Christmas 2011

It wasn't my idea to host Christmas at our place this year and if I'm honest there were some times I had to remind myself not to grumble about it (I did a little bit, sorry). This got harder when I came down with an annoying summer cold three days before. But all things considered, Christmas lunch went rather well. Our house doesn't have a room big enough to seat nine in comfort so we planned to sit outside under the big canvas camping tarp. G made a long table and we even scored some nice outdoor chairs in the hard rubbish. We started haunting the weather forecast the week before. It started out looking good but two days before, storms seemed imminent. A plan B was hatched and we extended the table in the kitchen and planned how to seat everyone around it. I planned how we might manage serving from and sitting in the kitchen. As it turned out we didn't need the plan B but the weather was so freaky that I was glad to have it. Indeed having a plan B made for a certain relaxed attitude towards the weather.
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afterwards the hail really came down
We kept lunch fairly simple; cold roast chicken and salads - including by special request Berliner potato salad which includes apple and pickle juice. There was also a big bowl of luscious cherries, nibbles, chocolates, various drinks and my mum's sago plum pudding with spice sauce, cream and ice cream. There was a certain point in the afternoon when I realised that I could not eat another thing! It was lovely sitting under the tarp - there was plenty of space for everyone and there were glimpses of the garden from most seats one seat though had a pretty unrelenting view of junk and the side of the garage - but still, it was mostly good. After lunch there was some random hail, but it was still warm and almost sunny, but a nearby cloud was spitting out odd bits of hail with no rhythm or pattern. Very strange. We sat around under the tarp and Grace tried to put hail down Nina's back. Later after nearly everyone had gone, I heard this roar in the distance and went down the park to investigate. Couldn't see anything but somewhere close by was getting a pelting with big hail.Oh well, what's a Christmas without freak weather of some sort?

summer solstice

Today felt very longest dayish to me. I remarked to a couple of people at work that it was summer solstice and they seemed to think it was a bit funny I should know that. But anyway it did feel like we had reached a peak and for the first time in ages, it wasn't even that busy. I made a stupid and embarrassing mistake with a customer and unfortunately once I realised what I had done, I had to fix it. It was participation rather than payment related but I had to eat some humble pie. The customer was surprisingly gracious about it.  Given that I was starting to hack up a lung and not feeling all that flash and given that I also set off the duress alarm by mistake earlier in the day I asked if I could go home early. What a relief. Met the family in the supermarket and we ambled around filling the trolley with potato chips, pickles, soft drink, cream and vodka.
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I like this part of summer. It's only just dark at nine o'clock. Dinner is always late because it's still so light. There are birds nesting and feeding their young under the front porch eaves. Parrots screech around looking for fruit or nuts. Then there's the sounds of firecrackers in the court - maybe they are practising for new year? And older kids out playing late.The hum of insects. All the lush fruit - the supermarket had the most amazing cherries today and yesterday the organic shop had perfect apricots. The other day I saw some cherry plums in the shop and made jam on a whim. It is perfectly sour. I haven't had to wear proper shoes for ages. Last night the neighbours had a party and the sounds drifting over the fence were kind of homey and neighbourly. We've planned a holiday. There's dinner in the park tomorrow night and again on Saturday. Christmas is nearly here and I have food to cook and wrapping to do but it's all under control.

Happy Summer Solstice!

shopping centre christmas

Yesterday we went to norflands to do a spot of Christmas shopping, altogether, as a family. There was one small argument at the beginning about where to park but as it turns out, I was right. There were plenty of effortless car parks on the roof. On the way to target to buy a book (I know, buying books at target kind of wrong on lots of levels) we stopped off at the shop with the footy memorabilia and debated whether to buy a carlton or collingwood punching bag.  Grace sung the carlton song and the guy at the shop claimed to be an avid blues fan. Later I wondered if he changed his team for each customer. Thankfully we left empty handed.

After Target we headed to JB Hifi and by this time I was starting to feel overwhelmed by the noise, lights and all the stuff! I helped Grace with her Kris Kringle obligations and we left G there. He took a long time so I suspect he did a lot of his Christmas shopping in one fell swoop. I gave Grace a choice of nori or icecream for morning tea and she couldn't decide on which nori and then the ice cream shop wasn't there any more so on a whim I suggested slushie drinks. I had come down with a bit of a cold and ice was very appealing. She chose the *strawberry* which claimed to have fruit in it but was so chemically flavoured that she didn't like it at all. I had a frozen coke. Mmmm coke. Pandering to the not so new obsession with all flavours cola.

Eventually G joined us again and we checked out the dvds and books at the rather good remaindered book stall. Want a copy of Jane Brocket's The Gentle Art of Knitting? There's a whole stack of them for $20 each at Northland near the ABC shop. Also quite a few flash looking cookbooks - I bought Bill Granger's Simple Food for $20 and was tempted to buy Apples for Jam, a book by Kylie Kwong and another by Luke Ngyuen. There was also a great gardening book by Shirley Stackhouse and another by Jackie French. Maybe next Christmas. Last year I went to visit the stall after Christmas and it had gone. Anyway, it feels good to have the Christmas shopping done and dusted. Mostly wrapped too!

that summer feeling

This evening I picked another punnet's worth of boysenberries - to join those left over from last night in a free form tart. The pastry was the Maggie Beer sour cream pastry but with yoghurt instead of sour cream and half self raising flour because I ran out of plain. I dusted the berries with sugar and flour and watched a few bugs escape from the newly picked berries that I hadn't washed and dried (we had nit comb to do and I figured as we all eat berries from the bush then the odd bug in our pie shouldn't be a problem). Anyway I'm pretty sure they all escaped. And the pie was mighty fine. G and I had two helpings each and there is another piece for Grace in the fridge.
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When I picked the berries tonight it was cool cardigan type weather but last night it was warm and thundery. Everything is still so green. You can almost hear the garden growing. Another green summer I think. Grace and I went to the pool for a swim yesterday afternoon and it was just warm enough. Today we (sort of) finished off the pre everyone's coming to our place for Christmas cleaning. G cleaned the laundry and I washed windows. There are a few streaks but oh how the light is different with clean windows. And outside looks bright and sharp. We probably should clean out the cupboards but oh well, time to do some baking and crafting and all that sort of thing.
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I can't believe how prolific our boysenberry is, second year in.  I reckon I've picked 5 or 6 punnets over the last week or two with more to come. I think I shall plant another of these. It would be good to grow so many berries that every one got tired of them and I had to make some into jam or freeze them for winter crumbles. Hard to imagine but possible I suppose.

the path

All winter I have been stepping gingerly through mud and across wobbly bits of wood and temporary paving. I told myself that I didn't mind, that eventually there would be a path to the front door. Then one day after some discussion, a couple of arguments and this and that, work began on stage two of the front yard paving project. I don't have the photos of it yet but the paving is pretty much finished and let me tell you, it is fucking fantastic. G has done a fantastic job with various scavenged materials and the path is a joy to walk on. It really is.
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The path is laid on white pebbles which were brought to our house by the young men a couple of doors up. They were getting rid of the pebbles and were more than happy to wheelbarrow them over. It was all very neighbourly and meant that we didn't need to buy gravel. Actually, apart from a new inner tube for the wheelbarrow, we didn't buy anything for the path project. There were even enough of the stones left over to make a little path through the front garden. It's kind of cheesy and not worn yet in but I like it greatly. Pictures to come in a bit.
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Although Gerard did pretty much all the work, I spent an hour or so one afternoon digging bricks up from a part of the back yard that hopefully will one day be covered in extension. This endeavour made me realise how disturbingly unfit I had become, what with the achilles tendon and general slacktitude. The good news is that I am in week two of my new walking routine and even though I am only doing it twice a week so far, I can feel some basic fitness returning quickly. Indeed the walk this morning was so pleasurable that I walked quite a bit further than I planned. 
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