Making Christmas Memories…

As a kid growing up in country NSW, we would spend Christmas at either my paternal grandparent’s house in Tumbarumba (in southern NSW) or in Sydney with my mother’s family.

Mum would pile all four kids, two dogs, the cat, the expertly hidden Christmas presents, a couple of loaves of white bread she’d made up into devon and tomato sauce sandwiches, ice cream containers for when the middle sister got sick, and one of those foam flasks made up with cordial into the station wagon. Once Dad was on the road, he didn’t stop – except for petrol.

When we were living in Merriwa (in the Hunter Valley), the hot ten-hour drive to Tumbarumba was dreaded, while the Sydney run on the alternate year was less daunting. When we were in Bombala (in Southern NSW), it was the opposite.

I don’t remember much about the Christmases we spent in Sydney. As a kid I was asthmatic and my throat would seize up from all the cigarette smoke in Nan’s house. We slept on the floor and I would spend most of the visit wheezing and struggling for breath. I loved Nan but grew to dread those visits.

The Tumba years I’m clearer on and have much fonder memories of. I remember the dry heat, afternoons at the town pool and the Boxing Day cricket test on the ABC as the portable air cooler tried vainly to do something other than making a noise. I remember the year a cold snap came through and it snowed at Laurel Hill just outside town. It was the closest to a White Christmas I’ve ever had.

I remember the ham salad suppers, and the time all my illusions were shattered when I saw that the trout that Poppa had said he hit over the head with a piece of 4 b 2 when it came up for air in the Tumbarumba River, had actually been purchased from Snowy River Fisheries.

On the way home, we’d buy boxes of cherries at Young and spit the seeds out the window, red cherry juice dripping down our chins. Dad would warn us not to get the juice on the fabric seats. When we got home we’d have to help Mum pit and bottle the rest so we could enjoy preserved cherries all year round.

There was no air conditioning in the car, so the windows would be wide open and we’d argue about who got to sit next to one. Inevitably someone would throw up – usually the middle sister. Then we’d all get in trouble because Dad couldn’t hear the cricket on the radio.

Regardless of where we spent Christmas, the Christmas morning ritual remained the same.

We’d go to bed early, with a red plastic hessian Santa sack on the bottom of the bed. Sometime in the middle of the night we’d wake and feel the weight on our legs as Santa had crept in while we were asleep and filled the bags.

Dad would start patrolling the hallway from about 5 am looking for the first sign that one of us might be waking. Mum would tell us not to eat any of the chocolate before breakfast because apparently, that’s how you get worms.

These days we’re all partnered or kidded up, but Santa still brings a stocking of chocolates for each of us – four get left at the front door of Mum and Dad’s Sydney home.

For many years after we as a family moved back to Sydney – the year I was in Year 12 – Christmas lunch would be at Mum and Dad’s for whoever didn’t have to spend it with in-laws. For the last few years, it’s been at my sister’s with everyone pitching in and bringing something. My husband is in charge of the trifle. As the kids got more numerous, bigger, and noisier it made sense.

Our day would start with potato scones, champagne and carols at our house as we opened pressies. We’d then head over for Christmas lunch, returning late in the afternoon for prawns and more bubbles on the deck with our next-door neighbours. Round two we used to call it.

This year it’s different. We’ve moved to Queensland and want our first Christmas here to be here. I’m looking forward to the preparations and the cooking. I’m even looking forward to lining up just after midnight on Christmas Eve morning to get the prawns and smoked salmon. We have friends over from NZ to spend it with us and while I’ll miss family, it’s exciting to be doing something different in a place we love with people we love.

And I guess that’s the whole point of it – spending time with people you love.

What about you? What are your Christmas memories?

 

The Travel Quiz

Thanks to Katherine from Bright Lights of America for this idea… You can check out her Couple’s Travel Quiz here.

We love to travel together, but no matter how close you are or how long you’ve been together, travelling together can be both a rewarding experience and a potential minefield.

Over the last 28 or so years we’ve learnt a lot about how to get the most out of a trip by respecting each other’s travel personalities:

  • We both need time apart as well as time together
  • I like to be by a pool or on a beach – even if I don’t want to spend a huge amount of time there – and he doesn’t
  • He likes to have a tv in the room and I don’t
  • I like art galleries and museums and he doesn’t
  • He likes to shop and I don’t
  • I don’t like to overindulge at breakfast because I don’t want to miss out on lunch – he’d prefer to have a big breakfast and manage with a snack at lunchtime
  • I like to get to an airport, do the check-in thing and sit down with a drink and a book to wait. He doesn’t like to get there early and once checked in will then want to chat about pretty much nothing – while I’m trying to zone out.
  • We both enjoy foodie walking tours
  • We both enjoy wandering and ending up somewhere we didn’t expect to
  • We both enjoy road trips
  • We both love produce markets
  • We both enjoy street food but will book one “special” night out each trip

Fortunately, he’s happy to people watch if I want to do the museum thing, and I’m happy to read if he wants to watch tv. We’re cool about each other’s personal space and as a result, he’s still my favourite person to travel with – even though he does do my head in at airports.

Where are you likely to find your partner in a new city you’ve travelled to?

Grant – Absolutely not in the shops or on the high street. I’d find her in a slightly edgy or grungey coffee shop with her journal. Probably somewhere with street art.

Jo – Sitting in a park watching the world go by…or waiting for me to take a photo or finish in a gallery or museum.

What’s the first thing your partner does in a new city?

G – Take to the streets on a walking tour. She hates those introductory city tours where at the end they take you to one of those gem/batik/craft/whatever stores. She has no tolerance for that.

J – Whatever walking tour I’ve booked us on.

What is your partner’s travelling downfall?

G – She’s so paranoid about missing planes that she’s always way too early. She’s a control freak and doesn’t trust bookings she hasn’t made herself.

J – He’s a “just in time” man and doesn’t allow for local traffic conditions. He tends to start getting ready at the time we need to be leaving. He worries more about the budget than I do – both a plus and a minus. He doesn’t really like to change destinations if it involves another flight.

What is your partner’s travelling personality?

G – She likes to have transport and accommodation organised, and a list of other things researched but likes to wander and have lots of unplanned time.

J – It’s about the people and culture for him. He likes to get under the skin of a place. He doesn’t like a fixed schedule and wants to be able to spend as long as he wants if it’s somewhere that’s interesting.

Why does your partner like to travel?

G – For the experiences.

J – For the culture.

What is the most fun about travelling with your partner?

G – She can laugh at nearly anything and likes to wander. She’s organised, but not restrictive with it. She doesn’t mind doing things on her own if I’m not interested in it.

J – He’s happy to do whatever I decide usually – or wait while I do it if he’s not interested. He’ll try anything.

What is the place your partner most wants to travel to?

G – I can’t answer that – she has a list that changes all the time. Probably wherever she’s booked to go next. Seriously though, it’s easier to talk about places that aren’t on her list. There are also lots of places she wants to go back to and explore more deeply.

J – He’d love to do a Cunard cruise out of Southampton. One that goes through the Suez or Panama Canal. He’d love to see the Northern Lights and would like to go to St Petersburg.

What is the place your partner least wants to travel to?

G – Probably the Middle East or anywhere where she feels her freedoms are limited or there are too many rules she has to abide by – or where she feels that she can’t go into a bar on her own and have a drink if she wanted to do that. She doesn’t have a burning desire to go to Africa either.

J – He’s not interested in South America, the South Pacific or any of the walks I want to do. His idea of travel hell is an isolated resort, “honeymoon” style islands, gated communities – anywhere advertising seclusion or luxurious privacy. he’s not a villa type of man.

What is your partner’s favourite part of a new country?

G – The photo opportunities. I sometimes joke that I’m on holiday with Jo and her camera. And the food.

J – The people watching and local street food. He’s not interested in how the wealthy live or eat – it’s about everyday life and food for him. He likes supermarkets – so he can see what the cost of living is.

What is your partner’s most annoying habit at the dinner table while travelling?

G – She has to take a photo of everything she eats and drinks.

J – Just choose what you want to eat already – it’s not that hard!

What does your partner dislike about travelling?

G – The crowds – she hates crowds. She also doesn’t like anything that’s too pristine or glitzy or non-inclusive and she doesn’t like feeling as though she’s controlled or heavily scheduled. She’s not big on the clichéd attractions or eating at places just because of a celebrity tag – she’s a bit of a reverse snob. Oh, and she hates queueing.

J – Hanging about airports and getting to airports

What is your partner’s travel superpower?

G – The planning and research she puts in. She has a knack for finding things that aren’t in the Lonely Planet Guide.

J – He can pack a suitcase and have it look the same when it’s opened as it did when he shut it. He also knows what’s going on around him – spatial awareness. He makes me feel safe.

How did we go? We got each other’s answers spot on. Why not try it for yourself with your travel partner?


It’s Lovin’ Life Linky time…

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look for our happy and share it about a bit. The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, DebbishSeize the Day ProjectWrite of the Middle50 Shades of Age,  and, of course, me.

Happy Ever After – the Week 6 Update

I almost wasn’t going to post this week – I’ve barely written a thing since last Friday and it was embarrassing to tell you that. But the whole deal of this series is to show the whole of the writing process – warts and all – and this week I’ve fallen off the wagon.

I’ve hit a wall. It’s a high wall. And although I can see through it to the end of my story – so it must be a wall made of toughened glass – I seem to be stuck at the moment. I can’t really tell you exactly why without giving too much of the story away, but my characters didn’t want to play along with where I originally intended them to go and now I’m concerned that in allowing that to happen I’ve lost some of the tension and conflict that I thought that I needed.

On the other hand, I’ve introduced a different sort of tension and done more to make my readers care about what happens to my protagonist. Hence my wall. I can see where I want to go, but I’m not sure how to get there without losing any of that sympathy that I’ve built up. That’s code for I’m not sure how to get them there without my heroine coming across like a prize bitch.

I tried to explain to my husband the problem I have with the plot but he couldn’t work out who the characters were and when there was going to be an explosion or a car chase. Suffice to say that he’s not interested in character-driven stories and his eyes glazed over very quickly. He supports what I do, but has never – and probably will never – read a word of what I’ve written.

Anyways, into this wall has come a million ways to procrastinate. Top of that list is new series of The Crown. I’ve inhaled the first five episodes. I’ve also started writing wrap-up posts for both this site and the astrology site. In addition, I accepted a freelance job to write some daily horoscopes for the next few months. The first deadline for that gig is Monday.

So in other words, I haven’t stopped writing, and today I think I’ve actually found the solution…now I just need to write it in.

Of course, it means that there’ll be more to do in the rewrite once I finish the first draft, but in order to do a rewrite, there must be a first draft to re-write. So, I’d better get back to it…after I watch one more episode of The Crown

That’s a wrap – Sunday 10 December 2017

Monday before the rain

This week has brought with it deluges. Yes, I know that sounds exaggerated, but deluges we’ve had. Just when I thought that it wasn’t possible for rain to come down any heavier than we’d already seen it come down, Monday proved me wrong.

We had a waterfall in our backyard, and the pool lounge simply floated up and out of the overflowing pool.

Then just as we thought that was as heavy as we could get, down it came again last night. Again the pool overflowed, and the high water mark in the backyard was briefly a number of inches above the sodden ground.

In between was sunshine.

Now I love a good storm. Give me a bit of thunder and lightning and a downpour and I’m inspired. But this was damaging and low lying areas near us did suffer some flooding – including one of my favourite cafes in Mooloolaba, The Velo Project. Their Instagram account showed the water literally pouring in.

Anyways, enough about the weather…

What I’m loving…

The colours in our frangipani. Whether it’s against blue sky or grey, it’s striking.

A random sunset…

After a massive storm on Tuesday night. Striking, hey?

Where I worked…

While I always do my corporate work at home, I’m finding that I work much better on my personal writing projects away from the home office. Mooloolaba Surf Club is a favourite – as is Chances at Mooloolaba Wharf.

Where we lunched…

At Saltwater, one of the new offerings down at the revamped, re-energised Mooloolaba Wharf. What the developers are doing down here is fantabulous. Not only does this place have a really smart menu, the price point is very affordable ($10 for excellent fish and chips on a plate with a view), it’s licensed and the chips are amazing…really amazing. You know how sometimes the idea or the smell of chips is better than they taste? Not this time. All crunchy.

the view

Hubby had the fish and chips, Miss 19 had a couple of salmon cakes ($8 for two) that she said were better than mine – yes, I’m wounded – and I had the prawn sandwich ($10) which was essentially a prawn cocktail in a soft roll. I was in heaven.

What was disappointing…

Eumundi Christmas Markets on Friday night. We were all set to have a night of Christmas cheer and shopping with street food. Unfortunately, it not only pelted down with rain, but only a small proportion of the stall-holders set up. Very disappointing – and after we’d got the sort of carpark that you usually can only dream of getting.

What made my week…

Yesterday I caught up for lunch down in Brisbane with some ladies that I’ve known in the blogosphere for some time. Not only was it great meeting them in real life (IRL, as we say it) but it truly was like catching up with friends that I hadn’t seen in months. We all just clicked. Don’t you love it when that happens?

What I read…

I didn’t so much read as devoured Nicki Edward’s “One More Song.” It made me cry buckets in an absolutely good way, it took me to a part of Australia that I adore, and it told the story of characters that engaged me from the first few pages.

What I watched…

Miss 19, Adventure Spaniel and I had a movie afternoon today with Elf -one of our Christmas classics. It’s even better on the big screen…

I’m also beyond excited that The Crown Season 2 has landed, but I just know it’s going to play havoc with my word count. I can resist many things, but that isn’t one of them.

This is usually a political free zone but…

I restrain my personal political opinions here as much as I possibly can, but this week when the marriage equality bill passed, I was not only thrilled but relieved. It’s been an embarrassing fact that Australia has lagged behind other countries in legislating something that I personally believe we should not even still be debating in 2017. Love is love, and now it’s yes.

What I’m loving…

Just how over the top some people are with their Christmas decorations. There’s an entire street just down the road from us where every house (bar two….tutt tutt tutt…) is decorated to such an extent that the electricity grid must groan every night when the lights are turned on. Christmas seriously is the one time of the year when more is absolutely fabulously more.

How was your week?

Friday Five – The Christmas Songs Edition

 

I have such fond memories of Dad playing Bing Crosby’s White Christmas on the record player at home. The only other Christmas songs record we had was Frosty the Snowman. My younger sister knew just the line “Frosty the Snowman had to hurry on his way.” To this day I think of her when I hear that line – even when Michael Buble is singing it.

The thing is, I’m not really a carol loving sort of girl. Sure, I have a Christmas songs playlist – I have a playlist for most occasions – but traditional carols? Yeah, not my type of thing. I have a few absolutely personal dislikes – “The Little Drummer Boy” being at the absolute top of the most disliked list – carols that aren’t even made tolerable when sung by Michael Buble or Kate Ceberano.

Which brings me to Christmas albums – I have two…yep, you guessed it, one by Kate Ceberano and the ubiquitous Michael Buble aka The Bubbleman. He does a version of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home” that I adore.

So, given that most Christmas songs make me want to go running for the hills, I’ve come up with a list of exceptions. Five, in fact…fancy that…and they’re on repeat on my playlist…alongside the Bubbleman and Kate.

1.Do They Know It’s Christmas?

The original Band Aid version, of course.

This came out at a time when I was discovering my political leanings. I remember hearing about the food surpluses in the West, and was appalled. It was only many years later that I really began to understand the complexities of the situation.

Anyways, I can still pick the voices of each artist. I do have the new one as well, but it doesn’t have the same power of the original. Perhaps it needed George Michael, Bono, Sting, and Simon Le Bon. Just saying.

2. Wham’s Last Christmas

Daggy but true. And before you suggest it, Taylor Swift’s cover absolutely doesn’t do this fabulous song justice.

3. All I Want For Christmas is….

This is the only song by Mariah Carey that I can not only listen to without wincing but actually really like.

I also love the version in Love Actually, which is, actually, my favourite Christmas movie. I even like…and promise you won’t tell anyone…Justin Bieber’s duet of this with Mariah. Sad but true.

There’s the little bell bit at the start that’s perfect for a good, satisfying boob shimmy, and the high note at the end which I attempt to hit every time – and which, so my daughter says – makes me sound like a howling cat…or those singing goats on that episode of The Good Wife…but I digress.

4. Happy Xmas (War is Over), John Lennon and Yoko Ono

To me this is the quintessential end of year, end of cycle song- and says it all.

5. It Doesnt Often Snow At Christmas, Pet Shop Boys

Ok, so this isn’t a traditional carol, and the lyrics are far from traditional…

Christmas is not all it’s cracked up to be
Families fighting around a plastic tree
Nothing on the TV that you’d want to see
And it’s hardly ever snowing
The way it’s meant to be

…but I love it.

What about you? Christmas songs – love them or hate them? Any faves? 

Sentence a day – November

The month started with another trip to Sydney for work, was punctuated by a trip to Wellington, New Zealand for pleasure, and contained a lot of rain and, conversely, not much walking.

In other news, I participated in Nanowrimo – National Novel Writing Month – and nailed the 50,000 words in a month challenge. It’s a new book and I’m loving it.

Ok, let’s get the sentence a day thing underway…

1.Still in Sydney, still want to go home.

2. Miracle of miracles – Jetstar on time. Homeward bound.

3. Happy Birthday to Adventure Spaniel.

4. Markets, sun, pool, and lots of words written. I love starting a new novel.

me, poolside at home

5. Bohemian Bungalow for lunch – quirky, fabulous, and great music.

6. Work ugh. Beach walk and pelican squadrons in the evening.

The pelican squadron

7. Rain and storms so no walk this morning.

8. Nano word count on the way up. I’m loving how this book is coming together and love Provence Aimee as a writing destination.

9. A little wet on the morning walk, but some great light in the skies.

10. A good start made on the Christmas shopping and grey be gone thanks to my hairdresser.

11. Markets, brekky tacos at Jimmy’s, and spent the afternoon preparing slowly cooked five spice lamb and olive oil chocolate mousse from Nigella’s new book.

12. Food, flavours, scent and story with author Josephine Moon at Cooroy.

13. Do I really need to go to the “office”? I want to keep writing instead.

14. Sarah’s last exam for the Uni year – good luck sweetie.

15. Last day of work for the week and it’s a doozy. Fish and chips by the beach on a balmy Mooloolaba evening.

16. Off to Wellington for the week, but first, have to do battle with the commute to Brisbane airport. Flying across the Sounds is beautiful – there is no blue-green like the blue-green on New Zealand. It’s so good to be back. Sometimes I feel almost quasi-kiwi…is that treasonous?

17. A tour of parliament, a look around the Supreme Court, and an excellent bowl of pho, some shopping and sundowners on the deck. Bliss.

18. More shopping, more touristing, a few cocktails and an excellent dinner at Pomelo on Oriental Bay.

 

19. Brekky at Caffiend in Petone, a drive around to Makara, the cracking of the Christmas crack and a delayed flight home #orderanotherwine #ilovenewzealand

20. Test files – oh the pain. In other news, passed the 40,000-word mark in nanowrimo.

21. Still raining, still processing test files.

22. Yay Wednesday means writing time, and boy did I get some words done.

23. Meetings, meetings, meetings.

24. Hit the 50,000 words almost a week early. Nanowrimo nailed! Nailed, I say!

25. Grant to Brisbane for a post-cricket catch-up, Sarah to her Christmas party – that means I get a whole uninterrupted evening to re-organise and categorise my blog pages…and watch The Good Wife re-runs.

26. Astro group catch-up in the morning, Christmas tree trimming and present wrapping in the afternoon. All Christmas shopping officially done.

27. Morning walk, afternoon walk, and a tolerable day in the office in between. Monday done well.

28. Test files again… will it ever end?

29. Travel group meet-up tonight – talking travel over Turkish food, don’t mind if I do. A lovely group of ladies. Sarah off to Sydney – I miss her already.

30. It’s raining still. There are rumours of boat-building and a rounding up of animals happening up the hill.

It’s Lovin’ Life Linky time…

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look for our happy and share it about a bit. The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, DebbishSeize the Day ProjectWrite of the Middle50 Shades of AgeLifestyle Fifty  and, of course, me.

Happy Ever After – the Week 5 Update

Ever wanted to know what it’s like to write a novel?  I’m in the process of writing a new novel and will be blogging my progress week by week here.  

I’m back into the manuscript. I still haven’t decided what it will be called, but given that I’m just shy of 60,000 words and on track to finish the first draft by Christmas, I’d probably better think about that. At the moment the working title is Happy Ever After.

When I’d first got the idea for this story, I described it to friends as being sort of like what happens after the happy ever after. The stuff they don’t tell us about. The curve balls that life throws us when we’re in our late forties, early fifties and the kids are almost off our hands. The things that happen when we should be coasting happily into, if not retirement, then at least something not as exhausting as what we’d spent the last twenty or so years doing.

I was going to write about the ageism in corporate life – and the bullying that goes on behind that. It was to be my revenge of sorts against the company my husband used to work for. I wrote all of that into the story and then deleted most of it – while I still have zero respect for them, we wouldn’t be living where we are now if they hadn’t done what they’d done. Once I’d let that go I was able to see what was going on around me and my characters began to take shape.

It started me thinking about everything else – how lives can change in a heartbeat right at that time when we’re thinking about coming down a gear. Divorce, health issues, death, ageing parents, adult children, loss of employment – all of that seems to hit at this age. Right at that point where we’re about to reap the rewards of the hard work and stress, whoever it is who rules the roost up there seems to decide that she has other plans for us – and life all of a sudden looks very different to the version that we’d envisaged.

That’s the premise of this story. Neil and Kate Spence fell in love when Kate was just eighteen after a chance meeting at a Midnight Oil gig that never happened. Then they fell out of love. In between were a few decades, two kids and a lifetime of memories.

Rather than the career that she’d envisaged – fighting the good fight for those who couldn’t fight it – Kate’s reality is one where playing happy families now includes Neil’s new (and very young) girlfriend, Vanessa. It’s not at all what Kate expected when she encouraged him in his quest to find himself by hiking to Everest Base Camp four years ago.

But when Neil finally asks for a divorce, secrets and longings that Kate thought she’d buried begin to surface. Can there be another chance for Kate and Neil, or has the universe got other plans for them?

Yes, the above reads a tad like a blurb – something I tend not to even contemplate until I’ve finished a book, but here I am writing it now. To put that into perspective, I haven’t even written the blurb yet for I Want You Back…and I need to.

The words stopped for a while – I wrote nothing for the week after I hit the 50,000 mark. That coincided with the wall that I’d seen approaching in the distance – a wall that was a pivotal scene that I knew that I had to write, but that I truly didn’t want to.

I’d got to know Neil and Kate and care about them. This scene would change everything – and it was the hardest thing I’d ever written…so far. In writing it, not only was I challenging myself, it almost felt as though I was tempting my own fate – ridiculous, I know, but since when does logic come into it? I cried buckets as I wrote it. I guess that’s a good thing.

Anyways, once I got that scene out of the way I was able to push through the wall and the story is again moving. I still have no idea how it’s going to end, but that’s all part of the fun.

My target is to hit 65,000 words by the end of this weekend. I’m on track for that. Watch this space.

That’s a Wrap – December 3, 2017

Monday morning on Mooloolaba Beach

It’s December already. How did that happen? It feels as though it was only yesterday that we were all full of high hopes for 2017 and now we’re singing the another year over song already.

Anyways, let’s wrap up the week…

What frustrated me…

Rain. So much of it. And most inconveniently, at the times that I’d normally walk. Yes, I have a gym membership for just those eventualities, but a treadmill has nowhere near the meditative qualities of a walk on or by the beach. Yes, I’m spoiled already.

I did, however, get out on Monday morning – and again on Monday evening.

What made me go awwww…

Baby scrub turkeys.

There are a few of them around at the moment. Aside from the fact that they are cute, the very existence of them is a marvellous one. Scrub turkeys are interesting in that they aren’t parented at all. The eggs are laid and incubated in a mound of what is essentially temperature-controlled compost. The father builds the mound, the mother lays the eggs, and that’s pretty much the end of their involvement in the process.

The chicks hatch, climb out of the mound and start scratching about for themselves and trying to avoid their father – who doesn’t recognise them as being baby scrub turkeys. They have about a 1 in 200 chance of making it through to adulthood, so seeing them out and about is heartening.

What made me happy…

me busy writing at Chances

Seeing Mooloolaba Wharf come back to life. This place used to be a hive of activity when we first started holidaying up here almost 20 years ago, then it went into decline. Now, thanks to a far-sighted developer, it’s on the way back. Chances on the wharf has become my favourite place to write and just this week two new eateries opened up – Rice Boi, which I’ve tried and is fabulous, and Saltwater, next on my list. There’s a new bar due to launch next week and already the place has movement again.

Lotus chips at Rice Boi

Avo smash – but not as you know it…

The new vegetarian cafe Two Point Oh at the Kontiki building in Maroochydore is doing an avo smash with a difference. On a bagel is beetroot puree, with one half of the bagel topped with avo slices, the other with smashed peas, and feta is crumbled over the lot. With rocket and lemon to complete it, it’s as pretty as a picture and tastes just as good.

Also new and on my list…

Raw + Rice the Sunshine Coast’s first poke (pronounced poke-ay) bar. It’s across the road from the Surf Club at Mooloolaba, next to Acai Brothers, and I’m keen to give it a try.

Sunshine Coast Daily headlines…

My favourite this week was:

“Are you a proud flasher? Coast police will crack down…”

A story about…wait for it… people who flash their headlights at other cars to warn them of speed traps.

A close second was:

“Snakes on the prowl…” Actually, this one was about snakes…on the prowl…for frogs.

What I wrote…

Not very much on the manuscript until Friday. Once I hit the 50,000 word mark I also reached the wall that I’d seen looming in the distance so I put it away while I got my head around writing the scene that was blocking me. I did that on Friday. It was tough.

What I blogged…

I popped up something about what I most enjoyed about the lead up to Christmas in the UK and the five things that mean Christmas in our house. I actually got some content up on the astro site after over a month off. I also posted something on the Sunny Coast site about Rice Boi – I mentioned that it was fabulous, didn’t I?

Finally, I organised all my writing posts on this site as well. If you click on the About Writing tab you’ll see everything nicely categorised in a dropdown menu. I’ve even popped some travel links in too from And Anyways. It’s starting to look the way I wanted it all to look.

What I missed…

That should read who I missed. Miss T has been in Sydney this week staying with my parents and catching up with friends. I’ve been sending her photos of Francesca the Macarena singing Christmas flamingo most days.

Ok, that was my week…how was yours?

Friday Five: The Christmas Edition

It’s back – the Friday Five –five things that have taken my fancy or piqued my interest over the week. It was replaced by That’s A Wrap, but I missed the five. It has a ring to it that the wrap doesn’t. So I’m bringing back the five – at least until I get bored again. What better way to start than with a Christmas edition?

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Actually, it’s beginning to sound and feel like it too. Although the store decorations start to go up in November – after Melbourne Cup Day is perfectly acceptable – December 1 is the reminder that Christmas really is just around the corner.

This year will be weird for us. It’s our first Christmas in Queensland and our first in our new home. It will also be the first Christmas in the whole of our together lives – this will be our 28th Christmas together – where we’re having the whole shebang at our house. We’ll be away from family back in Sydney, but have friends coming over from New Zealand to share it with us and I can’t wait.

Despite the change of environment, house and pretty much everything else, for our little family, these five things mean Christmas to us:

The Tree

Our tree usually goes up on the first Sunday in December. We have champagne and nibbly things, pop on the carols and generally make a big thing of it. This year as Miss 19 will be in Sydney this weekend, the tree went up early. And yes, there are presents under it. I’ve finished my present shopping and it’s all wrapped – well, everything that can be wrapped, that is.

Why am I so organised? It’s partly because my work schedule is all over the place so I wanted Sarah to take the family pressies back with her, and partly because I loathe shopping centres and wanted to ensure that I wasn’t forced into Sunshine Plaza after December 1.

Nothing on our tree matches. It contains ornaments that have been collected over the years. Some years there’ll be one new one, some years two. This year the ornaments reflect both our sea-change and the Kiwi element to our Christmas – a bauble with a pohutukawa on it.

The carols

Okay, I’m pretty fussy about my carols. I also have (according to my daughter) an embarrassing habit of doing a little booby shimmy at the beginning of the Mariah version of “All I Want For Christmas.” Naturally I tone that down if I’m in public. #havesomestandards

Anyways, we have a playlist and it’s turned on for the tree ceremony, the wrapping ceremony, the baking ceremony and the big day itself.

The tatty scones

My hubby was born in Scotland and his Scottish heritage comes through in our Christmas morning breakfast – potato scones with smoked salmon and crème fraiche. Yum. If you’re interested, the recipe is here.

Christmas Lifestyle Specials

Ok, it’s mostly the cooking shows I’m interested in, but I’ve even been known to watch things like Kirstie’s Homemade Christmas (hosted by Kirstie Allsop from Location Location Location).

Christmas isn’t Christmas without TV specials by Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay. I devour the shows and then fantasise about Christmas in London, shopping for produce in Borough market, and preparing sparkling drinks parties for my oh so fashionable friends wearing daggy Christmas jumpers, and feasts for my family and friends.

Christmas movies

Flying from London to Phuket in December 2015, Sarah and I were thrilled beyond words to see all three of our favourite seasonal movies on the Etihad movie list.

We coordinated our viewing and watched them in order – Elf and Polar Express in the London to Abu Dhabi leg, and our absolute favourite, Love Actually, between Abu Dhabi and Phuket.

Each year all three get pulled out and watched progressively in the days leading up to Christmas, with Love Actually being left for Christmas Eve.

What about you? Do you have any traditions around the lead-up to the big day?

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas…

Store display in Fortnum & Masons

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been playing the remember when game here in Chez Tracey. You see it’s two years since we were on our mega roadtrip around the UK, and every day another memory is popping up on the Timehop app on my phone.

One of the strongest memories we all have of that trip is just how much we enjoyed the lead up to Christmas over there. Especially in London. It was somehow more, I don’t know, how I’d imagined that Christmas would be.

It wasn’t just that it was grey and cold, or dark so early, it was also the smells, the lights, the decorations, the…you know what? I think I’ll need to list them all…

The Christmas markets

We were debating the other day which one we enjoyed the most – the one in Edinburgh with the carousel bar, or the one in London along Southbank…or maybe the one in Bath?

Edinburgh Christmas markets
Edinburgh Christmas Markets

One thing we all agree on is that the best part of the markets was the mulled wine and yummy things – and all the Christmas jumpers.

Christmas jumpers

at Notting Hill market

They really are a thing. There’s even a “wear your Christmas jumper to work day” day. Sarah bought 2 jumpers – which she actually does wear at Christmas…with the air conditioning going, of course. She really wishes she’d bought this one.

It’s not just about wearing Christmas sweaters though, check out this guy who had a whole suit made from Christmas themed fabric.

The ads

Oh how we loved the Christmassy ads. It wasn’t just the fabulous ads the major department stores do, but the ones you’d see on the Tube that would have you singing the tune with all the wrong words.

And my favourite? This one for Mamma Mia.

The store windows

So so so gloriously, luxuriously, decadently seasonal.

And then you step inside the store. Words and pictures just can’t convey how it feels to walk into these stores. It’s completely overwhelming.

As for the money that some people spend on things, well, that’s just ludicrous. We had a competition in Fortnum and Masons to find the most expensive pack of Christmas crackers. The ones in the pic below were 1000GBP – and not a paper hat or daggy joke in sight. Speaking of which, what do you call 50 penguins in Trafalgar Square? Lost.

The thing is, there’s only 6 crackers in this box and if you can afford to spend this on crackers, I’d like to bet that you’re having more than 6 people for Christmas lunch…just saying.

Then there was this heirloom advent calendar that for a ridiculous amount of cash you could pass down through generations of silver spoon-fed little darlings.

The lights and street decorations

Covent Garden

London does this well…really well.

It’s Lovin’ Life Linky time…

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look for our happy and share it about a bit. The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, DebbishSeize the Day ProjectWrite of the Middle50 Shades of AgeLifestyle Fifty  and, of course, me.