White [Sand] Christmas

Trip Start May 28, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Sunday, December 19, 2010

Our first couple of days at Ben & Tessha's house, we made full use of the facilities! We showered, did laundry, skyped with family, made an amazing frittata with veggies fresh from the garden, downloaded movies, washed the car, and of course I made sugar cookies and dessert! We ate dinner outside under the Christmas lights in their amazing shed. We walked down to the beach and sunbathed by the free, olympic-sized, saltwater, community pool and prayed that we would never wake up from this dream!
On the third day, we pushed ourselves to work-out for the first time in... well, a ridiculously long time. We went to the cricket field near the beach and ran sprints and did push-ups and sit-ups and let me tell you, we couldn't walk properly until Christmas! 

Sore as we were, we did manage to drag our sorry selves down to the beach for a surf the next day. We were so glad we did - it was the first of many amazing days spent in the water there. Port Kembla Beach wasn't voted the best beach in New South Wales for nothing!

On Christmas Eve, we focused on food! We made a last run to the grocery store for fresh calamari and kebabs and steak, and literally spent the rest of the day cooking. I tried my hand at making sweet potato gnocci ("nockie") while Curtis made spinach dip.

He brought in a huge bundle of spinach from the garden and started to wash and chop it. I glanced over in time to see a massive huntsman spider emerge from the heap of spinach on the counter! It sat calmly on top of one leaf while we panicked like little girls. Curtis has a teensy little spider phobia and he had to leave the room for a little bit. It was just so abnormal to see something so large and so wild indoors, like if a wolf walked into your kitchen! Not your average house spider for sure.

About the time that Curtis re-entered the room, our guest started to make a break for it. He headed straight for a gap in the cabinetry that led into the pantry: a big, cluttered cavern where he could disappear for years. I shrieked and Curtis lunged across the kitchen and somehow trapped him under a big tupperware container! 

We were both horrified and elated as we examined our catch. We managed to get the lid on the container and took him outside, to the front lawn where we never set foot. We hatched a plan to set the container down facing away from us and pop the lid and run, while he scurried away. Except he didn't scurry. He just sat there, and then walked slowly up the side of the container and onto the top, where he paced around, daring us to trap him again. We pleaded with him to leave but Curtis finally had to get brave and shoo him away.

Back in the house, Curtis snuck up on the pile of spinach, shoved it into the container, and walked it outside like it was a bomb about to go off. He went through every leaf, and actually found another, baby huntsman! Not until he'd shaken and hosed off each one did he bring them back inside and go on with cooking. 
We ate a Christmas Eve feast of roast chicken and mashed sweet potatoes and crumbed green beans and carrot salad. For dessert, a mixed-berry crumble with sugar-cookie crust. Mmmmm. Afterwards, we headed out to to the shed for a friendly game of Monopoly.

Monopoly turned into quite a problem for us. There, I've said it: that's the first step, right? Anyways, that first game turned into two, and pretty soon we were daily Monopoly-ers, sometimes playing three games in a row until late late. We found out that we have been playing it wrong our whole lives! How is it that no-one has ever actually read the rules? Anyways, I challenge all you haters to give it another go - and read the rules first!

That evening we headed to the Christmas Eve service at the Northern Illawarra Uniting Church, about a half-hour drive up the coast. We sat in the empty parking lot waiting for people to start showing up, and nervously watched a few old ladies wander in, wondering if this would be our kind of place. We needn't have worried: we were warmly greeted by this marvelous older woman who made us feel right at home, and talked with us about her yearly skiing trips to Canada. She even invited us to Christmas dinner! The service was short and sweet, with lots of singing, and made us feel so much more Christmas-y. 

Back at home, Curtis set up the tent in the yard. He left the fly off so that we could sleep under the Christmas stars. How many Canadians have done that? We watched Christmas Vacation (no getting out of that ritual!) on the laptop in the tent until very late. In the middle of the night, Curtis woke up to see that it looked like rain; he scrambled around, putting the laptop and camera inside, then had a couple more hours sleep until the sun woke us at 5:30. We shuffled into the house and straight back to bed until a more reasonable hour.

When we finally got up for good, we made blueberry pancakes and opened the little gifts Tessha left for us: a tiny sketchbook for me, and a necklace for Curtis. We had spent our little Christmas budget on food, but Curtis splurged and bought me this amazing mint chocolate. 

We got to skype with all of our family, who were enjoying Christmas Eve back in Canada. We told our nephew that we saw Santa fly over last night, and he went crazy, "they saw Santa, they saw Santa!", yelling the news to everyone who would listen. 

While we were talking to my Mom, she said the weirdest thing. I have never got my ears pierced because of this little phobia I have about it, but when we were in Brisbane waiting out the rain I had them done, on a whim. I was keeping it a secret from everyone until we got back to Canada, meaning during every skype conversation I had to keep my hair down, covering them. Well, my Mom started going on about how she thought maybe I would grow up while I was over there and get them done! It's true... Mom's know everything.

Surfing on Christmas was one of the sweetest things I've ever done. It was gorgeous and sunny, and so hot the sand burnt your feet. The beach was packed with families enjoying the Christmas sun, a strange change from the solitary, indoor Christmases in Canada. We surfed and swam to our hearts content, and headed back freckled to the nines. 

We spent the rest of the afternoon cooking a glorious Christmas extravaganza. I had all four burners going on the stove, plus the oven, and Curtis was outside on the BBQ. The final Christmas menu was as follows:

- spinach dip to start (spider-free)
- scotch fillet steaks with garlic mushrooms
- chicken kebabs in three flavours
- salt & pepper calamari
- sweet potato gnocci with browned butter and herbs
- califlower & feta & parmesan gratin
- ceasar & potato salads
- and for dessert, a beautiful pineapple tarte tatin with caramel sauce.

We sat outside in the shed and ate and ate and ate. It was so much food! We were so full that we put off dessert until after monoploy, which lasted until after midnight. We had promised Curtis' sister, who was traveling over Christmas, that we would call Curtis' parents and wake them up early on Christmas morning (5 am in Australia). By the time dessert was over it was so late that we just turned on a movie (How to Train Your Dragon) to wait until it was time to phone. We finally crawled into bed at about 6 am, after the craziest, warmest, topsy-turviest Christmas ever.
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