Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas 2009

Christmas has passed, gone, it's over.


What a great time it was.
Christmas is a busy time...
I always tend to stress. Well at least a little. Depends on whom you ask really.
But I guess as the hostess, you always worry there isn't going to be enough of everything. So I tend to go shopping several times during the lead up to Christmas.

Oh, I think I need more ...ummm:
  • nibblies
  • drinks
  • dessert
  • shortbread
  • christmas cake
  • christmas pudding
  • brandy sauce
  • lollies
  • chocolate
  • decorations
  • maybe I should get another packet of baubles for the tree?
  • another set of lights for the family room?
  • garlands?
and yeah, that's how my mind goes...round and round.

Well now it's over and I have packets of this that and the other thing left over.
The upside is, that because everyone contributed to the main meal, anything that was 'left over' was sent home  with them, including drinks, nibbles etc. So my fridge is not filled to overflowing which is good.
The packaged bikkies, nibbles, chocolates and drinks etc will come in handy for New Year celebrations.

All our girls plus any relevant hubbies and children and those yet to be born gathered at our home at about 5ish, laden with goodies - food, drinks and presents. Also the lovely Nath, Sarah and Jack are with us tonight. So good they could come...they are a lovely little family...

Everyone was in good spirits and soon they settled into setting out the various dishes. The 'boys' sat around the table shelling prawns, the 'girls' in the kitchen  plating up their food.
Tonia had kindly worked out the menu and designated each dish to someone to prepare.
We decided to put both lounge suites in the lounge, and spread white cloths over the coffee tables.
Candles in true Holmes/Dijk tradition were lit and the Christmas tree shone with its clear bright lights. The tree looked quite beautiful with this year's colours of red and gold and gifts piled high under and around it. The children were wide eyed and wanted their gifts sooner rather than later.

They had to wait, because after the delicious finger foods we all piled into cars and drove off to church for the Christmas eve service at 7pm. Tonia was in the choir, Ross had to be there because he is on staff, so it was lovely to all go and celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, as well as letting our meal settle, before coming back for dessert and presents!

By the time we got back we were ready for coffee, dessert, Christmas cake, cool drinks and PRESENTS. Santa (Ross) was already wearing his Santa hat ready for the job ahead. He had some keen little helpers, with Jesse, Shontelle and Jack helping him give the presents out.

We were all pretty chuffed with our gifts. Craig especially LOVED his new 'you beaut' mixer/beater machine for his kitchen. He was not parting with it and kept it on his lap for quite some time.
After munchies and drinks we had our 'secret' santa time. If you liked someone elses gift better you could swap. Most of us were happy with what we picked.

What a lovely night. Char and Dan and kids headed back to the coast as they had their family Christmas gift giving and church the next morning.
Anita and Craig headed off, as well as Sarah, Nath and Jack and Steph and Jason. All getting together with the the in-laws on Christmas Day. Ross, Ton and I tidied up the kitchen and the masses of gift wrap.
What a great night.

Christmas Day.
Ross cooked us bacon and eggs, tea and toast.
Then it was time to put the furniture back in the right places, vacuum the floors, straighten out decorations and get ready for morning coffee with my sisters Mieke and Tineke who were coming at 11am. They didn't arrive and just as I was getting concerned about their safety they turned up just before midday. They'd been to visit Tineke's son Peter and it took longer than anticipated.

We settled down to coffee, cake and nibbles and had a lovely time chatting nice to have Mieke home from Holland.
Always a special time.
Then preparation for lunch began: ham, chicken, roast vegies and plum pud with brandy sauce.
Just ready to tuck in and Steph and Jason were at the door.
"We're starving"...
"Ok, I think there's just enough for you too".

Sitting down to eat, the bell ran again and there were our friends Dott and Keith laden with gifts, drinks, pudding.
They'd had lunch already so they joined us at the table and shared dessert with us.

Lots of talking, laughter and getting to know one another.
Later in the afternoon I decided there was quite a nice breeze outside and we could turn the aircon off and enjoy the outdoors. More cuppas, cake, talking, laughing out on thepatio, which I'd decorated with fairy lights, a huge silver star and baubles hanging from the beams.
Again the bell sounded and my sister Lenie and hubby Henk arrived. They'd shared lunch with some friends.
It was fun because as more people came there was great interaction between new friends...

It was just a really good day of fun and friendship.
At about 7.30 we spread the table again with ham on the bone, chicken, potato salad, green leafy salad, some nice breads, gherkins etc etc...and anyone who wanted to eat did; filling their plates and then sitting back out on the patio in the balmy evening.
We talked till late into the evening...some drifted off early  into the night and others lingered on.

Suddenly I felt very weary as I loaded yet another lot of dishes into my trusty dishwasher! Must have been the third that day!

Tonia slept over again and Boxing day was a lazy day of naps, reading a good book, pottering about tidying up and reminiscing about the past few days.

I was just so pleased everything went so well.
Thinking how blessed we are to have such wonderful, caring and loving daughters, sons-in-law and grandchildren.
All are well provided for; all are healthy and all love God.

What more can we want?
Thanks girls for all your help and care.
Dad and I are so thankful for you all


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

This is going to be d e e p....

Yes, this is going to be deep.

At about 8.30 this morning two young tall lads knocked on my door.
Here at last were the long awaited installers....ready to go!
Two days before Christmas! It sure was cutting it fine.

The aircon units were delivered before we headed down to Broken Head and have been sitting in one of our bedrooms for a week or more.

The 2 young Adonises got to work and 4 hours later and despite a short thunder storm that held things up for about 20 minutes, the AIR CON has been installed in all it's glory!
YAY!! Cool air at last.

Thinking of mum and dad were rather futuristic for their time and had aircon installed in the late 1970's.
I always thought it a bit silly because I didn't think it was all that hot in Brisbane...but when your'e young things like heat are easier to bear. As age creeps up I figure we need to do everything in our power to help make the journey a little easier.

The house is lovely and cool. The  8 KW monster hangs on the back wall in our living area and is strong enough to send cool air through our entire house. Obviously we don't have a large house, but it has already cooled down every room so well that I've already turned it off.! :-)

The rain storm cooled things down a bit.
Anyway guys, I'm totally chuffed, happy, delighted and looking forward to being able to wear my hair down.
Well, at least inside the house.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Our journey to Broken Head

Blue ocean. Yellow sand. Grey rock. Green trees. White and grey seagulls.
Broken Head!
A short road leads past houses hidden behind trees and bushes to  a small caravan park nestled into a bluff. The  park rises up from the beach in a gentle slope.  Caravans, tents, camper trailers and camper vans surround the central  ablutions building. Sounds crass, but it's actually quite a pleasant looking structure of white rendered walls and a high pitched roof. Circular windows are set high up in each end wall giving it a kind of Mediterranean feel.
Being in the centre of the park gives everyone the same distance to walk...which helps in the middle of the night when you just 'gotta go!'.. :-)

Our adventure begins about a month ago when we buy a used Hi ace Toyota camper van. It's a big deal for us, because we are contemplating making a trip around Australia next year. This is the beginning of that idea.
We organise pots, crockery, cutlery, food, etc.
Sheets for the bed, a light cotton blanket, pillows etc.
I buy medium sized seethrough plastic containers for our clothes, which turns out to work well.
Camera, books, torch, thermos, matches plus a myriad other bits and pieces we need.

We head off on Monday 14th December, but we take ages to get ready. Then when we finally are, our first port of call is the local BCF store just up the road.
We need chairs. Ross has seen some 'you beaut' chairs that cost the earth, have adjustable backs and are extra comfy.  We debate for less cost, easier to set up etc, but we go with the luxe model. After loading our buys into the van we drive to a friend's place a few suburbs away, who knows lots about things like: how to switch the gas on, how the lights work, what the battery does, how to work the tap  and how to fix up the annexe and shade fly. None of which we know how to do at this stage! Unbelievable, but true!

By the time we leave his place it's after 5 pm and peak hour!
 Not to worry, we head off any way, after having rung the Caravan Park at Broken Head, making sure they leave information in their "Late arrivals' box, outside the office.

We arrive after 10pm ESDT. All is dark, but the map they've provided  is well marked and we find site #4 easily. All to do now is to drive onto the cement slap (making our vehicle instantly level! hooray!) and plug in the power lead. Hey presto we have light! Our bed is already made and after a quick visit to the building with the round windows, we crash out for the night.

Next day, we  walk the 30 metres to the beach and enjoy the beautiful clear water as we dive in and out of the waves. Just gorgeous!
We drive to Brunswick Heads a place that holds fond memories for Ross, via a 'shortcut' because we don't want to drive through busy Byron Bay. Not a good idea as we spend quite some time waiting at STOP signs because of road works on the hilly, windy road!  however...we arrive at Brunswick heads where we used to visit a Christian community in the late 70's. We hadn't been back there for it was good to walk the stunning white sand beach and rummage around the shops.
I see an item in a shop window that would make a great present for Christmas but the shop is closed - Every Tuesday. We must come back later in the week.

Then we drive to Byron Bay up to Cape Byron to look at the lighthouse  and enjoy the amazing views. There's a man asking us if we want to park and 'that will be $7 thank you'! It's going to the upkeep of the grounds and beautiful old yeah, we pay the seven bucks.  We walk up the hill to the lighthouse, then down, down, down the steps that lead to several more easterly lookouts. There's another point way further down which I would love to go down to, but I don't think I'd get back up the steep hill again. As it is, I take several opportunities to 'enjoy the view', so I can get my breath back and continue my climb back up the steep steps to the lighthouse. It's incredibly hot and very little breeze is blowing at all. Unusual for a spot so high up above the Pacific ocean I think.

We do a bit more sightseeing and before we know it, it's after 5 pm and time to head home - well, to the caravan park. We cook dinner on the small gas stove and enjoy the meal outside the van under the stars . It's milder now being right next to the ocean. So nice to get reprieve from the high temperatures that Brisbane has been enduring lately.

Our bed has turned out to be quite wide enough for us, but not quite long enough. Ross' legs stretch out about 30cm past the end of the bed. He curls up and is actually quite comfortable. He doens'nt complain at all about it. I find the whole idea a bit claustrophobic at first, but settle down when we leave the back door of the van slightly ajar during the night. It allows a lovely breeze to come in and I don't feel so hemmed in.

Wednesday we drive off to Lennox Head. Choof up to the head  where believe it or not there is no official look out. We walk up the slope of a vacant block and are rewarded with a gorgeous view past Broken Head to the north, right up to Cape Byron, the most easterly point of the mainland. Back in the car, we head back down to the Esplanade, following it to the northerly end where we discover lovely little Lake Ainsworth right by the sea. We park our van next to the lovely grove of trees that grows right along the eastern length of the small lake. It's nice and shady. We pull our chairs out of the van and enjoy a coffee and some bikkies in the dappled light of the grove. The water gently laps at the roots of the trees. Kids swing on a rope tied high up in nearby giant trees. It's so nice to see them having fun...reminds me of youth camps near the Pine River in my teen years.
Nearby some painters (tradies), have finished work early and enjoy a beer with their lunch. They have several dogs who run in and out of the water and race through the trees. Max is a boxer and has been away a bit too long for his master's liking. A few sharp whistles and Max come bounding back. I'm so enjoying this.

People are swimming in the I end up having 3 or 4 swims. The water is dark brown. Stained by the surrounding tea trees, but completely transparent when you scoop it up in your hands. The top 1 metre layer is very warm but very cool deeper down. As I swim out further into the lake, the water is beautifully cool. I really enjoy my swims throughout the day. In between swims the rest of the time is taken up by lazing in our 'you beaut' chairs, having lunch, chatting, reading, having coffee, reading, chatting, snoozing and even a quick swim in the ocean on the other side of the little road that separates it from the lake.

We head back to the park feeling happy and ready for the night.
We have dinner outside again and decide that tomorrow we will stay put, and we do.
Thursday we read, swim in the ocean, talk to other campers about all things camping and travelling. We meet a nice couple from Brisbane on one side who are trying out their new off road camper trailer - top model, and a Swiss couples, who've been travelling around Australia for the past 6 months. It wil be their first ever Christmas away from home, so we invite them over for Christmas day. They may or may not come, but the opportunity is there if they want to come.
We'll give them a call.

Friday we decide to stay another night.Ross is told that there's just one night left for us on site #4...after that the park will be full with Christmas/January campers.
We put on our joggers and walk the cliff path that rises and falls over the bluff which is Broken head. It's unfortunately not a very long track, only about a kilometre and a half, and ends with a very steep descent of steps to a beautiful, secluded beach. We decide not to attempt the descent...the climb back up will be too difficult. We head back and end up spending some time sitting on an outcrop overlooking a series of coves with white sand beaches. The waves hit the rocks below us and explode in a massive cloud of spray in front of us, time after time. It's hot by the time we get back. A swim in the gorgeous turqoise waves is a must. The water has really chilled down since yesterday and we suck in our breath as we dive in. Once in it's still very cool, but extremely refreshing.  I just adore the water, the sky, the sand, the surroundings. Wow! How amazing is creation.
We head back to our little 'home' on wheels - our van for some brunch. We put our chairs under a shady tree in the little park right next to our van.  We read some more, sleep some more and I cook dinner, wash up and Ross suggest we go out to hear some music, have a coffee. Byron is too busy and grubby for my liking so we find a local hotel where they serve coffee and dessert. No music, but it's nice to spend some time out.

Because each time we go out we have to make sure everything is in the van and  packed in such a way that nothing rattles or shakes, it's very easy the next morning to get underway. After an easy cereal breakfast, we fill the thermos, make sure everything is secure and we head back home.
We take all day, stoppint at Brunswick Heads to buy the gift that I saw in the window. I end up buying a dress, a top and a cool strapless dress and a purple hat. The owner of the shop is hilarious, a reall eccentric who vow that purple looks amazing on me, I laugh my head off the whole hour or so I'm in the shop! What a fun time. I walk out of the shop, see a whole bunch of people having coffee on the pavement and see a woman who looks remarkably like one of my sisters. It turns out that it is she!! I end up having a chat to her and her friends.
Ross has been walking his favourite beach and spent time sitting by the Brunswick River while I've been shopping.

We head off again driving up through Pottsville, and stopping at Kingscliffe overlooking the estuary for lunch. It's turned dull and windy. We have a snooze in the van before heading home.

What a lovely few day it's been. We arrive home around 5 ish in the afternoon, having gained an hour since leaving New South Wales. We unpack the fridge and  I put on a load of washing.
It's good to be home again too.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Christmas is coming soon

Yesterday I shopped for baubles for our tree. It was time to change the colour scheme, after having silver and mauve to purple for about 6 years!

After church I drove around to the nearest Crazy Clarks ($3.00 shop) and with basket in hand set about to choose from a vast array of colours. I decided to go with deep reds and gold. An angel to top of the tree, some gilded candles: tall, round and short, and some pillar shaped ones, completed the shopping.

So today, I dragged the boxed, folded up tree out of the shed, and proceeded to set it up. Artificial pine needles soon spread over the floor (must vacuum tomorrow), boxes and baubles everywhere - but now it's done. A bit early I think, with still a month to go, but it's done and so now there's one less thing to worry about.

This year our family is coming over to celebrate Christmas on the Christmas Eve. In-laws need to be visited on the day, so this works out reasonably for us. We will start early with a reasonably simple meal, then head off to church for a 7 o'clock service. Afterwards the fun will begin with Santa giving out the gifts. Hopefully the grandies will have had a sleep on the way from the Coast.

I'm looking forward to it...especially now that we are planning on having aircon installed by then.
Yay! It's been so hot and humid, it will make it so much more pleasant.

Well, must be off to bed now.

I need to catch up on some sleep. Tomorrow I hope to try to catch up with what our year was about in 2009. I've been slack.