It's so quiet today. I've just realised what is missing - the cricket. This Boxing Day has not been the usual day of cricket - beach or backyard cricket or real Test cricket and the peaceful hum of radio or television commentary that veers from chat about the seagulls to a shout of exaltation (one of the cricketers has actually done something).
I have been luxuriously and uselessly wandering around blogs today, following the links on blogs I like to read to many, many unfamiliar blogs. Wicked fun. I have visited Christmas across the continents and enjoyed a multitude of Christmas trees and so here is mine.
It's become a bit bent about over the past 10 years. I gather pine needles and eucalypt leaves to fill the basket it sits in and these gradually dry out, filling the house with the right Christmas smell.
Most of our handmade decorations went in the flood that filled our Melbourne street waist-deep in water six years ago, but the oldest one, made by my mother before she was married, I have still.
If I could fit more decorations on the tree, I would. I love quiet, but not a quiet Christmas tree.
The tree - which travelled up to Ballarat with us five years ago - is still undressed. We're waiting (with some difficulty on my part) for Jesse to come home on Christmas Eve so we can decorate it together.
This is the first year our family won't be all together at Christmas, as Jake is staying in Cairns.
I'm reading these short stories by Osamu Dazai and particularly like On Love and Beauty and Lanterns of Romance. I suppose because I'm feeling a bit bereft this Christmas and there is a wonderfully eccentric family in these two stories.
I'm also reading all our old Christmas story books.
I love this one by Jan Pienkowski which uses the traditional words from the King James Bible coupled with brilliant pictures.
It got dark soon after I wrote Christmas post number eight and we drove around Black Hill and Brown Hill looking at the Christmas lights. This is an older, hillier and darker area and the houses, mostly small wooden cottages from the nineteenth century, twinkled from up hillsides or round twisty corners.
When I got home I whisked up some baubles
and made the raspberry jelly. (Just in case it's too hot for the pudding I'm making trifle with homemade jelly, home made sponge and homemade custard).
I had to explain to Yin that I'm leaving the pips in because it's not real raspberry jelly without them.
Now I'm going to sit out the back in the dark and listen to the crickets. Ballarat is not lit up much at night, even the Christmas-light houses are scattered among mostly dark streets. It makes it hard to walk around but you can see the stars.
My apple trees are covered in baby apples for the first time since I planted them here. Today I just wanted to lie on the grass and spend my life in the green shade and watch them grow.
I put up our old Christmas posters and pottered around with baubles and tinsel and stuff. Not much got done.
When I looked closely at this poster it struck me that the lower ranks of the heavenly host looked as if they were rushing off to Bridge Street Mall to get in the last of their shopping.
The only shopping I did today was decadent - I got a Forbidden Apple from Eureka Pizza. These apples are made in a northern suburb of Melbourne. Concocted of vanilla and almond icecream and some sort of deliciously edible golden plush and with a maraschino cherry in the centre, they are covered with white chocolate painted in pink splashes. I used to think this was the apple the queen offered Snow White.
I didn't make the raspberry jelly, I didn't make up the room for Jesse who'll be home in 2 days, I didn't finish the decorating and I didn't repot the cooking herbs I promised.
Not to panic, she'll be apples, I'll finish things off tomorrow.
My own Christmas lights have always been candles - and only on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. However I do enjoy the extravaganzas other people set up. The local newspaper publishes a map of Ballarat houses with Christmas lights and armed with this Yin and I set off to Delacombe.
Lots of other people were touring around the lights. Tomorrow night we do Golden Point and maybe Sebastopol.
I had a whiskey and a mince pie to celebrate baking the mince pies and the rose and almond shortbread.
In our house the children always leave a mince pie and a whiskey for Father Christmas.
My mother started this tradition in our family when I was about 8 and read in some book or other that we should leave biscuits and a glass of milk out for Santa. My mother decided Santa would like whiskey more than milk. Once I became a Santa I really appreciated her good sense. Whiskey is good at about 1 or 2 am when all the presents are finally wrapped and set out around the tree or at the foot of the children's beds.
I didn't make an advent calendar this year and as I'm beginning to get more excited about Christmas I'm going to try and fit in 12 Christmas posts before the evening of Christmas day.
I did make a pudding. I made the fruit mince a month ago and I boiled it up today. See how well it is wrapped in brown paper and then in foil and tied up nicely with string.
The little pudding basin was my Mum's, but she only used it for every day desserts like golden syrup pudding. Her Christmas puddings were immense and when I was little I remember them being tied in pudding cloth and boiled up in the wash copper.
Pudding simmering on stove for 3 hours. There isn't much aroma from a cooking pudding, unlike the wonderful scent of Christmas cake cooking. I did all that cake and gingerbread baking last week (just gloating a little).
Pudding cooling on the table.
This pudding contains almonds, currants, raisins (from Mildura), candied angelica, cherries, pears, apricots, pineapple, grated orange peel, grated Granny Smith apple, brown sugar, mace, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and a great deal of brandy. All of these were chopped and mixed a month ago. Today I mixed in the butter (no suet in this pudding), eggs, flour and behold - a pudding!
I woke up on Thursday morning at 5.30 and the sky was blue. There is a scent of happiness in the air now, the prospect of Christmas and of long school summer holidays fills December with anticipation.
At 6.30am Paddy and I were in the park. The sun was still rising, a little dew still sparkled on the grass but the day was well begun.
I took a picture of the kangaroo grass in the patch of native grasses.
It was very quiet, still too cold for the insects and no one else was around. A few birds were setting up for the day. It is just about a year ago that I began this blog, and collected some seed from the same patch in the park.
The dog and I walked barefoot on the tracks through the park. This is a joy particular to summer - walking barefoot on the solid earth.
I've had an busy week of work and intense meetings and trying to finish some research (and not quite managing it). After work today I had a treat.Yin and I went to see The Boys Are Back which I loved and which made me cry a bit.
Cherries are in the shops - for me cherries are the treat of Christmas.We had a large bag of cherries.
Then we got a small pizza instead of cooking dinner, which is wildly irresponsible for us, and I saw the flowering, sparkling reindeer the City of Ballarat has put up among the statues in our main street.
Oh I love Christmas lights! I love silly decorations and I really don't think I'll get tired of these even though it is still a long time until December 25th.
I was not the only person taking pictures of ridiculously charming reindeers made of begonias and electric lights, I'm pleased to say.
I live in Ballarat, an old goldfields town, in the central west of Victoria, but southerly in relation to the world. I love Chinese architecture, the post-goldfields towns and countryside of central Victoria, and I love the practice and the art of history. This year I'm beginning a research project on Ballarat in the 1870s.