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A Christmas tree?

For most of my life, my family had a real Christmas tree, generally a pine tree planted by my dad, or a branch cut from one. For me the smell of the freshly cut pine was always a big part of Christmas. When my parents got too old to host Christmas, my sister and I took it in turns, but hating the dropped needles of the real tree, she bought a fake one made of fibre optic strands that reflected many colors. Pretty enough, and no needles but none of that magic, evocative pine fragrance. When it was my turn, of course, I continued to have a real tree, sometimes a branch from the trees that Dad planted, sometimes a bought tree.

But many of my childhood Christmases were spent beside the beach, and though we did have a real tree either at my grandparents’ home nearby, or once in the annex of the caravan, the beach is the strongest memory. It’s a bit of an Aussie tradition, and the photo of this little driftwood tree is a wonderful reminder of those days. 

I had a chuckle this morning at an article about bad Christmas trees. It’s here.

I wish now I’d taken Mum and Dad’s boxes of decorations, but they were stolen by thieves — along with a heap of other things. Stinkers! I gather that beautiful antique Christmas ornaments are worth something. For me, they involved priceless memories.

These days, with no family closer than a thousand kilometres away, I don’t make such a big deal of Christmas. My gatherings are of friends, not family. I still have a tree of sorts, but a teensy tiny one. This was the smallest yet — a sprig in an old glass inkwell, and yes, that’s a match box beside it.  I’ve also used bunches of twigs, sometimes spray painted silver, and hung small paper ornaments from them. 

I  love making things, and have a pile of hand-crafted ornaments that I’ve made — quite a few from paper, and easily made. If you’re interested, I’ll share some, along with instructions for making them.

I have two gatherings planned, the first in my new house. One is for a small group of friends — we’ve been meeting for dinner and cards for decades. That will be a reasonably traditional dinner. And on Sunday I’ve got some of my old school classmates coming, and that will be a surprise, as it’s “bring a plate” — which I think is a bit like an American “potluck.” But I’m not sure how much Christmas decorating I’ll do. I’ll keep you posted. I’m always interested in what other people do and eat at Christmas, so feel free to share yours.

New Bookshelves

My new bookshelves are done!  

I wanted them dead plain with extra shelves. And white because a) there’s already a lot of wood in the room and b) it would be hard to match. Plus c) it was cheaper. <g>

I’m so happy with them — the shelves are  adjustable and very easy to change. They’re studier than my old shelves, too. 

The guy got here at 7am and was all done by 9.30am. (And I finished writing a scene.) He did  a nice clean job. And he was very nice — he even gave Milly a treat because she’d been so quiet and good, sitting by the table on her leash, watching.

I won’t be arranging the books any time soon — I have to finish writing my current book first. And then there will  have to be a massive culling, because I had two walls of books in my old house and now I have just one. I also had a number of big stand-alone  bookshelves, but I’m only keeping three. I’m giving the rest (the two biggest plus one other) to charity. They’re sitting on the veranda ready for someone to take them away.

Once I have my study set up, I’ll share a photo, but it won’t be for ages.

An English Afternoon Tea

I have a writer friend visiting me at the moment (see previous post) and yesterday we drove down the coast to visit another writer friend who has recently moved into a flat near the beach. She instructed us to bring nothing — not even flowers — which is very hard to do. It just feels wrong, doesn’t it, to visit without bringing anything, but she was adamant so we decided to be obedient.

Her flat is lovely and she’s arranged it all beautifully, and though she said she still had heaps of stuff in boxes, there was no visible evidence of it (unlike my place).

She’s English, and she put on an English afternoon tea for us. It was delicious, as you can infer from this photo. The little finger sandwiches were cucumber and smoked salmon, egg and lettuce, and chicken and avocado and they were very very yummy. I almost never buy white bread and I’d forgotten how delicious little sandwiches made with fresh white sliced bread can be. 

She’d also made scones and there were two alternatives — the classic delicious Devonshire cream tea (scone + jam + cream) and one I hadn’t heard of, the devil’s cream tea — (cheese scones + chilli jam + philadelpia cream cheese.) Of course I had to have one of each, and while the devil scones were very tasty, Devonshire will remain forever my favorite. As well, there were little tarts, and macarons, but I was so full of finger sandwiches and scones I didn’t have any. The tea, served in elegant tea cups, was smoked Earl Grey, which I hadn’t had before and was lovely.  And the Royal Jubilee plates were a gorgeous touch —  her sister in England had sent her these.

It was a lovely afternoon, with lots of writer talk and stories and laughter, and a walk along the beach to finish. Strangely when we got home that evening, my visitor friend and I weren’t terribly hungry, so it was just salad for dinner.