a quiet Christmas and a shiny new year

Friday, 30 December 2016

Well, hello everybody. How was your Christmas? Was it warm or cold where you were? Did you eat seafood? Fruit mince pies? Antipasto in the sunshine? Flaming puddings by the snow-banked window? Did you open presents under the palm tree on Christmas morning or did you wait till the afternoon, with fat bellies popping by the fire?

Our day started not-too-early--07:30, gasp. Yes, for our family, the 04:30 days are long gone (though I fully empathise with those who are still entrenched!). We waited 40 mins for my girl Ella to zhuzh herself up (which gave me time to drink my Daily Tea in bed) and then it was under the tree for our traditional personalised Christmas cookies, with Riley as Christmas elf. This year, it was gingerbread with lemon icing in random filigree patterns. Mmmm. They were delish.

By the time the pressies were done, it was time to start cooking. It's been a looooong time since I've made Christmas lunch, and my goodness, even for four people, it takes a while, non??? Why is that?

Hubster whacked our glazed ham and pork roast in the Weber, and I got to roasting things in the oven and prettying up la table. It was hot here at our house, so it was an indoor meal for us. My setting was inspired by the colours and flavours of Donna Hay's 2016 Christmas magazine, the metallic sparkle of this year's Kikki-K range and a last-minute pre-Xmas sale at Provincial Home Living (no, this is not a sponsored post--just love love love).

I have quite a thing for origami, and these little gold trees (above right) are super easy and so cute. They were place-markers. And I made the green ones as gifts for those we've lost--my parents, and the hubster's father. They were surrounded by tealights.

The twirling musical manger scene (above right, below right) was one of my Christmas gifts. I'm not a religious person, but I so believe in the spirit and meaning of Christmas, and the message of love, so we always have a nativity scene in our house. I just adore, adore this. It spins around to Hark, the Herald Angels Sing, and the little angels wobble.

Strangely, orchids mean Christmas to me. They also mean Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. And as Christmas fell on a Sunday, they had to join in.


Speaking of obsession--Christmas pyramids that spin under tealights. Oh my. I first saw them in real life in Brugges back in early 2013--so hunted them down when we got home (Dusk have them). I have two but I'd like a million. You can see my taller one on the left of the image at the very top of this post. It's just too beautiful for words. Some close-ups, below, along with balsa wood deer from Target (Scandi is another obsession).

While lunch was roasting up in a roasting kitchen, we nibbled on spoils from an easy-peasy antipasto platter, with the intention of creating the least possible amount of washing up (another Christmas gift).

Then, when everything magically came together, and hubster and I were almost too exhausted to carve, we sat for pork, ham, roast spuds and parsnips, beans, Brussells sprouts with chorizo (I am the world's greatest sprout lover, and will conjure any form to convert my children--I'm still trying!) and a roast pumpkin, feta and baby spinach salad.

Of all ironies, the heat sapped our appetites, and we only nibbled at the meal, with dessert untouched till 4pm! Upside: leftovers till 2018. Almost literally.

Dessert was my famous candy cane ice cream pudding. It's a hugely complicated exercise. Smash candy canes to pieces, fold through softened best-quality vanilla ice cream. Plop into a clingfilm-lined pudding bowl. Place a circle of cake or gingerbread on top, cover and freeze. Upend onto a plate just before serving. Pour over melted dark chocolate and sprinkle on sparkly bits, if sparkly bits are required (always required here).

Volcanically divine, and yes, you are allowed to eat it for dinner that night.

Additionally, we had a gingerbread trifle (below) which is just smooshed up ginger cake (you can douse this in Stone's Ginger Wine or dark rum--or, like us--you can simply pour, at liberty, over your own serving) layered with salted caramel sauce and vanilla custard. Top with a snowy mountain of unsweetened whipped cream and gingerbread crumbles*.

If you like more intense gingery heat, just finely dice crystallised ginger and scatter that through the layers (or on top), along with a good grinding of black pepper. Insanely good. Deer and evergreen optional.

*It's perfectly, perfectly okay to pop into the market and get pre-made cake, sauce, custard and gingerbread for this. If, however, you'd rather start from scratch and even crystallise your own ginger, all power to you.

Oh, and we also had my mother's Christmas cake (I make two every year--one for eating on the spot, whilst still pumping out heat, and one for marinating over two months till D-Day). We finally began digging into this on the 29th!

As for the rest of the day, these $10 virtual reality goggles (below) and a game of Celebrity Head got the most airplay. Otherwise, we just pretty much had a lie down and did some serious binge-watching of old BBC Christmas specials and such. And then the phone calls.

It was so lovely.

Just being together and having nothing to do and nowhere to be was the best part of our 2016 Christmas. That, and my stuffed flamingo, below. Do you think there's a theme going on here?

I hope your end of year celebration was special. 2016 has been a truly bizzare year that's left few untouched. I'm so looking forward to the fresh new energy of 2017 (a number 1 year in our 9-year cycles), and I can already feel the positivity.

I'm not into resolutions, but I'll be continuing my quest to get outdoors more and live a Real Life as opposed to the Virtual one I've been trapped in for so long. I know others feel this, too... so many of us do. I want to spend more time with friends, in person, not via Facebook. I want to get into nature and feel the sun in my hair. I want to read much, much more--for pleasure, not work. I want to cook and garden and get back into photography.

Ella and me, Merimbula, Dec 2016

Basically, I just want to live--unencumbered by expectation. I want to plant my feet in soil and grow into my deepest passions and do only what I love. This year has taught me incalculably and now I'm ready to listen to the lessons and not only hear them, but action them.

We think about lessons. We talk about them. But we so rarely actually put them into place. It's time.

I'm also freshly excited about my work. Much of the time, it's commissioned work (which I do love) but I want to go out on more expansive limbs this year and create work that exists nowhere else but in my head, and comes from pure creativity. Australia Illustrated was the beginning of that for me, and I've got so many wonderful ideas, battering to get out.

It's scary to embark on long term projects with no guarantee they'll go anywhere, but that's what publishing is about, and that's the thrill of it. I've also come to realise that no amount of work is ever wasted. It's all a part of the journey--of building skills and finding direction.

I'm going to share these with you on this blog as they unfold. And I'm also going to share more tips and tricks for your own writing and illustrating journey, and will be revising and updating my handbook: The Fantastical Flying Creator, so keep an eye out for that one.

Through January, I'll be working on a picture book project I'm super passionate about--will be illustrating it. I have to slow-breathe when I think of it, I'm that excited.

Then in February, I'm embarking on my first illustration commission with the National Library of Australia--a fantastic project; will reveal more about that when I can.

In May 2017, I'll be attending the KidLitVic Meet the Publishers conference in Melbourne (hope to see you there), and will be showing my first illustration portfolio, so I have A LOT of work to do. This is all so new to me, and I'll share how the portfolio comes together, as a lot of you are forming your own, too.

Other than that, I pretty much want to stop faffing online and just LIVE. That's my mantra for 2017. Real Life living. If you feel this too, let's hold hands and take the leap together. No more FOMO. No more living life as a megabyte (or a gigabyte, as Dame Edna surely would attest).

If you're also keen to take your life and career to new heights, let's get off Facebook and bury ourselves in paint and paper and sketchbooks and notebooks ... in cafes and at the beach and on mountaintops. Even in a chair on the veranda will do.

2017. The year of living.

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