Christmas at Home: Week 250


I was really looking forward to having Christmas in Manassas at my parent’s house. It had been five years since I’d been home for Christmas and the first one in which all of us ‘kids’ had moved out of the house.

The house hadn’t changed too much, but it felt different not having my brother shuffle out of the room at 2pm wrapped in a blue robe.


It was also a lot more tranquil in the morning. My sister is infamously grumpy when she wakes up for work or school.

My hair. I HATE my hair. Uggh. UGGGHHH! Why can’t I find my comb? Everything disappears in this stupid house!

It’s a bit masochistic, but I could’ve handled a few more of her guttural morning salutations.


The only thing that hadn’t really changed was my sister’s dogged love for wacky decorations. It didn’t help that she had picked up temp work at a year-round Christmas store. She took home all the broken ornaments and repaired them with hot glue and glitter.


I had helped my mom to decorate the tree, but it didn’t quite feel complete until my sister anchored a giant paper vulture to the top of the tree. Then it really felt like I was home.


Darling Quarter Night Owls: Week 200

Film still from Close Encounters of the Third Kind: Darling Quarter Night Owls, Sydney

There are no shortages of outdoor film screenings in Sydney during the summer. They run the gamut from contemporary blockbusters to classics and you probably couldn’t throw a stone without hitting someone stuffing their mouth with popcorn. (Actually, make that ice cream- Aussies love to eat ice cream at the cinema.)

Most screenings are ticketed, but I found one called the Darling Quarter Night Owls that is completely free. Each late afternoon showing begins with a short film and is then followed by a children’s movie. Around 8pm, when the sun has set ans the kids turned in, there is a classic film. The one I was most interested in was Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

While I enjoy a free film as much as the next person, the location next to a busy sidewalk meant it was hard to hear the audio. Also, since the movie wasn’t being projected, the blindingly bright LED screen that worked well during the late afternoon was a bit much in the evening. I could have comfortably worn a pair of sunglasses. My friend Jess must have felt the same way because she closed her eyes and fell asleep halfway through.

The movie variety for the entire program was good, but I think this is one film festival that’s best left to the kids.

About: The Darling Quarter Night Owls

Wonder 102: Week 177

Wonder 102 Boys and Girls Brigade Flyer: Sydney, Australia

I locked my bike across the road and walked over to the three story red brick building. The main entrance was marked with a poster and brightly colored shapes dangling above the door. A retro food cart was parked in front of the building. It had wood paneling and wooden letters which dangled over the side awning: Veggie Patch.

The ground floor of the building was filled with chairs and kids. I walked up the narrow steps to the second floor and into a small foyer. To the left was a raffle stand and straight ahead was a photo booth and a rack of kid’s costumes. A small group of princesses were excitedly waiting their turn when I headed upstairs.

The next floor up had a silent art auction and a pianist facing an audience of squealing children. At the back of the room boys and girls with painted faces lined up to buy cheap candy in individually wrapped packages.

Unwittingly, I had found myself Sunday afternoon in the midst of a horde of children. Wonder 102 was a festival which benefitted the Boys and Girls Brigade in Surry Hills, but unlike the ad had led me to believe, there was nothing to do for child-less adults.

Wonder 102 Boys and Girls Brigade raffle tickets: Sydney, Australia

I had hoped there would be some local artisans, but instead I settled for three raffle tickets on my way back down. The parents looked unnervingly my age while the kids reminded me of own elementary school fairs.

The most memorable event at my school had been part carnival and part school cleanup. My friends and I threw wet sponges at our teachers, browsed the second hand market for curios, and spent the afternoon repainting the lines on the basketball court. Some optimistic teacher left a bunch of us fifth graders with brushes and a few cans of paint. When they returned they discovered yellow pools on the concrete and basketball court lines three times more thick and wobbly than before.

Then there were also the Scholastic book fairs! Nothing got me more excited than the large wooden boxes that mysteriously showed up at school. They were wheeled into the library and opened up to reveal shelves and shelves of cheap new books. The last year I went to one, my dad specially picked out a Roald Dahl book that I hadn’t read before.

I couldn’t believe that was almost 20 years ago. That freaked me out a little bit, so I grabbed my bike and got the heck out of parenthood central. I don’t know when I will take that next step into adulthood, but when I do I hope my kids will be as entertained as I was with wet sponges and paint brushes and lots and lots of books.

About: Boys and Girls Brigade

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