Thursday, December 29, 2016

Merry Christmas

The week before Christmas is hard. The school presentation nights are all finished, the Christmas parties for work and stamping are also over, but you still have to go to work for a week! This year, I took Wednesday to Friday off, so I only had to work the first two days of that long week, and it was so good.

There had been a flurry of festivities the week before. We went to the Magpie's Nest for my work Christmas party. It is a gorgeous restaurant, and we had a beautiful meal and a great time. The sunset was spectacular.

Cynthia and Tracey were also spectacular, and the phone could only capture one or the other.

I had my card makers' Christmas party, too, and with 13 of us making cards, drinking tea and coffee and eating chocolate pavlova, I didn't have time to take any photos. That, and the fact that I forgot. As always.

It was Andrew's birthday on Sunday, and after church he hopped into a car with some band mates and headed down to Melbourne for a Steve Gadd gig. All the way there and back again in one go, he climbed into bed at 3.30am! 'Twas an awesome gig by all accounts. Phil and the kids came up from Melbourne on the same day and stayed with us on their way to Mum and Dad's. They good-naturedly came along to the Carols in the Park event in town, as I was hosting. Jane sent me this photo during the carols, clearly taken by a mutual friend in the crowd at the beginning of the puppet show. Goodness, I have bad posture.....

This was my view while the puppet show was going. Phil had a very funny view, as from his angle the lights were shining on the side of the theatre, illuminating Lachlan with his hand up Gaffles!

I was pleased to have that job over and done with, and after my two days at work, I was finally on holidays! I celebrated by cleaning the house and packing so we could leave for Sydney on Wednesday morning.

We took a leisurely drive up, stopping at Berrima for lollies and coffee scrubs. We spent two days in Sydney, hanging out with Andrew's family, doing some last minute shopping and Joss even squeezed in a visit to Manly with friends.

Friday morning saw us driving up to Broke and settling in for a family Christmas in the vines. We had delicious food, plenty of pool time, cousin fun, gin and tonics, and games of Uno (as long as we pronounced it the proper Italian way).

My husband knows me very well. It's a clutch bag and I love it so much.
The drone was a big hit for Toby

 Tim also brought up a remote control car, which was fun to drive and hilarious to watch as Sunny barked at it and chased it, until it turned around and chased him!

G&Ts on the verandah. 

Selfie challenge from P&K
It was sad to say good-bye, but we came home yesterday, to a rainy Wagga, our own beds and several days before we go back to work. Relaaaaax.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Getting there

What a few weeks! Here is an attempted catch up; I might start with the most recent stuff first....

A young friend from church works for the Civic Theatre, and she did the lighting design for a local show playing at the Botanic Gardens. She was given a whole free table (dinner and the show), but lots of her friends are away. When she told Jane and Steve that she had spare tickets to a Eurovision show, they knew just who could fill those seats! It was last night, and Andrew couldn't come, but we know plenty of Eurovision tragics. Benjamin even dressed up. It was so good; really funny, great music and so much fun that I couldn't get to sleep afterwards!

On Friday night we were at Joss and Tobes' school presentation night. Toby played in the band (drums for the song Crazy) and orchestra (keyboard for a piratey piece of music), and he got a history award. Joss was announcing the year nine awards (the last person she announced was Toby!), she received a drama award and was announced as House Captain. The whole night was great, I barely even looked at my book.

Twenty five years ago I came back from ten months in Japan, on exchange. While I absolutely loved the experience, I have never been keen on having an exchange student stay with us. I am sad about my lost Japanese and just feel awkward about having a strange teenager in the house, unable to speak English. Joss was so very desperate to have one, though, and Andrew was on her side, so I agreed, and Mao came to stay for ten days.

She was completely delightful! As soon as she arrived, we dropped off her bag and headed in to town to buy Christmas decorations. I have been hoping to have a colour co-ordinated, aesthetically pleasing tree for a number of years, rather than one covered in pre-school produced decorations and Celtic baubles. I went for blue and silver, and though there are some other coloured items that could not be parted with, they are mostly around the back, and it looks great. I think Mao really enjoyed it.

Mao ate everything I cooked, especially loving the pasta. She is the gentlest, sweetest girl, and she and Joss had such a great time together. Joss took her all over town, and to the licorice factory with friends. She was especially easy after school as she just slept! Being in another culture is exhausting!

I pulled out my old yukata (summer kimono) and put it on Bethany. Mao ran to get hers so they were both dressed up.

It had to be done. Mao knew she wasn't going to like it, but she bravely tasted the Vegemite.

The pavlova went down a bit easier! We played Rummikub together and went out to see the Christmas lights. As one of the teachers said, we found out that teenagers everywhere love their mobile phones, eating and sleeping!

Japanese girls also love the Snow app, which gave us all ears, whiskers, huge pupils, pink lips and glowing skin. Sometimes it even gave us paws. There does not seem to be a situation where whiskers and ears aren't required.

The farewell dinner - no ears for Toby

I'll confess, there were tears when we said goodbye. Joss, Beth, Mao and I all cried! Mao was just lovely and we miss her. I don't think I'll have another exchange student because this experience was just right and I don't want to mess with it.

Continuing my backwards story, the day we picked Mao up, we had just arrived home from Sydney. We went to see Aladdin; a treat booked by Andrew months ago.

It was a great show, and the kids also enjoyed the train ride (!) and a wander around town. Joss and I shopped for makeup (OK, I read my book in the corner of Sephora) and Toby, Bethany and Andrew went up whatever Centrepoint is called now. We stayed with Mal, Marlee, Alannah and Jordy for two nights, which was really lovely.

The cousins in age order

The cousins in height order
We left for Sydney on the Saturday, and I had just come back from a library conference on the Friday. It was held in Ulladulla, a six hour drive away, and was well worth the trip. There were great speakers like Deng Adut, Gillian Hicks and Matt Finch. I gave the conference summary, which you can read here if you are interested in what goes on at a library conference!

My super highlight was meeting Jennifer Byrne. I gushed a little bit and told her that when I interview authors for One Book One Wagga, I pretend I'm her. She was very lovely and very tiny.

Before the conference, the big event was our women's Christmas event at church. Over tea, coffee and dessert we made necklaces and heard a Christmas talk. I made three cheesecakes, three blueberry crumble cakes and oversaw the kitchen on the night. I was rather relived that the friends I invited couldn't come, because I wouldn't have seen much of them!

Hmmm, I think that's about it. We can start going forwards again, now. Two weeks to Christmas! I'll just leave you with another couple of photos.....