Happy belated Christmas! I'm really sorry I wasn't able to post earlier to wish you a merry festive season. My laptop is as good as dead and I can barely get online at the moment. Still, I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. We certainly did! There were a few small spanners in the works regarding our 'homegrown/home caught' theme. As mentioned, the battering weather conditions from the previous few weeks meant that the peas and beans were provided by Noel's mum instead but they were still homegrown. Noel and the boys spent the day before Christmas Eve out fishing but only caught enough pan-sized fish for dinner, not to feed nine of us on Christmas Day as intended! Our plans for freshly caught shellfish were also thwarted, thanks to a shellfish parasite affecting hundreds of miles of coastline. A particularly nasty one causing paralysis and even death, we thought we had better not serve any up to our guests for Christmas!
Still, there was definitely no shortage of food; in fact quite the contrary. Ali went out to his potato patch on Christmas Eve and proudly harvested 3kg of new potatoes for the Christmas table. They were delicious! Homegrown beef and lamb were also served, along with our only real concession, a shop-bought chicken. I just couldn't imagine Christmas without chicken or turkey and there was no way any of my loyal chooks were going to be sacrificed for the occasion! If we had been really determined to stick to the rules I could have sent the guys out to shoot a wild turkey; after all there are dozens of them roaming around. However, the general consensus is that you shouldn't shoot turkeys when there's an 'R' in the month as they make horrible eating – something to do with their diet during those times of year. I don't know if that's just an old wives' tale or not but I wasn't willing to risk it!
Homegrown and home made gifts were also plentiful. My mum made an enormous Christmas pudding, which everyone devoured with gusto. Mum in law presented us with her annual Christmas cake and there were home made jars of plum chutney and picalilli under the tree. I had a go at making Ferrero Rocher 'bouquets', taken from a tip on the Forum. They were so simple, yet looked really effective. Good enough to eat!
Christmas entertainment was simple, fun and free. The boys got giant water pistols in their stockings and we all took it in turns to either be soaked or ambush some other poor unsuspecting reveller. An immensely enjoyable and very competitive game of cricket was organised late afternoon. I can't remember who won but a good time was had by all! We also spent a good while poring over old wartime records – a present from Noel to his parents. When we visited the NZ Army Museum back in October, Noel was interested to learn that you can actually apply for any unclaimed medals on behalf of your ancestors. He knew for a fact that both his late grandfathers had never claimed any of theirs so wrote to the museum to find out what he needed to do to claim them. While the medals can only be claimed by the deceased's next of kin, e.g. Noel's parents, they sent Noel an enormous file on each of his grandfathers. It made absolutely fascinating reading!
We were able to learn so much about these two men – their ranks, where they were stationed, their health records and much, much more. It was like taking a step back in time. Just deciphering the old fashioned handwriting and army abbreviations was a mission in itself. A thoughtful gift which cost very little, yet meant so much. As a young boy, Noel could never understand why his grandfather refused to talk about the war, despite his best efforts and eager questioning. Suffice to say after reading the war files he understands how nobody would want to revisit the experience!
The boys declared this Christmas their best one ever and where their presents are concerned I'm inclined to agree. For starters, there was no clutter! When picking their presents we chose carefully, making sure everything would be used and enjoyed as much as possible. After our massive decluttering session, the last thing we wanted was for more useless stuff to end up on Trade Me! Out of all the 2009 calendar challenges, I think the Decluttering Challenge was the most beneficial – and not just because we made $990 selling our unwanted stuff! It helped us to see the things which were truly valuable, useful and a good buy – as well as all the things that weren't. A lesson well learned and I would like to think that we won't make the same mistakes again. Cleaning the house is a joy these days too, compared to what it used to be like!
I did finally get round to advertising my exercise bike and the boys' old trampoline on the Post Office notice board and they both sold in next to no time. In fact, the exercise bike didn't even make it on the notice board, as a lady saw me clutching my 'For Sale' notice as she stood next to me in the Post Office queue! It was heartwarming to see the trampoline go to a local family, where it will be enjoyed by many children and grandchildren for years to come. Brilliant! I only wish I had done it sooner!
So we're almost at the end of another year. Time for a new calendar and some new challenges! I can't wait – I want it to be our most frugal and prosperous year yet! First up is No Screens Month and boy, are Noel and I looking forward to that! I can't say the same for the boys right now but I think they'll actually really enjoy it, once they realise how much more fun we can have all together when we're not separated by various screens. In fact, we're looking forward to No Screens Month so much, we've decided to get a head start on it. We're going bush for three days!