Ellerston Public School, NSW, Australia

Katelyn's beautiful cake

While we were in Australia, we got to celebrate Katelyn's 6th birthday. She had a magnificent cake,
made by Katherine McLoughlin of Frosted. We took the cake to Katelyn's school, where the whole school celebrated Katelyn's birthday. I must add that there are only 22 pupils in total, so there was more than enough cake to go round!

"Hurry up, everybody!"
Katelyn's brother, Brandyn,was anxious to get to school.

Katelyn was delighted when everyone sang "Happy Birthday" to her.

Katelyn with her best friend, Emily.

Ellerston Public School may not be large in size, but it is huge in achievement!

David and I were really impressed with Ellerston Public School. It is a tiny school, but the children
are motivated, and happy. We attended two other events while we there. One was the school's paper
plane competition, and the other was the public speaking competition against other country primary

Did you know that there is a world paper plane making championship? I had no idea, but strangely, the movie, "Paper Planes" was showing on our flight back to Istanbul! In Katelyn's school, all the children had to decorate their piece of paper, fold the plane, and then throw it, to determine whose flew the furthest.

Before the competition began, the children told us about their heroes. 
Katelyn's hero was her Daddy!

Katelyn decorated her piece of paper, before folding it into a plane...

...she then launched it into the air, while the Headmaster waited to mark its landing place.
The children had such fun!

We also marvelled at the Public Speaking Competition. Every child in every year group is expected to take part in this, and then deliver their prepared speech to a panel of adjudicators. We were delighted when Ellerston Public School won most of the awards, and thrilled when Katelyn got "Highly Commended". We were such proud grandparents!

Katelyn, delivering her speech about horses

Elizabeth Coughlan


Glenbawn Lake, NSW, Australia

Glenbawn Lake, NSW, Australia

This beautiful lake, and surrounding area, is a result of damming the Hunter River in the Upper Hunter Valley, NSW. The dam wall was originally built between 1948 and 1958, with a later raising of the wall in 1987. It is very near to where our daughter, Jane, and family live, so they are able to visit here regularly.

These sunken trees reminded us of lake Kariba in Zimbabwe

It is now a state park, with amenities for fishing, many forms of water sport, picnic areas with BBQs, children's playgrounds, and even tennis. There are also camping sites with fire pits, and numerous cabins and bungalows, so it is a perfect place to stay. It is also a nature-lover's paradise, with over 100 species of birds, and extensive woodlands with numerous kangaroo, and other Australian wildlife.

Waiting to greet new arrivals!

Sean looking for fish

Peaceful views across the lake

A perfect camping site. You can see the fire pit on the grass

A peaceful little backwater

When we visited, it was winter, so there were few other visitors; even though the sun was shining and it wasn't particularly cold.

A walk beside the lake

There is something wonderful about walking in the countryside, with only the sounds of nature surrounding you. It always makes me feel happy.

Even the road out was picturesque

I think this park needs to be on our itinerary, every time we visit Jane, Sean, Shannon, and Jordan, in their new home in Australia.

Elizabeth Coughlan


Abu Dhabi, Capital of the United Arab Emirates

Night falls over Abu Dhabi

It's hard to believe, that only 50 years ago, Abu Dhabi was little more than a fishing village, surrounded by desert sands. Now, although still surrounded by sand, Abu Dhabi is an attractive, modern city, with parks, beaches, and gleaming skyscrapers, all paid for by the massive deposits of oil beneath it.  But, the amazing progress of this area isn't solely dependent on the oil (which is expected to run out around 2100), great strides are being made to attract tourism, and present investment opportunities.

Unfortunately, the only time we could visit our daughter, Clare and family, was during Ramadan, in almost unbearable heat (47°C or 116°F). As a result, we didn't go out much! One thing we did manage, apart from shopping in some of the many shopping malls, was to take the air-conditioned hop-on hop-off bus on a tour of the city. We actually decided not to hop-off at all, as it was far too hot, but we managed an overview of the city, and promised ourselves a more comprehensive tour when we visit again later this year.

The first landmark we saw from the bus, was the 7 star Emirates Palace Hotel. 
Where, they say, even the cakes are made of gold!

Our next stop was at the stunning, jaw-dropping, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

Said to be the world's most expensive mosque, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, with its glistening white marble dome, is absolutely beautiful! I'm looking forward to seeing the interior on our next visit to Abu Dhabi. The mosque is said to contain the largest carpet in the world, hand made by 1,200 Persian carpet weavers; plus 7 gold chandeliers, dripping with Swarovski crystals!

UAE Pavilion

This, the UAE Pavilion, was moved piece by piece to Abu Dhabi from Shanghai, where it welcomed almost two million visitors to the UAE’s national exhibition during the World Expo 2010. This unusual dune-shaped structure, was designed by London architects Foster + Partners, and stands close to the Manarat al Saadiyat exhibition centre, on Saadiyat island.

We also passed the site of the Abu Dhabi Louvre, still under construction. 

This project was conceived in partnership with the Louvre, Paris, and promises to be a "world-class destination, bridging global cultures."

Al Hosn Fort

We managed to glimpse the Al Hosn Fort over the billboards surrounding it, as it is undergoing a conservation project. But, it looks very interesting, and worthy of a visit in the future.

The Al Hosn Fort was constructed in 1761 as a conical watchtower to defend the only freshwater well in Abu Dhabi island. The tower was later expanded into a small fort in 1793 by the then ruler, Shakhbut bin Dhiyab Al Nahyan, and became the permanent residence of the ruling Sheikh. It remained the emir's palace (hence the name Qasr al-Hosn, meaning Palace fort) and seat of government until 1966.

Our tour ended, where it began, at the Marina Mall, 
with the prominent Ikea Tower, and a ferris wheel nearby.

I really look forward to exploring Abu Dhabi later this year, but hopefully in more clement weather! This time we were just happy to stay out of the heat, and gaze out at the amazing view of the city from the 43rd floor of Clare and Reg's apartment.

The view from our bedroom. The haze over the city is a sand storm coming in!

Elizabeth Coughlan

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I couldn't resist this one!