January 2014

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After today’s swimming class I joined Astra in the pool and we swam together for about an hour. She showed me how to do the front crawl, as I had never really got the hang of this. And I spun her around and played tag with her and we did a lot of giggling.

Then we walked to the Sydney Opera House, where we were meeting friends. It was a long walk but we had bags of time. So we took a meandering walk through the city and took the time to look at and talk about the buildings around us. Concrete, brick, steel, glass, modern, old, vertical gardens, a building that looked like a castle….so much to take in. Sydney is truly a feast for the eyes.

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We watched a performance artist and stopped to listen to a couple of buskers, guitarists.

DSC01618 (1280x960)On the way we talked about burial traditions, and wills (Astra doesn’t want to be buried because she thinks it is a waste of the earth, so she’d rather be cremated), religions (how do Muslim women go swimming?), cities vs countryside, the difference between cities, towns, villages, high heeled shoes, why the monorail was decommisioned…it was a lovely long walk!


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Astra spontaneously read 4 words en route, words she has never read before – New, Hot, If, Exit. It’s great, the way she is learning, the way the pieces are now clicking into place. 


We met our friends at the Opera House, and queued up to go into Exxopolis, a Luminarium. This is an inflatable piece of art that you walk through, and the light shines through semi-transparent coloured panels.

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Astra started a ‘Swimming Intensive’.  A week of classes, 45 minutes a day, Monday-Friday. It’s a home-ed thing so very cheap, especially as she was placed in the middle group, which only has one other child in it. She is getting a LOT of tuition for the $50 (£25 in old money)!

She learned to doggy paddle and swim underwater last year, and she is keen to learn more. She wants to learn to surf, and she gets that swimming comes first.

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The teachers are lovely, very happy and friendly, and Astra is loving the lessons. She’s been learning the front crawl, the backstroke, and how to dive from a squatting position. I couldn’t take a picture in the pool but here’s Astra on the balccony after a lesson…



After the Monday and Tuesday sessions, Astra wanted to play in the shallow pool. I didn’t take my swimming costume so she went in alone, but she made lots of new friends and played with them. On both days we were in the pool for over four hours. 

DSC01609 (1280x960)Add in the tiring walk to and from the pool, and there isn’t much energy left for anything else. We did have a chat about healthy eating as we ate our chips after Tuesday’s swim. Astra wanted to know if chips were healthy or not, and she wished that ‘everything’ was healthy. So we talked about moderation, as we shared our chips…




Lazy Sunday…cleaning up the house a bit, cooking enough chilli to last 3 days, getting on top of the laundry mountain.  Andy and Astra played – I believe it’s called rough-housing. I walked into the room to see Astra on Andy’s back as he ‘pretended’ (?) to throw her off for points. I’m guessing it was a Pokemon battle. I saw her head come within inches of the bedside table and made a swift exit. Best to leave well alone I thought and contented myself with calling out, ‘BE CAREFUL’, as I shut the door. They both survived.

We had a guest for dinner, a friend of Andy’s. The poor chap has made his aversion to board games perfectly clear, but the rule is, if you come for dinner with us, you have to play a game. So we talked him into Mouse Trap. I was stunned that he had never played it before, but then he is not from the UK, he is from the US. Where no doubt there are all sorts of games that *I* should know about.

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We went to Cronulla beach for the first time. We expect this to be our ‘local’ beach (over an hour train ride!) when we move, so I wanted to check it out. It has sand dunes, and is a lot bigger and less crowded than other beaches. I liked it.

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Astra liked it too, and we all did a lot of swimming.

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It was a very windy day, and the sand was so fine that as we lay on the sand it blew across us. It wasn’t very comfortable, hope it isn’t always that windy there!

We found lots of pieces of pumice in the sand. Initial investigations suggest they could be remnants from a giant pumice raft that was created when an underwater volcano erupted off the coast of New Zealand in 2013.

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Astra wanted to practise some reading so we looked at our Peter and Jane books. She wanted to read the second book (1b), which we got halfway through last time. This time she read it to the end, every single word. She got a bit stuck on 3 words at the end of the book (trees, toys, here) but she figured them out.

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We met some friends for lunch in Hyde Park, and we all went here -

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Astra wanted to pose for a pic with a selection of the letters, then we went in and looked at some of the paintings and sculptures. We didn’t see too many as each one we looked at was looked at for a long time, and thoroughly discussed. There were some Aboroginal grave headers which Astra was very interested in, ‘why would the Aboriginals want to put them in a gallery?’. 

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There was a colouring activity available, to make an American style quilt, and some empty plinths that the children felt compelled to fill with their own works of art.

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After some delicious free scones in the cafe (left overs from a function kindly offered to us), we headed to the Botanical Gardens. Lots of sniffing and running around occurred here.

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Finally, we headed to the inflatable Stonehenge. We had tried to go earlier in the day but it sprung a leak so we had to wait for them to repair it. At 8pm it was at last ready for bouncing, so bounce we did.

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We went to the wildlife centre with some friends. We bought a Merlin Pass last month which gives unlimited access to a number of Sydney attractions, so this was not our first visit. We learn something new each time.


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Today there was a reptile talk and Astra handled some mealworm larvae in the bugs section.


After the wildlife centre, we met some more friends and we all visited the aquarium together.

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Astra handled a shark egg and was, as always, fascinated by the seahorses.


We all headed to Tumbalong Park for some sand and water play. On the way we came across a Sydney Festival installation, the ‘Merchants Store’. We sat and watched for a while as people set their imaginations free and really got into the spirit of the piece. It was fun to see.

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Astra is fascinated by sociology, both at the personal/family level through to countries and governments. Or is it politics? Anyway….I thought she would have fun designing her own country so we started reading this book -


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The first chapter introduced the ideas of seccession and micronations, which intrigued Astra so we chatted a lot about this. Why would areas want to seccede, had anyone done it, what exactly is a micronation.  We talked about Africa, and Yugoslavia, and also the Prinicipality of Hutt River, in Western Australia – a micronation with 23 residents, ruled by ‘His Royal Highness Prince Leonard 1 of Hutt’. What a guy! He has his own currency, and postage stamps, and amazingly, he doesn’t pay taxes! Astra is going to designate her new bedroom as ‘Teddy Heaven’ and first on the agenda is to design it’s flag.



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We did some painting on some pre-printed canvases I’d bought. Astra was very pleased with how accurately she painted around the tiny stars. It took a long time…





3 (1280x960)We have become frequent users of Skype. Astra has made a new friend in the US, with whom she skypes whilst they play Minecraft together. She skypes with her friend in the UK, they have just discovered they can play Animal Jam together and this is very exciting! She skypes with her friends here, when they can’t physically be together. This sometimes includes her friends’ friends in Canada.