Sepia Saturday : Skiing the black runs…or not!

Looking the part as we set forth from our cabin.

Looking the part as we set forth from our cabin at Methven.

Back in 1984, the Cass Mob ventured forth on their first skiing expedition as part of a driving trip around New Zealand. We’d first been there in 1975 but at a different time of the year, and with no plans to ski. This time we had promised the girls there’d be snow…and plenty of it.

Sure enough there was plenty as we drove over Arthur’s Pass without chains (don’t even go into the reason behind that, thank you Avis!)..scary enough that another driver had a heart attack. But by the time we got to our cabin near the Mt Hutt ski-fields, snow was a little thin on the ground.

Bizarrely at the same time there was actually snow falling at Stanthorpe, about 150kms from where we lived, and Dad always vowed and declared that when he was on night shift in the Roma St Railway yards that week, there’d been snowflakes which melted before hitting the ground. And there we were, almost snow-less in the ski-fields….well I exaggerate a little.

I suspect DD2 was laughing like a drain at this point. And big sister wanted to help. DD3 and I knew we'd be useless.

I suspect DD2 was laughing, or hamming it up, at this point. And big sister wanted to help. DD3 and I knew we’d be useless. Mt Hutt 1984

I think these photos were taken on our very first skiing expedition and as you can see we were the picture of skill, grace and glamour! I was clever enough not to be photographed actually trying to do anything!! That night there was a massive dump of snow and we were holed up in our cabin, log fire, marshmellows, games and books.Louisa and Bec skiing Mt HuttA couple of days later we were able to venture up what was a rather scary road for we sub-tropical folk and have another go at skiing. I think it’s safe to say that Mr Cassmob and I promptly decided any winter sports skills we had would be confined to skating, not skiing. Before we left that day the older two were whizzing down steep slopes quite confidently.

My feet are supposed to do what...?

My feet are supposed to do what…?

It was traditional at their school to do a ski trip in their final year of school. Each and every one of our little “angels” made it their mission to ski the black runs before they came home!! But my abiding memory is the bedraggled group of young ladies who set forth on one of the trips the night after their Year 12 final….wild and woolly.

Always keen for a pose...just like her daughter is now.

Always keen for a pose…just like her daughter is now. Mt Hutt 1984

I was going to say that was the start and finish of our skiing adventures, but I just remembered I took DD3 and her cousin to the Snowy Mountains one September holidays when I had a week off work with the kids and it suddenly started dumping. So a 3000km drive to go for a few days’ skiing…I must really be mad!

What was that about posing? Surely I look the part at least?

What was that about posing? Surely I look the part at least? Perisher 1990

We camped among the snow gums below the snow line at Sawpit Creek and had possums visiting us every night. Possums have something in common with humans – they like to eat what they shouldn’t, especially marshmellows.Bec and possum Snowy

The kids had fun… attempting to ski and building a snowman and generally playing in the snow.

Having fun -the headband actually says "Ski Austria" not "Ski Australia"

Having fun -the headband actually says “Ski Austria” not “Ski Australia”

Posing seemed to be the name of the game.

Pauleen posing at Perisher -seemed to be the name of the game.

Camping below the snow line was a bit of a challenge though…one way to use every article of warm clothing in the car. And they made sure I paid for it with this glamour shot…after all when it’s below zero who cares how you look!

I wonder just how many layers I was wearing?

I wonder just how many layers I was wearing?

Why not see what  other Sepians have had to say about snow and skiing this week. Was it something they’re sick of or longing for?

Sepia Saturday 212

Book of Me: Home is where the heart is.

Book of meThe prompt for week 20 in the 15 month series of Book of Me is “Home”: Home means different things to different people, so this week we are going to explore what it means to us: What does it feel like? How do you recognise it? What makes it home -people, place, time. This will be a long post I fear, so get comfortable with a coffee or tea.

This is something I’ve pondered generally over a long time, in the context of my own life but also for my emigrant ancestors. Were they ever truly at home in Australia or did they still think of their places of birth as home? Did they hanker for grey skies, old buildings, green fields? Of course these are answers I’ll never have since there are no diaries to read, no letters and no oral history touching on the topic.

My own sense of home is sometimes elusive. We are empty nesters and our “children” have established their own homes. They are family but they are no longer part of “home” except inasmuch they live in the same city.Peter and Springer low

The core of “home” for me is my husband, Mr Cassmob. We’ve been together so long it’s almost impossible to imagine home without him, though that will be a reality one or other of us will have to face one day, hopefully far in the future. Another part of home on a daily basis is our very indulged fluffy tabby cat, Springer. Certainly both of us felt a gap in our lives when he went missing for seven weeks last year. He has, I suppose, become a surrogate “child”: he even gracefully returns our affections – when it suits him – occasionally.

My childhood home.

My childhood home.

After spending all my younger years years in one house, , our own family has moved house eleven times, some houses being but passing phases, others being our home for long periods. While I’ve loved living in each of our houses, the house itself does not define home, except for the duration we live there. If we return for a drive-by it’s out of curiosity to see what’s changed and especially to look at the garden. So I guess we have to add the garden to a sense of home. It may be a townhouse block or a larger suburban block, but the plants and birds who visit become part of our feeling of home. And in every house, a cat has been part of our home.29 bally st 7 front

There is really only one house for which I feel nostalgic and that’s my my grandparents’ house which I visited daily as a child. I think it was the indulgence and exploration that made it so irresistable. That is perhaps the home of “time”, a special place in memory and affection.

Other than husband and cat, the constants of home are the belongings we treasure and take with us from house to house. Always a core of books, special items and “treasures” we’ve acquired wherever we’ve lived or travelled. Very little has any real commercial value, but they reflect our lives. It’s hard to imagine our home without them, though that is something that has to be considered when living with the annual risk of cyclones. Perhaps that’s why my cyclone emergency packing pays minimal attention to clothes, linen and other practicalities. It’s interesting to ponder what I would take with me to define home if we were to spend an extended time overseas.

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Is “home” a specific place for me? For a long time Brisbane was home, as I’d known no other. That changed when I went to live in Papua New Guinea after we married, the transition to a new sense of home being surprisingly speedy. Returning to PNG in 2012, there was a real sense of being home again: the familiarity of place and people. We feel the same every time our plane lands in Cairns because the density of the tropical ranges evoke PNG so clearly. Now, each place we live imprints itself on mind and emotion.

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My parents didn’t own a car until I was in my late teens so Brisbane was a series of disjointed images rather like map segments stuck together. Flying in regularly, my vision of it changed: the serpentine Brisbane River wound its way through the city; the hills enclosing the city and the red-roofed houses seemed so obvious.

Eldest daughter with her Poppy, feeding the lorikeets.

Eldest daughter with her Poppy, feeding the lorikeets.

Brisbane is kookaburras laughing, magpies warbling and lorikeets drunk on nectar. The sound of cicadas on a hot summer’s day. The different flowers and plants of this sub-tropical town: perhaps the best of both “worlds”.Billabong2

DSC_1100The Top End will remain with me for its very different geography and vegetation, and its wide open spaces. The drama of the Wet Season with its fierce electrical storms and torrential rains. The inability to swim in those magnificently turquoise waters (crocodiles, stingers, sharks etc). The tropical beauty of a bush billabong. The peep-peep of the crimson finches in our yard, the flash of colour from a rainbow bee-eater, the strangled laugh of the northern kookaburra, the speed of a whistling kite as it snatches a sausage.

All these places become part of my history of “home” as we move around.

Near Renner Springs NT

Near Renner Springs NT

What remains unchanged is my core sense of Australia as home. Whenever we return from a trip overseas it’s the wide, bright blue skies that strike me first and the vivid colours so different from the northern hemisphere. The sense of space when travelling through our much-mythologised outback. The sound of surf breaking on the vast white sands of our beaches. A huge sky emblazoned with the southern stars and the Southern Cross marking their transition through the night. Its bizarre animals and magnificent native flora. Dorothy Mackellar’s poem, My Country, though a little old-fashioned in style, sums it up well in essence.

So what is truly home for me? On a daily basis it’s Mr Cassmob, the cat, our books and belongings, the garden and its flowers and birds. The house structure is important but only while we live there. Underpinning it all is the sense of place: the affiliation with the land and landscape of Australia in all its manifestations.Birds better

Sepia Saturday 210: Award-winning relatives

This week’s Sepia Saturday focuses on old books and the treasures (photographic or otherwise) found in them.Sepia Saturday 210

I don’t think I’ve ever found photos tucked away in old books but we did find a group photo behind another picture from my Grandparents’ house and I talked about that in my Moustaches and Mystery post recently.

Instead I thought I’d share a few book inscriptions with you. Over the past year I’ve acquired some of the family’s old books, including my childhood books, thanks to Mum’s move to an independent retirement unit.

Book inscriptions can be interesting I think as they reveal otherwise hidden parts of an ancestor’s or relative’s life. Back in the days when books were expensive and only rarely bought by families who weren’t affluent, they were often gifts or even school prizes.

Two of the books I have included prizes awarded to family members. One was for Mr Cassmob’s grandmother, Katie McKenna, for writing in 1901.

Katie McKenna

Another was for my grandmother’s brother, Duncan McCorkindale, who was awarded the prize for passing second stage physiology and physical geography in his Glasgow school.

Duncan McCorkindale

In fact it was something about Duncan that was one of the few things I found tucked away in a bible: the notice of his rather gruesome death in Sydney. Which makes me realise that I’ve never written about that story, or his role in the building of the nation’s capital, Canberra. I need to put that on my blog post list.Irish book

I’m curious who this book belonged to as there’s no inscription, and no publication date. My best guess is that it belonged to my Irish grandfather or one of his children.

A while ago I wrote about a prize that my grandfather’s young brother had won, but I’ve no idea what his prize was. I wonder if it too was a book.

Have you found prize inscriptions in books you’ve inherited, either from your family or a used-book store?

To read the stories other Sepians have submitted this week you can click here.

Flowers of Remembrance Geneameme

La vie en rosesA few days ago I suggested a new open-ended Flowers of Remembrance geneameme: which flowers remind you of your family (close and distant) and perhaps even friends. I’d been reflecting how certain flowers, or plants, made me think of those who’ve gone before me and wondered if other people did the same.

So here is my own response: a mix of fragrances, flowers and plants.

My Aunty Emily (great aunt) was like a grandmother to me after my maternal grandmother died. Aunty Emily makes me think of pansies because they were on the china she gave me and her own china, the magnificent roses in New Farm Park where’d we meet for an outing. She also makes me think of the fragrance of lavender and violets.

HydrangeaMy paternal grandmother is always associated with big blue-purple hydrangeas, which she had growing in tubs under the verandah. I don’t recall ever seeing cut flowers in the house.

My paternal grandfather makes me think of maidenhair fern which he had growing in old casks under the same verandah. Why he makes me think of ferns and her of flowers I don’t know…gender bias?

Dad conjures up thoughts of gerberas and roses. The gerberas were large double ones, usually orange, and he got the seeds from a nursery in Bundaberg (Bauer’s I believe). His Roundelay roses were spectacular and I loved a candy-pink and cream-striped rose that he grew as well, even though I usually dislike variegated plants (can’t retrieve its name). The mango tree and its flowers – the tree that was planted when he was born all those years ago – although a bit scruffy looking, still holding on, ninety odd years later.

PansiesMum and flowers go together like a horse and carriage. We often had cut flowers from the garden in the house. Floral thoughts take me to pansies, sweet peas and Dad’s roses. The roses and sweet peas would go in a crystal vase but the pansies were always displayed in a heart-shaped frosted green-glass dish where they sat perfectly. Mum was also behind my habit of taking flowers to school for feast days and other special occasions. Flower arranging has been a hobby of hers for a very long time, for her own pleasure and for use in the church, or indeed our wedding reception.

DSC_1396Mr Cassmob is forever associated for me with the dainty bunches of violets he would buy for me while we were at uni –the jealous looks I’d get you wouldn’t believe. The fragrance was magnificent. He also evokes red roses and hibiscus and I thank my lucky stars that his mother taught her son not only to love flowers, but to buy them for his wife.

My mother-in-law loved flowers but only displayed them, one or two at a time, in tiny vases. Her favourites were hibiscus which she grew in Papua New Guinea, including importing a special purple one from Hawaii back in the 1960s. Each day a new hibiscus would be placed in a small upside-down bowl on the dining table. At her husband’s funeral we learned that he had bought her yellow roses, so that’s an earlier association.

My father-in-law, apart from those yellow roses, was happy to have flowers around, as having Kaye happy was one of his raisons d’être.

606 roses 2One daughter also loves fresh flowers in the house, whatever is seasonal, and for some of us our memories will be of her Nairobi house filled with gorgeous roses.

Another daughter turns my thoughts to flower arrangements which she seems to accrue fairly often in her teaching role and orchids and stargazer lilies remind me of her wedding.

My husband remembers his grandmother in country Victoria, for her mulberry trees, and his other grandmother for the roses in the front garden.

My good friend Linda is a lover of all flowers but especially the fragrant ones: jasmine, gardenias and camellias. Another friend has frangipani in her Christmas displays. Thoughts of another friend bring to mind the hoya cutting we gave her, that has gone beserk and grown magnificently for her.

Lavender Bridestowe Tasmania Jan 09And my own favourites? What would others say? Perhaps lavender or grevilleas or frangipani …or just any flowers. Mr Cassmob says violets and red roses. My daughters might say the Stargazer lilies that we so often have in the house here. What I really dislike are arum lilies and gladioli which remind me of the many funerals I attended at my primary school. Recently I’ve been developing a passion for peonies which is thwarted because you just don’t see them here.

Even though I don’t know my distant ancestors, I’d associate George Kunkel with orange blossoms from his fruit orchard, and of course what else would Mary O’Brien evoke but shamrocks?

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little geneameme with its evocation of sight, fragrance and those we’ve loved, now or in the distant past.

What it’s made me realise is how little I know about the flower preferences of some of my friends, and that not everyone has cut flowers in the house. I know some people prefer them to stay on the bushes (Robyn, are you reading?) but I like them in both places.

Do you have seasonal or travel floral memories?

A hibiscus for Kaye.

A hibiscus for Kaye.

Mine are: jacarandas flowering in Spring in the Great Court, or round the lake, as a prelude to exam time at The University of Queensland; a mass of pink Eucalyptus ptychocarpa (now apparently Corymbia ptychocarpa) blossoms that appear in Brisbane and Darwin at this time of year; the bright yellow pom-poms of Xanthostemon in Brisbane summers (spectacular last year); native violets blanketing the garden; masses of grevillea in spring, the cerise flowers of Melaleuca viridiflora smothering the tree in my parent’s backyard. The Cassia fistula’s magnificent yellow pendulous flowers in Brisbane and Port Moresby, and their hazardous seedpods; and the Golden Raintree (Koelreutia paniculata) on our Brisbane footpath. The arrival of the Christmas owls in the liquidamber in our Brisbane back yard remain a precious memory even though the tree-phobic neighbour has won out and had the tree removed. The poincianas bursting into red flower as Christmas approaches, the pinks of the frangipani at Christmas and the flush of white on the melaleucas, the waterlilies on the billabongs in Kakadu. The wonderful gardens we visit during each year’s Open Gardens scheme throughout the Dry Season.

Do you remember those Scratch’n’Sniff books which were around in the early 70s? That’s what we need for today’s post! If you haven’t already posted on this topic, why not join in? Please leave your link in the comments or use a #flowersgeneameme twitter tag.

Advent Calendar 2013: Day 16 – Christmas Travel

The theme for Day 16’s Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories was Christmas Travel: “Over the river and through the woods” as the song goes . . . Christmas time can often mean travel home or meeting up with family at a special destination. Do you remember traveling back home for Christmas? Were there any trips that standout in your memory? What methods of travel have you used to make the trip home?

I first wrote on this topic in 2011 in terms of my childhood Christmases, and one special one Mr Cassmob and I made in 1992.

Xmas lunch L&RSince our children reached adulthood, Christmas travel has pretty much fallen to them. My first thoughts were that we’ve been fortunate to mainly have them all around at Christmas time but when I tallied up the absences I was surprised that there’d been an unavoidable few. Thanks to technology we’ve been able to Skype the missing person in recent years, with calls to Africa or Italy, but back when our youngest was doing her Aussie-ritual year abroad in Hook Norton, we had to suffice with phone calls. Calls also had to suffice when DD#1 and DD#2 celebrated Christmas Day in New York. It was hard to feel sorry for them when they had Christmas lunch at a restaurant overlooking the Rockerfeller Plaza ice rink then went to Central Park. They even had Darwin friends who they met up with so weren’t on their Pat Malone (own).

Peter and Pauleen Xmas 2008 cropOur home gatherings have involved very long drives or long flights for whoever is the farthest from the bulk of the Cass mob, now concentrated in Darwin. One year the shoe was on the other foot and we took a driving trip to Tasmania where we met our eldest daughter and had a delightful Christmas on the gorgeous Freycinet Peninsular. It was chilly but sunny and we were able to go for a short drive to the magnificent beaches nearby. Tassie is also noted for its fine fresh produce and wine, so we had a splash-up Christmas meal with Tasmanian bubbles, lobster, prawns and scallops bought from the fish co-op the day before and fresh-from-the-vine raspberries and blueberries. DD#1 was the chef (I was the sous-chef) so we had a fabulous meal of lobster risotto with a starter of scallops on cauliflower puree. Delizioso!! Oh, yes, this is supposed to be about travel not food!

Image from Shutterstock.com

Image from Shutterstock.com

Only once have we been home alone as empty nesters, and that was our first year in Darwin. We coped quite well and thought in future we’d volunteer to serve community meals. So much for our good intentions, as never again have we been alone.

While we’ve travelled close to Christmas, we’ve always made sure we’re home for the big day (excl Tasmania).  As Darwin is so far from many people’s homes, we’ve also included friends who can’t make it home to family for the holidays. This Top End tradition is about sharing the joy with the so-called “orphans”.  When it’s not too hot, there’s been the chance for cricket or the pool.

However back in 1989 my youngest daughter, my mother and myself travelled to Europe and Christmas was spent in Lucerne. Calls home to the family didn’t really cut it for us and it was sad to be so far from them. Not one of my wisest decisions for a variety of reasons.

So there you have it, planes and cars for our distance travel but no boats and trains, unless you count the ferry to Tasmania. In fact sometimes our car can look like this one just travelling across town with gifts and a stash of food.

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This post is part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) which allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com. You can see the posts others have submitted on the Advent Calendar Pinterest site.

Advent Calendar: Day 15 – Christmas Tree Decorations

The Advent Calendar of Memories for 15th December was Christmas Tree decorations: Do you have unique decorations that you use each Christmas? How did you get them or were they passed down to you from family members? Do you have certain traditions surrounding Christmas decorations such as purchasing one from every state or country you visit? Describe your favourite decorations!  Once again I’m behind with the topics.

Xmas decorations collage

Collage made using photovisio.com

Yes, we have a stash of Christmas tree ornaments that are put up every year in the first week of December. Some are common or garden ones from department stores but many are special ones that we’ve bought while travelling: in Ireland, England, France, Bavaria and Africa. Just as well we often travel around that time of year (another post!) Strangely while we were in the USA just before Xmas once we don’t have any ornaments from there, or indeed from Scotland.

Our daughter bought us a beautiful Inuit Christmas ball a while ago but when hers bit the tiled floor a few years ago we passed ours on to her. This year the glue on my Tara bell suffered from tropical melt, and it too fell to the floor. Thank heavens for super-glue, and it’s only missing a tiny piece!

We have only one bright-pinks 70s ornament from our very first Xmas trees but when Target had some similar ones a few years back I bought some more in similar colours.

It’s always interesting to “tour” our daughters’ trees each year as among their collection are ones we passed on to them when they set up home and we became empty nesters. Craft they made as littlies and some of our Bavarian wooden ornaments from Nuremberg. Hopefully they will eventually pass down to our grandchildren, and at the rate we insist on buying more, despite a total over-supply, there’ll be plenty to go around.

A while ago I mentioned I should do an A to Z of our Christmas ornaments which decorate our tree and house.

A is for a choir of angels, in all manner of styles.

B is for baubles (flash glass ones or newer plastic ones), multi-coloured butterflies and birds

C is for craft (made by family or friends), crystal danglies and cherries

D is for a tiny drummer boy

E is for recycled Xmas earrings and Eeyore with gift

F is for French birds –lovely ornaments bought in Provence

G is for geese, mainly from Bavaria, or hand-crafted cross-stitch;  blogging gift swaps or gift ornaments

H is for a beating of hearts –all over the tree, and for heirlooms

I is for my Irish ornaments –a Royal Tara bell and Waterford china angel

DSC_0524J is for Jingle bells – some of the bells jingle when touched

K is for our kids’ craft: special things like mushrooms we’ve made from the Gnome Book of Christmas

L is for the strand of lights which circles the tree

M is for our Maasai decorations from Kenya: birds, hearts, angels

N is for Noel and the nativity set (manger)

O is for Ornaments and the orange ball which is a flash back to our original set

P is for a Procession of Pusscats with Puddings which marches up our stair-rail

Q is for a quirky mermaid ornament a friend gave me

R is for ribbon bows and the reindeer from a gift swap.

S is for a heaven of stars from around the world, sleds, snowflakes and snowmen

T is for tinsel and Tigger

U is for uncoordinated – our tree does not have a uniform style

V is for vibrant – colourful, varied and very evocative

W is for tiny wreaths on the tree, large ones on the doors, and world ornaments

X is for eXtra special but not eXpensive (unless you count the airfares to get some!)

Y is for a little yellow bird, the only splash of yellow on the tree

Z is for the Zanzibari dhow hearts which I bought for the tree.

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This post is part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) which allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com. You can see the posts others have submitted on the Advent Calendar Pinterest site.

Advent Calendar of Memories: Day 11 – Christmas at Church

The topic for Day 11 of the Advent Calendar of Memories 2013 is Christmas at Church: There are a variety of activities at Church during Christmastime, and they can vary based on your denomination or church. From the lighting of the Advent Wreath to Midnight Mass or Christmas Eve church services, for many, church is a central focus of the Christmas holiday.

A Christmas crib in Bavaria.

A Christmas crib in Bavaria.

My mother and I were always church goers and my father would very occasionally join us for Midnight Mass even though he wasn’t a Catholic. Christmas, like Easter, had many phases to the preparation for Christmas including the priest wearing purple vestments throughout Advent then wearing white on Christmas Day.

In more recent times the church has had Advent wreaths with various coloured candles for each week of Advent and while I don’t really recall this from my childhood, I do distinctly remember the Easter candle being re-lit at Christmas. The crib would be set up in the church and the baby Jesus added, I think, on Christmas Eve. We did the same thing at home: the crib was set up on a large corner display table with an angel hovering over it and suspended by the glass top of the table. Again, the baby would not be added until Christmas Day.

It was traditional to go to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve when I was a child and this was a tradition we continued with our own children for many decades. It was part of what made Christmas special, including the sleepiness, darkness, and then the candles. The band at the church we attended would play subdued carols throughout Midnight Mass, then when then as everyone left, full of the spirit of Christmas, they’d launch into rocking versions of carols with full acoustics. It was fun, and very different from the churches overseas.

Of course in Australia, we had the advantage that we didn’t have to contend with snow, jackets or the freezing cold. Even at midnight it was often still quite hot.

christmas-church-280x170When we came home we’d have shortbread and a hot drink. Midnight Mass also had a good off-spin which is that the kids were then tired enough to sleep in a little on Christmas morning and not wake us up at 4am! One of our traditions was that they had to roll over and go back to sleep when they first woke up, then they could look at one of the parcels on the end of their beds. Between this tradition and not getting to sleep until 1am, we were rarely awakened at an unholy hour on Christmas morning.

christmas-school-angel-300x201I’m not going to re-submit a response for the Christmas at School(day 13) topic, but if you would like to read my 2011 post, you’ll find it here.

This post is part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) which allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December. Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com. You can see the posts others have submitted on the Advent Calendar Pinterest site. My post today is a minor re-working of my 2011 one.

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Advent Calendar of Memories: Day 8 – Christmas Shopping & Kiva

The topic for Day 8 of the Advent Calendar of Memories was Christmas ShoppingFor many of us, the focus of the Christmas season isn’t on “things” but on family and friends. Still, we like to give presents – large and small – to those we love. Do you shop during Christmastime or do you shop much earlier in the year to get it out of the way? Have you seen a change in your shopping habits as you’ve gotten older? Do you shop online? Do you participate in Black Friday or Cyber Monday activities? What was Christmas shopping like for your family and ancestors?

blogged on this topic back in 2011 so I’m not going to add much to that. Yes, I shop online for some gifts. I also do lay-bys for the grandchildren some time during the year. When I have to go shopping in the real world I try to get there before school closes to minimise the aggravation factor. Just yesterday there were several people in the toy aisles saying “I’m over this!”

As a family we decided that we were getting carried away with gifts so some years ago we swapped to the Secret Santa model where each family draws another family for a large-ish gift (about $75) and then each person draws another (<$20). The grandchildren of course get their own gifts but we try to contain our shopping spree so they don’t come to expect that every thing they want, everything they get.

kiva lge

We have also used Kiva as one of our nominated gifts. In only two years, our original gift has grown from three normal donations to 11 donations, with four having been fully paid out already and further loans paid from those repayments. Talk about the gift that keeps on giving!

Back in late 2011, Judy Webster established the Genealogists for Families group within Kiva and what an impact it’s had! Thanks to the generosity of genealogists world-wide, other less advantaged people have had the opportunity to further their economic independence. Here’s some stats to show just what we’ve achieved in a couple of short years. It would have been great to reach the $100,000 mark by end 2013 but that may be a goal too far. Why not join us in making a difference for other families around the world, surely the essence of the Christmas spirit. You can read a bit more about the process here. Just think, not only can you make a difference, you don’t have to go anywhere near the shops!

Team Impact Report

In 2011 the group made $US 6,675 loans. In 2012 this grew to $32,200 and in 2013 to date, $US42,700. Total $
A few breakdowns in the stats – the female:male distribution probably reflects the gender distribution of the team of genealogists making the loans.
Gender of Borrowers
74% Female (2,272)
26% Male (819)
Category of Loan
  • Agriculture  693 loans 
  •  Food 693 loans
  •  Retail 471 loans
  •  Services 355 loans
  •  Arts 190 loans
  •  Housing 156 loanssanta-shopping-300x199

This post is part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) which allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! 

Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com. You can see the posts others have submitted on the Advent Calendar Pinterest site.

Advent Calendar: Day 9 – Christmas Craft

Christmas Craft or Christmas Shopping, that is the question. The prompt for today is: There’s a movement towards making items for Christmas gifts or even for Christmas decorating. Have you ever made something by hand related to Christmas? What was the item, how was it made and what did you do with the finished product? What about other family members – was or is there anyone who excels at hand-crafted items and giving them as gifts during Christmas?

Xmas cross stitch

I need to straighten up that right hand picture!

On reflection it seems our family was fairly crafty, though necessarily every year. This was possibly an inheritance from my mother and her side of the family, as my Aunty Mary was also an enthusiastic crafter.

Family craft activities by three generations: my mother, me and my daughters.

Family craft activities by three generations: my mother, me and my daughters.

Like many families ours would decorate our tree with craft made by the children at school. Unfortunately they’re not really all that durable and over the years have become completely tatty and had to be retired. Now it’s the turn of the grandchildren, as in the weeks between school ending and Christmas we usually tackle at least one craft activity for the parents, with a painting on canvas blocks done by each child being the chief activity.

Santa Xmas craft

As our own children got in the mid-late primary school years we’d engage in craft activities at home. In my mind they’ve become the “Year of…”. One year it was the Year of Fymo when several families of neighbourhood kids would be on the family room floor creating havoc and craft with Fymo: beads, wreaths, and ornaments.

I based this Jubilee swap craft on the Xmas ones we used to do - and which were all given away.

I based this Jubilee swap craft on the Xmas ones we used to do – and which were all given away.

Then there was the Year of Cross-stitching when we created small decorations with Christmas themed cross-stitch. When travelling in Europe at Christmas-time 1989 we amused ourselves each evening making up these with an Aussie theme (koalas with gifts etc), and then gifting them to the Bed and Breakfast owners we especially liked. I unearthed a blank frame last year and completed it for the French-based blogger I’d been allocated in the Faith, Hope and Charity Jubilee Swap.

Or the Year of Applique, when I stitched appliqued T-shirts or aprons in a variety of patterns to celebrate Australia’s bicentenary as well as Christmas shirts for daughters, nieces and nephews.

Kermit and Xmas_edited-1Or the year I made photo albums for our daughters of events in their lives to that point. And then topped them up a couple of years later – but mixed up the gift tags so they had to swap to the right daughter <smile>.

One Christmas craft which gets turned out each year is the Kermit with Christmas Stocking that I made probably twenty plus years ago. If it wasn’t for our tropical insects it would be able to contain lollies and treats but instead it’s largely ornamental.

I guess there have probably been other Christmas craft activities that have faded from memory but each one giving pleasure in the activity at the time.  Quite apart from crafty activities there’s always the opportunity to make food-goodies for gifts which has happened occasionally, but not recently. They often included white chocolate or rum balls made by the kids for their grandparents or aunts.

In many ways I don’t think craft or food gifts are about saving money, because they have a cost in themselves. What they are about is the gift of the crafter’s love, time and ability (or just aspiration!) which is what Christmas sharing is about.

And as always, the cat has the last word when it comes to Christmas decorations, as you can tell from his pugnacious expression.

What do you mean I have to get off?

What do you mean I have to get off?

This post is part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) which allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com. You can see the posts others have submitted on the Advent Calendar Pinterest site.

Advent Calendar: Day 4 – Christmas Lights & Illuminations

The Christmas light prompt is: Some families string up a few lights each year while others go nuclear and are destined to force their neighbours into a brown out situation. Did your family put up lights and outdoor decorations around Christmas time? What about the neighbours? And was it a favourite family activity to drive around to look at Christmas lights? What about any local attractions such as parks, zoos and the like which put up displays of lights and outdoor decorations?

Christmas Lights in Darwin 2012

Christmas Lights in Darwin 2012: a very Aussie set of lights with Santa and his snow white boomers (kangaroos) in lieu of reindeer.

As a child, lights were mainly restricted to shops and city streets. With long summer nights the further south you go, the less the impact of house or street lighting, unlike colder climates where the sparkle of lights everywhere brightens the darkness and the spirits.

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A Christmas window display in the David Jones’ window in Sydney 2006.

Instead it was traditional in those long-ago years to visit the city and see the wonderful Christmas displays (including pretty illumination and moving models) in the windows of our big department stores, like Myer or David Jones (or McWhirter or TC Beirnes). At different times we’ve seen similar window displays in Sydney as well and even in Dublin. Still I think that amazement that one has as a child remains untouched. It’s still lovely to see them but it’s just not as awe-inspiring.

I have no recollection of any houses displaying lights as happens today. It’s only in recent times (relatively) that the Christmas lights tours have taken off. We’ve only been checking out the Darwin lights for a few years and now regret we hadn’t realised the extent of the displays earlier.

christmas-lights-300x300For our family, Christmas lights were probably as much about the Christmas Carols by Candlelight which we attended every year for decades, even when our littlest was only a few weeks old. It was so atmospheric to be in a park singing away to the performers on the stage and with candles swaying. Quite beautiful and helped to define Christmas and our own family’s tradition. Unfortunately, to our minds, the Carols by Candlelight became increasingly commercialised and tacky so we ended up no longer attending in person.

However one tradition that remains is that we watch Carols by Candlelight from the Myer Music Bowl on Christmas Eve: it’s our only Christmas television tradition. Sometimes all the chores are done and we’re chilled out, some years it’s still a mad panic to get presents wrapped. Whatever the day brings, we find the enthusiasm of the crowd is infectious, and the camera crews always manage to find some super-cute babies to profile in their vision.

I was quite astonished today to discover that the Carols by Candlelight tradition started in Australia –well at least according to Wikipedia. Perhaps that’s because our climate is more conducive to spending hours out doors at that time of the year.

This post combines several topics for the Advent Calendar: Christmas lights, Christmas TV/Movies and a dab of Christmas Tradition. The 2011 topic was slightly different focusing on outdoor decorations: you can read my post here.

This post is part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) which allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com. You can see the posts others have submitted on the Advent Calendar Pinterest site.