Tag Archives: Santa

Weekend Coffee Share – 29th November, 2021.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

I am in denial. Surely, there has to be more than 26 days left before Christmas? Unfortunately, these aren’t even full days and only the crumbs left usually after someone else has chewed up all your time denying that time honoured tradition of making your own Christmas cake, making decorations and squeezing as many parties in as you can back-to-back and even double-triple booked if you can pull it off somehow. Of course, having kids and having to double as Santa has modified things more than a little, but they add so much to the Christmas spirit you could hardly leave them out. Indeed, in so many ways children are Christmas, and as a Christian, the baby Jesus is ideally at the centre of everything, although I have to admit I struggle. How could the day that’s meant to focus on him be so incredibly distracting? Anyway, last year there wasn’t much of all of that Christmas hoopla to complain about anyway, and I don’t want to whinge to much or we may end up locked down or seriously restricted for Christmas 2021. No. Please delete all my whingeing. Yes, indeed! I’m really looking forward to Christmas and catching up with my large extended family. With covid restrictions, we couldn’t see them last year, this Christmas is going to be really special!

An Australian Christmas, Pearl Beach, New South Wales.

Do you have any plans for Christmas? Any special traditions? Perhaps, it’s a bit too early to talk about plans, but December seems to go so quickly that plan needs to shift gears into action very soon.

The tragic Christmas tree at Geoff’s work a few years ago.

However, all of that hasn’t stopped me from remaining neck deep in my research. Actually, I’ve managed to submit a 1000 word story to go into the Friends of Ethel Turner (Australian author) newsletter. I was really pleased to get that done, because I could feel myself chickening out. I’m sure many of you know that feeling all too well. You come up with an idea, which seems like a piece of cake, but as you delve into it becomes harder or more challenging than you thought. You want to run. Hide. Give up. Not such a good idea after all, but in the end you persevere, and you get it done. Indeed, you might even get a red tick and VG (very good) in the margin like I did writing my stories back in primary school.

Now, I’m chasing Ethel Turner through Europe. She went on a six month holiday through England and Europe in 1910 with her husband, Herbert Curlewis and children Jean and Adrian. She had a series of photographic essays published when she returned, and I’m currently reading through them and saving them onto my computer. I am particularly interested in her impressions of Paris. I spent a month there in 1992, which was special at the time, but has come to be an indulgence as time’s gone by and I haven’t returned. I also enjoyed reading about her struggles converting currency as they swept from country to country, and I remember what that was like and I loved the wide variety of coins, especially as a young child. I haven’t been back since the Euro simplified things, but lost something special in the process I feel. The coins family brought back and coins I brought back myself, are still very special to me- my treasure!

Unfortunately, reading about Ethel Turner’s travels are the closest I’ve got to travel for awhile. Indeed, with Zac the dog parked on my lap so much, it’s hard for me to even get out of the chair.

It is his fault, I’m sure!

The other rather demotivating influence on my exercise levels has been the weather. As you may be aware, I live in Greater Sydney and it’s been raining solidly for what seems like an eternity. As it turns out, we’re experiencing a  La Niña event, which increase the chance of above average rainfall across much of northern and eastern Australia during summer. Just when I was thinking of heading out in my bikini…NOT!!! Anyway, it’s looking like I’ll be needing to invest in a yellow raincoat this Summer.

This coming Friday is the beginning of dance concert season. I love watching my daughter dance. However, this is not a privilege which comes without a cost and that’s not just in terms of dollars and cents. Last night, I was sewing the ribbons and elastics onto her pointe shoes. I don’t know why these blessed things don’t come with all of this paraphernalia already attached. It’s not as though the ribbons have to be tailored to my daughter’s foot and petite ankle and it would be much easier for a heavy-duty machine to penetrate the leather at the back than my delicate fingers. Of course, the ballerina could sew on her her accoutrements. However, in between juggling school, dance and working at McDonalds, she doesn’t have much spare time. I, on the other hand, have eternity. Didn’t you know?

By the way, I was reading about Jesus washing the disciples feet just before I was asked to sew up the pointe shoes. However, I’m not so sure that being my daughter’s servant is what Jesus had in mind. These thoughts were echoed on the bedroom front.

However, it’s been a tough year for her with her health and lockdown. Sometimes, it’s nice to have someone take the edge off the pressure, and we could all use a fairy now and then. An extra set of hands. At the same time, I could use a bit of help from her too…and her brother.

Meanwhile, the Productivity Manager is ensuring it’s difficult to get out of my chair. By that, I’m referring to our dog Zac, who seems to pour himself into my lap and stay put until his sister, Rosie appears with a ball, and then he’s off standing a metre or two behind her ready to pounce.

The other productivity issue around here involves dog hair. It’s Spring and with three dogs, the fur is floating in black clouds all over the house. Lady’s fur (cavalier x Border collie) comes out in tufts, while the pups fur mainly snows although Rosie loses a bit of felt. I’ve read comments about corgies shedding so much you can make another dog out of the discarded fur, and I’ve thought the same with dear Lady and co.

Well, on that note, I’m going to head off. I’d love to hear from you!

Meanwhile, you might like to join us over at the Weekend Coffee Share, which is hosted by Natalie the Explorer https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

Best wishes,

Rowena

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.

Santa’s Australian Post-Christmas Escape.

You couldn’t blame Santa for needing a bit of a break after supervising all his elves and dashing round the planet on his sleigh. After all, he must have the most stressful job on Earth.

So, here he is hiding out at Lennox Head, South of Byron Bay on Australia’s East Coast catching some waves.

Of course, I had to join him. While I’m not much chop as a surfer, today must have been my lucky day because I not only managed to stand up, I also stayed dry. That’s quite an achievement.

By the way, I should mention that I’ve enjoyed feeling 21 again on this holiday. I’m not looking forward to returning to responsibility when the kids go back to school at the end of January. It’s been absolute bliss drifting along for a bit and not needing to be anywhere at a particular time. No lines etched in the sand. They’ve all been washed away.

Have you ever been surfing and do you have any stories to share?

Best wishes,

Rowena

Not A Very Willing Santa Pup!

This afternoon, I pulled out my camera, donned my elf outfit and dressed the pups up in their Christmas outfits. I  never take a snap just for the hell of it. So, I should’ve known it was going to take more than spontaneous enthusiasm, to pull off this quasi professional photo shoot.

No doubt, you’ve also seen those uber cute dogs in Christmas catalogues. You know, the ones with huge, puppy dog eyes dressed up as Santa, elves, reindeer and Christmas trees. Don’t they just make your heart melt? Melt enough to buy your unsuspecting dog an entire new wardrobe.

Well, I’ll blame my daughter for falling victim this year… and the pups.

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The Micro Pups Last Week.

Besides, who wouldn’t be tempted to dress up two, six week old pups, especially in identical outfits? Well, I would’ve done the matching outfits,if only the store had delivered. As it was, we had a Santa and an elf. In addition to the micro pups, we also have our older pups to dress up in the Christmas spirit.  While they’ve grown up very quickly, they’re still only 4 months old and this will be their first Christmas. So, who wouldn’t want to do something special?!! The shop didn’t have their size and so we bought a Santa hat for them and a Christmas Tree outfit for Lady, who could well be an XL. Of course, she blames that on the fur coat, but we know better!

Such are the best laid plans of mice, men and me. As we rushed through the door with our grandiose plans, no one had briefed any of the pups, and they weren’t convinced. If they can it eat it…If they can chew it….If they can chase it…They’re in. “Wearing”…Now, that’s another story, and they made it quite clear, THAT wasn’t part of their contract!

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Our lack of planning didn’t help. We burst through the front door and before developing any plan of attack, our daughter was trying to guide little Dobbie’s paw through the leg of the Santa suit and it wasn’t going on. Getting stuck on claws and being too narrow for even his skinny puppy legs, it was a beast to put on Dobbie was NOT amused!! Needless to say, that was a fail.

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Zac, our 4 month old Border Collie X was next up. He was wearing a pseudo-luxurious Santa hat, which was attached via an elastic band. The elastic is a critical element of the hat’s design, as you’ll see from the photographic evidence. Well, he was wearing the hat for a few seconds. A very smart and innovative dog with a real gift for turning anything in into a chew toy or something to chase, he sat there shaking his head watching the white pom pom swinging backwards and forwards and trying snap at it with all his might.

Rosie Claws

This thrill didn’t last long as his sister, Rosie, soon stepped in and snapped hold of the hat. Santa’s hat was a red rag to a pair of voracious jaws, and it disappeared out into the backyard. Their latest prize.

Yoda Elf

Meanwhile, I managed to get Yoda into his elf suit without too much difficulty, and put him on top of the green wheelie bin…my makeshift studio. With the backyard looking like a moonscape scattered with chewed up detritis, the bin lid almost looked glamorous by comparison. These shots weren’t there yet, but showed potential.

Obviously, I need to be more “strategic”, and have now put this one down to “practice”.

Next time, I’ll stick to the Scotto motto and “Be Prepared”.

How have you gone photographing pets in costumes? Any success? Any tips? I’d love to hear from you!

xx Rowena

PS I should mention that the pups were under close supervision wearing these costumes. It doesn’t take much for puppy mischief to become tragic.

 

 

Christmas Cake Dogastrophy

If you look into those irresistible, chocolate brown eyes, you would never suspect that cute as a button dog could be capable of such wickedness.

Christmas cake 2014 zoom

The Christmas Cake.

That she could sit there licking her lips seemingly asking for more when she’s all but devoured our homemade Christmas Cake. That’s right. The very same Christmas Cake I made using my mother’s recipe, which has been part of my Christmas every year for at least 45 years or thereabouts (I doubt a 5 month old baby would’ve eaten Christmas Cake, but you never know.)

The world was very different then and so many of our family traditions have disappeared. So, this Christmas Cake is special. Of course, it doesn’t replace the true meaning of Christmas but it was made with love and the dog gutsed all that love all by herself.

Well, fortunately, she didn’t get all the cake. Thanks to my Dad’s rather peculiar aversion to cinnamon, I’d made a tray of mini Christmas Cakes for him, which I’d safely sealed away in a plastic box.So, it looks like Dad will be sharing.

As for Lady, she showed absolutely no remorse and has shot up to the very top of Santa’s Naughty List.

So, there’ll be no pressies for her…except a potentially nasty tummy ache!

Do you have any Christmas disasters to report? After all, as much as we strive towards a perfect Christmas, most of us are only human and we’re left to blame our mistakes on the dog.

xx  Rowena

All for a Sozzled Christmas Cake…

Yesterday, being the second day of the school holidays, I was driven to desperate measures. Indeed, pushed straight over the brink, I was merely hanging onto my sanity by the barest of fingertips. The kids were asleep. My husband was there to mind the fort. It was almost 10.00PM and I had to get to the bottle shop. I couldn’t wait!

Of course, it wasn’t for me.

I swear it wasn’t.

It was for my Christmas Cake. I’d found an interesting recipe on the back of my Christmas cards and I had to try it out. With only a few sleeps before Christmas, there wasn’t any time to waste. Not that it would be ready in time. Like all Christmas cakes, it has to rest and this one needs more rest than most.

However, if I was a Christmas Cake and I’d drunk an entire cup of straight brandy, I’d need an extended rest too. Indeed, I’d probably need my stomach pumped. Unlike the Christmas cake, I’m not much of a drinker and a humble cup of tea usually does me.

So, there I was cruising the streets at night, desperately needing my cup of brandy. Yet, much to my horror, all the bottle shops were shut. I mean…where’s the Christmas spirit? Evidently, you needed to go to the pub for that.

Go to the pub? Was I that desperate, that unabashed, that I could front up to the bar with my pink melamine measuring cup and order a cup of brandy?

Yes! I was.

As I said, it wasn’t for me. It was for the Christmas cake. Surely, the pub would have a bit of compassion for someone making a Christmas cake a few days before Christmas?

Still, I could see all those bar flies with their huge, bug eyes are staring at me like rotting flesh.

What the?

Even I have to admit it’s weird…like a scene out of Fawlty Towers, Some Mothers Do Have ‘Em  or some more recent comedy show.

I’ve been known to cause  embarrassment before, but this would have taken the cake (forgive the pun).

We live in a beach side town and while there are plenty of people living here, it’s yet another insular peninsula. Nothing’s private. Everybody knows your business and I can tell you that some old chook turning up at the bar ordering brandy in a measuring cup, would not go unnoticed. I’d be the talk of the town and for all the wrong reasons.

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Yet, hasn’t anyone else ever been caught out trying to make a Christmas cake a few days before Christmas? Surely, after thousands of years of celebrating Christmas, I am not the only one…the very first?!!

By the way, if you’ve never made your own Christmas Cake, you probably don’t know about their heavy drinking habits.

Of course, they have all sorts of excuses. I mean, if I earned a dollar for every time I’ve heard a Christmas cake blame the dried fruit, I’d be a very wealthy woman. But you try giving a thirsty Christmas Cake a few glasses of water, and you’ll soon see their true colours. They’ll be throwing that slice of lemon straight back at you and demanding the hard stuff…whiskey, brandy, rum. If you’re on a budget, you might be lucky. They might settle for a sherry, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. These Christmas cakes hold nothing back and that’s why they’re always at the very top of Santa’s Naughty List.

Indeed, if you drank a cup of straight brandy, I’m sure you’d be at the top of the Naughty List too!

With the bottle shops shut and feeling too intimidated to go to the pub, I did consider Facebooking a few friends. Who could I pop in on at 10.00PM asking for a cup of brandy rather than the usual cup of sugar? I’m sure we all know a few likely characters, but by this stage, I’d finally accepted defeat. I decided to head back to the bottle shop in the morning.

Meanwhile, before I call it a night, I have some advice for Santa.

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Beware of eating too much Christmas Cake. I don’t know if they have random breath testing for sleighs,  but you don’t want to end up at the top of your own naughty list.

I’m not quite sure how many standard drinks are going to be in this Christmas cake by the time it’s done. Although much of the alcohol will be cooked out of the cake, you keep adding it as it ferments. It’s going to be sozzled.

So, my piece of wisdom for this Christmas…

Be careful before you eat and drive!

Don’t say you haven’t been warned!

Wishing you a cautious Merry Christmas and some moderated “Ho! Ho! Ho!”

xx Rowena

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I must admit it feel odd walking out of the bottle shop at lunch time with a bottle in a brown paper bag. It’s not mine! I swear it’s not mine!

 

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.

Christmas cake 2014 zoom

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.

jonathon-jan-2007

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.

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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

Goodbye 2015 Weekend Coffee Share

Welcome to the Goodbye 2015 Edition of the Weekend Coffee Share.

We hope you and yours had a Merry Christmas. You can read about our Christmas here as well as about the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race which set sail on Boxing Day: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/12/26/an-aussie-boxing-day/

I’ll also mention that during the last week Beyond the Flow hit 30,000 views and kept going. I am pretty stoked with this as I’ve reached about 20,000 view this year and the blog is really starting to make steady progress.

All up, 2015 has been a pretty good year for our family. Of course, there were the usual ups and downs but we’re all good.

However, unfortunately the same can’t be said about the wider world. While there is so much beauty in our natural world, the human element is questionable at best.

What are we doing to each other?

Even though we might not like the answers to this eternal question, we need to keep asking, we need to keep striving for peace on Earth and equality and freedom for all peoples as well as respect for all living creatures and the Earth itself.

Earth from space

Our planet needs compassion + action.

Although we’ll no doubt never create heaven on Earth, we still need to keeping trying to make things better. We need to keep searching, keep asking and keep trying to make some kind of difference…not matter how small. Both good and evil build up like Lego bricks and it’s up to us which tower rises and falls.

So, as we head towards another year, I am reminded of these inspirational words:

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_DxNpW1kHQ

While I used to have quite a local focus when it came to social justice, since I’ve been blogging, my backyard has extended, becoming more global. Just because something is happening overseas, I can no longer just switch off and ignore what’s happening. Be unaccountable. Once you become informed, either you respond or you are also guilty of neglect turning your back. Not being the Good Samaritan who stopped and helped and made a difference.

 

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Hercules holding the world for Atlas.

That said, we can’t be like Atlas carrying the world on our shoulders. We can’t save everyone.

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Michelangelo: The Creation of Adam c 1512.

So, we are left with that gap. A gap that shouldn’t stop us from trying but which reminds us that as individuals, we can not do it all.

In February 2015, I heard about a global blogging network called 1000 Voices for Compassion and while we are still only a small group, we have stuck together and I do believe that through our monthly posts, that we have made some kind of difference in 2015. You can read more about the group here: http://www.1000voicesspeak.org/

Through this group, I have really been able to spread my wings and be part of something truly inspirational.

So, as we head into the New Year, I pray that our world will be a safe place full of opportunity for all. That we humans can overcome so many of the differences which divide us and come to appreciate our commonalities more.

Lastly, if we were having coffee I’d wish you a Happy New Year and ask whether you’ve set any New Year’s resolutions? I am still working on mine and I am taking the whole process quite seriously and I’ll get back to you next week on what I’ve put together.

In the meantime, I’m going to tackle the pile of photo frames stacked up around the house and finally get them up. We’ve only been in the house 15 years! On that note, I’m heading off real quick before I really start to freak out at a rather lengthy “Should Have Done List”.

This has been part of the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Part Time Monster and please check us out at the linky http://www.inlinkz.com/new/view.php?id=593302

Love and best wishes,

Rowena

PS Update on the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race: Wild Oats XI retired with broken mainsail last night. In the greatest resurrection since Lazarus, Comanche just resumed the lead after announcing last night that it had retired with a broken rudder. The two leaders are halfway across Bass Strait.

 

 

 

 

 

An Aussie Boxing Day.

I am starting to wonder whether chocolate, cheese and crackers could possibly equal dinner? How about if I throw in a bottle of wine?

Surely, Boxing Day must be a day off cooking for this exhausted kitchen slave?

After all, it’s Boxing Day. A day when traditionally speaking, (i.e before the Boxing Day sales took off), we lock the doors and bar the windows. Dig out that long lost novel or park ourselves in front of the box watching the start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race dispersed with the cricket.

Humph! When it comes to not cooking, it’s not looking good. Although the kids aren’t home, even I’m feeling peckish.As much as I love chocolate, even this chocoholic can’t quite consider it a meal.

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Map Showing the Route of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race.

However, before I head off scrounge around in the kitchen, let’s get back to the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.

The Sydney to Hobart, which started in 1945, is the pinnacle of the Australian sailing calendar and is a notoriously difficult race. While you do hear of yachts dropping out along the Australian East Coast, the real challenge comes when the race crosses Bass Strait, which is located between Tasmania and the Australian mainland.

Bass strait was named after George Bass, after he and Matthew Flinders passed through it while circumnavigating Van Diemen’s Land (now named Tasmania) in the Norfolk in 1798–99. At Flinders’ recommendation, the Governor of New South Wales, named the stretch of water between the mainland and Van Diemen’s Land “Bass’s Straits”…Later Bass Strait.

Personally, I’ve never even dipped my toe in Bass Strait, let alone sailed across those treacherous waters. Indeed, I’ve only ever flown over Bass Strait.

However, my intrepid husband who is something like a 5th generation Tasmanian whose roots date back to the 1830s, has sailed and kayaked in Bass Strait, albeit on the edges: “You don’t play silly games in Bass Strait”.  He has even crossed Bass Strait in a storm on board the ferry, The Abel Tasman, the precursor to the Spirit of Tasmania. He told me how the bow of the boat was punching into a wave and the spray was landing on the observation deck eight decks up. The waves were absolutely ginormous! Geoff says: “Bass Strait can be some of the roughest water in the world. I’ve heard it described as being as rough as the North Sea.”It’s apparently twice as wide and twice as strong as the English Channel.

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Can you imagine the spray from the waves hitting the top deck of this huge ferry? That’s some wave!

If you’re interested in reading about sailing across Bass Strait:http://www.mysailing.com.au/news/satori-in-the-strait-reflections-on-a-summer-bass-strait-cruise

However, while the Sydney to Hobart provided background entertainment, I’ve actually been working hard today. Instead of doing absolutely nothing, the house started moaning, groaning and complaining about months of accumulated neglect… AKA: “The Dump and Run”.

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Just to add to the pressure, as I’ve mentioned before, both our kids are starting at new schools next year. So, we need to get organised. We can’t do our usual trick of arriving back from holidays the night before school goes back and bluffing our way through on auto-pilot. No! I’ll be needing to have my long-suffering brain well and truly switched on and I’m sure some extra caffeine won’t go astray either…artificial intelligence!

me

So, today I’ve sorted through numerous in-trays and filed and chucked mountains of paperwork. I’ve updated the 2016 diary. This new wave of organisation could inflict severe shock, especially on my daughter’s dance teacher. Let’s just say she’s been very understanding! Well, that was until the end of year concert was rapidly approaching and there were several stern discussions. Thankfully, all went well on the day. While we can’t comment on her technical prowess, Grandma and I both thought Miss looked like English ballerina, Dame Margot Fonteyn, in her snow white tutu. Even if she couldn’t dance a step, she still looks like a ballerina.

Rewinding just a little, how did your Christmas go? I know some of you are probably still enjoying Christmas Day.

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Mister received “Ollie”, a robot, for Christmas.

We opened presents at home and then drove down to my aunt’s place in Sydney. While nobody includes references to the heavy bumper-to-bumper traffic when they talk about Christmas, that’s as much a part of the celebrations here as the turkey and plum pudding. It wasn’t too hot yesterday and a much more comfortable 26 degrees Celsius. We had the usual hot Christmas turkey and baked ham along with Plum Pudding, which we set alight with brandy and dished up with custard and brandy sauce. Traditionally, I take loads of photos on Christmas Day but I was more focused on people and conversation yesterday and only took one of two possums which had been spotted in my aunt’s garden. I must be seriously ill! My camera never rests.

Vintage Ettalong Santa Truck 2008 Pearl Beach

An Australian Christmas, Pearl Beach, New South Wales.

On a more serious note, in previous posts you’ll see pictures of Santa travelling locally on a fire engine and I’ve mentioned how nasty bush fires have caused devastating damage at this time of year in the past. News has come through that 116 homes have been lost on the Great Ocean Road near Lorne in Victoria. The fire was apparently started by a lightening strike. We’ve had many bush fires around here and a few have been quite serious. Even though those fires weren’t on our doorstep, the place still felt like a blazing inferno and it was terrifying and it was heartbreaking seeing the extensive damage to our local National park.

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The ghosts of Christmas past…

 

Well, now that Christmas Day is done and dusted, we’re now heading towards that night of unmentionable mutterings…New Year’s Eve…when even those of us who vow never to make a New Year’s Resolution again, still manage to fall victim!

With all of my New Year’s Resolutions past brutally smashed like a multi-car pile-up, I’m very reluctant to consider any more. And yet…just because a resolution didn’t succeed and reach it’s desired destination, some change or forward movement is better than none at all. Or, horror of horrors, going backwards instead.

So, I have a few more days to reflect on resolutions and goals for the New Year while I still try to plow a pathway through the carnage of the past.

How are things going over at your place? How was Christmas?

xx Rowena

 

 

 

Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year!

We would like to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. To those of you who celebrate the birth of Jesus, also wish you a Blessed Christmas and for those with Jewish beliefs, we wish a Happy Hannukah. Happy Holidays isn’t part of our Australian vernacular.

I have always loved seeing how Christmas is celebrated in different cultures not just in terms of food but also sun versus snow.

Vintage Ettalong Santa Truck 2008 Pearl Beach

An Australian Christmas, Santa on a fire track, Pearl Beach, New South Wales.

So, I’d like to share a guest post I wrote over at Solveig Werner’s Blog: A Stinking Hot Australian Christmas http://solveigwerner.com/2015/12/17/advent-calendar-day-17-a-stinking-hot-australian-christmas-by-rowena-newton/#comment-2801

After all my ranting and raving about celebrating a scorchingly hot 40°C Christmas, the weather has shown up my bluff and we’re looking at 26 °C with possible rain. Humph? Rain???? Who on Earth has been praying for rain right before Christmas? No! It’s supposed to be blue skies, sunshine…a perfect Christmas Day!

Bilbo & Lady

Merry Christmas from Bilbo & Lady

Anyway, wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Love,

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