Tag Archives: Christmas tree

The Saddest Christmas Tree of 2020.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised to find a few sad Christmas trees around this year. After all, it’s been a tough year, and when you really think about it, Christmas trees are a mirror, or reflection, of ourselves and what’s going on both inside our heads, and in the world around us. A blank, green canvas, either real or fake, where we plaster bits of ourselves in the form of bright lights, jewelled ornaments, and perhaps even rustic relicts made when we were kids, along with contributions by our own kids and grandchildren, if we have them.

While our tree could well be described as “Rafferty’s Rules” or cluttered eclectic with loads of “character”, there are others who are clearly much more particular and their tree has to be perfect, and might, for example, have a very strict colour scheme. Of course, I admire these trees. Who wouldn’t?! However, I’m pretty sure these are the very same infuriating people who always coloured in between the lines when they were kids, and now throw out their own kids’ Christmas craft. It might not be perfect or ostentatious, but there’s nothing more personal and meaningful than anything handmade.

Anyway, I’m not here to talk about the best Christmas tree. Rather, I’m here to talk about the worst.

This wasn’t something I intentionally set out to do.

Rather, it was thrust upon me when I was out shopping, and I came across this poor Christmas tree parked outside Coles in front of the public toilets. While, as you can see, it did have a few decorations, there were no lights and it looks like it’s just been pulled straight out of storage, and stuck out on display without much spit and polish.

Geoff’s work Christmas tree was also a rather sorry sight.

I thought this tree had taken out the honours for the worst Christmas tree I’d seen in 2020. Then, Geoff showed me a picture of his work Christmas tree. It was a strong rival, especially when you know that they’re going through a difficult restructure and there are voluntary and not so voluntary redundancies, which is particularly hard at this time of year. Indeed, if this tree could speak, it could well sound like Sesame Street’s Oscar the Grouch: “You’d be a grouch, too, if you lived in a trash can!”

However, some are more particular than others, and have a rigid colour scheme. Personally, I’m pretty sure these are the very same people who always coloured-in between the lines, and didn’t scribble back at school. All the decorations have to be red, purple for example. On the other hand, our Christmas tree is “cluttered eclectic” like the house. We have always had a real tree. However, being able to go outside much at all last December due to the choking bush fire smoke, I was too late to get a real tree and was mighty grateful to pick up a fake one for $10.00 at the local charity shop. The tree looked bad last year, but it looks even worse this year. However, what with renovating the loungeroom and rumblings of Covid, we didn’t get the tree up until Christmas Eve, and it looks so bad, that it won’t be up long after New Year’s. Indeed, to be perfectly honest with you, our tree could use a huge, brown paper bag to stick over it’s head.

However, as much as our Christmas tree is visually challenged, as the saying goes, there’s always someone worse off, and I’m not sure whether to award the prize to Geoff’s work Christmas tree, or to a Christmas tree spotted outside the supermarket and the public toilets.

Meanwhile, there’s our tree.

Where’s a massive paper bag when you need one? This is our sorry Christmas tree in the raw.

Meanwhile, our Christmas tree is a case of people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Our family has always had a real tree. Over the years, my dad’s waxed so lyrically about the scent of the tree in his usually Basil Faulty style (he used to be a close ringer for actor John Cleese), that going fake felt like selling my soul to the devil.

However, the lead up to Christmas 2019 and 2020 hit us hard. Last year, we had the extreme Australian bushfires known colloquially as the “Black Summer”. Although we live well beyond the fire zone, the air here was choking with smoke and with my lung issues, I had to stay in the air-conditioned loungeroom or I couldn’t breathe. It was dire. There were some clear days, which finally allowed me to venture down to the local shops to look for a real tree. By then, however, they’d all sold out and we were excited and thankful to find a $20.00 fake one at the local charity shop. It wasn’t fantastic, and it certainly didn’t have that fresh pine scent which sends my Dad into a spin. However, at least it was green, and we could hang our precious ornaments from it.

Fast-forwarding to 2020, we had a different problem. We found ourselves hosting Christmas for the first time, and while it was only my Mum and Dad, I still wanted the house to be festive and somewhat “neat and tidy”. This was a very tall order, but it pushed us through all sorts of incredible levels of pain, sacrifice and frustration. After finally getting rid of the old piano in the loungeroom, what was meant to be replacing the dingy old carpet with a floating floor, ended up with guttering the room and a massive paint job. Also, with the piano gone, we’ve lost our convenient display and storage unit, leaving a lot of homeless flotsam and jetsam out on the loose. Moreover, while Geoff was working, I started what became a significant purge of books and the clearing of the back room to the point where we’ve moved tables and lounges around and it’s now got a couch and a teenager out there much of the time. The speed of this progress has been an absolute miracle!

All this work didn’t leave much time for Christmas trees, and the night before Christmas, the sad and sorry fake was brought down out of storage, and the teenager who’d once insisted on taking over decorating the Christmas tree (more precision and perfection required), now had to be coerced out of a “why bother” state of mind. I couldn’t blame her. In its naked state, the tree really could’ve used a bag over its head.

How’s this for a magnificent Christmas tree and Santa at our local bookshop, Book Bazaar!

Meanwhile, I came across a beautiful Christmas window display at our local bookshop, and wondered whether I should claim it as our own…

Covid 19 wasn’t on my list when I sat on Santa’s knee last Christmas.

No matter where you are, Christmas 2020 didn’t feature on your Santa list, but it’s been sobering, reflective and it’s got us thinking about what really matters and how we live our lives. What’s important, and what we can go without. So, in this sense as long as we have our nearest and dearest and community among and around us, the rest doesn’t really matter. Indeed, I might even appreciate mediocre attempts to create a bit of Christmas cheer and paint a smile on what initially appeared to be a couple of sad Christmas trees.

How is your Christmas shaping up? Ours is now done and dusted, but that’s another post.

Best wishes and a Merry and blessed Christmas,

Rowena

PS In hindsight, I should’ve covered our Christmas tree in toilet paper this year…a homage to 2020 and also to my youth.

A Sydney Christmas.

Although it’s not quite Christmas yet, I thought I’d share some of the Christmas scenes I encountered on some recent trips into the Sydney CBD. To be honest, by day these decorations as a whole, are very lack lustre compared to what I’ve been seeing from friends currently touring Europe and New York. Indeed, I feel a bit sheepish about presenting them at all, and rather apologetic. However, our beaches are beautiful this time of year, and who needs Christmas lights when you can have the sun.

My personal favourite has to be the window displays in David Jones’s Elizabeth Street Store. Although to be honest, I’ve only viewed them twice and haven’t entered the realms of Christmas traditions, even though I vowed they would when I took the kids there for their Santa photos when they were very small and our daughter was still terrified of Santa.

Here’s a few of my pics this year:

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Star Wars Display at David Jones

 

Walking across Hyde Park, you’ll come across St Mary’s Cathedral with it’s large nativity displays both inside and out:

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St Mary’s Indoor Nativity Scene 2018

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St Mary’s Outdoor Nativity Scene 2018.

Above: the dazzling Christmas tree in the Queen Victoria Building at Town Hall made of Swarovski crystals.

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The two photos above were taken at Haig’s Chocolate Shop in the Queen Victoria Building. As much as I was tempted to but a chocolate bell of Christmas tree, I was concerned about them melting in the heat going home. That’s an unfortunate reality of a Summer Christmas.

Last and perhaps least and I hope it truly lights up into something dazzling as it currently looks very small and pathetic, is the Christmas Tree at Sydney’s Town Hall.

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After all that walking around, Elf and I needed to sit down.

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Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse of a Sydney Christmas by day. It doesn’t look like we’re going to get in there to view the lights.

Wishing you and yours a very Merry and Blessed Christmas and a wonder-filled New Year.

Best wishes,

Rowena and family

No Room At the Inn…A Tale of Christmas Angst.

What type of Christmas are you having this year?  Perhaps, you haven’t thought about it like that before, but as your life stage changes, so does your take on Christmas. For those of you with a new baby, there’s the Baby in the Manger Christmas. Or, if your kids or grandkids are a little older, there’s the Shepherd and Angel Christmas. I’m sure somebody out there must’ve had the Three Wise Men Christmas, while the Three Wise Monkeys always seem to turn up here. I wonder if they also found gold, frankinscence and myrrhr under their tree instead of socks and undies? It’s Not that I’m ungrateful, but who wouldn’t like to hit the jackpot?!!

Well, this year, our Christmas story is…”No Room At the Inn”.

Firstly, we had to find room for the Christmas Tree. We buy a real one every year, and we put it up originally to keep it safe from the kids, but this Christmas we have puppies in the house. Indeed, we have four puppies in the house and I don’t know if pups can climb Christmas trees quite as deftly as a cat, but I don’t want to find out. Our tree is behind bars.

Speaking of pups, there’s no room left in the kennels anymore. We currently have five dogs…our original dog, Lady, our Border Collie x pups Isaac and Rosie and the micro pups, Dobby and Yoda.

Next, I’ve had to clear the shelves of clutterolly to make room for the Christmas decorations. I don’t know where all this stuff came from, and much of it is related to my research project on the Irish Famine Orphans and I’m concerned that if I put it away, I’ll forget all about my project and move onto something else simply because “out of sight, is out of mind”.

The other thing experiencing “No room at the inn” is my blog. Beyond the Flow is full and I need to upgrade my package, which I’ll do after Christmas. I just need to balance the pennies, and unlike the inn, the bank account is closer to empty.  Of course, I swear it was a hacker and not a certain person wanting to spread Christmas cheer a little too far, too enthusiastically and might have got just a little carried away with all that Christmas sparkle. Happiness doesn’t have a price tag, and yet I know I’m not the only one who weaken, crumble and fall into a rising tide of debt just to make everyone and their dog’s dog happy around me. I just can’t help myself. I know each of us

So, the challenge continues…trying to make room for Christmas in a full house.

Are you having any struggles making room for Christmas in your house? I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

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 Tree personality Quiz

In case you didn’t already know, your Christmas tree is the mirror to your soul.A blank canvas of green where you paint your very own self-portrait in tinsel, baubles and lights.

As you make all those decisions involved with both choosing and decorating your tree, you’re actually oozing your personality all over its branches

Your Christmas Tree is your inner self-portrait.

For every year this Christmas tree,
Brings to us such joy and glee.
Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree,
Such pleasure do you bring me!

So what does your Christmas Tree say about you?

Well, I’d be curious to know and perhaps if I show you mine, you might even find the courage to show me yours!

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Our Christmas Tree is cluttered with memories, meaning and love.

 

  1. Is your tree real or fake? Why?

All my life, we have always had a real Christmas tree, which we’ve bought from a local fruit shop. We have always loved the fresh pine scent of a real tree. That is that distinctive smell of Christmas. That said, I’m not so keen on the pine needles which constantly fall on the floor, reminding me of that other scourge which is dog hair.

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2) Do you have matching ornaments? A colour theme?

No, we do not have any theme or style for our Christmas tree. Rather, we have a mish-mash of ornaments which date as far back as my childhood. There’s a patchwork Christmas stocking which I hand-stitched back when I was 12 and it shows. Made with enthusiasm, rather than precision. We have an ornament which we bought in New Zealand on our honeymoon and a beaded star from South Africa bought to support an orphanage. I have also cleaned off the piano and that’s where I’ve put our nativity set and more Santas than I care to mention. I’m a real sucker for Christmas ornaments.

Each shining light
Each silver bell
No one alive spreads cheer so well

Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree,
You’ll ever be unchanging

3) What is at the top of your tree?

We currently have an angel who is playing the violin at the top of our tree. I did buy quite a lovely star to go up there but it really looked like it needed to sit on top of a broom handle and was probably designed to go on a fake tree.

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4)Do you have any hand-made decorations?

We have quite a few hand-made decorations. There are decorations I made when I was a kid and by our children as well. Christmas craft, for me, is an important part of the lead-up to Christmas. Or, at least it used to be. I seem to be too busy these days to even get to the essentials.

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Miss and I made this angel together in 2010. We traced around her hands to make the wings.

5) Do you have any Christmas traditions?

My mother’s family has German heritage, although some of my German roots date back as far as the first shiploads of Germans to arrive in South Australia in 1838.

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Handcarved German Erzgebirge Christmas tree, which I bought in my grandfather’s home town, Hahndorf, in South Australia. I handpainted the teddy bears.

My mother’s mother used to make Honey Biscuits each Christmas, which is also known as Lebkuchen. These biscuits were round and had half a blanched almond on top. I really loved those biscuits. However, it has been difficult to replicate them myself. For many years, I made an alternative recipe but then tried her recipe. Unfortunately, she’d left out much of the detail as i think it was only there to jog her memory. The only time I made them, they made great rocks. I’ll have to have another go.

We go to Church ideally on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Growing up, we had the Church Christmas Tree Service where the kids got all dressed up and recreated the birth of Baby Jesus in the manger. Such nativity services aren’t as common here as they used to be and unfortunately I fell asleep and missed ours last Friday night after a busy week.

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Of course, I’d like to acknowledge those with different faiths and the importance of their celebrations and traditions at this time of year. I liked what Dale wrote in her blog which covered this well:

“Merry Christmas to those of you who do celebrate it and Happy Holidays to those of you who celebrate something else!”

Love and Best wishes,

Rowena , Geoff, Mister, Miss, Bilbo and Lady!

Inner Beauty Therapy.

Yesterday, my daughter treated me to the works at the beauty salon. The salon as such was our bathroom and my daughter was my Beauty Therapist. It was the most awesome experience. As she  gently stroked my face for the very first time, I felt the rains fall in a remote part of my heart which rarely gets a drop.It’s not that I don’t feel and know that I’m loved but we’re so busy and there are the usual challenges of getting the kids to do anything and of course, I’m running after them. I’m sure you can understand and appreciate the ups and downs of parenthood.

My daughter is 8 almost 9 and she’s growing up fast…especially whenever she struts around the house in the silver diamante high heels which I picked up for her from the charity shop. They’re not a huge size but they almost fit. Yikes! I’m not prepared for all of this. Not at all!!

Relationships of any sort are challenging and complex. Even when we’re trying to be caring, loving and thoughtful it can be difficult to synchronise our watches. Create that blank space where we can actually just “be” together. Build the bubble and somehow step inside and be with one another… one on one…no distractions, disturbances, mobiles, texts, or @#$%!!!!

Yesterday, my daughter and I managed to do just that. It was only for about an hour but it was an hour I’ll never forget!!

Miss... an inner beauty therapist!!

Miss… an inner beauty therapist!!

We escaped the to-do list, the mountains of stuff desperately needing to be re-housed and even the lingering Christmas tree, which long been begging and indeed pleading to be taken down and hauled outside to the green recycling bin and we found each other.

Yes, I know you all probably pulled your Christmas trees down weeks ago but I always find this something of a heartbreak and put it off as long as possible. Each Christmas when we set up a real Christmas tree in our home, I am transported back to the world Hans Christian Andersen’s: The Little Fir-Tree.  We all fall in love with our tree and fall under its spell. Now, how can I just throw out all of that love and wonder and stick our tree out beside the road to be crushed up into splinters?

Yet, we can’t start the new school year with our Christmas tree still up either.

The kids go back to school next week and as I’m sure you can appreciate, the start of the new school year heralds all sorts of miraculous happenings. Forget getting the kids organised, I’m still stuck on my own list of resolutions. This year, we are all going to be on time, organised, neat and tidy and homework done on time. We will also plan ahead. Be prepared. We will. I have list, schedules, strategies, tactics and the only thing now standing in my way is …me and of course, the kids!!

Anyway, my daughter has a real knack for ignoring my rising tide of jobs and my blogging commitments and going for the jugular: “Mummy! Mummy!!!!! MUMMY!!!!!!!”

This becomes pretty hard to ignore and indeed, you instinctively know you have to get moving or else your child will be in therapy for the term of their natural life.

My daughter painting my nails.

My daughter painting my nails. Don’t you just love the newspaper?!!

So, I was off to the beauty salon for the works…nails, facial and make-up. Well, it was a beauty salon with a difference… set up in our bathroom. Miss had arranged something like 50 bottles of nail polish I’d bought over something like the last 20 years on the stool in neat little rows, looking quite the professional beauty therapist. Some of these bottles, I must admit, are quite ancient and date back to a very different era before marriage, kids and skin sensitivities. They represent all sorts of hopes, dreams and special events, which have long since merged into the kaleidoscope of memory. Fortunately, it looks like nail polish withstands the tests of time and doesn’t go off.

So there I was transformed from a mere mortal into Her Royal Highness Queen Mummy perched upon my royal throne with newspaper underneath my hands and feet as Miss artistically painted my nails rainbow colours: red, orange, yellow, green and blue. That was my choice!!

I might be a supposedly sensible, mature 40 something wife, mother of two kids and two dogs but that doesn’t mean I have to conform. Be boring. Muted and lose all sense of colour. After all, just because we’ve grown up, that doesn’t mean we have to stop growing and stop living. No one is forcing us to to stick to the safe, the conservative and socially expected. I am, we’re all allowed to take a walk on the wild side. Besides, when it’s school holidays, the rules all go out the window. You can do whatever you like and just blame the kids. Guaranteed, even the stiffest conservative will break into a loving smile when I tell her that my daughter painted my nails and of course, they’ll blame her for the rainbow colours and think I’m the best Mum in the whole wide world!

 

Tapping away with rainbow nails.

Tapping away with rainbow nails.

Having my nails painted was fun and I also appreciated having Miss there to paint my toe nails. It’s not the easiest thing to do yourself and who doesn’t like to be pampered?!! Actually, you’d be surprised. Almost everybody is too busy and or too serious for a bit of self-indulgent pampering, which isn’t just frivolous, superficial beauty but also love in action.

The Body Shop's Warming Mineral Mask. Yum! I mean wow!

The Body Shop’s Warming Mineral Mask. Yum! I mean wow!

 

Anyway, the pampering ramped up a notch when it came to the facial. I can’t remember the last time I had any kind of facial but I’m thinking it was definitely BK (before kids). Well, I had this tube of the Body Shop’s  Warming Mineral Mask. It’s the most amazing stuff. You wet your face and when this stuff comes into contact with water, it heats up and feels so amazingly soothing. For those of you who are into facials, it is a clay based mask which promises to remove impurities. Hmm… I wonder if it can also remove all my faults and idiosyncrasies and make me a better person? Somehow, it will take more than just a face mask to pull that off!!

 

Here I am with cucumber eyes and face mask on.

Here I am with cucumber eyes and face mask on.

 

So there I was with my eyes closed and my daughter somehow managed to find a cucumber in our fridge and applied a slice of cucumber to each weary eyelid. Ooh! I’ve never experienced that before and the effect was immediate, relaxing and cooling. Wow it felt good. Not just the cucumber either. I am so deeply touched that my daughter has been so loving and spontaneously thoughtful. She has even brought in a newspaper for me to read, although I preferred for us to talk. She had thought of so many small details…I can’t tell you how that made me feel. As we all know, parenting isn’t always easy and we all make mistakes and press all the wrong buttons and instead of saying or showing “I love you”, it is all to easy to say: “Not now”, “I’m too busy”, “Go away!!” “Can’t you play by yourself?” or “Can I phone a friend to come and play with you?”

 

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Miss in bliss.

We’re all guilty of that.

Anyway, as my daughter gently stroked my face as she applied the mask (in between patting and occasionally rubbing it like an orbital sander), I felt drops of rain fall on a very thirsty, dry and parched desert soil. I lapped up that tenderness like a kitten thirstily lapping up a much loved saucer of milk and feeling totally satisfied.

Miss also enjoyed being pampered herself, although I suspect she preferred running her own beauty salon. She loved it.

We’re already planning our next session. Next time, we’ll be over at Palm Beach and indulging ourselves by the sea in a place that surely must be close to heaven on Earth.

I encourage you to take the time out for a bit of pampering, heart warming love.

Who knows? Perhaps, you too might start smelling the roses. I can assure you they smell fabulous!!

Love,

Rowena & Miss xxoo

 

 

 

Angels and Shepherds Smile at the Camera

We might have had a real baby playing baby Jesus this year but there weren’t even any dress-up sheep this year for the shepherds to round up…just toddlers. Once again we were late for Church even though I was doing a reading and Mister was a shepherd and Amelia an angel. But we made it… Didn’t break any bones before this “performance” and the cough behaved itself as well. Even managed to photographed the children afterwards in costume in front of the tree.

I almost forgot to mention that we drove home via a scenic tour of the Christmas lights. decorating your house in Christmas lights isn’t huge here but some people really have gone all out. Being summer and daylights savings time over here, the kids are usually in bed before you can really get a good look at the lights. Hence, it’s become a bit of a tradition to have a look at the lights after the Christmas Eve Service.

Anyway, we could like to wish you and yours a loving and blessed Christmas and a peace-filled New Year. Let’s see if we can really set the Golden Rule in motion in 2015!

Love & God Bless,

Rowena Geoff, Mister, Miss, Bilbo and Lady xxoo

Angel and shepherd smiling at Mummy's camera.

Angel and shepherd smiling at Mummy’s camera.

Should We Have A Happy Christmas?

Last night, I tried once again to write my Annual Christmas Newsletter but was getting stuck. After the last few weeks, I‘m finding it hard to get into the Christmas spirit. Australia has been in mourning following the accidental death of cricketer Phillip Hughes. Since then the shock, outrage and sadness has only got worse…so much worse! Knowing that these families are grieving, it is hard to feel positive about this Christmas or write about what our family has been doing this year, as though it’s all just business as usual. That said, I was having chemo last Christmas and every Christmas we have together as a family is very, very precious.

 

My grandfather reading his Christmas mail 2007. When he was a Pastor in Wollongong back in the 1950s in a congregation with mostly "New Australians", everbody would sing Silent Night in their own language together.

My grandfather reading his Christmas mail 2007, aged 93. When he was a Pastor in Wollongong back in the 1950s in a congregation with mostly “New Australians”, everybody would sing Silent Night in their own language together.

The Annual Christmas Newsletter is a tradition started by my grandfather. He quite literally belted out his newsletter on the keys of his pre-historic typewriter well after the days of computers. I’ve even seen newer contraptions preserved in modern museums. He was a Church Pastor and knew a lot of people and could have used a mail house to get his Christmas newsletter out.  Christmas was such a special time for him. Not just because it honored Jesus’ birth but because it brought Christians and families together. He loved nothing more than the annual Christmas Tree service on Christmas Eve where the children dressed up as angels and shepherds. If you’d been good at Sunday School, you might just be lucky and get the role of Mary or Joseph. That is, instead of being cast as the donkey!!

The kids dressed as angels for the Christmas Eve Service, 2008.

The kids dressed as angels for the Christmas Eve Service, 2008 aged 2 and 4.

However, I was not only struggling due to the usual writer’s block. I am still absolutely shell-shocked by recent events.

You know what I’m talking about.

I still haven’t started my newsletter and what I started writing has instead become this post. Quite unintentionally, it has ended up with two contrasting but interwoven stories. The words look at what’s happened as I guess I’m still trying to make sense of it all. The photos of our family tell a different story. They show those precious Christmas moments we all treasure and they really brought it home what these families have lost. Going through our many many Christmas photos  has also helped me appreciate our kids a lot more and what we have. That we shoud never take that for granted. Never ever!

Phillip Hughes’ death stopped the nation. That now seems a very long time ago in what I’m now calling “the Age of Innocence” before the events of last week. How a cricket ball could by-pass the helmet and hit him smack in the neck and kill such a fit and healthy young sportsman in the prime of life was beyond comprehension. Naturally, we support bowler Sean Abbott and the accident was clearly not his fault. It was one of those freakish things you can’t explain.

As I watched “Hughesie’s” funeral on TV, I heard his brother talk about the endless hours he spent bowling to his little bro who always insisted on batting first and took days and days to get out. Being the youngest, it was his sister’s job to fetch the balls. After hearing all those little anecdotes, we felt like we knew the cricketer in the green baggy cap with the enormous smile and such a joie de vivre. We felt shattered for his family and his cricketing family as well and we thought about his upcoming birthday and, of course, Christmas !!

However, last week’s dreadful siege in Martin Place’s much loved Lindt Café was in another league of shocked disbelief entirely. Of course, this tragedy wasn’t some statistically freakish accident. It was pure evil in action and it happened in our Sydney.

At any other time, any chocoholic would have been ecstatic to be locked up in the Lindt Cafe overnight and the contrast between chocolate heaven and the absolute hell that went on in there, is incomprehensible. I’ve never been there but so many friends have such special memories of that café. It is an indulgent treat. As the gunman forced the hostages up against the windows and we saw their hands, the window frames were decorated with “Merry Christmas” in fancy script. Again, this juxtaposition was yet another cruel irony. The siege ended on Tuesday 16th December with the deaths of Tori Johnson , the Manager of the Lindt Café and Katrina Dawson, Barrister and mother of three who had a love of hot chocolate.

An utter tragedy!!

You wouldn’t think it could get much worse, even though you know it does.

Only a day later, seven heavily armed Taliban gunmen scaled an outer wall of the Army Public School and Degree College in Peshawar, Pakistan and began shooting indiscriminately. 132 children and nine school staff were killed in what has been the deadliest ever attack by the Taliban in Pakistan. As the Economist stated: “It takes something unusually vile for the world to pay much attention to a terrorist outrage in Pakistan”[1].

I doubt any of us can even name one of the children killed in that attack. Personally, beyond knowing it had happened, I didn’t really know many of the details myself. I have been immersed in the aftermath of the Lindt Cafe Siege. It wasn’t that I didn’t care but once again it was over there and I was still shell shocked by what had happened here. I think they’ve termed this “sympathy fatigue”. All the same, these kids are just like yours and mine. They no doubt also liked to play cricket. Perhaps, they eveh put their cricket bats out the front of their homes out of respect to cricketer Phillip Hughes just like kids all around Australia…not knowing the horror which lay ahead.

Yet, around the world, people know Phillip Hughes, Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson by name. Sir Elton John paused during a concert to honour Hughes and Martin Place is bursting and overflowing with floral tributes to these hero hostages who lost their lives protecting others.

Those children in Pakistan are just as precious!!

Mister pushing his little sister along George Street, Sydney 2008.

Christmas Shopping- Mister pushing his little sister along George Street, Sydney 2008

While it’s tempting to switch off and feel that the Pakistan massacre is just too horrific. Too dreadful. Can we afford to cover our eyes, our ears and simply switch off our TVs and somehow get back to Christmas 2014? Get back to wrapping presents, decorating trees, baking, eating too much chocolate, too much of everything including a few stiff drinks…especially after last week?

No matter who you are, we all have our own problems. While there are quite evidently a lot of people worse off out there, you also need to deal with your own stuff too. No one else is going to do it for you!! Perhaps, you just  haven’t got anything left to think about someone someplace else.

 

You also might just want to enjoy Christmas and honour the real meaning of Christmas…Christ’s birth and that God the Father sent him down to earth to save mankind from themselves. Save the lost. After this week, you’d think that Jesus might think it’s time to come back. How could there be so much hate and violence on our pretty blue planet which ironically looks so peaceful from space? I don’t know. Somehow, we need to start turning the tide around but how?

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke.

But what can we do?

Thousands have left flowers in Martin Place. You can send Christmas cards to Katrina Dawson’s kids. We can also make a start by living by the Golden Rule and treating others as we would like to be treated . We could perhaps even develop the empathy and compassion to consider how others would like to be treated as well. How many of us have people we don’t speak to or even worse spew out abuse at each other? If we can not show love, forgiveness and compassion in our own personal relationships, how can we possibly change our world? While we might not have physically murdered anyone, who have we damaged through our words or our deeds…or indeed, possibly even broken beyond repair? There is so much pain and heartache in our world and maybe we just need to listen to a troubled soul and that could be all it takes to make a difference and show love…that proverbial cup of tea.

Yet, even listening is not as easy as we think.

Mister at the Beach Aged 9 Months- Christmas 2004.

Mister at the Beach Aged 9 Months- Christmas 2004.

Just when we thought that it couldn’t get much worse, news came through from Queensland (Australia) that a mother has been charged with murdering 7 of her children as well as her niece. That’s eight children senselessly killed, seven by their own mother. This mother has at least one other child still living who has to live with that loss. He is just a young man and I don’t know how he’ll get through this atrocity. Apparently, these children had more than one Dad and these fathers have had their hearts ripped out as well. Why? Why does a mother kill her own children when your very instinct is to defend your children, even to the death?!! We’ve all had bad days with our kids but to do that…it’s incomprehensible. I am left numb. We have all been left numb.

Now, the fields of floral tributes are growing in Cairns as well. Too much tragic, needless heartache.

With the gravity of recent events, I haven’t heard any mention of the families who lost loved ones in the equally horrific shooting down of Flight MH17. It is their first Christmas without their loved ones. But given recent events, it’s like revisiting that horror is all too much. Yet, I still care. I haven’t forgotten.

MIss with her doll's house. We had to qwrap it up in a big white sheet to wrap it up and tied tinsel around it.

Miss with her doll’s house. We had to wrap it up in a big white sheet to wrap it up and tied tinsel around it.

 

Our daughter's first Christmas 2006 aged 10 months.

Our daughter’s first Christmas 2006 aged 10 months.

Mister and the old big red fella Christmas 2014

Mister and the old big red fella Christmas 2014

 

So after all of this, how are the rest of us supposed to have a Happy Christmas? Oh yes. I’m just swinging from the chandeliers in my Mrs Claus suit drinking champagne, even with my broken foot in its boot.

I don’t think so.

Yet, Christmas Day is too important for our family to write off or turn into a funeral. Life is precious and nobody knows what lies around the corner. Despite my many health scares, I’m still standing but none of us can take things for granted.

As a friend of mine who works in Martin Place has said: Every day is a gift.

We need to make sure we use that gift wisely. For me that includes being informed about these shocking events but also trying to be a counterforce for good. Right now, I really feel like marching down George Street (Sydney’s main street) wearing a huge heart suit to reinforce the importance of love. That love can triumph over evil. I’d probably look like an idiot and get locked up for disturbing the peace but I want people to remember that there is love and goodness in this world, even when we see the very worst of humanity flashed across our TV screens and even in our own city. We have to fight for goodness and for most of us, it will be in the little things. Baking a cake for a friend. Driving your friend’s kids home from school. Not walking into someone with a walking stick when you’re running desperately for that train. Keeping your cool with the kids when they’ve razzed you up for the hundredth time.

 

Showing off my new zebra PJs from Victoria's Secret beside the Christmas Tree in 2006. Lucky I didn't go skiing on all that wrapping paper!

Showing off my new zebra PJs from Victoria’s Secret beside the Christmas Tree in 2006. Lucky I didn’t go skiing on all that wrapping paper!

Mummy & Miss Christmas 2006

Mummy & Miss Christmas 2006. She is 10 months old and still crawling.

Mister & I with Santa at the Pearl Beach, Playgroup 2008.

Mister & I with Santa at the Pearl Beach, Playgroup 2008.

 

 

 

 

These random acts of kindness aren’t going to win you any awards and you won’t see your name up in lights but there is the personal satisfaction of a life well lived and having integrity and character…values that desperately need to come back into fashion.

That said, something tells me that the word Kardashian has more weight.

Somehow, you and I need to be the change.

Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be.
With God as our father
Brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.

Jill Jackson Miller and Sy Miller

I have pretty much decided that from tomorrow, my blog will return to “normal viewing”. That it is time to celebrate and enjoy Christmas 2014 and that is not the crime. That said, for all of you who are grieving this Christmas, I send you my love!

Love & Best wishes,

Rowena

We've all got to start somewhere. Miss aged 1 2007.

We’ve all got to learn the Golden Rule sometime. Miss almost aged 2- Christmas 2007. The next photo showed Mister with the doll..She must have been told to share.

Who hasn't bought their little man a superman suit? Christmas 2008. Mister aged 4 and Miss aged 2.

Who hasn’t bought their little man a superman suit?
Christmas 2008. Mister aged 4 and Miss aged 2.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21636746-attack-sign-militants-are-under-pressure-pakistans-leaders-must-unite

Terror in Australis: the Siege in Sydney’s Martin Place.

Today, it’s 9 days before Christmas and our Christmas tree is standing in a plastic bucket of water almost naked awaiting decorations. We’ve had a very busy weekend with our daughter’s dance concert and I played my violin at the school Christmas carols and we also had to get the decorations out of storage.Oh yes, our son and I made our Christmas cake as well. To be honest, we’ve almost been too busy for Christmas!

Tonight was going to be the night. Being a bit of a flamboyant type, I usually like to turn decorating the Christmas tree into something of a ceremony with some Christmas cake, mince pies while the sounds of Hark the Herald Angels Sing echo throughout the house. Our decorations are an eclectic mix accumulated over the years and include snowmen and coloured-in Christmas stencils the kids have done over the years.

Martin Place at Night

Martin Place at Night

However, how can we possibly dress our Christmas tree tonight while hostages are still being held captive in a siege at the Lindt Cafe in Sydney’s Martin Place? They’ve now been held captive for over 11 hours.  We all know the impatience of being stuck in a queue for more than 5 minutes and the fear of being trapped in a lift for any length of time and none of these horrors even comes close to the psychological and emotional trauma of being held captive by a gunman and it’s pretty safe to assume that someone who would take people hostage in the first place might not be the most stable of characters.

Clock Tower, Sydney GPO, Martin Place.

Clock Tower, Sydney GPO, Martin Place.

However, the tide stops for no one and so we went ahead with decorating the tree although instead of the usual Christmas cheer, we were watching the rolling news coverage instead. So much for Christmas carols and a bit of Christmas cheer but there are bigger things at stake.

Rather than just rehashing what’s already being rehashed and rehashed in the media, I won’ t go into details here. I would recommend going to the Sydney Morning Herald’s website at: http://www.smh.com.au/

However, as you might not have heard of Martin Place, I thought I’d provide something of a back story. After all, you would think that the Sydney Harbour Bridge or the Sydney Opera House would be more likely choices for a siege but once you look around Martin Place a bit, the thinking becomes clearer.

Map Showing the location of Martin Place, Sydney.

Map Showing the location of Martin Place, Sydney.

Martin Place was officially opened in September 1892 and was named after the Chief Justice, Sir James Martin, a former New South Wales Attorney-General and Premier. Moore Street (between Pitt and Castlereagh streets) was widened and renamed Martin Place in 1921.

This iconic photo known as "Dancing Man" was taken in Elizabeth Street,  Martin Place celebrating the end of WWII on 15 August, 1945.

Celebration in Martin Place: This iconic photo known as “Dancing Man” was taken in Elizabeth Street, Martin Place where this exuberant gentleman is celebrating  the end of WWII on 15 August, 1945.

The Dictionary of Sydney writes:

“Martin Place has been called ‘the heart of the city’, and it was added to the Australian Heritage Commission’s list in 1989. It is the site of the Cenotaph, built in 1927, and some of Sydney’s finest buildings front it, including the GPO, two Commonwealth Bank buildings, Challis House, the Australasia Bank head office, the Colonial Mutual Life building and the APA building. Martin Place was also the site of the spectacular but now demolished Hotel Australia and the Rural Bank head office. It is home to the head offices of the Reserve Bank and a number of other banks.

Martin Place provides both a ceremonial and recreational focus for the city. Because the GPO and its associated telegraph office was originally the place where news first broke – the shipping news – people have long gathered in front of the building at times of national significance. They flocked there at the ending of wars, which was why this location was chosen for the Cenotaph, which has always been a more significant gathering point than the main war memorial in Hyde Park. The famous photograph of the ‘dancing man’ has cemented this place in the story of the ending of World War II. Today, Anzac Day and other commemorative services are held at the Cenotaph in lower Martin Place, which is also the site for the annual Lord Mayor’s Christmas tree. Giant screens, first erected to allow Sydneysiders to view events from the Olympic Games in 2000, are now a regular feature of the Sydney Festival, while political demonstrations in Martin Place are a constant part of the ebb and flow of the city’s life. In 2008 it filled with people to hear Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s speech making an apology to Aboriginal people of the Stolen Generations.”

http://dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/martin_place

ANZAC Parade through Martin Place 1930

ANZAC Day Parade through Martin Place 1930

Personally,  I think of Martin Place as a quiet place of reflection where you can take a bit of  time out from work while eating takeaway or perhaps a sandwich and there’s always a large contingent of pigeons.Come rush hour, there’s also the rush and bustle and Martin Place transforms into a sea of rapidly moving legs. It’s a great place to go people watching. Take photos and feel completely immersed in Sydney.

Here I am dining out in Martin Place after attending the Sydney Writer's Festival last year.

Here I am dining out in Martin Place after attending the Sydney Writer’s Festival last year.

Quite aside from its Martin Place location, the siege is in the luxurious Lindt Cafe. I’ve never actually been there myself but friends have. It’s the sort of place you go for that special indulgence and in so many instances, sharing the chocolate you love with the person you love. Lindt chocolate is absolutely divine and to be perfectly honest, many of us would have fantasized about being accidentally locked in Lindtland with all that chocolate. Obviously those chocoholic fantasies are a very different scenerario to what’s now going on at the Lindt Cafe. One minute, the hostages were in heaven, the next minute they were in hell.

This siege is like having a bullet shot into Australia’s heart and it hurts. It bewilders. We can’t understand why something this awful is happening here. Our innocence, our naivety perhaps, that these things might happen overseas but do not happen here, has been shattered. Nowhere is safe.

Traditionally, Australia has been geographically isolated from “trouble”. World War I never reached our shores and while the Japanese dropped bombs around the Australian coast notably in Sydney Harbour and Darwin, the war was largely waged on foreign soil. Intellectuals, writers, artists, performers have all lamented this isolation and have often fled our shores either by necessity or design. We were something of a backwater but the world has shrunk and we can no longer depend on this isolation. We are now part of the world wide web. We can’t turn back..whether we want to or not.

It is now more than 12 hours since the siege began and it’s hard to believe that there is no end in sight.

It is shuddering to think about what the hostages are going through…as well as their family and friends. I know that anguish of living in suspended animation and the thought of being taken away from those I love and who love me…even though I’ve never been in a hostage situation. That is anguish and we’ve seen a few of the hostages who escaped on TV and their terror is chilling.

We pray for the peaceful resolution and for the safe release of the hostages and for healing from this anguish.

I am also praying about the repercussions of this event. People are angry, scared. We’ve had our very way of life threatened and it’s only natural to fight back and defend you and yours as well as your beliefs. We do not want terrorism or violence of any sort in our country and while we do need to defend our country from internal and external attack, we also need to nurture a culture of love and acceptance where people of all  cultures and creeds feel at home. That said, extremism of any sort needs to be dealt with strongly so we can continue living in a free and just people.

I am hoping to wake up in the morning and hear that the siege is over. That it has ended well. My goodness. I am now heading off to sleep in my own bed while the hostages and sleeping or more likely spending the night with a gun point at them. Reminds me not to take things for granted and to be thankful, even though I’ve had a run of bad luck lately.

I send them, their family and friends my love.

xx Rowena