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Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas gifts...

When I was a little girl my mother would make me write thank you notes/letters to the people who had given me gifts. For some reason I thought about that letter writing the other day even though it is many many years ago. Those letters were dreadful!
I would start with the greeting (eg Dear Nanna) and write a sentence saying thank you after writing the obligatory 'How are you? I am fine.' Then obviously to fill up the page I would then proceed to write another sentence listing ALL the gifts I got on that particular occasion! I like to think that I used commas but probably I just used lots of the word 'and'. Pretty crass and self-centred!

Now I'm not going to write a post listing all this year's Xmas gifts and normally I wouldn't really mention gifts but this year my gifts have been very special. Regular readers would be used to my occasional rants about my having too much 'stuff'. My gifts from the family this year are extremely thoughtful; many are consumables to be enjoyed and these items don't need a home to be found for them :-) Here's some of the items that my lovely family gave me...

I love the story of Noah and this lovely item came from my brother and his partner

This year I have received some handmade gifts such as a beautiful fruit cake from my brother's partner and a mosaic tile as a feature in the garden which was made for me by DH's DD1. Meg put a hydrangea motif in the design as she knows it is a favourite flower so how special is that?

I plan to put the tile near the new front entrance and grow some blue/mauve annuals around it :-)
From my BIL and SIL I received a cultivator which my BIL bought online at a bargain price. (on Christmas Day at their place, I tried out their one and it worked a treat!) DH's DD2 and her partner gave me some skeins of soft New Zealand merino wool which they bought whilst in thoughtful and useful! My DD1 bought me a coffee mug in a pretty tin that I can take to Sisters of Stitch and use the lid of the tin for my afternoon tea plate.

DD1 also bought me some cuttings/divisions of 3 types of irises. My DD2 bought me a lovely metal rooster who's taken up residence on the new veranda and DH's DD3 gave me a Bunnings (huge hardware chain)voucher that will help buy another raised garden bed for vegetables. Then there are the chocolates...more than enough to see us through until Easter!

It's New Year's Eve here in Australia and this evening people will see in the New Year in various ways...Happy New Year to everyone and may 2012 be a great year!

PS This post probably did end up like the letters to my Nanna and godmother,but hopefully the punctuation and grammar have improved!!! lol The technology has certainly advanced.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Some more of my family story...

As well as writing my life story in installments this year, I've also written about my parents and some of their stories. I mentioned in one post that my mother had a daughter from her wartime marriage to a fellow soldier she had met. The story is very sad as this 'gentleman' left my mother before the baby was born. My grandparents helped my mother out by providing a home for her until the baby was born. After the baby's birth, my mother looked for jobs as a cook where she could have her daughter with her and live in.

One place she worked at as a sous cook/chef was the Warren Guesthouse in Mildura. The owners were very kind to her. Somewhere along the line my mother became the penpal of the man who would be my father. I guess they wrote pretty interesting letters to each other because after a while my father asked her to come to Brisbane where he lived. He actually went to Victoria to bring her back to Queensland. My sister was left with her grandmother and the plan was that when my mother was settled, my father said he would organise for Margaret to come to Brisbane also. That never happened and my sister was put into an orphanage when she was about 5. (I still cringe when I think of that even though I had nothing to do with decision making etc and was just a tiny baby :-(...what's that about 'the sins of the father'?)

When my sister was 11, my mother's sister Mary took my sister out of the orphanage and raised her with her own big family of 5 children. When my sister was 19 (and I was 14) she came to Brisbane for a reunion with my mother which I wrote about in this post. I've had an 'on again off again' relationship with my sister over the years...sometimes she was friendly, sometimes not so friendly...I guess I got some of the blame for the 'sins of the mother' :-( She (my sister)  was treated abominably ( maybe a bit judgmental there Maria!) but I'm sure my mother did what she did because she thought it was the right thing to do at the time).

In 2002 DH and I drove south and we went to see my sister (I had previously visited her a couple of times including travelling in a 9 seater plane when she lived in Forbes). It was not a good visit although things did improve by the evening of the day we spent there but I thought that I'd got the message...'you're not welcome' and there was a degree of acceptance with that. DH urged me to send birthday cards over the years which were never acknowledged, then out of the blue we got an email when the city was flooding in January asking if we were ok. I replied and got no response. Then in December I got an Xmas ecard from her.

God works in mysterious ways...I had an old diary of my mum's from 1945 to 1947. In it mum has chronicled the meeting with Margaret's father, finding out she was pregnant, getting married and a much later entry is when she starts writing to my father...That diary had seemed to go missing and one day i found it just in the drawer of my bedside cabinet.  I don't know what made me do this but  I photocopied a few pages and sent them via email, asking if she would like the diary...she answered and was very excited and said her children would love it too.

My sister as a baby
Then I was rummaging in the cupboard in the laundry when I found some lovely old photos of my mother, my sister as a baby and mum's old work uniform when she was in the army (AWAS). So all of those items are being bundled up ready to be posted to my sister and her children.

Mum's old Army work uniform

Close up of one of the buttons...only 4 have been found

Label inside uniform

A bit of visiting...

DH and I didn't do much on Boxing Day but on Tuesday we drove the 100km to the part of the Sunshine Coast where my niece and her husband Eric live. Jenny had had a full house over Christmas with 10 people staying for a family get together. DD2 and partner had also gone up on Christmas Day but had come home on Monday afternoon.

Lots of traffic heading north

My nephew and his wife had driven up from Sydney to stay with his sister and her husband and as we rarely see Gregg and Chrissie it was important to us that we visit before they left. My brother and his younger 2 sons also came up from Brisbane on Christmas Day. The person who travelled the fartherest was Eric's teenage sister who had flown out from Germany.

Lucy kindly made me a cup of tea!
After days and nights of celebrating we noticed that everyone in the house was flagging a bit, but little Lucy, our great niece was full of energy! lol

Just hanging around...

Watching the cricket test on TV
It's amazing to me that I have all this family as I only found out about them  in December 1999.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Menus

Many people throughout the world celebrate Christmas. It is certainly a degree of diversity in how people celebrate Christmas and this is especially so with the foods that are traditionally eaten. Claudia, one of my blogging friends who lives in North Carolina wrote a post about preparing food for Christmas. Claudia is originally from El Salvador and I found it so interesting to read here about the foods that her family prepares at Christmas.

When I was growing up, Christmas dinner was always Italian style. We would have pasta first, then a chicken stew which I think was called Chicken (Pollo) Stufato. It was delicious and quite rich with lots of butter and olive oil in the rich tomato based sauce. Chicken was a treat here in Australia in the 1950s and 60s; it was quite expensive. (Even though DH's family had 'chooks' in the backyard, his family still didn't eat a lot of chicken either.) Mum would always make a plum pudding and serve it with homemade custard for dessert ...mmm still love that!

Christmas Eve at our place 2011

Not one, but two plum puddings!

The cake all decorated by DH's cousin

Brandy truffles; a family favourite

Some rocky road made by my brother's partner; the white chocolate one is VERY popular!
It was probably when I was still at primary school that I discovered that my friends  (from British backgrounds) also had chicken for Christmas dinner but they had it roasted and served with gravy and baked vegetables. I then would complain to my mother that I wanted roast chicken not stufato...too bad, so sad, we continued to eat chicken stufato.

When I married and left home I cooked Christmas dinner for the family for 28 years. I used to roast chickens or some cut of meat such as a rib fillet, and a big pan of roast vegetables and of course serve plum pudding and brandy custard. For a few years after that I would go to my brother's house and we would have a BBQ meat and seafood lunch with lots of salads.

When I met DH, suddenly I was part of a big family! I did continue doing a hot roast meal for about 6 years but in the last few years have succumbed to what many Aussies do, have a buffet meal with cold meats and salads...oh and of course, I must not forget the the plum pudding and custard (and icecream and jelly if I'm really being 'naughty')
Maybe readers might like to comment on their Christmas menus?

This post was meant to be done on Christmas Eve, but time ran away!

DD1 aged 2 with her new Fisher Price Carosel
Random photos of Christmases past when the girls were much younger...

Upstairs dining room

If the weather was really hot we would eat Christmas Dinner in the downstairs living area

The girls unwrapping presents with grandma (my mother)

DD1 carrying the Christingle symbol at Church

DD2 receiving her Christingle. We were still using real candles then

A teenage DD2 unwrapping presents with Nanna (her dad's mum)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

It's been a while, but more of my life's story...'Skirting through my Thirties'...

In this the year that I turned 60, I have written 4 previous posts about my early years. My 20s I dealt with in the post, Being in your twenties in the seventies, so we now move on to the 80s.
Skirting round the thirties
My thirties was a time of many changes in the role/s I played in life. The year I turned 30, DD1 was born. I had, at the beginning of that year, also returned to study. I started on the 8 subjects that I needed to upgrade my Certificate of Teaching, to the Diploma. I returned to work when DD1 was 10 ½ months old and was also transferred to a new school. My days were long as I now had to catch public transport to school and faced a long walk from the bus stop to the school each day. Late in the year and uncle of my husband died suddenly and I was able to purchase his elderly Holden as Auntie Jean didn’t drive. That made things a lot easier.

DD1's Christening party

Outside the church after the baptism

My elderly Holden, 'George' outside a holiday cabin on Bribie is
When I was 33, DD2 was born and this time I did not return to work. For 18 months I devoted my time to being a full time mother and thoroughly enjoyed it. The husband had hated the fact that I had paid someone to care for DD1 but we had such large debts it was the easiest way to clear those debts by my working. At the end of 1986, I was approached by the local school with a proposal that I set up and run an After School Care centre for them. There were very few such centres in the 1980s and it was felt that this service would benefit a lot of families in the area. I was a bit hesitant at first but finally agreed.

Supervising some art activities

1987 our first year; a local newspaper took this photo of the OSHC group

The Parents and citizens group who were my ‘boss’ had no idea what they were funding, awful was a nightmare! I worked for no pay until Easter to help them out as the fees collected didn’t cover a wage. Eventually I had networked and found an organisation which was able to give me details of the legalities, insurances etc that were required. By the end of the first year we had government funding and I had an assistant. When I left in 1994, I was proud of the centre and the quality of care provided.
In 1987, DD1 started school and I started the centre at the same school. I also became involved with the P&C and was a tuckshop mum. I was an enthusiastic worker at all fund raising activies such as Garage Sales, street stalls and fetes. I cooked, sewed, knitted and crocheted and also potted up plants. One year I even manned the fairy floss maker on the 'Pink Stall' lol

Dressed up ready to go to the 'Tuckshop Mothers' Luncheon, 1987

One of the playgroups that I attended when my girls were little

Working on the cake stall at the school fete

When I was 37 my husband walked out of his job as an offset machinist in a large printing firm. I helped him apply for jobs and he did get another 2 jobs but was laid off after only a month or two in each job. (with the benefit of hindsight, I no longer resent those see my ex would ‘big note’ himself and tell everyone at the workplaces how they were doing everything wrong and how good he was) And then he refused to go to Social Security and also the employment agency.
My wage was very tiny but it was basically all we had to survive on...and we did with careful budgeting and using all the frugal ways I’d learned from my mother. So now I had 2 new roles... breadwinner and also ‘mother’ to a 39 year old man. He and I saw things differently...I am a ‘glass is half full’ person; he is a ‘glass half empty’ person. Life went on, I sewed clothes for my girls, saved for simple holidays at the beach in cabins in the caravan park and in general tried to give my girls a 'normal childhood'. It was around this time that I started knitting throws for fundraising at school and church instead of crocheting. (knitting uses less yarn) Eventually I was able to get some extra family allowance from Centrelink and also did some literacy tutoring to bring in extra money. When I look back at those times, I'm proud of what I achieved, both for my girls, but also for the needy in the community

I won't discuss the hairstyles and fashions of the 80s and what I thought of them...but the photos show I certainly had a variety of hairstyles in that decade.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

odds and sods...

Last Thursday my friends David and Majella came over for breakfast. They brought me some roses from their garden. David is very proud of his roses and with good reason. His daughter clones roses from old varieties and as a result David's roses all have the most glorious fragrance unlike the more modern varieties of roses. My dining room has been filled with the lovely scent of roses since Thursday and even though the blossoms have opened right out, the petals haven't fallen yet...too beautiful.

On Saturday night DH and I joined other family members and family friends at a dinner to celebrate my nephew Ion's 18th birthday. As I've  written previously, I was reunited with my long lost brother in 1999. I met my 2 younger nephews a few days later; Rowan who was 18months old and Ion who was 6. I pretty much fell in love with them straight away and I'm so proud of them. Ion is now an adult, quite a bit taller than me...and has stubble lol. He started university this year but deferred after one semester. He's working while he works out exactly what he wants to do.

Today DH's DD1 came over for a while and then suggested we all go to the movies; which we did. We saw George Clooney's 'Ides of March'; a very apt name if you remember Julius Caesar, except these were metaphorical knives not real ones. For the life of me, try as I might, even after reading for information etc...I still can't understand the US electoral system...these 'primary whatsits' etc.  Being involved in running federal elections for over 25 years DH adored the movie...I just ogled George  Clooney even if his character was a bit flawed. :-)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

They say you learn something new every day...

Yesterday I was chatting electronically with my niece. I asked her if I could give her an IOU for her birthday which would entitle her to a hand knitted throw in a design she had admired. She very politely declined the offer as she pointed out that her house was full of throws which she has been mainly acquiring from 'op shops'. She said if I really wanted to make something for her, could I make her a tutu apron? Now I'd never even heard of such an item...I know what a tutu is and what an apron is...but a juxtaposition of both? not a clue! lol
So I did what we all do these days, I googled it. These are some of the examples I found. And they are varied... these were all examples of 'tutu aprons'.

Even a Christmas one with a layer of tulle underneath

I also found another one for sale with masses of tulle and bows which had the following warning. 'For baking only. Do not wear when using hotplates'. But I think I've got an idea of what my niece would like.

Don't go near the hotplates while wearing this one

 I saw my niece at a family dinner tonight ( my nephew's 18th at an Italian restaurant) and gave her and her husband a bag of gifts for Christmas and one for her birthday. I knitted a scarf for her today as a little 'extra' and popped that in with her other gift. So we've left them that bag of gifts to take home tomorrow.

I didn't put an IOU in the birthday card but I found a pattern that I bought a while ago on Ebay that might just do... Next step is to look through my considerable fabric stash.

I knew it would come in handy one day!