Just because it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, doesn’t mean it’s a duck – Amanda Joseph

Amanda Joseph

Today’s post in ‘The Beauty Of Difference’ series comes to you courtesy of Amanda Joseph, the inspirational creator and writer of the blog Confessions of a Green Queen.

Amanda describes herself as ‘a writer (for film), a philosopher at heart, an environmentalist and a globe-trotter’ and is currently undertaking a Master of Science in Sustainability Management, juggling full-time work as an Environment Officer, as well as branching out into the film industry.


My heritage is a mixed bag. My Great-Grand Mother on my Father’s Father’s side is from Scotland, and my Great-Grand Mother on my Father’s Mother’s side has Yugoslavian and Portuguese – and of course we have Indian. My Step Mom is French-Canadian, and I lived there for a while. So I actually identify myself as Australian-Canadian in culture, whilst my accent decides to do a jig between Canadian, English and Australian!

Cultural Beauty

The most beautiful thing about my culture is the mixture. I’ve picked my favorite parts of each and amalgamated them into one! We love food. All social gatherings are around food, wine and laughter. Canadians are quite progressive and egalitarian by nature and very friendly and accommodating. Australians are very laid-back and are happy to lend a helping hand when needed. And boy can they throw a great party! French Canadians, or Québécois as they prefer to be called, identify with their French heritage, which means we adopted a lot of the French heritage into our own traditions.


Canadian Christmases would be one of my favorite events of the year. I love, love, love going to midnight mass on Christmas Eve and walking out to find snow floating down to cover everything. It was so magical, it made sitting through the mass at an ungodly hour worth it. And then the family would throw a massive party that lasted all hours of the morning, and the first person to go home, usually around 4.30am would have to serve the family breakfast on Christmas morning, around 8am when we would rock up. It was brilliant. Halloween is another favorite. We always went all out on Halloween in Canada, and I miss the traditions around that festival. I’d still be trick or treating if I were there!

 Cultural Misconceptions

I don’t think there are too many misconceptions about Canadians. Or at least none that I have come across. French Canadians are usually considered quaint by our French counterparts, but I say we kept the language French whilst they anglicised it. Weekend is an English word, the French one is fin-de-semaine!

 Knowledge Sharing

The one thing I think people need to understand is just because it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, doesn’t mean it is a duck!

My background is fairly unique, and my constant travelling means I have adopted the traditions of a few cultures into one that is very individual. I commonly get mistaken for Indian until I open my mouth, because of my skin colour. I think in an increasingly globalised world, the safest bet is not to assume where someone is from. So do not start speaking to me in Hindi when you’ve just met me that’s just plain offensive.

The Beauty In Difference

Difference is what makes the world such an interesting place to be. I couldn’t imagine a world where we were all the same. I’d be bored out of my mind!

A respectful approach to cultural differences is imperative. Never assume someone is willing to share that part of themselves. It can be tricky because we’ve all experienced racial prejudice at some point or another and that’s given us a tendency to keep things close.

Words of Wisdom

I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stifled. I want all the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.

– Mohandas K Ghandi

This is one of my favorite quotes. It celebrates diversity, whilst encouraging each individual to maintain their own unique culture. Just because you are open to other cultures, does not mean you lose your own.


So much food, so little time

After a week and a half of Christmas celebrations and catch-ups, I am ready to boycott food!

The Weekend before Christmas

It all started with our road trip to see my Dad the weekend before Christmas. His partner is an amazing cook, and he’s not bad himself. We were welcomed with a barbecue – meat, meat and more meat, some champagne (beer for the boys), and a little salad. A lunch of gorgeous chicken rice followed the next day, with vinadaloo for dinner…mmmmm. Since the next day was Sunday, we had to honour Dad’s wishes of cooking us breakfast – so it was bacon, toast and eggs (fresh from the chicken coop), with tea.  I forgot how good fresh eggs tasted. Yummo!  Bypassing lunch, as our digestive systems were truly struggling with the intake of meat, we came to the reason we were there – to celebrate Christmas.  And this couldn’t be done without food – so we ate…turkey, veggies, gravy, and more champagne to celebrate of course.

Christmas Eve Eve

Rolling back home from Dad’s, we managed to eat lightly for a couple of days (although Denis did make his first attempt at glazing a ham – which turned out beautifully – damn him!) until Christmas Eve Eve was upon us.  This was when we celebrated Christmas with my partners kids (as we wouldn’t see them for Christmas), so he cooked up a lovely meal of gnocchi and salad – pasta is the kids favourite dish. Lucky for us Santa also visited us early that night!

Christmas Eve

I managed to escape any breakfast or lunch excesses on the 24th, surviving on a piece of toast and some left over gnocchi (which was a mistake, as my stomach reminded me for days!), and luckily avoided a huge dinner.  We had spent Christmas Eve with some of my partners family – where santa again visited, bless him – and fortunately had to leave before dinner was served.  The ham and salad sandwichI ate that night was welcomed by my stomach.

The 25th of December

All week I had tried to come to terms with the fact that we had to do both lunch AND dinner this year.  I had kept telling myself that this would make sure that I didn’t go too mad at lunch – I would pace myself. But Mum outdid herself as usual…chicken, turkey, pork, veggies, bread, gravy, trifle, pavlova, fruit mince pies, crisps, chocolate, cheese, crackers…to name but a few. Plus champagne.  I must give myself a pat on the back as I really didn’t go to mad at all. I was pleasantly content. And then dinner rolled around where we went to my Brothers house.  Roast beef! Plus pork, turkey, vegies, more gravy…but hold the champagne!  I managed a healthy sized serving (meaning nowhere near my typical sized serving), and sadly had to pass at the most gorgeous looking pavlova as I had to go back to Mum’s for – wait for it – pudding and custard.  Now that’s a tradition of Mum and I.  She always cooks me pudding and custard on Christmas night. Sometimes it seems like I am the only person in the world who east it, but it’s my little piece of comfort food that I have once a year.

The 26th of December

Boxing Day. Mum cooked us breakfast, and sent us on our way with a big bowl of trifle and a pack of fruit mince pies.  On all appearances driving home in the morning, it was the traditional ‘day of shopping’ for people in Perth, as cars were parked on median strips, verges, parks – everywhere. Luckily we got to avoid the shops, as we had more food to look forward to at my partners Uncles 70th birthday celebrations. Now, my partner is Anglo-Indian, and the typical food fare at his family gatherings is curry. I never actually ate curry before I starting going out with him, but I have discovered that it is truly addictive once you develop the palate.  I had planned not to eat at the party, but that was just plain stupid thinking.  On walking into his Aunt’s place, well, you could just smell the curry and biriani cooking. NOOOOOO.

The 27th of December

You would think by now that the celebrations would have ended, but we had been invited to an afternoon with some friends who had a pool, which turned out to be a fabulous idea since it was going to be 40 degrees celsius. Luckily I still fit into my bathing suit at this stage – and everyone was pretty much in the same boat – so it wasn’t too much of an embarrassment.  Some wonderful thinking by my friend, saw grilled vegetables served for dinner, with organic free range chicken, some prawns, bread, and corn on the cob.

The 28th of December

This brings me today. I feel like a beached whale, and have not even really been hungry, although I had to force myself to eat since I was giddy.  I must say that I’ve never relaxed so much at Christmas, diet wise, and it feels good (well – at the time). I’m back to work tomorrow which is probably a god send, as I will be distracted by work.

There’s only one problem…New Years celebrations are just around the corner!  It is at times like this I can see the benefit from living in a country where it is winter in December and January. At least it allows you to cover up all the excess blubber that you tend to put on over this period.

The Art of Present Wrapping

Yesterday I sat there and watched as my partner commenced wrapping all the christmas presents we had brought so far.  I’d never realised it was such an art form, but he really puts my present wrapping to shame!

Denis’ rules for wrapping presents:

  • Measure the paper you need by using the present to measure it;
  • Fold and crease the paper where you are going to cut it;
  • Cut the wrapping paper with a knife – no scissors in sight;
  • There is a 3 piece sticky tape rule (this is not strict, but he is silently impressed with himself when he pulls it off!);
  • Finishing off the wrapping is all in the art of the paper folds at either ends – this really reminds me of origami.

The result is that he can wrap the strangest shaped present with style and finesse, people comment on the wrapping (i.e. my Mum) – and how perfect it is, and with all of these ‘rules’ he gets the job down quicker than I ever would, with less wastage (paper and tape).

Note: I tried wrapping a present today, as I can’t really get him to wrap his own presents.   One must ensure they use a sharp knife – otherwise the result is torn paper.  And I must admit this works (once you swap to a sharp knife), as I stupidly started with scissors, and one side of the paper is not too straight, then swapping to a blunt knife – tearing the paper, ending up with a sharp knife and a lovely precision cut on the other side of the paper!  Oh – and I managed the 3 piece sticky tape rule. WOOH!

Loss at Christmas

Death is inevitable – ‘Just like taxes’ – or so I’ve been told numerous times this year.  But when you lose someone important in your life, it can affect you in all sorts of ways…days, weeks, months and years down the track –  with those special occasions being especially challenging.  I always heard that the onset of Christmas (and the actual day) was one of the hardest.  I guess that’s what my family is experiencing.

It’s been about 6 months since Nan passed on.  In a way it’s gotten easier, but the memories live on, and sometimes the thoughts coming trickling back, or – like yesterday – hitting me like a tsunami.

Nan and Me - Christmas 2009

I know I’m not alone though.  My dear Uncle, who lived with Nan for his whole life, still has the feeling that he will get back from his night shift with a beer waiting for him on the kitchen bench. A nice ‘night’ cap before going to bed.  My Mum has been walking around the shops christmas shopping, with a little tear in her eyes, at it was at Christmas we would always put the most thought into the gifts for my Nan (and her Mum).  Me. I’m also missing that.  I opened my underwear draw the other day – where I place a few special mementos (right next to the bed) – and remembered that’s where I had put what I gave Nan last year. Mum gave them back to me a few months ago.  It was an ornate, silver lipstick holder and a old-fashioned mesh jewellery pouch. Unfortunately she’d never gotten the chance to use them, as she declined rapidly after Christmas 2009.  I loved shopping for my Nan at Christmas.  I still go into shops and see things that I would love to spoil her with.

At least the people that are left can cherish these thoughts – the memory of that beautiful woman – and celebrate Christmas together.

2010 has been a hard year for so many people, but I think nearing the close of the year we should use this time as an opportunity to also come together, celebrate our friendships, family, successes, failures, life, trade a whole load of hugs, and most of all just have a laugh.