Houses, horses and Happy Christmas

20 Jul

Seeing as Christmas falls in the Summer over here when hot turkey, roast potatoes and mulled wine are not very appealing in thirty degrees, a few Aussies and ex-pats alike, like to have a Christmas in July: basically an excuse to have a second Christmas dinner, drink and play games. When the weather gets colder and the days shorter, the idea of a cosy Christmas is suddenly more appealing and up until a couple of weeks a go, we were definitely having colder weather. The week we decide to have ‘Christmas’ there was a bright blue sky, sunshine and it’s 20 degrees… It seems we’re destined to have Christmas in the sun over here. We went ahead anyway, of course.

Our usual group of friends came over and everyone chipped in, preparing a different part of the meal, although at this time of year, turkey had to be substituted for two chickens and there were no mince pies to be found so we settled for cheesecake and trifle. James made the mulled wine and this time it was delicious (sugar quantities reduced accordingly after last year’s syrup!) and in Shan’s words, he had “the cinnamon levels just perfect.”

To top it off, we even had a $10 secret santa and James obligingly did the honours by playing the part.

The gifts had to be something you could ‘put on’, hence the range of head and facial gear… And handcuffs!

The previous weekend, as soon as James was mobile enough, we went out to the countryside to visit his dad’s cousin  (or James’ first cousin once removed if you want to start getting technical). Ibby lives out in Sackville, North West of Sydney on the Hawkesbury River. We have been out to see her before but we thought we would go out and see her again and this time spend the weekend, seeing a bit more of the area, near the towns of Windsor and Richmond.

Ibby has a wonderful place, set in 24 acres of land, most of which is bushland, including an old Aboriginal cave and the rest, garden and paddocks for the miniature Shetland ponies. In fact, she shares the property with around seven horses, two dogs, a cat, a rooster and several hens (and in summer, the occasional snake, which likes to hang around.)

As Ibby is moving out by mid December we met up with her at an Open House in Windsor, to look round a property she is thinking of buying. A few other family members and friends were there so we had lunch with them afterwards. Windsor is quite a pretty town and was one of the oldest British settlements in Australia, named after (would you believe) Windsor in England.

Ibby’s house, is a short drive from there, set up on higher ground, which has saved it from the Hawkesbury flooding a few times. I went down to help her feed the ponies that evening as by this time, James’ knee had had enough excitement for one day and he was said he had to keep the cat entertained:

Then it was time to put blankets on, wrap the dogs up in their blankets and make sure the ‘chooks’ were safe for the night! One of the best bits – the log fire in the house, we have never been so warm this Winter! We all went down to feed the horses the following morning though and it was very amusing to see the horses with their short little legs, trotting about excitedly as they sensed food was on the way.

I was told to ‘stop fussing’ when I asked if James’ knee was ‘up to it’ when we had to scramble uphill to the cave through the bush at the back of the house, so now I know: his knee is definitely on the mend (and on that note, he has been swimming every day for the past week, which is great, and I will remind him of this next time he uses his knee as an excuse to get out of something!)

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