Gatherings + a winter solstice dinner

22 June 2017

On Saturday afternoon I raced the sun, trying to make it up Mount Ainslie before sundown. My friend had sent a text earlier in the day - Saturday marked her mum's birthday and she was hosting a celebration at sunset to remember her.

I parked my car and walked around quickly, looking for the group at the mountain's summit. I saw them huddled beneath big bunches of coloured balloons and ran to join in. It had been a grey day but the sun broke through as it headed for the horizon.

The balloons were passed around and as I looked up at mine, I thought of my grandfather. Late last year, my friend's mum was starting to get sick just as my grandfather began to spend more of his time in hospital. Sadly, neither would see it through 2017.

After we released the balloons and watched them float away, there was birthday cake. It was blackforest, the birthday girl's favourite. I made a mess trying to slice and plate it in the dark but it still tasted good. We said our goodbyes when it was too cold to hang around talking, just before the fog crept in.

The gathering followed an afternoon tea at my neighbour's apartment. She made lemonade scones and we carried a still-warm lemon slice downstairs. We met our neighbours in the carpark when we moved in, they were a few weeks away from welcoming their daughter. Now they were packing up their house, ready to move to Wellington and wanting to give us their TV.

I spent Sunday picking up supplies for my first-ever winter solstice dinner party. On my list - red wine, gooey cheese, pork sausages, broccolini and a jar of fancy cooking chocolate. I made the lazy movie night spread from the Round to Ours cookbook, so there were spiced nuts, a sausage and fennel pasta and a big plate of brownies to finish.

Sabine and Andy joined us - both of their husbands happened to be overseas - and they brought the best gifts! Andy arrived with a container full of homemade bliss balls and Sabine gave us supplies for mulled wine, for the next freezing night.

Having a small celebration to mark the solstice had been on my mind for some time, ever since I read about an annual summer solstice ritual in this beautiful book. My week so far had been stressful so hosting a midweek dinner actually brought a bit of the weekend to the house :) We lit candles, filled up on winter food and stayed up late listening to music as we cleaned up. I forgot there was work the next day.

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