one to suffer from separation anxiety (“What do you mean it’s only 5 days?”) went off to Gembrook with loads of other cubs. They came back very smelly.

Whilst he was away we snuck in and redecorated his room. He was very surprised.

So could we be any slacker with posting family events? It’s been a year since we posted and I’m fairly confident I remember several things happening during that time, so lets see if we can catch up.

Ok first for some bleh news. In October last year (which most of you do know) Mon was diagnosed with sarcoidosis. This has kind of held us up a bit because of how tired it makes her, and the cortisone has not been a whole lot of fun. Weight gain, anxiety and lack of body temperature control are just some of the fun side effects. It’s now under control and just a matter of getting off the cortisone (although this will take some time still).

During the school holidays, I was quite busy at work, and was unable to take any extra time off to spend with the family like I usually do.  Mon was working day shift of the weekend in the middle, and like half an hour before she was due to leave she dragged us out to the car to explain how she wanted it cleaned.  I’m like “Are you serious?  I think your overstepping a bit explaining how you want your car cleaned.” But when we got out there to start grabbing some junk out, we find an itinerary for a weekend away sitting on the seat.  Surprise!  This was to make up for me not getting to spend much time with them, and she’d done an amazing job of keeping it secret, including even packing a suitcase and getting it to the car through the loungeroom while we were in there playing playstation.

So off we went, about five minutes later.

First stop was the Discovery Centre, which is a fun science place in the style of Scienceworks or Questacon.  As well as the assorted little science stations, we watched the Explosions show, with a variety of flaming and pressure based explosions.  We were so inspired that I bought a Geyser Tube, a clever device for doing the Mentos+Coke experiment.  We’ve done this at home and videoed it, so you might get to see us doing it at some point.  Also, because we like to chat to people and it was a quiet day, we got talking to the guy at the front desk, who asked whether they had done the Milo Silo experiment.  We hadn’t seen it, and he was kind enough to take us back and show us.  We’re going to do this one soon too, so I don’t want to spoil it, but there will be flames!

The Discovery Centre also has the tallest drop slide in the southern hemisphere – it’s a sheer drop seven metres, you reach up to 40kmh in freefall.

Drop slide - too fast for photos

Drop slide - too fast for photos

Connor had many goes on this

Connor went on this about 17 times.  I got on it, you hold on to a bar, slide down to hanging from the bar, then let go.  Hanging from the bar I pretty much changed my mind, but it was kind of too late.  So I had one go.

In the afternoon, we went to the Golden Dragon Museum. Many people from China came to Bendigo for the gold rush era and stayed, and in spite of 50+ years of the White Australia policy many remained, so the city still has a strong presence of people with Chinese ancestry. There is a beautiful Chinese Garden:


Also Romantic

Inside the museum proper is interesting stuff about life on the goldfields, and the migration from China to Bendigo and Victoria in general. There is an array of amazingly beautiful furniture and household items brought from China. It was difficult to get good photos as you weren’t allowed to use a flash, and we had a cheap point and shoot that we had bought that morning on account of forgetting our camera so hadn’t worked out all the buttons and settings, but we got some.

I think the flash accidentally went off

Ash is not tall, but this bed would be too small for her

Obviously the highlight, especially for Connor, is the collection of Chinese Dragons:

Loong the Dragon

More Dragons

That was Saturday. Sunday morning, all you can eat breakfast at the Hotel Shamrock (hello bacon induced heart attack!) followed by mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral. The cathedral is beautiful of course, the kids were particularly interested in the carved angels on the ceiling, which reminded them of Weeping Angels in Dr Who, but the highlight for me was the pipe organ, which was played just stunningly by someone who clearly knew it well and made fll use of the range of tones in a good pipe organ. I highly recommend going to hear it, although we all highly recommend going when it’s warmer…

Nobody was harmed by these angels

Stained Glass Window and Pipe Organ. Can you identify the people in the window? We only got three...

Last on the itinerary was a place called Confectionery Capers. This is one man’s lifetime hobby, building and tinkering little machines that demonstrate various mechanical principles. It’s in a giant shed, and it’s a whirling, mind boggling chaotic orchestra of motion, toys and vehicles and things on the ceiling all powered off a generator at one side and driving by a network of belts and gears and pulleys and stuff across the ceiling.

It's a dead set madhouse

As you walk around there are also a hundred odd individual displays, where you can push a button on the fence to activate them. This is where Confectionery comes in, as the displays are built with chocolate and lollies and chupa-chups and whatnot. We were amazed by some of the retro chocolate packaging – remember when a block of Caramello came in a bright orange wrapper? So amazed we were, we forgot to take photos of them.

It was great fun to watch

You may have noticed the little items scattered between the machines. The place is clearly designed by a man who believes that too many dad-jokes are never enough, there are literally hundreds of little 3d rebuses made of doll and toy parts, as well as wall to wall puns on cards, chock full of groaners. Click the pictures below to see full size versions so you can truly appreciate the majesty!

Yay Puns!

Here comes the Jelly Bean train

Hi Family!

There were just so many it’s impossible to say what the best were, or to even photograph them all, but here’s a couple that caught our eye.

Alternating Currants

Alternating Currants

A Swing and a Miss

A Swing and a Miss

Afraid Not

A piece of string walks into a bar...

So that was our weekend away. Bendigo is quite big and there’s plenty more to do, so we hope to get back there one day and do some more stuff.

I wore my good clothes because it was a special occasion, and my stole. Mum and Dad designed and cut out the picture of the cup with the host, and Aunt Andrea embroidered it on.

I was happy that people had contributed to such a great mass for me and all the first Eucharist people that day.  I was excited and a little bit nervous.  Our friend Rosey gave me the wine and I was very pleased that she wanted to do that for me.

Lots of our good friends came to the party afterwards.

As many of you know, Mon began studying law last year, through Deakin University off-campus.  People have asked about how her eyes are going with all that reading, how her brain is going holding all that info in, how her hand feels after all the writing and so on.

The real killer though is on the back and neck.  Hunched over the desk perusing case records, academic textbooks and acts of parliament for hours at a time, it’s the upper vertebrae that take the beating.  We looked into what book holding devices are available, but it turns out not much.  There are lots like the recipe book holders for your kitchen that tilt your book up at desk height, but very few that lift the height of the book to an ergonomic height. You can get the excellent looking Levo Book Holder, however the standalone version is ~$450; the desk mounted one was less, but still quite expensive and also it was a several month wait to get them.

So while it can sometimes be a several month wait to get me to make or even fix something, that seemed to be the way to go.  So when Dad was down on the weekend, he and I threw some ideas around, particular the rail and wingnut setup that Dad knew of from my brother Dan’s art easel. We went to the shed, looked at what we had available, then had an excuse for a trip to Bunnings for a sausage in bread some wood and other bits I needed. Unfortunately, Mum and Dad had to go home before we could put it together, but I finished it off today and, well, it works.  There’s a lot more love in it than craftsmanship, but it also didn’t fall over under the weight of the Annotated Criminal Legislation of Victoria, so I’m calling it a success.

It holds heavy legal tomes

The finish leaves some to be desired, but I wanted to make sure it was fit for purpose before doing anything like that, so that any adjustments can be made without scratching the varnish etc :)  There’s a 20″ iMac behind it for scale – as you can see it’s not small but it’s not uncomfortably huge I hope.  You can adjust the height of the actual holder with bolt and wingnut setups, that slide between the rails on the sides.  It can go reasonably high, as Dad thought it could be useful in the kitchen that way too.

Loosen nut, slide up or down, tighten nut. Not complicated!

You can see there where the wingnut has bitten the soft pine, so I’ll get some washers to go back there at some point.

It’s also got some flexibility as far as the tilt goes, by loosening or tightening the rope that binds the front and back legs.  There’s not a lot of range for that though, as adjusting it too vertical will compromise stability – front and back legs would be too close together.  Likewise tilting it back further increases the footprint on the desk pretty quickly.  Dad and I had talked about options for tilting, but in the end decided that it was making it overly complex, especially since Mon had said she wasn’t too worried about that.

Book holder is admiring itself...

So there it is, designed from scratch and custom built for my lovely wife.