Merry Christmas and Happy Boxing Day! This was my first year spending the holidays away from my family. Normally Im pretty good about being away from home but there is definitely something weird about being on the other side of the world and missing Thanksgiving then not being home for Christmas. I think the worst part about this Christmas was that Brady, my oldest son, finally understands opening presents and getting gifts. When he was 1 it wasn’t that big a deal because he didn’t quite understand, but now hes all about ripping the paper off. I definitely miss his smile and laugh and the goofy things he does. Hudson, my youngest son, is at that age where he doesn’t know whats going on. All he really needs to know is when his next meal is coming and whos going to change his diaper when its dirty. But since being down here in Australia he’s managed to sit up on his own, start crawling and stand himself up all before hes six months old! Thankfully there is Skype and FaceTime to help ease the longing Ive had for family. Ive been able to see his crawl and stand up and I got to see Brady light up when he opened his new cars that I got him for Christmas. Unfortunately watching on video and being there in real life are two different things. Such is the life of a baseball player.
Thankfully this Christmas season Ive been able to spend it with my amazing host family. They have taken Nic and I under their wings and incorporated us into all their family activities. Since Elizabeth had nothing planned for Christmas morning, I decided to bring to Melbourne my families tradition. We always have a huge breakfast Christmas morning. My mother slaves tirelessly in the kitchen the night before and the morning of preparing the most delicious breakfast treats. My favorite bit is stuffed French toast. This dish is similar to a bread pudding less like what most would consider French toast. It starts with a layer of cubed bread on the bottom, preferably Challah but any other good soft bread will do. Next you layer in 2 packages of cream cheese and a good helping of strawberries. Finally you top it off with more bread then pour over an egg, milk, syrup mixture. The bread soaks up all the eggy goodness and when it bakes up it’s the most heavenly tasting dish. Next my mom prepares a mushroom and spinach quiche which I think is better served cold but pretty good fresh from the oven. Then she hand grates potatoes and onion and makes potato latkes (a tradition jewish potato pancake). Finally we boil up some cheese sausages until they are crisp and ready for eating. I didn’t want to make all these dishes for our meal so I picked the stuffed French toast since I knew how make that the best.
Christmas morning I woke up bright and early and removed the dish from the fridge to let it come to room temperature before popping it in the oven. The rest of the family began to stir right about the time it was about to come out. Before we ate we opened presents in front of the tree. The kids got things like clothes and headphones while the adults got things like golf gear and perfume. Nic and I also received some gifts. We both got official Essendon AFL jerseys. I got a black home jersey while Nic got the grey away jersey. We both also got a sample box of some Australian beers including Fat Yak and 5 other brews. In return Nic and I both gave Tony and Elizabeth a giant black and white canvas of New York City to hang in the man cave since they had just redone it. The breakfast must have been great because the entire dish disappeared in moments.
|Stuffed French Toast|
After breakfast everyone sat around recovering from the morning, drinking coffee and watching NFL Football (Perk of being a day ahead I guess). Traditionally at Tony’s house his family comes over for a big lunch. I met Tony’s Dad and his wife Pam and conversed a bit about Australia and how much fun we had been having. Elizabeth prepared a generous meal of lamb, beef, chicken, pasta salad and potatoes. Everything was delicious as usual. After lunch while we were sitting around talking we heard some loud banging outside. Being from Denver I was not expecting any sort of white Christmas in Australia considering it was 80 degrees outside. However the big man upstairs must have known I was a bit home sick and ordered up the most impressive hail storm I think Ive ever seen. The ice balls were about the size of cherries and they pelted the earth for about 15 minutes in the most impressive fashion.
|White Aussie Christmas|
Next we were off to see Elizabeth’s family in Geelong. We packed our bags and the cars and began our drive down south. We encountered some more impressive rain on the way down but that soon passed and opened up into clear blue sunny skies. It took us a good hour to get there and after many twists, turns and roundabouts we arrived. Elizabeth’s family is very reminiscent of my wife Pam’s family. We pulled up to find about 15 people or so gathered around talking, drinking, and eating while 6 or 7 kids jumped and swam in the pool. Everyone was super friendly and the food was amazing. We had a Greek style lamb, sausages, pasta and potato salad and some garlicky flat bread. Nic and I excused ourselves to a back room to watch the Christmas classic “National Lampoon Presents: Christmas Vacation” while the family did their Christmas presents. The night was winding down and we made the decision to continue our journey and drive 30 minutes further to Anglesea where Tony has a holiday house.
We pulled in to the driveway about 12 midnight, fixed our beds and hit the hay. It was quite an eventful day. Tony and Elizabeth made both Nic and I feel like family and fill that void we had for the holidays. We cannot express enough our thankfulness and gratitude these people have shown us in our time here in Australia.
|Merry Christmas: Elizabeth, Tony, William, Jason|
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Australia!