Two Christmases

Thursday, December 27, 2007

As I mentioned in a previous post, we're having two Christmases this year.

1st Christmas was regular christmas - December 25th with my parents & sister; grandparents; aunties, uncles and cousins.
2nd Christmas is with all of these people again, minus my grandparents, as my grandfather isn't well enough - because, as he puts it, he's going down the gurgler. 2nd Christmas will also include my brother, his wife and their 3 year old daughter. They spent Christmas in England with her family this year, which means that we get 2nd Christmas once they get back in mid-January.

I think it's just because everyone missed spoiling my niece, who is the most loveable, pretty and well behaved child I have ever come across in my life. This is despite the fact that she's the only grandchild so is therefore incredibly spoilt. I know you think I'm biased because she's my niece, but if you met her, you would agree.

She's such a good kid that I've actually considered just stealing her instead of ever trying to have kids of my own. I believe it's completely as a result of my sister-in law, who is an amazing mother and has a freakish 6th sense that tells her exactly what the appropriate reaction to her child's behaviour is. It's not normal. Everyone knows you're supposed to screw up your first two kids and then just let the third one do whatever they want because by then you're over the effort.

Anyway, the point that I was getting at is that because of this wonderful child, I get to have two Christmases. That means two gigantic christmas meals, two lots of presents and two lots of cheap christmas bon-bons/crackers with dodgy jokes and paper hats. And as my christmas present to my niece is a box of dress-ups, i'm guessing that we'll all be enjoying our meals, presents and crackers while wearing big fake witches noses and clown wigs.

It's going to be fun.

The Pumpkin Pie Experience

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Nothing beats Christmas lunch as made by my mother. She is the master of the Christmas roast. Every year she cooks a gigantic leg of pork with the most amazing crackling; a turkey with ricotta and spinach stuffing under the skin, a mountain of vegetables; a baked ham; Christmas pudding and the very best potatoes known to man - baked in the juices from the roast pork. And then to top it all off, we eat it all again at dinner time, along with piles of barbequed seafood & salad. I'm drooling just writing about it now.

Every year I make a small contribution to this fantastic feast which in the past has generally been a dessert - in particular an ice cream dessert which is super easy and super popular and I am going to share my top secret recipe with you right now so that you can impress your friends and family with your amazing dessert making super-powers. For people like me who find recipes pretty boring to read, just skip over this part to hear about my amazing Pie making attempt.

Torrygirls’ Amazing Magical Mini Pudding-Shaped Ice Creams with Chocolate.

I soften a litre or two of ice cream (depending on how many people you need to serve. 1 litre makes about 8-9) and mix in some crumbled meringues, chopped up cherry ripe bars and frozen mixed berries. This works best if you don a pair of gloves and squish everything in by hand – otherwise the berries start to melt and everything turns pink. Pink is pretty, but not very Christmassy.

Then I line muffin tins with cling wrap, and spoon in the mixture. Push it down well so it fills up the corners. I cover with more cling wrap & re-freeze.

Then after dinner I just pull them out of the muffin pan, peel of the cling wrap and we have mini pudding-shaped ice creams topped with chocolate – I like to use Cottee’s Ice-Magic because it sets firm and looks all pretty and professional when really I’ve just squeezed it out of a bottle. It takes about 10 mins to make, tastes awesome and looks impressive.

This year as we’re having 2 Christmases (long story) I thought that I would use 1st Christmas to try out something new on the side of the family that I’m not overly fond of. I attempted, for the first time ever, to make a pumpkin pie.

The pie baking would have been a lot easier had I been able to get the canned pumpkin that was suggested in the recipe, but as canned vegetables in Australia are pretty much limited to corn, peas and carrots, I had to make my own pumpkin purée. This involved chopping up a bunch of pumpkin, boiling it, blending it and then putting it into a tea towel in a sieve and sitting it in a bowl overnight so that the extra water could drain out. Yes, you're right, that does sound like a lot of effort. Actually, making the pumpkin puree took more effort than putting the pie together. Oh for some good old fashioned American convenience food.

The rest of the pie making was fairly simple. I opted to make my own short crust pastry, which sounds incredibly fiddly, but in fact just involves a packet of pastry mix and some water. The pie prep only took about 30 mins, including the pastry making, so I did it first thing Christmas day & then let it bake while we went about the usual Christmas morning business.

This is the recipe I used (as suggested by Carrie), except that I substituted the ground cloves for nutmeg and I made my own pumpkin puree. It took a lot longer to cook than the recipe said it would, but I think that’s probably as a result of my dodgy oven rather than anything else.And how did it go? Well in an amazing 2D/3D first, you can see for yourself:

Tasty looking, I hear you say? Well yes, in fact it was. Very tasty. Oddly enough it didn’t really taste a whole lot like pumpkin. It was a bit like a more savoury version of a custard tart. It was very sweet and creamy and spicy. And despite the crazy side of the family being incredibly rude about it (I hate people who criticise different foods even though they’ve never tried them), it was a hit. Something I will definitely make again.

Senior Sergeant Santa

Monday, December 24, 2007

Every year on Christmas eve, the Police from the suburb I live in drive around the streets with Santa in the front seat, blipping the siren until people come out of their houses so Santa can give gifts to the kids.

I like that I live in a suburb where the crime rate is low enough that the police have time to do this.

Either that or they're just really inept and don't care about crime.

I like to think it's the former rather than the latter.

Merry Christmas!

The Midnight Shopper

Since it's the holidays and I've spent most of the last six days sleeping, I decided at about 10pm last night that it would be a good idea to head to Chadstone Shopping Centre, which is open for 34 hours straight over Sunday/Monday. I don't have any shopping left to do, but I figured that because it was pretty late in the evening, it wouldn't be too busy there and it would keep me amused for a couple of hours.

Ok, so it was a stupid, totally unoriginal idea. It seems that every other person in Melbourne had very inconsiderately left all of their Christmas shopping until the last minute and were managing to ruin things for those of us who, by some miracle, finished their shopping early.

It should have a been a good sign that we should turn around and head for the hills when we got to Warrigal road and the traffic was absolute chaos. Three lanes of traffic, all trying to merge into the right hand lane was not a pretty sight. It's amazing how many people think they can just sneak a tonne of metal into a 10cm gap between cars - and that sticking out across two lanes of traffic is a-ok.

It's no wonder people get so road rage-ey at Christmas.

We stuck to the left lane and headed around to the other side of the shopping centre, which was relatively tame - although it did take four changes of lights for us to get into the carpark. We fluked a parking space almost immediately, without even having to stalk anyone, which made a nice change.

Inside it was more crowded than I had thought - the walkways inside Chadstone are pretty wide and the centre is absolutely enormous, so I figured that even with the crazy traffic, things shouldn't be too bad. Again, I was wrong. Someone had the brilliant idea of filling the walkways up with vendors stalls, so it was chaotically busy. I was belted with so many boxes of Barbie scooters and train sets that I expect my shins to be solid purple this morning. Kids presents are dangerous when placed in the hands of frantic, last minute shoppers.

Don't these people know that Santa does home delivery?

We stuck it out as long as we could, but had to bail out after about an hour as the throng of people just seemed to swell with every passing minute. It was bizarrely hot in there with all those bodies pressed shoulder to shoulder and 20,000 people all talking at once in stone corridors is loud.

Leaving was a lot easier than getting in, and I didn't even mind being stalked to our parking space by a desperate looking man with a car full of kids. I guess my great idea of a late night shop while everyone else was asleep was not really as great as I hoped.

Christmas shopping really could kill the Christmas spirit in even the most dedicated holiday-lover.

Buckets of Rain

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Yesterday the bottom of my street was submerged in a flowing river of rainwater. Some kind of bizarre flash flood type rain jumped out of the sky and soaked all of Melbourne from head to toe. It’s not such a bad thing, since we’re in the middle of a pretty severe drought – I just wish it would rain into the catchments a little more and onto my lounge room carpet a little less.

I spent half an hour during the most torrential part of the rain holding a bucket to the lounge room window in a vain attempt to catch the water that was streaming in thanks to the blocked drain pipe outside. I was soaked within minutes, but at least I got a good view of the bizarre river that was flowing through the front yard of the people across the road. We live on a street that is sort of on the side of a hill - our house is way above street level and the people across the road are way below street level. This means that while they were submerged in a brown, frothy tide of rain water, I was standing at my window watching the water flow down our steep driveway and add to the river below.

If I was a better blogger, I would have taken a photo of the river and posted it here you could see how bad it really was. As it turns out, holidays have made me lazy and unmotivated and to be honest, the only reason I’ve managed to blog at all is because I have a laptop computer and I didn’t have to get up from the couch to do it. I figure this is ok, because that’s what holidays are all about – not leaving the couch without a good, solid reason.

I’m going to have to get myself motivated to get off the couch, because with Christmas day coming up very soon, I have a lot to do. This year I’ve decide that I’m going to bake, and I thought that in aid of trying something new and different I’m going to bake a pumpkin pie. I have a recipe from Carrie that I’m going to have a go at. Sadly for me it will be a lot more work because in Australia we have a devastatingly limited selection of canned vegetables, so I’m going to have to purée my own pumpkins.

It should be interesting given that I’ve never done this before, but it’s worth a go, I think. Every Aussie that I’ve spoken to who has tried pumpkin pie has hated it, so I’m beginning to thing that maybe pumpkin pie is a taste that Americans are conditioned into liking – much like Aussies and Vegemite. It could be very disappointing.

I’ll let you know.

Beautiful, Beautiful Blissful Holidays

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Beautiful, beautiful blissful holidays - I love you.

I slept until midday this morning and woke up with a smile on my face. 3 1/2 weeks of NO WORK. 3 1/2 weeks of sitting on my bum watching tv, browsing the net and shopping. I AM SO HAPPY!

My last day seemed to go reasonably well by comparison to previous years. Everyone had been warned in advance about me leaving 3 days earlier than everyone else, so they had gotten themselves organised. The guy who usually causes me grief and has me working until 8pm on my last day had finished work on Monday to drive from QLD to Victoria, so I didn't have him to worry about. Or so I thought.

At 5pm as I was saying my goodbyes to everyone, the phone rang. I was standing next to the GM, who took a call from annoying man. She was nodding and smiling and when she hung up, she said to me
’Annoying man said he's got 8 jobs for you to draw up and that we didn't tell him you were going on leave’.

'I told him 3 times’ I replied.

‘Don't worry about it, go and enjoy your holiday and forget about him, I told him myself 3 times so you don't have anything to worry about.’

I could have kissed her.

I'm not sure why annoying man delights in making my life hell like this, but I think I’m at a point now where if he does it again, I’m going to have to tell him what I really think of him. Given that he is a director of the company this may not be the best idea, but he
does it every time I leave the building - for any reason at all. And this time I genuinely don't feel any guilt at leaving early, which is a sign that I’m well and truly over the drama.

On the brighter side of things, the receptionist (who I have lunch with every day) bought me a Christmas present – just something little that I had pointed out at the shops one day – so that made the day a lot more enjoyable. It’s nice to work with people like her when you have to deal with people like annoying man.

A tale of two scary scary man legs

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Two things I learnt today:

1. While you are laughing at how funny an American accent sounds, they are laughing right back at your Aussie accent - and you probably deserve it more.

2. Don't assess the need for shaving your legs without turning the light on. They may look smooth and beautiful in your new skirt in the half-lit bathroom, but in daylight they may be scary scary man-legs.

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

On Tuesday night we had a bbq dinner as a sort of mini goodbye party for my brother and his wife & daughter who are headed over to England for Christmas. I love these sorts of family barbecues because they’re always a bit of a laugh for one reason or another. Most of the time the entertainment is provided by my niece, who is now a little over 3 years old. This bbq was no exception to the norm.

I decided that I wanted to teach my niece a joke. I told her to listen carefully and I’d teach her a joke that she could tell her granddad. The conversation went something like this

Me: Can you remember this so you can tell Grandad

Her: OK

Me: why did the chicken cross the road?

At this point she farts loudly and we both laugh.

Her: because he wanted to get to farty land!

This seemed like a much funnier response than the regular old’ to get to the other side’ bit, so I suggested that she go and tell the joke to KJ. It then went something like this:

Her: KJ, why did the chicken cross the road on a bike?

KJ: Why?

Her: Because it’s a joke!!

Which all just goes to prove that three year olds are way funnier than adults.

Lazy Town

Monday, December 10, 2007

There is a segment on the morning radio show that I listen to called ‘Lazy Town’. People call in and talk about the laziest thing they’ve ever done. Like the guy who drove around with his fuel light on all day, then drove into a service station that night, looked at the pump, thought to himself ‘I can’t be bothered’ and drove off, only to run out of petrol about 2km up the road.

A girl rang in to say that when she wants to use the phone at home but can’t be bothered getting up to get it, she rings her house, pretends to be someone else and asks to speak to herself so that someone will bring her the cordless phone.

This has got me thinking about the lazy things that I often do. I’m not sure that I can meet the super lazy standards of the petrol man, however I think I could probably come close.

Tonight I couldn’t be bothered stopping on the way home from work to get something for dinner. The cupboards are bare (yet again) and instead of popping down to the shops to get something nutritious and wholesome, I once again ate whatever the cupboard coughed up. Microwave meat pie, hot chocolate and original flavoured Doritos.

That is how lazy I am. 10 minutes of time in the car and at the supermarket and I could have had something great, but I was too lazy. It’s a sickness, really.

I’d like to hear other people’s lazy stories – hopefully there is someone out there lazier than I am!


Sunday, December 09, 2007

I am so sunburnt from sitting in the park today.

I am half human, half lobster.


Six Days (& Counting)

The Christmas tree is up, the present shopping has begun and really it’s just a shame that I have to go to work on Monday. I think I’m well and truly ready for a holiday, or else to change jobs. It’s hard to distinguish the difference at this time of year, because by Christmas I’ve had enough of everyone I work for and everything I have to deal with. It feels a bit like I’m sick of my job, but I’m pretty sure I just need a break from it.

This year has been hard because once again the issue of me taking extra time off has presented itself. I’m the only one who knows how to do my job, so if I’m not there the work doesn’t get done. Every year one of the salesmen (who also happens to be a company director) goes off his nut about the fact that I want to take an extra week of in January.

Who will do the work? He demands.

There will be no work for me to do that week, I tell him

But what if there is?!

There isn’t. There never is.

But there could be this year!

There won’t be. You bitched last year because I wanted to take it off, and it was fine. You bitched the year before because I wanted to take the time off, and it was fine. You bitched again this year and now I’m sick of it.

It’s not nice to constantly have to justify why it’s ok for you to not be at work for 5 days. 5 days in January, when all the schools are still on holiday, when all the councils are still working out their budgets. In January there is no one to sell to. In January, there is no work for me to do. In January, nearly all of the other people in the company will take leave that week and I shouldn’t have to show up to work just so you don’t freak out.

So it’s seven working days and counting until I can sit back, relax and forget about the constant nagging of a disorganized control freak who is bent on making my holidays difficult for me. Six days if I leave out next Friday which will be taken up by the work Christmas function. Six days and counting….

Another weekend eaten away

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Ah yes, another weekend draws to a close and yet again I’m sitting on my bum on the couch after having eaten (ok, and drunk) my way through the weekend. I feel that I can justify my total lack of….anything…by saying that it was KJ’s birthday and that means that the weekend should be all about him. This means there is no time for practical things like Christmas shopping, housework, exercise or moving my butt off the couch.

It was a good day today; things went pretty much as I had hoped they would with only a few minor glitches in the plan.

Instead of waking up around 8am, I woke up at around 6 after a long night of disturbed sleep filled with what I fear are the beginning of an endless stream of dreams about our wedding. I wasn’t so excited (and cruel) about his birthday that I was going to wake him at 6 to make him open his present, so I spent 2 hours on the couch trying to doze off again. At 8 I kicked into birthday mode and jumped around and made him open his present, which was this – A slot car set in the shape of the Bathurst track. Obviously this present meant that as predicted he got out of bed faster than he would normally, so we set the track up and had a quick go at it before we had to start getting things ready to have the family over.

The rest of the day was just the same old regular birthday business. Family over, presents exchanged, food consumed, endless slot car races and an afternoon nap on the couch. It was a good relaxing sort of day but now I’m so tired that as I’ve been typing this, I’ve been putting the words in the wrong order and I have hit the backspace key more than any other on the keyboard. I think this may be a sign that it’s time to drag myself off the couch into bed.