It’s a wonderful life, ladies

Listing to the right

’Twas the night before the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even the Silver Fox. He’d run his race too early, the night before the night before the night before, and was now lying supine – defenceless as a welfare recipient under the gimlet gaze of Scott Morrison – on the ergonomically mystifying King Furniture rocker.

Outside, the shed fridge was gently humming, an ex-turkey at rest in its frigid embrace, cushioned on layers of paper towel. Not just any turkey, mind – a turkey that had, for its short but idyllic life, been afforded the most caring of care before shuffling off this mortal coil through sheer happiness, thanks to the ministering angels at Feather and Bone.

The mistress of the house, Keeper of the Double-Sided Sticky Tape and Purveyor of Fine Layers of Dust, beamed as she surveyed her bedecked halls. From the east wing to the west, all was in good order. She had completed her gift-wrapping, sustaining only minor injuries, and the gaily beribboned parcels were piled high around the grand, 800mm Flower Power Living Christmas Tree.

She gently ran her finger along the spines of the cookery books and magazines gathered on the kitchen bench, smiling in anticipation at the sifting and stirring, grinding and mixing, whipping and smearing that lay ahead.

But then her thoughts quickly turned back to cooking and the colour drained from her face. It was the night before the night before Christmas and there was peril afoot. The Knights and Dames of the Kitchen Table were a treacherous and divisive rabble, from M’lady Maggie Beer of the Verjuice, with her damnable double oven bags and resting the bird breast-side down for up to one hour, to Monseigneur Gary Rhodes, Lord of Step-By-Step Cooking, and his delving inside to locate the wishbone and cutting it out with a small sharp knife, the better to facilitate carving.

She must act quickly, lest the morrow’s endeavours overwhelm her. Before she knew it, it would be the night before Christmas and the calm she’d worked so steadfastly to achieve over the past 10 days would be lost. She would once again be transformed into My Lady of the Last Minute and surely would not go to the ball.

She would return again to the oracle Stephanie Alexander, whose sagacity in the dark arts of large trussed birds and marshmallowy pavlova was hailed in all four corners of this flat, square earth, even as far as Empress Nigella’s Land of the Midnight Snack. Soothed by this thought, she sprayed her chastity belt with a little more WD40, pinched her ashen cheeks to their former rosiness and took up her smoothing iron once more. She must make haste with her liege’s doublet and hose before he awoke, then check on the nominations for the Queen’s New Year Honours list. Perhaps this time…


Deep and crisp and even

Silent night…

All is calm, all is very, very bright here on the mean streets of Botany, whose inhabitants, especially Danny of Bay Street, and Kris of Daphne Street, seem to have put in a bit more effort into putting a dent into the electricity grid this year. That’s the Coalition government for you – Christmas decorations just got a whole lot better.

We had a slump for a few years, as the old Christmas-light show ponies moved out or dropped off the peg to make way for more sparkle-averse, aspirational residents without utes (ourselves included, although the silver fox and I are, in fact, very intimately in touch with our sparkly sides – and utes; I was once the doting owner of a 1961 Holden FB ute back in my glory days – so, not so aspirational really).

Indeed, our courtyard has its wall of sparkling lights (although many bulbs dimmer, such is our seasonal refurbishing ennui). The disco shed, while not requisitioned this year for our usual Christmas party, still has balls – mirror balls, that is – spotlit through coloured filters. We have made liberal use of these festive tokens over the past few days to entertain our continuous parade of overnighting visitors. They do so complement the EXTREMELY LOUD music we’ve been pumping through the disco shed speakers each night, to drown out the hellish, interminable, tear-our-heads-off screams of the excited, sugar-loaded little kiddies and their desperate parents next door.

So… not so silent, then.

But, praise be, while the halls have been decked with nought but a bowl of pine cones stolen from the golf course surrounded by a coil of tinsel (yup – it really does look as bad as it sounds), I have managed to send handmade cards to overseas friends and relatives. I had intended to send them to friends and family in Australia too, but an excess of red cardboard eventually defeated me.

So… not so calm, either.

A frenzy, actually, of shopping and cooking and washing sheets and remaking beds and shouting at each other over the music in the backyard. Just like everyone else really.

But now it’s Christmas Eve, and the tomato kasundi that roiled and boiled for an eternity on our outdoor gas ring in 35-degree heat this week has been dispatched in poorly decorated jars to deeply suspicious neighbours. It’s a recipe that will appear in an upcoming issue of ABC delicious. magazine, so I can’t give it to you as it is not mine to give, but verily, it is good and the neighbours will thank me for it, you mark my words.

The pavlova is cooling in the oven with the requisite wooden spoon sticking out of the oven door, irritating my uber-minimalist silver fox to distraction. He has refused to wrap the dog’s presents in protest and is lying on the couch watching Miracle on 34th Street for the 34th time. Sigh.

It seems I got it all wrong about bringing a salad (I was put down to bring dessert – the fools, the fools!). The pav is a Bill Granger recipe – and was recommended by a friend who had some success with it recently.

But I live in hope. The meringue is, so far, deep and crisp – if not even – and will be duly immortalised in its full splendour once slathered with whipped cream and piled with sharply rebuked fruit via Instagram and Facebook on the morrow – unless I’m too drunk and forget, or it’s a complete disaster (odds are the usual 50-50).

Queen of the street lights, Kris (her real name), of Daphne Street.

Merry Christmas, and may all your mince pies come true.