A very Merry un-Christmas, to you.

There was absolutely nothing Christmassy about December 25th this year.  It was a beautiful day in Wellington, hot and sunny, and amazingly wind-free.  I spent it at the beach, with friends, but it felt nothing like Christmas.

I tried playing my Reggae Christmas album on my iPod but then I was asked to play something different.  There was no gift exchanging, no snow, no Santa, no family dinner, no carols, no chestnuts roasting on an open fire, no jack frost nipping at my nose.

The Un-Christmas
Bubbles on the beach

Here are more photos from the holiday season.

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2009 – Best year ever?

I’m beginning to think that perhaps 2009 has been the best year of my life, so far.  Sure, I had some setbacks and disappointments (Liberia, being broke, health issues), but overall, it’s been amazing.  I just found out that I’ve won the Victoria University PhD Scholarship to study under my mentors Drs. Goman & Dorner!  It’s a bit intimidating to think I’ll be back in school, as a doctoral student, and soon to be DR. Nicole !  But I’m so excited so be spending 3 years in New Zealand working on something I find so interesting, it’s unbelievable!  This scholarship includes tuition and fees, plus $21,000 a year!!!  HOLY SH*T! I’m to start March 1st in Wellington, so I’ll be picking up and heading out of town around the end of February, with a brief stopover in Chicago to see my momma and get some bussiness taken care of…

So, in addition to this wonderful news, as I’m reminiscing upon the last year, all I can feel is happiness and gratefulness for all these blessings I’ve had.  Not only do I have the coolest job in the world, which, sadly, I will be leaving in 2 months, I also have a totally awesome boyfriend, and everyone I know is healthy and happy.  Yes, I’m poor, but I’m happy!

I spent a lot of the past few weeks doing embroidery, and a few other arts & crafts activities.  All of my family got embroidered hankies – they’re better for the environment than using kleenex and softer! I made a few necklaces, using a necklace I bought in Cambodia as a model, and some decorated agendas for 2010 using the inside of envelopes to make a collage.  I felt pretty productive!  I also did quite a bit of baking and cooking… in addition to those recipes I mentioned before, I’ve been pumping out the cookies, apple pie, and cranberry bread.  Christmas I spent at Ticker’s, where we roasted a Chicken, made some totally awesome amazing stuffing, mashed potatoes, steamed veggies, and roasted squash. In order to work off all that stuffing, chicken, mashed potatoes, and cookies, we took a long walk up Mont Royal on Christmas day – a snowy hike that burned a few calories.  I’m still feeling bloated – so it’s diet time in 2010, but well worth the indulgences of the holiday season!

So, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year!  Good luck for 2010!

Christmas on the beach!

We had a lovely christmas picnic on the beach.

Emma drove!
Emma drove!
Claire opening presents on the beach...
Claire opening presents on the beach...
Emma and her Christmas scarf!
Emma and her Christmas scarf!
Christmas antlers on the beach
Christmas antlers on the beach
Me and the girls at Manly beach on christmas - there were people playing cricket!
Me and the girls at Manly beach on christmas - there were people playing cricket!
Emma on our Boxing Day walk
Emma on our Boxing Day walk
Then we ended up in Botany Bay...
Then we ended up in Botany Bay...
Where Captain Cook first made landfall on the East Coast of Australia in the 17th ?? century
Where Captain Cook first made landfall on the East Coast of Australia in the 17th ?? century
We caught some salmon and ate fresh sashimi right there on the beach! Good thing I happen to carry a fishing pole with me everywhere I go.
We caught some salmon and ate fresh sashimi right there on the beach! Good thing I happen to carry a fishing pole with me everywhere I go.

Ok, actually, after our touristic drive, we went back to Flinder’s street, and ate a delicious feast thanks to Claire!  I contributed absolutely nothing to the meal except a healthy appetite.  Then, after gorging on turkey, we fell asleep before even finishing a bottle of wine.

The next day we went to the Blue Mountains, about 2 hours NW of Sydney.
The next day we went to the Blue Mountains, about 2 hours NW of Sydney.
And we hiked around some more...
And we hiked around some more...
and I (pictured in the foreground) saw "The Three Sisters" (pictures in the background)
and I (pictured in the foreground) saw "The Three Sisters" (pictured in the background)
rarely do I not look ugly in photographs so I am posting these somewhat flattering shots.  Thanks to my official photographer, K. E. Knowland.
rarely do I not look ugly in photographs so I am posting these somewhat flattering shots. Thanks to my official photographer, K. E. Knowland.
If you choose to go hiking in the Blue Mountains, be sure to remember your walking stick (for gentlemen) or hair kercheif (for ladies).  Attempting to hike without these items could result in you doing the side-splits off the top of a cliff.
If you choose to go hiking in the Blue Mountains, be sure to remember your walking stick (for gentlemen) or hair kercheif (for ladies). Attempting to hike without these items could result in you doing the side-splits off the top of a cliff.

We returned to Sydney sometime in the evening, and I made some guacamole and a salad, which we all ate for dinner, with left-over turkey.  Then, we tried to watch TV, but, we realized that only nerds stay at home and watch TV on a Saturday night, which explained why there were only weir science fiction movies on.  So, instead, we went to sleep at some ridiculously early hour.

This morning we got up, and did some shopping at the Rocks Market, and Paddy’s market.  I plan to go back to Paddy’s to try to find some gifts for my colleagues at UCL… I’m considering buying 20 pairs of Australian flag underwear.  It’s just the sort of bawdy gift a Lao person would enjoy!

Any other suggestions?

As the year 2008 draws to a close… HOLY SHIT!!!! is all I can say.