Category Archives: Christianity

P- Port Arthur, Tasmania.

Welcome to Day 15 of the Blogging A-Z April Challenge.

As you may be aware, we’re Travelling Alphabetically Around Tasmania. So far, we’ve explored: The Nut at Stanley, Launceston, Home (Scottsdale)Eagle Hawk Neck and Bridport, while reading John Mitchel’s Jail Journal. We’ve indulged on Ashgrove Cheese, Convict Pizza and had fish & chips at Penguin.

In other words, we’ve been squeezing the essence out of every single nook and cranny and really absorbing Tasmania. Well, at least the parts we’ve been to, because there have been many glaring omissions and we could definitely return and easily run through an entirely different alphabet without too much trouble.

That is, if we still had any oomph left. I don’t know how you’re holding up but we’re starting to get a bit worn out and the kids are starting to ask the inevitable…”Are we there yet?”

Don’t get me wrong. I love travel. I don’t want to go home yet. Indeed, my husband and I have had more than a passing glance in real estate windows, while we’ve been in Tassie.

However, as much as we love Tasmania, I’m starting to feel like a pyjama day and not only sleeping in, but sleeping through an entire day and not going anywhere at all. Indeed, I’ve started wondering if they could lock me up at Port Arthur for a bit. Give me a chance to stare up at the sky and count clouds for an entire day or even a week, without feeling I’m supposed to be going somewhere, being somewhere else?  I’d also like to be a HUMAN BEING again, not just a HUMAN DOING, getting in and out of the car, looking, looking, looking, walking, photographing, eating,  wishing we could move here and be in this place forever, only to repeat the whole process the next day and the next. It does become rather exhausting and I have felt like I’ve been leaving bits of myself all over the place, while my bag fills up with enough of Tasmania to create an offshoot back home.

Yet, we’re made of tougher stuff and the journey goes on.

So, today, we’ll be driving 156.2 KM south from to Port Arthur, the notorious convict prison.

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OLD CONVICT CHURCH, PORT ARTHUR, The ruins of the old convict church at Port Arthur form one of the few remaining relics that mark the site of the once famous penal settlement of Tasmania. This settlement was situated on Tasman’s Peninsula, a narrow strip of land to the south east of Hobart, from which it is distant about 64 miles, and, on account of its almost complete isolation was considered to be the most secure prison in the island. Surrounded almost on every side with water which teemed with sharks, its only connection with the mainland ; by Eagle Hawk Neck being guarded by chains of sentinels and ferocious blood hounds, it well deserved the trust reposed in it by the convict authorities, for few were the escapes, that took . place from it. Even old hands that had broken prison time after time, recognised the fact and took for their motto “All hope abandon ye who enter here.” For over 40 years it remained a penal settlement, but in May, 1877, it ceased to be a prison, the establishment being broken up, and now very little remains to mark the spot of the ancient stronghold of the law. The old church, which we illustrate is one of the most interesting objects in the place, and if only on account of its picturesqueness is well worth visiting.” Illustrated Australian News (Melbourne, Vic. : 1876 – 1889), Saturday 8 January 1887, page 10.

However, for us Port Arthur is more than just a historic site. Since our trip, there’s been some doubt about whether or not Geoff’s 3rd great Grandfather had been held at Port Arthur while serving out his 14 year sentence for burglary. However, while we were there in January, we were under the impression that he had, which gave our visit there such poignancy. Such meaning. I couldn’t help but think about how James Newton would’ve felt when he first saw Port Arthur… It’s hard to imagine any human being in leg irons these days and enduring the barbaric punishments and isolation they experienced there, but it did. Knowing it happened to family, gave me chills. He didn’t kill anyone, but he did commit multiple burglaries on one night so he was no saint either.

However, since we only have a day to see Port Arthur, we’ll be taking the ferry ride passed the Isle of the Dead (where the convicts were buried) and onto Point Puer, where the young boys were detained. We’ll also go on a tour to hear some of the history of Port Arthur. Then, we’ll walk over to the Chapel, the Chaplain’s house and the gardens. This has left a vast amount of Port Arthur for next time, but as it is this will be enough. If we were able to stay overnight, I would’ve loved to do a ghost tour.

Since I’ve already written about these before, I’ll simply leave the links for you to pursue yourself on what becomes something of a self-guided tour.

Port Arthur Harbour Cruise.

The Chapel, Port Arthur.

The Chaplain’s Voice

The Gardens At Port Arthur

On that note, I’d better be heading to bed myself. While I’ve been running around Port Arthur on the blog today, in real life I was meandering around Sydney’s Royal Easter Show, much of it looking for the dodgem cars. We walked over 5 kilometres and I can barely walk after arriving home. My legs are on strike!!

Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed out very brief trip to Port Arthur.

Best wishes,

Rowena

The Rise & Fall of Reverend Bert – Friday Fictioneers.

“Persistence might be a virtue, Reverend,” the doctor pontificated. “But NOT when you’re riding that contraption around town saving souls with a crook appendix! The great unsaved can wait!”

“We’re getting you walking today. The nurses will assist.”

“I can walk on my own two feet, thank you,” the Reverend replied, jumping out of bed and crashing to the floor, unsupported by his jelly legs.

“Let me help you up, Father” she beamed.

It was the first time he’d seen the pretty nurse.

“Oh no! I’m not a priest,” he replied, smitten. “It’s okay.  We’re allowed to get married.”

This has been another contribution for Friday Fictioneers. This PHOTO PROMPT © Jellico’s Stationhouse

 

The Chaplain’s Voice, Port Arthur, Tasmania 1870-1877.

If you have been following my steps around the convict ruins at Tasmania’s Port Arthur, you’ll appreciate my efforts to gain some insight into what it meant to be a convict there, especially as Geoff’s 3rd Great Grandfather was a prisoner there.

While researching the Chapel in my previous post, I stumbled across this newspaper story covering a talk given by Rev. Rowland Hayward recounting his experience as Chaplain of the Port Arthur Settlement during 1870-77.

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Preacher at Port Arthur.

“At the Church of England Institute on Wednesday night the Rev. Rowland Hayward recounted his experience as Chaplain of the Port Arthur Settlement during 1870-77.

The Rev. F. S. Poole was in the chair, and the attendance was large. The lecturer prefaced his remarks by a review of the earlier history of the location of the prisoners at Macquarie, which, owing to its inhospitable character and difficulties of communication, was abandoned in favour of Port Arthur in 1835. In a little time this place became the most systematized of all British convict settlements.

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Convict Leg Irons on Display at the Chaplain’s Cottage.

Mr. Hayward was on the spot when the appointment was offered to him, having gone there for the sake of his health. With the duties of Chaplain, however, he combined Magisterial functions, but the dual capacity was embarrassing, as in his character of Chaplain he had often to soothe the wounds which he was bound to inflict as Magistrate. The manner in which he exercised the obligations of the latter, however, won over the convicts, who frequently refused to be tried by any other official than the Chaplain, as they had grown to fear the severity of the local officers, whom years of familiarity with the men and the conditions of their life had necessarily robbed of leniency or sympathy.

The natural beauties of the harbour and the station were painted by the lecturer, whose description, the audience were assured, was truthful, and opposed to the gloomy picture of both drawn by Marcus Clarke. The penitentiary was described, and although designed to accommodate as many as 600 prisoners during Mr. Hayward’s incumbency, the number of its inmates never exceeded 300.

A particular account of the institution was given, as also of the separate prison for refractory prisoners, who underwent in former days the refined cruelty of solitary imprisonment for an unlimited period. Here every prisoner immediately on his transportation suffered solitary confinement a month for each year of his term. Barbarous Mr. Hayward regarded this mode of punishment, although it was in substitution of the more brutal flogging, which was often administered in plenty for the most trivial offences.

At the same time, Mr. Hayward believed that in some cases a ” schoolboy flogging” would have rescued some unfortunate lads in the penitentiary from more serious mental and physical injury which were traceable to solitary confinement.

Referring to “The Term of His Natural Life,” the lecturer did not regard the work as exaggerated, but the horrors portrayed by it were rather an accumulation of all the atrocities that might have happened in connection with criminal life in Australia than a faithful account of the ordinary life at Port Arthur.

The lecture was freely interlarded with anecdotes, chiefly concerning two truculent ruffians named Mark Jeffries and Pat O’Hearn, who were a source of great trouble to the prison authorities.

The prison discipline was described, with its comprehensive system of supervision, including the plan of keeping dogs at Eaglehawk Neck to prevent the escape of the prisoners.

Altogether Mr. Hayward considered that provisions made for the bodily wants of the convicts were very generous, they being at least better cared for than the honest poor of the island. The lecturer spoke of his connection with Port Arthur as one of the happiest periods of his life. When asked his opinion by the Government as to the advisability of abolishing Port Arthur he was strongly opposed to the proposal, believing that the settlement offered to convicts the best opportunities of reformation. During the lecture, which lasted for two hours, there was an intermission devoted to music.

Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 – 1912) Tuesday 6 July 1886 p 3 Article

xx Rowena

Christmas Post.

We hope you and yours had a Merry Christmas.

Ours was a wonderful Christmas. Indeed, what I think was my best Christmas in quite a few years. My health is really good. I’ve been in remission for almost 3 years now without having the blood transfusions of IVIG I’d been having every 3 weeks for the preceding 5 years. Finally, I was actually able to raise my head off the tarmac and enjoy take off…yippee!

I obviously don’t know what Christmas was like at your place, but it was chaos at ours. Yet, amidst the multifarious layers of ripped Christmas rap rolling around like tumbleweed underneath the Christmas Tree, there was some structure, tradition and a respect for the true meaning of Christmas.dsc_5189

I won’t go into all of the presents but my husband bought us a double hammock each in a frame for Christmas. This will be great for getting through all the books I gave the rest of the family, some I must confess with a vested interest. After loving The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, I gave my husband The Best of Adam Sharp. Of course, he was cynically wondering whether this book was going to live up to his first two novels. I bought my daughter an intriguing book with some text but largely drawings which had been recommended by my friend’s teenage daughter. My Dad thought the book was a crock and that her “gums were flapping”. However, when it comes to picking a book for my daughter, a girl a couple of years older is a better judge in my mind.

Gee, isn’t Christmas fun?!

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself because we haven’t left the house yet and I’ve accelerated right through Christmas lunch, afternoon tea, the pool, the royal splinter. I’d better watch out. I’m accelerating so fast, that I’m about to get a speeding fine and double demerits are in force. Just as well Santa’s already been, or I’d be at Number 2 on his Naughty List. That is after Lady, who is still sitting at Number 1 after devouring our home-made Christmas Cake last week.

Somehow, we managed to force the front door shut without the rising tide of pre and post Christmas whatsymecallits falling out the door. Actually, make that a tsunami, not that I’m being melodramatic and pushing the limits of exaggeration beyond all credibility. I’d never ever do anything like that!

Our approach to cleaning up for Christmas? Abandon house!

The dogs didn’t even get a bath and did I hear the roar of lawn mowers somewhere in the distance? Well, they mysteriously by-passed our place as well. Then again, you need to have a lawn to mow. I haven’t had time to give our lawn much of an inspection lately, but I think it’s been burned to a crisp. Incinerated by the hot Australian sun… a bit like a snag on a BBQ. They’re supposed to be charcoal, aren’t they?

Next, we all piled in the car to drive down to Sydney via the M1 Freeway.

Every year, we regret leaving late and think about the dream run we would’ve had if only we’d left an hour earlier. However, it turned out that leaving our neck of the woods, was pretty much as bad as it got apart from a small stretch of bumper to bumper traffic right near my aunt’s place. By this stage, the turn off was in sight and we could cope with that. By the way, I’d packed two books by Dodinsky for the trip, and they were done and dusted by the end. Have you ever read Dodinsky? I highly recommend it!

My Dad is one of seven and we celebrate Christmas with his family at my aunt’s place. While you’d be excused for thinking there was no structure or order amongst the throng, our day runs like clockwork. My aunt sets the arrival time and the rest of us operate on our own clock. Yet, we somehow conform to the same routine every year. There are the lunchers, the afternoon tea crowd, the early departures, and the lingerers. Among the cousins, there’s also the turn taking now they’ve got married. My husband’s parents have passed away, so we spend Christmas with my extended family every year. A small Christmas isn’t Christmas to me.

I’m not going to go into a blow-by-blow account of Christmas Day, but there were a few stories worth a special mention.

Firstly, beyond the dinner table, my aunt’s swimmhumouring pool becomes the epicentre of our Christmas. Funny that, because it’s been at least a decade since I last made it into the pool. I did take my swimmers yesterday, which was a step forward. However, for some reason, I couldn’t get in.   Didn’t even try. Although it was a hot day, I seriously didn’t want to get wet. Moreover, I wasn’t too sure about revealing so much of my royal whiteness either. Some things are meant to be left covered up.

However, my kids had a ball in the pool. Two of my cousins do a great job entertaining them every year and there’s loads of rough play, horsing around and they really appreciate their exuberance. Naturally, Geoff and I are always most grateful for this…my parents as well. We are well and truly past all of this and much in need of deck chairs instead.

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My cousin approved the use of this photo.

After all my discussions lately about Christmas traditions, Christmas tree decorations and even Christmas Decoration OCD (CDOCD), I thought I’d share my cousin’s addition to the family Christmas Tree. We’re a creative family and a few years ago, my cousin did a course in making theatrical props. By the way, we’re not talking about making sets out of MDF and slapping on a coat of paint either. I don’ t even know what you call it but he make a few hands  and painted them up and over the years, they’ve found their way into the Christmas decorations. So, I wasn’t surprised to spot the hand at the top of the Christmas Tree this year. Apparently, it’s become tradition. I like that because Christmas can become so stiff and stifled by perfectionists getting it uber-right that it’s tied Christmas up in a straight jacket and has no sense of fun. No place for anybody even slightly lateral-minded. This tree was like a celebration of the individual, being yourself and accepted no matter who or what that might be, and almost giving the judgement crew “the bird”.

I’m proud to be a part of this family with all its flotsam and jetsam where we’re all accepted for whoever we are in all our creative or otherwise glory.

So far, we’ve covered the pool and the Christmas tree and next we’re moving onto the royal splinter.

A splinter? How does a splinter become newsworthy?

Well, when my son is involved, even breathing can easily be turned into a drama of epic proportions. Since he was not the recipient of the royal splinter, there was bound to be some form of “interesting” live entertainment. As he’s now almost thirteen years old, it takes more than a small splinter to get the waterworks going. Yet, oh ye of little faith, there was still plenty of scope for drama. Well, he was actually rather restrained, especially for him but there was still the matter of getting the splinter out and not being at home, this was naturally more complicated. We needed implements…needle, tweezers and we were in luck. After my aunt offered to remove the splinter, we announced “we have two doctors in the house, why am I doing this?” So, the royal splinter, which was a couple of millimetres in length and lodged at the very end of his finger behind the fingernail, was to be removed by my uncle the plastic surgeon borrowing my aunt’s reading glasses. My son was in good hands. This uncle is a plastic surgeon who’s known for reattaching and no doubt detaching all sorts of bits and pieces in very extensive operations. Yet, although the royal splinter was obviously well beneath his capabilities, he approached it with the very same thought and concern. We were given a thorough report and advised to apply antiseptic when we arrived home. It was touching to see my uncle at work and appreciate his bedside manner and compassion. That we’re never too big or too great to help out with life’s splinters with love, compassion and respect.

By the time we went back to my parents’ place for “dinner” and presents we were more stuffed than the Christmas turkey itself. So, all I managed to squeeze and I mean SQUEEZE in was a small slice of pudding, with Mum’s homemade hard brandy sauce and equally homemade custard.

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Aside from the long drive home, Christmas 2016 was done and dusted. Well, we still had a Gingerbread House to demolish but that could wait.

How was your Christmas? Hope you had a great one but if yours was reflective and touched by sadness, I send my love and hugs. Take care.

Love & Christmas Blessings,

Rowena

 

Christmas Coffee Share!

Welcome to our Christmas, I mean Boxing Day, Weekend Coffee Share.

We hope you and yours have had a wonderful Christmas, celebrating the season.

Not quite sure what to other you in the way of drinks this week. I’m leaning towards tea or coffee with a slice of Christmas Cake or toasted Stollen.

We celebrated Christmas Day with lunch at my aunt’s place with the extended family and then back to my parent’s place for “dinner”. The kids spent much of the day in the pool mucking around with my cousins. I didn’t get in yesterday, although I did manage a pre-Christmas dip in my parents’ pool.

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Never too old for pool toys!

It’s now Boxing Day Monday and we’re perched in front of the TV set watching the start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. Winds are currently 10-15 knots yet to the untrained eye, they appear stronger. The yachts are keeling over at about a 45 degree angle. While I’m no veteran of the race, they seem to leaning over more than usual.

Yesterday, my aunt asked our son when he’s going into the Sydney-to-Hobart. Give him a few years. He starts racing locally in January.

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Start Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race 2016.

By the way, Perpetual Loyal made it out of Sydney Heads first. We’re still watching, listening to all the sailing talk and giving our son a few lessons. I know watching sailing is no compensation for being out there yourself. However, this is his chance to learn from the masters…and my husband who is providing us with arm chair commentary.

Today, I’m following my father’s Boxing Day Tradition and not doing anything. Well, I am writing and jotting down all the snippets from yesterday.I know writing isn’t doing anything but it’s letting energy out, rather than taking energy in and that’s what I need. So, although I’m in my writing chair surrounded by the family and dogs glancing at the yacht race, I’m still in my own little space bubble. I need to breath. Stretch my wings again. I feel like I’ve been locked in a matchbox and I need to break free. I suspect that’s all the built-up pressure of the end of the year and I’m now  finding myself needing to reflect and debrief. Let myself flow. It’s been so stop start lately that I’ve become jammed somewhere in  between the accelerator and the brakes (if that makes any sense). That description makes a lot of sense to me.

By the way, the camera people were just catapulted off the back of the yachts as they leave Sydney Harbour, picked up by the rescue boat. It sure looked odd and more of an emergency than a planned operation, especially as there are sharks in Sydney Harbour.

Christmas Eve we went to Church and then off to a pot luck dinner. By the way, they were giving away hampers at Church and they were offering them to the person with the loudest voice. No surprises there. My son’s voice boomed out and we’re now feasting on chippies, fruit mince pies etc watching the race. Yum! I’m about to head out to the kitchen for a piece of toasted stollen . More yum. Couldn’t fit in half the goodies yesterday. So while I’m explicitly doing nothing today, I am feasting away.

We went to my aunt’s place in Sydney for the usual big, extended family Christmas and went to my parents’ place afterwards. No one was hungry although I did manage to squeeze in another piece of pudding, custard and brandy butter but only just!

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Lego Santa Loves Christmas Cake.

I’ve been blogging about the lead up to Christmas, which I thought you might enjoy. I wrote about The Meaning of Christmas Cake. After finally making my Christmas Cake, I’d packed it up to take to my parents’ place mid-week and the dog got in and ate it…Christmas Dogastrophy. Bilbo just asked me to clarify that it wasn’t him. It was Lady, who naturally ended up at the very top of Santa’s naughty list…not that it bothered her. She kept wagging her tail and looking up at us with her huge brown irresistible Cavalier spaniel eyes showing no remorse whatsoever.She very good at that!

Bilbo & Lady

Bilbo & Lady

I also ended up making a second Christmas Cake…the Aussie Harvest Cake. This adventure and indeed, it did turn into an adventure started out with driving round and round trying to find a bottle shop which was open at 10.00PM…All For A Sozzled Christmas Cake. If you’re not into making your own Christmas Cake, you might not appreciate that they’re very heavy drinkers. This one was demanding an entire cup of brandy. I’d be sozzled.

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Yet the adventures didn’t end there. I should’ve realized that3 kgs of dried fruit was hugely excessive and that this recipe would produce a monster cake to feed an army. Obviously, I didn’t and that’s how I came to develop the Christmas Cake Workout .

In addition to all the Christmas preparations, I also took part in Friday Fictioneers again. I’m really enjoying these challenges and have been thrilled with the results. If you haven’t tried writing flash fiction, I encourage you to have a go. You might also surprise yourself. American Diner Down Under.

Well, I hope you and yours have had a Merry Christmas and we also wish you a Happy and wonder-filled New Year!

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana at Part-Time Monster and here’s the Link-Up

Love,

Rowena, Geoff, Mr, Miss, Bilbo and Lady.

For those who have been following the growth of the sunflower seeds, which were salvaged from the MH17 crash site site in the Ukraine, two are flowering for Christmas.

 

 

 

 

That Christmas Black Rain Cloud.

“There is a little black rain cloud,
Hovering over my Christmas tree.
There is a little black rain cloud
paying too much attention to little me.”

Words adapted by Rowena Curtin  and sung to Winnie The Pooh – Little Black Rain Cloud.

Is it just me? Or, are you also feeling that despite all the joy, Christmas cheer, tinsel and flashing lights, there’s something not quite right with your “Ho! Ho! Ho!” That you’re struggling to squeeze into the spirit of Christmas and it doesn’t quite fit.

Not that I’m all dark, gloomy or in anyway Scrooge or Grinch-like. It’s just that sometimes, I can get really annoyed with Christmas. I don’t know whether there’s a term like “Christmas Rage”, or the “Christmas Depths”, and that’s before I even get to absent friends. Of course, no one likes an empty seat or any form of change at Christmas, even if it is only the discontinuation of Molly O’Rourke’s famous Irish Whisky Cakes 1945-2014 RIP.

Anyway, today I thought I’d just  run through a few of the dark shadows, which can jump out and bite us  at Christmas:

A Few Shadows of Christmas.

Christmas OCD

This describes that desperate pursuit of the perfect Christmas. It’s characterised by that uber-achieving Christmas newsletter, mowed lawns, dogs washed, groomed and teeth brushed; tree with matching decorations, colour-coordinated Christmas clothes. You get the drift.

CDOCD- Christmas Decoration OCD.

This relates to the meticulous selection and placement of Christmas decorations, particularly in the Christmas tree. Generally characterised by having a colour theme and having one decorator in charge, while the rest of the household spectates or evacuates to watch TV.

Ghosts of Christmas Past

No one likes an empty seat at Christmas.

SAD- Seasonal Affective Disorder.

This is where your mood is affected by the seasons. In the Northern Hemisphere, it’s due to the shortened hours of day length. In Australia, it’s caused by excessive sun baking, insufficient sunscreen leaving your skin redder than a Santa suit.

Failure

Christmas is a really difficult time of year to be unemployed, sick, homeless, dumped or even just being your little old self. Having to face family and friends when you’re feeling like @#$% can be the last straw. Been there. Done that. Sort of stuck in this gear and have now acclimatized, but would still love to be a Big Shot or at least get a book published. At this point, even A Little Golden Book would do.

Silent Night

Unfortunately, this relates to so much more than the Christmas carol. There’s the silence of not being able to find your CD of Christmas carols. Then there’s the silence of spending Christmas alone. Worse still, there are those broken relationships where the walls have become so high, that even the Spirit of Christmas can’t get through.

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On a much lighter note, after finishing off my wrapping today, I’m adding Stickytape-Itis to the list.

Does stickytape-itis need any introductions or explanations? Of course not. We’ve all battled to find the stickytape, cellotape or whatever you might call that stuff which sticks to your fingers and just about everything else except the wrapping tape. Meanwhile, the end of the sticky tape goes missing and you’re going round and round in circles like a dog chasing its tail.

It’s enough to drive you crazy and could very well be that tipping point, which pushes a normally sane and sensible person over the edge of madness.

……

So having brought up all these issues, I guess you’re wanting me to come up with some preventative measures or kind of treatment. However, I’m sorry. I’m just the messenger and I have no psychological credentials whatsoever.

However, what I can suggest is letting all the expectations go…just like a helium balloon floating way across the sky until it’s out of sight. This might take a bit of practice, but you’ll soon find out that you won’t die if someone adds a green decoration to your purple and silver themed tree. That it’s not the end of the world when the dog eats your handmade Christmas Cake leaving you nothing but crumbs. That is doesn’t matter if you neither give nor receive Christmas Cards, presents, pudding whatever. I am thankful that God sent us Jesus at Christmas time and I am also mindful that we can’t take the ones we love for granted. That while it might be hard to focus on each other every single day, that we can at least be more conscious of family and friends at Christmas and truly savour the people who mean the world to us.

Life is too short to let anything get in the way of that.

We but not only carpe diem seize the day but also make the most of each other.

Love & Blessings for Christmas and the New Year,

Rowena

PS When it comes to dealing with little black rain clouds, especially ones hanging over our special moments like Christmas, perhaps we should simply borrow cupid’s bow and arrow and shoot the darned thing down. One pop…and it’s gone!

 

The Meaning of Christmas Cake.

Last night, I was making my Christmas Cake.

In case you’re not familiar with what we Australians know as “Christmas Cake”, it’s a boiled fruit cake crammed with sultanas, currants, raisins and prunes soaked and boiled in sherry. The next day, glace cherries and almonds are added to the mix, along with the usual cakey ingredients. It’s very much a British tradition, which has immigrated along with the settlers to the Antipodes.

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Our Lego Santa Loves Christmas Cake.

There are so many steps to making a Christmas cake, each almost being an essential pre-Christmas ritual. So, let’s get started.

The first step is to boil up the dried fruit with the sherry, lemon and orange juice on the stove. If you have never experienced this smell, you are really missing out. As I hunch over the hot stove stirring the fruits with my wooden spoon, all those smells tantalize my senses, heralding Christmas. Indeed, I’d swear my nose was even twitching. Wow! It smells amazingly good!

Then, you leave those fruits in the fridge overnight to stew.

In this era of instant everything, it almost feels unnatural to wait for anything. Yet, this waiting process seems quite appropriate for a Christmas cake. After all, so much about Christmas involves waiting…How many sleeps? Where’s Santa? What am I getting for Christmas?

So, the Christmas Cake is simply being in synch with the rest of Christmas with all its waiting and delays.

The next day, we move onto the baking phase.

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Our son sampling the mixture, aged 3.

This starts out with the ceremonial beating of the butter and brown sugar, watching them spin round and round in my Sunbeam mix master. They’re like two people falling in love and becoming one flesh, as they dance round and round the beaters creaming together. That’s when fingers and spoons invade the bowl for mandatory testing. You’d be surprised how things can go wrong in the beating process, and how multiple tastings are required… just to be sure!

Then, you add the eggs. Even if you deplore Christmas Cake, I guarantee you’ll be licking the spoon once you taste brown sugar, butter and eggs creamed together. Not only do they taste delicious, but they have such a smooth, creamy texture which truly dazzles your taste buds. Yum!

More mixture disappears.

And a bit more!

There’s still plenty left.

Then, even a bit more mixture disappears onto a passing spoon.

Time to add the flour and spices before there’s no mixture left!

Next, I throw in the halved glace cherries and slivered almonds and it’s into the tin. More slivered almonds are sprinkled on top, and the Christmas Cake has finally made it into the oven.

Strange how there’s still so much mixture left behind!

Of course, some of that has been put aside for the mini Christmas cakes I make for my Dad. Dad has a pathological aversion to cinnamon so I always make him his own. My Dad looks very much like John Cleese playing Basil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers. So, it’s a wise move to keep him happy, as we don’t have Manuel on hand to keep him in check.

However, it also seems like such a waste to cook all of that scrummy mixture, especially when it’s only going to become Christmas Cake.

Funny that I could ever deride the sacred Christmas Cake!

How soon I forget! Three years ago, I had a round of chemo to treat my auto-immune disease starting the week before Christmas. Indeed, I literally was singing: “all I wanted for Christmas is chemo” in my head that year. After all, without the chemo, I wouldn’t be here now. So, despite its hardships, it was more of a celebration than an ordeal.

This is where the Christmas Cake enters the story. I had three days’ notice before chemo began and do you know what I did in that time? I made my Christmas Cake and I posted my Christmas cards. That’s what was important…along with my family.

I had to remind myself of that this year. Now that the pressure’s off and my health has vastly improved, making the Christmas Cake wasn’t quite happening. Indeed, I only made it last night with 6 sleeps to go. I was really struggling to get myself moving!

That’s also because I’m not a huge lover of fruit cake. Indeed, if it wasn’t for Christmas, I’d never make any kind of fruit cake. I much prefer chocolate cake and have been known to mix the boiled fruits in with a chocolate cake mix before. That was yum! The boiled fruits also mix in well with ice cream. Indeed, the boiled fruits can be very versatile, if you’re willing to let go of tradition heading into the great unknown.

rowena-santa

Photographed with Santa aged 6. Unfortunately, the photo needs a spruce up.

I’m not quite there yet. I still need a slice of Christmas Cake with my cup of tea and my parents particularly love this Christmas Cake. After all, I make my mother’s recipe, which she adopted from her university friend Deirdre. They go back a long way and so does this Christmas Cake. I’ve been eating it for something like 47 years now. It’s a keeper and I hope my kids continue to  make it wherever they are and whatever their world is like when they grow up. Who knows where they’ll be in 47 years? Yet, like any parent, I just want them to be happy (which is often the most elusive “achievement” of all!)

You can find the recipe and a previous post about the Christmas Cake here.

You might also enjoy reading about Christmas Cakes: here. I found it a very interesting read.

Do you have any Christmas baking traditions? If so, I’d love to hear all about them and feel free to share your recipes.

Love & Christmas Blessings,

Rowena