I am fully aware the calendar already says we are in mid January. Too late for a Christmas themed update? What’s the etiquette and is there a Christmas subsection in the Statute of Limitations? Surely if Coles and Woolies can start pedalling hot cross buns on the second day of a new year for an Easter that doesn’t show its face until the end of April, I am well within my rights to underwhelm with a historically accurate recollection of the festive season?
After the usual end of year work related celebrations wound up it was time for two weeks of holidays. A time to recharge the batteries, gain weight and catch up on the washing that has been sitting in the sink since the Spring Equinox. The dishes would have to wait an extra day because I have a dinner at Ecco in Newstead. Food, sapid company and bon bons, the three cornerstones to any great Christmas do. As Ecco is an establishment on the snazzier end of the spectrum I thought it wise not to go taking photos of all the food that made its way into my mouth. Truth be told we were too busy confabulating that I missed my cue. Apologies if you were hanging out for the photos, move on.
The bon bons were a non-event with the joke being that bad the waitress screwed up her face, apologised and ran out the back to get a replacement from the ones she had saved from out the back. I bet you she was trying to memorise the zingers to impress the mother-in-law over Christmas lunch this year? Thankfully she was able to bring in this ample replacement:
Q: What did the princess say when she was waiting for her photos to be developed?
A: “I hope my prints come soon”
(Kids, there was a time when you had to go and get your photos developed before hastily uploading them on the internet).
Dinner. Between us there was fish, beef rib (yes, only one), breadsticks, prosciutto, olives, salad and a large fries (that’s right we wanted to class the place up a bit!) Everything was tasty but the size of the serves showed the kitchen staff hadn’t been infected with the Christmas spirit. However they did redeem themselves at the end of the night, rather than opting for the dessert, we went off-menu and asked for an affogato – the Italian boozy coffee based dessert served with a submerged lump of icecream. A sugar and caffeine jolt suitable for the drive home. I also wished I could recall the name of the wine. The only things I remember are it came in a bottle, it was red and I wish we got another three.
That night I also received my first (and best) Christmas gift of the season, a Travel Pack from Waterlily www.waterlilyskinbodyspa.com.au, which will be perfect for my upcoming sojourn to Europe. It will ensure my keratinocytes survive the northern hemisphere. Great skin can’t wait until Christmas so I cracked it open as soon as I got home to give it a test run. This stuff is that good I reckon it would take the wrinkles out of a scrotum. Plus it is all natural, after those 20 hour flights I will be smelling zesty, not festy.
The next day was a return trip to Brisbane for the annual Darren Hanlon Christmas show. Darren is one of Australia’s criminally underrated performers and for the last 13 years he does a Christmas gig in Brisbane before heading home to visit the family in Gympie. It is always a highlight of the festive season and seems to be gaining momentum each year. This year he ended up selling out the 500 odd seats in the grand old Princess Theatre at Woolloongabba.
A fully licenced bar was accompanied by a bake sale with some of Gympie’s finest caterers banding together to feed the masses. As the years have passed his fan base gets older, these gigs have now morphed into an all ages affair and there is now a peppering of small children eager to yell out requests between songs. One kid went home disappointed after his pleas for “sing Rudolph” weren’t granted but his sisters didn’t care as they sang along to “Punks Not Dead” in the front row, happy to not be in bed at 10pm.
One of Darren’s old school friends (Bob) is a budding stand up comedian and he was given the honour of warming up the crowd prior to the music kicking into gear for the night. I have never done live comedy before, but I know that if there are little ones in the audience you probably don’t drop the f-bomb and steer away from “jokes” about kids and priests. Some feedback for next time Bob.
Darren’s special guest this year was the national treasure, Kankawa Nagarra (Olive Knight), an aboriginal elder who has been performing for over 50 years and lives about 8 hours south east of Darwin. She dazzled the crowd with her blues music, sung in three different languages and finished with an audience participation number that saw the creation of a human train that snaked its way through the bowels of the Princess Theatre. After Christmas at Gympie, there was mention that she is leaving to work with Hugh Jackman on Broadway in New York.
Darren’s set was 20 odd songs long with his trademark banter between numbers. Whether it was stories of his old 80’s era camel coloured Nissan (fondly known as “Liam Nissan”) or stopping a robbery with a tub of Black Swan yoghurt, the crowd was hanging off every word. When the whole thing was said I done I did a sweep of the merch stand and was lucky to but the remaining items from the caterers. So I didn’t need much convincing to get a doughnut, brownie and a pastry with lentils on it – all for the bargain price of $5.
Based on the success of my panna cotta from Christmas last year I have been summoned to replicate it (recipe here) as well as source the leg of ham. Not only did I have to compete with half of Toowoomba to pick up a handful of staples, but I need to get bag savvy and remember to bring them. The recent ban on plastic bags at the supermarket has meant my grocery shopping is now limited to whatever I can carry out in two hands. This trip was no exception with me stumbling out with two tins of coconut milk, 3 tubs of cream, a packet of sugar, some gelatine, strawberries and frozen berries all while slobbering on a loaf of bread which was hanging stuck between my clenched teeth.
Christmas day itself was thoroughly enjoyable even though my sister and her family were overseas. This meant that it was only Mum, Dad, Grandma and I sharing lunch. First stop was a trip to Grandma’s to pick her up. I knew she was in for a big day because she put her heavy duty kevlar false teeth in. She must have got wind that Mum and Dad had managed to fill up three fridges and freezers for Christmas Day. I think they forgot that my sister was not coming?
Dropped Grandma off, now onto celebration number one. A surprise visit to some good friends which I hadn’t seen for a while. There I was treated to a gourmet cheese platter, a couple of beers all while I was their daughter’s first guinea pig for her freshly unwrapped make up kit. Hopefully that will be the last time I wear purple eyeshadow?
Once the nail polish had been washed off I returned back to Mum and Dad’s for our late lunch. They had already made light work of the prawns and we got settled in for the next onslaught of food. I had organised the ham from the best butcher in town and we also had some chicken and a trio of salads
It felt like I was eating my sister’s share as well, I was ready to wave the white flag but in the spirit of over catering, there was still dessert to come. Mini trifles, my much hyped panna cotta with raspberry coulis and three (no word of a lie) freezers full of icecream. Mum and Dad’s neighbours from over the fence popped over afterward and thankfully were able to assist in making a dent in some of the remaining food.
Some weeks ago a “no presents” pact was made. Thankfully Grandma’s hearing isn’t the best as she continued the tradition of giving everybody a jar of scorched almonds. Mum’s hearing is fine but she went off reservation and gave me a couple pairs of unmatched socks. Sold as pairs, these have a common theme but with different designs on each foot. I have been spruiking that unmatched socks reduce stress and headaches. The proof will be in the pudding/foothole.
Donned my new socks and after a power nap decided to go around to my butcher and thank him for the ham which never disappoints. A game of pool later and we all hit the wall. I ended up lying down for a rest in a food coma with this little bitch.
New Years Eve was a non-event with me spending it at the gym, trying to get a headstart on my fitness goals for the next year and given how much food I polished off the previous few days, any form of physical exercise was welcomed. The only thing of note on the first day of the year was watching my Dad resettle the largest blue tongue lizard I have ever seen. It wasn’t happy to be kicked out of its hidey hole in the shade of the tank stand but once the dog got a whiff of it Dad had little choice to step in. The lizard wanted to stay judging by the heavy breathing noises it was making as defence. It sounded like a horny telemarketer. Thankfully I can report the lizard has now found a little place in the waterbird habitat and has joined to local Neighbourhood Watch group.
Along with the dishes I mentioned earlier there were other jobs that I had been procrastinating over. The most unappealing of these was the gardening in the house next door. The place was subject to an episode of the infotainment show, “Backyard Blitz” back when these kinds of home reno/makeover shows were catnip for the Australian viewing public. Jamie Durie, Scott Cam and the rest of the crew planted some bamboo in the yard which was now tickling the clouds due to ten years of neglect. While Durie and Cam were at home polishing their Logies my Dad and I were both swearing at a chainsaw and the said bamboo for a good eight hours. If you wanted to make a raft or knock up a set of panpipes we could have met all your bamboo needs.
At one stage I thought Dad was going to be mauled by a family of pandas but they weren’t stupid enough to be slogging it out in 35C heat. I wasn’t trusted with the chainsaw so I was relegated to being the hired muscle for the day. I will be glad to get back to work, these holidays are hard work.
Great to have Exploring and Gnawing back. Wish I’d made that show. The Theatre looks stunning.