Archive for the 'life away from home' Category

Australia Day

Something I’ve learned: I remember things as being better than they were. Our old house at Brownlee Street, how I cursed the missing fly-screens, plagues of roaches and never-ending dust. Now all I remember are the light-filled rooms, outdoor clothes line and incredible back yard. Our time in Stuttgart? I’m sure many of you remember my bitter complaining (see here and here). The grey carpet, the sleazy furniture, the boredom, the endless grey days. When I look back though, it’s the wondrous markets, good friends, sunny apartment and view of the forest I remember. Same applies (I assume) to January 26th. I spent Australia Day last year trying to sell piles of unwanted junk at a garage sale in North Wollongong. I remember cursing the heat, the beer drinking, the cars, the music, the groups of testosterone-heavy youths with flags emblazoned all over their bodies and clothing (if it could be called that).

Was it really like that? Wasn’t it a day of national harmony and relaxation? Wasn’t there a glorious sun with a gentle but not oppressive heat? Didn’t I swim freely in a pristine ocean before eating a leisurely meal of BBQ’d delights? Didn’t I sip cool drinks by a perfect sunset? Wasn’t everything right with the world? No?

Denim and Red Classic Playtime Baby Overalls

Playtime baby overalls by NeverEver (Sydney)

 

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She’ll be Apples letterpress cards by rubyvictoria (Hobart)

 

Hand Knitted Australian Organic Merino Beanie for Baby - Toddler 12-24M

Hand knitted organic Australian merino beanie for baby by VictoriaOC (Melbourne)

 

Laundry Birds hand printed fabric by pippijoe (Melbourne)

 

Fill your cup - Tea 3 Range - Art Deco Tea Cup Photograph

Fill Your Teacup art photograph by BuckinghamRoad (Sydney)

 

shells (organic merino cotton cowl)

“Shells” organic merino cotton cowl by artish (Newcastle)

Our white Christmas

I thought perhaps you might be a little sick of photo-laden Christmas posts from my corner. So, I delayed putting these up. But here they are for posterity – our very first winter Christmas. I learned that white Christmases aren’t perhaps as dreamy as we might think (or sing). They’re definitely pretty, but they play havoc with festive events of any kind. Unlike many others, our plans stayed relatively intact. Our lovely guests (Hannah and Chris) were brave enough to walk through the deluge to reach us for lunch. Unfortunately, when they did, we were huddled in our living room wearing hats, scarves and mittens after a grease fire in our oven lead to three hours of emergency ventilation measures. The goose was delicious, by the way.

#11 The Breakfast Club

I’m not exactly sure, but I believe the Breakfast Club started when all the Leemen children were away one Christmas. And somehow, the idea stuck. I can barely remember a Christmas morning when when we didn’t thrust aside our freshly unwrapped gifts, rip the labels of our new clothes and walk the short distance to Jill and Dick’s house for our annual neighbourhood breakfast. Essentially, the party is made up of three family groups (whichever fraction is present that year), but over the years we’ve had plenty of guest appearances by people who happen to be with us for Christmas. Exchange students, friends and long lost family members, we all become friends instantly when the bonbons are popped and the paper hats go on. To date, we’ve had visitors from Japan, Finland, England and Switzerland. Only now do I realise how those guests must have felt around the brightly decorated table, far from home. And that’s the thing I love about this tradition of ours; it’s a way of defying this strange, narrow idea of family we seem to have in Australia. Many of these friends I wouldn’t see from one Christmas morning to the next, and yet it wouldn’t be a proper Christmas without them. Others I have only met once, but it’s always a lovely feeling to meet a complete stranger on Christmas morning, during the most sacred family hours Australia observes. Though we never know who’ll be there, we do know what we’ll be eating. It just wouldn’t be right without large platters of fruit, bacon with maple syrup and Dick’s incredible blueberry pancakes. I’ll miss them sorely this year. To all of you in the Breakfast Club, I say “Fröhliche Weihnachten!” Thankyou Leemen family for being our hosts, neighbours and dear friends.

My apologies that the first set of photos failed to load. I’ve since added some more that Dick has dug out and scanned for us.

#2 Stollen with Frau Braun

When it comes to things I’m sad to miss this Christmas, baking with my family is high on the list; the yearly repetition of long held rituals. For us, it’s the same splattered fruit cake recipe from Entertaining by Margaret Fulton, the same Christmas album (“Christmas with Kiri”, c 1985), and the tradition that we all stir the mixture and make a wish. When my lovely friend Anne volunteered her mother to teach me a traditional Dresden Stollen a few weeks back, I jumped at the chance to fill this hole in my line up of Christmas rituals. Added to this, Frau Braun is a professional baker. As I stood in her kitchen with notebook and pen, I was comforted by the resemblance to our own Christmas cake rituals. There was the well worn recipe book, the decorations and the favourite Christmas music (in this case, Bach’s Weihnachtsoratorium sung with gusto by all family members). Only this time the kitchen didn’t swell with unbearable heat from the oven. Instead, snow lay outside and the oven provided a welcome warmth. I returned home with a swathe of detailed notes, a tired toddler and one fantastically aromatic Stollen. And you know something? Turns out “Christmas with Kiri” is available on iTunes. Isn’t life grand.

 

twelve days, twelve posts

Homesickness is a funny thing. It creeps in without warning and lingers like mist. This Christmas marks many firsts for us; first away from home, first with snow and plunging temperatures, first that we’ve had our very own tree. For all the festive activity sweeping Leipzig, it’s hard to keep the morale going when those moments of longing slip in. Not to worry, I’ve hatched a plan. One post for each of the twelve days until Christmas (incidentally, the twelve days of Christmas begin on December 25th). I mean it as a way to share this new sort of Christmas we’re having, hoping others will share theirs too. To start us off, I’m showing you our Adventskalender, one of Germany’s many contributions to the festive season. There were all manner of tasteful and traditional versions to choose from, but I was rather taken by this garish number with an East German theme. Prize for any one who can name the references!

New friends

Vielen dank to the Seeburger family! Over the past few months you may have noticed Mirjam commenting away, adding the invaluable perspective of a German local to my bewildered musings. Apart from being a real Swabian girl, Mirjam has the merit of having once walked on my home street when she stayed with our friends and neighbours the Leemens. This weekend, Mirjam and her family were kind enough to invite us to their lovely home in nearby Dotternhausen. Mirjam’s father was an instant hit with Rose, playing all manner of teddy games. Her nieces patiently shared their toys, pets, ice creams, swings and trampoline; so attentive was Luisa that by the end of the day we were ready to employ her as an au pair. Aside from the delicious homemade cheesecake, the joy in all this was spending time with a real family; admiring the garden, sharing afternoon tea and enjoying the company of parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and siblings. It was a rare treat for us. Thankyou Mirjam and all the family, we had a wonderful time!

Gooseberry Fool

Living thousands of miles from home (in a different hemisphere no less), does have its compensations. Consider the strange pleasure of eating foods one cannot eat back home. Fresh berries are one of those things that defy the insane distances traveled by much of our food. Until I arrived in Europe, I had never tasted a gooseberry. For a long time I’d had a strange obsession with the idea of gooseberry fool from reading the following:

The Bennets do a lot of eating in the film, so Ron [Sutcliffe] the standby props man, asked me what I liked to eat. I told him gooseberry fool was my favorite pudding and he kindly provided it for me. It was so delicious that during the first two takes of the scene I gorged myself. At the other end of the table Alison Steadman [Mrs Bennet] cannily toyed with a couple of grapes. It took two days to shoot this and I shall never be able to eat gooseberry fool again!

Benjamin Law (Mr Bennet), The Making of Pride and Prejudice.

Well, today I ate gooseberry fool. The markets in Stuttgart are fairly flooded, and alongside the glassy green variety I found these plump, wine-coloured gems. There seems to be some debate about the inclusion of custard in gooseberry fool, along with the fruit and cream. I opted for a recipe using only the latter, and claiming to be Elizabethan in origin. The meeting of tartness, sweetness and cream exceeded all my expectations. I could almost imagine myself on the set of Pride and Prejudice, seated at the Bennets’ dinner table. I wonder if they had high chairs?



About Me

A girl with a camera, a toddler and a sewing machine. Making sense of Germany... and life in general.

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