Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Celebration season

We are in the middle of our Celebration season. .

Christmas day started with church -among a Sudanese congregation here in Perth. There was a wonderful collection of children who came up to the priests for a blessing at the end of the service.
At home the three of us worked to get the lunch on the table: setting the table with our new red tablecloth and white metal trays from Ikea. The ice bucket was an op shop find. 

The starter was bruschetta using our tomatoes and basil and homemade bread.

I used Jamie Oliver's marinade (160m worcester sauce, 20 mls english mustard and olive oil per steak, marinaded in separate plastic ziplock bags) -and it was very nice indeed. We don't buy steak at $25 per kilo normally so this was enjoyed as a festive treat.  DH barbecued the steak which we served the steaks with Nigella's Christmas slaw, new potatoes with rosemary, a baby leaf spinach salad with parmesan and pear slices.

Desert was a proper Christmas trifle which I made from Nigella's "How to eat" recipe book. On Christmas eve I made her buttery lemony madeira cake as the base, which I slathered with my DH's cumquat marmalade before soaking the cake sandwiches in a mix of grand marnier, marsala and orange juice. The eggy custard was flavoured with orange and then orange sugar syrup was drizzed over cream. VERY yummy. 

We opened presents  of course. It is our tradition to let each other know what we want for Christmas, so we were all very satisfied. DH and I have great piles of new books! DD has a new leather journal among other things. I have some new quilting fabric in sea green, sea blue colours which I am hoping to turn into a new beach inspired quilt. 

We spoke with DS and DDIL and the grandchildren in the afternoon. They had sent us some great videos of the children with their new toy guitars, sitting on the step of the sanctuary strumming and singing Christmas carols with their dad. 

On Boxing Day we had DH's sisters and BIL over for lunch. This time we set the table with a green and gold Aussie theme.

I had a half price turkey "buffe" which I cooked and served with gravy and roast potatoes (left over from the potatoes on Christmas day but now roasted) and left over slaw and a new green salad. DH makes a great garlic bread which I fished out of the freezer. My good friend had given us a home made Christmas pudding, which BIL declared was the 'best Christmas pudding he had had for years". They also helped us eat the trifle which was just as good the next day. We really had a lovely time and everyone said that the food was great. I am pleased it all turned out so well. 

The 27th is my DD's birthday. We had yet another lovely celebration. It was her choice that we would buy fish and chips for dinner and eat them in the lounge whilst watching the "AB Fab" movie-a copy of which was one of my Christmas presents. It is very funny and we laughed and ate and drank champagne. 

Between Christmas and New Year's Eve is a quiet time. Lots of people are at the beach. As we are having a 'staycation" we make sure we go to the beach for a walk on nearly every day.No rushing to the sales for us! 

DH is making me a new garden stool to go with the little table he made me yesterday. When I am gardening I like to take my drink out to the grape vine and sit under it. I had been sitting on an upturned milk crate, but now I will have recycled and repurposed things to use. 

On New Year's eve  it is my turn for a birthday!

Meanwhile I am continuing to work on my quilt. I have cut the plain black 'stop borders and I am experimenting with half square triangles for another border. Either it will go on as a border or it will be in the back. I don't have a piece of batting big enough for this quilt at the moment -I am hoping the after Christmas sales will see the price drop- so I am happy to work on the back for a while. I am the kind of quilter who likes to finish a quilt before starting on another one! 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Doing things that are proven to make you happier!

There is quite a bit of stress around in the lead up to Christmas. Often we women feel this the most -as 'everybody's happiness' is dependent upon OUR efforts at gift buying, card writing, food preparation and home decorating. I can remember when DH and I had both our parents still with us and there was a LOT of Christmas partying to get through, just at the time when our young adult children were also busy too. In Australia the Christmas season coincides with the end of the school year and the end of most other community activities so there are lots of  parties and graduations and things added to the season.

Times have changed. It would be wonderful now to be able to fuss over our parents, but they went to God many years ago. We left school years behind some time ago now.  One of our young people now has a home and family of his own, but my DD is still here and a willing ally in all things Christmas.

Whilst people marvel at the way we decorate for Christmas - it is not at all 'minimalist" to have 5 Christmas trees- it does make us happier to do it. Christmas decorating seems to awaken our childhood memories. We enjoy the whole ritual of getting down the boxes, opening them up and being reminded of our favourite things.

One of our trees is the main tree, decorated in a very strict theme of gold decorations and musical items -drums, trumpets, etc -and NO TINSEL.  I hate tinsel!

We also have a kitschy jokey tree in the family room -where all the decorations the kids made when they were young reside -including a dinasaur hatching out of an egg (?) and the First Dog on the Moon christmas decorations. (A satirical cartoonist in Australia with the whole family enjoying it).

In the next few days we will go about getting a simple meal ready for Christmas day -with the things we enjoy to eat. I don't quite know what that will be but with the weather at the moment looking like a fairly mild 32 degrees C (about 90 F) I imagine we will eat on the patio. We might have grilled salmon and salad, with a special desert afterwards. We don't like turkey so we won't eat any.

Our son and daughter in law and grandchildren in Victoria have presents from us under their tree.

We have bought each other presents -and as two of us have birthdays as well, there is quite a pile of them! We have to make sure December birthdays get their own attention.

Each year we enjoy making donations to our favourite charities at this time.

I read this article http://www.huffingtonpost.com/belle-beth-cooper/10-simple-things-to-be-happy_b_4241824.html and thought it would be interesting to see if I could do all ten things:

1. Exercise More
I have been a little sporadic in my exercise of late, so I am making more of an effort.  We had a lovely bracing walk down at the beach yesterday, and a walk around the park last weekend. DH walks with me on the weekends.

2. Sleep more

This is hard for me: I am often awake for several hours at night. This article suggests I shouldn't be concerned about it- I know I will get a few long sleeps per week and the rest of the time I am OK.

3. Move closer to work

When I was driving for over 80 minutes each way to work, it was a struggle. Now I can get the bus and train, and then have a 20 minute walk to work, I am much happier.Not that I need to worry for the next few weeks as I am on leave!

4. Spend time with family and friends-this is a great time of the year to do that.

5. Go outside-this always makes me happier. As I am on leave until late January I can walk on the beach nearly every morning, and spend time in my garden.

6. Help others- our charity and volunteering continues

7. Smile. I read somewhere that if we smile, our brain is tricked into thinking we are happy and therefore releases endorphins to make us happier!

8. Plan a trip -we have an overnight stay planned in early January.

9. Meditate- we do this every morning for 10 minutes

10. Practice gratitude. This is a great idea -we regularly do this as we walk on the beach. There is so much to be grateful for.

Thanks for stopping by to read this blog. I wish you a happy holiday season and a Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 3, 2016


After the month of November, when I was participating in Nanowrimo -and so not quilting at all- it has been really good to get back to my sewing machine. I had started a quilt in October, but I wasn't enjoying the process of making it. A month later I liked it even less, so I gave myself permission to change my mind. I had seen Bonnie Hunter's free pattern called "Bricks and Stepping Stones": and I thought those checkerboard 4 patches would add some sparkle. I want to use up a lot of scraps -you know, as a quilter you are always making scraps, and there have to be quilts made with them. As Bonnie says, we spend a lot of money on fabric-and it is the same price even when we have cut it smaller. So with some luck, this will soak up a lot of old pieces and make room for new fabric.

Getting back to sewing is part of getting back to the balance I love in my life. I love to sew and garden and cook. If I can do these things, as well as deal with the life at work, I am in a pretty good place to have a balance in my life.

So I spent this morning in the garden. I have been potting on some tomatoes and other small 'free' plants -the volunteers which come up in the garden. We get a lot of lavender and tansy coming up -parsley self-seeds everywhere. I even have parsley coming up in the cracks in the bricks on the driveway! We are loving the small sweet mulberries on our own tree -for the first time this year! Such a lot of fun. One of the things many people say when they see our garden is "How do you have the time for all this?" Well, of course we don't ever have enough time -there are lots of weeds which need attention, I haven't made a garlic and chilli spray for the tomatoes, yet -you know the routine. Yet we love the garden and the work. When I am there, I am reminded that nothing is ever perfect or finished! 

My DH has been working on the passive shade features of our house. The grapevine pergola at the front of the house now has some temporary shadecloth whilst we wait for the grapes to grow. The shade on the north of the house will help to keep it cool.  He also built a pergola in the narrow space on the eastern aspect of the house between our house and the fence. DD's room faces east -and the early sun is hot and early in summer. The pergola has three different climbers on it. 

I hope you are enjoying week 2 of Advent.