Monday, 28 December 2009

Rain continues so it is indoor time

After so many months of drought it is refreshing to see the rain - but I'm sure parents of young children will be finding it a challenge to keep them happy indoors. At least they need the opportunity to "run off some energy" - keeping them amused should not be too difficult with all the games, new toys, etc that would have been under the Christmas tree only a few days ago.

Yesterday I made some fig jam - Drunken Fig Jam, said the recipe though it was only a "normal" recipe with some added brandy. I also baked some shortbread biscuits - I had prepared the mixture on Christmas Eve - and planned to have the children cut out the shapes, but we didn't need anything to occupy the children on Christmas day.

So - while I caught up on some correspondence - thank you letters, I was only metres away from the bubbling jam and cooking cookies.

I'm yet to record my new year resoltuions and this year I have a few - so I will type them out and print them out and put the sheet somewhere. It will be more a "map" of where I want to go, and where I want to be in 2010.

I'm still planning to go to China in February - so am watching the fares to Shanghai. I'd like to go to Beijing, but I'll have to do that during the semester. Maybe alone. We will see.

I'd like to go via Hong Kong this time, as I've not been there, but the fare is more expensive - so again, I might try and wangle that for the return trip. Again, I'll wait and see.

During my Christmas shopping I came across a card game that I hope to play with family in the next week or so, but I think I can make it a very useful activity in my classes here in Australia and in China. It is a product of some clever Australians.

It is in a little pack that I bought at one of the book shops - it is called "The Art of Conversation" and has 100 cards each with three questions. They have created a game plan too, but I can see other things that can be done with it.

Conversation in English is one of the challenges for Chinese students. They have learned so much about grammar and vocabulary, but do not find it easy to put conversation together. We know some of the "stock phrases" that are common - but helping the students "think outside the square" is something I like doing.

In fact, I had a regular Monday night converstion club going in the "Green Cafe" on SPT Street within the university campus, and this game would be ideal for that.

However, it is not something that was created for ESL classes, it is something that I am sure would work well in small groups here to create stimulating conversation, which is what it was created for.

"The Art of Converston" comes in a neat box, with the 300 cards, and some instructions for us. As there are 100 cards anda total of 300 questions, you could play it with the same group over and over again, and not repeat a questions. I bought the pack for less than $20.

One of the cards has these questions "A living legend. Anybody come to mind?" and "Which food do you find most off-putting?" and " "Happiness" What comes to mind?" I'm sure readers will already have a few ideas of what they can say. It is well put together by the authors, Keith Lamp and Louise Howland.

You can find out more at their website

A good family game.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Christmas is almost over

At least all the high end chaos and we all survived. Lunch was well prepared by MM and we had a great day. We are glad to have chosen an indoor event as it just poured with rain for most of the morning and certainly would have put a dampener on any outdoor celebration.

Actually we watched with amusement as our Kiwi neighbours who certainly know how to celebrate did so but tried to put up a tent-like structure in the heavy rain. They did eventually get it up and standing after a few comedic situations, but in the end I don't think they used it very much. Their party went on for a few days and always there were about 4 strange cars there. Good luck to them.

We had all our Queensland families - our daughter and her husband and their 2 girls, and our son and his wife and their 2 children. We had the usual exchange of gifts and I think all were happy with their gifts. We sat down at a big table in the loungeroom for roast turkey, ham, and vegetables, after we had all pulled our bon bons.

After the lunch, the Gold coast family headed back to another party, and the rest of us bundled into a car and went to the house I am looking after at the moment - to enjoy their swimming pool. And we certainly did enjoy the cool water!!!

Boxing Day was very quiet - I managed to watch a lot of the Boxing Day cricket match Australia vs Pakistan at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on television, between reading and dozing. A good relaxing day.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Holidays and Christmas Preparation


It is always a strange time of year. I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas. In a way I love it but it is rather stressful. Everyone wants to do the right thing, especially get the right gift, and try to keep all family members happy.

This year we are having our Christmas dinner at our place, and it is a little complicated in that I am house sitting - some 30 minutes from home.

I go from one house to another, trying to keep things in order in both places. Including looking after the ripening figs.

This year we found so many fruit on the fig tree and right now the fruit are ripening. For me it is a race to let them ripen naturally and harvest them before the fruit bats and birds get to them.

And then what to do with the fruit?

I have in the past made jam, and may well do so this time, but last night I created a great dessert. Here is my Baked Fig and Clotted Cream Recipe.

Wash and dry the figs (about 5 for each person)
Put in an overproof bowl with stems facing up (I packed them in tight so they could not fall over.)
Sprinkle with Demerara sugar

Bake in medium oven for 30 minutes.

Tonight there will be a slight variation. I'll report later on the success or otherwise of that.

Add clotted cream and serve.


Sunday, 13 December 2009

China and more

I have reported that I have a contract for next semester in China. Strangely I received another email from the university (a) asking me if I know someone who would like to teach there next semester and (b) arranging to pick me up at KFC at Shanghai Pudong Airport on February 25th.

The latter is especially amusing as I don't have my air fare booked yet and I may well fly into Hangzhou which is closer to Shaoxing. In any case I'm not worried if I have to find my own way to the university from which ever airport I eventually fly into. I will not be booking my flight until after Christmas anyway.

After a week in Adelaide with family I've come back rather exhausted but no rest for the wicked and I had to teach on Thursday and Friday, and this week I work Monday to Wednesday. On Tuesday I will probably take my students to the art gallery at South Bank. It is their last week before a two week break, and while we still have some academic work, and I will have to create some activity around the cultural excursion, it should be a good week for me.

I hope so. I am looking forward to the break.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

December Update

I am sitting here at Glenelg in Adelaide where I have been for the past week. My niece was married last Saturday so it has been a major family event - or more correctly a series of family events. My two older grand children were lovely flower girls at the wedding, and all went very well.

We've had a couple of days to look around but always every day end up with family. The weather has been cool, in fact some days downright cold. The wind coming of St Vincent's Gulf had a feeling of South Pole in it!

I had an awesome meeting with an author and expert on Obituaries in Adelaide, but other than that it has been all family, with little "me time". It's OK.

I gave the two grand daughter's a $25 book voucher to spend at Dymmocks, so we headed there yesterday. What a hard task!!! It seems they've read almost everything in the book store! In any event, we did manage to spend the full $25 and all was well.

I've not reported yet, but I had my medical for China, and am due back in Shaoxing in Feburary 2010 ready for teaching on March 1st!! Yeehaa!!! I'm quite looking forward to it.