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Two evenings in San Fran

We had a couple of fantastic nights in San Francisco over new year’s.

Like every other tourist, we made our way to Fisherman’s Wharf.

We had drinks and mini burgers (sliders) at a bar and then strolled around among the holiday crowds.

Kitschy but fun was the wharf with mechanical and electronic games, some very, very old.

We visited another wharf. The light show on the Christmas tree was spectacular.

We took the cable car to Union Square. First stop the St Francis Hotel to check out the castles made of sugar as part of their Christmas decorations.

A walk around Macey’s to look at their Christmas windows. Every Christmas, they display homeless cats and dogs in their windows that need adopting.

We then walked up to the Christmas tree and outdoor ice skating rink in the centre of Union Square.

On our second night, after dinner at a traditional Italian restaurant that had a duke box on each table, we drove to the hills on either side of the city to admire the view.

The first two stops were lovely. The air was still. At one there was a memorial to all forms of US navy. We crossed the freeway and walked over the old fortifications at Battery Spencer. We watched the planes flying in and circulating in their holding pattern. They were like fireflies or mystical lights.

The other view from Inspiration Point was on the other side of the city. The wind had whipped up and it was freezing so I only gave the view a cursory look.

Such a beautiful city!

Christmas Lights American style

The Dreamer, who loves California and has visited many times, said we had to see the lights in the 40s.

What on earth is that?

Turns out the streets in Sacramento are numbered or lettered.

The 40s is a residential area of older style houses. And many of the residents go all out with Christmas lights, including lights across the street.

Two days after Christmas, three days for us, everyone still felt in the Christmas spirit. So glad we got to see this. Wish I’d shared this earlier so you could have felt the Christmastide spirit.

42nd Street got my vote for first place.

It was all just beautiful.

Boxing Day, times 2

Shortly, we fly out on Boxing Day and will land in San Fran on Boxing Day, so we get two Boxing Days.

Well, can I claim it if the country we are visiting doesn’t recognise Boxing Day?

And is there any need to have a Boxing Day if you’re not enjoying the peace and quiet after Christmas Day and the mad rush of the pre-Christmas period by eating up the leftovers, enjoying your gifts and maybe catching up with family or neighbours who didn’t come over on Christmas Day and are likewise enjoying the chill of the day that is Boxing Day?

For some Boxing Day is the first day of the test in Melbourne or the start of the Sydney to Hobart or even, for the mad, going to the Christmas sales.

My Boxing Day before we left was none of these things. Last minute packing. A rush to the supermarket for some late requests for Aussie food items. And an anxious wait for my son who flew in from the States, minus Christmas Day and minus his luggage. [Thank you, Delta. Not.]

A heatwave is about to hit the east coast of Australia. I’m doing a #scottyfrommarketing (aka our Prime Minister) and leaving the country. I will miss Christmastide, one of my most favourite times of the year. Quiet. Chill. No pressure. No responsibilities.

But let’s travel!

Christmas Day

As usual, I stayed up late on Christmas Eve, tidying and cleaning and setting the tables.

We had one on the verandah and one inside. Table outside for nibbles and drinks. Inside one for the dinner.

In the past all of my in-laws have come. BiL, his wife and three kids. SiL and her two kids. MiL and her partner.

There’d often be others. Friends. Cousins. Some of my family. FiL, until he passed away.

This year it is a vastly diminished gathering. One of my sons is stuck in LA airport. He missed his connecting flight. He won’t have Christmas Day at all. He gets on the plane on Christmas Eve and lands on Boxing Day.

BiL’s wife decided she and the three kids were not coming this year. Though they came for drinks. There’s no visiting family from overseas. Friends we’ve asked in the past have either died or moved interstate. MiL has dementia and no longer has a boyfriend.

We had dip and French style goats cheese with crackers,nuts, and chips. Not as much as we have had in the past as we are flying out tomorrow so can’t have leftovers. No prawns. Mr S left the smoked salmon in our car so no salmon on blinis. What a waste!!!

For mains we had ham, turkey breast, lamb, roast potatoes, roast sweet potatoes, peas with gravy, cranberry sauce, red current jelly and mint jelly.

Dessert? Pav. Fruit. Christmas cake. Chocolates.

A day of food, drink, family, music, drink, conversation and laughter.

I hope all my readers had a merry Christmas!

PS: the toilet brush went over well. Mr S laughed all evening at the book which rubbishes Australian towns.

And I got this ornament in memory of my trip to the ballet.

Heiligabend*

*Christmas Eve, literally Holy evening

Germans make a big thing about Christmas Eve, rather than Christmas Day. Growing up, we opened our presents on Christmas Eve, which is when German kids get them.

What about Santa, you ask?

Well, my sister and I didn’t believe in Santa by the time we were opening presents on Christmas Eve. Our English father had long gone and we were living with our Oma. I don’t really remember Christmases before that.

I really loved opening the presents on Christmas Eve. I hate waiting. So getting in early before all our friends and neighbours was great. From a parent’s perspective it must beat waking up at 5am to open gifts?

We had a tradition. We’d eat our Christmas Eve dinner, light candles and sing some carols. Then we’d open the presents. One at a time, looking at each person open a present to share in their joy.

My mother has always been a champion gift wrapper, putting much work into decorating the gift. Every present had tinsel or a small Christmas decoration or bows or ribbons. It made your heart sing to look at the gifts under the tree where they’d been for several days.

My mother would have been baking a storm for weeks, and we finally got to eat some of her German biscuits while opening the presents. Luckily my sister and I had different favourites so there were never any dramas about who ate which biscuit. (I still only want one present from my mother: my favourite biscuits. Is it my fault the ones I love are the most complicated to make?) I don’t bake, but do buy German baked goods. The older son loves Pfeffernüsse and Stollen. Not Christmas without either

Mr S hasn’t allowed the Christmas Eve tradition of gift opening. “We’re Aussies in Australia. We’ll do it the Australian way.” [pout] But The Dreamer expects the German dinner of German wursts, sauerkraut and mashed potatoes. He was most disappointed when Mr S and I went into the city for dinner last Christmas Eve so I won’t make that mistake again.

Of course my childhood Christmas Eve was different from my mother’s. When she was growing up, the tree went up on Christmas Eve. It wasn’t standing there for weeks. It would be decorated during the day by the adults. The children would be let in the room in the evening to gasp at the beauty of the tree, lit with real candles. Then they’d eat, open a couple of gifts and go to church.

All traditions get a family twist. And all traditions change when people migrate to a new country. We never did the St Nicholas thing – chocolates on the 6th of December, which other friends with German parents did. Though that’d be because they were Catholics and we weren’t. (Luther wasn’t big on saints, you know.)

We may not have had chocolate on Saint Nicholas’s Day but we did have a Bunte Teller, a plate filled with chocolates. One each! A plate. Not a bowl. With chocolate coins, little foiled wrapped Santas, chocolate peanuts, jaffas, smarties.

That’s a tradition that I’ve continued. It’s not Christmas without a big chocolate plate to pick through to find your favourites. My boys no longer get their own plate – they’re not big on too many sweets now anyway – but there’s always one on the table.

No way! You didn’t really buy that as a Christmas gift?

There was nothing Mr S and I wanted for Christmas. We’ve just had a trip to Germany and are about to fly out to California. We have enough stuff and don’t want more landfill. I refuse to buy Mr S another nerf gun; he has too many of those. Grrrr. Clutter!!!

Clothes? No. We both have enough. Jewellery. Not really. I have enough. And can’t stand the cost – would rather travel. Perfume. No. I have a bottle from last year. Only wear it occasionally.

Opps. This is meant to be about what to buy Mr S. Not what do I want for me.

Mr S has enough alcohol and clothes and knickknacks. He wanted a speedometer for his bike and a new iPhone cover. Both perfect for the boys to get him.

So…

When we were Christmas present shopping, we walked past a shelf of bathroom products and I showed Mr S the exxy silicon toilet brush I was going to buy when our current one died. Mr S was enamoured. He liked the look of it. He thought it had good shit scrubbing potential.

So….

That’s what he is getting for Christmas. A toilet brush. If it is any consolation, it is an expensive toilet brush.

And to go with it, I bought the book Sh*t Towns of Australia.

People at work couldn’t believe I was serious. Though one woman said it is a really good toilet brush.

I like that I’ve bought something that shocks people. Almost as much as I like buying something useful.

Though to be honest, I’d hate it if Mr S bought me something in the same line.

[Shhh. Don’t tell him but I’ve bought something else really good. And I’ve made a bid to upgrade our flights to business class. Don’t know yet if we’ve been successful.]

A neighbourly Christmas

One of our neighbours, who is also one of the key street party supporters, invited us over for drinks the other night.

Wasn’t sure what to expect. Didn’t know who’d be there.

As it was the night before the last day of work, I planned on it being a quick night; I had to be up early and be a bright spark for the whole day at work. Also, as I’ve written before, I was exhausted in the downhill run to the end of the school term.

All in all, I was expecting a quick pre-dinner drink with a few nibblies.

Well, we had a lovely night. And a big one.

My glass was refilled, possibly a few too many times. (I blamed the red eyes the next day on the smoke haze!)

There was plenty to eat.

And most importantly the three other couples supplied much chat, laughter and good cheer.

Ah! Christmas in Australia. Sitting and drinking outdoors with neighbours!

Only downside?

Bloody mozzies had a field day on me. I didn’t notice until the next day. Half way through the day I realised I was scratching my legs to shreds. (Post Christmas I will blog about my anti-itch discovery.)

Spoiled!

That’s me. I’ve been spoiled.

School year is over. We were limping along at the end. Then right at the end, our spirits revived. We could feel the holidays.

I had to make four trips to my car at the end of the last day! Why? Because I’ve been spoiled.

Bottles and bottles of wine. Mainly red and a few sparkling. Which is great ’cause that’s what I drink.

A heap of chocolates and lollies. Also fantastic ’cause I eat them. (Only one box of Lindt balls. Word has gone out. I hate Lindt balls. All my family hates Lindt balls. Except my MiL who will get the box as her gift.) The Dreamer has already helped himself to some bananas (I was given the BIGGEST bag I have ever seen, didn’t even know they came in such a big bag – they are my favourite lolly) and pestered me to open the marshmallows (which I also love). Also in there are some homemade biscuits and fancy salad dressing and fairy floss.

And then there was a collection of different items: cooler cover for champagne (love it), hand operated food chopper (always wanted one), candles and smelly things (all are scents I like which means no regifting needed), divine body polish (thanks E, I know you’re reading!), a travel book.

The most unusual gift: a bonsai tree. Much laughter ensued as the giver bought three for three people and picked the plant for the personality. Mine is sparky and like lightning. (Better than the one that looked like a penis, I suppose.) But bugger me, I spent two hours reading on how to care for a bonsai. This is a gift with lots of work. It’ll be lucky to last two years.

And the pièce de résistance, a homemade Christmas cake. It weighs a tonne. Will be full of fruit and alcohol. I know because the person made me one last year and she soaks it for weeks. All the decorations are made by the gifter, even the sugar lace on the side.

There’s a few more things but shhhh! they’re being regifted. Not because they are not nice. They are. But I have so much stuff, I don’t need more. Just in case someone reads this who has given the gifts or who will receive them, I’m not mentioning them here.

All these came from work colleagues, with some chocolates and biscuits and the cake from students and their families.

Normally Mr S gets more than me. This time I beat him by a tonne.

See what I mean when I said I’m spoiled? Strangely, as I normally do not want gifts (either because it can be things you don’t need or want and I feel guilty getting gifts from staff who rely on me for continued work contracts and I feel guilty as I don’t do gifts for most of the staff) I feel really chuffed.

Thank you to my gift givers!

A crafty Christmas

Inspired by Anne, and using the YouTube link on her site, I decided to try some craft.

I am not usually crafty. No time. Lacking in fine motor skills. My work always is skewiff, messy, bodgey.

But I have it a try while watching TV. I used a magazine so nothing lost if it didn’t turn out. I could just put the evidence in the recycling.

But it is OK. And next year I will use a book. Maybe for bookclub Christmas presents.

I might even give the more complicated double tree a go!