19 December

For you

Here’s my Christmas present to you: yuletide gift-bringer selection tool

And this is what you do with it:

  • Print it out, double-sided. (Flip it on the short-edge if your printer gives you that option.) This should give you a page with doors on one side and green text boxes on the other, and a second page with pictures on one side and nothing on the other.
  • Cut around 3 of the 4 sides of each door, but don’t cut the left sides of the doors. (A Stanley knife[1] is a good tool for this, and a steel ruler will help you get it very straight.)
  • Put glue on the page with the green text boxes, but don’t put any on any of the green parts. Make sure you glue the edges well.
  • Carefully put the picture sheet on top of the green sheet, lining up the edges well, to make a sandwich:
    • The door sheet will be on the bottom, facing down.
    • The green text box sheet will be on the back of that.
    • The pictures will be the start of the next layer, facing down.
    • The top of the sandwich will be the blank page.
  • Now wait for the glue to dry.

Then you will have something that opens like an advent calendar but will explain the difference between the guys in red to your visitors. (You, of course, already know the difference between Sinterklaas and Father Christmas!)


Jeremy was helping me cook dinner when Danni asked, “What are we doing on Sunday?”

“You should know – we’ll be at your parents’ house,” said Jeremy.

“Not on Sunday,” said Danni. “We’re Serbian.”

“You are?” I said. “That’s wonderful!”

“What’s so good about being Serbian?” asked Jeremy, and then he added, “Is it racist to think that all Serbians are good?”

“Serbians celebrate Orthodox Christmas,” I explained, “and that’s on the 7th of January.”

“That’s right,” said Danni, “so what are we doing on Sunday?”

“Hey Mum, we can come to Christmas after all!” said Jeremy when he finally worked it out.

“That’s really, really good news,” I replied. (I felt like a two-tonne hat had just been taken off my head, and my eyes teared up, but I blamed the latter on the onions.)

I’ll have to extend the table after all. “Cosy” just doesn’t feel like Christmas to me. And I can justify making cherry tarts now, which is even better!

Mind you, it does mean I’m heading back to the supermarket tomorrow for mascarpone. And I’ll have to see if there’s any chance my butcher can upgrade me from that size twenty turkey. (We’ll have enough for dinner but there wouldn’t be much left over for tea and that’s not the way we roll in my house!)

[1] Also known as a retractable safety knife, or a box-cutter. (Yes, that’s the tool that brought down planes on 9/11, but it can be used for good as well as for evil.)

25 November

Bottled up

Today it’s exactly one (calendar) month till Christmas and you’ve bought most of your presents, your cards are sorted and the cake and the pudding are cooked and waiting.[1] Other people are beginning to think, “OMG! It’s only a month till Christmas and I’ve got so much to do!” but you can rest easy knowing that you have it all in control.

The fruit mince is ready too: it’s had its month of sitting around, so now you can bottle it. (I took a jar of mine around to Hannah and she said she’ll use it in an apple strüdel she was planning to cook for a beach picnic with Lachlan on Sunday, which is a pretty classy thing to do with mince if you think tarts are dull.)[2]


I saw an elf costume in an op shop last weekend and it was well made, in good condition and a perfect fit. (Yes, I tried it on.) I stood staring at myself in the mirror, alternating thoughts of “I could make curly shoes from green felt,” with “I have never yet had an occasion at which I should have been dressed as an elf,” and I finally left it in the shop so that I could ponder more.[3] But today, I saw the answer clearly: Father Christmas may be venerable, the innkeeper in the nativity play can be a septuagenarian and the Angel Gabriel is older than Moses, but you never see a middle-aged elf, so the chances that I would look silly are too high. (Curly shoes or no.)

[1] My cousin Brian used to say that the pudding was lurking: Auntie Betty would hang it in the pantry and he was sure it was just waiting for the right moment to plummet from the ceiling and crack his skull.

[2] Auntie Margie’s baked potatoes with cheese and fruit mince are less likely to be crowd-pleasers. Her son Russell loved them though and so his mother gave him a blank cookbook and wrote the recipe into it for him. (That was twenty years ago, and I believe he’s only added one other recipe to the book since.)

[3] I decided to risk being gazumped by someone my size with a stronger desire to self-elf.

11 November

Remotely interested in shopping

Buying presents through the internet or by old-school mail order is particularly good for people who live a long way away because you can have the present delivered directly to their address.[1]

Some caveats:

  • If you want it to be a surprise, perhaps you can address it to someone else in the household and ask them to keep it from the recipient.[2]
  • Some of these websites have gift wrapping services but some don’t.
  • If you’re sending a present to someone who lives overseas, buy it from a website based in their country and organise local postage.[3]
11 nov 2016.jpg
Post haste.

Christmas Day 1970: Mum wanted to put Matthew to bed after our Mallee cousins left. Dad suggested that he skip his nightly bath but Mum looked at his jelly-smeared hands[4] and the mouth that had been eating lollies constantly since the morning and decided bathing wasn’t optional. Matthew didn’t want to miss anything[5] and started crying but then Auntie Pat suggested that Steve (who was a year older and hence a year cooler and a source of much fun)[6] join him in the bath and so the party continued and everything was fine.

[1] This works for nearly everyone but not for my friend Jenny’s brother-in-law when he spent a year in the Antarctic at one of the research stations. (He had a white Christmas, even though it was actually summer.)

[2] My friend Fiona and I cycled around Tasmania together after we left school and each bought our fathers “Tasmanian Wilderness” calendars for Christmas. The calendars came with good, sturdy mailing pouches, which meant we could send them home safely straight away but the pouches were emblazoned with logos that gave the game away. So I sent one to me c/o Fiona’s address and she sent one to herself c/o my address, and we each said, “Oh, it’s for my friend’s dad,” when we got home … but then just kept the one we had in our hands.

[3] Where possible. Not even Father Christmas delivers to Antarctica (even though he’s dressed for it).

[4] He had been forced to use a spoon when eating jelly, but that doesn’t stop a four-year-old from making a mess.

[5] Or perhaps he was resisting yet another change of clothes.

[6] I believe this is when Steve taught Matthew how to make fart sounds by blowing into the crook of his elbow.