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Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places

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Christmas

Happy Boxing Day

So this morning, Tony got up early and made blueberry pancakes for all of us from scratch. And then he got Arddun changed, loaded the car with the duffel bag full of swimming gear, bundled her in, and took off to Dickson pools.

Leaving me to go #shopping# (you have to trill that word like a bird on prozac) All By Myself.

Just got back, and feeling refreshed and enthused enough to blog – which is saying something, because I haven’t been ready or willing to blog in ages. It wasn’t just the retail therapy that gave me this post-Christmas jollies – it was the crowd. It was the energy. It was the fact that shelves were full and prices were halved. It was the fact that everything was still sparkling and Christmassy. Ray from Far Away asked on Facebook if the Boxing Day Sales were rather pugilistic – and perhaps there is a little bit of jostling and negotiation. There has to be. But that’s the best part.

I know my Singapore friends and family are going to want to smack me over the head with a two-by-four for waxing lyrical about the next part, but I even enjoyed waiting in queues today. Someone was shouting over the crowd to his girlfriend about how nuts it all was, and I grinned at him. I adored it. People. I was surrounded by them. They were happy. They were relaxed. They actually wanted to be there.

Okay, perhaps that was going a little too far. The women chiefly wanted to be there. The children tolerate it because there might be something in it for them, and the men tolerate it because they love their women and just ate their weight in turkey and Christmas sweets. Plus, parking at the Canberra Centre was $2 for the whole day. But you can tell that the men weren’t really into it, by how full the Man Benches were. Just rows and rows strewn about the Canberra Centre of bored men guarding a moat of shopping bags, and scrolling through their smartphones while cussing the lousy reception.

That was the only dampener of my shopping spree.

I’m sure Myer didn’t intend this to happen, but the changing room at the lingerie department has about 3 chairs at the entrance of the changing room – presumably for women to gather their strength after hours of waiting for a cubicle. But those three chairs collectively became a Man Bench.

This meant that each time you queued up to go in, the Man Bench got to mull over your taste in undergarments on 30-50% discount.

What happens, of course, is that you end up squishing everything into a ball in one hand so you can hide it by your right side, while using all your other shopping bags on your left as a modesty shield. This is fine until you reach the front and have to show the sales assistant how many pieces you’re bringing in. “Four,” you mutter while she unfurls this wad of creased padding by Elle Macpherson. And then you try to sidle in with your back against the Man Bench. You do not make eye-contact.

This doesn’t prove to be a problem for some other breed of women who seem oblivious to the gawking of the Man Bench. Spotting a generous girth and blessed by far superior badongadongs, they manage to flap all stringy/animal-printed/hot-pink laced/disproportionately tiny undergarments in the air while shouting “SIX PIECES, PLEASE!” to ANYONE IN ZIMBABWE WHO WOULD LISTEN the sales assistant.

Of course the first time round, they don’t fit – so you’re there debating the merits of making an educated guess on better sizes vs. braving that Man Bench again. In the end, the 30-50% discount sign wins and you queue once again, but this time you get so good at preparing the wad beforehand, things feel a lot less slo-mo.

Apart from that, I managed to get a few birthday gifts for others, and a book and CD for Arddun. And two blue dresses – one frilly, one straight. And an ultraslim iPad mini keyboard folio thingy for my Christmas gift from Tony (w00t!) at $40 discount (double w00t!)

And I sat on a Man Bench the middle of the mall, cloudy apple juice in one hand, and just soaked everything in – the happy noise, the snippets of conversation, the busyness. It was just so good to connect with my inner City girl again. (I know – I only just got back from Singapore in early November!) I love Canberra and how it’s really a glorified country town – which is a fabulous thing in itself. But it can sometimes seem so lifeless, so empty, so cold.

I need to remember to do this every year if I can.

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Little bouncers at the Christmas party

Just got back from our mother’s group Christmas party – our third together! Birthdays and Christmases are our two major annual events, and we try to make each one a little special. The fabulous thing about having 9 to 11 families celebrate together each time, is that we get to split the bill 9 to 11 different ways. Which means we can splash out on stuff like this:

Jumping castle rocket thing
Jumping castle rocket thing. More impressive in real life. (Stolen from Jo’s Facebook page.)
6 toddlers in Jumping castle
Seven little toddlers, seven times the fun!

Here’a video of the little tykes in action:

This year, I volunteered to bring mango tea, an Asian salad (a yummy dish I learnt from my MIL), and a fruit salad.

Regarding the fruit salad: after I went a-hunting through Pinterest, I ended up making this:

Fruit salad Christmas tree
30 seconds to take photo of magnum opus before running out the door.

which went down well with the crowd at the Christmas party – both big and little peeps. If you’re wondering how to do this, I bought a 25cm-tall styofoam cone from an art shop, pinned lettuce leaves to it using toothpicks, used star-shaped cookie cutters for the rock melon, and then pinned down red and green grapes, blueberries, cranberries, kiwi slices, strawberries and blackberries using a gazillion toothpicks. Took me an hour. I’m no maestro on food decorating, so if I can accomplish this, it means it’s Beginner-level easy – just time-consuming. And stressful, when you’re trying to do this juuuust before the 3pm party, and it’s 2pm.

Managed to dress the little people up in cute Christmas clothes. Had less success keeping them on the couch at the same time for a photo:

Christmas costumes take 1
Take 1
Christmas outfits on sofa, take 1
Take 3
Christmas costumes take 3
Take 47
Christmas costumes, waiting patiently
Bored

Gave up and took a video instead:

But what we should have done was put Peppa Pig on telly, because that TV show has proven hypnotic powers:

Watching Peppa Pig
Peppa Pig = Toddler Crack

Other attempts at memory-capturing:

Eating together at small table
Sharing a meal together
Leila and Arddun squeeze into little red car
Two friends share a ride in the Little Red Car

And then there was a whole heap of rather incriminating photos that might get us all in trouble with Jumping J-Jays. But we had heaps of fun. xx

Merry Christmas, everybody!

I had a good Christmas this year.

A few things made it stand out a little different from previous years.

Having another family to spend Christmas Alone with

Unless we’re in Brisbane or my mum’s in town, Christmas in years past have been the stuff of crickets chirping in the background. We had the occasional lunch with friends during a couple of Christmases before, which has been lovely.

But there’s something about hosting your own Big Christmas Family lunch; doing the shopping, getting prepared, feeding people, opening presents.

Enter New Friends from the States who live 2 minutes from our home, and suddenly there we were – two houses, far away from family, yet close enough to join forces and make pigging out on a whole turkey totally worthwhile.

Shannon and I now have shared bragging rights on cooking our first turkey. The fact that we got the butcher to debone the entire turkey and stuff it with apricots, mango and hazelnuts so that effectively we had a turkey roll that could actually fit in the oven made it all the better. I don’t think that’s cheating. It’s still a whole turkey. It’s still getting roasted. It still tastes the same. Stroke. Of. Genius. For the rest of you who had to saw your turkey in half or stress over drying out your turkey.. well, now you know. Thank you, Lilydale Butchery.

Having a toddler who understands

It’s Arddun’s second Christmas – third, if you count womb time – and I’m starting to understand what the fuss is all about. Now that she’s actually engaging with her toys – instead of ditching the toy to play with the wrapper, ala Christmas 2011 – this Christmas rocks on the present-opening front. I had gifted Arddun with a toy petrol station because she has always made a beeline for the toy cars and ramps in the church building every Sunday. But Daddoh topped it by getting a tea set to go with her new table and chairs (thank you Famiza for the furniture, BTW! It’s a darling set!)

And that’s how Kitty got to have her first taste of plastic tea.

Oooh yes… Brisbane Nanna had also made gorgeous Christmas outfits!

Back view of Christmas dress
Back view
Front view of Christmas Dress
Front view

Arddun is also besotted with her new Little Tikes Trike, which, despite major steering issues, doesn’t dampen her spirits one bit. And as for the petrol station set I got her, it turned out to be rather poorly made so I’m returning the lot and looking for a better one. (There’s a reason sometimes to go for brands you’ve actually heard of.) Still, this little girl was heard making car noises all around the house, only pausing for a quick sip of tea with kitty, before heading off on her new driving adventures with her little black merc.

Which is an encouraging sign for the next bit.

Having a family trip to look forward to

I get massive cabin fever during holidays. I know that a real holiday, by definition, includes getting rested – which is why taking a trip somewhere often defeats this very purpose. But there’s something about staying at home “doing nothing” that drives me absolutely batty when my family has a longish week off together. The mundane can be a terribly wasteful time filler, and a surefire way to get me itchy and grumpy.

So this year, we’re driving to Melbourne to visit long-time friends. The last two days have been a slow build up to a flurry of excitement for the trip ahead. We set off tomorrow. Our very first car trip together!

Speaking of which, I’m gonna call it a night. Plenty of driving to do tomorrow (4 hours each driver!) and we’re aiming to be out of the house by 9am. Optimistic, I know.

But before I go,

Merry Christmas, dearest family and friends – and people who actually read my blog. This has been a tumultous year, but in many ways also, a very rewarding one. I am so glad you are all a part of my life because I have been made richer for it. May the rest of your 2012 be safe and happy and if we don’t get to talk soon, have a great New Year!

XOXO Velle

24 hours left for prayer requests

So a few days ago, I talked about starting up a prayer thingy on Mondays, except I also wanted to open it up to everyone else to jump in with their concerns or bits of thank-yous. That offer still stands. I am poised and ready to pray big, people. Tomorrow evening, 9:00pm AEST.

Just as a taster, here are some that have already made it on my list:

  • Victims and helpers of the shooting at Newtoun
  • A personal celebration! (Except I’m waiting for the parents to officially say something first before I jump up and down with excitement publicly.)
  • Families travelling interstate and overseas during this time of reunion and/or church camps.
  • Families not killing each other after spending a week in each other’s company at said reunion.
  • Families separated by distance, by anger, by pride, by misunderstandings, by old family feuds, by unforgiveness, by cowardice… or any other barrier you know or can think of.

Got any other suggestions? Hit me.

Christmas is coming; the gheezers are getting fat

Dinner menu in the House of H, running up to Christmas:

  • Tonight: Homemade Hokkien Prawn Noodles
  • Christmas eve: Slow-cooked lamb shanks and homemade gravy with roasted veggies
  • Christmas night: Cheese toasties. (Because we’re planning a HUGE brunch with friends! Did I mention Roast Turkey Roll stuffed with apricot, mango and hazelnuts? Ooh baby…)

What are you planning for dinner this week?

Better late than never, they say

We’ve FINALLY put up our Christmas tree. It’s 6 days before Christmas. I think we’re doing pretty well. :D

Arddun opens the Christmas Tree box
“What is this box of furry green stuff?”

Arddun surveys the finished Christmas tree Arddun standing in front of Christmas tree

Arddun walks off with empty Christmas tree box
“Okay, tree’s up. Decorations on. My work here is done.”

 

Kid’s Christmas Party (or Why It Pays to Work in Private Sector Sometimes)

I have long affectionately termed my company the Big Fat. It all stemmed from an old blog post from my second and now retired blog. Prior to accepting a position with my current company, I’d only worked for small-to-medium enterprises. Getting into an organisation with upward of 1,500 staff (at the time) was something of a milestone for me.

With Big Fat Organisation comes Big Fat Budgets and Big Fat Responsibilities.

And, if today was proof enough, Big Fat Staff Benefits.

Everyone else in the public service is secretly envious we get a free carnival once a year, replete with free food, Santa, and an age-appropriate Christmas pressie. That’s Canberra for you. Where something as simple as a typical staff Family Fun Day in Singapore could become a political landmine of misappropriated taxpayer dollars for any government department in Canberra. In this respect, I am totally thankful that I work for the Big Fat.

Approaching the carnival
Approaching the carnival
Arddun with a speckled duck
Getting up close to what I think might be a duck at the petting zoo.
Clown and Santa
The kids are thrilled with Santa, and are sure to let him know that the Clown deserves NOTHING for Christmas. Thankfully, Father Christmas is merciful to his colleague from the acting company. Arddun remains unimpressed.

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