Well I worked extra days last week and right up until 5:00 closing on Christmas Eve, there were people coming in buying last minute presents. There were even some people buying the 75% off fake trees in a box. Better late than never, right?
I rode my bike home from work with a t-shirt on and sunscreen, past the giant, evangelical church/warehouse, past the skatepark and thai restaurant, past the abandoned waterworks and vacant lot.
Mira had made a beautiful Christmas eve dinner - roast pumpkin and feta cheese tart, salad and roast beets with mango gingerbread cake with lemon glaze for dessert. I took a shower, ate, and started feeling like it was actually a holiday. After we ate, we went to the city center to St. Mary's Cathedral where there were carolers and a projected light show, also, swarms of giant fruit bats! I went inside the cathedral where there was actually a mass going on complete with organ music, a choir, decorated trees and people praying. It felt a bit weird to pop in like that but at least I had a moment of spirituality for the day. After the light show, we took a cab home and I gave the girls the traditional pajamas that I always make them. This year they were shortie pants and a tank top (a.k.a. singlet).
Christmas was the first one we have had where the girls slept in until 7:30 and it was fully light in the living room so no need to turn on the tree to see the gifts and stockings. Also, they had pretty much picked out all their gifts so it wasn't about surprising them with magical gifts. In fact, the package of things that we ordered and had shipped from the states didn't arrive so the mood was pretty subdued. We were all more thoughtful about being in a new place, being together at a different phase of our lives, and making a new kind of holiday that incorporates some of our old traditions but adapts and embodies the best purposes.
We definitely hung on to the food indulgence tradition. We had a large brekkie with my homemade stollen, cakes, chocolates, eggs, veggie bacon, and orange juice. We had a big seafood bbq with roast potatoes, veggie kebabs. I am a complete convert to the Aussie dessert of Pavlova!!! I can not say enough about how amazing this dessert is. We did an easy version of it, buying individual merengue nests. Add sweetened whipped cream and the essential mango and passion fruit plus whatever other soft fruit you like. We used strawberries and blueberries. That is it! Merengue, cream, fruit, more cream - don't be fooled into thinking this is dull. The passionfruit and mango make it so elegant and delish!
We spent the day eating, lounging, cooking and skyping with family. We normally reserve Christmas for lying low and staying out of the snow, hanging out as a family, but I have to say, being so far away from everyone was a bit sad. I have been feeling lonely and really missing friends and family, and the holiday really accentuated this. It was so nice to be able to see and talk with Sharon and her family in Sedona, and Jenni and her family in Seattle, and Bridget and Lilah in Santa Cruz, and Ellen and her kids in Eugene. We also got to talk with David's parents in Arizona and I caught my parents just before their bedtime (I can't believe they were up at 11:00). My dad was in a silly mood and gave us a fashion show of all the hats he has collected over the past few years, including a santa hat. We ended the day watching Midnight In Paris, which was so charming and we all loved.
Boxing day, we rented a car, packed a picnic of leftovers, and drove to the northern beaches where we stumbled upon a marvelous cove beach called Bilgola. I have no idea what the name means but it was instantly on our favorite spots list. The lifeguards were all over the beach making sure no one went in the water because of dangerous surf. There was a big storm predicted including rain and hail so we had gotten there fairly early in the hopes of beating the weather. It was cloudy and the waves were insane, but other than that, the temperature was warm and the sun actually came out for a while. We ate our food, got our feet wet, and napped in the sand for about 3 hours. Valerie used the trick of putting her ipod touch in a plastic cup for amplification so we even had soft music in the background.
Back home, we prepared a sausage sizzle on the barbie with my mom's cucumber and sour cream salad, baked beans, sausages, and salad. We finished in time for the Dr. Who Christmas special, the Katherine Tate Christmas special, and the Downton Abbey Christmas special. What would we do without British television?
It is almost a year since David and Valerie have been here and Mira and I are just finishing 7 months. Everyone seems to be benefiting from the new surroundings but it will take several years and the passing of many holidays and milestones before we can feel the cozy feeling of home. In the meantime, we have each other and skype.
The photo at the top is of me (blue nightie made by my mom along with all the rest of them) and some of my sisters circa 1969, the next is a skype shot of my family, Mira with XE dinner, the cathedral with a projected image, me with Xmas dinner and the crackers containing crowns and jokes, more of us at Christmas dinner, my parents on skype, me, Valerie, and Mira at Bilgola beach on boxing day. The sand was very much the color of crushed toast.