Thursday, 21 December 2017

Christmas Countdown: the feeding of Santa's helpers

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This is such an important part of Christmas.

It deserves the utmost care.

Have you thought of those who need watering and feeding Christmas Eve, and very early Christmas morning?

Yes, that's right, I'm talking about: Rudolph, Dancer, Prancer, and co. Busy work pulling that heavy sleigh through the skies, through hours on end, through different time zones. Not to mention all that careful landing and taking off, all through those hours. And having to be quiet about it so as not to wake anyone.

True Reindeer Story:

When my 2 eldest children were young, we had a concrete verandah outside the front door, and we lived on a large section, so there was lots of space.

By the way, at the back of our property, there were very large paddocks with horses roaming in them.

But, I digress. Each Christmas Eve was the solemn occasion of my two young children and their father collecting long grass, from the above mentioned paddock - they just whipped over the fence to get it. Putting it on the verandah and probably some water too. For Rudolph and his mates.

And, would you believe, every Christmas morning we would go outside and Oh, my gosh! Most of the grass would be eaten, and.... those darn reindeer, they always did poos on our verandah. Children's father would get extremely cross and rant and rave, then have to clear it up.

I kid you not. Every year.  It was an amazing thing to happen, those reindeer choosing us.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Staying calm in the Christmas Season

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This is certainly the time of year when tempers fray, and we become intolerant. Whereas, in reality, it could be a time of good cheer.

It is a time when partnerships, such as marriage, family, and friendships can undergo immense pressure. And it is not pleasant to be on the receiving end of it.

How can we ensure that we do not turn snappy, and create problems? I often remember a catchphrase that has been repeated innumerable times over the decades, from World War 2. It was apparently on a safety poster:

                       "Keep calm and carry on"

This advice was given to the British in a time when food was very scarce, children were being sent into the countryside to live with strangers for their own safety, men were fighting in a war, and the country was being bombed relentlessly.

That people did this under those severe conditions, is inspiring. I think that it is lovely to follow the advice from those times. It is a more gracious and kinder way of living. And makes everyone's Christmas much nicer.

 And finally........ the last word on coping with Christmas pressure:

                         Image result for happiness calmness over christmas

Monday, 18 December 2017

Christmas Carols Down Under

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Recently I was at the local (small) mall, and a group of Gospel singers started singing Christmas carols and such, in a really Gospel way, Polynesian style, which is extremely melodic and upbeat, but less "dramatic" than, say, American Gospel singers. 

Interdenominational, so it's open to all to join. All dressed in black, which, by the way, is sort of our National colour. (All Blacks, anyone?) I know that to those from the Northern climes, that wearing black in the summer heat, does seem a bit strange. But that's us. 

I loved the singing. And I also loved that a teenage girl did Samoan dancing for one of the songs. So lovely. Plus the boy aged about 7 or 8, who sang a solo. 

In Auckland we have a famous choir who sing each Christmas at a big Cathedral in Parnell. I've been once, and loved that too. And a small church in a small town called Huntly to join in Christmas carols, many moons ago. Plus.... a lovely church in the Inner City part of Auckland..again, many, many moons ago on Christmas Eve. 

I imagine that in the colder countries, Carolers are merrily caroling. And we do have groups here who do too, but it usually involves us going somewhere to listen, or join in.

But... school and University are finished for the years... and it's Christmas get together time... but mostly... we are at the beach.  

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Christmas celebrations and tipples

A more sombre/sober look at the Christmas season

I have never, ever been to a work Christmas "do" (kiwi parlance for a party), where alcohol flowed freely. For that, I am truly grateful, as I don't drink alcohol. But what if you would like a little tipple, but not a big one? I saw a friend at a party who carried around her half-glass of wine, with a strawberry floating in it. When I asked her about it, she laughed and said how she had just had a small amount of wine, then quietly kept topping it up with water.  Great hint! I suppose that someone like me could just have lemonade with a lovely strawberry in it, and then keep topping up with water.....

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Things have changed, here in the good ole En of Zed (n.z. = New Zealand). In my childhood it did seem as though alcohol consumption, mainly in the form of beer, was a national sport. How sad it must have been for the mums over Christmas (and the rest of the year....). Dealing with Dad's who had hangovers - and we all know how pleasant that can make some people! And dealing too with the lack of money that came from someone in the family's heavy drinking.

Nowadays, people drink far less alcohol, a bit of wine, or a couple of beers, or usually no alcohol, at family gatherings. SO much nicer for everyone, especially the children. I expect that we shall be having coconut water, maybe some sparkly in the form of appletize or grapetize, and these are both non-alcoholic. And water crammed with herbs like mint, vegetables like cucumber, and summer fruit. (of course, this is me again doing my Christmas wish thing) All cold, because it's summer here. And maybe a small tipple of wine or a few cold beers.

I go to many occasions where there is absolutely no alcohol. And with immediate family - we usually don't even think of having any booze-type drinks. We all enjoy ourselves at get-togethers.

And, whatever you choose to quench your thirst over this season - I hope that you too enjoy yourselves.

p.s. I have actually been a bit, you know, concerned, about Santa when he is Doing His Santa Thing whilst Down Under (New Zealand and Australia). Apparently he often gets left some wine or a beer.

What does he do with it all? Does he tip it into the pot plants? Throw it out the window? Give it to the dog? Or (gasp!) quaff it all?

Worrying to be sure.

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Friday, 15 December 2017

Countdown to Christmas: being organised

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A light-hearted look at the Christmas season

How can one possibly be organised in the pre-Christmas season? Is one ever? As I sit here writing I realise how social I've been, having wee Christmas catch-ups here, there, and everywhere,.... and I suddenly realise that I haven't done any present shopping.


Panic! I did however decide to clear out some belongings and so I got stuck into emptying out my storage shed. Is that organised, or what? And, does it actually have anything to do with Christmas? (No, it doesn't)

How do people do it? You know, those amazing people who buy lots of thoughtful presents, socialise, make a Christmas steamed pudding and Christmas cake ahead of time, and on the day they cook a massive meal in the sweltering heat? With home-made pavlova, of course (I am just fantasising here that everyone has what I would like to have).  And look good and be calm and reasonable whilst they do it all.

Who are these people? Well, they are women, obviously. And they are not me. I am amazed how unorganised one can be when one has more time in which to actually be organised. I was always more organised when I had very little time, being a working mum. Maybe because I knew how important Christmas was to my children.

But I have never, ever, made a Christmas pudding, Christmas cake, pavlova nor trifle. I am not a great cook so I always felt that it was more important for the good cooks to showcase their talents. I have children and grandchildren who are phenomenal cooks, so I'm really happy to sit back, praise, and be grateful for their efforts.  Three sneaky methods that us non-cooks have down pat. Especially at Christmas.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

christmas cheer: celebrations and food

A light - hearted look at the pre - Christmas season

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It is well underway: the pre-Christmas catch-up, the pre-Christmas gathering. The end of year barbecue at the beach, complete with silly presents, or on the deck (terrace/verandah) at one's home. It seems as though it is time to part-aay.

What do you take when one is asked to bring food to share... or, as in my childhood, there were instructions of: "ladies, bring a plate!" I don't think that anyone would say that now. I spent many months this year taking vegetarian food to share, to gatherings, as was requested. Hardly anyone ever ate it. It seems that it was only lipservice to vegetarianism.

My piece de resistance for these requests, after the dhal failure where people politely acted as though it wasn't there, was: a tin of brown lentils, a tin of baby beetroot, sliced, and both drained, plus feta cheese, and a splosh of the Paul Newmans (salad dressing). Once, in a fit of gay abandon, I dry roasted pumpkin seeds to artfully sprinkle through, skipped the cheese, added finely diced red onion, and tons of chopped celery, parsley and mint. Rather delicious. Sometimes I have added a drained tin of corn. But no matter what I did....because it was vegetarian (again, as requested!), it was treated with the utmost suspicion.

With my obvious failures, I have been at a loss of what to take for food to share. But now, I think that I may have cracked it for the summer season. Nearby where I live, is an old caravan, alongside a fruit and vegetable barn. Outside there is also a coffee stand, and a container converted into a designer burger place - always busy. The caravan sells vanilla ice-cream with fresh strawberries or banana mashed through. Choker with the fruit. In strawberry season, of course, which it is now. Absolutely delish! I took a couple of small containers to a get-together last night. I felt like a star! Finally! People liked (loved, actually) my food to share! I positively basked in "bring a plate" glory.

So that will be my offering for the family Christmas gathering. I am feeling rather proud about this.

p.s. Next to the roundabout at Parrs Park, Glen Eden, West Auckland. THE place to be seen in summer. On the way to Piha Beach.

                                   Image result for strawberries and ice-cream in summer

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

christmas decorations: razmataz

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The Ancient Art of Christmas Decorating.

What is Christmas if there is none of the Ole Razmataz? Whether one has a snowy (sigh! sounds so lovely) Christmas, or a very hot and sunny one, as I shall be having, here in New Zealand.

Christmas is certainly a time to get out the sparkly stuff, decorate one's abode, and put up a tree. Decorating lavishly at Christmas, is, I feel an art: The Ancient Art of Christmas Decorating.

I have fond memories of earnestly making crepe paper streamers as a child, to adorn the ceilings, along with sparkly twine-type stuff, called tinsel. Although money was scarce, Mum always found funds for the rolls of red crepe paper, and tinsel.

Then, as an impoverished young mum, I cut out stars, santas, angels, reindeer, etc from cheap magazines, pasted them onto cardboard, trimmed them, and made them into hanging decorations. We kept them, reverently, in a shoebox. Each year, my kids and I would get out that shoebox full of these decorations, and hang them on the Christmas tree. With tinsel and lights, of course.

With my youngest, of course I had a tree and decorations, and I still get teary eyed when I recall her getting a red bauble for the tree, saying that "this is for Nanna". Mum had passed over about two months prior to Christmas. I loved that bauble that we put up each year.

Later years led to having a fake tree, and I do not know where it went! But it did it's duty, adorned with lights and "stuff".  It was a gallant little tree.

Now, I live alone. I have one Christmas card from a friend, because now we all do the facebook and texting thing. A stash of Christmas chocolates in the fridge, some star shaped Christmas shortbread in the pantry, for visitors.

I no longer feel the need to do the Ole Christmas Razmataz, but I know that my three children, and five grandchildren, will be. I am quite happy to be this way.

And, if any dashing males turn up.... I may... or may not.... run to mistletoe. We'll see.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

countdown to christmas: gifts

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The preparations for Christmas Day are usually always frenetic and stressed. But need they be? Can they be happy and peaceful?

How can we make it so? I am thinking today of presents. In my family (my own descendants: children (one is a grandmother!), grandchildren (aged from 29 to 16), and great grandchild, the task of present -giving decisions was taken over by the eldest of the grandchildren, and my youngest child. Such is life. One must step aside for the upcoming generations, and these are the generations to whom Christmas, presents, and such, really matter.

A few years ago, the aforesaid generation had us all buying secret santa presents. For which I was exceptionally grateful, because as family grows, we get more people entering the family fold. Partners of the family members, which of course leads to... more children. Our family is now quite big. With secret santa, there is an amount that one spends on one only family member, & yes it is actually all quite secret. And fun.

This year it looks like we are doing a Present Box, sort of like secret santa, but a bit more unisex. Meaning that we will be doing a lucky dip so the present must suit young, or older, male or female. I think that this will be interesting. We shall still only be organising only 1 present, and it does require thought.

Plus there are secret santa gifts amongst friends, often costing only $10, and often based on hilarity.

Thoughtful gifts are the most meaningful, whether the intent is to provide laughter, or to fullfill  someone's dreams..  I propose that we endeavour, if we have not yet finished our present buying, to bring thoughtfulness to the forefront of gift giving. It is rewarding to the person who receives the present, plus the giver.... and anything rewarding is less stressful, and makes us happier.

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Wednesday, 6 December 2017

2017 review for moi

Nearing the end of the year, I have been reflective about my life. Did I do, or even achieve, anything that I had set out to do, as 2017 started?

Le blog

I wanted to rebuild my blogs, this one and my yoga blog, and although I have made inroads, I didn't actually achieve all that I wanted.

I did, bravely, step out on my yoga blog, and be a bit controversial. I was surprised that so many people contacted me being supportive of what I was writing. This has made me even more brave.....

I wasn't too disorganised, but I wasn't organised enough, I was a bit too social.. and other things.

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And, it was strange that through being a bit disorganised, I ended up sorting out how and what to do with my blogs.

So, I now have gotten everything ready to upgrade next year. Bit by bit. I hadn't realised the planning involved, to be honest, and just the planning alone has taken up a lot of time. There are other things involved with blogging, it's not just write something and then everyone reads it. Sadly, it doesn't happen that way, So I now devote more time behind the scenes, being involved with the blogosphere. I hadn't known that it was necessary, as a blogger. After all the extra work that I have put in, I now am very clear about the direction that I am going, with my blogs.

Now the journey to putting all that I learnt, into practice....

Health and such

Did I sort out exercise and diet, a lot better? I had great plans, but wasn't able to put them all into motion. However, I am so-o-o much healthier now, and it shows.

What have I achieved? I'm doing more walking, for a start. So at the moment it's shorter walks, but more of them, each day.

Rest and restore changes

I intentionally put more effort into recovering from many years of hard work and stress. I downsized work, dramatically, and looked more at what was best for me, on many levels.

I went back to early rising each morning. I just felt as though I was wasting my life getting up after 7am.

Dietary changes

This was an area which seriously needed revamping! I didn't eat heaps of rubbish, but was unorganised with food and often would end up eating food that I didn't actually enjoy, and that wasn't the best for me. Such as takeaway Thai, or chai and a scone at a cafe for lunch too many times a week.

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I have made lots of little tweaks to my diet, which mostly, just happened. And they just happened, because I had in mind various changes that I wanted to do. It took a bit of trial and error to work out what was best for me, and this is how I've gone so far:

I now drink 500 mls of water after dinner, and more if I have to go to the bathroom during the night. I also drink more during the day & now have water first thing, and with all meals.

I have something fresh with every meal: fruit or vegetables, I'm not fussy. And some protein with every meal. I get low blood sugar (in everyday parlance, that's like hungry for sugar), if I eat too many carbs.

Everything is getting more routine with food. To be honest, I am a plain eater, and I like it that way. I need more changes, but...bit by bit works just great for me.

What didn't happen

Other, big plans just didn't happen. Life got in the way plus I also feel that I had wasted too much time being social. Sometimes, we just have to stop and regroup our energies, then "go for it", as soon as the stars are aligned. I almost always finish what I set out to do, so I'm not too concerned here. Disappointed, but not concerned.

One of the problems with working from home, is that you can digress very easily. I need to work on this.

I made future unexpected plans

I am organising yoga workshops, starting early next year. Yoga is So Gym, now. (sigh....) But I am teaching highly specialised, mostly unknown, aspects of yoga, and this is my forte in the yoga field. I had not intended to do this again, but I have had so many requests, that I have now changed my mind.

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Main 2017 achievement

What happens when you pull back, is that you have time to sort out what and how you want your life to be. I didn't set out to do this, but it has happened.

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