Sunday, December 30, 2007

A month of Christmas - the supersized post

BEWARE! VERY LONG POST!

CHRISTMAS : The Prologue
December has been a month in which blogging has been problematic and spasmodic. First of all, there turned out to be the busy-ness of the Christmas season. This took me somewhat by surprise. This has been my first Christmas out of paid employment (I re-entered the workforce in 1977) when my health has been good. My life is scaled down and my energies are transferred into gardening and gleaning. I try to avoid membership in organisations that demand responsibilities and turning up on specific dates for meetings. I have become, through the limitations of ill health, expert in revising my plans. Not only can I retreat from Plan A to Plan B, I can retreat through the whole alphabet down to Plan Z. And without guilt - because I can't afford that.

But since September, my health is the best it has been in something like ten years. I have an occasional hiccup in the way of an "off" day but I am soon up and at it again. And I am quite determined to be up and at it again to build up stamina and endurance. Seven months of varying doses of anti-biotics have undergirded this return to health.

Financially, of course, things have had to operate on a different scale as I have become dependent on a restricted income. I learned long ago about the lilies and this lesson has been re-inforced across the years. To this early lesson has been added the principle of restoration. The precision with which the lessons of restoration have come into my life has never ceased to amaze me: even to having restored to me like for like. Not a substitute or something better - but a like object!
THE JOLLITIES BEGIN


St Thom's (in Autumn) : home base of my Community of Faith

So into this simpler and quieter time, the slightest ruffle of busy-ness can be quite surprising. I shouldn't have been surprised, though, because I had recently made two organisational commitments at St Thom's, my local community of faith.

Firstly, since about August, I have organised - along with two other women - a group called Dawn of Life. This is a support group for those who have lost their life partners through death. We are a group of about a dozen - mostly women as one would expect demographically - and we are growing as word spreads beyond the confines of St Thom's.

Secondly, there was a call for more people to participate in Open Church ministry. This is a commitment to keep the doors of St Thom's open each day, Monday to Friday, from 10am to 2pm.

So many churches in our urban/suburban centres are locked up tight against casual entry. St Thom's does not want to be part of this. We want our facility to be a place for people to come aside: to be quiet, to think, to rest, to pray. In winter time, we even provide a blanket and a heater for your comfort. We are also there if people need help or a referral relating to a need. So the fridge carries casseroles, there are vouchers for travel, for food. If needed, we have a pastoral care team to call on. Open Church sees itself very much in the Christian tradition of hospitality. Open Church = Open Door.

The time slot I was asked to fill was on Tuesday morning. The Tuesday morning timeslot happens to include a Bible Study group so, while bearing in mind my primary responsibility for being there, I participate in the Bible Study.

So here I found myself in the middle of three groups - two of which decided to have Christmas break-up lunches.

For the Dawn of Life lunch, two of us took overall responsibility i.e. having fallback positions if contributions were lop-sided. It was a great success and I had meant to take pictures. I took the camera. But was so involved in the whole thing, I completely forgot. So the beautiful table settings laden with Christmas candles, Christmas trees, and Christmas gifts can't be shown. Neither the stacks of beautiful food we had to feast upon. There is no sign of the Christmas Creche nor the large Christmas Tree. How could I have forgotten such an opportunity?

For the Bible Study break-up, my participation was not so centrally responsible but I did do the roast chickens with herb stuffing as I had done for Dawn of Life. So much nicer, we all agreed, than the over-the-counter roast chickens with the stuffing that no one seemed very keen on. Each lunch was a beautiful, friendly occasion which we all enjoyed. But as intrusions into a quiet life, they were quite eventful. Again, I forgot the camera.

But I do have some other pictures.

THE FRIENDSHIP TABLE

During the lead up to Christmas I was working on a project that has become my pride and joy. During 2007, I have discovered how much I love gleaning. I always have, I suppose, but this year it has taken on a whole new glow and focus as I have immersed myself in exploring the hard rubbish in, on and around Melbourne footpaths.

My ventures or adventures have been well rewarded.

My pride and joy (sorry, I don't have a before picture) is a dining table. It is strong and sturdy and this brought it home. It had a varnish or french polish finish but had been left in the weather. The varnish, what was left of it, had turned an olive green colour and the table top, which had borne the brunt of the elements, was rough.

Now, it is painted and decoupaged and glittered and I call it my Friendship Table and I look forward to many friendly moments around it. The pink free-form ribbon is as artistic as this non-artistic person is ever going to get, I believe.




THE GLEAN SCREEN
This was not the only glean to enter the Spirit of Christmas. In the background of the picture immediately above, can be seen a glimpse of the screen. When I first brought it home, Herself and I thought it would get painted and end up in the guest bedroom. Now, it well may be that this will happen in due course - but it ended up here in the carport with the Friendship Table. Because, you see dear Reader, the carport is where the table lives and the addition of the screen made it something else again. Through the screen we can look out to the back garden and that gives a whole new perspective. From the carport we can look out at the Dandenong Ranges National Park through a huge Red Gum on the footpath across the road. A beautiful vista.















The screen had to be decorated. This was done with floral garlands, some Christmas trimmings, and some Christian symbols. Which lead to the next thing.

THE CHRISTMAS BOWER

The ceiling of the carport was far from attractive. It is awful. But we could do nothing about that. But, delving into The Trad Pad treasures and provisions, some useful things came up. An evergreen garland, some Christmas wreaths, lace netting, and a pretty bauble - and, next thing, our live-in carport became a Christmas Bower.

One more thing needed to be dealt with. Our garden tap also lives in the carport - beside the back step. Underneath is a circle of dirt surrounded by stone with the rest of floor in the carport being concrete. Why this is so, we haven't a clue. Some months ago, I had potted lots of the pups from my chlorophytum plants. Now they have come into their own...

THE CHRISTMAS BLOGGING LUNCH

But first of all, there was the blogging lunch with Connie and Gina on the Thursday before Christmas. Connie only lives a suburb away and we had been planning to get together for s-o-o long and, at last, it did happen. It was wonderful to meet Connie. She is beautiful and vibrant and so creative. A charmer in every sense of the word. She came with flowers.

Gina will be no stranger to readers of this blog. She and Miss Eagle have been on many an adventure together. And we have more planned for '08.

One adventure will involve stirring the possum. For those of you who don't speak Strine (Australian), stirring the possum means livening things up. Livening things in this context usually means waking people up and making them think or take action. As well as opp-shop treasure hunting, Gina and Miss Eagle share a passionate concern about the direction that community care for the aged is taking. We hope to take this concern further - Gina already has with a specific blog - so expect further news. As well, we have some exploration in the pipeline. Again, expect further news.

Gina came bearing gifts - wonderful pressies. And, of course, Gina is proud of the opp-shopping that yielded these gifts on the shortest of shoe-strings. When she told me how little she paid, I accused her of opp-shop-lifting!

Gina picked up on my predelictions.

Christmas wreaths of my own making next year?


Herself has taken a liking to this & it is on display in one of her corners.

The heart shaped cookie cutters will be doing something different.


The yumminess of this is phenomenal...and with peanut butter!

And these candles are so swish!

I love biscuit and chocolate tins. These wonderful bikkies (well, I haven't opened the tin yet to taste them) has an old fashioned Aussie picture on it titled "Wet Ball" - from the dog slavering over it!


The wrapping paper! That is being kept for decoupage!

TECHNOLOGY DISASTERS

The day before our lunch my computer collapsed. My usual repairer was not taking any new work until January 2. He was helpful and provided another number but, to date, there has been no reply. Away? Overloaded with work? This had followed the "Honey, Blogger shrunk my header" episode. In the aftermath of this, I have discovered three column blogs - so if you pop over to Desert and to Oz Tucker you will notice a difference.

After a couple of days, a lot of patience and stretching my computer skills further than ever, I was able to get back in to find that my back up drive appears to have been corrupted. I can retrieve files but they will not open. These include all my pictures. I had uploaded my total collection to Picasa - from which all except a few have disappeared. I have a couple of other spots where photos are placed - but not the entire collection as I have always done with Picasa. So - so much for Picasa! Now in the last couple of days I am unable to download photos from my card through my card reader.

All this has taken time - precious time. And, as you are aware dear Reader, there are times that life has to be lived not interfered with by a computer nor talking about it on a blog!

SANTA ARRIVES IN UPPER GULLY
On the Sunday before Christmas, the CFA (Country Fire Authority) brought its usual Christmas good wishes to the citizens of Upper Gully with Santa arriving in the fire ute.

Santa arrives in Tarana Avenue...
...with his helpers
Santa and his helper greet our neighbour, Betty
The residents of Tarana Avenue farewell Santa
PS: Miss Eagle got a cuddle from Santa

JESUS: THE REASON FOR THE SEASON


The Nativity Scene at The Trad Pad

The dining room table. But we were't going to eat there.
The sideboard...
...with the collection of Rosemary's cakes...
...which don't get eaten but have become an integral party of the Christmas decor.

Then it was Christmas Eve. I attended two services: the kid-centred Family Service and Midnight Mass at St Thom's.



The theme of the Family Service was Signs. So many signs. How do we read the signs. How do we get a true perspective.

A wonderful, involving activity was a central feature - involving a hunt for angels which were signs of a jigsaw piece nearby. When it was thought all angels were found, a crucial piece was still missing. I thought there was something suspicious about the angel dangling from the Rev. Susanne's scarf and that bulge under her jacket!

All the Advent candles and the Christ Candle were lit

The floral arrangements were beautiful.


The Congregation was youthful...

...and did justice to the refreshments afterwards!

THE BIG DAY

Christmas Day was quiet - three single women in the Christmas Carport Bower. Herself, Miss Eagle, and Lee. A southern hemisphere summer Christmas lunch with seafood, cheese platters, cold chicken, salads, cold plum pudding and custard and very chilly champagne. The conversation and friendship was wonderful. And we have a plan to work on jointly. Sometime about April, we think!

THE REALLY BIG PRESSIE

Last, but not least, I want to tell you about the Christmas parcel from my sister The Director. I have taken photos - but the technology won't allow me to download. We were rather gobsmacked. A beautiful woollen shawl for me - perfect for the cool of a midnight mass - and snazzy black and white drop earrings for Herself. But the stunner was this large bag - large enough to wear on the shoulder and quite commodious. I wish you could see it, dear Reader. I know you would recognize the brand immediately. A clue? Think of an L and think of a V!

Now, Miss Eagle can be a bit clueless. She wouldn't know the difference between a Hermes and a Fendi - let alone a knock off from the real thing. Herself has a better eye - and she thinks this is the real thing.

The Director's corporate style adds up to it being the real thing. We think she would not be caught dead with a knock off LV. However, we know what a canny shopper The Director is and how she loves travelling regularly in Asia - the home of knock offs. Either way Miss E is thrilled to bits: because the bag in style and dimension suits her. So useful, so commodious. The brand? A beautiful bonus. Thank you, dear sister.

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