Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Progress

This is the time of year that a lot of New Year's resolutions start circulating and other such plans for the future.  I must admit I am one of those that start to think about the next year ahead when December rolls around but know that New Year's resolutions are a bit of a faff and that if you make them you are pretty doomed to fail at them.  Anyway, I wasn't planning on doing a 'New Year's' post like this, because really, who is interested in reading about my plans for the year.  BUT then I realised that I so enjoyed reading about what my friends Stephanie and Kiki have in store for the year, (which weren't lists of resolutions by the way, but rather goals...which I thought was a WAY better idea) that I thought I would make a little list of my own. 

So here goes....

Lose Baby Weight.  I can't believe I just wrote "lose baby weight" down....particularly because my 'baby' is 2 and a half years old.  My back has been really bad since I've had my daughter and as a result I've found it virtually impossible to exercise without increasing the pain.  Over the last few months I have had orthotics in my shoes and these are making some difference so finally I have been able to exercise.  I also was given a bit of a shove into getting rid of the excess me because I couldn't fit into my jeans (boo hoo!) when I was having a bit of a clear out of the wardrobe, so immediately I signed up to the Lose Baby Weight challenge.  There are so many delicious easy recipes to make and so much support from other women doing the challenge via their Facebook group that I am finding it really easy.  So far over 3 weeks I have lost 3 kilograms (which sounds way better in pounds.... over 6 and a half pounds!) and lost centimetres off all my measurements.  It's been fabulous!  Plus I'm feeling a lot better and getting fitter.  Weirdly my exercise consists of me marching up and down the hallway (in time to dance music) because I can't get out of the house to exercise, what with the kids, but now over the last two days I have also started to incorporate some jogging on the spot into this because I obviously will need to up the exercise to burn the calories, but I also have found that only 3 weeks of walking has vastly improved my fitness.  Normally a 'lose weight' resolution is never successful, it's something that is imposed on you by guilt after stuffing yourself with turkey and pudding over Christmas, but I started this the week before Christmas.......and despite Christmas and New Year's I still lost a kilogram a week.  I know I can stick at this because I am actually enjoying it and really seeing some results!  Yay me!  (Note....above is one of the 'healthy' recipes...a Chocolate pudding made in mug with caramel sauce! and below are Vegetarian nachos!!)

Take care of myself.  As a mum, particularly one with lots of kids, you can sometimes fall in to the trap of losing yourself.  You are so wrapped up in caring for your kids and your partner that you just keep coming last.  For example, I had a haircut just before Christmas.  Before that I had a haircut 9 months before.  Before THAT haircut it had been 12 months since I had seen my hairdresser.  This is terrible!  My poor hair!  And trust me, I have pretty crazy hair now that needs lots of attention.  I used to have fairly straight hair but since having my last 3 children it's just got curlier and curlier.  It's also really thick and there is a lot of it.  Henceforth I NEED to go and get it cut every 8 to 12 weeks AT LEAST.  Soooooo......this is what I plan on doing from now on.  Making sure that I take care of myself, get that haircut, go and have a remedial massage when my back starts getting too sore, take time out to rest even.  This year I will have my 3 boys at school (the eldest will be starting high school and the other two are both off to school for the first time!) and I will be putting my daughter in day care a day or two a week.... so there will be time now to finally have some time out for myself.  Whether that means I just get to do the food shop without the screaming, or actually get to go see a movie that I really want to see...I'm not a hundred percent sure yet....but it's going to be great whatever happens.  I just know it.

Get involved.  I'm a real introvert.  Really.  All I do is stay at home.  And the truth be told I actually don't have a buddy.  I have buddies overseas, the bestest best buddies a girl could ask for, but I'm yet to meet them and unfortunately I can't just catch up with them for coffee.  My dear friend from school, who I see probably once every six months, lives about an hour and a half away, so catching up with her is also difficult.  And then there is the excuse that life gets in the way, which it does, particularly when your schedule is dominated by those of your children.  Anyway, this year I am going to join the parents group at my boy's new school, be one of the 'reading' mums and go out of my way to make some friends.  Arrgghh.  It sounds so sad and pathetic....you know...that I have no friends...but I would not be alone in this.  I went to a school in the city and since then the students have all scattered to various parts of the GLOBE...whereas here where I live, in a rural town, it's not uncommon that people just stay and you can know someone your whole life.  Moving out here about 8 years ago was the best decision I ever made, but it has meant starting over friends wise.

Find myself.  Well, not that I'm really lost but the Amber that used to exist doesn't really exist anymore.  I used to always sing in a choir.  I'm actually classically trained.  Did you know that?  Probably not.  I would like to get back into that because the other day, when I was wasting time on Facebook, I ended up watching a video of a choir singing and I promptly burst into tears.  I know.  Freak. I was probably hormonal, but I realised how much I MISS it.  This year the little local dance school (that my son was dancing with last year) is now opening up adult tap classes, and having done tap in the past I thought I would sign up.  Fun AND good exercise!  They are also opening up the classical ballet classes too, which I think would be fabulous for my flexibility and my back.  I am also toying with the idea of selling Intimo again, which for those of you who don't know is a direct selling company that sells the most gorgeous lingerie.  I did it for a couple of years and did enjoy the company.  The women involved are amazing, you know, incredibly inspirational, plus I always feel like I have a purpose if I can contribute financially.  Plus the little bit of extra cash would be nice too. 

Keep writing.  Writing is who I am so I intend to keep posting here, although without any goals to become 'the next big thing in blogging'.  I also have a book idea that I might dabble at.

Travel!!  Yes.  This is the year that I get to travel!  I know, can you believe it!  My husband is going shearing in England in May this year for about 6 weeks or so, and although I'm going to be on my own with the kids for over a month (and yes...hating it, I must admit) I will be heading over to be with him towards the end of his stay and NOT taking the kids!  We will be having a proper holiday (as long as he's finished shearing...fingers crossed!), just the two of us.  And considering we haven't had a holiday since our honeymoon..... I can't wait!!!!

I hope you have some good plans/goals for this year!


Saturday, January 9, 2016

Things You Should Pack When Visiting Australia

As a follow up from a post I did here on Ten Things You Think You Will See in Australia I decided that I would have no doubt (!) really tempted you to come visit us here 'Down Under'.  I will just quickly point out that in that post I wrote that you won't see any people wandering about with hats with corks on them.  WELL....... today I actually saw a guy wearing one!!  And he was walking down the street in my town!  He was an old dude, so maybe that's forgivable....but really....it was a pretty major fashion faux pas.  Also, just to add, the corks really don't keep the flies off.  A few corks dangling down is not going to stop flies from sneaking through and landing on your face.

Anyway...back to the point.

If you decide that you do want to come visit (and even come and visit me specifically!)...then here is a little helpful list of things to bring, that I have put together for you to help you survive!
Mosquito repellent.  If you're visiting during the summer then mosquito repellent is an absolutely must.  I was away up north at Wakool over the New Year period and I got positively EATEN alive and over a week later I'm still itching. 
Sunscreen.  Don't be caught without it.  The sun here gets hot hot hot.  Although I'm sure it gets hot everywhere else too, but here it certainly gets a nasty 'bite' to it, and I've noticed that over the last decade it seems to be getting worse.  I like this "How to Apply Sunscreen to a Child" because this really does apply to me when I'm trying to get it on my kids.  It's such a tedious thing....particularly because I have to repeat the steps three times.
A hat.  A broad brimmed one is the best, so it shades all sides of your head.  A peaked cap works too of course, just make sure you use that sunscreen you brought along and put it on the back of your neck.  Oh, and don't forget your ears.
A swimsuit.  Unless you're coming in the winter, then yes, a swimsuit is a must.
Sunglasses.  I just bought my husband some sunglasses for Christmas actually.  He did not own a pair at all and actually hasn't since I've been married to him which is 6 and a half years.  I knew they probably wouldn't suit him and he would have to go back and change them to suit his face (because unfortunately I couldn't take his face into the store with me when I was picking them out), but I knew that it would then force him to HAVE to go into the shop himself and pick a pair that did.  The lengths we have to go to just to get our partners a pair of sunnies!  Anyway don't forget yours when you pop on over.
Boots.  If you are planning on visiting the countryside, say wandering about the bush, or maybe you are thinking about coming over for a working holiday and think that farm work might be for you (!), then a pair of boots is a must.  Elastic-sided boots are really comfortable and you can get some great ones here, so don't bother bringing some over (because they will be heavy in your luggage), buy them here.
Camera.  Australia is so wide and varied.  So many different things to see and do.  So many different types of landscapes to experience and take photos of!  So definitely don't forget your camera...even if you have to take out the mossie repellent to fit it in your bag!









Monday, December 28, 2015

Ten Things You Think You Will See in Australia

 

Australia rocks!  Just let me put that out there.  Of course, as an Australian, I'm pretty biased, but Australia is a fabulous country with so much to offer.  It's a great place to live, has a pretty fantastic climate, and if you're a tourist, there is an enormous variety of things to do.  This has a lot to do with the fact that we have such a diverse country.  From one end to the other, if you were to go for a very VERY long walk, you'd come across mountains, deserts, rainforests, wetlands, bushland, farmland, small country towns, bustling cities and vast expanses of nothingness.  There is literally something for everyone.  You can ski in the winter if you head up into the High Country, go diving with the fish on the Great Barrier Reef, sip great wines in the Hunter or Barossa Valley, sample incredible locally grown food, swim off gorgeous golden beaches, check out our oldest convict built buildings around Tasmania, be amazed by the many moods and colours of Uluru in Central Australia or indulge in a bit of 'culture' at the Sydney Opera House or in Melbourne, the home of the Australian Ballet. 
 
Tourists are truly spoilt for choice, and to top off all the great places and lists of things to do, there is also the weather.  It can get a bit heaty during summer, (I admit it can sometimes get a little out of control) but some people adore the heat, which means that we are pretty fond of our outdoor activities and doing things like messing about with boats, swimming at the beach, going camping and, yes, having barbeques.  We're pretty fond of those.
 
There are, however, a few misconceptions about Australia that some tourists seem to have, so to clear it all up for you I have made a little list.
1.  We do not all keep kangaroos as pets.  Nope.  Sorry.  Nor are they hopping everywhere down the main street of Melbourne, Sydney or any other capital city.  You will, however, find them in the country.  For example I hit a small grey kangaroo with my car here in Gippsland a few years ago.  I didn't mean it of course.  Kangaroos are ridiculously stupid and if they are on the side of the road and a car comes along they will hop along beside it in panic and then suddenly jump out in front of your car.  I was very glad I had a 'nudge bar' on the front of my car.  When we go up north to my in laws farm in Wakool (more remote country New South Wales) we see lots of kangaroos, and truth be told, they make good hunting.  The other thing about kangaroos, despite them being on our National Coat of Arms, you can buy kangaroo meat in the supermarket.  Yep, it's delicious. 
2.  Cork hats are not a fashion statement.  Nor are they worn.  Supposedly these are worn by 'bushmen' (or should I say 'bush people' to not be sexist??) and the corks are supposed to keep the flies away.  I'm telling you now.  NOTHING keeps the flies away.  They are persistent little buggers that know exactly when you have your hands full.
3.  We don't wear Akubra hats everywhere.  Ok, so in the country you might see them a lot more often, but in the city no.  This is me wearing mine while hanging out with my Dad's cows, but I usually wouldn't be wearing mine with a skirt.  Farmers are quite partial to them, and you will see every single person at the saleyards wearing one, but on a farm and around 'farmy type' activities, they are very sensible.  Below is a shot of me wearing my old one, which I still have, while showing cattle at The Melbourne Show, something I did a lot of a few years ago.  Actually when I met my husband this is what I did for a living.  Yes, weird,  I know.
4.  "Throw another shrimp on the barbie"....meaning throw another shrimp on the barbeque.  This was an ad campaign that used to run in America quite a few years ago now with Paul Hogan chatting about the wonders of Down Under.  We call them prawns and we're more likely to cook a sausage to death or burn the crap out of a piece of steak. 
 
5.  Snakes.  Seventeen out of twenty-six of the worlds most venomous snakes are found in Australia.  Having said that it is unlikely you will see one when visiting.  The first time I ever saw a snake in the wild was when I was about 34 and I was driving out to my parent's farm.  I nearly ran over a black snake.  It was busy crossing the road and it was so long that it stretched from one side of the road to the other, so no wonder I nearly ran it over.  However when I moved up north to Wakool I used to see snakes ALOT, and I even had a Brown Snake (highly venomous) in my garden.  My  poor sister in-law had one in her pantry, so the garden one was nothing...but this was my snake (after I introduced him to the shovel)....  That's a toy truck by the way, not a real one, otherwise that is one BIG snake.
6.  Beer.  We all drink beer.  'Fosters' is our drink of choice.  Rubbish.  I haven't seen the 'Fosters' brand beer around for ages and we don't all drink beer.  My husband is quite partial to it, as are a lot of men, and yes women too, but we drink a whole variety of alcoholic drinks.  Personally I quite like Pear Cider and alcoholic Ginger Beer is awesome. 

7.  A koala is not a 'bear'.  It might look cute and cuddly but it actually has some pretty nasty claws and it growls.  Yes, I know, kind of  like a grizzly bear, but this animal is not related to the 'bear' family.  Nor is it related to the 'teddy bear' family.  Here I am holding one on my honeymoon.  He was nice and soft but this was where I experienced the nasty claws.
8.  We always eat Vegemite for breakfast.  As ghastly as it looks, and yes to some it tastes pretty ghastly, it's actually not our food of choice over other foods.  Breakfast or otherwise.  I mean it is nice on a piece of toast but it's all about 'doing it' correctly.  If you smear it on like jam you're in for one hell of a ride baby!  It's super salty and tastes like...well...vegemite...so you can only have a little scrapping on your bread.  I'm sorry I can't describe the taste, it really has it's own unique flavour, but seriously it's not that bad.  But it's not all we eat for breakky.  I've been known to also have avocado on toast, porridge, a full cooked breakfast, mushrooms and ham on toast....the list goes on. 
9.  You will get eaten by a shark if you swim at the beach.  Awww look, it's like a puppy fetching a ......seal??  Ok, so you might not want to adopt one but you can MOSTLY go in the water without fear of being eaten.
10.  So just to make sure you're all awake, and to throw in a bit of eye candy, this is the typical Australian Male.  I wish!  Actually no.  They don't all look like this, although there are some about.  Surely.  Ok, so there are some gorgeous men about, I mean I'm MARRIED to one, so don't feel disappointed if you want to bag yourself a hunky Aussie bloke.  They do exist.  However, unfortunately we aren't all beach bronzed babes and actually, we are one of the most over weight nations in the world!  What an honour! (insert overly large sad face) 

Anyway, I hope this hasn't put you off coming to our fabulous country.  It really is one of the best countries in the world, even if I do say so myself.





 








Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Day Before the Day Before

It's Christmas Eve....eve....you know, that weird day where you feel like it's almost Christmas but not and when you were a kid you're like "one more sleep until it's one more sleep until Christmas" or some such faff.  It was all so exciting.  Actually, it's still all so exciting but for different reasons.  Wait until you have children!  (if you do already you know what I'm talking about!)

This year I'm a lot more organised than normal.  I always have my Christmas shopping done by now, although I'm usually getting to it late...not like some super organised people who start putting things away in June.  I bought the last thing today (a little something extra for my husband), and although I haven't wrapped it yet I've actually wrapped up everything else.  It took me two hours.  BUT....normally I'm up for ages the night before Christmas, madly wrapping up presents on the floor in my bedroom while my husband lounges around flicking between channels on the TV, trying to decide between watching the 'Carols' (big live Carols by Candlelight that happens in Melbourne every year) or 'Die Hard'....a mans version of a "Christmas Movie".  Usually 'Die Hard' wins. 

I'm actually a little bit more forward thinking this year in that I have already started on one of my New Year's Resolutions.  Actually, I didn't plan this, it just sort of happened.  Two days ago I did a big clear out (again) of my wardrobe and started to try on all the jeans I had crammed in my drawers.  Depressingly some are quite hard to get on and even more depressingly some I can't get on at all.  Arrggghhh.....!!!  Yes I have had four babies and yes I've reached middle age (so some excuse maybe for 'middle aged spread') but really...my youngest baby is TWO!  What sort of excuse is that!!  Last year I stopped eating sugar for three weeks and actually got into my awesome Wrangler Booty Up jeans, which is my standard measurement for "Hell Yeah my arse is looking good and I'm the skinniest version of my fluffy self", but then after a little while I wasn't able to get into them again.... but now.....well now....in the last four months I've actually put more weight on top of the weight that was stopping me from getting back into those jeans.  Does that make sense??!  Anyway, I've decided to take the bull by the horns and over the last two days I've been partaking in the 'Lose Baby Weight' diet.  Yes!  It's actually a thing.  Check out the website here.  There are all of these fabulous recipes to make, telling you how many calories in each, and great easy exercise plans for each day...exercises that you can actually do easily at home around the kids.  You know, the type of exercises that you can quickly do while you're cooking the tea.  Really, I was doing "step ups" while cooking dinner last night and this morning I was supposed to dance for  6 minutes.  Oooo....dance!!  I can do that.  So I bopped around to Michael Jackson in my bedroom with my head phones on....although I did lock the door so the kids didn't walk in on me and have me inflict upon them some serious psychological disorder when they witnessed my "Mom dancing". 

Anyway, this is one of the meals.  I made this for lunch today.  Mushroom and Ham Crostini.  It was delicious.  Who knew diets could be soooooo tasty?  Why didn't I do this before?!
This scrumptious little number consists of a piece of sour dough bread toasted, topped with a slice of ham that has been cut up and heated in the fry pan, along with spring onions, mushrooms, thyme, parsley and garlic, and then drizzled with a combination of yoghurt, lemon juice and pepper.  It was the best thing EVER!!
 
Yes, I know it's weird to decide to go on a diet BEFORE Christmas, but honestly I just couldn't stand the sight of myself and my wobbly bits any more, and having a considerably younger husband, I've just got to get back in the groove and start looking....well....more groovy.  I'm mentioning this diet here, although I did have some reservation because then...well...then I'd have to actually DO it...but then I thought...YES...I'll tell you to make myself accountable and it will make me stick to it even more and then I can show off how gorgeous I look in a swimsuit in a few months time.  Ok...so I won't be doing that to you but I can let you in on how it's going.
 
I actually had a hair cut the other day to help me on the way to grooviness (I hadn't had one for 9 months...yes really....before that hair cut it had been 12 months in between chops) and this time I let the hair dresser take 3 inches off and straighten it.  It looked so lovely.  Of course as soon as I washed it my hair went back to feeling coarse and looking like a gigantic boofy triangle on my head.....so I actually went back to the hair dresser and inquired about the fabulous shampoo and conditioner they used.  At $58 and $48 a pop respectively I think not...but instead I got something that would do the job just as well at about half the price.  I did, however, invest in this remarkable hair oil that she used before she dried and styled it, some incredible concoction with Camellia Oil in it that was $64.  She did assure me that it would last me 12 months so I took the plunge.  I then went and bought a hair straightener, headed home and popped in the Camellia Oil marvel, used the straightener and was a changed woman.....
I can now wear my hair down.  A miracle.  So my early New Year's Resolution is to shrink and do something other than scrape my hair back in a pony tail like some kind of exhausted soccer mum.  As you can see it doesn't take much to get me excited.  I'll think of some more inspirational New Year's Resolutions, I promise.

Santa is busy doing his rounds on the back of the local fire truck as I write this, a tradition I mentioned in a post here about what Christmas is like in Australia.  The kids are excitedly dashing about the back garden, listening to the whoops of the siren getting louder, and pretty soon the truck will come down our street, with Santa hanging off the back, throwing bags of lollies at the kids.
Anyway I feel like I can finally sort of wind down before Christmas now and take it easy for a while.  It was pretty busy at the end of term there, what with multiple ballet concerts, school graduations, day care graduation (since when do kids graduate from day care??) and starting to get things organised for kids starting school NEXT year...both primary school and high school.  Next year my crazy schedule is only going to get worse, due to the kids, but I'm really looking forward to it.  But for the moment I'm going to settle back with a good magazine or three and just smell the roses.

 





Sunday, December 20, 2015

How to Beat the Aussie Heat

I'll let you into a little secret.  I hate the heat.  Blergh.  When I say 'heat' I mean those really extreme days that we get here in Australia.  Actually for me 'extreme' is anything above 35 degrees (95 F).  At the moment, in the state of Victoria, where I live (which is the south east corner for those who don't know), we are experiencing a heatwave.  Today is the third day in a row of stupid heat.   It started with a sultry 39 degrees (102.2 F), yesterday was 40 (104 F)....yes, I said 40...and today we are expecting another 40 degree day.  As you can imagine, by the third or fourth day you are well and truly over it and praying for the cool change.

Lucky, where I live, our heatwaves of three or four days (at the most), are always followed by a cool change.  Always.  It's quite bizarre, but it's absolutely freakin' wonderful I can tell you.  In other parts of the country they are not so lucky.  For example where I used to live 'up north' in Wakool (which is in New South Wales), it gets in the mid 40s quite easily during summer and will stay up there day after day after day after day.....  But, it's a different kind of heat from what we get here, a real dry heat, so it's a little bit more bearable.  Actually, I lie.  It's still bloody hot!!  Here it's definitely more humid, but no where near anything like the humidity they experience WAY up north in places like Queensland, which is somewhat similar to countries like Indonesia I guess. 

The cool change here is truly amazing.  You have these stifling few days, where the house very quickly turns into a sweat box (and then kindly retains the heat for you), but then suddenly, within the space of about 10 minutes, the cool change will sweep through and the temperature will plummet about 10 degrees.  I kid you not.  It's insane.  At this point I will run around the house like a mad woman, throwing open all the doors and windows, then go stand out in the garden, my face pressed against the wind.  And when I say 'wind', it's normally crazy wind, which usually precedes a storm.  In the meantime, all my possessions inside the house will be sucked up in some kind of mini indoor tornado and go whirling around the room.  The last time we had a sudden onslaught of 'decline in temperature' like this was only recently, and my eldest son opened up the front door, which caused a gigantic gust of wind to blow through and unhinge a picture off the wall and send it crashing to the floor in a shower of broken glass.  Fabulous.

To give you more of an idea let's talk about today.  It's the third day of heat (thankfully the cool change is coming some time this afternoon....and after 40 degrees today it is meant to be only about 21 (69.8 F) tomorrow), and by 7.30 am this morning I had put the air conditioner on.  By 8.30 am it was 33 degrees (91.4 F).  I was folding the washing at 9 am and was actually working up a sweat!!  At the moment, at 9.52am, it is now.....let me check.....35.6 (96 F).  Now all this is totally bearable if you have an air conditioner, which thankfully I do, although it isn't a split system, just one of those ones you shove in your window....so you have to sit directly in front of it to get the full benefit....still, it's better than nothing and does reduce the temperature in my lounge room enough to make it completely comfortable.
So, getting to the point of my story....how do you beat the Aussie heat?  My best tip....STAY INDOORS!!!!  During extreme weather like this it is the advice that pops up on the television from the Ambulance and Police departments, along with the advice to drink plenty of water and check on your neighbours.  Apparently the emergency department has an increase of inpatients, particularly the elderly and the very young suffering from dehydration, and then no doubt the odd idiot who decides that today is a great day to go out for a jog.  Yeah, I know.  Can you believe it??

So, you stay indoors, which is what I have been doing.  I call it "going into lock down".  I know it sounds like I'm planning to survive some sort of nuclear blast, but this is kind of what it is like for me.  I hate the heat that much.  I used to DREAD the summer, and watch the forecast with a knot in my stomach, literally feeling sick when a stretch of super silly hot days was on the way.  Now, with the air conditioner firmly in place, I don't feel quite so bad about it, but for me it really was a THING.

Yes, as I said, I go into lock down mode.  I shut all the blinds and close all the doors.  The air conditioner goes on when it starts to get stuffy.  I do not deny the request of an icy pole from the kids, even if they have only just had one an hour ago.  Drink plenty of water.  I like to stick my hands under the tap for a while, the cold water on my wrists seeming to make a huge difference.  And then, like yesterday, I lie on the floor somewhere in the way of the vortex of cool air pumping out of the air conditioner, and I do as little as possible.  Yesterday I read very little of my 'Country Style' magazine because I kept falling asleep.  Actually this was probably a good thing because I got very little sleep last night...what with the high temperature, my husband being unwell and various children visiting my bed during the night and insisting on wrapping themselves around me. 

Looking forward to the cool change......
 


Friday, December 18, 2015

An Australian Christmas

I have a very dear friend, on the other side of the world, who is having trouble getting her head around the idea of Christmas during the summer.  (Yes Stephanie I'm talking about you!!)  But I do understand what you mean.  Exactly.  And I even LIVE through summers and Christmases coinciding, and have done so for forty years.  Ok, so let's not throw THAT number around, but yes, I get it.  It's a weird concept because Christmas is all about tradition and the tradition of Christmas states that it snows and you sit by the fire and you wear a really ugly Christmas jumper (sweater) and drink eggnog (whatever the hell that is) and Santa wears a big red suit with furry bits on it to keep him warm.  YES!  All of these images and then some are what is portrayed as Christmas down here.  Really.  We have all the movies showing with it snowing at Christmas, we buy Christmas cards with blizzards all over the front and dust our gingerbread houses with a liberal amount of fake snow.  Down here in our sun drenched part of the globe we just accept the fact that Christmas is about winter, snow and Frosty the Snowman.  However, as far as I know, and can remember, it has never snowed at Christmas, I've never seen anyone sporting an ugly Christmas jumper and Santa definitely does NOT need the furry bits.  And seriously, I've never seen or heard of anyone drinking eggnog here, although I've just found out that we probably should because it's served cold apparently.  I always thought it was a hot thing.  Go figure.

Instead we have sun, and lots of it, and sometimes heat if summer decides to show up on time.  Some people have their Christmas lunch outdoors, although weirdly a lot of us have the traditional Christmas turkey with all the trimmings, the roast vegetables, the ham and Christmas pudding afterwards, all eaten inside, with more people stuffed around the table than can possibly fit, and when I was growing up not a lot of people had air conditioning so it was always a muggy old affair.
There are those that embrace the whole 'Australian-ness' of Christmas and will "throw another shrimp on the barbie" (we actually call them prawns here), and many go crazy about seafood.  My family is very much a traditional turkey and ham family, and  my mother always makes the Christmas pudding, a recipe that was handed down from her Nana Rowland....which I actually have made myself, last Christmas and two Christmases before that...when I have spent the day with my husband's family.  I am proud to say that the pudding 'baton' was handed on quite successfully and both times I've made it just as well as my mum!

Instead of snow I can see this out in my back garden.
My vegetables have gone ballistic.  Nothing like a bit of sheep poo from the farm.
Very excited about the prospect of tomatoes! 

Instead of snowmen and frost I can see this out of my front door.
The tiles on the neighbour's roofs shimmering in the heat, the grass on the distant hills starting to brown off, the big big blue sky and the gumtrees getting that haze about them that suggests the eucalyptus oil is on the move and is just about ready for a bushfire, should a lightening strike, (or some idiot with a match) decide to strike.
 
Thinking about that....the Country Fire Authority (CFA)...are the volunteers that make up the fire fighters in our rural communities here in my state.  Other states in Australia have similar organisations.  This is what they normally do....
This was actually just after the Black Saturday Fires in February of 2009.  This was the farm that I managed and it was totally burnt out.  When I turned up two days later I had to call '000', which is our emergency number, and get the fire fighters out to deal with a grass fire that had sprung up, which then caused my last remaining hay bale to go up in a ball of flames.
Afterwards I looked simply stunning, all covered in ash and smelling like a chimney.  Even my white knickers had turned grey, which was weird because I hadn't even taken my pants off!!

However at Christmas time, usually on the night before Christmas Eve, you can find the CFA driving around the streets of country towns, with Santa precariously hanging off the side, with volunteers throwing bags of lollies out to all the children.  You always know they are coming because the siren will 'whoop' and the children will spill out of their houses like the beans out of a beanbag with a hole in it, and it just wouldn't seem like Christmas without them.

If Christmas day happens to coincide with a really hot day then Christmas lunch might dissolve into a massive water fight on the front lawn.  You know, the perfect opportunity to completely drench any relatives you might not necessary like.  The kids have a ball and usually get sunburnt and with all that running about the lawn and throwing water someone will undoubtedly get hurt and the whole thing is likely to end in tears.  Either that or a brand new toy will get broken.  But it's a hell of a lot of fun in the meantime. 

Your best Christmas outfit will most likely be a floaty dress, something maxi even, that hides the food baby you will most certainly have later.  Stupid paper hats at lunch are a must, crackers with bad jokes are a given and your Dad falling asleep on the couch in the afternoon just goes without saying.

The lead up to Christmas, I can imagine, would be pretty much the same in the Northern Hemisphere as it is here.  The frenzy of trying to buy your Christmas presents in time, the stress of it all...and if you're anything like me....the TWO hours it takes to wrap it all up.  This is just part of the crazy Christmas load for this year.....
Yes, this is a photo of the top of my wardrobe, and I'm not being very sneaky because my walk-in-robe doesn't have a door so if the kids just go in and look up they will quite easily see a whole stack of presents....but hey, what can you do?

Anyway, I hope this has shed a little bit of light on what goes on WAY down south during the festive season.  Have a good one!


 


 





Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Up and Away

On the weekend my husband finally got around to using the gift certificate that I gave him for Christmas LAST year!  He'd mentioned in passing (a few times!) that he'd love to have a go at flying.  So tucking that away in my memory drawer of possible presents I went out and discovered that there is an airfield not too far from us that has a flying school.  With beginner lessons at a slightly out of reach price at around $600 I also discovered they had a 'have a taste of flying' lessons, for an hour for $220.  Perfect!

It did take right up until the certificate was about to expire (after 12 months) before I managed to get my husband to agree to take a weekend off to do it (!) but I think in the end it was well worth the wait.

The plane that he went up in, and yes got to fly for a while, was indeed as small as it looks in the photo above.  Yes.  Really.  He did stand taller than the height of the wing.  Do not adjust your sets.  This is not an illusion.  The cockpit of the plane looked barely big enough to squeeze one person in, let alone two, so on my behalf it was probably a bit of a relief that the instructor was an older lady and not some super hot Scarlett Johansson look-a-like (a particular favourite of my husband!).
First he was given about 20 minutes instruction where the pilot talked about various parts of the plane and gabbed on about things like wind and no doubt things like lift and drag and whatever else the terms are that are used in flying.  My husband is a bit of a whiz at maths and anything mechanical so he would have certainly been in his element and really understood it all.  I, however, would have been lost at the first sentence and would probably be standing there repeating to myself that it is only rubber bands and magic that are holding this thing in the sky.
This was after they had managed to fold themselves up and stuff themselves in.  I'm thinking a can opener might have been involved and maybe a crowbar was on hand somewhere to get them out later on.  My husband is 6 foot one and the pilot was quite tall too, so for the purposes of this photo I'm thinking they actually removed their legs and are in fact just a pair of torsos.  Is it just me or does it not look like there is enough space below the window to accommodate the bottom half of their bodies??  Random.
As you can probably imagine my stress levels were at about 11 right now.



With my heart in my mouth, my stomach in my shoes and me crossing every digit that I possess, hoping that I haven't just gifted him a 'Certificate to Go Up in A Blaze of Glory', he was up, up, up....
...up...up...
..a bit further up for my liking....
...and then away!
 
So wondering whether I'd see my husband in one piece again, I took the kids to the nearby play equipment and they joyfully cascaded up and down the curly wurly slide while I watched the skies and waited. 
 
In the meantime I had this to amuse me.  Right next door to the flying school is a sky diving joint.  You know, where people pay good money to randomly thrown themselves out of a perfectly good plane.  I watched a speck of a plane trundle by and then suddenly.....a whole pile of block dots appeared in a clump.  Then as quickly as they had been clumped together they separated and seconds later there were colourful balloons of parachutes bursting out all over the sky.
It really was quite a sight.  Even if I thought they were all lunatics.
Then, of course, I started wondering about whether my husband had access to a parachute, but then judging by the size of that plane it was highly unlikely, and if so, there would probably only be room for one at the most.  Then I started to go through all these scenarios in my head, like the teeny tiny plane that he was putt-putting about in was screaming out of control hurling towards the ground and a good humoured and well mannered argument was going on between my husband and the pilot as to who should take the parachute.  He'd be all like "ladies first" and being all gentlemanly and taking the idea of going up in a ball of flames like a man, and then she'd be all like a captain of a ship saying "oh heavens no, I have to go down with the plane"...etc...etc.....  But, then I figured that he'd be more likely to get run over in some freak runaway tractor accident than go down in an airplane, so for goodness sake Amber stop worrying.  So instead I turned my attention back to these lunatics...
It does sort of look like fun.  And I'd probably give it a go.  If I could get over the terror of tossing myself out the open doorway of a plane.  While it was in the air.  And a very very long way up.
Actually, what I found really odd about the whole thing is that when you see sky diving on the television it seems to take an age.  You know, they're up there free falling for ages and then they open their chute and gently drift down.  Ah...no.  They plummet for about two seconds before popping their chutes, then it takes about twenty seconds maximum and they came THUNDERING down before hitting the earth with a shuddering knee shattering crash.  Surely my back couldn't handle the jarring on landing.  See how easily I've talked myself out of it?!
Tiny planes or parachutes, I think I personally prefer to be on solid ground.  My husband did land safely, just in case you were a little worried, and he did have a great time.  He said that he was probably having to concentrate too hard to actually think about having said 'great time' because there was just so much going on, what with having to steer with your hands AND your feet and watch all the different instruments and think about all the things that were going on, but he is quite keen I think to give it another go sometime!

In the meantime, I do win the award for giving AWESOME presents!!