Missmas 2018

If you’ve read my last blog you’ll be aware that I’ve stolen a new word from Jonno and Jo-anne who write a great blog called Jwalking. They invented the word Missmas for their Family Christmas celebrations, which for various reasons, aren’t usually celebrated on Christmas day.

2012

Checking out the camera

Must have been a good year

When we lived in Perth we always celebrated Christmas Day with our Perth family (all four of them).They celebrated Christmas with the other side of their family on Christmas Eve.  I’m sure it was always a bit exhausting for them, as it is for most people who have two sides of their family all wanting a share of their time during the festivities. Alice, Paul G and the two grandees always spread themselves around without complaint, but I’m sure it became easier for them when we hit the road back in 2014.

We’re no longer on the road and have re-settled approximately three hours south of where our daughter lives. They spend their Christmas day however they choose, and a day or two later come down this way. We get to have our family celebrations a little after the 25th December, which thanks to Jonno and Jo-Anne, will from now on be called our ‘Missmas’ celebrations.

First thing – drinks

We start off with drinks. This year Paul treated us all to pre-dinner cocktails. In case it gets confusing – There’s two Paul’s. My Paul who is just plain Paul, and Alice’s husband Paul G (Green).

Then onto the gift opening ceremony.

Grandson Josh and his girlfriend Amber

The gift opening ceremony complete –  onto the food

This years feast – our grazing table

We did justice to the grazing table with repeated visits to replenish plates over several hours. In between times we told the usual corny Christmas cracker jokes, and played a couple of new Christmas games.

The first game this year was one called, Fake News. Two news events are read out, one is real, the other fake, and the contestants have to choose which is the real news item.Then with replenished drinks we moved outside for a game of Jenga. What a great game that is. I think the photos will be self explanatory.

Paul looking for a possible loose block to dislodge safely from the stack

Successfully removed and added to the top

And finally the block that topples the tower – it seems to go in slow motion

Some people love Christmas, some people don’t. We’re lovers of Christmas and everything that goes with it. All of the Commercial and hedonistic practices, all of the glitzy and tacky decorating, all of the shopping for pressies and feasting….. Our house is always decorated as soon as we reasonably can, usually around the 1st December. Menus are decided, and the food lists made well in advance. Whether we celebrate Christmas, or Missmas together with our family, the effort put into preparing for the day is never to much trouble. That’s how it is in our household, and I know it’s the same at Alice’s place. Fortunately, the grandees are now young men, and guess what – they love Christmas too. How lucky are we! What’s Christmas like at your place?

 

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Mr Tilley’s 2nd Christmas

It’s already well into January and I haven’t posted photos of Mr Tilley’s 2nd Christmas. I’d better not let that go unrecorded!

We’d had gifts wrapped under the trees for weeks and he hadn’t showed any interest. But when handed his gift on Christmas morning he needed very little prompting before he started ripping the paper off with gusto.

He tore into his gifts with great delight

New tug toys – note the tennis ball held within the rope

Note the ball is gone – it lasted around 5 minutes before he had it shredded

This boy loves his toys and kept his new ones (minus the tennis ball) close all day

It was just Paul, myself and Mr Tilley on Christmas day – the family were to arrive two days later to celebrate Missmas with us. Do you like that word – ‘Missmas.’ I stole it from Johnno and Jo-anne who write a blog called JWalking. It’s a word they coined for their family Christmas celebrations that are often celebrated after the actual day. I rather like the word, so Missmas is the name our post Christmas day family celebrations will be known by from now on. More on this years Missmas a little later.

On Christmas day Paul and I shared a camembert and cranberry roast chicken dinner. We only ate the legs, so Mr Tilley was treated to the roasted breast meat all covered in delicious home made chicken gravy. Roast chicken is definitely his favourite food, and one he rarely gets, so it was a Christmas feast for him. Doesn’t he just look the  picture of someone who’s thoroughly ‘stuffed’ after playing with his new toys all day, and then pigging out on his Christmas dinner.

Eventually he succumbed to a much needed nap

So that was Mr Tilley’s 2nd Christmas day. He seemed to get into the spirit of the day and made our day very pleasurable indeed. He’s such a delight!

My first ever Grazing Table

The feast

Firstly – I’m back. It’s been a long, long time between posts – way to long. It’s a new year now, and the plan for the new year is to be more diligent with my writing in 2019. Enough said – now onto our family Christmas feast, and my first ever Grazing Table.

Christmas day was a quiet affair with just Paul, myself and Mr Tilley. The family arrived for our family get together on the 27th. Having noticed that Grazing Tables are gaining in popularity, I thought I’d give one a go. Here’s how it played out…….

First came the shopping with a trip to the Bunbury Farmer’s Market. I must tell you all about the Bunbury Farmer’s Market one day – it’s an awesome place, and my ‘go to place’ for food shopping for any special occasion.

Next I laid out a rough plan of my 120cm round table with the placement of all the components. For height I chose a round thermos pot in the centre topped with a perforated place mat which supported a cake stand. I froze big discs of ice for the thermos pot to keep the cake stand of charcuterie cool and fresh. I also froze two pyrex dishes with ice which I placed under a large oval plate of seafood. Large ice discs last hours longer than small cubes of ice.

Hessian table covering, plates laid out, and a selection of crackers waiting to be opened

I purchased some hessian to cover the table which I secured to the table with random pleats folded into it. The idea was to create a rustic look. A big bucket of gum leaves was sitting in the laundry tub ready for garnishing. The plan was to completely fill the table with colourful food and garnishes.

Then came putting together the components.

For the cheese board I chose one each of a blue, white, orange and a green cheese (the Farmer’s market has a lovely green sage cheese), and I garnished this with black and green grapes, fig cake, fresh figs, and strawberries.

Cheeses with fresh fruits

For the seafood platter I kept it very simple with a cream cheese and smoked oyster roulade topped with black lumpfish caviar and thinly sliced lemon (a dish that never fails to wow and literally takes around five minutes to make). On one side of the roulade I placed boiled egg halves topped with red lumpfish caviar, and the other side I filled with smoked salmon slices. Cucumber slices and crackers completed this dish.

simple seafood garnished with eggs and cucumber

The charcuterie was packets of sliced leg ham, mixed salamis etc on the top tier, and smaller chorizo slices on the lower level.

Charcuterie took centre stage

With the main players sorted next came all the supporting dishes, these were:

A big wooden fruit bowl lined with lettuce leaves and topped with whole baby cucumbers, a mix of different coloured cherry tomatoes, snow peas, and fresh blanched asparagus.

A small dish of hard boiled eggs in mayonnaise.

A platter with some more blanched asparagus, sliced melon and slices of proscuitto.

A dip

Green and black olives

Parfait glasses with celery sticks, spring onions, and cheese straws

Baguettes, whole grain sour dough, and a walnut loaf.

Several different types of crackers, pork crackle and even a tube of pringles.

Garnishes included gum leaves, whole pears, whole capsicums, and halves of oranges, kiwi fruits, and pomegranates. Then all the remaining gaps were filled with dried apricots, walnuts in their shells, as well as piles of shelled mixed nuts.

Completed with gum leaves and all the garnishes

The ice lasted for several hours and managed to keep everything cool, and with a light table cloth used to cover everything between the several trips everyone made to replenish plates, I was satisfied there was no danger of anything being less than fresh.

A dessert grazing platter followed (apologies – we forgot to take photos). The platter consisted of jam jars with individual trifles, a pile of meringue nests, a bowl of mixed berries and a bowl of whipped cream. All the gaps on the platter were then filled with broken up bars of white, dark and milk chocolate, chocolate covered almonds and fruits, white coconut covered chocolates, fresh cherries, strawberries and blueberries, and then some mixed jelly sweets for additional colour of green, red, orange and yellow. It was a huge, spectacular platter which I thought was completely over the top. Was I ever surprised though when we nibbled our way through more than half of it throughout the evening.

It was all a huge success.

I think I’ve found my hostessing niche, but be warned it’s not cheap to completely fill a table. and the table does need to be full. The idea of a Grazing Table is to mimic a medieval feast with a table brimming with food and colour. We were careful to clear the table before anything started to deteriorate so as to maximise left overs.  The grand children were happy to go home with a big hamper of goodies to go towards their New Year’s Eve celebrations, and we will have cold meats, chocolates and crackers to last us for many weeks to come.

This was my first ever Grazing Table. I can’t wait for another excuse…….

 

Broome to Busselton via Coast Road in six days – Day 3

Day three – Miaree Pool (Northside) to Lyndon River (East) 418kms (4 1/2 hours driving time)

Lyndon River in May 2014

Day three of our six day trip home coming from Broome to Busselton was an easy, uneventful day of just 4 and half hours.

After a walk and a leisurely start to the day at Miaree Pool we headed south towards Lyndon River East. First stop along the way was approximately three hours south at Yannarie (Barradale) road side rest area. We stayed at this little gem last year on our first night out from Cape Range National Park, near Exmouth. At the time we’d come from a week at the National park which is near the town of Exmouth, and had no internet. We were pleasantly surprised at that time to discover fantastic internet cover at Yannarie, which is in the middle of absolutely nowhere. This time though we weren’t there long enough for any internet use. Just a  loo stop, and a cup of coffee this time. However,  determined to make the travel days more puppy friendly means we need to spend a bit of time at our stops so instead of drinking our coffee while driving, this time we sat at one of the many picnic tables and let Tills have a good leg stretch and some fresh air.

After setting off again, approximately an hour and half later we reached Lyndon River East. We first stopped at this little stop back in 2014 at the commencement of our first Australian round trip. It was May, and there was crystal clear water in the river at that time. It’s a different place at the end of the dry season in August  than it is at the beginning of the dry in May. This time round the river bed was a bone dry, red dust bowl. We attempted a walk but there were too many prickles and bindi’s for Mr Tilley’s unruly coat. The few minutes that we did spend having a quick peruse of the area resulted in approximately half an hour removing all the prickles from him.

Rustically pretty, but no water

Although we didn’t manage a walk, it was pleasant to sit outside for a few hours relaxing and playing cards prior to dinner. It’s a roomy place with plenty of parking, and we parked far enough from the highway so as not to be troubled by the road trains throughout the night. For my overseas readers, road trains are trucks that travel the Australian roads. They tow 3 – 4 carriages behind them, hence the name ‘road train’, and can be close to half a kilometre in length. Parking near to the highway at night can result in wind turbulence and a disturbed night’s sleep every time one of these beasts thunders by.

One of many road trains that travel the Australian roads

We always look for a place with a decent buffer between us and the highway.

Plenty of level places to park up away from the highway

We will no doubt stay at Lyndon River East again, but not this late in the season. When the river bed’s dry it’s still nice and rustic visually, but not being able to take Till’s for a decent walk reduces it’s appeal. At the beginning of the winter (dry season) when there’s still water in the river, I’m sure he’ll love to have a paddle or swim, and the prickles don’t seed until around August.

So that was our third day.  Stay tuned for the next eventful night’s stopover at Gladstone camp ground.

Broome to Busselton via coast road in six days – Day two

Day two – Cape Keraudren to Miaree Pool (northside) 405 KMS  (5 hours driving time).

We’re early risers (around 5am).  Paul had taken Mr Tilley for a walk around the rock pools, we’d had our breakfast, our thermos was filled ready for a second cup of coffee later in the morning, and our travel mugs had our first coffee in them for the start of our journey. We set off around 8am, Miaree Pool our destination.

We must have passed by this little gem at least a dozen times in the past without stopping, or even being aware of it’s existence.  It’s located on the Maitland River, approximately 28 kms south of the Karratha turn off. Perhaps the close proximity to a big town is the reason we’ve previously overlooked this site. We stopped in Port Headland on the way for fuel.  Then one more stop at a roadside place for a coffee refill had us arriving at our destination not much after 1pm.

It’s gorgeous!

A beautiful spot

The main parking area is quite large but with only a few level sites. Then there’s tracks that run off in all directions, so we parked up while we did a quick peruse of the area to find a suitable place to park for the night. Clearly the tracks were to rugged for our van and level of four wheel drive experience,  but for those with the right rig and level of expertise there’s some magic places to park up. We did manage to find the one and only spot reasonably accessible, reasonably level, and just down from the main car park with a beautiful river view. There was no room to turn around, so it meant backing out, up the short, but steep and bumpy dirt track, but Paul was confident he’d manage that ok.

The view between the trees from our van

Parked up, we had a quick lunch before getting into our bathers (cozzie, togs,  or whatever bathing suits happen to be called in your neck of the woods – in WA it’s bathers), and headed down to the river. The first access point we came to had a rope which some children were using to swing out over the water and drop in – mmmm!! no thanks. We wondered down a bit further.

A rope for easy access (if your game)

A little further on and we found another area with a couple of people in swimming. The bank looked a bit muddy, and the river bottom looked a little squelchy, but the people already in assured us access wasn’t slippery, and the river bottom was a lot more sandy than it looked. They were correct. What a gorgeous place for a swim, not cold, and not squelchy at all.

A beautiful spot for a refreshing swim

Some people were swimming out towards the middle – I stayed close the edge

Mr Tilley loves to paddle in the waves, and will swim in the ocean but only if we carry him out of his depth.  Prior to Miaree Pool he’s never ventured out of his depth voluntarily for a swim, but with Paul and I in the water there was no way he was staying on the river banks on his lonesome. Wherever we swam to, Mr Tilley followed. He loved it.

After our swim and walk along the river banks we took a drink up to the main area and passed an hour with a gentleman who was travelling on his own, then dinner while the sun set, a few games of cards, and bed for the night.

A walk the next morning with the sun at a different angle over the water showed some lovely reflections.

Reflections in the morning sun

And more reflections

Then it was time to begin our third day of driving. I watched (holding my breath) as Paul backed, back up the bumpy hill – no trouble! He did it with such ease that I began to wonder about those other tracks for next time….. but no – I think we’ll still leave them for the dare devils. We prefer to be safe, rather than risk being sorry. There will be a next time at Miaree Pool though that’s for sure. It’s only a 24 hour free stop over place, with basic long drop toilets. But you know what – next time we may cheat and stretch our stay to a second night. Yes – it’s that good!

Coming up next – Miaree Pool to Lyndon River East. Watch this space…..

Broome to Busselton via Coast Road in six days – Day one

All good things must come to an end, as did this years sojourn to sunny Broome. Having travelled to Broome a little too quickly via the inland/Mount Newman Road, we decided to take a slightly more leisurely trip home via the coastal road.

Day one – Broome to Cape Keraudren, 466kms (5 1/2 hours driving time)

We filled our thermos ready to make coffee at our first stop, had the caravan hitched up and the inside secured ready for an 8am departure. As Mr Tilley had shown signs of travel fatigue on our rushed trip to Broome, we determined the return trip would comprise shorter driving days, with more rest stops. Goldwire, a pleasant little roadside stop 1 1/2 hours from Broome seemed like a good distance to travel before stopping for breakfast.

Suitably replenished and our travel mugs filled with hot coffee we journeyed on, this time with me at the wheel. This was the first time I’d towed this rig. Paul’s happy to do long days of driving, and I’m a happy passenger, but good sense tells me that, ‘just in case’, I should feel confident driving with the caravan behind. No problems – it towed beautifully, but I was still happy to hand back the wheel at our next stop, which was less than an hour down the road at another comfortable roadside stop, Stanley. That left a comfortable three hours to our destination for the the first nights stopover.

We arrived at Cape Keraudren around 2 PM. We’ve stopped there before, and it’s just gorgeous. There’s four camp grounds at the cape, which are located via 6 kms of dirt road turning off the main highway just south of the Pardoo Roadhouse. Same as on previous visits,  we again chose the section named Sandy Beach, which overlooks the ocean on the Eastern side of the Cape. Living on the west coast of Australia, opportunities to see the sun rise over the ocean are rare. We couldn’t let this opportunity go by.

A gorgeous camp spot overlooking the water

The tides are much the same as in Broome – huge, or should that be HUGE. We were parked up close to the water at high tide, yet seemingly miles away for the water line when the tide is at it’s lowest. It was around 2pm when we arrived, and the tide was on the way out, fantastic! Time for a relaxing lunch before we took Tills to explore the rock formations and pools left behind by the receding tide.

To the rear of our van were some shrubs which the Zebra Finches seemed to love.

Our lunch time entertainment

Pretty little birds with beautiful markings

Lunch finished and the tide had sufficiently receded to allow for a great walk with plenty to see. Rock formations that were completely underwater at high tide were now fully  exposed. Compacted sand sufficiently drained of seawater allowed for comfortable walking between the rocks, and rock pools made great places for Mr Tilley to splash through as we wandered around.

The water which covers these rocks at high tide, is now quite distant.

It’s an amazing feeling to walk under rocks that only a couple of hours previously were completely under the ocean’s waters.

There’s miles of rocks to walk around at low tide

Tilley exploring one of the many rock pools – this one in a bit of a cave

The tide rose through the night, and then receded again before morning. We awoke to a glorious sunrise over the tidal flats.

Sunrise over the water – a rare sight for those of us who live on the west coast

We left with the sure feeling that, ‘We’ll be back!!’ And what a pleasure that’ll be.

Next day, Cape Keraudren to Miaree Pool – watch this space.

Bad hair days

I knew we should have called him Rastas. After nearly a month spent at the beach Mr Tilley almost has dreadlocks, and that’s despite having had a hair cut only a few days after we arrived.

Surfie dog

We give him a wipe over with micro fibre cloth each evening, which seems to get most of the sand off him, and we give him a bit of a brush before going to bed. Despite our best efforts, Paul’s first words to him most mornings are, “looks like another bad hair day, Tills”

No wonder his hair’s a mess, he gets great value out of the beach:

Chasing birds and their shadows along the beach

Jumping through the surf

Sitting on the sand between swims watching the world go by

drinks are coming out – ‘yes please’ he says

His very own dog water bottle

It was our own Busselton Beach, and the beaches of Broome that inspired our decision to re-join the world of dog ownership. Both beach areas get their fair share of dogs on them, and they all look so happy. Mr Tilley hasn’t proved to be the exception. He just loves the beach, and when not running on it, or splashing in it, he’ll happily sit with us just soaking it all in. He’s a happy little boy, but definitely is happiest, ‘on the beach’, despite the havoc it plays with his hair.