Thursday, December 25, 2008

My Australian Christmas traditions

This time of the year I get quite sentimental, so be warned !!

I used to love Christmas as a child growing up in Australia. As it's high Summer here and a Christmas Day average temp of 25 degrees Celsius we'd take the best of the British traditions and add some of our own Australian ones. A fresh or artificial tree in the house, decorated with hand made or store bought decorations if you could afford them. Crepe paper chain garlands and handmade card stars with glitter on them were usually on our tree at home. The highlight of our Christmas in the 1960's was visiting my Nanna on the North Shore of Sydney and driving home through the city at night to see the stores like David Jones and Mark Foys. They had animated (clockwork) Christmas store windows which drew crowds from all over the suburbs to see the displays of fairy tales and the nativity.

Our Christmas menu back then might include hot chicken, ham or roast pork, or cold versions of them. Turkey wasn't big in Australia until recently. Mum did a mean "pumped leg" , a piece of silverside (beef) soaked in brine by the butcher, which Mum simmered in water with vinegar, brown sugar, onions and cloves. It was delicious served cold with relish or chutney, and economical because it would last for days in the fridge. My Nanna would prepare hot vegetables for Christmas lunch for 18 or so. Roast potatoes, 2 hot meats, peas and carrots, and gravy. Then a traditional boiled Christmas pudding with pre-decimal coins hidden inside for luck, with a little warm custard poured over and a scoop of vanilla icecream or cream. Occasionally we'd have a trifle, an economical dessert for a large group consisting of cut up cake lining a bowl filled with jelly, custard, tinned fruit, cream all layered together. Last weekend I made a punch bowl full for a party, and added flaked chocolate to the top at the last minute. Yum !

After lunch the adults would all have a siesta (with one eye open) while the kids played with their new gifts or ran around outside. These days we have hot and cold meats, seafood, salads, roast vegetables, Christmas pudding or pavlova, cheese cakes, anything goes really. We borrow European traditions, and bring dishes and flavours from all around the world to our Australian Christmas meals.

It became a difficult task co-ordinating Christmas Day visits to both sides of the family once I was a married woman. We got in the habit of having breakfast at home, then Christmas lunch with my in-laws or the evening meal at a relatives home, hosted in turns. This all changed again after my children came along. By then the in-laws would come for Christmas Eve tea, stay the night then we'd all get up early to watch the kids open their gifts. Breakfast became a grand affair with warm croissants, cereal and fruit and orange juice with a touch of Champagne for those who liked it.
They'd go home to prepare lunch for us, then siestas for everyone and more visits in the evening. Eventually it got harder for us to go out with the 4 children all day, so we often had both sides of the family to our home at some point. Everyone would bring a plate of food (or 2) to share. Mum continued Nanna's traditional boiled Christmas pudding after she passed away, and only stopped making the puddings in the last 3 or 4 years when it got too much for her.

This Christmas a new tradition was started. We all visited my oldest brother's home last weekend for a pre-Christmas BBQ with relatives and friends as everyone is now trying to juggle their own grown-up family visits. DH and I joined our adult offspring and my in-laws at my new grandson Riley's home for early Christmas morning breakfast. I'm sure that little boy will have to take over his Dad's study for toy storage, Santa was very generous, LOL. We bought him a toy pull along telephone with a rotary dial, eyes which move and a clacking noise when it moves along. Noisy toys are good ! I found a piggy bank with his name on it, and a cute set of T-shirts with his nickname on them. Even my daughters' baby which is due in February got a few gifts, I bought her a pink rabbit toy and some little one piece romper suits.

At the moment we're recovering at home after the early start to the day, we thought after our kids were grown up that we'd finished with all that, but now the grandchildren are starting to arrive, it's all starting again, VBG.

PS the photo is of the Angel I made for the Stitchin Fingers Christmas Cloth Doll Swap. She now lives at Cindy's place in the USA.

PPS the Santa collection has now increased to 42, following 3 new purchases on Tuesday and 2 Royal Albert santas received as gifts today !!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Santa collection on display

I knew eventually that the Christmassy feeling would arrive at our house. Today I actually felt like cleaning and putting up some decorations. So you can imagine my surprise when I unpacked the Santas. I have 37 now. I'm sure they've been breeding in the cupboard since last Christmas. But then, I did buy 3 at the Rosehill Stitches and Craft Show, Chris Gray made a Drunken Elf for me in the Stitchin Fingers Christmas Doll Swap, and I bought a Scottish Santa for a Scottish raffle in September, then promptly forgot to put him in the prize basket. That accounts for 5 more than last year. Oh, and a couple bought at the post Christmas sales... Still a bit suspicious though, LOL.

The saddest thing is that I've nearly filled the top of the entertainment unit now. And I've discovered that somewhere, somehow I've started a collection of miniature Christmas trees. I have 4, the basis of a collection ! I should start looking in the shops now for some more, or should I wait till after Christmas when they are all reduced?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Family time

I think I'm a "family" person, in that I cherish and celebrate my family unit and my extended family. I don't make close friends easily. I probably have about 5 or 6 friends I've known since my late teens through my husband though. I'm the oldest of 4children and the only girl in my family. I have 2 surviving brothers but I wouldn't say we're terribly close really.

I'm closer to my siser-in-law and probably consider her more like my sister. We talk quite often and share things only girls can. So I'm extremely happy that Gail has done so well with her treatment for APL, a rare form of Leukaemia. She's on the tablet maintenance phase now and things are looking pretty optimistic. I hope she won't mind me putting this gorgeous photo of her holding a sleeping Riley (her great nephew) on Sunday at my DD #1's baby shower. Her hair has grown back soft and curly, she's feeling pretty well and looking forward to returning to her kindergarten teaching job in 2009.

We gave my oldest daughter Di a great baby shower, she won't need to buy much more to look after her new baby due in early February 2009. My middle daughter Col did some cooking as did a couple of other ladies. We had decorated cup cakes, slices, fruit platter, sandwiches, pastissi, hot chicken balls and lamb koftas (?) with dipping sauces as well as crudites and dips, and the (non-alcoholic) fruit punch. I had organised a couple of party games, but we had 3 babies to play with !! No need for games, so we gave out the prizes to the last few guests. When the men returned home they headed straight to the left over cakes, trust a man ! I love the following photo, the 3 girls lined up for a "belly photo"

I cut myself out of it so as not to spoil your image of me !! Not the most flattering photo I've ever taken after a few sleepless nights. The middle girl looks like me around 18 years old B.C. (before children!) while the girl in the white shirt (Bron) looks like me at about 14 years old. I think my other daughter looks like my DH side of the family more. Wonder who the little baby will look like, if the scan is correct we're expecting a granddaughter. Don't you love the pink cloth we made the mother-to-be wear? A burp cloth with a nappy pin on her shirt, shouldn't every new mother be prepared for every emergency, LOL?

We've decided to have a quiet Christmas this year. Events conspired to make a large family Christmas difficult at our home, so we'll be having a BBQ lunch at one of my brothers' homes on the 21st December, then visiting the new Grandson first thing Christmas morning. My own children have to visit their respective partners' families too, so first thing in the morning seemed the most sensible option to get together. Next year will be better, we'll have a second grandchild to spoil. I think Christmas is all about the Family, getting together and hopefully forgetting old quarrels and differences. My mother will be 80 in June 2009, so I'm hopeful she will be enjoying next Christmas with us still. This final photo is great-grandmother Nannie, with Riley last Sunday.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Everyone should have a hobby

I'm a firm believer that having a hobby is an investment in your mental health. The planning, designing and making of crafts is especially good for keeping the mind active. I've heard of men who complain about the money spent on "unnecessary" crafting materials. These are the same men who like a beer, spend money on gambling and that other anti-social occupation which requires you to leave the building. I meant smoking of course, LOL. Statistically men die younger, have more heart attacks and higher cholesterol readings - do you think it has anything to do with lack of a hobby?

The men I know who build models, turn wood and metal, do tapestries, and yes, even knit, are calmer more alert and more sociable than all those other blokes. They understand that even the trip to the craft store gets you out of the house and into the fresh air amongst other people once in a while, instead of sitting in front of the television "relaxing".

I've been trying to throw off a dark mood for several weeks now, which probably hasn't been helped by poor sleep after recent events here at home. However, I've joined a number of online groups which are running swaps. So with committments to produce some ATCs to swap and cloth dolls for my Stitchin Fingers group, I've been able to forget the real world for a little while and plunge into the sewing room. There's nothing like a pile of fabrics, trims and embellishments to brighten your mood, and once I get the difficult design decisions made, I start to enjoy myself.

I received a lovely Drunken Elf just recently, and owed a Christmas Cloth Doll to Cindy in the US, which was duly mailed on Tuesday. She asked for a picture of my efforts, as she couldn't wait to see it. I know I'm a meany, but I hate to spoil surprises. So here is a teaser of the Dolly, on its way to Cindy as we speak. A full picture will follow in due course.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

First the good news...

As promised, today I wrote names from comments on posts 150 through 155 on slips of paper, and my House Model Bron, DD #3, drew the lucky winner out of my 1850's repro bonnet. Doesn't everyone have such an elegant hat to conduct lucky draws from??

The winner will receive some of my stash, which might include fabrics and trims, useful bits and pieces (I hope) as well as a couple of little surprises.

Here is Bron conducting the draw, watched by an independant witness. Well, actually it was her boyfriend, LOL and he thinks we're both nutters. Now he could be right there, but he loves her anyway, they've been together for 5 years now. I wish he'd just propose marriage and get the agony over, but they are only 23 so plenty of time these days for all that serious stuff.

O.K. enough suspense, the winner is.....

Erica P.

Thanks for all the kind comments recently everyone, especially about our household drama recently. The Insurance company has sent out engineers and we are waiting for the Scope of Works report. Then 2 or 3 builders will be asked to quote on the same work. They did indicate that it was a bit worse than first thought. Not only do we have external damage which is quite repairable, but the underfloor sustained considerable damage and will need to be completely replaced in at least 2 rooms. So... the 3 way bathroom and laundry will need to be gutted and re-built from the bearers up, including new floor, tiles, plumbing, toilet, shower screen, vanity etc. etc. There's also a possibility that the back wall of the kitchen will need to be stripped of cupboards to get to that part of the floor as well. That will mean new cork floor tiles for the dining room and kitchen, and new kitchen benches. The bill could be quite a lot if all that has to be replaced as well.

I'm still a nervous nellie, finding it hard to sleep at night and have resorted to sleeping in another spare bedroom closer to the rest of the family. A mother is always a protective mother, even when the kids are grown up, isn't she?
Time (and a holiday) will heal my nerves, if we can fit one in before they start the repairs, which will now not begin until late January I should think, after the building industry has it's own annual holidays.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Drunken Elf has arrived in Australia

This gorgeous cloth doll (christened the Drunken Elf by his creator) arrived in Australia late last week from Chris in the UK. We are part of a swap on Stitchin Fingers, so this week I finalised my own swap to Cindy in the USA and sent her in today's mail. I won't post a photo here till I hear she has arrived in Minnesota, so you'll have to wait a little longer to see my doll.

This photo is my rather feeble attempt to make the D. E. look like he's leaning against a gum tree in rural Australia, instead of in front of an original oil painting by the talented Werner Philipitch in my backyard, VBG. I'll never win awards for my air brush technique on Photostudio, that's for sure.

Well, this is the 155th post, and the last opportunity to go in the lucky draw I'm conducting for some of my stash to celebrate the 150th post on this blog. I'll enter all comments on this post in the draw as well as all previous ones from 150 till now.
I hope to conduct the draw on Thursday 11th December.