Christmas Holidays

We're back - and we survived! The epic " Home - Lismore (via Port Macquarie) - Cairns - Lismore - Home " trip is done and dusted. Now that we've had a chance to recover and do the washing, cleaning and sleeping I thought I'd better let people know about our Christmas escape :) We headed north from home on Monday 20th December and planned on going as far as Port Macquarie. This gave us enough time to take the drive at a leisurely pace and catch up with some close friends in Gosford (hi Fay and Ron!!). We stayed at a lovely hotel in Port' that we booked through wotif.com.au and were very happy with the whole booking and payment process. For the record, we stayed at the "HW Boutique Motel" which is 4 star and had lovely rooms (Sony TV and clock radio etc, Bang & Olufsen phone, Daiken computerised aircon - quality equipment that was practically new! Not to mention a shower rose the size of a dinner plate and one of the most comfy beds I've ever had in a hotel). The deal we got included the room and a continental breakfast served in our room (good coffee too).

The next day we drove to Lismore to see Nat's Dad and sister (howdy guys!). The second half of the trip was a little more tedious as we seemed to run into a lot more holiday traffic. Not to worry, we had time on our side so decided to take it easy and enjoy the trip seeing as there was no deadline to meet. Once we arrived in Lismore (a bit after lunch time) we had enough time to catch up with Nat's aunt who lives just down the road from her dad's place.

On Wednesday 22nd December we caught up with Nat's best friend from school and her family (greetings to the Lever clan!). This was the first time Nat had seen Gillian since our wedding day so there was a LOT of catching up to do! We would have loved to stay for longer but Nat's dad and sister were waiting for us back at Evan's Head so we went back for a little afternoon dip in the Evan's River then headed back to Nat's dad's place.

Thursday 23rd December saw us heading further north to Cairns. More family friends (or are they just "family" now - get back to you on that) offered to drive our car back from Brisbane airport, then meet us on our return. We glady accepted as this gave us a couple of extra hours with very good friends, AND meant we didn't have to worry about long-term car parking at the airport! WOOT!! Special thanks to Henry and Gai for running around with our car to drop us off and pick us up :)

Emily's first trip on a plane went reasonably well. Nat simply fed her going up and coming down and she (Emily) slept in between! There was a little crying but not really enough to mention :) Emily was a real trooper compared to the other screaming kids on the same flight! Arrival in Cairns meant my Dad finally got to meet his first grand- daughter! It was a long 5 months for Dad to wait but seeing how happy he was made me as proud as a son could be! It's a little spooky watching your own parents play with your kids - makes me wonder sometimes, if there's a good reason for the way I turned out (heheh - just kidding!).

The next few days were spent just catching up, drinking coffee and hanging out with my parents, brother and his family.

Christmas Day was an absolute hoot! We had it at Dave and Katie's place coz, simply, they have a pool and airconditioned bedrooms in case the kids needed a snooze. Dave and Kate's friends (Billy and Brett - hi guys!) came over too and we all had a good time. It was the first time we (the Grays) had been together on Christmas day since 2002 and back then, there were no kids around - this time there were THREE! We've been busy with the biological growth program for the extended Gray Matter!

While we were in Cairns Nat, Emily and I went over to Dave and Katie's to have dinner. We had a "Fondue" - you know, the deal where you stab chunks of food and cook them at the table in a pot with a metho- burner? Yeh, one of them! Dave and I made the dipping sauces and came to the conclusion the sweet chilli was spot on, the chunky tomato was a winner, but the curry sauce (with mango) was a little too hot for most people (I couldn't really taste the "heat"...but I was the exception). The preparation for the meal was done (mostly) by Dave and I and we had a ball taking over Katie's kitchen and generally being a little crazy, in an organised kinda way. I think we all had a great time though by the time the evening was through.

Nat and I also got a chance to see some more of Cairns and the Atherton tablelands on this trip. Some of it we explored ourselves (like "The Boulders" and Babinda) but most of it we saw in convoy with Mum and Dad in the lead on new year's day. It's truly a beautiful part of the country :)

All too soon we had to leave Cairns on the 2nd of January but that's life I guess. Once again, Emily was only a minor irritation to other passengers (despite her parents accidentally inflicting a nice little "egg" on the back of her head!) Moral of the story - make sure one of us is holding her before we both let go :-/

The rest of the time in Lismore was spent doing little day trips around the place and taking Nat's dad and sister Christmas shopping. It was great to catch up with them and once again, it was too soon, but we needed to head for home. Emily was starting to come down with some sort of cold/flu and I had already got a good dose of it!

On Thursday 6th January, we headed south at a bit after 6:00am, and decided to drive from Lismore to home (approx 850km) in one day. Even though the drive was long and tiring we still had enough time and energy to catch up with Nat's Grandmother and another aunt on our way through Taree. They drove in from Gloster and we met them in Taree for lunch. It was the first time either of them had met Emily and was a special time for Nat and her Grandmother.

We got home at around 8:30pm on Thursday 6th and had enough energy to unpack the car, dump the bags in the lounge room, make sure the cat was still alive, water the plants, put Emily to bed then we crashed too, around 10:00pm! Thankfully Emily decided to give her parents a sleep-in the next day and didn't wake up until about 8:45am so we had a chance to recover a little :)

Now that we've been home a week or so, the house is back to normal (the cat isn't though) and the near-dead madonna lilly has forgiven us and shot out a flower! Life is a grand adventure, and this has been the latest installment from the our little corner of the world. We hope your Christmas and New Year was as fulfilling and rewarding as ours! ( If not, there's always next Christmas! )

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