Over the Hills (Mts.) and Far (not too far) Away

Lavender blossoms

Lavender blossoms

I took the family away to celebrate Teresa’s recent birthday. I think she turned 29, or so. I rented a lovely two bedroom cottage on a farm for the weekend. We both took Friday off of work to make a long weekend out of it. I wouldn’t tell anyone about the place we were going, so it would be a surprise. We’d stayed at this farm last year, also for Teresa’s birthday, and had such a wonderful time I knew everyone would enjoy going again.

 

The cottage is lovely, set on the top of a hill, overlooking pastures that host a few small herds of kangaroos each night and morning. There were lots of flowers blooming with butterflies dancing among the flowering bushes. To complete the picture, imagine perfect sunny weather and Crimson Rosellas, a large red and green parrot, visiting often.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After arriving at the farm on Friday, the kids wanted to get right to feeding the farm animals and liberating eggs from the chickens in the coop.

 

Do, a deer, a...

Do, a deer, a…

Donkeys at Duckmaloi Farm

Donkeys at Duckmaloi Farm

Pigs are cool!

Pigs are cool!

Brian with the bunnies

Brian with the bunnies

Brian, the chicken man!

Brian, the chicken man!

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Crimson Rosella

Crimson Rosella

Crimson Rosella in flight

Crimson Rosella in flight

Butterfly!

Butterfly!

One of many beautiful flowers on the farm

One of many beautiful flowers on the farm

Wildflower

Wildflower

 

The next morning after a yummy breakfast of cinnamon French Toast and bacon, we once again fed the critters and after lunch we drove north a bit (40 minutes) to a place called Owens Crown Reserve. Here a small mountain rises out of the surrounding farm lands, topped by huge granite boulders. We had a lovely hike up the trail, playing in some caves and doing lots of climbing on the giant boulders.

Beginning the hike

Beginning the hike

The Rooney Dudes on Owens Crown

The Rooney Dudes on Owens Crown

 

When we reached the top, or at least where most people stop, Heather and I found a natural chimney we could climb up and we got to the true top of the rock dome for the peak we were on. Heather did awesome, as usual, and made me proud with her daring tinged with caution. She’s adventurous and smart, a good combination.

Heather and I after climbing u

Heather and I at the top after climbing up a natural chimney.

Teresa and Heather near the top of Owens Crown

Teresa and Heather near the top of Owens Crown

The beautiful birthday girl on Owens Crown lookout

The beautiful birthday girl on Owens Crown lookout

Cool tunnel to a lookout

Cool tunnel to a lookout

Teresa at Owens Crown

Teresa at Owens Crown

Heather leading the climb of Owens Crown

Heather leading the climb of Owens Crown

Heather heading up the trail

Heather heading up the trail

Natural Beauty at Owens Crown

Natural Beauty at Owens Crown

Bouldering on Owens Crown

Bouldering on Owens Crown

Me and the kids on Owens Crown

Cool rocks

A helping hand from Mummy

C’mon Mum!

 

Family snap up on Owens Crown

Family snap up on Owens Crown

 

On Sunday, after a very yummy breakfast of my blueberry pancakes (from scratch) and bacon (again!) we packed up and drove down to Jenolan Caves. Jenolan has some amazing cave tours, playing host to incredible limestone formations and crystal wonders. On this day we chose not to go on the guided cave tours, instead opting to just explore the grounds. There are a few large caverns you can walk through and the kids and I found a few tunnels we could explore. That was a good adventure, even having to get on my belly to wiggle through a small restriction in one tunnel, which then opened back up to a stand up cave again. After we came back out of there, I was poking my head in other small openings looking for another adventure when I found a large common wombat sleeping in a cave, just a short way in. All four of us were very excited to find it and managed to wake him up with our lights. It was nearly time for him to get up, anyway. He seemed to settle back down and made no move to leave his spot as we headed away from him, towards the blue lake.

Heather and Mum at Jenolan Caves

Teresa and Heather heading through a cave at Jenolan

Wildflowers at Jenolan Caves

A Common Wombat (very cool) we found while exploring some caves and tunnels at Jenolan

A Wombat (very cool and the size of a large pig) we found while exploring some caves and tunnels at Jenolan

A large cavern at Jenolan Caves

A large cavern at Jenolan Caves

A cave that Heather, Brian and I explored

A cave that Heather, Brian and I explored

Brian at Jenolan Caves

Brian at Jenolan Caves

Looking out of the Devils Coach House, an immense cavern at Jenolan Caves

Looking out of the Devils Coach House, an immense cavern at Jenolan Caves

We stayed here a few years back when Heather was two or three. She totally loved these statues in Cave House, the hotel at Jenolan. We asked her to give them a cuddle for old times sake. Naturally Brian got into it as well.

Brian cuddling a statue

Heather cuddling a statue. My how she's grown. We came here when Heather was two and she LOVED these statues.

Heather cuddling a statue. My how she’s grown. We came here when Heather was two and she LOVED these statues.

 

The Blue Lake at Jenolan is a wonder in itself. The water is a shocking blue that you wouldn’t expect to find in a small, cold mountain lake. It’s like that from minerals carried into the water and give it a magical look, with palm trees and tree ferns sharing it’s shores with gum trees.

The stunningly beautiful Blue Lake at Jenolan Caves

The stunningly beautiful Blue Lake at Jenolan Caves

Another pic of the amazing Blue Lake

Another pic of the amazing Blue Lake

Heather by the Blue Lake

Heather by the Blue Lake

Blue Lake and caverns

Blue Lake and caverns

We hiked along a trail that skirts the crystal clear blue lake. You’re not allowed to swim in the lake, which is so tempting as you walk along it’s shore in the heat, looking down into the clear turquoise water. Past the lake there is a dam with lots of water falling down it into a swift flowing river about ten feet across. The land continues to fall as you hike along the river hugging trail so there are lots of small cascades and pools. Heather and I got into the first one we could to cool off, and did we ever! It was like being in a walk in freezer. So, we quickly cooled off and continued along the trail, passing the bridge where most people, unfortunately for them, turn around and head back along the other side to the Blue Lake. Just a minute or two past the bridge is a lovely waterfall.

Waterfall at Jenolan Caves River Walk

Waterfall at Jenolan Caves River Walk

At the pool for the waterfall, another hiker pointed out a snake necked turtle on the land near the waters edge. We all enjoyed a good look at it before he slipped into the water, where it hung out next to a rock.

Being a waterfall, I did what I always do, namely, getting my head under the cascade. I talked Heather into swimming (riding on my back really) across the deep pool to get us under the waterfall.

Hi Everybody!

Hi Everybody!

Heather and I going under the falls

Heather and I going under the falls

Heather and I getting under the cascade

Heather and I getting under the cascade

After we climbed out to warm up in the sun, I noticed a set of steps cut into the rock on the other side of the river. Heather and I climbed up and carefully made our way to the top of the waterfall. Upon noticing that this would be an awesome place to jump into the water I suggested doing that to Heather. I wasn’t entirely sure if we could do it safely as the you’d need to jump out a bit to land safely in the water and Heather, being just recently 7, has never done anything like this. We scooted down the rocks a bit and I let Heather convince me that she could it safely. So, holding hands we counted to 3 and jumped out together and dropped into the clear, cold water 10 feet below us. We were both thrilled and excited and did it a second time as well, while Brian cheered us on from the shore. He wanted to do it, too, but he can’t really swim yet and going underwater isn’t exactly his thing yet. Maybe next year.   :)

 

Heather’s first waterfall jump! from Paul Rooney on Vimeo.

The trip was enjoyed by one and all and has provided us more enduring happy memories. If you’re still reading this, I’m happy that I was able to share a taste of what it was like.
Here’s a video of some of the fun things we did:

Teresa’s Birthday Weekend – 2014 from Paul Rooney on Vimeo.

For Teresa's birthday, I took her and the kids to a lovely farm stay on the other side of the Blue Mountains. In addition to feeding the animals at the farm, we also drove up to Owens Crown for a hike up a mountain and some bouldering. On our way home we stopped at Jenolan Caves where we explored some small tunnels on our own and hiked along the river that comes from the Blue Lake and Heather and I swam in a waterfall and jumped off the rocks into it's plunge pool.

 

Love to all!

Cheers,

Paul

Aussie Halloween Celebration – 2014

Well, another wildly successful Halloween party is in the books. 30 children attended this year, with thier parents. Some returned  from years before and others, we’ve now  introduced to some of the joys of celebrating Halloween.

This was the first year that Brian invited his classmates from daycare. Heather chose to invite classmates from her kindy class last year, along with her year one classmates. I had to limit her to 8 children from each class to keep the party from becoming unmanagable.

Everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves, with lots of fun, a few frights, heaps of good food and drink and excellent company.

Not everyone who was invited was able to attend, which is probably a good thing! It was a bit chaotic at times, and organizing the games with 30 kids was like herding cats. Teresa and I are both moderately wiped out now and our home is in desperate need of carpet cleaning and the terrace needs a good scrubbing. Apart from that, we’re in good shape. We’ve still got a bunch of decorations up, but that’s cool as Halloween night is coming up this Friday.

I think I outdid myself with the party decorations this year. As I do each year, I’d been prowling the shops for Halloween decorations for the past few weeks, adding to our ever growing collection.

I had two major additions to our party experience for this year. First, I built a Bat Toss game, where you throw balls with bat wings through the mouths of jack-o-lanterns that I painted on a sheet of mdf. That seemed to go over pretty well.

The biggest addition was my idea of turning Heather and Brian’s room into a Haunted House. To accomplish that, I built an entrance into the room in the shape of witches house that I wedged securely into the sliding glass door from the terrace into their room. The room was blacked out and cleared out as much as possible, with Brians bed going up on top of Heathers upper bunk bed. I made a stuffed person sitting on a chair under Heathers bed, complete with a talking skull with light up eyes that I recorded the voice and laughter for. The rest of the room was populated by a myriad of animated or light up Halloween creatures, skulls and the like. Top that off with a sound system running scary sounds and just add children to complete the magic. The kids absolutely loved it and spend a lot of time going in and out of the Haunted House. I think it turned out well and most importantly Heather and Brian loved it too.

Getting ready for Halloween from Paul Rooney on Vimeo.

Here’s how our place looked just before the guests arrived for our annual Halloween party.

A few minor disappointments and issues led to lessons learned for next years party. Firstly, we need to make sure to put our correct address on the invitiations. I went a little dsylexic on our street address, transposing two numbers. This led to a number of families, all in costume, turning up to an old lady’s house up the road. I’ll need to bring her some flowers or something, to make up for the disturbance I caused to her Sunday afternoon. Thankfully, as I put orange and black balloons out front the people managed to find us regardless.

Another lesson learned is to post a large schedule of events out on the terrace. With all that was going on, I completely forgot about doing bobbing for apples that we were all setup for. Maybe I’ll make an apple pie with the leftovers.

The piñata was too heavily laden with lollies, as it came crashing down early on. Next year, I’ll let all the little ones have a go at the piñata before any of the big kids have at it, aside from Heather.

Heather and Brian had a blast and people are still letting us know what a great time they had, so all the time spent getting ready for it was worth it.

Here are some pics from the day, Enjoy!

Love to all,
Paul

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Super family! The little guy in his mum’s arms put on his superman costume once he warmed up to the situation.

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Awesome costumes!

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 Vamping it up.

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Teresa amazed everyone with her incredible Graveyard birthday cake for Heather. It was yummy and moist too! I had seconds. :)

 

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Heather and her friend, Gracie.

 

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Pumpkin carving newbies getting into the spirit!

 

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Brian’s friend Chloe with a baby jack-o-lantern.

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Heather cheering on our friend, Christian as he takes a swing at the pinata. That’s me in the skeleton costume with him.

 

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Brian having a bash at the pinata with me close by.

 

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Heather has a bash at it.

 

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Group photo time! I went around the house herding everyone out to the group photo. Another lesson learned, next year, make sure that Teresa and Brian are in the picture too! Teresa was helping Brian put his costume back on after going to the toilet. Oops! Sorry you guys! I’ll try to photoshop you two in retrospectively.  We had some more people turn up just as we were taking this, too.

 

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Pin the eye on the monster. A perennial favorite.

 

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Teresa leading some of the early arrivers in a Halloween craft project.

 

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Happy Halloween one and all!

 

 

 

Wilderness, Waterfalls and Family Fun

On Sunday, the Rooney family headed up to the Blue Mountains for a lovely day along the National Pass hiking trail. The day was sunny and warm as Heather, Brian, Teresa and I set out for our bushwalk.

National Pass is a glorious hike through beautiful bushland with breathtaking views across the Jamison valley. As you look over the valley you see the blue mist that hangs in the valley created by Eucalyptus oil vaporizing from the all the gum trees. The trail descends along Empress Falls, then Sylvia Falls and Lodore Falls. The trail then hugs the middle of the escarpment, or cliff face, about half way to the valley floor as it heads over to Wentworth Falls.

At the intersection with Wentworth Falls, Heather and I went under one of the cascades for a very refreshing experience. As it’s Springtime here, the water was extremely refreshing. As cold as it was, Heather was game for multiple dunks under the falls. Brian decided to watch from the rocks with Teresa. After a lovely dip and some sandwiches and snacks we headed up the track, climbing some very steep stairs bolted to the cliff face. The afternoon sun was, for me, a welcome relief, as it beat down on us, drying out my soaking wet hiking shorts.

Near the top, the trail crosses Queens cascade, a wide. short waterfall with a sandy beach surrounding it. This is a popular place to take a dip in the Summer. Heather and I were the only ones hearty enough to brave the waterfall itself, going under the cascade five or six times. We continued along the undercliff track for more amazing scenery as we made our way back to the car.

This was a fantastic day for all of us. Brian, once again, made me very proud as he powered his way through the vast majority of the hike, getting a bit of help from Teresa when we went up a steep section with big steps on our way back up. Heather, as I’ve come to expect, also did great. Teresa and I found the hike to be comparatively easy as it was the first time in seven years of doing this hike that we haven’t carried a passenger on our backs the entire way. : )

Here’s a video I shot during the hike. I hope to post some photos I took as well.

Love to all!

Paul

 

Wilderness, Waterfalls and Family from Paul Rooney on Vimeo.

Join us for a beautiful Spring day along the National Pass trail in Sydney's Blue Mountains. If you enjoy the sights and sounds of waterfalls, do yourself a favor and press play to witness Empress Falls and Wentworth Falls as our family did.

Feeling appreciated

I enjoyed a lovely Australian Fathers Day today. The kids gave me a new skateboard! I haven’t ridden one in well over 30 years, but I did okay at the ball courts today.

Later on, we went to Chowder Bay for some fishing. No catching, just fishing. I got a few nibbles but nothing really took the bait. There were a bunch of Asians on the end of the pier using bits of chicken and small hooks to catch a bunch of small fish and Heather and Brian had fun checking out their catch.

I had a terrific day with the kids and afterwards Teresa took us out for some yummy Korean food!

All in all, a really nice day.

Happy Fathers Day, Daddy!

Have fun with your new skateboard, Daddy!

 

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Thanks, Heather and Brian!

Picking up where I left off 30 plus years ago. After a bit of practice I was pulling off 360′s, (pivoting on the back wheel and spinning in a complete circle while continuing in the original direction of travel) more consistently than when I was a teenager and used to ride all the time. Funny how the muscles remember what to do, and that over time my balance has improved, so now some things seem easier. I went down in a heap at least once and somehow managed to bruise one of my heels, but that’s all part of it.

 

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Brian tried standing on the board and rode it a little, as did Heather, then Brian sat on it and he appeared to enjoy himself, immensely. Later on he told me he wanted me to buy him his own skateboard. Maybe next year, mate.

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Since Brian can’t swim yet, I brought his life vest, just in case he fell off the dock. You can’t see it, but there’s no rail on the side behind us.

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Maybe we didn’t catch any fish, but I had a wonderful time with the kids all the same. Next time we’ll try to go somewhere they’re bound to catch something.

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Ah, what a perfect day!

Is this not the look of a very contended man? I think it is. I’m blessed to have two wonderful children, a terrific wife, a healthy family and lots of love and laughter in my life. What more can anyone ask for?

 

Going along swimmingly

We finally put Brian into swim lessons. He started last weekend and I was so pleased to see him fully participate and not bail out of the class.

It’s early days but I’m hopeful he’ll continue being a good student and we’ll have him swimming before we know it. :)

Brian is wearing the blue swim cap in the video.

Brians First Swim Lesson from Paul Rooney on Vimeo.