Monday, December 22, 2014

I really need to start thinking about Christmas

At what point is it deemed too late to put up the Christmas Tree I wonder? We still haven't got ours up but with 3 days to go I have high hopes that tonight will still be acceptable. I have it all planned in my head. It's just a matter of going outside with the little saw and finding that perfect She-oak to cut down. We'll then sip champagne and delight in the sultry sounds of Diana Krall whilst gazing at our adoring offspring working harmoniously together to decorate the tree in a slow and careful manner. The smell of the pudding on the stove with the brandy infused fruit that I lovingly prepared days earlier will be wafting through to the lounge room as I delight in placing the presents I bought in July under the tree. 

In reality, Daniel will get lost in the messy shed before he manages to find the saw, there are still no presents under the non-existent tree and no pudding either. When the saw is finally found, marital relations will be brought to a head as a passionate debate over the height of the living room ceilings ensues. As always we will come to a compromise and cut the tree to the size I suggest. It will be too tall. Whilst I retrieve the box of decorations from the spot I left them temporarily a year ago the dutiful Husband in his wisdom will cut off the top of the tree instead of the bottom leaving the tree with an unexpected flat top that I won't roll my eyes over because it's Christmas. The offspring will be having their own lively debate and negotiations over who gets to put the 'good' decorations on the tree whilst Flynn sees his first Christmas bauble (a glass one of course) which he thinks is a ball and therefore flings it across the room where it will smash to a million pieces (this happens every year we have a male toddler in the house at Christmas). Precautionary socks will be retrieved from the sock mountain and the dust-buster will now have to make an appearance drowning out Diana's soulful tunes and  thus bringing the Christmas cheer that began so promisingly only 5 minutes earlier to an all time low. There will eventually be tears, probably mine, and to top things off the dog will eat the pompom off the Christmas Bear's hat (it's made of wool you understand) and when one of the kids lets off a squeal of alarm the dog will drop the bear and then nick off with any remaining baubles and take them to his secret stash at the side of the house. We will go and retrieve said baubles and find our missing shoes. The innersoles will be chewed to oblivion but the shoes will be mostly in tact. There's always a silver lining isn't there? At least we don't have to look too far from the source to find the remnants of our comic books.

So what's the cause of the extra Christmas tardiness? We've been flat out dealing with the Strawberry Situation. Those Sweet Annes truly are the gift that keeps on giving. Just when we think we've picked them all, merely a few days later they are back again in all their glory. No one here in the family is complaining about the lack of Christmas cheer within the home. I think it's because Christmas 2014 marks the beginning of a new Christmas tradition for us, one that involves a busy mum and dad dealing with the Strawberry Situation, but one that also involves an abundance of the most delicious fresh berries and a home that smells like the strawberry shortcake doll I had in the 80's.  We're celebrating in a different way and very happy to do so.

To keep up with the oversupply of strawberries while at the same time dealing with the annoying rain of last week that would have ruined them all we spent a day stripping the rows, cleaning, hulling and packing them into vacuum sealed bags for the deep freezer to use for jamming over the winter months. If I had the foresight to know what a hit the vacuum sealer machine would be with the kids I'd have wrapped it in a red bow for Christmas. They would have been thrilled. Here is a 10th of the amount of Strawberries that occupied our kitchen the day we picked 350kg of Strawberries. I stole myself away from the vacuum sealer to snap the sight of not one, but 3 gorgeous men working away at my kitchen bench, it would have been rude not to.

To further ensure not a single Strawberry goes to waste we have also signed up for 2 markets a week - the Twilight Market on Friday nights at Sandy Bay and the Farm Gate Market in Hobart on Sundays. We have done 4 markets in the past 10 days and they have been so much fun but my goodness they are a huge amount of work in the 12 hours prior to each market to ensure the strawberries are picked fresh and packaged to perfection, not to mention juggling all of this with the 5 kids. At least the Teachers gifts were easy this year - Strawberries for all!

This has all coincided with my annual weekend away with Eleanor in Sydney.  This is a trip we do every year, just the two of us, and it is something very special that we do regardless of how busy things are at home. It is our early Christmas present. We go to the Ballet at the Opera House.  This year was the "Nutcracker" and it was absolutely beautiful. We went to just one shop, preferring to see another live show instead of buying clothes and so we saw the musical "Wicked". I had seen it 5 years ago and knew she would love it given we listened to the DVD ad nauseum on our caravan trip around Australia. It was just as fabulous as I remembered.

I think I've created a monster.

The weekend also saw my Grandfather turning an incredible 97 years old. Sadly, just a few days before his birthday he was admitted to the hospital with an infection and too unwell to attend his own birthday party. He was still in reasonably good spirits when we visited him in hospital and it is hoped he will be out of this week. But he is 97 and it is really hard to see him so frail. With  family members coming from all corners of the country to see him on his special day, we made the decision to visit him in hospital individually and then come together at my Aunty's house to celebrate his birthday even though he couldn't be there to blow out his candles. As hard as it was to not have him with us, he would have loved the fact we were all together in his honour.
Finally, this busy time of year has also culminated in the final day of school for the year with wonderful reports coming home for all of the kids, a Presentation Day, and 3 dance concerts in the last 2 days. Aren't these Tutus beautiful?
So that's what has been keeping me away from the computer these past few weeks. I am not kidding when I said to Daniel today "I just need to have a little lie down before I start thinking about Christmas". There's still 2 days left, plenty of time. Anyone else having a slow start to Christmas or am I creating a new record on tardiness?

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Boss turns 2.

Good Morning Mum, where's my breakfast?
The dog is scratching at the door, you better get onto that before you-know-what happens. We don't want a repeat of yesterday morning's performance.
I'm watching a Thomas clip on your iphone while the porridge is cooking. Oh no, he is about to go off the rails!
Seriously Mum, he's going to crash and Gordon's deep, scary voice is on and I can't look down now
Yay! Henry saved the day, all is right with the world again.

Dear Flynn, you may not say much yet, and why would you with 6 other family members anticipating your every whim, but your expressions speak volumes. If your 3rd year around the sun is at least as riveting as the 3 minute Thomas The Tank Engine clip you watched while I took these photos then I think you're in for another good year. Happy 2nd Birthday mate, I can't believe how fast it has gone. As your older siblings always say, you are such a happy little legend! xxx

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Strawberry Game-Changer

It's Strawberry Fever around here with the 13,500 Strawberry plants we planted 12 weeks ago fruiting in all of their anticipatory glory. Most impressive are the Sweet Anne's, those huge delicious morsels pictured above. They are quite spectacular. I photographed them in a line above our other traditional varieties - the Cambridge Rivals, Hokowase and Kunowase -so you can see just how they compare in size. 

After we gorged ourselves senseless on them in the first week we decided we needed to get serious about the Strawberries so embarked on making jam. A lot of jam. This lead to thinking about selling the Strawberries and the jam at some markets as well as opening our farm up to some pick-your-own berry activity prior to the building being finished (or started for that matter but let's not go there right now).  

So last Sunday we invited some friends over for a few hours of pick-your-own fun as a bit of a practice run and to celebrate this new venture we've embarked upon.  I only put the call out on my personal facebook page but ended up getting 70 friends through the gates and the 12-3pm time-slot quickly went out the door and we finished up the day well after 9pm.  It was all a rip-roaring success and I'm so grateful for the support of our friends for making it such a special day.

The following day I dropped off some punnets to a couple of people at school who couldn't make it and ended up leaving the school with more orders for the following day. Soon word got around and I've been run off my feet keeping up with demand. I've been up at the crack of dawn picking strawberries and then trading them at the school gate at drop-off and pick-up time like a naughty school kid trading illicit substances. I've suddenly found myself working well in advance of the March time-frame I was mentally working towards.

It has been fantastic though. The Strawberries have been a game-changer in 2 respects. Firstly, for the first time in 10 years I'm bouncing getting out of bed without the need for 2 strong lattes and the cries of the offspring searching for a school top. I now only need 1 cup and am getting out of bed quite cheerfully. Naomi Campbell may not get out of bed for $10,000 but I'm more than happy to do it for a punnet of Strawberries. Things may look a little different by the end of the season but for now it's cheerful Mel in the mornings with a marginally sore back by evening but who has no trouble sleeping anymore. Secondly, I'm baking again. The 30 year old oven went kaputt last Summer and every baking episode since has been an epic disaster. The new oven was installed this week and I've made 3 Pavlovas in 3 days, the one above was tonight's dessert. Daniel is thrilled beyond measure. It's been a Strawberry Game-Changer.

A few other exciting things have happened this week like meeting fellow bloggers Stacey and Rachel in real life. What a treat. More about that next time.

PS. I almost forgot, Congratulations to CJ who won the little giveaway in my last Post!