Thursday, December 27, 2007


I know there is more to life than food and drink, but there is no doubt that some of the most memorable and delightful moments at Christmastime take place around the table, or sitting sharing food and drink together.

Our own culinary marathon started in the early hours of Christmas morning, when some friends came back with us after the Midnight Service to join us for tea and coffee, and some mince pies (made by our friend Arthur) and some of my "Yule Log."

I make these Yule logs each year, to be enjoyed by friends and family, and for us they replaced the traditional Christmas cake many years ago. I use a partly uncooked biscuit mixture, which includes nuts, sultanas well-soaked in brandy etc. and one or two "secret ingredients". The mixture is rolled into a log shape and decorated with chocolate, holly and other festive embellishments. This year I surrounded them with some white chocolate Rocky Road.

On Christmas morning, my first task is to glaze the ham and pop it into the oven, to be enjoyed for breakfast with eggs, before the present opening. Our ham this year was huge, and even with our big family it will take ages to eat it. I am already hearing complaints of being "hammed out!"

This year for our Christmas lunch, some of the family suggested we opt for some imported seafood, which would be, in many ways, more special than the baked dinner, which we often enjoy throughout the year. I happily agreed, because at this stage of life, I am happy to "go with the flow". However, it turned out that even some of the young ones are still traditionalists, so we had both - king prawns, oysters, Tahitian fish, pork, turkey, ham, Tina's lovely vegetarian mushroom nut roast, plus many vegetable and salad dishes.

There were fifteeen of us to sit down and enjoy it all! We were so thankful for our lovely big patio, which accommodated us all, and protected us from the misty rain which fell throughout the day.

Meanwhile, Brandt had set up his homebrew fridge on the back of the truck, dispensing both home brew lager and ginger beer "on tap" throughout the day!

It was an hour or two before we could tackle pudding. I made an enormous one this year, once again trying to emulate my mother's rich dark version. I think I got it a little closer than usual. I also experimented with using more prunes, in the style of the original "plum" pudding, and this definitely made it more moist.

Charles, who is our best pudding-eater, insisted we go through the ritual of flaming the pudding before we cut it - fancy me nearly forgetting that!

Much later in the afternoon, "Vanuatu George "called in with Christmas greetings.

His visit led to an impromptu Kava ceremony.

Now that was a new Christmas tradition!

But William, who was celebrating his very first Christmas, preferred his usual warm milk.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Father Christmas had made his nocturnal visit on Christmas Eve while we were sleeping ( and some of us were not sleeping for very long!)and left a generous pile of gifts at Devon for the Christian-Baileys.

So you can imagine our surprise when he made a return appearance after Christmas lunch. Just as we were digesting our ample helpings of seafood, pork, turkey and all sorts of other goodies, we heard an unusual noise, which got louder and louder.
Then through the gap in the trees we saw the most amazing sight. It was Santa driving Charles' Bobcat!

It is a good thing that Charles was not around at the time, and could not see the old fellow doing wheelstands on his precious bit of machinery!
Teddy and Sienna could not believe their eyes. It appears that Santa had forgotten a few things the night before, and had to do a second round of deliveries.

A large sack of presents was unloaded from the bucket of the Bobcat and deposited on the path at our feet. There were a few lollies for the kids, and we all thanked Santa for going to so much trouble!Then with a hearty "Ho-ho-ho", and a few more tricks on the lawn, he departed and left us to hand out and unwrap our gifts.

Monday, December 24, 2007


To all my blog readers out there, this posting comes with my warmest wishes for peace, hope and joy this Christmastime, and a prayer that these same blessings will stay with you and yours right through the year.

This was on the front page of our local weekly newspaper "The Norfolk Islander" this weekend.

This exquisite mother-of-pearl carving is on the end of one of the pews at our lovely St Barnabas' Chapel. It was done by the students of the Melanesian Mission, under the guidance of Doctor Codrington and would be about 100 years old.

On the opposite side is a similar Nativity scene, but it is not in such sharp relief.

Almost all of the pews have lovely shell work set into the ends, but these are the most beautiful. The others mostly feature Polynesian and and Celtic designs. The Reredos, some of which you can see in the Crib scene below, also features some magnificent carving and shell work.

In the days leading up to Christmas, we have been playing a beautiful recording of Handel's "Messiah" in the Chapel each afternoon. It has been a wonderful opportunity to escape the heat and hustle, and sit quietly for a while and appreciate and enjoy the less tangible and commercial delights of Christmas.

We set up a small Christmas Tableau. Our Chaplain Rod fashioned a rather rustic manger, and Bernie and I found a young pine just the right size to go behind. It only called for very simple decoration - a draping of the finest tinsel, and a star at the top.

The little picture here shows one of the flower arrangements in the Chapel. I do not even know who is on the roster this month, but she has arranged some lovely little glass sparkles among the white flowers...they are hard to see in the photo. But it is a lovely touch, and just one of the many special things so many people do to spread joy and goodwill to others.

Sunday, December 23, 2007


While I love decorating the house for Christmas, I have learned over the years that "less is more". I used to hang something on every door, cupboard and drawer knob, and drape or position something on nearly every level surface.

It was when I realised that some of those things were still there in March - and no one had noticed - that I decided to go more for impact. Just a few of the more twee and fiddly items get brought out, and others will "have their turn" next year.

There are, of course, one or two things I am quite sentimental about like the Klu Klux Klan Santa I wrote about in an earlier posting. There is also the little music box cottage which plays "Jingle Bells" while Santa, on the end of a wire, rotates around the chimney top. This was given to us by a dear friend over 30 years ago, and has undergone numerous repairs over the years.

One thing that is very important to me is to fill the house with greenery for Christmas week.

I go up to the woodland to collect branches of Ochna (Mickey Mouse plant) which still has just a few of its characteristic red and black berries at this time of year. This is the nearest thing to holly I can find.

Then I gather stalks of parsley which is usually "in flower" in December. Bernie says it has just gone to seed and should be pulled out like a weed - but unless I let it go through its lifecycle, how will we get new young plants? Anyway, the parsley flowers are very pretty and star-like, and their bright yellow/green colouring is very Christmassy.

By December, the silver Artemesia has begun to send up tall shoots also, and the soft grey/white of these provides a contrast. By February they will have their tiny flowers and I will be using these for the bookmarks.

Finally, I add some artificial flowers - red and yellow poppies and tall white daisies. There are very few showy flowers in our gardens at this time of year, but the fake ones look fine among the greenery.

All the big vases come down from the top shelf , and in a short while, I am all ready for Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2007


William (aka Liam) is our first grandson, and lives with Mum Kim and Dad Charles just behind us.

Our dear little man is now 8 months old, and a delight to us all. Here he is enjoying a joke with his Mum, while Roany the dog looks on.

We used to laugh when Bernie's Dad said of our babies;"He (or she) is just getting to the interesting stage. But now we know what he meant. Every new step, stage and discovery is a wonder to behold.

Best of all, William is now of an age when he recognises familiar people, and so we really feel we are a part of his life.

Here he is getting to know his great-aunt Sally, visiting from Sydney.

Because William already loves books, I decided to make him some baby-friendly books for Christmas. For this first one I cut out some animal pictures from fabric, and fused and sewed them to bright backgrounds. It is of a size where it will be easy for him to handle.

Although he is a very clever little boy, William has not yet learned to use a computer. So hopefully these books will still be a surprise for him on Christmas Day!

This second book is from a fabric panel I bought many years ago. Funnily enough, my friend Joy has just made the same panel into a quilt, after having it away in a cupboard for many years!

Monday, December 17, 2007


In my last post I wrote about some little gifts I had made for Christmas giving. I was in the middle of writing it, when I had a visitor. it was Jenny, who has lived on the island on and off for some years, but is returning to New Zealand.

Jenny's sister Carolyn is a mixed media artist in Wanganui New Zealand, and I was privileged to take part in workshops she conducted here on the island last year. When I looked up Carolyn on the net, I found that she is modest and gives away little about herself...preferring to let her work speak for itself. But one description in a blurb about the studio she shares with another artist says she "works intuitively in mixed media and three dimensional forms." She is certainly versatile, and in her workshops she taught us a great variety of techniques. More importantly, she encouraged us to "free ourselves up" and break boundaries, and I feel I have not been the same since!

Now Carolyn's sister Jenny (my visitor) has been the housekeeper at our Norfolk Island Government House, and has earned a wonderful reputation for her wonderful creative decorating skills and innovative floral arrangements.

In a Needlework Exhibition that was held recently in Government House, Jenny put on display a few small pieces by her sister Carolyn. The display included some small collaged pictures and cards. I must confess I kept sneaking back while no one was looking and gently handling them so I could examine them more closely (There were "No touching" notices everywhere, understandably!) But they were so beautiful I just could not resist - sorry Carolyn and Bianca, I was ever so careful!

Anyway, back to Jenny's my great delight Jenny had brought me a parting gift, including one of Carolyn's little heart-mounted collages and a card also made by her.

Both are exquisite. The card is a "window" type, and features collaged scraps - fabric, ribbon, thread etc - sandwiched between translucent film. Now I am dying to know what she has used and how it was done!

Thank you so much Jenny and Carolyn - you have given me such inspiration and pleasure!

Friday, December 14, 2007

During the year, I often amuse mself by producing little handmade gifts and trinkets which will come in handy for a "gift from the heart and hands", especially at Christmas.

Most years, I make a batch (should that be "choir"?) of little angels, usually slightly different each year. Some of these are given away at our Thanksgiving get-together, especially to the little girls, but the bigger girls, and even the boys, sometimes like to get them too. One year, a little 6 year old boy specially requested one 'for his bike!'The angels are usually button dolls, but this year I decided to use some of the beads from my large jar of Indian glass beads.
For this year's angels, I used a few bits of hand-dyed fabric from an earlier experiment, and some wild assorted yarns for the hair.

Little Christmas stockings are also quick and easy to make and can be decorated in a variety of ways. They can also hold a small gift, and are small enough to use as a tree decoration.This 'batch' shown below uses the layered technique of trapping snippets of fabric and fibre and sequins under tulle. When it came to making the hanging loops, I used red beads and green leaf beads to hold the cords down. But when I looked for beads with large enough holes to attach to the ends of the dangling cords, I was somewhat stumped .....until I remembered the jar of fabric beads I had made earlier in the year. These were great fun to make, although at the time I was not sure what I would use them for. Now I will need to make a whole new this space!!!

Then last week at the Op Shop, there was a black velvet skirt with just a hint of 'sparkle" - perfect for a little batch of stockings in a more romantic style when combined with lace, which mostly comes from old doileys. For these, I raided my stash of ribbon I will have to get some more (just in case!)

Now, this batch of stockings were lined with a colourful stripey taffeta that I bought for 50 cents a metre well over 20 years ago. If you hang on to anything long enough. you will always find the perfect place to use it, as long as you can still find it!

Here are some of the angels I have made in previous years, in the "Button Doll" style. Each one uses about 64 small shirt-type buttons. I think have enough buttons left still for a whole heavenly host of angel dolls. The picture does not include the ones that ended up looking like little old ladies, and which my sarcastic sons labelled "Nana Angels."

In fact, a few of my earlier efforts have been assigned to the deepest recesses of the cupboard where we keep our Christmas decorationsI

Sunday, December 09, 2007


On our way out of church this morning, I was asked by a young lass what I intended doing for the rest of the day.

"I think I shall get on to my sewing machine and have a play" I said. I am not sure if a 15 year old would understand that someone 4 times her age needs to play at all, let alone with a sewing machine! But that is what I did.

While I was taking part in the Fabric Book Round Robin, some of the participants sent round small gifts for the others. Mostly these were in the form of ATC's - or Artists Trading Cards.

ATC's measure 2 1/2" by 3 1/2", and showcase some expression of the maker's creativity, be it painting, mixed media, needlework, or a combination of these. They are then exchanged with fellow artists, or often given as a gift. Hundreds of thousands of them have probably been swapped all over the world, perhaps facilitated by the fact that so many artists now link up with each other via the Internet. I had one attempt at making a batch of ATC's a couple of years ago, but was not happy with the results.
Today I felt ready to try again.
I decided to make some Christmassy ATC's for my Round Robin friends.

This involved initially getting a piece of lightweight fabric and covering it with scraps of fabric, paper and ribbon. These included some Christmassy fabrics, a torn up print-out of "Silent Night"(with music), some wide Christmas ribbon, and wrapping papers. These scraps were attached with watered down PVA glue.Then gold tulle was adhered right over the top, and several random lines of straight stitching were applied with the sewing machine, using different threads.

This was then backed with a wonderful new product called "Fast2Fuse" which is an extremely stiff thick substance like very heavy vilene, which is fusible on both sides. Perfect for ATC's and Fabric Postcards (also currently popular with fabric/mixed media artists.) A fairly plain fabric was fused to the back, and the resulting layered "sandwich" was then cut into 2 1/2' by 3 1/2" sizes. Finally a close zig-zag stitch neatened the edges.

On the back of each one I stamped a pine tree, and wrote a Christmas message for the recipient. Now they are ready to post off to my Round Robin friends in New Zealand, Australia and England.
In case you think that modern needlework involves an awful lot of gluing and fusing, it is true that there are now some amazing and strangely wonderful products out there being used by craftspeople. They do not replace the traditional needle and thread, but make it possible to showcase your stitching in new and different ways. Let's face it - few people are wanting embroidered babywear, underwear, aprons and doileys nowadays. Today your needleworker and embroiderer is making wallhangings, mounted pictures, sculptures, decorated boxes, fabric books, postcards - and of course, ATC's.

Here are some of the ATC's I have been sent. They use a variety of media and techniques. That is the best part about arts and crafts nowadays - you can play to your heart's content, and forget about the rules!!

Saturday, December 08, 2007


My sister Sally and I both went to Sydney Girls' High. Sally had actually left to go out to work before I started there, but many of her classmates and peers were in the senior year (5th Year) when I was in Year 1.

Sally recently went to a 50 year reunion at the school, and showed me the book that was produced for the occasion. I was amazed at the memories that it brought back. Many of these girls had been prefects and leaders when I was just a new and nervous junior, and I really looked up to them and admired them.

Sydney Girls High was a selective public school, but was definitely a little bit "posh" and desirable - many pupils travelled great distances each day in order to attend. However the nucleus of the school population came from the Eastern suburbs. Five years there would certainly have knocked any rough edges off you, if you had any.

The school motto was "Labor Omnia Vincit". This was only ever translated for us as "Work Conquers all". Nowadays I am not sure that is altogether true, but I am sure it could have been interpreted a little less sternly as "It is amazing what you can achieve if you try hard enough" or "A little bit of effort works wonders!"

Our education was very academic. In my sister's time, there had been opportunities to study Home Economics, but by the time I started, these had been phased out. Even practical subjects like Geography, Biology and Art were reserved for the girls in the C, D, and E classes. The rest of us had to focus on History, German, Physics/Chemistry and Latin. I often bemoan the fact that I was not able to do anything creative at school, but never mind, I have made up for it since.

The book Sally showed me had the list of school rules given to you when you started.

The uniform was "Nigger brown pleated tunic" - no political correctness then! With it you wore a white blouse and brown tie and brown stockings and brown lace-up shoes, and a brown jumper and brown blazer in winter. The only concession to colour was the yellow stripe on our jumper. And underneath you were supposed to wear brown bloomers! Hats(Panama in summer, velour in winter) and gloves had to be worn outside between the school and home - there would be trouble if a mistress or a prefect saw you anywhere without them. From time to time thee would be a uniform parade, and we had to kneel on the ground to show that our hems touched the ground, and also show that no white petticoats were being worn.

Note the "Globite" schoolcases. No backpacks in those days.

Our school song was sung to the tune of "Men of Harlech".

Girls who wear the Brown and Yellow

Stand in line each by her fellow

Sweetly sing or loudly bellow


I believe new words have since been written to the tune.

On Speech Day at the end of the year, we had to wear a white dress, usually bought or made specially for the occasion if you were to receive a prize. We may have felt a little more glamorous if we did not have to wear our brown lace-ups with the white dress.

Sydney Girls High was in Moore Park, on the site of the old Zoo. The bear pit and a sizeable lake were still there in the lower playground. I can only ever remember one rather wayward pupil actually getting herself wet.

Sydney Boys' High was next door, but there was absolutely no contact allowed between the two, apart from a couple of strictly chaperoned dances each year. There was not even a sharing of classes or resources or teaching staff. Pupils were not allowed within 20 yards of the dividing fence, and school buses were boarded from separate bus stops after school, with the girls upstairs and the boys downstairs. In my last year there was an end-of-year "Muck-up Day" prank, which involved having a group of boys storm over the fence and cart a "girl" off to the boys' toilets. But would you believe it? It was not even a real girl, but a boy dressed up in a girl's uniform!Most of us emerged from our High School years very innocent and naive about the opposite sex.

I must confess that I was a member of a class that became somewhat notorious. In our second year, there were two 'A' classes - 2AH which studied History and 2AL, which studied a third language. I think we had a couple of rebels in our class, who caused a few headaches, particularly with one or two more inexperienced teachers. There was the one who had very obviously fallen pregnant out of wedlock, and the very old lady who was brought out of retirement to teach us when a much loved Maths/Science teacher was whisked off to work in an important Government job. I really cannot recall anything really bad that we did, apart from throwing an egg around the room when the teacher was at the blackboard. It was discovered when one girl failed to catch it, and it turned out NOT to be hard-boiled!

A very bright and smart young teacher called Miss Jolly was made our Roll teacher and given the task of bringing us into line. She was vey strict and authoritarian. However, she must have not been completely successful, because after many warnings , our whole class was "demoted" from 2 AH to being called 2B! Most of us were devastated, and it was an enormous blow to our pride. Still somewhat demoralised, we continued to be known as 3B the following year.We were obviously considered to have a bad attitude. Or perhaps one or two had just learned to think for themselves. There is no doubt that these particular girls were strongly encouraged to leave after their Intermediate Certificate.

Today's young people would no doubt find the regime very oppressive and restrictive. But everything was fair and orderly. And I do believe that the culture of the school was not designed to turn out "young ladies" so much as to produce young women who would strive for excellence.

I was interested to read some of the comments from Sally's peers writing for the 50th Reunion Year book:
I have always felt great pride in having been at SGHS. It...gave me the confidence to believe in my ability to undertake all types of work."

"Attending SGHS has encouraged an attitude to always do the best you can."

"I think it was very beneficial to be part of a school community which considered girls to be capable of anything to which they set their minds."

"it gave me the discipline and desire to do the very best at everything I have tried in life."

"I will always be grateful for the good start at SGHS where we learned to think for ourselves and dullness was forbidden."

Unlike Sally, I really have no desire to go to a Reunion. I have always resisted that sort of thing. But I have enjoyed the little "return visit" to Alma Mater through her eyes. And I have enjoyed thinking about how that part of my education has been a quite significant part of a lifelong process!
Related Posts with Thumbnails