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Australian Journal - June-July 2003

June 1-28, 2003 - Back to America: Another long pause in the journal - this time because Tim had to make another trip back to the States on business. He had a good albeit busy trip, while Sandy and the girls were equally busy on the home front. Sandy has been continuing to make steady progress on her quilts and enjoys her Thursday quilting group every time she manages to spend the day with them. She finished her Christmas Tree Skirt a couple of months ago, is close to finishing the flannel quilt she started at last year's Quilt Camp, and has begun a new Japanese style quilt using some fabrics she found while in America.

Tim did get some time off while in Seattle, and Boeing provided some excellent tickets for four of the guys to go to Safeco Field, Seattle's new baseball venue, and see the two best teams in baseball play. It was a beautiful day, capped by the Mariners beating the Braves 2 to 1. He also went to the farewell party for a program he had supported off and on for years at Boeing, the Airborne Surveillance Testbed. The program was closed down after 17 successful years, and it was quite a night with 150 Boeing folks and a lot of spouses showing up to celebrate.

One evening while Tim was gone, Sandy and the girls played Memory. At first Sandy said she didn't have energy to play a game, but the girls really wanted to play a game. They looked through the games cupboard and the girls suggested several games that Sandy vetoed (Monopoly, Scrabble, etc.). Sandy then suggested Memory. Clara pointed out that that game was nearly all skill and used your whole brain, so she thought it was strange that Sandy picked that game after complaining about being tired! Hard to get anything by the girls these days! However, they were also very solicitous of Sandy's workload during Tim's absence, and helped out without much complaint, and suggested simpler things to eat, etc., to minimize excess chores.

Clara has continued to work on her big project for the term, which involves studying Vietnam. They also do a lot of activities related to the culture they study each term. One of the things for Vietnam was cooking - on Tuesday (17th), Clara convinced Sandy to stay and help them with the cooking. She had fun working with the girls, and the recipe turned out to be surprisingly good. It was cold spring rolls (soft rice wrapper), and Sandy was rather skeptical. However, they turned out well, and the Vietnamese sauce that Ms. Burgess (Clara's Year 4 teacher) had gotten to dip them in was really good -- it had a bit of chili, but was not so thick and sweet like most of the ones we've had here. So she wrote down all the info off the bottle and will look for it on a trip to the central market. Clara also was selected this month, along with one other Year 4 girl, to go to a science workshop at another school since she is so keen on (and does well in) science and math. Meanwhile, Lucy is roaring along in Clara's footsteps, and is also progressing rapidly on the piano.

Sandy also accompanied the Year 1 (Lucy's class) and 2 girls on an excursion to the Museum and Art Gallery downtown. They mixed the Year 1 and 2 girls and sent half to the art gallery first while the other half looked around part of the museum where there were birds of Australia, and had a small worksheet of questions. After about an hour they stopped for snacks and then went with a guide through part of the art gallery; the guide pointed out various birds and things that people see from up in the air (as depicted in various art pieces). After the girls went back to school, Sandy joined several of the mothers for a late lunch at a restaurant across the street. We had a delightful visit and vowed to do again regardless of the girls going on an excursion!

Thursday was tennis again, and then the weekend. On Sunday, Tim surprised everyone by catching an earlier flight and getting home an hour earlier than expected. He also had the novel experience of missing both the shortest (southern hemisphere) and longest (northern hemisphere) days of the year (he left Seattle on June 20, and arrived in Adelaide June 22, thanks to the vagaries of the International Dateline).

Monday night was Clara's concert at school - this was put on by the Year 3-6 classes. She played in her violin ensemble (about six girls) for several songs. Then, the violin ensemble accompanied the Year 3 and 4 choir--it was fun watching the girls as they managed to sing and play their violins. Later, Clara and the rest of her classmates played in the Indonesian Gamelan Orchestra, which was a special set of instruments (xylophones, bells, and drums) which had been loaned to the school for about 8 weeks. Gamelan orchestras come in Indonesian / Javanese and the Balinese flavours; the one Wilderness had acquired on loan was an Indonesian. The instrument Clara is playing here is a type of glockenspiel called the Saron Barung. The girls in the class played a piece called "The Golden Dragon," which they had composed themselves.

When we arrived and looked at the program, we thought it was going to be a very long night - but the teachers and girls were well organized, and played a lot of songs in only an hour and 20 minutes. However, the long day and the effort of playing so much (concert, practice at school, lesson at school, etc.) showed on Clara, and she was really dragging by end of school the next day. Both she and Lucy were in bed and asleep by shortly after 6 pm. So, we had Clara stay home the following day (much to her disappointment, since it was Casual Clothes day--meaning that the girls don't have to wear their uniforms and can choose what to wear for a day), but with her big sleepover party coming up this weekend, we didn't want her getting sick at the last minute. It turned out one of her best friends also stayed home sick, and once the friend heard Clara was home too (her dad works with Tim), she was on the phone to Clara, and the two of them spent a very long time talking and trading jokes.

Friday came, and with it came Clara's sleepover. She remarked that for a while, it had seemed far off - then seemed to arrive all of a sudden! That's just about how we feel much of the time! She and Lucy were quite excited, as were the other girls coming for the party. 5 Year 4 girls, and 2 Year 1 girls. Clara had done a very large portion of the planning and preparation for this party, and some of the activities includes bowling in our front hallway (soft drink bottles for the pins and tennis balls to knock them over), dancing to Clara's favorite new CD, "Philadelphia Chickens," playing piano, tie dying T-shirts down in the garage (here and here), composing and telling wacky fortunes, and finally relaxing in front of the TV to watch a movie (after voting with secret ballots and preferences, just as with the Australian electoral process.) Oh - and, since the theme was tye-dying, there was a tye-dyed table and a tye-dyed cake (inside and out) as well. Although it is not the Australian tradition to actually open presents at the party, Clara very much wanted to (see here and here - note the very large horse Clara is lounging on - Tim brought back one of these for Clara and one for Lucy from his last trip to America.) All of Clara's (and Sandy's) planning paid off, and the party went smoothly and was fun for everyone. In the morning, Sandy rinsed and then washed and dried the tie dyed T-shirts, and everyone was quite pleased by their efforts - they made quite a colorful bunch fluttering around the house!

On the political front in Australia, one of the interesting pieces of recent news is the survival of Simon Crean, the leader of the main opposition party (Labour) following his initial equivocating stance on the Iraq War, followed by his outright opposition to it. The pundits were all predicting his downfall, and Kim Beazley, the former leader, who had retired to the back bench after failing to lead Labour to a win last time around, had mounted a campaign to retake the party leadership. However, the votes came down in Mr. Crean's favour, and he is still in charge for the moment.

June 29 - July 17, 2003 - Quilt Camp: We recovered from Clara's sleepover birthday party and made it through the last week of school - however, Clara was dragging a lot by the end of the week, having come down with another cough and cold. Tuesday night, Tim and Clara went to a concert-and-band-education night at Wilderness. First, Clara and most of her Year 4 class played a couple of songs, including another one on the Gamelon Orchestra for the Year 4 parents, then the head of the music department discussed the upcoming term, and explained that the girls would be encouraged to take up a band instrument (e.g., clarinet, trumpet, flute, trombone) and study it for at least the rest of the year. This is part of the Wilderness music immersion program, which started in Year 2, when the girls were encouraged to take up a stringed instrument. (However, the music head told us that the string teacher, on her way out, told him not to steal all her Year 4 violins for his band!) Clara was pleased to hear him tell that his daughter had played both trombone and cello for several years, before finally settling on trombine - so Clara feels she will have no problem doing violin - and ensemble - and orchestra - and a band instrument, along with all her other activities. We'll have to see!

Friday, Sandy headed off to the Roseworthy campus again, for Quilt Encounter 2003. She took two classes, both of which involved techniques completely new to her. The first was Barrier Reef Sampler with Eileen Campbell. The course covered the construction of a wall hanging which is a minature pictorial of Australia's Great Barrier Reef, with fish, coral, plants, and animals. The techniques used include basic machine appliqué, 3D and padded appliqué, free machining and the use of heat-vanishing muslin or other iron-away stabiliser. The second class was The Greeting Card Workshop with Alvena Hall. This was a techniques workshop, involving beginning machine embroidery. The focus was on some of the decorative potential of the sewing machine, making quite small pieces which are trimmed and mounted to make samples in a folder, or mounted to make attractive and original greeting cards. The course involves experimentation with appliqué, satin stitch effects, couching, free-hand embroidery and a needle-painting technique. Sandy had a great time over the three days, meeting a lot of friends from last year as well as from her regular Thursday quilting group. This conference / camp / encounter is unique within Australia, and therefore draws people from all over, including Europe. The organizers do a fantastic job of selecting classes, all of which must be unique (never before taught anywhere), and they pick only the finest teachers.

Sandy had a good time learning new methods, and just getting some concentrated time to practice, chat with everyone and see quilts that everyone had made - and especially the opportunity to see quilts made by the instructors, many of which have won prizes all around the world. The campus is just lovely and the weather was gorgeous and so many birds.

Tim and the girls stayed at home while Sandy was gone. Since Clara was still recovering from a cough/cold, they mostly stayed in and played games, read books, watched movies, and cooked strange meals. Lucy and Clara also spent quite a bit of time playing school, animals and drawing / painting pictures. The girls were excited to see Sandy on her return, and to investigate what she had been up to. They particularly liked the marine wall hanging -- deep turquoise water, bright colored fish and coral, palm trees, sea gull, etc.

The girl's first week of school holidays was fairly quiet. On three mornings, Clara and Lucy went to their favorite art classes, but otherwise had a relaxing week at home. Sandy did insist on some cleaning and sorting in their bedrooms, but that still left plenty of time for playing.

Saturday, Tim sat on the judging panel of the Malt Whisky Judging Competition, which is the first official event sponsored by the Malt Whisky Society of Australia of which he is one of the six founders. The event went well, with participation by well-known Australian wine and beer judges, who spent much of the day evaluating 40+ whiskies, mostly provided by the main whisky distributors in Australia. The next major event planned by the MWSoA is the Malt Whisky Convention to be held in Canberra, October 3-5.

Then it was back to work for Tim on Monday, with another week off for the girls. One day they went to the "Maid and Magpie Hotel" for a get-together with about 8 other Moms from Lucy's class, along with their kids. Wednesday night, all four of us went to the Royal Adelaide Showgrounds to hear a talk by NASA Astronaut Pamela Melroy, who was brought to town by the Investigator Science Center. Her talk, accompanied by pictures and movies, fascinated the girls. She has been a pilot on two shuttle missions so far, both assembly missions for the International Space Station. Afterwards, we got pictures of the girls with Pam - here's Clara and Pam; here's Lucy and Pam. (By the way, NASA has a great page here that provide links to info about astronauts, as well as all the missions flown to date from Mercury onward.) Thursday it was off to a stage production of Robinson Crusoe with our neighbor, Donna (originally from Nebraska), and her daughter, Sarah. None of us liked the play much at all, but we had a great time at lunch afterwards and then just playing together. The sun was shining, and we just wore sweaters, so it's hard to believe that this could really be winter!

July 18 - August 3, 2003 - More Sleepovers: The weekend arrived, along with our get together with Anj, Pete, their daughters Katarina and Zophia, and Chris, Jacquie and their daughters Allanah and Jessica. We had a very nice visit with them. Anj made three different and delicious curries, and Sandy took a spinach salad and lemon cake with fresh strawberries for dessert. The six girls were very busy outdoors playing in the cubby house in the back yard. The lovely afternoon was followed by a very quiet evening for us, as Clara and Allanah had a sleepover with Katarina, and Lucy had a sleepover with Jessica. Sunday morning, we picked up the girls, then took a neighborhood walk, taking a few pictures (here and here).

Thursday, Sandy took off to Melbourne with some of the other Year 4 Moms for an extended weekend of theatre, shopping and relaxation. Sandy stayed with three other Moms in an apartment in St. Kilda, about 10 minutes by tram from downtown Melbourne. Thursday afternoon, they took in a variety of needlework exhibits, including a display of beautiful Japanese quilts. Friday, they took a chartered tour of the shopping districts, then, in the evening, they had "The Queen's Banquet" at a Thai / Malaysian / Vietnamese restaurant. Saturday, they had breakfast at a french bakery, then went off to the Queen Victoria Market, followed by the theatre in the evening, where they saw Barry Humphries, one of Australia's icons, in a one man stage show. This tour is expected to be the final makor tour of his career, and is essentially a retrospective of his career and characters (including Dame Edna). Sandy found him to be an extremely effective performer, even though many of the segments required an intimate familarity with Australian life and culture - even to the point of knowing about such things as specific brands of soap from years ago. However, the ladies Sandy was with explained many of the references during breaks, and she enjoyed herself greatly anyway.

Meanwhile, Tim and the girls went about the normal routine of school and work. We finally had everyone well on a weekend, so we got the bicycles out, tires pumped up, and everything re-adjusted, and went for a bike ride around the neighborhood. We don't have as good a place to ride bikes as in Seattle, where we had both a cul de sac and a closed path to the school grounds - but we have a dead end road just up the hill where the girls can ride with some freedom. On Sunday, Tim, Clara and Lucy surprised Sandy at the airport, and helped her carry her treasures home.

This week saw the "acceleration" of Clara's musical activity - she started out in the junior string orchestra early Monday morning (before school), and later in the week, she found out she will be playing clarinet in the Year 4 band (her first choice; her second choice was trombone!) Both girls are also actively working towards their first Australian Music Examination Board exams next term. These are part of the Australia-wide system for developing musicians via a series of increasingly-difficult practical and theoretical examinations. As with sport, the Australians tend to take development of musicians very seriously, and apply a lot of structure to the process.

Saturday, Sandy took another quilt class at the new local quilt shop which just went in a year ago. She had cut the major pieces, and done most of the quilting in advance - this technique involves quilting the fabric first, then appliquing the design over the top - in this case, daisies.

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