Daily Archives: December 22, 2008

An Australian Christmas

For people in the Northern Hemisphere, Christmas is all about cold mornings, large hot lunches, and snow. In Australia, Christmas is celebrated during the summer months with no snow and log fires for us! For Australians it’s about sun, the beach, and often inappropriate large hot lunches, though our Christmas Cards and traditions usually depict those of colder climates. Australians have Christmas Trees, Father Christmas, Christmas Carols and gifts which are a familiar Christmas scenario.

For the majority of Australians, Christmas Downunder experiences all the seasonal variations of a Summer Down Under…..electrical storms, floods, hailstorms, cyclones and bushfires. But 80% of the time they are blessed with blue skies and depending on the Australian location, temperatures ranging from 25 – 34 degrees centigrade.

Australia is a multicultural country and with this, the traditions we have are often mingled and derived from a mixture of other countries. Australia, although huge in size, has a population of just over 20 million people. Our country is a harmonious mix of many ethnic groups. Our backgrounds are very varied, with people having connections with England, Scotland, Ireland, Northern Europe, Russia, Italy, Greece, Spain, France, Middle East, Vietnam, China, Japan, Thailand as well as North and South America. So you can imagine that each of these national groups brings the colour ,customs and festive rituals of the Christmas celebrated in their respective homelands. Australians are able to appreciate culturally diverse Christmas celebrations.

House decorations in Australia are not usually as elaborate as in the United States, although there are plenty of decorations and symbols, and even a few wreaths. Because it is warm weather, there are many native plants in bloom. These are easily picked for decoration around the holiday season – orchids, Christmas bells, and the like are common.

Christmas is special to the majority of Australians for it is their Summer Holiday season and students especially are “wrapping” up their school year. That means sitting for end of Semester tests or exams and waiting for their results, as well as getting ready for the Summer Holidays. For the majority of Australian students this means …SUN….SURF….SHOPPING. For students it means an end to homework and school studies and the beginning of lots of time for family, relatives and “mates” (friends).

Traditional dinners have been replaced with family gatherings in back yards, picnics in parks, gardens and on the beach. For many, it is the occasion to be with friends and relatives, to share love and friendship and not to forget, the exchange of gifts in the traditional manner. For many, it is a time to enjoy and consume massive quantities of food.

So how do we REALLY celebrate Christmas? Christmas for childen means presents, and lots of them! When I was a child, traditionally in the weeks leading up to Christmas, we would decorate the house with tinsel, Christmas lights, and a large plastic Christmas tree would adorn our front entrance. Christmas was an exciting time of year. Next to Easter and my birthday, it was my favorite time of year! 🙂

Every Christmas Eve, I would put a “Christmas pillowslip” (stocking) at the end of the bed and try to stay awake to wait anxiously for Santa Claus to arrive. Of course, I always fell asleep and never saw Santa arrive, but when I awoke in the morning, my pillowslip was filled with toys and goodies of all kinds. Each year was as exciting as the previous. I would throw off my bedsheets and open my presents from Santa while everyone else in the house slept.

In more recent years, I had the pleasure of spending Christmas with my sister in New Zealand. Although we had forgone the traditions we experienced as children, we still decorated the house with Christmas lights and various other decorations, and on Christmas morning we would sit around the Christmas tree and exchange presents we bought for each other. Of course, there was always one of us who would dress up like Santa and give out more gifts, which added to the magic that is otherwise “Christmas”.

In my sister’s house, the usual Christmas Lunch consisted of roast pork, roast turkey, roast potatoes, pumpkin and other hot vegetables as well as salad, cold ham, cold chicken. The traditional Christmas meal may either be taken in the middle of the day which is the hottest part of the day or in the cooler evening hours. With some families opting for a celebration meal as dinner on Christmas eve. In some households, Christmas Dinner may be a barbeque in the backyard or a picnic on a beach. The evening meal is leftovers from lunch.

Currently everyone is beginning to get ready for the “silly season“. Everyone is busily planning Christmas break-up parties. Children are writing letters to Santa Claus. Decorations are being bought and set up. Shopping centres and malls are experiencing record breaking crowds. In homes, many of the traditional Christmas rituals are being followed. Many children are helping to decorate the family Christmas tree. Australians have yet to follow the American ritual of getting “real” Christmas trees……though some do use gum tree branches. Children are learning Christmas Carols so that they may be sung at festive occasions such as public “Carols by Candlelight” and school concerts. Christmas stockings are being hung in homes….though fireplaces are in short supply. Cards galore are being written and posted. Everyone awaits…….the anticipation is high!

It must also be mentioned that Australians consider Christmas a time for remembering the true meaning of Christmas………a time for remembering the birth of Jesus and the spiritual meaning of Christmas. For many, Christmas will begin with families attending a midnight mass. 70% of Australians are either Catholic, Anglican or Lutheran. After the midnight Mass, a little sleep is attempted. For many, the children in various households, wake up the family at dawn. Gifts are unwrapped and the joy of Christmas begins. For many with relatives and friends overseas, it is a mad scramble to get an early phone call to relatives worldwide.

In order to celebrate an Australian Christmas in your house this year, consider displaying a map of Australia on the wall. Use an Australian animal, like a kangaroo or koala, as the gift or favor of choice for your guests. Create a beautiful tree with wooden decorations, tinsel or garland, and the fairy, angel or star on the top. Serve up a picnic instead of dinner, with champagne and pavlova, (a meringue dessert that is topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit). Or if you choose to serve traditional Christmas plum pudding, offer ice cream or cream on the side. The Christmas pudding during Australian gold rushes often contained a gold nugget; the lucky person who found it was considered to be blessed with good luck for the coming year. These days the gold nugget is replaced with small favors; consider adding these to your pudding.

This year will be my first Christmas in Russia, so although I will be celebrating the traditional Orthodox Christmas with my family, I will also be bringing a little bit of Australiana to Russia with celebrating Christmas “Aussie” style, with lots of decorations, roast pork, roast chicken, roast vegetables, salad, and not to forget, lots of presents for my family!  🙂

Happy Holidays everyone!

C.A. Milson

Australian Recipe: Pavlova

The Pavolova was first created in 1935 by Chef Herbert Sachse of the Hotel Esplanade in Perth, Western Australia, to celebrate the visit of the great Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova.

4 egg whites
1 cup superfine sugar (granulated)
1 tablespoon corn flour (cornstarch)
half pint whipped cream (one cup)
strawberries or your choice of fruit such as passion fruit, kiwi fruit…

Place egg whites in a clean glass bowl. Beat slowly until frothy, then increase the speed and beat until stiff.

GRADUALLY add the sugar, beating well after each addition. (When all the sugar has been added, the mixture should be shiny, very stiff, and should stand in peaks.) Gently fold in the corn flour with a metal spoon.

Line a cookie sheet with brown paper and grease it lightly. Pile the meringue mixture on it

Slow-bake the mixture at 150°C (300°F) to dry all the moisture and create the meringue, approximately 45 minutes. This leaves the outside of the Pav a crisp crunchy shell, while the interior remains soft and moist.

When cooked, turn off the oven and leave the door open to let the Pav cool on the oven shelf – this helps to prevent the middle of the Pav from collapsing (although if it does collapse, generous application of cream hides any mistakes)

When cold, peel off the paper and transfer to a serving platter.

Slice the strawberries in half. and roll in icing sugar (confectioners sugar), and refrigerate.

Cover top of the Pav with whipped cream about 1 hour before serving.

N.B. Turn the Pav upside down before decorating with cream and fruit because the bottom is less crispy than the top after cooking and, unless you serve it immediately after decorating, the “top” absorbs moisture from the cream.


The Book Stacks Interview

JM: Will you please share a short bio with us?
: I grew up in Brisbane Australia. At a young age I was fascinated with the world of writing, but I never really did anything about it until 1989. Since early 2008, I have spent a majority of the year travelling to places such as China, Russia and Japan.

In April, I set foot back in my home country, Australia, after almost a 10 year absence. I now reside primarily in Samara Russia with my wife, Anna, and I spend my time writing and working as a recruiter.

JM: Tell us about The Chosen and where it’s available.
My first novel is called The Chosen. It is a Supernatural Horror, set in modern times. It is the story of Alex Manning who is “The One”, well actually Alex Manning is a nice guy, with anxiety attacks who has visions. He doesn’t know he is “The One” until he gets wrapped up in the investigation of the Jamiesonn house. Then he is drawn neck deep into betrayal, battling demons, freaky scary ghosts, and falling in love again tossed in for good measure. My novel can be purchased through Amazon.com and various other online retailers.

JM: At what age did you discover writing and when were you first published? Tell us your story.
I first discovered writing when I was in grade 9, when I attended Kedron State High School. Instead of reading a book and writing a report on what I thought about the topic, I decided to pen a short story. In about 2 hours I penned a short sci-fi story, which was my first attempt at the world of writing. The story received top marks from my English professor, who also encouraged me to continue writing. That was the first and seemingly last time I put pen to paper.. That was until the summer of 1989….

In 1989, I was living in Melbourne at the time, and once again I found myself writing. My first short story was titled “Shack of Evil”, a 9 page story based on the character Jamiesonn. The story idea came from a Hobbytex picture my mother had on the wall of her apartment. I was not automatically drawn into the world of horror, but after reading stories by H.P. Lovecraft and Misery by Stephen King, I knew that I wanted to write novels that would entertain and scare the audience. But like some beginning writers, I had no idea how to get storyline past the seemingly impossible short-phase and also written in the third person context.

After writing “Shack of Evil” I went on to write an additional 25 short stories, all of different genres, including a children’s story. Shack of Evil would later become the base for what is now the trilogy of The Chosen, Bloodline of Darkness, and Prophecy’s End. In 1994, I wrote the first draft for what is now The Chosen. Some 14 years later, I saw the realization of my hard work come to fruition when my novel was published by Amira Press.

JM: How do you approach your writing? Do you plot or go with the flow?
I tend to go with what I feel at the time and don’t stick to any particular routine. The thing I like best about writing is being able to see what will happen in later chapters, like seeing a movie that is being played out in my head.

JM: Do you have a specific time or place that you write?
A typical day for me will start with coffee. Coffee kick-starts my mind into gear and when I get around to it, I start answering emails, writing new scenes, and then editing those scenes if I don’t like it. There is thins one chapter I wrote recently about a new character I decided to introduce, based on his life and his success with YouTube, but I scratched that entire chapter as it was too close to my own life.

So I may yet keep that character and have him introduced in a different time-frame. I don’t stick to any type of schedule. That would put me into a category of being routine and then the flair for writing wont be as fun anymore. For me, writing comes from the heart.. from inspiration. I have to be inspired to write. Mostly, I find I write best when I have the headphones on and listening to my fav songs on YouTube.

JM: What kind of research did you do for this book?
I have studied different theologies about the supernatural throughout my life and I have always been fascinated of what possibilities would lay in other spiritual worlds, so my writing maintains a basis of the clichéd “good versus evil” and the “what-if” scenarios without coming across to heavy.

JM: Who has inspired you as an author?
Some of the writings of HP Lovecraft inspired me, as well as other great authors like Clive Barker, Deen Koontz. These people have proven themselves and are among the greats.

JM: What five authors or people, from the past or present, have been important to you as an author? What question or comment have you always wanted to say to them?
I cant think of five authors or people off hand, but the two who do come to mind straight away are H.P.Lovecraft and M Night Shyamalan. First off, Lovecraft was a master horror writer for his day, and even today he still remains the true master of horror. It is a shame that he wasn’t recognized for the genius he was until after his death. M Night is also brilliant. It seems that anything Shyamalan touches turns to gold. So my obvious question to M.Night would be; would you make a film of my book?

JM: What’s the most interesting comment you have received about your books?
One person I know said to me the other day, “When are you going to include me in your book.” That made me smile as she obviously does not realize that if I created a character based on her, the character would be, well, let’s just say that the character would not last long in any chapter. Another person I know said that they wanted to sell the only autographed copy in existence (so far) on E-Bay!

JM: What do you do in your free time?
When I do have free time I travel quite extensively. This year I have travelled from New Zealand to Russia then to Australia via China, then to Japan then back to Russia. I think by now I have enough Frequent Flyer Points to go to Mars and back. When I am not travelling I like down-time by listening to music on YouTube.

JM: What’s next for you?
Next for me is writing Bloodline of Darkness, which is the second in the trilogy in the life of Alex Manning – A man who is put in the middle of a spiritual conflict he otherwise wants no part of. Bloodline of Darkness is set seven years after The Chosen. Alex has forsaken his powers to live a “normal” life, and the forces of Tartarus have arisen to harvest the souls of humans and plunge the world into darkness. Alex once again must stand and save humanity but can he overcome the ever present darkness that also reigns in his own heart?

JM: Where can you be found on the web?
I can be found online at http://authorcamilson.info


The Bookstacks Mini Book Review of The Chosen

I usually don’t do reviews of partials – for obvious reasons – and I don’t usually do reviews of ebooks (because my eyes already get enough damage from all the work I do at the computer). However, I decided to put aside my rules as a favour for a fellow Australian and do a mini-review of The Chosen based on an excerpt than can be found here.

About the Book
There was a time when Alex had everything in life. He had a wonderful fiance and a fantastic job. That was until seven days ago when his completely normal life was turned upside down and he lost everything. It started with the sudden death of his father, Paul, then the disappearance of his mother, Samantha.

The third event occurred on the seventh day when the life of his fiancee, Alison, was taken in a horrific car accident. Now, years later, just when he started to get his life back on track, he is once again thrown into a world where nothing is what it seems, and he alone must come to terms with who he is and his calling to fulfill a destiny that he wants no part of.

For a beginning that involves abuse, prostitution, sex, and satanism, The Chosen excerpt wasn’t a bad read. Milson starts off by lulling the reader a bit into a former memory, thus – in my mind – rendering the horrors that occur more ‘digestible’ for the reader. This was a good move on his part, as it helped me be able to keep reading and to not be put off by the events that occur.

However, it does look like The Chosen needs a picky editor. Various typos – admittedly few and far between – pop up and could be taken care of with some good story polishing.

Even so, having read this first bit, I am interested enough to read on further.


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