27 December 2006

belated Christmas wishes

advent table Christmas morn

Better late than never.



I hope you all had a beautiful and safe Christmas with your Best Beloveds.

We're off for a while so I'll see you next year. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment this year - it's been great and I appreciate your visits. I'm sorry if I didn't get around to responding to all comments and new visitors in the last month but life kind of overtook me for a while there.

21 December 2006

endings and beginnings

My firstborn finished his primary school education today.

The graduation ceremonies were last week; one with his old Steiner class and another with his current class. The Grade 6 Big Day Out is over and done with. The photographs are taken, autobiographies completed and displayed, addresses exchanged and promises made.

He came home today with his red school t-shirt covered in black texta autographs and issued me with strict instructions never to wash it. (Some children didn’t use the permanent pens).

He confessed to a little sadness as he headed off to bed tonight. But his eyes were gleaming at the thought of the long summer holiday stretching ahead of us.

life is

19 December 2006

busy as a bee

making little decorations to slip inside the teachers’ Christmas cards,

mini stockings

and wee gnome folk from a Korknisse pattern via Siri.

korknisse with trees

18 December 2006

Third Sunday of Advent, 2006

third sunday of advent candles

The third light of Advent
it is the light of beasts
the light of hope that we may see
in greatest and in least


advent table week 3

The children chose some animals to join the scene on our Advent table, including a giant knitted bullock.

angel tree

17 December 2006

and they always stick

One can cast wide the shutters

fling open the casement

and throw up the sash.



But one must wind out the mission brown 1970s aluminiums.

13 December 2006

in which we discuss the weather

Crazy mixed up weather.

A couple of weeks ago we had the coldest November days ever in Melbourne. Wind, rain, sleet, hail, even snow on the nearby hills.

Then back to summer.

And the hottest December day in 53 years.

star

Which sends everyone a little troppo.

stars and moon

Too hot to knit, too hot to think.

where there's smoke

That’s the view these days. An eerie smoke-filled glow fills the sky.

The weather reports say we’re in for another scorcher tomorrow and then milder weather so the fire behaviour will be somewhat moderated. They reckon it’s still going to burn all summer long though.

The siren at the CFA station up the end of our street has been going off at all hours of the day and night. When we first moved here our neighbours told us that if the siren goes off at 5pm on a Sunday, not to panic, it just means there’s a barbecue at the station, BYO beer and come along.

These days there’s no jollity.

When the siren sounds, it’s business not pleasure.

11 December 2006

Second Sunday of Advent 2006

advent candles, 2nd Sunday

On the second Sunday of Advent we light two candles.

The children choose something from the plant world to put on the Advent table and we say the verse

The second light of Advent
It is the light of plants
Plants reach up to the sun
And in the breezes dance.


stable with trees

Some items on the table this year are new. The old stable (four logs with a roof of paperbark) did not survive the house move, so a new one was quickly pressed into service.

The Advent Fairy also decided some trees were in order for the week that celebrates the plant kingdom and so Stephanie’s soft tree pattern was put to good use. It’s addictive. I’m up to twelve trees so far. I love their funky naïve homemade look. Although that could be my amateurish sewing skills. The Advent Fairy likes to wind down with a merlot in the evenings.


christmas mantelpiece

The angels are new too. The paper chain angels used for the last few years were way past their best and anyway they weren’t long enough for the enormous mantelpiece in this house. So a new chain was in order; made from an op-shopped cream wool blanket for superior durability.

Christmas mantel

Look! More trees.

The evening concludes with Mr Soup reading the next chapter of Mary’s Little Donkey. The children demand he reads the donkey bits with an Eddie Murphy accent. He fails miserably.


Last year’s Advent posts here, here, here and here.

soft trees in white & green green and white soft trees

I told you they were addictive.
Soft tree flickr group here.

9 December 2006

Robin ran away

This meme is doing the rounds so like a sheep, I will follow. I got this from Janet who took it from Penni and changed it. I’ve fixed the split infinitive because I’m just like that.

We are not religious, but I figure if we’re going to celebrate Christmas, we need to acknowledge (and teach our children who after all, live in a predominantly Christian culture) the reason why. So we celebrate the nativity and the birth of Jesus Christ, and I feel no conflict about it. I can believe and appreciate that JC was a great prophet-like special person, without necessarily buying the saviour of the world and son of God immaculate inspection stuff. I want my children to know what Christmas is about, apart from the rampant consumerism and greed promoted in the shops and the images of Santa everywhere exhorting children to write lists of stuff they want to just get in December. In our house Santa is known as Father Christmas, and he arrives and does the stocking thing and eats the treats we leave for him. I think I would feel more of a hypocrite if we just did the reindeer and Santa thing and presents presents presents and ignored the whole nativity. That’s my take on it, anyway. (Born-agains, don’t start on me. Peace and joy and all that).

I also have no sympathy for those who say Oh it’s not a proper Christmas without snow and cold. It just doesn’t feel right. We are bombarded with images of snowflakes and bundled up children breathing steam as they brave the dark night to go carolling; why? I don’t think it snowed in Bethlehem on that fateful night a couple of thousand years ago. In fact, I think Israel is a kind of arid, desert climate, no? So. Forget the US-Eurocentric snowy goodness and celebrate Christmas the way it was meant to be! Hot! Or at least, warmish.


Egg nog or hot chocolate?
Neither. It’s hot here (see previous rant). At Christmas lunch the adults drink champagne and the children get ginger beer. Also, lots of tonic water and ice.

Does Father Christmas wrap presents or just set them under the tree?
Wrapped definitely. Most of the presents under the tree are from us and friends and family, but Father Christmas does leave one gift for each child under the tree on Christmas morning. He also leaves little trinkets and treats in each child’s stocking. In return he gets a mince pie and a glass of milk, and his reindeer eat the carrots and magic reindeer food (oats mixed with glitter) sprinkled on the front verandah.

Coloured lights on tree/house or white?
White on the tree. Nothing on the house.

Do you hang mistletoe?
Nope. (Mistletoe is a weed, people).

When do you put up your decorations?
We have developed the tradition of putting up the tree on the 1st of December. Only because the children used to nag and nag to put it up the minute the decorations appeared in the supermarkets (September) and I had to arbitrarily set a date. It’s now a fixed tradition and the children do the whole tree themselves while I decorate the mantelpiece with the angel paper chains, the string for the cards, and the Advent calendar and candles. The children have perfected the art of spreading the decorations evenly around the tree after the fateful year they put everything on the front (so you can see them all!) and the tree promptly fell over.

What's your favourite Christmas dish?
A huge platter of tiger prawns. Served with rocket, asparagus, avocado and smoked salmon salad.

Favourite Christmas memory as a child?
One year my brother and I received bikes for Christmas. When we got up on Christmas morning there were two envelopes on the tree, attached by string, and containing instructions to follow the string to our presents. We each gathered up our strings, following them along a long convoluted path around the house, over tables, under beds and eventually out into the back garden where the strings wound around trees and bushes. My brother’s string did several particularly spectacular loops around the apricot tree, while mine lay in a tangled pile at the bottom of the tree before continuing on toward the shed. We opened the door to the shed and there were two beautiful shiny yellow bikes. It was a complete and utter surprise, and great fun.

Mum later told the story of how she and my eldest cousin had crept outside in the dark on Christmas Eve to lay the string trails.
My cousin had climbed the apricot tree to mischievously tangle her string around its branches, and Mum had stood at the bottom laughing, forgetting that she was still paying out her string into a huge pile on the ground.

It was the most fun I’ve ever had on a Christmas morning.

When and how did you learn the truth about Father Christmas?
Around the age of nine or ten. I remember the deflated feeling.

Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
Once when I was a child, my brother and I, totally hyped up on Christmas anticipation and fervour, nagged and nagged and pleaded until we drove my mother crazy on Christmas Eve and she eventually allowed us to open one gift, on the condition that she chose them. She handed us each a rectangular box from under the tree, and we opened them to find jigsaw puzzles. They kept us happily occupied for the rest of the day.

I am mean though and don’t allow my boys to open any presents until Christmas morning.

How do you decorate your Christmas tree?
With lots of glittery stuff collected over the years. Each child gets a new decoration in their stocking each year too, which gets added to the collection. There are lots of homemade decorations too, made from icypole sticks and bits of cardboard. Last year a friend gave me a tiny string of miniature Tibetan prayer flags which adds a bohemian air to proceedings.

Snow! Love it or dread it?
Love it. But it’s totally alien to an Australian Christmas. It’s usually hot hot hot.

I did have a white Christmas in Idaho once, and we spent the afternoon outside making snow angels and hooning around on old tyres tied behind the snowmobiles.

I also had a cold (but not white) Christmas in London as a 21 year old. The decorations in Regent Street were a sight to behold and brought tears to my eyes.

Can you ice skate?
Badly but I can stay upright. However I haven’t skated since I was a teenager. Is the Oakleigh skating rink still in operation?

Do you remember your favourite gift?
Orinoco the womble was pretty special.

What's the most important thing about Christmas for you?
Being with family. Seeing my children’s faces as they give their little homemade gifts to us and the grandparents and each other. Creating traditions for my children that they might take with them into their own lives.

What's your favourite Christmas dessert?
Pud. With vanilla ice cream.

What's your favourite Christmas tradition?
In the lead up to Christmas, I love our Advent tradition. A window of the calendar opened each evening and the candle lit as we read a chapter of Mary’s Little Donkey, and the decorating of the Advent table each Sunday. The Advent Fairy secretly adding little bits and bobs to the table every now and then when she feels like it. Baby Jesus arriving in the cradle on Christmas morning. The three kings appearing on Epiphany, hopefully with a camel this year.

On Christmas Day itself, the children bring their stockings to our bedroom (rule: the sun must be UP) and open them together, all over our bed. My brother and I did the same thing as children. My parents always said when the year arrived that they woke up first and sat up in bed eagerly waiting for us to arrive with our stockings, only to realise we were great big late-sleeping teenagers, was the year she knew we’d grown up.

What tops your tree?
A big dorky gold star.

Which do you prefer: giving or receiving?
Oh, both!

What's your favourite Christmas song?
Once in Royal David’s City, sung by the lone boy soprano who opens the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols performed by the Kings College Choir each year. Makes my spine tingle.

I’m also quite partial to Greensleeves.

As you can see I’m a traditionalist – I like Christmas carols. It annoys me when I hear people say "Oh I hate Christmas carols. If I hear Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer one more time I’ll scream." Ahem. Rudolph and Jingle Bells are Christmas songs, not carols.

The orchestra that Son #1 joined this year is playing at Carols by Candlelight this year on Christmas Eve.* I wonder how many cheesy Christmas songs will be in amongst the carols.

*local, not the big one at The Bowl.

Candy canes?
Yum.

7 December 2006

little blue and green planet

Well the sky is a searing, intense blue, but there ain’t much green around here. The land is tinder-dry and the colour of milky tea. Hot winds send leaves scudding across the bricks outside and the forecast tells us the weekend will be brutal. Forty-five fires are burning out of control in Gippsland and will most likely join up into one terrifying all-engulfing blaze on Saturday. And it’s only the beginning of the fire season.

God help us all.

***********************************

Today over at Educations R Us, I was interviewed for my own job. I was later informed with a grin that I was the only preferred applicant. Thus the ‘Acting’ bit of the Ploicy title will soon be redundant.

However, YESTERDAY (ie. the day before the interview for this job) I saw an advertisement for the job I really really want. I think. Oh dear, I hate complications and secrets.

***********************************

Here. Go read this. It’s a reminder that even though we already recycle and compost and donate and choose green electricity and buy local and grow our own and use energy-efficient light globes and install a rainwater tank and solar hot water and consciously choose less consumerism, we must do more. And we must nag others to do more.

So I just did.

4 December 2006

things making me happy today

green 'fetchings'

Another pair of ‘fetchings’ from Knitty. Heading across the seas this week.

Meeting up with two wonderful bloggers for tea, cake and conversation around a kitchen table.

Sunshine and warmth this morning.

A walk with Mr Soup down the steep cliff of our property in the late afternoon. Exploring, planning, dreaming.

Listening to Hornblower on audio tape in the car.

Blooms on Fair Bianca.

Watching Son #1 busk at two markets over the weekend.

busker extraordinaire

3 December 2006

First Sunday of Advent, 2006

advent candle 1st sunday

I love the build up to Christmas.

On Friday night the children put up the tree and we dug out the basket of Christmas books. The current favourite is Raymond Briggs' Father Christmas Goes on Holiday.

Yesterday we cleared the nature table and set up the Advent candles and calendar on the mantelpiece. (The calendar is on its fourth year I think, and some of the windows need blu-tak to keep them shut until the appropriate day). The grown ups of the house tried in vain to remember where the stable and nativity pieces were put when we moved house during the year. Hopefully the Advent Fairy will remember after a glass or two of cab sav tonight. (If she’s promised a g&t and a night out, she just might get around to making an Advent calendar one day).

Tonight we lit the first candle and sang the song:

Advent, Advent, a candle burns
Advent, Advent, a candle burns
First one, then two, then three, then four
Then stands the Christ child at the door


We read the now rather familiar first chapter of Mary’s Little Donkey to the children. We can almost recite it word for word these days.

The children each chose a stone or shell to place on the nature table (no one mentioned the glaring hole where the stable should be) and we recited the verse for the first week of Advent.

This week’s verse gives thanks to the mineral world.

The first light of Advent
It is the light of stones
Stones that live in crystals
Seashells and bones



In the past two weeks I’ve had several visitors to my Advent posts from last year, and a few comments requesting information and all the verses. These can be found in last year's archives, here, here, here and here.


A happy first week of Advent to you all.

2 December 2006

weeds

We have a lot of weeds.

weeds and wood

In addition to the obvious ones like blackberry, fennel, boneseed and English ivy, the brochure from the local Council has helped me to identify a few others. For example, around here willows, sweet pittosporum, prunus, hawthorn, gazania and broom are all noxious weeds.

weeds and a fence

In our inner-city garden we had agapanthus, iris, freesias, nasturtiums, arum lilies and honeysuckle, all of which are weeds in this area. Funny how plants I used to grow and enjoy now appear threatening. I tut-tut when I see neighbours growing nasturtiums on purpose. I whistled in amazement when I saw (courtesy of old trashy magazines in the doctor’s waiting room) Princess Mary’s wedding flowers included agapanthus, presumably to make her feel at home in snowy cold Denmark.

quaking grass & web

We are gradually taming the blackberries and ivy, with the assistance of a Council weed removal scheme.

pretend snake

The boys and I have spent two weekends pulling out and chopping up the boneseed.

feathery weed

And every time I set foot outside I pull up a few grasses.

weeds

This week I glanced at the calendar and noticed that we were on Flower Duty for Son #3’s class.

I wonder if the teacher recognised that half the bouquet gathered from my garden was made up of weeds?