The 7 Best Ways To Find Your Christmas Spirit If You’re A Grinch

In spite of my newfound, VERY mature thoughts about the insignificance of consumerism in my life at this time here, I have launched myself full throttle into Christmas.

Living room with full of Christmas decorations.

To be honest, I’m a bit of a Christmas tragic. We were fortunate to have a mother who made the festivities so special for us that even though she died in December, the month remains my favourite in the year. In some ways, I suppose, I want to uphold her tradition of Christmas madness because it feels like a celebration of her life. My sister is as bad. So much so, we have an annual race to get the tree up first. I won this year. (Just saying, Ange).

When we lived in the UK, we used to wait until mid December before we put the tree up – although I’m sure that has changed as the world gets more and more embroiled in the commercialism of the season. But here, in Australia, we kick off the celebrations much earlier, probably because it is the start of our long summer holidays, or possibly for the benefit of the many migrants who struggle to find their Christmas spirit.

I fully commit. While many of my British circle don’t feel Christmas is the same in a hot climate, I have embraced the morning swim on Christmas morning with gusto, followed by turkey and Christmas pudding – even in 35-degree heat!

Needless to say, by late November I’ve already mentally signed off for the year and entrenched myself fully in plans for our annual Chrissy Drinks, what to wear on the special days, and Christmas shopping. This year, I’m even going to see White Christmas with some fellow Christmas freaks.

So, if you’re a Grinch and need some help in the Christmas spirit department, here are my 7 great ways to find it:

1.Add some sparkle to your home. OBVS, a tree is the best, but if you can’t be bothered, a liberal dose of tinsel and coloured lights will do the trick. I have a rather fetching bauble head piece that I wear.

2. Nothing beats the aroma of Christmas spices. I still make Delia’s Red Cabbage each year, even though everyone in the family hates it. The smell of cloves and cinnamon push me up one more notch on the Christmas madness scale.

3. Fish out the Christmas movies. I can recommend the latest piece of schmalz from the UK – Last Christmas – in spite of the reviews. Emma Thompson is superb, Emilia Clarke is magnetic, and Henry Golding makes for some lovely tree candy. Although, for my money you can’t beat The Holiday or the Christmas scenes in Bridget Jones.

4. Go to Aldi and stock up on all their yummy Christmas treats. It is a scientifically-proven fact that calories don’t count at Christmas and while you might think you don’t need that DIY Gingerbread House, of course you do!

5. Christmas music – At home, in the car, in the shower. Sex is good, but absolutely nothing beats dancing around the kitchen to Mariah’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You.”

6. Give/Donate/Be Kind. So we all know that the old saying that giving is better than receiving is a load of old bollocks, but even the biggest cynic knows that nothing beats the high to be had from “giving.” If you can find a way to donate or help someone at Christmas, I promise you’ll enjoy yours all the more. Whatever your budget, even the tiniest act of generosity can make a difference to those less fortunate than you. Buy charity Christmas, donate some cash, help the koalas, or thank the firemen, but make a difference! This year, I’m going to “donate a plate” for the homeless via The Wayside Chapel here.

7. Don’t be a Grinch and you might actually enjoy it. Be positive. Don’t worry about who you don’t like or who doesn’t like you at Christmas lunch, family feuds, or undercooking the turkey. There are fewer and fewer occasions when families and communities get the opportunity to simply BE together, so whether you are religious or not, look at Christmas that way. It is a reminder about what is important. No one’s really coming for the turkey (who would?) or the booze – they’re coming to see you, to see each other. They’re coming for that magical sense of belonging that lose sight of in our busy lives. Christmas has this incredible power to reinstate it.

Fortunately for me, after almost thirty years together, Scrooge has resigned himself to my craziness at this time of the year. He refuses to indulge in it – evidently, he has picked up that it is much safer not to burst my Christmas bauble – but each year, he dutifully buys the ice for the Christmas party, mixes the drinks, and then (I imagine) he rolls his eyes the minute my back is turned. On Boxing Day, when I am rocking in a corner, he skips around the house singing his self-penned “Christmas Is Over” song with gay abandon.

How Do You Defrost A Turkey Quickly? Asking For A Friend

The red cabbage is out of the oven to the somewhat predictable retching noises from NC – proof that she is a rubbish vegetarian. The presents are wrapped and under the tree – apart from mine, which I have no doubt will be remembered sometime between the closing credits of Elf and bedtime. And the Princess thinks that I haven’t noticed the number of gingerbread biscuits she has snuck from our mouths.

I’m freaking that the turkey won’t be defrosted in time or that I’ve forgotten something major from the list of what I am contributing tomorrow – even though it feels like I’ve done a supermarket sweep of the Coles’ shelves every day of this month. I’m worried that Kurt will forget that tomorrow is the big day and that I need my vacuum back, or that the Princess won’t fit into her outfit.

But we are as ready as we will ever be, or need to be. For we will be in the company of good friends – our surrogate family in Oz – who will forgive me if my turkey gives them listeria or if the pavlova cascades off the plate like a volcano because I didn’t want to put my glass down long enough to whip the cream to soft peaks.

We are lucky, but some are not.

A good friend from the UK posted this on her Facebook timeline a few days ago:

This time of year is not great for everyone, so my house is a safe zone. Coffee or tea can be on in minutes. Wine can be brought out as well. My table is non-judgmental. Any family or friend who needs to chat, eat or drink is welcome. We can talk, share a laugh, a cry, or just listen. If you’re hungry, I’ll feed you. I will always do my best to be available… you are always welcome!! This is an old-school value that has been lost to technology…a text, Facetime, gif or emoji is NOT the equivalent. I’m hoping that at least one friend copies this and posts it if you feel the same. I just did from another friend. Merry Christmas!

Likewise, there’s always room at our table should you find yourself alone on Christmas Day on the Northern Beaches of Sydney.

I’ll save the New Year’s reflections and aspirations for 2019 for once the Christmas craziness has died down and I’ve reduced my medication back to its normal dosage. It will give me something to do in that scary vacuum of too much over-thinking time between Christmas and New Year.

But until then, thanks for reading, and a Happy Christmas to everyone!

BTW: How do you defrost a turkey quickly? Asking for a friend.

Recipe For The Best Christmas Punch, (Or How To Get Your Friends Slaughtered At Your Christmas Party)

So, this year’s Christmas party is done and dusted. More than thirty of us sweltered under the deck on what felt like the hottest day of the past month – as ordained by climate change or whichever God seems to take such personal pleasure out of fucking up my life as often as possible.

And yet, other than NC’s comments about how my plastic glasses were killing turtles, the permanent gush of sweat dribbling down my back, the red punch stains down my new silk lounge pants, the soggy lettuce in the mini prawn cocktails, the coriander I bought instead of mint, or (as per usual), my inability to remember to cook up the bulk of the frozen savory appetizers after a few glasses of aforementioned punch, all went surprisingly well.

Photo from original Taste recipe

I’ve decided that along with Michael Buble’s Christmas songs on repeat, watching the expressions on the faces of kids eating olives for the first time and Amaretto mince pies, a good Christmas punch is an absolute necessity for a Christmas party. And once our core group of 50-somethings had nervously sniffed our version, got to grips with their (justified) fears about what was in it, (because of work the next day etc), it didn’t take long until we found ourselves on a community mission to finish all eighteen litres of the devilish stuff.

The old man – who knocks up a mean Sangria for each birthday party – tried out a new punch recipe this year – The Berry Christmas Punch from Taste. And because it’s Christmas and the season for giving, and it received such a wealth of slurred compliments (I think), I thought I’d gift it to you.

BERRY CHRISTMAS PUNCH (6 Servings)

Ingredients:

1.5 litres of raspberry/cranberry juice, well-chilled

2 x 187ml Sparkling wine, well-chilled

1/2 cup of Cointreau

2 limes

250g strawberries

150g blueberries

120g raspberries

1/4 cup of fresh mint leaves

Method:

Pour the cranberry juice, sparkling wine and Cointreau into punch bowl. Use your hands to squeeze some of the juice from the limes into the punch. Stir to combine. Add the squeezed limes to the punch.

Add the strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and mint leaves.

FYI, a few changes we made from the original recipe: we used cranberry juice and a bottle of processed lime juice for $2 in place of the 12 limes at $1.50 each – WTF? Also, there was no mint in our version, for obvious reasons.

You’re welcome!

Celebrating Your Millennial’s Birthday In Style

In spite of Kim Jong-un’s very obvious intention to spoil all our fun, Saturday marked the end of the last birthday “event” in our house for this year, as well as the end of winter and its excuse for visible leg hair. girl-438133_1920

 

It was NC’s 23rd birthday “event” and she chose to mark its Grand Finale with an intimate gathering of close friends at our place. You see, we don’t celebrate a birth “day” in our house, we have full-on festivals that usually last a minimum of two weeks or until the old man puts the birthday cards in the bin. It is a tradition passed down by my mum, who, even when the Bailiffs were knocking at the door, celebrated birthdays and Christmas in style. Once I got my head beyond the other tradition in our family – which is dying under forty – I decided it made sense to fully embrace her wisdom of making every year count.

 

With so little blood family here with whom to celebrate, the onus is on our little band of warriors to make our birthday “events” really special – difficult when you’re married to Scrooge – and those that have stood out in the past include NC’s seventeenth when she was too hungover to turn up to her own birthday lunch, and her twenty-first – which had a Marvel theme rather than the Cinderella theme I had anticipated, much to my private disappointment. It was relatively easy to return the pink ball gown back to Myer, but the cancellation of her dowry of two-for-one Simmonds to her Prince Charming – something Kurt seemed up for – was awkward.

 

Warm-up celebrations began two weeks ago and kicked off with a Bachie marathon, for which we fully intended to dress up in our cocktail dresses and sup on Champagne until we remembered that we don’t own cocktail dresses. Anyway, PJs are so much more comfortable than dresses especially as it was still winter here and as my brainiac daughter pointed out – Matty J couldn’t actually see us! Wine replaced Champagne because I suspect Kurt drank the only bottle of Champagne to last longer than a few hours in our house, that I thought was in the cupboard – a bottle the old man must have bought in a rare moment of madness prior to The Great Depression of 2015.

 

Then came the family celebration on the day itself – a meal out together where all our best intentions to be civil to one another for one night of the year ended in tears before the arrival of the chicken wings, negating one of NC’s best opportunities to moan about animal cruelty while we pretended to care. Kurt is usually the surprise guest at these meals because not even the promise of free nosh can tempt our son away from his bedroom and Breaking Bad these days.

 

Which led us to Saturday’s Millennial gathering – an intimate soiree of close friends, all twenty-something and gorgeous, for which the old man knocked up his now infamous Sangria and spent the remainder of the evening averting his eyes to breast spillage and feigning deafness during talk of penis size. Even Kurt was on form, breaking the family record for Sangria consumption without projectile vomiting.

 

Obviously, we have to conceal the full list of birthday events from the old man when all our birthdays coincide with the end of the financial year and it is a time of family mourning in our house. But between you and us, they included:

 

  • FULL access to the tv for once, for our marathon session of Bachie. This package included the predictability of hourly snipes from the old man about how we are supposed to be feminists – yawn! – while he pretended not to watch it. His refusal to get out ‘his guns’ so that we could pretend he was Matty J and objectify him was a disappointment – and frankly very un-British
  • A girls’ lunch of oysters and Sparkly prior to the birthday dinner
  • A shopping trip to buy an impulsive party outfit that neither of us will ever wear again
  • Pres, before the party pres
  • A full body makeover for each of us to include our leaving the house/end-of-winter leg shave. All hair will be donated to either the costume department of GOT for John Snow’s cape for Season 8, or my preference, a charity that turns it into hair extensions for those menstruating women or ones that have recently come out of a relationship, chopped all their hair off on impulse and look nothing like Charlene Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Cake-testing session
  • A visit to the hairdressers to become Daenerys Targaryen, because blondes definitely seem to have more fun
  • Hourly readings of the temperature of the Sangria for NC to record the impact of climate change on Spanish alcoholic beverages

 

 

 

 

 

My Seven Secrets To A Lasting Marriage

rose-petals-693570_1920Apparently, marriage is back in fashion and as it was our anniversary yesterday – hence, that time of the year where I selflessly dedicate twenty-four hours of my time to be nice to my husband in return for a slap-up meal – I’ve decided to share the reasons behind our unmitigated happiness and unbridled passion.

 

Is marriage what I expected when I stood at that altar all those years ago?

 

Perhaps. It would have helped if either one of us had been grown ups or I hadn’t been looking through the rose-tinted glasses of a bride, more concerned about whether the wedding favors matched the flowers, or where I could smoke in a marquee. But a warning about the shit stains in the loo, the money worries and the curse of children wouldn’t have gone amiss, so my first secret is tolerance. Because whenever the old man fucks up, I always try to remember that no-one is perfect, even though I come pretty close.

 

I do miss being able to do exactly what I want to do all the time. Last Sunday was the perfect example of where compromise sucks. NC and I decided to watch the first season of a new series together and after a six-hour mammoth session of over-achievement, the old man dared to demand the tv room back, so while she sloped off to watch the rest of the series in her bedroom, I was left to sulk and invent new forms of torture for him. You spend a lot of time planning your partner’s death in marriage.

 

Communication and mutual interests are hugely important, which is why we continue to drink copious amounts of wine together. I did invite him to hot yoga with me – normal yoga during the menopause – but that was obviously never going to happen. “Walking” together clears the cobwebs and eases the tensions in neutral territory where we can discuss important shit without access to crockery to throw. Who knows, this time next year we could be gardening together.

 

Admittedly, I never thought we’d make the twenty-four-year mark and having realistic expectations has helped. I carried the stigma of being the first child of a divorce at school – please refer to scarred by my parents – so I was skeptical about marriage. But so far, we’ve weathered the near cyclonic storms with minimal damage – both the ones I’ve created because I like the sound of my own voice as well as the ones that life has thrown at us, such as the loss of loved ones, career disappointments, money lost through investment and that murky bag of smaller, miscellaneous disappointments that form part of the fabric of life. So you need backbone and commitment to keep going, as well as something that comes later in life for me – an appreciation of the little things.

 

Trust is a huge part of marriage. I admit that I am one of those stupid women to entrust my husband with our money – mainly because I am useless with it and we would be living on the streets if I managed it for us. A ‘running away’ account is currently being negotiated because we I am very open like that. In much the same way, he has entrusted me with the organization of our social life, because he is useless with people and would become a hermit somewhere in the Snowy Mountains if allowed. 

 

And my last secret is that you need to cuddle. A lot. Now, I’m not a natural cuddler – see ref. above about being screwed up as a child – but the old man is like a big teddy bear that needs to feel loved. Some might call him “needy.”

 

Twenty-five years might be pushing it if the old man’s rabbit in the headlights expression was anything to go by when I said we need to do something amazing next year – please refer to realistic expectations above.

 

Here they are again:

Communicate

Compromise

Mutual Interests

Cuddle

Commitment

Tolerance

Trust

 

 

 

 

Fuck! I’m Nearly Fifty

So I’ve had nearly fifty years to organise my half-century mammoth birthday party to end all birthday parties.

Fuck! I'm Nearly Fifty
FreeImages.com/Yaziki Ekrem

And I have thought about it a lot in the past. But now I’m actually here, I’m not sure I can be bothered.

What happened to me? I used to pride myself on being an obsessive organiser and have wasted hours of valuable living time ruminating over all these fab plans since my fortieth. I was going to have a formal sit-down dinner, live jazz playing gently in the background, hired help (young, male and shirtless, preferably), the surprise appearance of Chris Hemsworth and loads of expensive Champagne.

But then life got in the way and my energy levels feel so depleted at the moment I hardly know what day it is at the moment, let alone how to really celebrate what is fundamentally not a great milestone in your life, other than the relief at having made it. This is not a moan for once – I’m actually in a reasonably good place with the kids both away and the old man pretending to be at my beck and call because he feels guilty about not working at the moment and is obviously questioning just how I balanced work and being a housewife for the last twenty years without combusting. But I’m just too bloody busy to think, sleep or even find the time to drink wine at the moment.

We have too many damn things to celebrate at this time of the year, too and there’s only a certain amount of smiling this old face will take. We’ve already suffered the old man’s birthday with his cruel taunts and reminders that I’m a whole year older than him. Like that’s new! Then there was Kurt’s 18th where we all maxed out on the dangerous levels of testosterone in the apartment, it might be our anniversary sometime during the next week and NC’s 21st is drawing perilously closer and I haven’t even started on the anxiety and insomnia required for that – although I have started dreaming about accidental damage insurance and looking at my pristine carpet longingly…

So my fiftieth has kind of passed me by, been downgraded to a level 2 and no doubt will evolve into another of my mish-mashed, last-minute-dot-com, fumbled-together affairs where I forget vital ingredients or to cook at all because I remember to drink. I blame the meds – they remove some of the stress but they also take out any sense of urgency from my event-planning these days and I’ve turned into a ‘just rock up’, ‘laissez-faire’ type of girl now.

Even the thought of what I’m going to feed vegetarians and coeliacs isn’t phasing me, so I really can’t be bothered, can I?

It’s not like I can trust any of the organization to the old man, even if he has assumed unemployed bum status since he become a professional ‘in-between jobs’ person.

The ageing process is slowing me down, that’s what it is. MY fifty is the new sixty. Partying no longer turns me on in the same way as snoozing in front of movies, fantasising about Gary on Masterchef, getting to bed as early as possible and drinking vast quantities of herbal tea to prolong the health of my bladder. And frankly, the thought of squeezing my voluptuousness into a tight dress makes me feel quite nauseous.

Fuck I’m Nearly Fifty!

How Do You Keep Your Relationship Alive?

Texting...
Texting… (Photo credit: j0sh (www.pixael.com))

It was our 21-year anniversary last week.

 

We didn’t forget the date exactly but the old man was away at some conference pretending to be a very important international executive while I was working my butt off from Dysfunctionality House.

 

So aside from a couple of pathetically grovelling texts to make sure that the other didn’t think that the other had forgotten, the day kind of passed us by.

 

Which was actually ok. I mean we know we love each other and I’ve finally grown up and realised that ‘knowing’ can be enough; with unlimited access to the Mastercard, OBVIOUSLY.

 

It gets harder and harder to give our relationship the time it needs these days, with the teens around. In the old days, the kids were swaddled so tightly they couldn’t move in bed by 7pm so at least we found a few precious hours of ‘alone’ time. These days, NC, Kurt, their friends and partners are a permanent fixture in the apartment and would be horrified at the suggestion of anything more than light-hearted animosity between us; which is what they are used to.

 

How Do You Keep Your Relationship Interesting?
I recommend drinking copious amounts of alcohol to keep your relationship interesting.

On Saturday night we decided to go out for a meal to celebrate, nevertheless. Nothing fancy, just our favourite Japanese restaurant that does the wickedest burn-the-roof-off-your mouth Wasabi, melt-in-your mouth Sashimi, loadsacalories Tempura, orgasmic Wagu Beef and a comforting Teriyaki. I always follow the main with this wierd tea ice cream they serve because I can pretend it is a healthy dessert and I alos love watching the old man’s face turn a similar shade of green because he finds the whole concept of tea-flavoured ice-cream strangely revolting.

 

It’s no Cookies and Cream. And neither is marriage sometimes.

 

Luckily, the one thing the old man and I have always done well together is DRINKING. And when you’re tired and eating great food and have an excuse to celebrate, wine slips down the throat very easily and relaxes all those tensions that have been steadily building up over the last 21 years.

 

We were home by 8.30pm, which was far too early to end our private party so we foolishly opened a bottle of red this time, grabbed the furry rugs and the biggest bar of chocolate I’ve ever seen in my life and sat out on our balcony to put the world to rights. We spent those several drunken hours testing our eyesight by seeing who could read the furthest illuminated building signs and counting the number of ferries that came in and out of the harbour. We even discussed the carbon tax quite seriously at one point and then took our environmental conscience one step further and counted how many office blocks kept their lights on over the weekend.

 

A lot, it seems!

 

I don’t know how many times I mentioned how much I love living in the city. I can’t remember how many times the old man tried to bring Tiger Woods and the British Open into the conversation.

green tea ice cream goodness
green tea ice cream goodness (Photo credit: raffik)

 

I think we even had a kiss at some point and tongues might have connected so we must have been very, very drunk to breach the no physical contact rule except on birthdays and Christmas. Well, it was our anniversary, I suppose.

 

It was one of those spontaneous nights where nothing was really planned but the world stood still for a short moment to remind us of what we have.

 

How do you keep your relationship alive?

10 Best Father’s Day Gifts

Father & Child
Father & Child (Photo credit: absolut xman)

As Fathers Day looms the old man has taken to dropping hints at every opportunity.

But what can you really buy for the man who doesn’t believe in spending money?

To further complicate things, he has also imposed stringent rules about what we can and cannot buy him.

Apparently we are not allowed to buy him clothes, for example, as he sees me choosing his attire as a further example of ‘disempowerment’ – funny that he still asks me if he needs a jumper every time we leave the house, though. He assures me that he is more comfortable in his own style, which Kurt describes as his ‘pile of sh*t’ look – an effortless (as in ‘no effort’) layered style of toning brown-on-brown.

We are also not allowed to buy him alcohol, as the family is being forced to endure yet another of his ‘fitness’ fads, and he is currently at the halfway point between giving up and having a heart attack, somewhere midway across the Harbour bridge. He is determined to add to the statistics of men in their forties who try exercise for the first time and think it is easy, then suddenly drop dead.

Luckily, I have a direct line to his insurance company.

But I have come up with a few ideas of my own to thank the old man for his role as father to our children:

1. Chocolate is an obvious choice – I mean who doesn’t like chocolate? The problem is, that the old man likes it a little too much for his own good, and so we realised that in buying him his usual family-sized bar, we would be guilty of supplying him his drug. The old man with a bar of Cadburys is like watching a pig at a trough. Fortunately, he is fully aware that he has a problem and has recently banned all chocolate from the house, so we have to hide it in places he won’t find it, like the laundry and his wallet.

2. Although stylish clothes have been banned, he has suggested he might like to try some of those shorter, more retro board shorts that seem all the rage now. I agree that they may make his legs look a normal length longer, giving the sharks more to latch on to, but as his waist size changes from week to week, (depending on how much chocolate he finds), I don’t know whether to opt for his ‘fat’ size or his ‘kidding himself’ size – as us women know, neither will make him happy.

3. A new wallet would be a good choice for any normal man, but the old man has had the same wallet for the past twenty years and there’s barely a scratch on it.

4. I have also considered buying some Apple shares for the dividends we would get back from the old man keeping the company in business.

5. I’ve already ordered several new remote controls to provide us with some respite from the nightly ‘where is the f..cking remote control, now.’

6. I have privately thought about surprising him with Miley’s rubber two piece outfit that she wore so elegantly to the VMAs, but at the moment I can’t seem to get the tongue extension required to pull it off. This present is a work in progress and I have earmarked some All Black videos to watch this week for training purposes.

7. NC and I both thought that the old man might enjoy a back, crack and sack in readiness for his Summer body, especially if he is to wear those new shorter shorts. That idea seemed particularly appealing as I cleaned the stray urine from the base of the toilet again this morning.

8. Any form of tool is especially appropriate good for the old man, and these are particularly useful for re-gifting at Christmas as they are usually never unwrapped.

9. As a thoughtful treat, I thought I would prepare a special meal and try out a new recipe. Nothing too easy – I thought I’d go all out.  Kurt has even offered to invite some of his ADHD friends to make the evening a truly memorable occasion.

10. Finally, I thought I might truly surprise him with that new car upgrade I have nagged him about until I’m blue in the face we have discussed for those rare occasions when he gets to drive, now that he is God’s answer to Hussein Bolt.  I’ve  He’s had his eye on a new Lexus for a while now and I think it’s time to pay him back for his wonderful contribution to fatherhood and parenting. Fortunately for him, Lexus are having a sale at the moment so I figure that if I can get the GPS thrown in for free so that I can find him when he collapses on the bridge and he realises that I’ve saved him money, he’ll be really happy, right?