Christmas! v 2018

Well hay-low there!

This is Audrey, reporting to you live from Holiday Break 2k18. On Dec 20, I woke up to 12 blissful days off. And I freaking needed it. Yeah, I realise that’s a big statement for someone who took 5 weeks off in October. But November and December have been a little tough. We both worked for like, ever, and had some un-fun changes in the never ending work. I also went through a rough patch for a few weeks where just getting out of bed was a struggle, so I just leaned into the skid. And the last three days before the break were filled with difficult people and difficult, need this done at the 11th hour, super last minute tasks. So by the 19th, I was more than ready to put my out of office on and sleep for 12 days.

BUT! Life goes on. Moods go up, they go down. Work builds to a frenetic state, and then it evens out. It’s all tides. And right now, I’m riding the Christmas break tide, which is pretty nice. Poor Joel is riding the WORK IS SO BUSY I HATE IT ALL tide, which sucks. But, he’ll at least have some weekends off to compensate for it all.

On the first day of break, I saw my GP, who told me to re-charge and indulge myself for the first few days. And I do everything he says. So there’s been a lot of face masks and reading trashy books and watching 90 Day Fiance (this season should be called 90 Day Psychopath) and thinning out my closet and generally just not giving a heck*.

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Later that day, we had a hail storm. It was pretty run of the mill, summer thunder storm hail, followed by sunshine and massive humidity. Joel came home drenched in sweat and pointed out that more storm clouds were coming up. Minutes later, we had the craziest hail storm I’ve seen – not just in my time in Australia, but really in my entire life:

It looked like it was snowing! We had softball sized pieces ricocheting off the roofs and smashing into the trees and cars, and the hail knocked the bats out of the trees so they were flying through the storm looking very distressed. I was pretty thankful Joel made it home before it all unleashed – but probably not as thankful as Joel.

A couple days later, Joel set up our Christmas photo, and we got Pancake to vaguely cooperate for about 4 minutes, which is 3.5 minutes longer than we got her to cooperate last year.

Meowy Christmas!

Which led to some lovely outtakes:

Friggin love that animal ❤

Joel’s family all agreed that we wouldn’t do a big Christmas present exchange this year, which really took the pressure off (financially, emotionally, time-crunchally), since we’re still paying off our big USA trip. But also because, we’re all adults — how much shit do we really need (I mean, a lot probably, if you ask me during one of my off days). Instead, we got to focus on just having a good time together. Joel and I got each other a few small gifts to open, and we decided to do little cookie bags and cards for everyone else. In true Audrey style (and in the interest of having the freshest cookies), I waited until the 23rd to start baking. I planned on making 4 different cookies: double chocolate chip, coconut spice oatmeal, scotch shortbread, and spiral coloured sugar cookies. What I made, was basically a mess.

Strategy planning

What I made, was basically a mess.

Mayhem, stage 1
Mayhem, stage 2
Mayhem, stage 3

The first double chocolate chip cookies batch came out well, the second was over baked, and the third was under-baked and hollow? It was weird. The next day, I started making the spiral sugar cookies, which I got from one of those 30 second Buzzfeed Tasty videos. It was a layer of plain sugar cookie dough, a layer of red sugar cookie dough, and a layer of green sugar cookie dough, all rolled together in a log, and then log is rolled in sprinkles. Then you chill the dough log for 4 hours, slice the log, and bake the cookies. It took me forever to figure out how to roll the dough flat and pick up to place it on the previous layer without the dough sticking to EVERYTHING IT TOUCHED.

  • The recipe stated lay the dough on cling wrap, cover it with parchment paper, then roll it out, and simply peel back the parchment paper. NOPE – all the dough stuck to the parchment paper and I spent 15 minutes delicately scraping it off with a spatula.
  • I covered what was left of the dough with cling wrap and rolled it out, and the cling wrap peeled away without a problem: YES. BUT, the dough was rolled flat onto the cutting board, and was stuck to it. D’OH. Spent another 15 minutes delicately scraping up dough. Plotting to just set the dough on fire.
  • I sandwiched the dough between layers of cling wrap: SUCCESS. It was able to lift the dough and transport it and roll it successfully. Repeated it twice more with the other batches of dough.

This endeavour literally ate an hour of my time. My brother Shayne later reminded me that I could have just sprinkled the parchment paper with flour and it probably would have peeled off the first time. UGH WHATEVERRRRR.

I blew through the oatmeal cookies without a problem. The scotch shortbread, on the other hand, was weird. I followed the recipe line by line, but the dough was really sticky and wet. I’ve never made short bread before, so I just assumed it was supposed to be like that. And 30 mins into the baking process, it was BUBBLING and wet. Once again, I assumed that was how it was supposed to be. It still had 20 minutes to bake, so I went about cleaning the kitchen. And that’s when I spotted this:

DSCF9367DSCF9367 cropped


I had read the recipe line by line, so I went back and checked where I fucked up – sure enough, the recipe said to mix the dry ingredients, and then failed to ever mention the dry ingredients again. I re-started the recipe – including the flour – and baked it for 50 minutes, and it still came out shitty – like a flavourless sugar butter brick, that had neither the taste, texture, or look of a scotch sugar bread, more like butterscotch. Or really shitty fudge. So heck, recipe – thanks a million!

The sugar cookies formed a flat edge from resting on the pan when they chilled, so they were more like lopsided D’s than round biscuits, but otherwise baked just fine. I think I’m getting the temperatures wrong on my oven dial (I miss digital temp readers), and that, combined with the seal on our oven door being shitty, makes for spotty temps. I’ve decided that the next item on my shopping list is an internal thermometer.

Even with the plethora of whoopsies, I had a lot of fun baking and making mayhem in the kitchen. And waist band permitting, I’m definitely going to be doing more of it next year.

final product! We found these coffee grounds style treat bags at Daiso – aka the Japanese super store. They’re the best!
snappy names, if I don’t say so myself.

In Sydney, it’s either a million degrees or raining on Christmas. Last year we LUCKED out and it was chilly and rainy for almost the entire break. This year, however, was predicted to be sunny and hot. (sad trumpet) Thankfully on Christmas Eve, it wasn’t too hot and I actually needed a sweater once the sun went down. Our luck ran out on Christmas morning, as we woke up to the beginning of a heat wave. Thanks, Santa!

It was cool enough on Christmas Eve to wear sleeves – and I’m posting this out of pure vanity because this is my new favourite dress. The print is Keith Haring style eyeballs and lips and I lurve it.

We had our traditional Christmas Eve dinner with Joel’s dad. He decided to go with Hello Fresh! for the dinner, and they sent enough food to feed 20 people, easy, and the whole meal was so good that I had to force myself to stop eating for 20 people. We ate outside in the beautiful weather whilst talking shit about politics and cooking and travel and what’s good on Netflix. Joel’s dad lit the pudding on fire, and after presents we made our way home to sleep it off.

Carving the roast beast.

The next day, we woke up and had our little Christmas and a little Christmas bacon and eggs. Joel’s gifts were themed around his new quest to live sustainably in the mountains, whilst being a hunter/gatherer, and his gifts to me themed around my quest to be responsible with my health and my focus on writing more.

This year, we decided to watch all the holiday episodes of The Office during Christmas. +10, would do again.
Pancake got some treats in her stocking – she was much pleased
Joel’s near-impossible-to-find-but-totally-worth-it-presents
Joel got me this amazing book called The Writer’s Map, and it’s essays by illustrators who have created maps for all kinds of literature. I heart Maps and I heart Books and I heart illustrators so this is amazing. And the essays are as beautiful as the maps.
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and the best water bottle ever – keeps cold drinks cold and hot drinks hot, and does not taste like metal or bead up with condensation. Would recommend, +++10

We had Christmas lunch at Joel’s aunty’s new apartment near Bondi and Coogee beaches, so we had to fight the bikini-clad and reindeer and Santa costume-clad youth on the train as we headed out for the day. I always thought going to the beach on Christmas day would be romantic, but after seeing how SWARMED the beaches get, I’m completely over that idea. Joel’s aunty had air conditioning (yasss), champagne and lawn games, and we left stuffed with food and good times. Joel’s mum made her signature caramel pudding (seriously, this pudding is so.damn.good.), and his aunt made a trifle which I am surprised to say I totally loved (my first year in Australia she had me try a pavlova which I DID NOT enjoy, and it’s a running joke between us that it’s her goal to find me more desserts to scar me with). I was so stuffed in fact, when we got home at 5:45PM, I slept until nearly 8PM.

The Westworth Boys, and the target shooting game KB bought for us. “Audrey’s American, she’ll love the guns!” har har har (jokes on me because I actually loved the hell out of this game)
Chrissy table
Bobby the Budgee
kitchin’ bitchin’
Joel’s brother Jack, mum Niecey, and aunty KB
Joel, his nan Mauz, and Jack
“Yes, you will pose for this picture.” #truelove
Joel investigating his Santa Sack – he’s had his presents in this sack every Christmas of his life. Aw.
Makin frenz

Today, I slept almost until 10AM while my poor life mate had to be at work by 6AM for Boxing Day sales. I managed to drag myself out of bed, but I haven’t made it much past the living room, and I’m ok with that. I finally got my act together and cleaned up a bit so Joel won’t come home to a wrecked house. Which is the least I can do considering I’m not working for 12+ hours today.

I hope everyone had a great, relaxing, and fun time with their loved ones. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, there’s never a better excuse to get together with your family — however you define family. I know I looked back on this year feeling very thankful for all the people I hold close in my life.

Merry Everything!!




(*edit: I started writing this entry on Dec 26. I intended to only do this for the first few days, then leap into a fury of unbridled productivity. However, I did not, I’d say it was less of a leap and more of a extra extra lazily dip of the toe into productivity, and the toe just happened to dip in there because my leg fell off the couch. Whoops.)

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