Saturday, December 23, 2000
“Been there, done that, check it off” was one of Mary’s patent comments during their foray to the States last Christmas, and Saturday was to be one of those. It was wine country tour day!
We dropped the kids at the home of close family friends and made our way across the mountains. The wine country north of Melbourne is a relatively young but flourishing one. There are many wineries, seemingly endless vineyards and a well deserved reputation for the production of fine wines. The tour began with a visit to a champagne winery where the requisite bottle was served with goat’s milk cheese, strawberries and biscuits. We asked the purpose of the beautiful roses that flanked the ends of each row of vines and were informed that, for one, the rose variety identifies the type of grape. In addition, roses are subject to many of the same problems as grape vines and serve as early warnings of disease or blight. We then visited a couple of other thoroughly modern wineries and associated fine restaurants and became convinced that they were intent on trapping you with fine food and wine, leaving you with little inclination to investigate their competitors’ wares.
We dutifully carried on, however, ending up at one of the McAllisters’ favorite vineyards. There, Mary set up a traditional Aussie picnic lunch while Sandy, Bill & Steve picked a few suitable bottles of wine. After a delightful picnic, we returned to the house where we prepared for a barbie with Steve & Mary’s friends who were returning the kids. We had a great time with them, enjoying dance routines lead by Sharn, Amie & Jackie and support by several of the other kids. Whew! Don’t know if we’ll be able to keep up the pace!
Sunday, December 24, 2000
Christmas Eve is probably much the same in all Christian countries. It consisted of last minute Christmas shopping and preparations, Christmas eve church service and a big meal. Ryan, Trent and Sharn all took part in the church service. (Sharn was asked to be an angel, but preferred her fairy costume, complete with wand.) After the kids retired about 10:00, parents and guests spent a few hours making final preparations for Santa’s visit.
Monday, December 25, 2000
Christmas morning dawned sunny and bright and found that Santa had not only eaten his traditional cookies & milk, but that the reindeer had eaten their full ration of a bucket of water and leaves of lettuce. Santa also left a new flat screen TV under the tree and a full sized trampoline on the tennis court. (It probably didn’t fit down the chimney.) Among the special gifts was a note that said that there were tickets to a Sydney Kings basketball game against the Melbourne Titans Tuesday night and that there might be something special for Trent, there.
After cleaning up the gift opening destruction of Christmas morning, we all piled into the car and drove to the home of Mary’s sister, Joan, and her husband, Daryl, for Christmas dinner. The party was a family affair and real treat! Thirty-one people attended, starting out in the back yard where Daryl officiated over the barbie which was loaded with enough pork, turkey and beef to feed the entire assemblage. While waiting for Daryl to work his magic, we admired the garden, the hot tub, Australia’s working man’s brew, VB, (Victoria Bitters) and conversation with the assembled parents, cousins, nieces and nephews. A fine family and a great partying crowd.
Dinner was served at five dining tables arranged in a huge ell through the dining and living rooms. We felt right at home. Popping our crackers and donning the hats, we ate and drank our fill. Afterwards, Brett suited up into a Santa outfit and, after an initial bout of shyness, did an admirable job of handing out gifts to one and all.
That evening we were joined by Steve’s brother, Paul, and his wife, Sue, and two year old son for one more Christmas dinner at Steve & Mary’s house. Seems Christmas down under is even more food centric than in the States! We retired tired and full of food and the Christmas spirit that evening!