Home for Christmas

ROSA SHIELS
Last updated 08:40 29/11/2012

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A Tai Tapu home is the perfect gathering point for one extended Christchurch family at Christmas.

Home for Christmas

Down here, in what some consider the upside-down hemisphere, Christmas is barbecue and beach weather, and our colours are bright greens and multi-hued florals, rather than dark winter reds and forest greens.

While we do enjoy participating in the traditional rituals and decorations appropriate to a cold-climate Noël, we have plenty of our own customs and pleasures to celebrate.

At this time of the year, there are delicious new potatoes and baby carrots ready for the pot, peas to be podded and fresh leafy greens ready for gathering for a midday feast.

And that's by no means all. There are fat black cherries, blushing peaches, golden apricots, red and blackcurrants, fragrant strawberries and mouth-popping raspberries to be tossed on a pav or plucked and eaten straight from the cane.

By Christmas Day, one Tai Tapu family is able to enjoy the best of fresh, seasonal produce with neither a journey to a grower nor a hectic foray to the supermarket required.

The family's Christmas table might have a turkey and a ham à la tradition, but every vegetable and piece of fruit for both the midday and evening meals is collected from the bountiful kitchen garden that is lovingly maintained by the lady of the house.

This family, with four (now adult) children, has always lived on large properties, farming sheep in Mid-Canterbury and Balclutha before moving to Tai Tapu about four years ago.

While moving to the outskirts of Christchurch, the family still wanted a good amount of land around them. "Having been on the farm, you need the elbow room," the owner says. "I find being in town, the noise of the traffic and the people talking is quite stressful."

The family love the peace of rural life and rather than move to a tight suburban situation overlooked by adjacent houses, they chose a four-hectare lifestyle block with neighbours close enough should they need company, but far enough away for privacy.

These country roads offer other surprises as well. "When we walk around the block on the open road, we come across quite a few pheasants and quail out here."

The owners of the property run a few sheep and have long-term plans for the garden. They have planted an extensive orchard, with every type of fruit and several nut trees suitable for a temperate climate, as well as the obligatory lemons, lime and kaffir lime for culinary purposes.

A sense of space carries through into the house as well, with its 494sqm footprint, including two double garages plus porticoed pavilion and porch (which was seen off by the earthquake).

Inside, everything is scaled up. There is a high stud throughout; large, open living areas and a hallway leading to the six bedrooms is wide enough for at least two people to walk abreast without rustling each other's clothing.

The master bedroom is a peaceful retreat at the end of one wing. It catches the afternoon sun and has a grand view across the lawns to the flowering shrubbery and boundary trees beyond. "We open up the doors if it's a nice night."

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There is a spacious, well-hidden walk-in robe between the room and its ensuite. "It's so good to come home to your own shower when you've been away."

On the day Avenues visited, the bed was dressed in deep berry reds.

"I love the reds and burgundy with the dark graphite carpet," the owner says.

These rich colours are echoed in the deep grape feature wall at the head of the bed. The remainder of the room and most of the house is covered in neutral textured wallpaper.

Christmas in this house is a medium to large affair, depending on how many of the extended family are able to attend.

"We have six grandchildren, and there's always a minimum of nine people for Christmas and sometimes 18 or 20. We have the table - or two tables - set up in the dining area, all nicely decorated, and we always have a real tree, because Christmas just isn't Christmas without the smell of a pine tree."

The open-plan central living area is the heart of the home. With its easy flow from the kitchen and sitting room to the dining room and lounge, it is the perfect situation for a large family gathering. The Christmas tree has pride of place in the lounge and through the bi-fold windows, fairy lights hung on the beams of the sheltered pavilion add extra sparkle.

In the winter, the massive woodburner in the lounge is the sole source of heating for the entire house. The concrete slab holds and disperses the heat to the far corners of the house. "Because of the high stud, it transfers heat quite readily throughout."

The two-oven kitchen has multiple under-bench drawers for storage and a large central island black granite bench, providing plenty of room to work on when many hands are helping prepare the Christmas feast.

The kitchen is a hive of activity in the lead-up to festivities. Favourite desserts, such as a white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake, are prepared beforehand and decorated with berries from the garden just before serving.

There is extra preparation room and stacks of storage in the huge walk-in pantry behind the kitchen, with its motion-sensitive light switching.

A cut-out feature wall between the kitchen and dining area acts as a practical servery, a shelf and extra opening for light flow.

After lunch, the family can relax in the lounge, spill out on to the lawn for post-prandial games, play ball with the two resident foxy dogs, or catch the breeze on comfortable wooden rockers in the pavilion, which is wired for light and sound and sheltered from the prevailing nor'easterly.

So let's raise a seasonal toast to berries and Jersey Bennes; to after-lunch cricket in the backyard, a lazy game of petanque or simply a snooze in the shade. There's a great deal to be said for the Kiwi summer Christmas and this Tai Tapu family has it all down pat.

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