Christmas Day

My first task this morning was to bake the ham that we’d be taking to Christmas lunch at my wife’s family gathering. This is not a large gathering – there were only eight of us, plus a few drop-ins who showed up briefly. So I’d bought a very small ham to avoid ridiculous amounts of leftovers. Which meant it took only a bit over an hour to bake.

We packed that and the remaining lentil balls and drove over to my in-laws’ place, which is a small waterfront property on Sydney Harbour. It has easy access to a small secluded beach which is never very busy. Anchored offshore were several yachts and small cruising boats, with people having their Christmas lunches on the water, and spending time leaping into the harbour to cool off from the warmth of the day. The weather was warmish, but relatively mild for this time of the year, which was nice.

We had pre-lunch nibbles – cheese, crackers, dips, breadsticks. Then the gifts were handed out. Scully got a few, and enjoyed tearing the wrappings off:

Scully opening Christmas presents

Then was lunch: ham, turkey, lentil balls, roast potatoes and pumpkin and carrots and onions, salad, bread. And then dessert: traditional Christmas fruit pudding, ice cream, and a deconstructed pavlova platter which my nephew made, with custard, cream, and tons of fresh fruits: passionfruit, mango, blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries. This was a really great dessert, as everyone helped themselves to exactly the proportions of pavlova, custard, cream, and fruit they wanted. It was delicious!

Deconstructed pavlova grazing board

After the meal we lazed around for a while, too full to do anything else. Then my two nephews and I decided to go for a swim down at the beach. We took Scully as well, so she could run around and play on the sand. I didn’t swim for long, but did a couple hundred metres of freestyle stroke out from the beach into deep water amongst the boats and back. There are supposedly bull sharks in Sydney Harbour, but I’ve swum here many times and never seen any.

Following the swim, we pulled out some board games. We played a couple of games of Codenames and then Azul (which my wife won handily).

By now it was evening and the tradition of watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation on the TV had begun. My wife and I watched a bit of it with everyone, and then headed home for the remainder of the evening.

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Christmas Eve

I got up early this morning and went to play golf with my friend Andrew, the one who got me started playing golf this year. We’d only played together on the short par 3 “pitch and putt” course where I started learning, but today he came along to the local course near me at Lane Cove, and we played 9 holes. I felt like I was dong poorly, because I didn’t do very well on any hole, but neither did I have any blow-outs like a 10 or 12 which I’ve had previously, and I ended up with a total of 57, 2 strokes better than my previous best at this course. So that was pretty good!

Andrew hit the shot of the day, a gorgeous long, straight drive off the 9th tee… until it hit an overhead power line and bounced off straight down into the turf. That easily cost him 50-100 metres of distance on the shot. My skew-whiff tee shot skimming across the grass ended up going virtually the same distance.

After returning home I relaxed a bit, before my wife and I dropped Scully with our neighbour for dogsitting, while we drove about an hour across Sydney to my aunt & uncle’s place where they were hosting my family’s Christmas dinner. We’ve always done a big family gathering on Christmas Eve, being the German tradition, and it’s convenient because all the people then visit the spouse’s family on Christmas Day. Tonight there were several aunts and uncles and cousins and kids of cousins, and a few friends of the family who aren’t related but just came over because why not?

We caught up and chatted over drinks and pretzels, and then dinner was served and people helped themselves to cold plates of ham, chicken, roast pork, a beef salad, a green salad, a pasta salad, roast potatoes, and the spicy lentil balls that we made yesterday.

After dinner was the giving of gifts. A cousin got dressed up as Santa Claus and handed out all the gifts from under the Christmas tree. The children get most of the gifts as usual. The gifts were then opened and everyone showed off what they got. It’s interesting the contrast between Christmas traditions. In my family it’s always been the case that someone dressed as Santa hands out all the gifts, and people collect a small pile of wrapped presents next to them. Then once they’re all handed out, everyone opens them all simultaneously, and there’s shouting and excitement and people yelling “Thank you!” across the patio as everyone is ripping off wrapping paper. But I’ve been at other family Christmas gatherings, where each gift is handed out, and then the recipient opens it while everybody watches, and then the next gift is handed out, and so on.

After gifts, dessert was served. This is always a highlight because the wife of one of my cousins is a great cook and always makes amazing cakes and treats. This year she’d made a super moist date cake and a batch of reindeer cookies. There were also cheesecakes and whipped cream and custard. After this my wife and I said goodbyes and we came home to retrieve Scully from her playdate with the dog next door. She’s exhausted, as are we!

And tomorrow, Christmas Day, we get to do it all again with my wife’s family!

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Family lunch

Today I took a road trip with my wife and Scully, up the coast an hour and a bit to visit my mother for lunch. We went to a nice cafe, which is attached to a local art gallery. I don’t see my mother very often, so it was good to catch up and share stories from my recent travels and what I’ve been doing lately.

We got home late afternoon, and were all pretty exhausted from the day and all the driving, so it’s been a lazy evening, watching a Harry Potter movie (Goblet of Fire, perhaps the worst one, but it’s what we’re up to in a full rewatch).

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