As the sun is beaming, the jasmine and roses are out and passionfruit are being squeezed over just about everything as they fall off our vines we know it is summer and therefore nearly Christmas in the Land Down Under. Despite it apparently being perfectly acceptable come December 1st to decorate your entire house including the tree this does NOT HAPPEN IN THE CAMERON HOUSEHOLD. I put the front door wreath up and decorate some of the rooms around now and a week to 10 days before Christmas we buy a real tree so it smells divinely piney and is full of zingy freshness for the Big Day. Obviously you can’t decorate it without having a silly santa hat on and belting out a tune to Bing Crosby as you go. If there are mince pies and a glass of something festive all the better. If there are members of your family to share this with, better still. We have progressed well past the point where we hung all sorts of handmade decorations that the kids made (mostly squiggly bits of broken pasta glued into some Xmas shapes) and instead I attempt an adult type theme. Some years it’s all traditional red and green, others gold and black or silver and white. Some years we go a bit folky and have wooden reindeer and stars and a bit of a Scandinavian type look. Whichever theme I go with I try and continue with the wrapping paper and ribbon. It gives me great pleasure to see it looking pretty and dressed and a bit co-ordinated!! (However I’m pretty sure if and when I get any grandkids I shall enjoy their wonky decoration of the bottom metre of the tree in any mismatched way their little heart’s desire!!)
Christmas is a lot more tranquil nowadays, as most of my gift receivers are now grown up. The wish list is smaller (yet more expensive) and it’s much harder to surprise people with something special. My overseas prezzies have already been sent and I literally only have a couple of things left to get so it’s now all about planning THE FOOD. This is a highly enjoyable part of the season for me. Although we do mostly follow tradition I like to drop in the odd new recipe to see if it becomes our new favourite. The fact that I have my family for 3-5 days now we are here in the country gives me an excuse to spread out the yumminess over several days and between us we leave very few leftovers! This year however we have been warned that we may have an ‘issue’ with our beloved seafood. Two diseases have been affecting our prawn and oyster industry. White spot is a highly contagious viral infection that affects crustaceans. White spot disease is widespread throughout prawn farming regions in Asia and the Americas where it has caused severe losses on prawn farms and it is now crucial that people fishing or crabbing anywhere in Australia’s waterways do not use prawns intended for human consumption as bait. Prawns sold in supermarkets could potentially spread the virus in waterways despite not being dangerous to humans. Outbreaks of white spot disease can have devastating impacts on aquaculture businesses and potentially harm popular commercial and recreational fishing areas. Once identified all the prawns have to be removed from the farms which then lie fallow for a year to help eradicate the virus which obviously has devastating financial effects on the industry. Needless to say that the prawn price will skyrocket if supply is low so we may be in for an expensive lunch….Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome (POMS) is a disease which affects Pacific Oysters. The virus is harmless to humans but kills oysters in days. The virus attacks the gills of the oyster and in layman’s terms suffocates the oyster. The demand over the Christmas period will no doubt put the price through the roof as supply may be compromised. This does not bode well for our family for whom seafood on Xmas Day is compulsory (even this little English girl adores this tradition) and as we have a lemon and lime tree laden with fruit a large platter of these delicious molluscs simply served with lemons from the tree or this fresh tangy Thai style dressing is a wonderful start to our lunch. So easy and you can still taste the briny oysters underneath. Enjoy!
- 3 tbsp lime juice
- 1 tbsp palm sugar
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp chopped coriander
- Mix together and drizzle over oysters immediately prior to eating them. **********
The Festive Season can certainly be tricky. It’s something we have all been brought up to look forward to and there is a certain amount of pressure that goes along with all the expectations. The combination of these high expectations, often copious quantities of alcohol and family members from near and far being flung together can be a recipe for disaster. Chuck in some discussions on politics, religion or housing affordability or throw a newly fledged vegetarian into the midst of the pork crackling and things can go off the Richter Scale. When there are littlies are around it’s easy to keep the whole day magical but for us it’s mostly a wonderful rare opportunity to have our immediate family all together, enjoying each other’s company in a relatively relaxed way. This year we are going to embrace lawn games. Our traditional annual cricket game (with a freshly mown pitch courtesy of the MOTH), croquet, boules, petanque and in case of rain we have table tennis and darts in the garage too! This will interrupt the chilled prosecco and icy beers long enough for everyone to fight about ‘cheating’ siblings or to tease each other about skills that could do with some help. It will be loud, chaotic and wonderful and I am looking forward to it immensely.
However for lots of people it is going to be more like a day or two to be ‘got through’ as they do not have the luxury of family or sometimes even friends to share it with. It is a huge pressure for households that literally have no extra money for gifts or festive food. For those people that struggle with anxiety or depression it is a real trigger with more suicides occurring at this time of year than any other. It is also a very hard time of year for those that have lost their loved ones with memories of previous happy years running through their heads, a bittersweet day. Sadly this week we said goodbye to my Sister-in-Law. She was a tiny girl, less than 5 foot tall but with a strength and tenacity that constantly amazed me. Her great sense of humour and quick wit helped us all to cope with her long term illness and she is an inspiration as to how I wish to look at the world. I’m an optimistic person but I don’t know if I could have laughed at things as she did whilst struggling on a daily basis just to breathe. I never heard her complain once even when things really started getting tough. She really wanted to hang on for Xmas for her young son but it wasn’t to be. We salute you Fi and your brave struggle and we will raise a glass in fond memory to you on the Big Day.
On a different note, our pizza oven is finally finished and looks splendid lording it over our back deck as if it has always been there. This has been the Man of the House’s project from start to finish and he has done a grand job. We are having some friends to dinner tonight for our first ‘public’ pizza night so I really hope that works out okay. Our 1st attempt failed miserably with soggy uncooked offerings and the 2nd time we only just caught them before they were burnt! Let’s hope that the 3rd time round we get them just right! As they take all of a minute or two to cook and we have to light the fire hours before to get the required coals for cooking it is not exactly a quick or convenient way to cook. To make all the effort worthwhile I am going to try and make some bread to pop in after the pizzas come out as well as leave a lamb shoulder in overnight to slow cook. Fingers crossed at least one of the three dishes will be edible!!!
We finally got some rain. A wonderful 2 inches fell in 2 days and our tank is now 1/3 full and our garden a lot happier. However the nor-easterly sea breeze that blows strongly every afternoon has probably negated most of the benefits and we are back to hand watering until the next downpour. I am on the cusp of being the proud owner of a gazillion tomatoes. We have had a couple already and they are so sweet and delicious, absolutely nothing like shop bought tomatoes and our cherry tomato bush has gone crazy with tentacles spreading out far and wide, greedy for the sunshine and producing hundreds of sweet little morsels that we pop into our mouths like smarties. The zucchini and cucumbers are starting to fruit and the eggplant aren’t too far behind. Our apricot tree is laden with golden fruit and I have picked some with the intent of making my first ever batch of jam.I popped into my local IGA the other day and noticed a new machine in the car park and was very surprised to see that it dispensed both frozen and LIVE fishing bait. Goodness knows how they keep that stuff alive! It is quite amazing what they can dispense in a machine nowadays. They are no longer reserved just for potato chips, soft drink cans and candy bars. Higher-end offerings are springing up across the globe; some of the more bizarre examples to make headlines over the years: a live crab vending machine in China, a banana vending machine in Japan, a burger vending machine in Moscow and a sake vending machine in Japan. When we were in Amsterdam we were impressed with the Dutch Fries machines located in train stations that popped out hot golden fries together with your sauce of choice (mayo, ketchup, peanut sauce, chopped onions or cheese sauce) in about 2 minutes flat. In Sydney at the race tracks and in the City there are now Champagne dispensing machines with mini Moet bottles ready to go and also a machine selling Havaianas (a brand of flip flops) for those poor sore and swollen feet after parading around in high heels! Ingenuity and marketing rolled into one!
I heard a silly Aussie version of Jingle Bells on the car radio this morning and I’m sharing it here especially for all my non Australian followers. It’s a bit old but a lot of it still holds true as celebrating in a basically northern hemisphere fashion on a hot summers day Down Under does present it’s challenges! Click on the link and you will see the song AND the explanation of all our weird words are there for you!
No matter if you have been naughty or nice I wish you all a very happy Christmas doing whatever makes your heart sing and most importantly doing it with the people you love.