Christmas festivities

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas Day in whatever way you chose to celebrate the day – and for those of you who don’t celebrate Christmas, I hope you had a good holiday day.

I left home on Christmas Eve and spent Christmas Day and Boxing Day with my closest friends here in Sydney, Brenda and Nigel, and we had a wonderful time.  We didn’t over-eat as much as previous years, which was great.  Nigel spoiled us, as he always does, by cooking us Eggs Benedict for a late breakfast (which Brenda and I washed down with a mini bottle of bubbly each).  We then skipped lunch and saved ourselves for our Christmas feast of baked ham, boiled baby potatoes, sliced beans fresh from the garden, peas, and the most succulent turkey I’ve ever had – topped off with Nigel’s famous pavlova for dessert.  My contribution was at Brenda’s request – I brought all the ingredients to make Sangria and Brenda and I polished off two jugfuls of it throughout Christmas Day (Nigel doesn’t drink, which always means more for us!).  We both adored the recipe I chose, which can be found on the Taste.com.au website.

It was a very hot and humid day here in Sydney, so we ate our evening meal outside (along with their favourite next door neighbours who joined us for dinner) – I enjoyed it immensely until Nigel spied a huge spider … and I mean HUGE!!! … sitting on the fence by the table. I only needed to look once at its massive long legs hanging over the top of the fence and I was outta my chair quicker than a speeding bullet.  Even Nigel said it was probably the biggest spider he’s ever seen, and when he tried to get closer to it it tried to bite him with its big fangs … I finally decided I couldn’t handle it any longer even hiding behind Brenda’s chair, and I cleared the table and did the dishes – then ate my dessert inside on my own!  That’s one bit of company I did NOT want to share my time with on Christmas Day (or any day for that matter) – thankfully Brenda and Nigel know what I’m like so they weren’t offended in the slightest, and it got most of the dishes done early LOL.

After the neighbours left for the night we settled in for a bit more TV and DVD viewing – that’s all we did the entire two days I was there … it was sheer bliss!!  A highlight was watching the New Zealand movie “Boy” – we really loved it. We also watched a Billy T James DVD that my best friend Vicki had sent over for my birthday from last year – we really did have a kiwi-fied Christmas with all our viewing choices! I even managed to get some stitching done – I worked on my Valentine Bird then realised I’d left one thread colour at home, so then I picked up a Halloween ornie to start, and yesterday I managed to finish them both off while sat in front of the gogglebox at home watching season 1 of Fringe. I’ll add a separate post shortly with the stitching finishes, but this is the progress I made on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

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Brenda brought tears to my eyes when I opened my Christmas gift from them – she had hand-painted a ceramic plate especially for me, and engraved it on the back with our names and date. I am incredibly touched by this gift by the simple fact that I know she doesn’t do these types of gifts for people often these days and the amount of effort that goes into each and every piece. This is one gift I will treasure always, I truly adore it!  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, hand made gifts are the BEST! 😀

I forgot to mention that I drove over to Brenda and Nigel’s on Christmas Eve, and at about 9pm we went out driving to see the lights and nativity at the ‘local’ Mormon church – it was really lovely wandering around the lit up gardens, and while I’m not religious it was really nice to see the life-size nativity scene created for those who celebrate.

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We then finished off by driving round the local neighbourhood to visit a couple of Christmas displays that people have put up – there were very few houses decorated with lights this year compared to past years, I think the steep jump in electricity costs has taken a toll (I know ours jumped up $100 from one bill to the next from $157 to $257, and that was before “electric fan season” had started!).

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The highlight for me, though, was a home where the occupants section off parts of their home just for Christmas to have window displays for visitors to look at – how awesome is this? They’re a lovely retired couple who stand outside every night throughout December to welcome visitors and have a chat … just wonderful, and really brought the warm fuzzies of Christmas cheer into my heart that evening 🙂

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Christmas decorations

Before I show piccies of the decorations, I want to say a heartfelt “thanks” to one of my closest stitching pals Katrina who has been spoiling me for a number of years now with a handmade ornie – each one I treasure dearly, and this latest one is absolutely no exception!  (Excuse the silver lametta sitting on the top!)

Don’t you think this is just so “ME”? 😀 Unfortunately I forgot to bring the other part of the gift home with me, and it’s still sitting on my computer at work … it’s the cutest little yellow rubber ducky with little santa hat and scarf on … too, too cute!  He was keeping a smile on my face all day at work on Friday.  Thanks again Katrina, you have once again spoilt me rotten, and I totally adore it!  I feel very blessed that the internet has enabled such a lovely friendship to blossom 🙂

Unfortunately I haven’t been in the brightest of stitching moods throughout the year, to be honest, and my own ornie plans pretty much went out the window – instead I’ve been focused on stitching whatever I’ve felt like just to keep my momentum up as much as possible and keeping the feeling of being ‘overwhelmed’ at bay. I think I’m finally coming out of that blue phase, so fingers crossed in the new year I’ll get a few more ornies stitched up and sent to some of my best online pals, as well as fulfilling some outstanding stitching commitments!

Anyway, back to the decorations, it was receiving Katrina’s ornie on Friday that made me start thinking of bringing up my ‘little’ Christmas tree from the garage instead of the huge 6ft one and having only my stitched ornies on display. Even Katie gave it the thumbs-up when I’d finished and said she really likes it, so I guess it gets the official seal of approval 🙂

Rightio, enough of the waffling, here are this year’s lounge decorations in all their glory (I personally think the tree’s a bit crowded, but I didn’t want to leave any ornies out! – I think maybe next year I need to buy a tree that’s just a little bit taller and fuller, and it’ll be a perfect size):

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And this little tree (which stays up all year as a backdrop to my ornie finishes) is look a wee bit bare as it’s waiting for Mum’s 12 Days of Christmas set to be finished and added … not entirely sure that’ll be completed before Christmas, but it definitely will happen before I have to put them all away again! 🙂

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The next year I also want to make a table runner for the lounge and/or the table under the tree – I bought this fabric a few months ago in readiness for when the urge of quilting creativity struck (which will hopefully be some times prior to December 2011!) – this is from the 12 Days of Christmas fabric range by Moda:

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And on that note, I’m off to sip on my iced Paull’s Egg Nog (that’s the brand on sale in supermarkets over here) and perhaps do a bit of stitching … perhaps … unfortunately Bittersweet Season will continue looking like this for a while longer, as the threads I need are still lost in transit, but I do now have the threads to finish “Valentine Bird”, so perhaps that will suffice for now and may even get some of that stitching mojo back … ?

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Christmas has arrived … finally

Ever since my flatmate made a comment about my Christmas tree being up when her Mum was here visiting I just haven’t felt like putting decorations up, and definitely had the “bah humbug” feeling. On Friday night, though, I decided to put a few things out and decorated the lounge – a lot more understated than normal, and I have to say I think I really like it!

Because my flatmate is away for Christmas (she flew out today), we had Christmas morning early on Friday night and I refused to swap gifts until we at least had some sort of Christmas decorations up. I’m usually cracking the decoration boxes open on 1 December (or the closest weekend afterwards), so it’s really really unusual for me this year! Even when I lived on my own, I still had my own little tree and made myself a Christmas stocking each year – it seems a little silly, but I still bought myself a little chocolate bar and some nuts in their shells and popped a little baby bottle of champers in there (and for the first time ever something I’ve neglected to do for myself this year yet). I’m tossing up whether to approach a LNS next year and see if they will bundle up some surprise goodies from my wish list and then get someone to wrap them up for me so I can have something of a surprise in there – I was originally going to do my own 12 days of Christmas and parcel up 12 little items early in the year so I may have forgotten about them by Christmastime, but it’s not really the same, is it? haha.

Last year Katie said she was going to buying a white Christmas tree with black balls to put up this year, with a skull instead of an angel/star … sigh 😉 Let’s just say it hasn’t happened yet, and if it does happen next year then I will sit my own tree up in a different corner to be a bit more traditional!! Anyhoo, earlier in the year I found the most PERFECT gift for her … I was going to stitch her this chart and frame it up for her – I had my heart set on it, because it is just so “her” haha.  As you can see, it was the Christmas tree that made it think it was so perfect!

Unfortunately I’ve had various items back-ordered for over 3 months, and the Belle Soie threads that were sent along with my other parcel goodies an exact month ago still haven’t arrived – not to mention I was really unhappy with the fabric I ordered from NZ for it, so I ended up placing an extra order for the recommended fabric listed on the chart, and that was also on back order for a while. The fabric finally left about 1 1/2 weeks ago, but the first parcel is still AWOL, and there was no insurance on the parcel {{sigh}}. I’ll wait for another few weeks, then I’ll have to save up and re-order everything again, I guess 😦 I was then in a quandary as to what to buy my flatmate, but my heart was still set on this chart, so I ended up wrapping just the chart up and saying the real version would be coming whenever I can get it together.

To say Katie was over the moon with it is an understatement! She loved it so much she’s been taking photos of the chart and showing all her friends and family and can’t stop talking about haha. The great thing now, I guess, is that I can actually stitch it in the lounge without having to hide away, so she can watch it grow each week once I finally manage to get it started 🙂  I also gave her two Jared Padalecki movies on DVD to fill her horror quota for the year (Friday the 13th and Cry Wolf).

As for what I got, I was truly spoilt – I knew in advance what I was getting, but it made it not less thrilling – I got a ticket to see Tap Dogs next month with Katie, and we’re only a few rows from the front so we can drool over Adam Garcia without squinting haha.  I’ve always loved him in the movie Bootmen, which is so similar to Tap Dogs – if you haven’t seen it yet, I can definitely recommend it as a great Aussie drama/romance (but make sure the tissue box is handy) … love, love, love it! 😀

Today I actually started one of my 101 Things in 1001 Days – I’ve been playing with this list for the last month or so, and have finally published it live.  Seeing as I’ve started feeling a bit more positive over the last 48 hours, I’ve started making a move to see some of the goals happen. Today’s effort was in relation to #23 in the list, which is to make something out of every recipe book I own in Sydney – considering there are 130+ books, that’ll keep me busy for longer than the 1001 days, but it’ll be fun anyway!  Today’s recipe was from “Simple Delights: Coffee & Tea” book – and the chosen recipe was “Bonoffee  Coffee”.  Perhaps not the ‘best’ thing I’ve ever tasted, I have certainly enjoyed slurping it down this afternoon while I’ve been pottering around – here’s the full recipe if you’re interested:

BONOFFEE COFFEE

3 teaspoons instant coffee granules
150ml (5fl oz or 2/3 cup) boiling water
450ml (16fl oz or 2 cups) vanilla ice cream
1 large banana
300ml (10fl oz or 1 1/4 cups) milk
Few drops vanilla essence
85ml (3fl oz or 1/3 cup) Tia Maria
2 teaspoons drinking chocolate
Chocolate flakes, to serve (optional)

Mix together coffee and water and set aside to cool.  Place all the ingredients, except the chocolate powder, in a blender or food processor and process them until completely smooth.  Pour into tall glasses and sprinkle the chocolate powder over the top.  Serve with chocolate flakes, if desired.
Serves 4-6.

Alas I couldn’t find any drinking chocolate in the cupboard, but I did find some Lindt chocolate shavings … score!!! haha.  I even broke out the super-duper expensive hand-blown glassware to drink it out of.  I was given a pair of these by my very best friend Vicki, and I’d hate to think what they’re worth today – they’re hand-blown by Hoglund Glass, and apparently are quite the collector’s item … I personally don’t care, because I adore them to death, and will never sell them, I love them too much! 😀

I really should show the results of my decorations, but I think this post is getting waaaay to long by now, so I’ll create a new post shortly 🙂

Photo Hunt – Surprise

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This week’s theme is ”Surprise” and we got a Surprise when we saw this sight in Napier, New Zealand last Christmas – unfortunately times are really tough, and it appears the reindeers have all been made redundant … there may be delays in gifts arriving this year! 😛

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Then imagine our Surprise when we turned a corner in a Queensland Zoo and found this ‘little’ Surprise waiting for us on the footpath looking all brave! Yep, definitely a surprise when we’d only just recently been looking at one of its relatives behind wire bars!! Here’s an Iguana enjoying its day in the sun 😀

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First finish for 2009

I now have huge bags under my eyes and bed sores after stitching my little heart out for the entire weekend, and I enjoyed every little minute of it.  I watched so many movies I lost count LOL.  Anyway, I managed to put the finishing stitches into a Prairie Schooler sampler I started on Christmas Day – I’d managed to stitch about half of the bottom village scene while I was away over Christmas, then stitched the rest of it over the weekend … a bit mental, but it feels like a great accomplishment.  Of course now there won’t be much stitching done tonight, ‘cos I’ll have to be in bed by 8pm to catch up on sleep haha.  The photos were taken at midnight last night, so not quite as rich in colour as it is in daylight.

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“Good Saint Nick” by Prairie Schooler
stitched on 32ct Lambswool linen by Wichelt
with recommended DMC threads

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Prairie Schooler-Good St Nick bottom

As you can see from the bottom photo, I was going to post this part finished on Saturday, but decided to just keep on stitching … Next up is probably finishing off a Christmas ornament that just needs a few beads to be added, and my In the Dark needleroll which also just has the beading to be done before it’s finished, then it’s back into the rotation properly again.

Where does time fly? (photo heavy)

Here we are – Christmas is past and the New Year is almost upon us … blimey, how did that happen?!!!

I spent a wonderful few days with Brenda and Nigel over in the northwest suburbs of Sydney for Christmas.  As usual Nigel did an exceptional job of Christmas dinner and we dined on turkey breast, baked ham, new potatoes, fresh beans and peas, followed by Nigel’s famous pavlova (the best I’ve ever eaten, and that’s saying something as I’ve tried many; it was always my fave dessert growing up).  Nigel doesn’t drink, so Brenda and I made up for his allowance, and we definitely imbibed a fair bit over those few days … including a bottle of Iron Gate Sweet Shiraz that I brought back from the Hunter Valley, and now Brenda is in love with it too 🙂

Santa was very very generous to me this year – my flatmate Lisa spoilt me rotten with some yummy chocolate dessert sauces, whisk and tea-towel set, a little tub of Mango Daiquiri mix (ie just add booze and chill), a Frangipani calendar and a beautiful bottle of Chocolate Port from Flaschengeist in a Christmas tree shape … boy she has a good memory, and Brenda and I had to sample it on Christmas Day to complete our Christmas dinner festivities.  My other friend (who is about to become my new flatmate – see more below) bought me a beautiful blue and gold necklace and earring set, but I forgot to take a photo of it as I’m wearing it today!

Mum bought me a stunning greenstone (NZ Jade)  necklace (I chose it when I was in NZ), with a fish hook shape with a whale’s tale at the end … very pretty 🙂

Greenstone pendant from Mum

I also spend my Christmas money on an exquisite piece of glass sculpture – we hunted for the entire day for one with ‘just the right colourings’, and just as we’d given up we found one in downtown Auckland.  This is a “Koru”, or Silver Fern frond, and I just adore it to death.  Unfortunately the photo was taken without a light shining through it, so you can’t see the beautiful colours … I really must try to get a good photo of it.  Brenda really loved this one too.  Eventually I want to have a glass display cabinet which will house my stitching smalls, and this will sit on the top shelp with a spotlight on it to highlight the colourings 🙂

Koru in art glass

Brenda and Nigel gave me something that I will truly treasure always – Brenda does ceramic classes, and she’s done some incredible pieces … and this year she made me a Christmas keepsake that will bring years and years of happiness while it’s proudly on display.  Handmade gifts are the best, and I feel truly honoured to have one of her pieces to call my own!! 😀

Christmas gift from Brenda

Talking of exquisite hand-made gifts, I also finally remembered to take a photo of the stunning ornie that Katrina gave me for Christmas, and it’s proudly hanging on my hand-made ornie tree.  Thanks again Katrina, I really really love it!

Christmas ornie from Katrina

Today I went shopping after dropping my mobile phone off to be sent off for repair, and unexpectedly picked up a new Christmas tree with 75% off at Myer, which means this year is the final time I will have a teeny tiny wee tree … next year I will have a big 2m tall tree overpowering the lounge space … and I can’t wait!! haha.  Next year that should mean I can combine my bauble ornies with my hand-stitched ornies 😀

I did take a couple of photos of the various Christmas displays in my wee lounge to show Mum, including my set of 3 tables that the removalists tried to demolish (they broke 3 entire legs off of the largest one) – Nigel managed to glue them back together for me over Christmas, bless him, so I’m thrilled to have my tables back on display again yippee 🙂

Set of tables

Mum, this is the centrepiece display I was telling you about on the phone … I really love it!

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Christmas corner

Christmas lounge

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And I finally “finished” another piece and put the ribbon around my flat-fold that I made quite some time ago (probably 2 years ago now!) – I love the bright red of the ribbon.

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While I was shopping today I also scored a couple of cans of English Heinz Tomato Soup … ah, I’m in heaven!  The Aussie version of Heinz soup isn’t quite the same, so I had a wee splurge. Not in the photo is also a bag of lemon sherbet bon-bons and box of Black Knight licorice 😉

Heinz soup

I also picked up a couple of other treats … including a “fish on a stick” … this is also a photo for Mum’s benefit! I made a decision after visiting a shop with a marine/ocean/beach theme months ago that I really want to have that sort of theme for my lounge, and have been buying a couple of pieces every now and then (I think Susan set the seed with all of her dream home decor photos months and months ago, and it must have been sitting at the back of my brain all this time!) … first of all I bought some starfish for my coffee table when I had my girlie weekend away with Brenda and friends, and I’m now thinking of stitching some small shells along the edge of my sheer curtains … but now I have my own blue fish on a stick too! I also bought a wee tub of coral and shells to place in a plain glass bowl, but didn’t take a photo.

fish on a stick

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On a different note, last night I had a right royal treat – Tannia and her OH came to visit and stay the night. Even though it was a whirlwind visit, it was so lovely to see them both again – I miss them here in Sydney! I actually felt a bit flat after they left, and ended up taking the day off work to make up for a day I worked while in Auckland during my annual leave. Hence the reason I spent the day shopping, I think! I did feel really bad, though, ‘cos Tannia was her ever-thoughtful self and brought me some luscious gifts, and I had nothing to give in return … I’m such a bad friend! 😦

Friendship gift from Tannia

Thanks so much again Tannia, I love everything, and I miss you loads! {hugs}

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The final news that I intimated about earlier, is that my flatmate Lisa is heading back to Melbourne at the end of January.  Her secondment is up then and she’s not interested in renewing it for different reasons … some job-related and some personal reasons.  I’m going to miss having her around the place, as we’d become quite close over the last couple of months especially.  All is not lost, however, as Katie is going to be moving in instead – her own living situation isn’t great (her flatmate is a druggie and, although quite good fun, is quite strange!).  At least I won’t have to find someone else that I don’t know, and don’t have to struggle to make the rent on my own, which is great!  Fingers crossed it’ll all work out, and we find living together OK.

Rightio, I think that’s just about all the news for now … I’m a bit scatter-brained at the moment, so I’ve probably forgotten something! I thought I’d better hurry up and make a post, though, as New Year will be here in 2 nights, and it’s unlikely I’ll be back online until we’re already into 2009!

On that note, I’d like to wish you all a prosperous and wonderful 2009!! 😀

Merry Christmas everyone!

Just a really quick drive-by as a head off to work …

I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. 

Here’s hoping that 2009 brings you peace, joy and happiness, and everything your hearts desire. 

Thank you for your continued friendship and support throughout 2008, even though I don’t post/comment as often as I used to. 

I look forward to catching up with you all in the New Year.

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Love,