Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas and Boxing Day

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.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Centennial Park Birdwatch

A week or so ago, Mira and I went out on our bikes to explore this gigantic park that is very close to where we live. Mira had gone there once on her Bike Babes outing so she knew how to get there. The day was rainy, but we were determined, plus we had a pile of stale bread to give to the water fowl. It was such a quick, pleasant ride on bike paths the whole way, and the park is so huge and very pretty. There was almost no one there due to the poor weather and the fact that it was a week day, so it felt like we were really out in nature.

First we saw some coots that at first we thought were cute (little rhyme there), but then we realized that they were "going all agro" on the ducks and we said "what the heck"?

No, seriously, feeding birds is not a sweet, kind, peaceful activity. We saw ducks, swans, cockatoos, pigeons, geese, the aforementioned coots, and various other birds, and they were all after our small supply of bread. It didn't help that we discovered some of it was moldy and had to be thrown out. We got some hilarious photos of me running from a huge black swan that was after a nibble.

Just as we finished our good deed and all the bread was gone, it started to rain and we realized that there were no shelters in sight. We hopped on our bikes an rode till we finally came to a big gazebo type thing. We waited out the rain with one of the park gardeners and a couple of magpies that terrified Mira. They can be aggressive, but I think he was too wet to move.

There was a break in the clouds just long enough to get home where we had tea and dried out.

(if you click on any photo, you can see them in much more detail).

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Takin' It To The Street

So, last week-end we went from the high art of the ballet on Saturday, to the low (some would call criminal) art of the street - i.e. Graffiti, on Sunday. This week-end we focused on getting last minute things done for Christmas prep, so I am harking back to last Sunday for this post.

We got up and got ourselves moving more quickly than usual on a Sunday morning because the forecast called for rain and it was the last day of this show that had been up for about a month (typical). It was hot and sunny and we slathered on the sunscreen, grabbed our hats (and I brought an umbrella), and took the bus to the ferry terminal. We got there just in time to catch one that was so loaded down with passengers that it looked a little like a refugee boat. The water in the harbour was really choppy as we stood jammed up against the railing and headed for Cockatoo Island.

I am not sure what this little harbour island was originally used for, but it is now a basically denuded island with several abandoned warehouse and factory type buildings on it. It was a fitting and super-cool place for a show called OUTPOST Art from the Streets. Check out the link for more details.

I won't go into too much description as I think the pictures speak for themselves. We had a great time milling through tunnels, huge warehouses, and outdoor spaces, soaking up the humor, socio/political messages, and creativity of all these artists. The final bit was a collection of art by Banksy.

As we were getting ready to leave, a huge, black cloud blew in like a blast from a spray paint can, (cute huh?) and we stood with the crowd in line, in the rain, waiting for extra ferries to come over and ship us all back to the mainland. We were home getting warm and drinking tea by 4:oo.

(the photo of the Banksy art was a small file that is hard to see so I posted the second to the top one from his website. It isn't the most typical of his work but I like the message.)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Night at the Opera/Ballet

Back when David and Valerie first moved here, ahead of Mira and I, they got to go see a concert at the Opera House that was a rock/folk/indie/visual/musical extravaganza. They were blown away by it and were telling us back in Flagstaff all about it. Naturally, we were envious so David got tickets for all of us to go see a ballet. I was excited knowing we would get to go to a show at the Sydney Opera House, even if it was about nine months in the future. Well, the date came up and we went.

We had spent the day shopping in the city and came home to have a quick bite and a shower. It didn't take long to get dressed up because summer clothing is just so much easier. Sydney is a casual city where lots of different styles co-mingle, and the dress code (if any) is usually quite relaxed. But we decided it would be fun to dress up and it would be suited to the ballet of Romeo and Juliet. (Oh yes, I didn't mention, it was Romeo and Juliet! One of the greatest romantic stories ever told, and one of the most complex and interesting ballets). We were so glad we did, because everyone was in their chic and stylish finery. They weren't necessarily formally dressed, just done up in some creative or beautiful way. Before the show we stood in the lobby having drinks and snacks, and watching all the people filing up the stairs.

We had great seats in the first balcony, pretty much in the middle. We could see the orchestra in their pit, and we could see the whole stage perfectly. The angle of the seats is such that no one's head could obstruct our view. Valerie was sleepy before the show and was a little worried that she might have trouble staying awake, but from the opening notes, we were on the edge of our seats! I won't break down the whole show, but just let me say that the sets, the lighting, the music, the musicianship, the acoustics, the theatricality, the costumes, choreography, and dance, were SPECTACULAR. There were several big dance numbers where the whole cast was on stage and it was like watching a kaleidoscope. The choreography was a wonderful mix of classical and contemporary ballet that made the human body look like an amazing combination of art and machine. They were soft and malleable, solid and super strong at the same time.

The costumes in a few of the scenes left me breathless with my eyes popping out of my head. The costume designer was a Japanese-Australian man named Akira Isogawa, who used soft, flowy silks and organzas and made them look stiff with the shibori technique of multiple gatherings. HERE is a link to a photo in the Sydney Morning Herald to give you a better idea of what I mean. The caplets on the women are all done with shibori. I did wish that Juliet had been made more precious or stunning or something to help the audience feel more caught up in her plight. Her dresses were mostly plain and natural, I guess to give her an innocence and purity.
Romeo, in his white tights, white shibori blousy top, and supersoft white leather vest, managed to evoke a passion and charisma with his body, his energy, and his facial expressions. Of course, as Valerie said, Mercutio was the crowd favorite with his humor, charm, and loyalty.

At the end of the show, we spilled out onto the front steps of the Opera House and looked out over the harbour. The lights of the bridge and the city were sparkling. The sounds of music and laughter from the crowds having drinks and dinner along the quay in the open air cafes made me feel giddy. Yes, it sounds corny and overly romanticized. But I have to say, it was one of those moments where I just felt happy and thankful for my life and the beautiful things in it.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Crafty Week-end Part 2

I had so much to cover yesterday that I didn't really get a chance to give it much personal flavor. I was so happy and inspired by all the positive, creative energy at the two craft markets, and I did buy a few things. I got a couple of Christmas gifts and a few things for myself and the house. It felt good to support handmade, artisan, small businesses.

We ended the day on Sunday by decorating our little fake tree. It was interesting to go through the box that we shipped here and see what ornaments and decorations we still felt attached to. It does feel weird to have all these wintery things surrounding us as we are coming on to Summer. However, even though the girls are getting older, I still think it is important to keep the traditions going.

The photos are of the tree before and after it was decorated, Mira modeling one of the head pieces she made to go with the flapper/fairy costumes that she made for Valerie's class, the girls after decorating the tree, a christmas linen that I got made by Maya Muse Textiles, a kookaburra brooch made of wood and vintage wallpaper by Delilah devine, and an over view of the Eveleigh craft market on Sunday.