All Christmassed Out (Already)

Aren’t we all? A non stop whirlwind from dawn until dusk. How do we all cope? And then there’s more ‘chores’ for tomorrow, isn’t there? Well my day started with the children’s breakfast and once on the school run with Sindy, I completed the bauble explosion with the tree. All those memories of the little red glitter balls and spiney, glitter stars brought for John and my first Christmas together, all those years ago. But what did we accumulate along the way. China ones with the children’s hand prints. Baked glitter stars from the girls first year at big school. Papier mache bells and hand painted animal globes, a mass of felt baubles and little rabbits from Nepal. Little Thai Elephants on a string, sea shell wreaths from Hawaii. Each one a memory of a time in our lives. Christmas is such a manic time.

Wreath making this morning with Sindy. This year I don’t have time to collect foliage from the woods to make garlands. At least not at the moment. But we used the lower branches from the tree that actually touches the ceiling to make the two conifer wreaths this morning. Sindy took hers home for her front door and mine is now adorning ours. I might ‘camp it up’ at the weekend, but for now, austerely reigns. That is until you enter the living room. I guess I should attach pics, though it’s a bit late to photograph the home made wreath on the front door.

The sausage (duxelle) stuffing for Christmas Day and New Year’s Day was cooked and is now frozen, to be defrosted as needed. Beef fore ribs were slow cooked in stock and frozen for an ‘easy meal option’, plus I cooked Moroccan chicken and cous cous for the grown ups dinner tonight. The children had a pasta salad with steak sandwiches. Cooked burgers from Saturday, just sliced thinly and refried, served with salad, Dadda’s home made tomato chutney and mayonnaise. I packed up four trios of Dadda’s Jam for the girls teachers presents earlier and the Head mistress has a hand made chocolate box containing twelve chocolate dipped orangettes, as she requested a few freebies when she purchased the Xrated Xmas Jams at the Christmas Fayre. Sitting down now with a glass of rose wine thinking about bed. Memories of Provence coming back, as all we drank was rose, as they do in the south of France. A few stories I might reminisce on at a later date, but for now, just bed as I am shattered.

Rain, Rain, Rain

A late in the day blog today. I’m sat here in the car with everyone, John is at the wheel. It’s six thirty now and it’s dark outside. We left home this morning after feeding the dogs early. Spent the afternoon with friends who have three little ones, much the same ages as our guys. So as you can imagine that today was a fairly loud one and some great food thrown in, (it was roast lamb heaven). So after a great, pretty well behaved day, here we are, driving through the torrential rain, rain, rain. Turned off the Christmas music of earlier and playing some classical piano. The not so famous five all quiet, feeling sleepy now after a long day. John concentrating on the road and little bleats from Caleb saying that he was hungry as he didn’t finish the feast of earlier today. Half a piece of toast matey, on your way up to sleeping bye byes me thinks… the dogs are going to be desperate for a pee but they won’t go outside in the rain. A couple of big cowards when it comes to the rain, rain, rain… nite, nite

Half Moon

Nine o’clock at night and our ‘not so famous five’ have only just been marched up to bed. The reason being a drinks party that we were all invited to and after an afternoon of festivities and merriment, we came in to two very excited hounds and a quick Jim Jam frenzy and ultimately, the ascending of the stairs to ‘High ho, high ho’, but not before my entire rendition of the twelve days of Christmas sung in perfect pitch by myself. I always seem to loose it after nine pipers piping (that’s wrong, you know what I’m saying) so I hum the bits that don’t know in words, but I got to the twelfth day and T and A (Tara and Amritsar) seemed to enjoy the Christmasness of it all, joining in where they could (sounding more and more able to throw a few harmonies). Like many of you today, we bedecked our living room with several Christmas wreaths, just wreaking of Yuletide and a twelve foot conifer that still needs a sprinkle of the fairy dust (the lights and baubles are a chore for tomorrow morning). Thank you Thea and John if you are reading this! The party was great. The only sound to be heard after the bedtime ascent was Thor screaming down that he wanted a ‘kiss and hug’ – not fair as he had many. All is quite now however and we can finally relax. The home made wreaths will have to wait until Monday, as will the garland of woodland evergreens, as tomorrow lunchtime we’re visiting friends in London, I’m so looking forward to ‘Lees Peas’! The little ones are very excited about going to London as they know that a day out in town is always fun. I am intrigued to see how our friends three little ones are progressing. They are around the same ages as ours and as like today with all of the children running riot, it’s totally interesting to see the ‘group dynamics in action’!

Now onward to tonights half moon. There it was as we pulled up in the driveway. Sparkling through the neighbours eucalyptus tree, I always think of my brother Paul and wife Kylie and family when I see the eucalyptus tree. But whenever I see the moon, it comforts me and I think of home and our little family.

Okay so a good and well behaved day overall, they are all getting there, and that is in itself a blessing. Home made waffles in the morning, always a big hit with a cascade of maple syrup. Personally I like a smear of butter on mine also. But unlike waffle recipes out there, that are ‘healthy’ yet tasteless, you need the addition of enough salt to bring heightened flavour, a good amount of melted butter and a good glug of vanilla extract. The waffle maker makes four at a time, so I’ve got to get waffling before they’re down the stairs, just so that there is a good stack of them for us all to indulge in…

Last Years Rather Traumatised Snowman

Video to follow…

Well to be frank, the odds of snow tonight, this far south is looking less likely and we’re more likely to repeat last nights frost! Not the ‘exciting forecast of snow’ that I had hoped for. But hey, I promised you our snowman video and here it is. Best listened to with sound as you don’t want to miss out on Thor’s bellowing thunder…

Red Sky in the Morning

It’s bloody freezing out there. I just on’d my wellies and armed myself with a black plastic bag. It was time to do a ‘poo patrol’. I figured that with the frozen frost and all else out there as solid as ice, things would be a lot easier! On with my fur lined trappers hat and white, schott, fleecy hoody and a pair of old gardening gloves, I went out to brave the elements. I glanced myself in the mirror and thoughts of captain Scott’s last expedition flashed through my mind. But twenty minutes later, I returned to the warmth of the living room, greeted by Becky, our cleaner. I’m now staring at the fire hearth, it’s pretty full of ash! I think I should give it a clear out, I’m too embarrassed to expect Becky to tackle it. That just seems far too Dickensian. Back to the title of today’s post, if we get any precipitation later today, it could just well fall as snow. Wahoo! Let’s wait and see shall we. I am a big believer of ‘Red Sky in the Morning, Shepherds Warning’. I remember last winter with the couple of snow showers that happened here in the Shires. Aaliyah and Caleb went back inside as it was much too cold for them, but Tara, Amritsar, Thor and I built our very first snowman together. I’ll treat you to a look at the video I recorded later, it’s very comical…

The Sense of Taste and Smell

These two senses, that us as humans are gifted with, really have the power to transport us back in time, though in the wink of an eye, you revisit a place where you associate that smell or taste! For me today, after we got the children fed and packed into the car for their school runs, I raided the fruit bowl. On this occasion, not to make one of Dadda’s Jams, rather a fruit salad that would transport me back in time. Not to just any single moment, but a plethora of moments and places. I have waited a couple of weeks for the honeydew and Cantaloupe melons to ripen sufficiently, also the large, plump mango has sat there for several days to maximise its sweetness. The already ripe papaya arrived in the Tesco shop yesterday, meaning that today we had lift off! I imagine that you all remember your last tropical holiday and the breakfast buffet you grazed on each and every day! Well it’s the fruit selection I am thinking about today. The sweetness of these four fruits seem to make them firm favourites in hotel, breakfast catering, the world throughout. But when I think of these fruits, when they are fully ripened, I feel the warmth around me and the sun on my face. With closed eyes, I am transported back, to memories of India and Thailand, even the elevated heights of Kathmandu, above the world and at that time, also above the monsoon clouds over the Indian sub continent.

In Kathmandu it was summertime, I had just arrived and it was clearly mango season. You could see old men on bicycles, with large round racks on the rear, piled so high with ripe, yellowing mangos. It was always a matter of haggling, but by that point, I was not naive and always got a good price, so unlike my earlier days in Mumbai, where it seemed that absolutely everybody wanted to make something out of a gullible westerner. Well the hotel I stayed at on my arrival in Kathmandu was quite spacious and built in the traditional Newari style. There was just me staying there really. Most of the aid workers that had arrived, post earthquake had gone home, so just me for breakfast then. Coffee, toast with home made mango jam and a bowl of fresh mango on the side, that was breakfast. Delving back further to the Marriott apartments on Langsuan in Bangkok, I always enjoyed a hearty breakfast of a full English, but preceded by a large bowl of locally grown melons, mango and papaya. There was always pineapple as an option, though I do like it, I found the sweetness of the melon, butteriness of the papaya and the melting texture of the mango, just the right combo. Further back still, my time in India saw a profusion of fresh fruit. Many memories, too many to recount, but from within the fruit bowl I have just enjoyed, I saw my own route and the steps I took towards fatherhood and the moments that both John and I encountered, in order to make our family complete. All that from a bowl of fruit. I should probably stick to cornflakes…

Crescent Moon

Today’s been a slow one! John in Dublin tonight, so just me and the dogs snuggled up on the dog bed (children’s cushion as the dogs much prefer the sofas)! They have just jumped up in favour of the sofas and left me lying here, besides the television. The heating is on but it feels cold now. The children have only just settled, they were holding a leadership debate themselves, up on the top floor. Tara of course, remains in control of the not so famous five (as does Theresa at no 10), well, for now at least. One of the mums from school, called over this morning and very kindly purchased some of Dadda’s Jams. Thank you Anthea! A real shame that none of the other parents from our school year turned up to the Schools Christmas Fayre to see the array of options available on my stall. Most of the day spent catering as usual, along side some Kiss and Hugs form Amritsar, Tara, Thor, Aaliyah and Caleb. No big dramas, some drawing before dinner, really quite non eventful. I made three fish pies and a pot full of Dal (lentil curry) to freeze for later consumption. Yes, the chest freezer is rather full. I kept one of the fish pies for John and I tomorrow for dinner and had a bowl of dal with paratha for myself tonight. This wasn’t just the usual dal that I would throw together (I added sugar, crushed cardamom and lots of extra garlic), so it became a Dhansak recipe, one you might find at your local Indian restaurant. An ancient Persian dish that found its way into Indian cuisine, via the Parsi Zoroastrian community. This is my historical, all time favourite dish if eating out at an Indian restaurant, made with either lamb of chicken. That is if you exclude tandoori king prawns! Once frozen, I can of course thaw it out and use to cook pre marinated chicken or lamb. I attached a picture of the fish pie above as I mentioned this morning to Anthea, don’t use a fork on the top and definitely hold off on using grated cheese. Use a wet pallet knife and get creative. It too easy not to. It’ll put a smile on ‘hubby’s’ face at the very least if you make individual portions. To be honest, I’m a frugal man if truth be known! With only me here, just the simple lentils and Indian flat bread fed me well.

If it had been a choice for John, on an evening without me, definitely the fish pie. This time I didn’t add white wine or cream to the sauce of the fish pie, as the base of the sauce was a combination of the liquor from mussels (frozen after I last cooked mussels and frits) and a strong, reduced crab stock. Leave things simple. But as I stressed to Anthea this morning, avoid making a roux and use the beurre mannet method of whisking in a butter and flour mixture to the enriched fish cooking liquor. So much more refined in its consistency than a gloopy bechamel type sauce.

Okay, onto the crescent moon, the heading of today’s diary entry. I just spotted the early crescent moon from the window. And I thought ironically that my fish scales on my fish pies looked a little like a succession of mini moons! So I have talked about the moon on a couple of occasions now and I have seen two full moons blossom and slowly ebb away, this new crescent moon being the third moon cycle since starting my blog. Just like my definition of the start of Winter in yesterday’s writing (Astronomical Winter), to me the moon is a commodity of time. I am not so surprised that pagan man (and woman) idolised and worshiped it. I am definitely no ‘Tree Hugger’ But the moon, like the Sun is always a constant that is always there, along side us! Though unlike the sun, the moon does sneak away, but it always comes home to us…