Parenting advice 11 February 2016Posted by uggclogs in Life.
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There is one bit of essential parenting advice that was given to me while I was pregnant which I now wish to pass on. It is one of the simplest yet most difficult things I’ve ever been told:
Trust your instincts.
Because guess what!? Your instincts will know what to do.
It’s simple, because most of us have instincts. Even just at the most basic level of feeling protective of children. But it’s hard because we are thinking human beings, and we can overthink and fret and lose sight of those instincts.
And I am not saying don’t ask specific questions or don’t seek help when you need it. Parenting is overwhelming and, frankly, medical advice cannot be found in your inner instincts.
But everyone is born with instincts, and we could all do to listen to them a little better.
The point is, all the expert advice (and not so expert advice, also known as opinion) out there – the should and the should nots – have been my main cause of doubt since I’ve had a baby.
Before babe, I was pretty good at going “meh” and ignoring the rabble. If I didn’t want to do something, I generally didn’t. I always used to say:
“I *should* nothing, there is only I want or I don’t want”.
What I meant by that was all the external pressures from society, community, friends and family, could be ignored or adhered to. Their view of what I should or shouldn’t do didn’t matter. And their view of me might be bad person, bad sport, bad friend – but what did that matter as long as I didn’t agree.
Yet with a woe baby, all of a sudden it is no longer me and my life, it’s another’s life. Someone utterly dependent on me. Therefore the “should and should not” discourse took another meaning. And the bad person/sport/friend turned into bad mother.
Let that sink in for a moment.
That accusation is something much harder to shake. And all the advice is whirpooling around your head.
– you should not let the baby sleep on you.
– you should feed the baby 3 solid meals by this age.
– you should never wake a sleeping baby.
– you should read to the baby every day.
I would be feeling pretty cruisey, thinking this parenting stuff is going well for me, when a child health nurse would throw me curveballs about what I should and shouldn’t do. And these are the professionals so they should know right?
Sadly, much of the parenting advice, even the professional stuff out there, is directly contradictory:
– you should leave the baby to cry themselves to sleep or they will become dependent on you to fall asleep. Or you should never leave a baby to cry as they will become anxious toddlers.
In my sleep deprived state, I fret. I want to do the best for my baby. I want him to have the best start in life.
Then I remember that apart from the obvious safety advice (the DO and DO NOTS, rather than the should and should nots) such as do not leave children unattended near a body of water or do not let infants play with large knives, go back to that only advice that matters.
Listen to your instincts.
Yes, you might not have done this child raising thing before. And of course you can ask for help, that’s essential. But do what’s right for you and your baby. Don’t let the should and should nots drown out the simple joy of parenting.
Motherhood 22 October 2015Posted by uggclogs in Life.
I was uncertain about motherhood going into it. Not because I didn’t want to be a mother, or because I wasn’t sure whether I would like it. Not even because of the identity crisis some women go through when their life changes this drastically.
But simply because I wasn’t sure whether I would be any good at it.
There are plenty of mothers that probably shouldn’t be mothers. What if I was one of them? This has been a fear of mine since I can remember contemplating motherhood.
I don’t like games. Especially physical ones (think red light green light etc) and somewhere along the line I’ve picked up a heightened sense of my own awkwardness. I am also (I hate to admit) a sore loser. So when you are a sore loser and physically awkward, you avoid games. This may be a problem when it comes to motherhood.
What if I am not warm? I’ve often been told I’m cold, stoic, standoffish. Not that you would know that from my CV, where I am “approachable” and “friendly”. I’m not sure what makes me standoffish, it might be a combination of my height (and the physical awkwardness mentioned) and a need to suss people out before I reveal too much of myself. But not exactly traits that ooze motherly charms.
And finally, what if I’m not patient? The little cherub will need time. Lots of time. And attention. Even more attention. And there will be moments where, as a mother, patience must run deep. I lack in that department, too.
Then I looked at my examples in life, and thought; if I can be but 10% of my own mother, in strength, love, patience and warmth, I will be ok. Emulate your mother, I thought.
And finally, bubba came along.
And I no longer wonder if I will be a good mum. Because all I want to be is the best mother I can be. For bub. It’s as if someone gave me a bag of tools when bubba came along.
As I carried the capsule out to the car the very first time, I started caring less about my awkwardness. I blow bubbles toward the child and I sing songs out of tune. None of it matters.
With the portacot I ordered online arrived a whole new level of warmth. It’s kisses and cuddles, tickles and laughter.
And as the daily routines descend like a blanket over my life, patience has poured out of me in ways I didn’t know I had capacity for.
So I worried for nothing.
I am the best mum I can be to the best bub that there is. We have been perfectly matched and I am the happiest I have ever been.
I’m sure I will make mistakes. But they will not be from lack of love.
For my son 20 September 2015Posted by uggclogs in Life.
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Standing over the cot
Her babe in her arms
Feeling the soft downy hair
Against her cheek
The warm, restful breaths
From the sweaty bundle
His relaxed weight
And complete trust
Has her clinging on
To these fleeting moments
Not wanting to put him down
Feeling time slip through her hands
From infant to toddler
In a blink of an eye
Breathing his smell
She wants to remember
The wonderful present
She sways softly and whispers
I love you, my child.
Advent and the lead up to Christmas 10 December 2014Posted by uggclogs in Life.
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I love Christmas, and I miss fir trees heavy with snow, chilly nights and fogged up glasses from a cup of gluwein or warm apple cider. Australian Christmas is just not entirely what it needs to be. But all the same, I enjoy Christmas and the lead up.
This year, I found the cutest advent calendar which combines my past (the calendar) with my present (made out of tiny numbered Christmas stockings) and I couldn’t resist. I bought little treats and filled all the little stockings as a surprise for my gorgeous man. He, bless his socks, has never had an advent calendar before, and is revelling in being spoilt every morning with a new stocking to empty.
I am counting down the days to the Christmas break – as it seems to me that my last holiday (in August) feels like too long ago! In the meantime, I am looking forward to Christmas ham and pickled pork, fresh, tropical fruit at the beach and lazy afternoons reading a book. Bring on the holiday season!
The expat life 17 November 2014Posted by uggclogs in Life.
Living overseas is fun, exhilarating, challenging. It opens your eyes to new ways of seeing the world, different ways of doing things. It sometimes helps you appreciate what you have and where you are from.
Sadly, one of the hardest things about living overseas is losing visibility. People simply forget about you.
Growing up, I did not have many friends. That was incredibly hard, and I could not understand why. I thought I tried really hard, but I never seemed to be popular. Not that I really wanted to be popular, but I did want to have and make friends. I remember crying to my mother about it, and I can imagine it would have been heart wrenching to her as well. For one year, I was best friends with a neighbour, but then she moved. Then, starting junior high, I made friends. Two friends. It was great, I had someone to walk to school with, to hang out with after school, to be up to no good with. Two friends I was very close to, and who I applied to go to France with. Who did not get in, sending me on this great adventure on my own.
I was shocked to find when I went on exchange to France, that I could make friends quite easily. That I was quickly accepted into a big and diverse group of friends, and that I could make friends in lots of different settings. It was a surprise, because I had assumed it was me. Turns out it wasn’t.
Then, upon my return, I made friends that I thought would be for life. Friends that saw me at my best and my absolute worst. Friends I would speak to about my innermost secrets and desires. Friends we felt we explored the world together with.
I went overseas again, and stayed in touch as best as I could. Email, mostly. And text messages. Phone calls were not really that possible on a student budget. Most Christmases I went back, so it was easy to reconnect. And most would catch up with me then. We all assumed I would come back one day. I mean, I left for a two-year study overseas, not life, right? I would be able to slot right into life where we left off.
But time got in the way. It has been close to thirteen years since I left to the other side of the world.
We drifted apart. Some would not have the time (or take the time) to see me when I came ‘home’. Most never visited. Some I no longer have anything in common with, and the long list of friends whittles down every year. I now only have a handful left. Some still invite me to weddings that happen, but I am mostly unable to go. Most don’t even invite me anymore, some don’t even tell me when they get married or have babies.
Emails are scarce, if at all.
The worst part is that I understand. It is exhausting to try to keep abreast with friends that you never see. Keep them up to date, care about their lives that are so different from yours. Facebook helps, but only marginally. Out of sight out of mind. And I understand. Perhaps they meant more to me than I did to them, because they represented a time in my life where I proved that friendship was something I was capable of. That I was not little ‘viggo-no-friends’.
Despite understanding, I sometimes feel sad about it, because I wonder whether we would have grown apart if I had remained. But if I am being truthful, we probably would have. If it is this hard to stay in touch via text messages, I doubt that we would have been better at staying in touch for a coffee if we were near each other. Maybe I have been trying to hang on to people who I would have naturally grown away from, despite them being wonderful, sweet, caring people? Just because they are no longer my friend, does not mean they are not good people.
And I have wonderful friends here. Granted, they never knew me at my worst. But is that a prerequisite for true friendship? They make me laugh and they are supportive, and some have known me for longer than the time I lived in Norway.
I do care for my friends, past and present, near and far. And they have contributed to me being who I am. What more could you ask for from a friendship?
Summer recollections 21 October 2014Posted by uggclogs in Life.
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Slowly walking through the sunshine, still timid with a chilly wind, I was reminded of summers of my youth. That moment when school is out, realising that there would be no more instruction for two whole months. Ultimate lazy days doing nothing at all. Days that seem to drag on forever, like time stands still. Long summer nights that never get dark. Heavy summer storms at night, thunder, lightening. Clear, crisp mornings covered in dew.
Pasta salads with thousand islands. Whole prawns on the back veranda, spending what would seem hours with mother cleaning them. Push your thumb under the external skeletons between the legs. Circle the body, removing the scales. Pull off the tail, twist off the head. Pink, large, naked C-shaped bodies piling up in one bowl, cast off remains in another. Cold fingers from the ice chilling the prawns.
Mother braiding my hair, impressed with the bunches of flowers brought home, carefully arranged. Large vases and warm hugs.
Father building a deck, painting the house, tinkering on the car. Growing fresh vegetables in the garden, sweaty, sun burnt. Taking me fishing early mornings at the lake, misty forms dancing on the water, not necessarily catching fish, not that it ever mattered. Rowing out on the lake in the red plastic dinghy, keeping a watchful eye on the horse flies and the orange float gently bobbing at the surface. Perch for dinner.
My brother, playing games together. Sometimes on the computer; two-player Doom. Other times, running around the yard as cowboys (him) and Indians (me). The tepee was declared a safe zone. Building forts in the living room, or nagging parents to pitch a tent in the backyard. Reading books, devouring them as the cumulus clouds floated by. Feeding the squirrel in the garden, eating fresh rhubarb dipped in sugar. Getting on the bikes to go play tennis or to swim at the water park. Tanned to a dark hue, bleached hair from chlorine. Always smiling. Often together. Listening out for mother’s Lada as it came trundling down the street – jumping up to complete our chores in the five minutes that we had before she would enter the house.
Those summer days were magic. Not a care in the world.
Memories of pets past – a rabbit too big to pick up, a cat who would speak to us. Budgies, hamsters and another rabbit.
Carefree, tanned, young. Scabbed knees and soaked socks from falling in the brook. Burning nettle everywhere. Heat bead barbecues, the smell of summer. Picking black currants, raspberries and gooseberries, juice running down your chin. Strawberries still warm from the summer sun, sweet and soft. Cherries and plums fragrant and inviting. And bugs. Everywhere.
Later, these memories were intertwined with friends, late nights, parties and beer. Still by the water, swimming, grilling, laughing. But innocence lost, growing up too fast.
Cha ca 9 September 2014Posted by uggclogs in Cooking, food, Happiness, Vietnam.
Tags: cha ca, fish, food, street food, Vietnam
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Since living in Hanoi, one of the foods I miss is cha ca – or grilled fish. The best grilled fish is to be had in the old quarter in Hanoi, of course. Nothing beats the scenery and the atmosphere of being at Cha Ca La Vong, the most famous (and possibly the most expensive) restaurant. When we first arrived in Hanoi, they were still cooking the fish on coals at the table, and the spluttering heat from the frying pan would invariably end up being a health and safety hazard. This is as close as I have managed to get with my recipe, I am sure it’s still not 100%. I have used and adapted several online versions to get as near to authentic as possible.
This recipe is for two people, but I suggest you always make too much, as it is so delicious.
– 500 g of firm, white fish. Ling fish is the best, but cod has worked for me in the past.
– 3-4 spring onions (echalottes will work, too, but are a bit firmer)
– 1 tsp of curry powder
– 1 tbs of tumeric
– 2 tbs fish sauce
– 1 tbs yogurt
– 1 tsp crushed garlic
– 4 tbs vegetable oil
– 1 large bunch of scallion/spring onions, cut on an angle
– 1 large handful of dill, roughly chopped
– Fresh rice noodles (or rice vermicelli, if noodles are not available)
– 1 cup of peanuts, slightly roasted
– 1 cup of bean sprouts
– lime wedges
– fish sauce
– 2-3 cups of Vietnamese mint, basil, coriander and other fresh herbs
– Cut the fish into cubes of about 2cm/ 1inch and set aside in a bowl.
– Cut the spring onion into very small pieces, as small as you can.
– Mix the cut onion, spices, half of the oil, fish sauce, and yogurt together, and add to the fish – make sure the fish is completely covered.
– Place a non-stick pan over high heat and add the peanuts. Move the nuts around until they start to brown. Remove the nuts from the pan and set aside.
– Place the pan back on the heat, add the remaining oil, and fry the fish until just cooked.
– While the fish is cooking, add the noodles to boiling water and cook briefly until tender and warm.
– Add the scallion and dill and cook a little longer, then serve.
To serve, use small bowls. Half-fill a bowl with noodles, add a couple of spoonfulls of fish and greenery on top. Add any combination of the ganishes that you wish/like. Eat with chopsticks.
Ireland 28 August 2014Posted by uggclogs in Uncategorized.
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My holidays this year took me to Ireland – a country that everyone has been raving about and which I had never been to. I had high expectations, due to all the reviews I heard, but never actively sought it out. This year, a friend of mine decided to celebrate his significant birthday in Ireland, however, and asked us to come along.
I loved it. Absolutely loved it. And I am not entirely sure why or what made it so interesting and wonderful. But I would definitely recommend Ireland to others. But one of the highlights was the Irish. They turned out to be courteous, humorous and friendly, more than happy to have a chat and to talk to foreigners. Even traffic was courteous – cars slowed down for jay walkers, and let each other in when the roads were busy. I have never seen anything like it – and although only a small example, I think it reflected the general attitude of the Irish.
We only had a week and a half in Ireland, but we packed as much into our trip as possible.
We started off in Dublin, and went to a Gaelic Football Game at Croke Park. It was a real spectacle, and we had the opportunity to ask some of the Irish fans sitting around us about the game and the rules. The games we watched were Donegal-Armagh and Dublin-Monaghan.
The former was a tense game, eventually won by only a point – a real nail-biter! The latter was also a good game, but Dublin ended up winning with a large margin, which wasn’t as exciting. Dublin supporters, however, are full on, though!
One of my favourite moments happened in the stands near us, where a young fan found someone sitting in his seats, and asked the other person to move. The person in his seat was an older gentleman, who, with one eye on the game, realised he had sat in the row in front of his actual seats. He got up, but only to realise that his team (Donegal) was getting closer to the posts. Mesmerised, the older man watched, mouth open, sometimes yelling encouraging words. The young man (also a Donegal supporter) had also turned to watch the game, seeing that his compatriot was getting excited.
The team got even closer to the posts, passed it to someone right in front, and GOAL! Straight in the net. The young man grabbed the older fellow around the neck with his arm, and started jumping up and down, chanting together. It was a moment of pure joy and celebration. After the excitement of the goal died down, the older man moved to his actual seats, but they kept talking throughout the game, new friends over a shared team. It was a lovely moment.
In Dublin proper, we had been told to see the Kilmainham Gaol for a Dublin history lesson. It is essential to get there early to line up as you can only see the gaol through a guided tour, but lining up was absolutely worth it. Knowing little about Ireland apart from the potato famine and the large number of emigrants that have left, the gaol provided a good run-down of what can only be described as a sad history. The Victorian wing (below) is a fine example of later types of jails, and has been used as a backdrop for several movies.
I also went to St. Patrick’s Cathedral – worth a look if you like churches (there’s lots of them in Ireland, even more than castles!)
Finally, Dublin has pubs galore – and in one of these is where the birthday itself was celebrated. We had a wonderful time in Dublin before we moved on to Limerick.
Limerick was added to the itinerary due to the convenient distance for a day’s drive from Dublin. The city itself was not much to look at – it felt quite modern and industrial.
But there were a couple of interesting sights, including the Hunt Museum – a quirky little museum with artefacts from all over the world. It also has a silver coin on display which is reputedly one of the coins Judas Iscariot received for betraying Jesus – worth a trip to see, I thought. I have no idea how it was established that this was indeed one of the 30 pieces of silver in question, but now I have seen it, and it makes for a good story.
Another thing worth seeing is the King John’s Castle, which has an excellent exhibition describing the various sieges of Limerick and the origins of the term ‘to undermine someone’. You also get to walk around the court yard and look at some very kitch dress ups of adults pretending to be from the middle ages, walk up through narrow passage ways to the top of the tower, and see lots of old-time weaponry.
Next stop was Galway, a far more touristy town with street performers and a holiday-feel down the main streets. The town felt quite medieval, and we enjoyed the lane ways and the alleys that felt like a movie set the most. We stopped by the obligatory pub, of course, and found a lovely Turkish restaurant for dinner. We went for a long walk along the water, stumbled upon the ‘Spanish Arch’ which is not remarkable in itself, apart from the fact that it was built in 1584 and still standing! The arch is in the background below.
Next stop was Donegal – the winners of the above Gaelic Football bout (which was a quarter final). Donegal Town was my personal favourite stop over, due to the little castle (below) which was lovingly restored and the true local pub where I had a beer with one of the other travelling companions. There was a group of locals sitting around looking at us suspiciously until we mentioned that we’d been at the game, and all of a sudden they got talking. I couldn’t understand much, but they sure do love their football!
One thing we noticed in the pub was the clear side it took in the ‘troubles’. Having by this stage not quite read up on the history of modern Ireland (I had only got up to the civil war in the 1920s and not actually read up on it) it was quite confronting. This pub was clearly on the catholic side of the subsequent upheavals, and it made me want to read up on the more modern history of the Island I was visiting.
Donegal borders what is variously known as Northern Ireland or ‘the six counties’ (depending on where you stand in the Catholic/Protestant or part of Ireland/United Kingdom debate) – the dark green part on the map (HT: Wikipedia).
Quick geography lesson (I had to look this up myself): Ulster is the 9 northern counties of the island – 6 of these became ‘Northern Ireland’ and are under United Kingdom control, hence the ‘six counties’. Donegal county is one of the 3 counties which is part of Ulster, but not part of Northern Ireland. It, however, shares a long border with Northern Ireland, and is mostly to the north of those six counties. The six counties that did become Northern Ireland, were perceived as being the area where Protestants/unionists (those that supported being part of the United Kingdom) would have a safe majority.
This was our first alert to the fact that the ‘troubles’ are very much at the forefront of the minds of the Irish living in the north of the island. We had been blissfully unaware until this point, but our holidays took a darker turn as we continued northwards. I will come back to this.
That evening, we went to the Olde Castle Bar and attended an event by a local ‘story teller’ – an Irish tradition going back for many generations. It was basically a man who entertained us with tales and stories, a poem and even a song. It was quirky and fun, and we thought it was definitely worth while to drink our beers and listen to him. I mean – what else was there to do in Donegal at night?
The next day we set our sights on Portestewart, but on the way, we stopped off in Derry/Londonderry based on advice from Tripadvisor. And this is where we finally came to understand the rawness of the ‘troubles’ in Ireland. In fact, we came to start seeing the issues as we were coming in to town. We knew in advance that some people call it Derry and others call it Londonderry. Driving in from Donegal, we noticed that all the traffic signs had Derry on them. We didn’t think anything of it, and passed by the town to keep driving out towards our destination. About 10 kilometres outside of town, we decided that we wanted to turn back to Derry, as it was still early, and we couldn’t check in to the hotel until much later. A roundabout later, and we were heading back, but all of a sudden, the signs said Londonderry. Many of the signs had, however, crudely been spray-painted to read
Londonderry. Still ignorant, we were wondering why this was such an issue – what’s in a name?, we thought.
In town, we parked and walked to the museum of Free Derry. We also did a walking tour around Derry with a man whose father was shot dead on Bloody Sunday. And despite being fully aware that this tour was going to be heavily biased, all of a sudden the significance, the reality, the raw emotional intensity of the troubles, Bloody Sunday, Northern Ireland/the six counties, Catholic/Protestant, unionist/free Ireland – hit us. Like. A. Tonne. Of. Bricks.
This country – this beautiful, green, lush, welcoming country that we had come to – has gone, and is going, through the hell that is differences based on religion. Arbitrary lines that decide what side you are on. The baseness that is human nature, declaring lines between ‘us’ and ‘them’. And the awful perpetuity of pain, loss and revenge. The hurt felt by losing loved ones and the impossibility of getting through that pain. Lives lived without those who should have been there, fanning hatred towards those who are to blame.
Many (all?) of the guides that do this tour and run the museum are related to the 14 people that died on Bloody Sunday. Our guide lost his father, and he described in detail how it happened. I have no idea how he is able to talk about this loss and the details, including the fear that his father had every day. I assume it must be cathartic, perhaps even therapeutic. A way to ensure the memory of the dead stays alive through spreading the message to others, spreading the information and knowledge through peaceful means rather than hatred and anger. I am sure there is still anger. Of course there is. This did not happen a hundred years ago, Bloody Sunday happened in 1972. The latest inquiry did not conclude until 2010. Unresolved questions remain.
We were all deeply affected by the day, and sat in silence in the car. None of us could believe that these events had happened. Paradoxically, we had seen a clean, vibrant city. Blue skies above us and yellow rays from the sun had warmed our backs. The area known as Bogside was no longer slum-like, and many of the most densely populated public housing estates that had been the site of the shootings had been demolished and the area gentrified. A park takes up most of the space where only forty years ago, 14 people were shot with heavy military fire, where there had been barricades and misery. Some of the misery remains and lives on in the people that remain in Bogside. What a day. I must read up on the history of Ireland to seek to better understand, but I am afraid I never will.
In Portestewart, we ended up walking along the water and having a couple of drinks at night.
The next day, we drove to Belfast along the coastal route – very scenic and via Dunluce Castle and the Giant’s Causeway. Dunluce is a ruin with an interesting past – in it’s hayday the kitchen of the castle crumbled into the sea without warning – killing several of the people working within it.
The Giant’s Causeway was the one thing that I had wanted to see all along prior to coming to Ireland, as I am a total nerd and I love the geology of the Causeway. When we got there, however, we found out that there was an entry fee (the 2009 Lonely Planet we had with us mentioned that entry was free) and that was a real dampener as we felt pretty ripped off. But the site is wonderful and spectacular, I was glad that we still went.
In Belfast, we decided to do the Black Cabs tour, to gain a better understanding of the recent history of the city, and because it came highly recommended to us. We chose the Paddy Campbell’s tour, but unfortunately, you have to call them to arrange pick up. Being the person that I am, I do not like to have to speak to people on the phone, and I would have much preferred to have had the option of going to a specific location to arrange the tour. But they were extremely helpful on the phone, and were more than happy to pick us up from the location that we were at (the St. George’s Market).
I would now also highly recommend the tour – we had one Protestant and one Catholic driver (we were a group big enough to require two cabs) – and we learnt a lot. One thing that surprised us all is that Belfast is divided by a large wall (55 feet high in some places – see below) with gates that close at night to keep the Protestant and Catholic population segregated. Schools are still mostly segregated. One of the tour guides told us that they are still living in a powder keg, which could very easily explode. Kids still throw rocks, bigger kids throw bigger rocks, and it escalates from there. People still own guns, and petrol bombs are easy to make.
It boggles the mind that this is still happening today – in 2014!
We left Ireland emotionally drained and unable to comprehend that a beautiful country like Ireland could have such a horrific past and such a difficult future. We did not really explore anything further in Belfast as we simply did not have the motivation to get out and about anymore. We went for an early morning jog, and left without seeing any more of the sights.
I am overwhelmed with the impressions that remain, and I will definitely not forget my sojourn in Ireland. I will leave you with some of the landscapes we drove through – the beautiful lush greenery.
Hear hear 22 April 2014Posted by uggclogs in Life.
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I am already a sucker for XKCD, but this is a perfect post.
Christmas tree 16 December 2013Posted by uggclogs in Christmas, Happiness.
Tags: Christmas, decorations, family, fun, tree
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Christmas is back.
Anyone who knows me, knows I love Christmas. Sadly no snow for me this year, though, as I am staying in Australia. But look at my Christmas tree – finding the Christmas spirit all the same. Enjoy your Christmas wherever you are!