SAMI'S COLOURFULWORLD

Sunday, 28 July 2013

CHRISTMAS IN JULY

If you live in Australia, you might long for a fairy tale white Christmas, so celebrating Christmas in July is the perfect compromise!
Having been born and raised in Africa, Christmas was always in the middle of Summer, so I didn't know otherwise, and in fact the Christmas cards that we saw in the shops with snow, reindeers, etc, didn't make much sense to someone celebrating this holiday in the heat.


Around the country a lot of restaurants advertise
functions celebrating Christmas in July, during the whole month of July, but even though I have been in Australia for 6 years I had never been involved in one of these celebrations.

But it all changed, when a couple of weeks ago, while having dinner with some Portuguese friends, one of them mentioned that the weather - cold and rain - was making her feel as if she was back in Portugal in the middle of December and looking forward to the Christmas celebrations.
To which I replied: So why don't we get together and organize a "Christmas in July", it's a popular thing in Australia anyway! And so it was decided that we would get together on Saturday, the 27th of July.

Of course the Christmas tree and decorations, came out of storage and there were a couple of presents just for the little ones.

Most of the traditional Portuguese Christmas recipes only make sense if you serve them in the middle of winter anyway, as they are usually heavy foods, cooked in hot ovens...unlike the light fare of seafood salads or barbecues served at the Australian Christmas tables.
For starters we had: "Rissois de camarao" (Prawn patties), "Broas" (Sweet raisin breads), walnuts, dried figs, a wonderful homemade Olive Pate...
Then came the "Caldo Verde" (Kale Soup with chourizo) to warm us up.


Walnuts, dried figs, Broas (sweet breads) and Rissois Camarao (Prawn Patties)



For the main meal there was: "Bacalhau com Natas" (Codfish in Cream Sauce) and Octopus with Chestnuts and Chourizo, the second time I cooked this for a Christmas dinner, and was very nice, although I forgot to cook rice as an side to help soak up all the sauce...Ooops, next time I won't forget!

The meal ended with a few traditional desserts, like "Arroz Doce" (Rice Pudding), the light and airy "Sonhos" (Portuguese dreams), "Sonhos de Abobora" (Pumpkin dreams), my favourite pudding, Leite Creme (Milk custard) and a Conventual pudding originally from Braga, in the North of Portugal, that I had never tasted before - "Pudim Abade de Pristos" (Pristos's Abbott Pudding), a pudding made with lard or bacon and caramel and lots and lots of eggs. Very rich and sweet, so only a tiny slice is enough...

Sonhos de Abobora (Pumpkin Dreams)
The light and airy Sonhos (Portuguese Dreams)
Leite Creme (Milk Custard)
Pudim Abade de Pristos (Bacon and caramel Pudding)
It was a very enjoyable evening, sitting around the table enjoying the traditional Portuguese Christmas fare and the company of good friends. And of course every one contributed with something delicious to make this Christmas evening special.

If you live in country where Christmas is celebrated in Summer, do you also celebrate Christmas in July?
If you liked the sound of any of these dishes and would like to give them a try, you are welcome to contact me for recipes.


Sunday, 14 July 2013

SYDNEY - DAY 3

After the wedding reception, we returned to our hotel apartment just in time to watch the fireworks in Darling Harbour that started at 8,30 in the evening. As it was raining again, we decided to watch them indoors, as we had a great view from our lounge window.






Darling Harbour
Roads into the city centre
Sydney Tower in the distance
We stayed indoors for the rest of the evening as it was far too miserable outside, and watched a movie on TV.

Sunday - it was time to get up early, go downstairs to the cafe for another bacon and eggs breakfast, pack our bags and check out of the hotel by 10am.

One of the advantages of this hotel, was the parking lot where we paid $25 for a 24h period, which meant we could leave our luggage in the car and just wander around until it was time to go to the airport.


























Walking over the bridge in Darling Harbour



So we left the car, and walked around Darling Harbour with some friends, had coffee, walked
some more and by 2pm decided to go and get the car for a drive around the city.

By this time the rain was back, which was a pity as we couldn't visit the Botanic Gardens which I had visited on another occasion, but would like to visit again, so we drove past the Opera House just for a quick snapshot.


The famous Sydney Opera House
It was still early to go to the airport, but with so much rain, there wasn't much we could do, so we decided to go to the city centre and visit some shopping centres.

The first one was "The Strand Arcade", between Pitt Street Mall and George Street,  one of Sydney's first shopping centres, built in 1891. 



Inside, the glass roof, cedar wood shopfronts, tiled floor, stained glass windows, ironwork on the verandas, are "old world" but so charming. 
It now houses some exclusive boutiques, and we couldn't go past the famous Haigh's chocolates without buying a few to nibble on. Famous for being the best chocolates in Australia, they are expensive, and I'm glad we don't have one in Perth, or it would be my ruin...


Shoe shine anyone? This just fits so well in this shopping.
Some yarn bombing brings extra colour to a tree trunk

Taken from the 3rd floor bathrooms
Some of the stained glass windows
Across the road is the Westfield Sydney, on the corner of George, Pitt and Market Streets, right next to the Sydney Tower. The revolving restaurant in the tower is accessed through a lift on the 4th level of this shopping.
So it was more of a window shopping experience with a visit to Zara's (Spanish clothing retailer), which we also don't have in Perth, but I was in no need for new clothes, so it was really just a curiosity visit.

It was finally time to retrieve our car and drive to the airport for our return to Perth.
It was a wonderful weekend, to attend to our son's wedding and to revisit some of my favourite haunts in Sydney.

Old and modern stand side by side
The Harbour Bridge, seen from Market street



Sunday, 7 July 2013

SYDNEY WEEKEND - DAY 2 - THE WEDDING

On Saturday 22nd, we woke up early to a gray and and wet day, although some sun-rays were unsuccessfully trying to poke through.
Early morning over Darling Harbour - taken from our hotel room
View over the city skyscrapers - taken from our hotel room
We first went downstairs to one of the little cafes next to the hotel, and had a wonderful bacon and eggs breakfast.
After breakfast we went up to our room and my son arrived with his suit to get ready for his big day.
After showering, hair, make-up (for me only of course!) and with our formal outfits on, we were ready to leave in time to be at the function room one hour before the wedding ceremony.
A selfie of the three of us in the hotel garage

On arrival, we just had time to take a couple of photos outside before the rain came pelting down again...

The lapel flower made by the bride's mother from wire and stockings (just like the bridal bouquet and ring girl bouquet)
Inside, two small rooms were allocated to the wedding party - the room where the civil ceremony would take place, and the lunch room. The table had been lovingly decorated by the bride, that morning, with white roses, silver and white petals, and name cards that were hand made by her to match the wedding invitation. As you can see from the table it was a small wedding for 25 people only.

The room and table were lovingly decorated by the bride in white and silver
After the customary late arrival of the bride, this time due to the late arrival of the marriage celebrant...the ceremony started with the bride entering the room on the arm of her father.

A small ceremony ensued and after the signing of the paperwork by the witnesses and the bridal couple, it was time for the congratulatory wishes by the guests, and then we moved to the annexing room to take some photos.


They had wanted photos on the beach, as the venue was right next to the sand, but the weather didn't permit,, as you can see from the grey weather outside the window...
It was then time to sit down to a lovely meal. 

The menu
Before cutting the cake
The wedding cake with vanilla and chocolate cupcakes
The traditional Portuguese tarts were also present!

After the meal, the bride threw her bouquet and garter to the singles ladies and lads and had the traditional dance with the groom and with her Dad, to a music CD taped by the couple. 
All guests were later given the music CD as a thank you gift to remember the wedding.
The guest present and the place cards made by the bride to match the wedding invitation

It was a small but intimate wedding and it was a perfect day.
Don't my son and daughter in law look so gorgeous? I wish them all the happiness in the world!

A bit of background to their love story - Both Sara and Michael were school colleagues in the last two years of High school in Portugal. After High School, Michael came to Australia with us, and they lost track of each other. Just over 1 year ago Sara, who was raised in Sydney and then went to Portugal, joined her Dad in Sydney again. 
A common friend asked her if she had already met up with Michael, to which she replied that she was now living in Australia and he was in Portugal... Not so, said the friend, he also lives in Australia! And so she looked him up on Facebook, where else??  And so the fairy tale began... 
I think it was destiny!