Dec 27, 2020

The Christmas Weekend.

The tree has just come down at SSG Manor 2.0.  It's been pulled apart or perhaps disassembled is a better description of the care I took.  The branches for each tier have been tied together with pipe cleaners from an arts and craft kit.  Everything's been compressed and defluffed to make sure it all fits back into the box.

Those decorations with their special memories and their own stories to tell have been boxed up ready for our next Christmas which will be as special as the one just gone.  Because despite or perhaps because of the year that was, our Christmas weekend was every bit as special as it was different to Christmases past.

The nativity in the front garden of a neighbour's house.  

Apologies in advance for the litany of cliches and truisms that I've drenched this post in.  I'm one week deep into some annual leave, the living's been easy - mimosas have been had mid-morning and dessert has done for lunch.

Hand sanitizer for Santa and floury / snowy footprints at the fireplace.  Christmas 2020 for parents in the Southern Hemisphere.

This Christmas was magic.  That 'joy in the every day and in the ordinary' kind of magic.  I was apprehensive as I shopped and planned - wary of the fact that it would be a holiday celebration apart from many of the people that make Christmas for me.  However.  When you have a nearly eight-year-old in the house who shrieks and jumps at you daily about just how excited he is that Santa's nearly here - well, you just fake it 'til you make it and Google reindeer footprints at 4am Christmas Day so that you can draw the real deal on Santa and Rudi's thank you note.

Or perhaps it wasn't magic that made this Christmas for me but time instead.  An embarrassment of it.

Time on Christmas Eve to take all day to make my desserts and have everything well chilled in the fridge ahead of lunch the next day.

Time at breakfast to ponder the new-fangled rectangular shape of savoirardi.

I'll admit, the new shape does add a certain precise geometry to trifles in a round dish.

Time to sit back at Christmas lunch.

Sangria and prime position next to the cheeseboard?  I was definitely living my best life.

Don't worry, there was some proper food in between the cheese and dessert.  Tray baked salmon with risoni and broccolini plus oven-roasted chicken.  It was the perfect food for the weather (grey skies, a bit of rain and cool), the leftovers were manageable and neither were a stress to prepare.

Similarly, dessert was two made ahead options and cut fruit.  All on point in the colour department.

Master SSG did the honours and decorated the jelly cake with glittering sprinkles.

Boxing Day was a breeze.  Time remained fluid.  Holidays was the theme, dipping into my stash of hotel toiletries and samples was the game.

The cousins came for the day and I was on Aunty duty.  After a coffee run, that much-needed coffee sat with me as I came to grips with Fimo all over again.  The cars stood up well to baking but I think a couple of the tyres look a bit flat now.

Lego was built, with practically no involvement from me.  Which explained why I dipped in and out of the online Boxing Day sales throughout the day - with quite a few purchases to show for it.  Things like new pillows, pillow cases, photo frames and bath mats....  Exciting things.

Except when it came time to set up the backyard slip and slide.  Yes, the boat did float in the splash pool end of the slide!

These fancy water balloons fill from the tap using a hose attachment.  Filled balloons just drop off their straw when they're filled and ready to throw.  I had a bit too much fun doing the filling.

Pizza subs using leftover bread rolls are a Friday night dinner I remember fondly from primary school.  I think we used pots of tomato paste way back in the 80s.  These days, pizza sauce comes in a very convenient squeezy packet.  And there's a special pizza cheese blend.  It was Coon back in the day.

We didn't stop all day.

But when we had to, there was popcorn, dry clothes and fluffy towels waiting.

Time has even been found for some crochet.  I'm learning a shell stitch at the moment.  It looks more complicated than it is in an ombre yarn.  It's a very restful stitch to crochet.  The repeats are easy and while the turns are a bit tricky at first, they make sense in the context of the pattern which makes it easier to remember what to do.

Did you receive the gift of time this Christmas?  

So many of us have had plans and traditions disrupted this year.  I hope you're still managing to enjoy the season in a way that's special for you.

Dec 24, 2020

Christmas Eve in Unusual Times.

It's been a marathon to get here and at times it felt like even the spirit of Christmas wasn't a match for the obstacle course of a year that had to be conquered to reach December 25 but we've miraculously found ourselves here on Christmas Eve willing and able to celebrate tomorrow.  Albeit under some very necessary restrictions.

Frosty on the roof of a neighbour's house.  He makes me smile everytime I drive past and I'm sure I'm not the only one who gets so much joy from the kindness of each of our neighbours who go the extra mile with their outdoor Christmas decorations.

It will be a very different Christmas for many, if not all of us this year.  Separated from family in different states and countries, eagerly anticipated travel plans cancelled, uncertainty over what the future may hold.  It's been a holiday season of faking it until you make it.  The 'commercialisation' of Christmas being met with open arms for a change this year.  The unfiltered joy, anticipation and excitement that the children of your village feel towards Christmas scooping you up in a rib crushing (but loving) bear hug with its intensity.

On a personal note, I'm feeling very grateful, fortunate and somewhat guilty for the annual leave I've been granted.  That I've not been called back to assist in the response to the latest wave of cases.  Spending my days pottering and faffing about over the holiday season this year feels like an extravagance this year and I feel a deep gratitude to those who've been called back from leave to assist in this latest wave of cases.  And who will provide this assistance with grace - as a given.

Grace was also in abundance at the shops this morning.  Despite the fact that half the car park was full at 9 am.  Security was on hand to physically direct traffic, standing in said traffic to do so.  I'm pleased to say that all the drivers I saw obeyed their helpful instructions, often with a grateful wave of thanks through a wound down driver's side window.

Our favourite cafe was open and efficiently connecting punters with their standing coffee orders.  Master SSG was over the moon with his gift - a personal stash of marshmallows from the official babycino and hot chocolate jar just to the left of the espresso machine.

These were the last eschallots available at Woolies today and they came home with me to be quick pickled for tomorrow's salad.

And now I'm home from the madness of the shops and well into my day of dessert making for Christmas lunch.  We're three quarters of the way through a jelly cake and I've made the foundation layer of my annual creation of Donna Hay's White Chocolate and Raspberry Trifle.

The laundry sink 'esky' has been filled with ice and drinks to free up space in the fridge, the brandy and glassware are ready for another batch of White Christmas Sangria.

The glassware is sparkling and ready for action.  I even managed to find my Christmas serviettes.

It's Christmas tomorrow and I can't wait.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Dec 23, 2020

Three Days Into My Three Week Staycation.

I'm three days into my three week staycation and life is good.   I can feel my batteries recharging with each wander up the road to the shops for coffee and lunch.  The stubborn knots in my mind and body unkinking as another day passes without my having to deal with the traffic and the myriad tasks and problems that make up an average day at work.

The 'to-do list' of my days right now are governed by the weather or whatever catches my attention at that particular moment.  

An overcast and windy day spent indoors made me think of our indoor fairy lights and how I needed to put them up.  They're now glittering away on a path that takes in the door to the laundry and the living room before reaching the finish line atop our Christmas tree (which is already quite heavily draped in lights).

Doing the sheets has suddenly become fun.  The stages of washing, drying and then returning their natural habitat providing welcoming punctuation to the fluidity of daily life right now.  

I made a fortuitous discovery whilst doing all those extra loads of washing.  Did you know that you can clean your front loading washing machine by doing sequential cycles of white vinegar then bleach and finally just using water?  Use the hottest temperature your machine has, set to the most intense wash cycle and prepare your eyes for the sparkle when you open the door to load your next wash.

I've even had the time (and motivation) to read every piece of paper that finds itself in my letterbox.  The street behind my house has been a hive of activity recently.  The kind of activity that saw marquees being erected, chairs and tables set up and trucks laden with cameras and scaffolding  nabbing the best parking spots while people moved in and out of one particular garage with purpose.  I thought it all added up to a film crew and I was right!

I just know I'm going to be one of those 'Concerned Citizen' type retirees with Miss Marple aspirations when the time comes.  I just know it.

My dollars treadmill is still the centre of attention at home.  It's been used as a supermarket conveyor belt (switched off and under adult supervision) on more than one occasions and it's even taken me back to Paris....

via this Seine River Walk lead by Florent Thevenot.

It's technically a walk but Florent and his lovely accent ran a few intervals along the way.  I'm a joiner and after a while those intervals coalesced into some pretty decent running.  It's the Paris and Florent effect.

We might not be able to fly to Paris or anywhere else right now but at least we have this runway and airport that we're building out of Nanoblocks.

How's your Christmas staycation going?

As restorative in its mundane nature as mine?

Be well.

Dec 21, 2020

Hotel Lockdown 2.0.

You would have thought that with a send-off like this on Friday (my last day of work for the year) that 2020 would have taken the hint, read the room and declared the rest of the year drama and bad news free.

But no, the year that keeps on giving has spoken from its almost grave in one of my work confidential shredding bins.

With the growth of the Northern Beaches Covid cluster, we're pretty much in Lockdown 2.0.  Just in time for Christmas.  Throw in the travel restrictions placed on residents of Greater Sydney and my much-anticipated block of annual leave is going to be spent holidaying in and around SSG Manor 2.0.  I'm in the process of cancelling our New Years trip to Hobart but while I'm sad, disappointed and frustrated, I'm also too Covid weary to think too hard about implications, emotions and that increasingly distant light at the end of this long dark tunnel of uncertainty and restriction.

So I'm just doing (and imagining) with what I've got.  The house is no longer 'just' a house, it's become Hotel Lockdown 2.0 by virtue of my making full use of the light and air that comes through the main living area when I push back the shutters and throw open those glass double doors.

The view from the hotel gym this morning as I treadmilled up and down the hills of Kalabaka, Greece.

The gym's pandemic themed water cooler.  Remember way back in Lockdown 1.0 when we panic bought everything?  Not just toilet paper and bread-making ingredients.

Indoor greenery is vital in any hotel.  These are our terraria.  I'm trying to rescue the one I nearly drowned by blotting the excess water out with paper towels.  

Even the 'Great Lawn' has a touch of the resort about it with a few stray frangipani flowers dotting its imperfectly manicured patchy greenness.  

The day spa features baths scented with Lush bath bombs with that authentic water jet experience provided by your own personal quick fill Super Soaker.

But that's not all the excitement guests of the hotel got to experience over the weekend....

We celebrated a certain persons eighth (!!) birthday.  Those bracketed exclamation marks convey more disbelief each year.  Disbelief at the speed of the passage of time.  Disbelief that despite the endless challenges of the year that was, we have both landed on our feet.  Me a little more weary than usual while the Master SSG has come through the year with maturity, enthusiasm and an alarming amount of street smarts for his tender years.

These were part of the party bags.  Joke.

This was the catering from The Grounds.

Which I highly recommend for friendly, efficient service and irresistible finger food.

I 'made' the ice cream cake.

Which featured an entire Woolies Mudcake as its base, crushed to fit the bottom of your lined springform tin.

Layers were softened 1L cartons of Connoissuer icecream.  Two were perfect for my tin.

After freezing each layer of ice cream, I added a layer of homemade fudge sauce.  Smitten Kitchen has a very addictive recipe that reheats perfectly with a rich gloss.

How are you coping with this pre-Christmas lockdown?

Take care and stay safe.


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