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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

I.

Even though it’s generally over 30 degrees Celsius outside and I’m almost 40, there’s something about Christmas that makes me want to walk around in an oversized overcoat, clicking my heels and saying “Gawd bless yer heart, guvna!”

I put it down to too much exposure to cheap made-for-TV versions of A Christmas Carol as a child.

My husband, however, holds little affection for me talking like a cheeky cockney chappie. Just the other day, he even had a little rant about “cockney rhyming slang” that can be summarised thus: “What. Is. The. Fucking. Point?”

“It can be funny,” I said. “For example: ‘pony’ is a goodie. I always liked that when we lived in London.”

“Yes, but how funny is it really?” my husband snarled. “Let’s look at it for a moment: ‘pony and trap’ rhymes with ‘crap’. Where exactly is the humour in that?”

Which just makes me wish I knew the rhyming slang word for “bahumbug”.

Anyone?

II.

Christmas is for the children. We all know that. So what do my children have to say about Christmas?

When I recently posted Mr Justice’s latest “Christmas Story” on twitter, people must have thought I was making it up. But here is the proof:

A Christmas Card. Once a boy was making a mess on the Christmas tree. He was shooting sauce at it. Then 100000000000000000000000000 ninjas burst through the window. Then one of the ninjas said “May the force be with your poos.”

And here is a picture The Pixie painted of Santa, projectile vomiting:

As for Tiddles McGee? Well, Tiddles McGee, aged all of three, just jumps up and down and shouts “WHERE’S MY PRESENT?”.

Yes, Christmas is for the children, all right. 

III.

On the day that my grandfather died, I began to bake. Up until then, my interest in the art of home-baking had been sporadic and (largely) disastrous. 

For example:

Ever seen what happens to your beaters when you fail to soften your butter before creaming it?

Ever seen the look on a small child’s face when biting into a banana cake containing large lumps of bicarbonate of soda?

Ever made a cake that is pure charcoal on the outside and completely uncooked batter on the inside?

Well, I have done all of this and more – and might have continued to do so on those few occasions I was legally permitted to enter a kitchen. But there was something about my grandfather’s passing made me feel it was time to step up to the mark at the ripe old age of 34. And, although it was February, I decided to bake my grandmother’s Christmas cookies for my family who were gathering together for the funeral.

I mixed and rolled and pressed and baked and, as I did so, with every single cookie I made, I felt like I was honouring my grandparents’ memory and the risks and sacrifices they’d made so that I might be here today. 

Of course, when my cookies came out of the oven, they didn’t taste at all like my grandmother’s. 

I’ve made them many times since – every Christmas since 2004, in fact – and they still don’t taste anything like hers. But the problem is, I can’t remember what hers taste like any more. 

But the recipe that I’ve made has become my own and one that my children now know and will grow up with. 

My husband said the same applies to “whistling solos” in folksongs as they are passed down from generation to generation. I said “Whatever” and then added a cheeky “guvna” just to piss him off.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

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I’m not going to lie to you: I know how to work a food table at a party. It’s one of my core skills, finely honed during the two years I spent in Japan attending “English Teaching Conferences” (also known as “a waste of valuable government funds” and “large scale piss-ups”).

Legend has it that I worked one buffet dinner so adroitly that I’d had two servings of the mains and had moved onto dessert before some people had even finished queuing for their first serve. 

How did I do it? Well, without giving away too many of my secrets, it’s all in where you position yourself.  You need to be hovering near the end of the table with the plates. I can’t stress that enough. If you’re standing at the non-plate end, you may as well be in another room all together.

Now, it’s good practice to be working with a friend so you can give the impression of being engaged in lively conversation. But all the time, you are both just watching the table in a state of active readiness (your body turned ever so slightly away from the table, so as not to make people nervous) so that you can pivot quickly and easily and walk purposely (never run!) towards the food when it is ready. 

Serve your food quickly and join the growing queue. Start eating. Do not chat. You’ll be back at the head of the queue with an empty plate before the people still gabbing away at the other end of the conference room have even realised the food’s ready. And by the time they do realise and start lining up, you’ll be ready for chocolate cake.

All that said, I have to admit that lately I’ve lost my touch.

I recently had three party tables to work in less than 24 hours.

With the first, I was too busy chatting with the Fabulous Miss Jones and so was late to join the queue and almost missed out on the last slice of margherita pizza. And then later got caught in a holding pattern around the dessert table feeling obliged to eat slices of those cakes that hadn’t been touched. SLOPPY TECHNIQUE. 

With the second, I was heavily handicapped by a small child who decided that the Parent Helper morning tea at the school was as good a place as any to stage a tantrum  – you know, in front of the School Principal and half the School Council. And as a direct result of this, I missed out on the last piece of deep-fried prawn toast. FAIL. 

And with the third one (of the “bring a plate” variety), I found myself entering some kind of “plate-off” with friend (and now plate rival) “MotherOfCrankyPants” where we competed to see whose contribution to the table got eaten first. My plate consisted of Black pepper and parmesan puff pastry cheese straws, lovingly hand-twisted by Yours Truly from a recipe personally recommended to me by the truly gorgeous Alejandra Ramos who, like, works for Cosmopolitan in New York. NEW YORK, PEOPLE!

And MotherOfCrankyPants’ plate? Sliced oranges. I mean, not to be rude or anything, but oranges? C’mon! How can they compete with Alejandra’s cheese straws? Even if they are sliced.

It is understandable, therefore, that I got so carried away with this competition that I missed out on trying virtually everything else on the table. For one thing, I was too busy stuffing parmesan and black pepper cheese straws in my mouth to get anything else in there. SUB-OPTIMAL. 

I guess, I’m feeling a bit disappointed that I’m not in better form going into the Christmas season. My one consolation is best said by Jim Henson Workshop Creation “Yoda”: “There is another!”

Just last weekend, I found myself standing in front of a party table laden with delicious food alongside Mr Justice. There we were, mother and son, working that table like a couple of pros. 

I asked him if he’d tried one of the chicken drumsticks, which were particularly good. 

“Tried them? I’ve had three!” was his reply.

That’s my boy.

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Ho, friggin’ ho.

It’s interesting how the last of the Spirit of Christmas evaporates roughly the same time as the last of the Christmas booze. One might even think they were directly related to each other – at least when it comes to the adults, I hasten to add. The children certainly don’t need stimulants of any kind to get all hyped up for Christmas, although the presence of sugar in almost everything they eat during that jolly time certainly helps. 

Because my Eastern European heritage dictates we do our big meal (and our big drinking) on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day itself ends up being a bit of a wet fart. Except for my kids at least, it’s a wet fart with substantial follow-through: presents. And, let’s face it, for kids it’s All About The Presents. For the adults in my house, it’s a bit about the Presents, but only as something to occupy the children while we recover from the night before. 

I must say I didn’t choose the presents too well this year. That last-minute cheap-as-chips Spiderman convertible car that I bought at the local markets for Tiddles’s stocking is a prime example of why you should always Try Before You Buy. 

spider_car

When fully armed with batteries, this car drives around and around  in circles, occasionally stopping to open its doors and fold back its roof, all somewhat surprisingly to the strains of the Vengaboys’ song “Kiss (when the sun don’t shine)”.  Except I’m beginning to suspect his latest choice of car and music,  these days Spidey might like to only kiss where the sun don’t shine. It’s just a hunch. 

Anyways, it turns out the thing is Indestructable – as my sister Princess A pointed out, with barely-disguised horror-slash-wonder in her voice, it must be made of the same materials that the Terminators are made of. You cut off a wheel and it keeps going, round and round, up and down, “Kiss kiss kiss when the sun don’t shine woah-oh-oh, woah-oh-oh.” With a bit of luck, the SQMY batteries (the branding of which looks spookily like SONY from a distance) that it came with will run out soon and prove to be irreplaceable. 

And then there was the Pixie’s “Disney Princess Karoaoke Headset”. For one thing: look at the headset.

karaoke

That spectacularly bejewelled headband is so incredibly inflexible and so damn small that even Tiddles McGee (aged 2) can’t put it without screaming like someone in a Scorceses film with his head in a vice. I’ve noted that there is no actual photograph of a child wearing it on the box because that would probably contravene Geneva Convention guidelines about using torture devices during peace time, especially involving minors. And as for the “18 All-Time Favourite Melodies” that the Princess Karoake Headset boasts? I’m thinking, maybe “Head on the Door” by The Cure or  “Unfinished Sympathy” by Massive Attack, or even my karaoke speciality “Wind beneath my wings” (I kid you not) – but no. We’re talking tinny Hammond Organ versions of “This Old Man” and “Three Blind Mice” and all played so fast that even rapper emcee Twista, with his 11.2 syllables-per-second delivery, would struggle to fit in the lyrics. All in all, a dud present. 

In despair, I turned to the onerous yet relatively quiet task of constructing the Star Wars Lego V19 Torrent Fighter with Mr Justice. Check out STEP ONE in the accompanying visual instructions:

lego_warning

Huh? Are they trying to warn us off trying to plant the lego in the lawn? Or is that supposed to be a warning not to have shag pile carpet in this current climate of polished floorboards? Yes, okay, okay, I get it. You’re not supposed to put the lego on the floor. But don’t the makers of Lego realise that ALL lego ends up painfully underfoot at some point or another and that some pissy little diagram ain’t gonna adequately cover their fat-cat arses from the Class Action I’m going to file when I finally work out what exactly a Class Action is and what I have to do to file one (it’s on my To Do List, people, along with “Lose that Baby weight”, “Tidy the House” and “Get a Good Night’s Sleep”).  

Anyway, consider this scene: I’m almost having a nervous breakdown trying to work out if the next piece in the instructions is dark grey or black and the Pixie’s sitting at the same table, eating a middle-of-the-day bowl of cereal using the world’s smallest ‘dolly spoon’ and slurping her milk. Now, this would annoy me under normal circumstances, but under “starwars lego circumstances”, it threatens to push me over the edge all together and while I’m trying to get her to use another spoon, Mr Justice manages to tip an entire tub of our carefully pre-sorted lego onto the floor, resulting in me groveling on my hands and knees frantically collecting every last precious tiny piece – because if we lose just one piece the whole Torrent Fighter simply will not hold and of course with The Pixie still slurpin’ away with that spoon of hers all the while. And it’s at that moment that Tiddles McGee appears to lose it before I do and starts running around the house shouting “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” – or at least that’s what I think he’s shouting until, thankfully, he uses the internationally-recognised hand signal for “duck” and I realise that he’s trying to say “Quack”. And phew! Crisis averted: it turns out I’m not such a bad parent after all, if only one who is “hungover like a bastard” and disinclined to find out why her youngest child has suddenly decided to be a duck. 

Anyway, one of my readers – a certain “naptimewriting” – asked for rants to rival those rabid monkey blogs and I hope I’ve delivered – I do so aim to please. Now if you’ll now excuse me, I’m off to try and work out how to improve my Technorati rankings before those rabid monkeys get there first.

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Dear Readers, 

Here in Australia, it’s already Christmas Day. One of the few benefits of living in the arse end of the world is that we get to open our presents first and I’m about to go and help my children unwrap their body weight’s worth in toys.  But before I do, I have a few Christmas goodies for those of you who are still managing to log onto my humble blog amidst the Christmas Mayhem (all three of you). Look upon it as thanks for helping me be ranked  1,420,615th on the Technorati blog list. That’s quite some achievement, eh?

No, seriously, that really is my Technorati ranking. There are blogs written by robots, rabid monkeys and small chunks of cheese that have a higher ranking. But what that stupid ranking doesn’t reflect is the sheer calibre of the blog’s readership.

So here’s the really serious bit: I’m actually very grateful to anyone who has ever stopped by my blog, however briefly. Returning to writing has been the biggest gift that 2008 has given me and I certainly couldn’t have done it without the encouragement and support of… (gesturing widely, with tears in eyes)… All Of You. 

So here are my gifts to you all. The first is a Christmas story that the six year old Mr Justice wrote yesterday – yes, he of the “extreme enthusiasm and creativity when story writing” (see “An Assembly to Remember“). I’ve kept the original spelling and punctuation to further enhance the reading pleasure. 

Christmas Avencher

One Chrismas night a man went fishing, but when he got to the jety, he saw a tente-cool come out of the water. So he ran home. On the way he met a rinkely person, his name was Yoda. Then 10 Hyena-droids atacked Yoda. Then he chopped there heads off. But 7 escaped. 

Isn’t that just a lovely little Christmas fable? I think there’s a little something in that for everyone. 

And then there are these three little photos – which some of you have been desperate to see ever since my post “Gin and Bear It“. And for the rest of you who have no idea what this is all about, then let’s just look upon this little photo essay as a timely reminder of the Dangers of Excess… as both the subject and the photographer now know all too well. 

And so, from Not Drowning Central, I wish one and all a very merry Christmas indeed. 

The NDM

 

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Just last weekend I got the closest I’ll ever get to feeling truly Divine.

I had just finished having breakfast at my favourite cafe when I was offered a complimentary glass of eggnog – with or without the alcohol. A good shot of brandy might have helped with the Christmas shopping I had ahead of me (that and a bottle-of-vodka chaser) but, alas, because I’m still on my P plates and thus have to have a zero blood alcohol when behind the wheel (possibly a good thing), I opted for the non-alcho version. The waiter passed my order to the drinks waiter who looked me over at me and said, registering the order, “A virgin”. Well, it had been a long time since anyone called me that and I have to admit that I felt almost flattered.  

Five minutes later, when I went to pay the bill, the owner noted that I had asked for the big breakfast without eggs – the last time I had done that in his cafe was when I was in the early stages of pregnancy of Tiddles McGee. “You’re not… are you?” he asked, somewhat incredulously (I mean, the man has seen me wrangling the children I already have and probably would like to think I know my limits. For the record, I do know my limits and it was definitely one child).

Anyway, there I was, being called a virgin AND accused of being pregnant all within five minutes. Now I know EXACTLY how the Virgin Mary felt,  though I expect old Mary didn’t get herself offered a complimentary glass of eggnog or have to face the Christmas Open Shopping Season at the local Kmart.  In any case, it certainly got me thinking about how, for most people, Christmas has become all about Jesus and/or Santa (my friend Miss A’s son actually asked her the other day “Which came first? Santa or Jesus?”) and how Mary’s role in it all gets a tad overlooked (at least by the non-Catholic world). 

I mean there she was, married and a virgin (what went wrong with their wedding night, I ask? I’m thinking Ian McEwans “On Chesil Beach”, aren’t you?) and heavily pregnant (Joseph must have been a Very Understanding Man). She then ends up giving birth without any medical support in somebody’s back shed, surrounded by animals and, while she’s still recovering and no doubt trying to establish breastfeeding and all, she’s got these three Foreign Guys rocking up. And not to seem ungrateful or anything for the gifts they bore, but you’d think they might have brought something a little more practical like some baby clothes, a bumper pack of Huggies or a bottle of nice fizz to wet the baby’s head. Still, that’s men for you. And then there’s that whole steep learning curve of the First Time Mum, which is hard enough as it is without the whole added pressure of knowing your baby is the Son of God. It was a tall order and, by all accounts (whether you think those accounts are pure fictition or not), she seems to have risen to the occasion.

So this Christmas, I’m going to make it All About Mary. Or rather, All About All Mothers throughout the world and throughout time, without whom quite possibly none of us would be able to tie our shoelaces or find a matching pair of clean socks or remember to rug up warm because it’s cold outside or to stop making That Noise on the recorder, So Help Us All.

And without whom, none of us would be here. Full stop. Think about it: if there hadn’t been a long chain of women stretching back through history all having to go through the agonising process of childbirth in a whole manner of  different ways and locations, I wouldn’t be writing this blog and you wouldn’t be reading it. As someone who knows what labour and a c/section feels like, it’s a sobering thought – although only momentarily. Pass us another glass, dears – it’s Christmas time, after all!

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