Tiptoe, Through the Tulips

If you’re reading this, give a cheer! You’ve made it through the end of the world, then Christmas, and finally Die of Boredom Boxing Day. Yay!

Let’s have a close look at these dates, in reverse order.

First, Boxing Day. It’s the day we  wake up, perhaps feeling a little under the weather, depending on how much champagne we imbibed the day before or whether we lucked out and had to be the “designated driver”.  The day when we all stare into the fridge and ask the time-worn question, how many different ways can one serve left-over ham?* The day we (or some of us) spend wandering lethargically from room to room in someone else’s house, (because we stayed overnight after the Christmas festivities) and there is an expectation that we’ll stay until “after lunch”** on day 2 of the Official Family Fun Season.

If you’re Australian, Boxing Day is all about either Boxing Day Sales or Sport. If you are not interested in either of those, it’s all about Boredom.

Sports Lovers can stay home and watch “The Test” – the traditional first day of the first Cricket Test Match at the MCG. Or they can switch channels and watch the start of the annual Sydney to Hobart yacht race. Or, if you have pay TV, apparently there are also the televised Boxing Day Horse Races. My partner’s father has pay TV.

Given the abundance of sports-lovers in this country, it’s clearly inevitable that people who have no interest in watching any form of sport on TV, are out of luck, and fated to end up at some point on Boxing Day, sitting in a room with relatives or in-laws, staring at a TV screen featuring some type of sport.

(Watching sport on TV holds no interest for me in general, but, honestly, watching yachts race on TV must be equivalent to watching a pack of excited gardeners commentate on whose grass is growing the fastest?! There’s a low-cost idea, Channel 10!)

Ah, Boxing Day. It’s also the day when you ask yourself, come evening, when you are finally in your own home again –  is it wise to start writing a new post after 3 glasses of sparkling wine?*

Second achievement, dear readers: we got through Christmas Day. I don’t think I need to say much about this. We all go through it every year, and we all have our different versions of it. I don’t mind the family get-together with immediate family members, it’s usually quite nice once we are actually there, it’s only the driving and logistics that make that part a bore. With families living approximately 2 hours drive away, our alternatives are: either spend 4 hours driving and someone doesn’t drink, or stay overnight and then be stuck at someone else’s house on the most boring day of the year, wandering aimlessly from room to room. (see above).

What I was not so riveted by this year was the party on Christmas evening with my partner’s non-immediate family: as if that wouldn’t be difficult enough in itself, his aunts insist on hosting a DRY party! (DRY meaning, no alcohol, for those of you who thought I meant that parties in Australia are always held at the beach, in the water). We were obliged to go because we were staying with his parents, who were attending it. (see above for more on being stuck at other people’s homes over this period)

And last, but certainly not least, dear readers, on December 21 we all got through the end of the world, again. As you will all have realised by now, the world did not end on 21 December after all, which makes this end of the world pretty much in line with all the other ends of the world so far, along with the scare about the Y2K bug at the end of the millennium.

Of course, the Mayans didn’t actually say that the world would end on December 21. It was just the tabloid newspapers that chose to run with that sensationalised interpretation of the Mayans’ predictions.

What the Mayans actually said was that December 21 would mark a significant turning point in the way that humans lived. They were hinting to us that after December 21, 2012, people will finally become so bored with reading mundane status updates on Facebook, frustrated by the ever-changing Facebook rules, and irritated by the “sponsored” advertising that pop up in their Facebook newsfeed, that they will all stop using Facebook, and go back to writing letters (or “hardcopies,” as we’ve come to know them), and looking through photo albums (or “Instagram”, as we’ve come to know it.)

Thus, December 21, 2012 marked the end of the era that will come to be known in history as the Facebook era, (2004 – 2012). The official calendar will start again from this time onwards, and although we will call it 2013, the date will be recorded in history books (or “timelines,” as we now know them) by our descendents as the year 1FB.

I must say, I’m glad the world didn’t end, because it would have been really annoying that I’d gone to the trouble of doing all my Christmas Shopping before 21st, and not spent it stockpiling bottles of water and tins of spam.

So all that’s left is the over-hyped New Year’s Eve to get through, people.

Come on, let’s all take a deep breath – we can do it!


*Answers to the quiz questions above: there are approximately 365 different ways to serve left-over ham, and, no, starting a new post after 3 glasses of red sparkling wine is not a good idea, but finishing it and publishing it is even worse.

**Independent studies have shown that Boxing day is, in fact, the longest day in the year, approximately 3.5 hours longer than any other day, and that all those extra hours occur before lunch time, making “After Lunch” on Boxing Day the equivalent of waiting until about 5.30pm before you can leave your relative’s house.

PS – I was going to do some hand-drawn graphs to illustrate the statistics sited in this post but I haven’t had time – and today I’m way too tired to conceptualise a graph! Maybe instead of a next post I’ll just add some pictures to this post!


Smugness at Christmas may lead to milk in your shoes

Once there was a person who, just before Christmas, was feeling very smug about how relaxed she was feeling. So relaxed, in fact, that she even wrote a smug post on her blog, sharing with the world her tips on how to remain similarly relaxed in the lead up to Christmas.

Of course, pride goeth before a fall, (according to some guy with a lisp, anyway) and what wasn’t revealed in that post was that, although this person was fairly relaxed, she was also pretty clumsy. (I use the word clumsy, although secretly I wonder if she was just stupid, but for the purposes of being generous we will stick with “clumsy”.) To be fair to her, maybe she was expending so many brain cells on trying to remain relaxed that there were none left to actually focus on how to do things properly. (ie,  in a way that wouldn’t result in some disaster that would then cause her to be stressed out.)

What happened was mostly just her usual clumsiness, ie, smashing glasses when drying dishes, walking into, instead of through, doorways – except that, being Christmas, sometimes these things happened in front of the guests, who kindly pretended not to have noticed.

But there were a few incidents that made me wonder whether this person had overdone the “relaxed” idea, or whether she is actually a few buttons short on the remote control. For example, when assisting her daughter to make a white chocolate tiramisu, she told the kid that, yes, she could make a milkshake with melted chocolate and cold milk – (presumably any person with a functioning brain would already be shaking their heads in disbelief) – and a blender jug that doesn’t have a lid. Wrong – on 2 counts! The result was an explosion of milk and little pieces of chocolate all over the kitchen, including inside a shoe. (Don’t leave your shoes in the kitchen at my house.) The poor 10 year old child screamed, and then said “sorry!” although she had done the right thing and asked a supervising adult for advice, so it wasn’t her fault!

Or there was the espisode where, roasting a cut of topside beef for lunch for  7 guests, she made multiple miscalculations (eg: miscalculated the time per weight equation and also miscalculated how long it had been in the oven for when the timer seemed to stop working).

Between you and me, I suspect that too much relaxation is to blame: sitting around in pyjamas after breakfast reading a book (in a relaxed fashion) with guests due in 2 hours, and then rushing around to shower, dress, clean, and make a roast for lunch, may have been why she was not quite as focused on correctly working out the timing of the roast. Whatever the excuse, the result was that the roast beef was taken out  of the oven after about an hour, and let “sit” for a while, looking and smelling yummy, mmmmmmm……but when it was cut into, on the inside it looked…..not so yummy. Aaaaaaaaaagh!!!

(Have you ever felt like you were screaming with mortification inside your own head? I haven’t, obviously, but I think this was how she felt at that moment.)

Of course all the guests were polite about it, and pretended not to be hungry, made small talk, and drank more wine/ginger beer, while the beef bravely had another go at getting roasted.

So the irony of my little story is that, having worked so hard in the lead up to Christmas to remain relaxed, this person had reached a point where she was so zenned out that she wasn’t fussed about properly timing the roast for lunch. This led to the “raw roast” episode, which in turn caused her to feel pretty damn stressed, and thus undid all the previous good work.

Is there a moral here? Maybe it explains why buddhists are vegetarians.

PS: The image at the top of the page is obviously copyrighted and owned by the creators of South Park. I think the correct attribution is (c) 1995-2010 Comedy Partners. I hope that using one image in a personal blog is ok. I don’t plan to make any money from their image or pretend it is my own. If you want to see more South Park images you can locate them by searching in Google Images for “South Park” or check out a site like tv.com .

Cheers! And here’s to enjoying Christmas your own way….

"Woops, ha, ha, ... I think I had too many vodka shots!" "Yeah, weren't you supposed to be working tonight?" "....Huh?!.....what day is it???! ...oh shite!! I can't drive in this condition!"

(pic by Jurgen Howaldt)

Stress free Christmas – is it possible?

At last I’ve succumbed and been inspired to write something about Christmas. Yes, I am aware that it is coming. But I feel kind of smugly successful at having, so far, not got caught up in feeling stressed out by the whole silly season. Part of my relaxed state of mind is, I think, due to avoiding getting too caught up in the pressure of consumerism (as much as is possible when you have a kid who is at an age where she still pretends to believe in Santa and we still let her, with a knowing parent-type ironic wink when he is mentioned.)

I’m not saying I’ve stopped buying presents – I haven’t – but I have stopped having lists of things in my own head that I would like, and wondering what I could be gaining from the seasonal spend up. Anyway, here is my list of suggested ways to remain fairly relaxed about Christmas:

If you have to enter one of those abysmal, enormous indoor shopping centres, plan this like a military operation.

Know your ideal amount of time (OK, I know, any time spent in one of these places is not “ideal” but set your minimum limit for remaining sane when “none” is not an option, and don’t go over it). Ensure you have a list of very specific ideas and a pretty good idea of where you are going to find them – if you are planning to wander around until you “happen” to find “the perfect thing”, this will undoubtedly end in tears, rage or possibly mass murder.

I went to “Knifepoint”, the affectionate nickname for my closest haven of mass consumerism. It’s true that I went 3 times in about 3 weeks, but each time I was in and out within 75 minutes, with the items on my list ticked off and in my bag. My short swift attacks on the shopping centre were stress free, one reason being that it allowed me to rethink about something I’d seen, in the calmness of my own home, and then decide to go back and get the item after all. As compared to trapesing around for hours trying to think of everyone I need to get a present for and what to get them and feeling pressured to get everything at once. Note that an important part of this plan is to realise in advance that once at the shopping centre you will not be able to think, so you need to have done the thinking before hand.

Also, obviously, do this as early as possible, in both senses of the word. I got my trips to Knifepoint out of the way  2-3 weeks ago.  I went in the mornings, so it was relatively uncrowded. Then, that was it. Any additional gifts required would have to come from the local shops. (see below.)

After trapesing around an indoor shopping centre Santa really needs some eggnog.

Wherever possible, when buying gifts, buy them as locally as possible.

I’ve done a few strolls into the local “village” shopping centre for gifts. (I live in Melbourne but every second suburb likes to call its local shopping centre “Such-and-such Village”. Having said that, I have to admit that our local shopping centre does feel a bit like being in a country town, complete with IGA supermarket and  still-daggy op shop.) It’s nicer in every way – less crowded, more relaxed, no long trips stuck in traffic on major roads, and you are supporting your local businesses.

Try to balance the consumerism by giving to those who don’t have anything

I always mean to do something charitable at Christmas time but being a selfish and lazy person, I don’t always get around to it. This year, however, we’ve made a few attempts to help others: my partner purchased toiletries for the Wesley Mission, and donated money to a mental health service, and I let my daughter choose and purchase a book in a local bookshop that is going to donate the selected books to Sudanese refugee kids living in the local area. I think it’s a great message to give a kid, (ie, mine) at Christmas, but also makes you feel good to know you’ve done something more worthwhile than buying gifts for people who already have an easy, cosy life.

Get in touch with someone you don’t normally get in touch with

Ok, so this sounds like a cliche, but I actually think it’s important. I have been thinking for a while that I should write a letter to my brother. Not the brother of the pirate text messages, but another brother (I have 4) – this one completely uncontactable. He doesn’t have a phone of any sort, landline or mobile, so no-one can contact him. This allows him to live in relative isolation, which obviously he prefers, though I can’t really say whether it makes him happy or not.

Anyway,  I probably won’t see him over Christmas, because I won’t be at my parents on Christmas day, and he doesn’t make any effort to see anyone if they don’t “happen” to be at my parents when he is. (which is approximately once a year, on Christmas day.) To be fair, I could make the one hour drive to go and see him another time….but it’s hard not to feel apprehensive about dropping in out of the blue on someone who clearly wants to be uncontactable. So, I wrote him a letter – just a few lines in a Christmas card, but I attempted to say something meaningful. Weird as it may sound, this was a difficult thing to do, partly just because it felt corny, and also  because I imagine him finding my friendly note patronising, so although I had the idea about 6 weeks ago, I only actually did it this week.

So I used Christmas as an excuse to make some contact with my brother.  I don’t delude myself that when he gets my letter he’ll squeal with happiness and rush out to ring me from a nearby pay phone. It wouldn’t surprise me to think he might just throw the letter in the bin, unopened. But I’m glad I wrote it anyway, since that kind of thing is what Christmas is supposed to be about. (Letting someone know you are thinking of them, not the throwing it in the bin part. But there is always a Scrooge somewhere in any Christmas story.)

A relaxed Santa, obviously not realising he is going to have his head bitten off soon.


Lastly: Take some time to relax before Christmas

I’ve always worked right up to the last day possible, but this year I took this full week before Christmas off. So far it has been quite lovely to just potter around at home with my daughter, read, do some leisurely op-shopping, watch a Harry Potter film for about the 4th time, sit outside in the sun eating icecream, and of course, cook. Day three of holidays and I’m feeling about as relaxed as is probably possible for this time of the year.

So, that’s been my successful formula so far. It will be interesting to see how long the relaxed state of mind can last!

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