The Festive Season

Seasons Greetings! We hope you all had a wonderful relaxing Christmas and are now gearing up for New Year. We had a lovely first Christmas here in Candelo with perfect weather in the mid-twenties.BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-23 10.21.17 My daughter was up early and not because she couldn’t wait! She has been babysitting our neighbour’s beautiful black Labradors and they were very impatient for the day to begin! Caro took the following photos:

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Photogenic Dougal in Black-and-White
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Everything a girl could want: a guitar, computer, mobile phone and a friend staying over!
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Dougal and Jamie with their Christmas toys
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Do you have to go up for Christmas?

We started the day in a very civilized fashion with delicious fruit, sourdough toast and lime marmalade and tea before sitting down to open our gifts.

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Christmas 2015
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The youngest always distributes the presents!
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A reminder of Caro’s field study on moulting Fairy Penguins
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Christmas breakfast

My daughter has rediscovered water colour painting and has been busy this past week making beautiful cards for all her family and friends.

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Watercolour cards for Christmas
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A kookaburra for Ross and a hedgehog for me
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More cute watercolour cards
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A Christmas card for sister Jen and her boyfriend
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The fox and the butterfly

We organized Christmas lunch, then I popped down to the neighbour’s house for a Christmas photo shoot with the dogs! They are such characters!! It was quite a saga getting them to wear their antlers at the same time and long enough to be photographed!BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-23 13.25.10BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-23 13.23.51BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-23 13.28.17I love Dougal’s eyes! He is such a handsome fellow, but a bit of a rogue!BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-23 13.28.41BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-23 13.29.08Caro has a real soft spot for Jamie!BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-23 13.26.44Lunch was delicious! Roast turkey with fig, orange and cranberry stuffing, ham, roast potatoes, roast pumpkin with rosemary, little onions roasted in thyme and balsalmic vinegar, green beans and a delicious home-grown, red cabbage dish. We crashed for a much-needed sleep, forgetting that we had left the pudding on to boil! Luckily, Ross topped up the water and even though it boiled for an extra hour than it should have, it didn’t affect it and I think it was the best Christmas Pudding ever! Thank you Syd for the tip about Gladwrap – a perfect seal (see my late November post: Christmas Pudding Wishes : https://candeloblooms.com/2015/11/26/christmas-pudding-wishes/) . We were also very impressed with the Christmas Cake this year- lovely and moist and not burnt for once!!!BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-23 15.21.47BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-23 17.42.47BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-23 17.40.09The festive season has also definitely begun in the bird world! The Little Corellas (white) and Pink Galahs are loving the ripe Duranta berries.BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-20 10.13.25BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-22 20.27.54BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-20 10.07.44BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-22 20.28.02Some of their more rogueish elements have also started on the plums and apples!BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-19 20.59.37BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-20 10.08.24BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-20 10.13.59I am always amazed at the pink plumage of Galahs and Little Corellas are such endearing clowns with their blue eye patches and engaging antics!BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-25 20.27.20BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-22 20.28.28BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-20 10.08.51We are still treated nightly to their aerial manouevres and mass flock spectacles, occasionally livened up with a blur of pink from the galahs joining in!

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A blur of pink!
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Mixed flock of Little Corellas with the odd Galah!
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The density of the flocks always amazes me!
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A tree decked in pink!
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Night-time companions

It is lovely having the Eastern Spinebills back in the garden and the verandah is an ideal spot to watch them sucking the nectar from the agapanthus.BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-24 12.37.58The latter are now in full bloom and absolutely stunning!BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-23 13.35.37BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-22 18.29.53BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-25 19.03.26BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-22 18.30.44The hydrangeas are forming giant flower heads of soft mauve, blue and pink.BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-25 19.06.29BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-25 19.06.22BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-23 20.10.44BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-25 19.06.41We were thrilled to discover a Blue-banded Bee (Amegilla cingulata) in the Soho Bed. ‘Cingulata’ comes from the Latin ‘Cingulum’ (belt), referring to the bands. Apparently, the males have 5 stripes and the females 4 stripes on their abdomen. These beautiful Australian native bees are quite solitary, unlike their Honey Bee cousins. The males cling to the plant stems overnight, while the females live in burrows in the soil or soft stone and have a limited foraging range within 300 m of their nest, so they must be resident in the garden! Perhaps they nest in between the old bricks of the Soho Bed path. Apparently, they love blue flowers, so they should feel very at home in our garden with all the lavender, blue salvia, agapanthus and hydrangeas! Photo 1 shows a Blue-banded Bee on a Lavender stalk. The 2nd photo is a close-up, in case you could not find it! BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-21 11.58.47BlogFestiveSeason30%Reszd2015-12-21 11.58.47 (2)Here is a Honey Bee on a rose leaf.

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The Soho Bed is the home of the Blue-banded Bee.BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-21 11.28.50Perhaps, the female has her nest in between the old bricks of the path, shown in Photo 5, with the Pink Verbena.BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-23 19.59.52The insect world and its ingenious defensive mechanisms and camouflage never ceases to amaze me! If I was a bird, I wouldn’t want to eat this spiky spider with its yellow dots.BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-19 16.12.49 Nor this spider with the scary face on its bottom!!! BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-19 16.44.26This spiky furry caterpillar would be quite a mouthful! (Caro’s photo)BlogFestiveSeason70%Reszd2015-12-20 06.38.27

I love all their patterns and dots.BlogFestiveSeason40%Reszd2015-12-19 16.36.19 (2)BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-25 11.11.19BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-21 11.55.48BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-21 10.51.59BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-22 18.30.22We felt pretty special finding this Christmas Beetle down in the vegie garden on Christmas Day.BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-22 18.27.23Another very exciting discovery on the day after Boxing Day was the opening of the sunflower blooms, all ready for the New Year!BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-23 20.05.37BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-25 11.10.42BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-25 11.11.04The pumpkin flowers are prolific and their parent plants and the zucchini plants continue their relentless march across the garden, consuming everything in their path!

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A pumpkin flower
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Heading for the Moon (Bed)!
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Pumpkin Attack!

I love all the warm colours in the garden too : the Dahlias, the Red Hot Pokers, the Calla Lily seeds and all the ripening fruit and vegies.

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Bright sunny Dahlias
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Our very own Red Hot Poker
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Calla Lily seeds
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A tiny pumpkin forming!
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Golden Heritage Cherry tomatoes
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Tom Thumb cherry tomatoes
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Rouge de Marmande tomatoes
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Within the day, the above tomatoes had turned red!
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Parrot delight!
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Purple plums
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Almost ripe!
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Maybe this is a Golden Hornet Crab Apple after all!

For Christmas, we decided to buy the hardwood posts and cross-beams for the Main Pergola. The steel posts in Photo 1 show the position of the uprights. Adam (Photo 2) and the other climbing roses are growing so quickly, they urgently need support.BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-21 12.01.13BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-23 20.07.12Here are the other beautiful blooms this week: In order, Penelope; Blanc Double de Coubert; Troilus; Eglantyne; The Children’s Rose and LD Braithwaite.BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-25 11.08.50BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-23 13.21.09BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-22 18.29.36BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-23 19.59.14BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-23 19.59.20BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-23 19.59.28And my Christmas vases: Agapanthus; Orange Calendula and Blue Cornflowers; LD Braithwaite (red), Eglantyne (pale pink), Children’s Rose (globular pink), Feverfew and Catmint; A vase of Troilus with Buddleia, white and purple Stock, Feverfew, Catmint and Blue Salvia complements the beautiful Simplicity calendar, which our son gave us; Close-up of the same vase; Stunning red dahlias and finally, cheery orange dahlias for Christmas!BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-25 11.06.19BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-22 10.04.11BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-25 11.24.29BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-25 11.33.37BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-25 11.35.11BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-22 10.05.48BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-22 10.06.44Finally, some photos of our beautiful Full Moon over Christmas. If you look at the 4th photo carefully, it looks like there is a 2nd very faint moon above the real moon! I loved the cloud effects! The last photo was taken on the full zoom of the camera, but has not been further enlarged. It is an amazing little camera and really comes into its own with long-distance shots!!!BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-23 22.13.13BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-23 22.10.36BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-23 22.11.16BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-25 20.04.57BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-23 22.15.08BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-23 22.17.40

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Christmas!

Christmas has always been a very special time in our house, especially the lead up in the month beforehand, with all the food preparation, gift making and present wrapping!

I have already written posts about :

  • Desserts for Pre-Christmas work parties : The Sweet Spot (October)
  • Christmas Cake and Pudding (November)
  • Christmas Drinks and Nibbles (December)

I much prefer to think about Christmas gifts well in advance, so there is no panic closer to the day, when the shops get so busy and crowded and choosing gifts becomes very stressful!!! If time allows, it is a wonderful opportunity to use all those craft skills and, at the same time, make so many people very happy! Home-made presents are THE BEST and are appreciated long after their store-bought equivalents. The recipient not only appreciates the originality and sometimes quirkiness of your gift, but also the talent and skill involved and the sheer amount of time devoted to their production, while thinking about their recipient during the whole process! My family adore my embroidered cushion covers and I get much joy out of planning and executing their design, as well as admiring the finished product, and then seeing the joy and love they bring to their recipient!

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I made this cute Christmas bag for my daughter from a pattern in ‘Scandinavian Stitches‘ by Kajsa Wikman. See her blog on : http://syko.typepad.com/.

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I embroidered this cushion cover with rainforest birds for my husband’s birthday this year.BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-10-29 16.34.36A Christmas tablemat for 2000!

I have loved all my children’s home-made gifts over the years and our house and lives have been enriched by all their wonderful creations! It is also a great way for children to develop their creative skills. Here are some great books with gift ideas :

‘The Good Gift Guide : Creative Gift Giving For All Occasions’ by Alison Pearl

‘The Good Gift Book : Ideal Presents For Every Occasion’ by Judy Hubbard

‘A Touch of Christmas : Easy To Make Stockings and Gifts’ by Pamela Allardice

‘Christmas Treats To Make and Give’ by Linda Collister

‘Homemade’ by Kay Fairfax

‘Creating Gourmet Gifts’ by Barbara Beckett

‘Aromatic Gifts : Scented Ideas From Kitchen and Garden’ by Stephanie Donaldson        and

‘Beautiful Homemade Presents’ by Juliet Bawden.

Gifts can be more intangible too : a massage, a song, a performance, an IOU promise. My daughters made this hand-painted Monopoly board and these delightful wooden coasters for past Christmas gifts. A friend made this delicious Christmas cookie decoration one year.BlogCreativity120%Reszd2015-10-13 15.25.37BlogCreativity120%Reszd2015-10-13 15.12.40BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-10-13 16.32.04I really enjoy making Christmas cards and Advent Calendars in late November, the latter to be opened from the 1st December on. The last few years, I have used folded blank card, stamps and ink pads to create much more personal (and far cheaper) cards! Alas, this year, because I worked right up until the last week, I had to resort to using commercial Christmas cards!

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There are so many different patterns for advent calendars from felt pockets with little treasures and sweets to this wonderful paper pocket Christmas Tree, which I made for our 2013 Christmas. Each pocket held a small gift or a rhyming clue to a treasure hunt for larger items, which could not fit in the pocket. The pattern came from ‘Folded Secrets : Paper Folding Projects: Book 4’ by Ruth Smith and is based on the old Chinese Needle Thread Pockets. You can order all 4 books from the author by emailing her at : eruthsmith@btinternet.com. For a quick view of them, see : http://purplemissus.blogspot.com.au/2012/05/happy-families.html

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It is also fun making Christmas decorations throughout December, then finally decorating the Christmas tree in the last 2 weeks! Some people do it in early December, especially if they own an artificial tree, but I much prefer fresh trees, which do not last the whole month well.

I love the scent and colour of traditional fir trees, which are often sold on the side of the road in the weeks up until Christmas. After the 1967 Tasmanian bush fires, which devastated the native forests, my parents planted a large number of these quick-growing evergreens along the fence line of our property, only to spend every future Christmas chasing off would-be Christmas Tree thieves as the trees grew to maturity!!!

For the last few years in the city, we bought our trees from the same supplier, who harvested them from their country property then sold them in their suburban driveway. We’d select a small, well-balanced tree, then place it in a tub of water within an old rusty family cream can (from dairying days), decorated with Christmas wrapping paper and a large red bow. I love this old photo from the early 1900s of my husband’s grandparents’ Christmas tree with all the toy animals underneath.BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-10-29 16.33.46Back in the country, we would cut our own tree – maybe a feral cypress or a native she-oak (Casuarina) or even a gum tree (Eucalyptus). This year, we had hoped to purchase a Wollemi Pine in a pot, which we would keep outside during the year, then bring inside for Christmas until it grew too large. Wollemi pines are incredibly ancient and very special, as they were thought to be extinct until a small stand was discovered in 1994. See : http://www.wollemipine.com.

Alas, they were too exorbitant for us this year at $ 169 for a 150mm pot ( plus $14 for shipping and handling). I know we would probably recuperate the price after 3 to 5 years of buying ordinary cut Christmas trees, but you would have to be certain that the plant survived!!! Maybe when we’re rich and famous…!!! For those with disposable income, see : http://www.wollemipine.com/order.php

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It is always such fun decorating the Christmas tree with friends and family with all the old Christmas favourites, as well as a new purchase/ creation each year. After the baubles and ornaments, we drape the tree with tinsel, then last of all, the Christmas lights – so magical!!! Here are some photos of hand-made Christmas decorations: a simple, bright felt star for my eldest daughter’s first Christmas tree of her own; Christmas angels being made by my daughters : I made the middle angel, Caro the blonde angel and Jen, the angel with the dreadlocks!; I also made a beaded/ sequined and embroidered Christmas angel and pear one year.BloghappyXmas40%Reszdxmas 2009 004BlogCreativity120%Reszd2015-04-22 08.59.48 - CopyBloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-10-13 14.31.53BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-10-13 14.34.34We were a bit late putting up our ‘tree’ this year, but it was just as well as the weekend before Christmas we experienced 40 degree days! We now live on a corner block fringed with very old Cypress trees, so we cut 5 branches, which were extending into the lane way, then bound them together and put them in the old family cream can. I think it looks great and it’s hard to detect that it is not a complete tree! My daughter made a beautiful wreath with the trimmed branches as well (bottom photo).BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-12-19 20.26.16BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-12-19 21.38.59BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-12-19 19.28.22BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-12-19 18.26.23And finally, Christmas Eve has arrived! When we lived in the ‘Big Smoke’, we always use to enjoy making a special visit into the city to see the Christmas decorations.

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I loved the illumination of the Geelong Town Hall last year.BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2014-12-18 22.19.05And on the night of Christmas Eve, it was always worth doing the rounds of the neighbourhood to view all those outrageous Christmas decorations and lights. Some streets specialize in it!!!BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2012-12-24 22.51.01BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2012-12-24 22.22.36There were even still a few here in country Candelo! While the 3rd photo took the prize for effect, I must admit that I much prefer the simpler more discrete ones like the hammock shot (4th photo). Someone had even draped a large fir tee in their front yard with lights, which changed from green-and-blue to red-and-gold (5th and 6th photo)! A local farmer tied a big red bow round each of his fence posts, which looked really effective, though perhaps not so good at night-time! (1st and 2nd photo)BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-12-24 11.46.22BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-12-24 11.46.10BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-12-21 22.52.22BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-12-21 22.42.27BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-12-21 22.44.14BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-12-21 22.44.05It is always fun seeing everyone get into the Christmas spirit, including our old postman last year! We had a hilarious Christmas Eve a few years ago, when we came across a long line of ‘Father Christmases’,  university students on their way to the pub, who then very good-naturedly, carjacked us for a lift to said hotel!!! I think my daughter thought all her Christmases had come at once! We caught up to their companions and dropped them off, little realizing that one of them had lost his mobile phone in our car! Two suburbs later, we received a very sheepish phone call, asking us very politely if we would mind dropping their phone round to the hotel! So funny, though it did highlight how quickly a car can be hijacked!!!

BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2012-12-24 10.20.48BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2012-12-24 22.18.59This year here in Candelo, we were hijacked in a different fashion! I saw 3 Santas walking up the hill, only to have a large group of them materialize on our doorstep to sing us Christmas Carols, then we were bundled up and absorbed into the group, as we wended our way back up the hill to accost other suitable benefactors! My daughter grabbed her Santa hat and reindeer antlers, which she had bought for my neighbour’s handsome black labradors, whom she was to babysit over Christmas, but unfortunately not her camera, otherwise you would have had some classic shots of me in her  antlers with multicoloured flashing lights. It took me a while to realize that the faint Christmas jingle I kept hearing was also actually coming from  those same antlers!!! It probably would have been a bit dark for a decent photo anyway. We found it increasingly difficult to read the words by candlelight, so ‘Deck the Halls’ was very dodgy and thin in the verse singing, but voices swelled considerably in the ‘Fa-La-La, Fa-La-La, Fa-La-La’ chorus! We finished at the local bakery, where we were kindly given a fresh, warm sourdough loaf straight out of the oven and a lovely moist Christmas Cake, which we quickly wolfed down with French Champagne and tea back at my neighbour’s house. It was such a fun night and a great way to meet all the locals!

Father Christmas certainly gets around, as can be seen by these eye witness accounts on our drives to visit family interstate over the Christmas period!BloghappyXmas40%Reszdxmas 2009 013BloghappyXmas40%Reszdxmas 2009 043BloghappyXmas40%Reszddec 2010 073BloghappyXmas40%Reszdxmas 2009 072BloghappyXmas40%Reszdxmas 2009 071BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2014-12-14 08.13.18He is such a busy fellow and must get so exhausted with all his travels! We have a family tradition of writing Father Christmas notes to attach to our stockings. He would then have to reply in the wee wee hours of the morning in an increasingly illegible scrawl! Funny how he always knew what had transpired during the year! When the kids were little, we always used to visit him in the shopping mall, resulting in a wonderful family photographic record of the childhood years.

Every Christmas Eve, we would leave him a slice of Christmas, a beer and a carrot for his reindeer and in the morning, we would discover cake crumbs, the bottle drained and little bite-sized bits of carrot all over the garden.

The kids would be up so early on Christmas morning, excitedly opening their Christmas stockings or, in later years, sacks! After the stocking opening and a much-needed cup of tea, we took it in turns to open the gifts, which had accumulated under the tree in the previous 2 weeks and had suddenly swelled in number dramatically overnight. The youngest often had the job of finding each person’s gift, while Mum (usually) kept a note of ‘who gave what’ for later thank you correspondence.

After the last gift had been opened, the kids all gathered around the open window to yell at the top of their voices ‘Thank You Very Much, Father Christmas!’, a tradition carried through from my childhood!

Because everyone tends to nibble stocking fruit and sweets and are a bit exhausted by this stage, we often have a rest till mid-afternoon, then prepare for Christmas Dinner : a roast turkey with stuffing, a clove-studded ham, roast vegetables and the finale, the flaming Christmas Pudding! One year, when we had just moved over into a cottage built to lockup with no electricity, water or stove, the thought of preparing the traditional Christmas dinner overwhelmed me and it was so wonderful when my ‘kids’ (late teens by this stage) took over and bought 2 barbecued chickens and boiled up vegies over the camping gas stove – the most relaxing Christmas dinner we have ever had!BloghappyXmas40%ReszdIMG_9113BloghappyXmas40%Reszddecember2011 200

I love setting the Christmas table and organizing the flowers ! For a few years, we even made our own Christmas Crackers, complete with corny jokes!!! We will miss our dear Scampie this year!BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2012-12-25 11.00.35BloghappyXmas20%ReszdJens Xmas 2013 055

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Our old dog Scamp used to love Christmas!

I will leave you with a few photos of our iconic native flora and fauna. Happy Christmas and All our Best Wishes for a Wonderful 2016!!!

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A koala sitting in an old gum tree!
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Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
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Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo
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A pair of Pink Galahs
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A Pretty-faced Wallaby browsing a friend’s Bauhinias
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Illawarra Flame Tree (Brachychiton acerifolius)
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Native Frangipani (Hymenosporum flavum)
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Rainbow Lorikeets at home for Christmas!
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Oliver, our resident King Parrot, also at home for Christmas!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Eve Drinks and Nibbles!

It’s so exciting! Christmas is just round the corner, so it is time to think about those drinks and nibbles!!! The first 4 festive drinks come from a lovely book called ‘Cooking for Christmas : Timeless Recipes for the Festive Season‘, Murdoch Books, 2009, which I always consult at Christmas. They are very simple recipes, but excellent value and delicious to boot!

Mulled Wine (6)

Stud 1 orange with 5 cloves and place in a pot with 1.5 litres red wine, 1 cinammon stick, 1 nutmeg, 200 g caster sugar and 200 ml brandy.

Add 250 ml water and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes, stirring until all the sugar has dissolved. Do NOT boil, as the wine will evaporate.

Strain into a jug and serve warm.

Pear and Ginger Champagne Cocktail (6)

Place 230 g caster sugar, 6 cm piece of peeled, diced fresh ginger and 250 ml water into a pot and cook over a low heat, stirring until all the sugar has dissolved.

Increase the heat and simmer for 30 minutes till syrup and reduced by half.

Remove from heat, strain and cool. Cover and refrigerate to chill.

When ready to serve, place 185 ml pear juice (100 per cent) and 80 ml ginger syrup in a jug and stir to combine. Share out into 6 cocktail glasses. Top up with Champagne or sparkling white wine (you will need 750 ml) and serve.

Left over syrup can be kept in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Pomegranate and Rose Water Martini

Cut 1 pomegranate in half, remove seeds to a bowl and squeeze the juice into a jug.

Place 8 pomegranate seeds and 1 tsp pomegranate juice into each of 6 chilled martini glasses.

Combine 280 ml chilled vodka, 1 tbsp rose water and 135 g crushed ice (1 cup) in a jug or cocktail shaker and stir. Pour over the pomegranate seeds and juice.

Blood Orange Cocktail (4)

Divide 125 ml Campari and 125 ml orange juice between 4 cocktail glasses and top up with Champagne or sparkling white wine and serve.

Now some nibbles before all that drink goes to your heads!!!

Firstly, a delicious pesto recipe from Jamie Oliver : http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/vegetables-recipes/pesto/#A4OjfLKTRFIu7AG9.97BlogXmasEvedrinks20%Reszd2015-12-15 13.58.09If ever there was a recipe to stimulate your appetite, this one is perfect! I couldn’t wait for lunchtime to spread it thickly on warm wholemeal bread fresh from the oven! It can also be used as a pasta topping or on rice crackers or Jatz biscuits for a delicious accompaniment to drinks.BlogXmasEvedrinks20%Reszd2015-12-15 10.47.35We have masses of Basil growing in the garden, just starting to flower, so it was an ideal time to try out this recipe. I will definitely be making a second batch for Christmas! Pick 3 good handfuls of fresh Basil and chop finely.BlogXmasEvedrinks20%Reszd2015-12-15 10.31.22Grind half a clove of garlic with a pinch of sea salt in a mortar and pestle. Lightly toast a handful of pine nuts under the griller, but be careful not to burn them!!!BlogXmasEvedrinks20%Reszd2015-12-15 10.31.18BlogXmasEvedrinks20%Reszd2015-12-15 10.39.01By this stage, I had decided to switch from the mortar and pestle to the Bamix (or you can use a food processor if you own one – I don’t!). Grind the garlic, salt, basil and pine nuts together.

BlogXmasEvedrinks20%Reszd2015-12-15 10.43.31Grate a good handful of parmesan cheese. This is where we depart from Jamie’s gentle staged method. We just put all the cheese and a slurp of extra virgin cold pressed olive oil into the mixture and whizzed it up with the Bamix! Because we took this approach , it is not necessary to grate the cheese finally. Season with freshly ground pepper. Scoop into a bowl and top with basil if serving with crackers for Christmas drinks. As I said, it’s divine!!!BlogXmasEvedrinks20%Reszd2015-12-15 10.48.18Our standbys for sweet nibbles every Christmas are Rum Balls and Apricot Balls from my Mum’s old recipe book.  I always double the recipe and often make 2 batches- one lot for Christmas gifts, then a 2nd batch just before Christmas for us! It  is always very useful to have some help with this recipe. My kids used to love making them when they were younger!

Rum Balls

Soak 500 g mixed fruit and 60 g  walnut pieces in 1/2 cup rum or port overnight.BlogXmasEvedrinks20%ReszdIMG_2441BlogXmasEvedrinks20%ReszdIMG_2442Mix in 6 tbsp cocoa, 500 g icing sugar and 250 g melted butter.BlogXmasEvedrinks20%Reszd2015-12-14 17.10.41BlogXmasEvedrinks20%Reszd2015-12-14 17.11.36BlogXmasEvedrinks20%Reszd2015-12-14 17.13.00Roll in chocolate decorettes. Always buy at least 2 packets of chocolate decorettes at the time, as they disappear quickly over Christmas. If you cannot source decorettes, roll in dessicated coconut instead.BlogXmasEvedrinks20%Reszd2015-12-14 17.17.36BlogXmasEvedrinks20%Reszd2015-12-14 17.38.03Apricot Balls

Mince 500 g dried apricots. It is so much easier if you can buy them already diced!!BlogXmasEvedrinks20%Reszd2015-12-14 17.06.44BlogXmasEvedrinks20%Reszd2015-12-14 17.41.57Add a 395 g tin sweetened condensed milk, 2 cups desiccated coconut, 1 cup chopped almonds. Again using slivered almonds is so much quicker! And 3 dsp brandy or apricot nip (if you can get it- I never have!!!).BlogXmasEvedrinks20%Reszd2015-12-14 17.44.58BlogXmasEvedrinks20%Reszd2015-12-14 17.47.15Roll in desiccated coconut.BlogXmasEvedrinks20%Reszd2015-12-14 17.49.43BlogXmasEvedrinks20%Reszd2015-12-14 17.55.57Notes

  1. I store these rum balls and apricot balls in the freezer, as I think they taste better if eaten cold.

2. If giving these as gifts, allow 2 of each per person and wrap in red or green (or both!) coloured cellophane, tied at the neck with gold or green metallic curling ribbon.BlogXmasEvedrinks20%Reszd2015-12-14 18.34.57BlogXmasEvedrinks20%Reszd2015-12-14 18.36.28BlogXmasEvedrinks20%Reszd2015-12-14 18.39.17And finally my much celebrated and delicious Lime Cordial, whose recipe comes from Sally Wise’s book ‘A Year in a Bottle’. This recipe makes 3 x 750 ml bottles and only takes 30 minutes to make, so excellent value, except when the limes are expensive that is!!!  It is much more economical if you have your own tree or access to one!!!BlogXmasEvedrinks20%ReszdIMG_1388BlogXmasEvedrinks20%ReszdIMG_1389Finely grate the zest of 6 large or 8 medium limes and 1 lemon and set aside, then juice all the fruit.BlogXmasEvedrinks20%ReszdIMG_1390Place zest in a large jug with 1 tbsp citric or tartaric acid, 1 kg sugar (Sally uses 1.5 kg, but I think you can get away with less!) and 4 cups boiling water and stir to dissolve sugar.BlogXmasEvedrinks20%ReszdIMG_1391BlogXmasEvedrinks20%ReszdIMG_1393BlogXmasEvedrinks20%ReszdIMG_1394Add juice of the limes and lemon to the syrup and stir to combine.BlogXmasEvedrinks20%ReszdIMG_1395Leave to stand overnight or till cool, then strain through a fine sieve.BlogXmasEvedrinks20%ReszdIMG_1396Pour into sterilized bottles and seal. The cordial can be used at once. Because there are only 3 bottles, I tend to keep them in the fridge. Dilute the cordial 1:4 with chilled water or soda water. That’s 50 ml cordial and 200 ml water for you mathematicians!!! Enjoy all Summer long! All year really, when it comes down to it!!!BlogXmasEvedrinks20%ReszdIMG_1449Have a great Pre-Christmas Party!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Pudding Wishes

It’s the end of November and Christmas is just around the corner! I always try to be on top of things coming up to the Festive Season, so I can enjoy it, rather than be stressing about getting everything done at the last minute!

Some things cannot be done until the day itself, like cooking the turkey and decorating the ham ; Some things need to wait until December, like decorating the Christmas tree or writing Christmas cards, though these days, instant email has a lot of advantages. I do still like Christmas cards to hang on a string across windows or decorate the mantelpiece, but I’m very selective now with my Christmas card list, especially given the price of postage these days!

Christmas gifts are often bought during the year, when I see the perfect present or a great sale price!

And I really like to prepare my Christmas Pudding and Christmas Cake by the end of November at least, so their flavours can develop!

There are so many wonderful recipes for these Festive offerings. These are my favourite standbys :

Light Christmas Pudding

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I found this recipe in a book called  ‘Creating Gourmet Gifts’ by Barbara Beckett, which I bought over 20 years ago. It is a lovely book with many wonderful culinary gift ideas, so well worth searching for in secondhand bookstores.

I really like this recipe, as it is comparatively healthy and much lighter than the old suet-based recipes. Remember to allow extra time, as the fruit needs to soak for a few days before cooking and make sure all family members are present in the house on Pudding Cooking Day to make their wish for the coming year!

A few days beforehand

Slice 1.5 cups of prunes and put in a bowl with 2 tbsp mixed peel, 1/2 cup raisins, 1 cup sultanas, 1/2 cup currants, 1 grated carrot and 1 grated apple (I like to use a  Granny Smith apple).

Pour over 1/2 cup brandy and stir well. Cover and leave to macerate for several days.BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-07 19.02.36BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-07 19.04.23Pudding Cooking Day

Put the zest and juice of 1 lemon and 1 orange, 2 tbsp sugar and 2 eggs in a bowl and whisk well. Stir into mixed fruit.BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-15 09.43.32BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-15 09.47.05BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-15 09.49.10BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-15 09.50.12Add 1 tsp grated nutmeg, 1 tsp ground allspice, 1 tsp ground cinammon, 3 cloves ground, 1 cup fresh wholemeal breadcrumbs, 1 cup sifted wholemeal self-raising flour and 1/2 cup slivered almonds. Let stand for 1 hour.BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-15 09.55.07BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-15 09.57.26Meanwhile, double-grease the pudding basin to ensure the pudding turns out easily. Grease the bowl well with butter, put in the fridge for 15 minutes, then grease it again and refrigerate until ready to use. In the old days, I used to tie the pudding mixture up in a boiled, sterilized calico pudding cloth, but it was messy to clean up at the end and in the hot, humid Queensland Summers, I would invariably end up with a mouldy pudding by the time Christmas arrived. It is so much easier and quicker to use a bowl, so it is well worth investing in a classic pudding basin!BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-15 10.14.46BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-15 10.11.58Clean and sterilize pudding silver and let dry before use. I have a much prized collection of old shillings, sixpences and  threepences, which I count out every year after eating the pudding, as they are not so easy to come by now. When our family was young, we also bought each family member their own significant sterling silver charm – a lyrebird for Ross (which has disappeared since) , a thimble (well-chewed) for me and a pig, camel and hippo for the kids, representing their alter-egos.  Note that the silver used must be sterling silver, so modern currency cannot be used. Also, be extra carefully when eating, so that you don’t swallow the charms or break a filling or dentures!!!

Put the coins in the pudding mixture.

Assemble all the family to each take their turn at stirring the pudding mixture and making a wish for the coming year, eyes shut of course !BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-15 10.40.52Fill the pre-greased pudding basin with the pudding mixture and smooth the top flat. Cover the top of the basin with 2 layers of Gladwrap for a tight seal, then 2 layers of aluminium foil and tie around the lip of the bowl with string, then create a string handle to lift the bowl in and out of the boiling water.BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-15 10.43.23BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-15 10.43.28BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-15 10.56.35Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, then lift in the pudding basin and replace the saucepan lid. Make sure you don’t put too much water in the saucepan, as the pudding bowl will displace water. If the pudding bowl is sitting on the bottom of the pot, put a folded teatowel between the bottom of the pot and the pudding bowl, so the heat is not concentrated on the base.

Steam pudding for 4 hours, covered. Check the water level regularly and keep topped up with boiling water. When the four hours is up, remove the pudding basin from the hot water very carefully with the string handle and let cool.BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-15 15.33.06When cold, refrigerate pudding till Christmas.

On Christmas Day, boil for another 1.5 hours before eating.

Remove pudding from the basin. It should slide out easily. Serve upside down on a Christmas plate and decorate the top with a holly leaf or greenery.BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2014-12-25 11.25.06BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-10-13 16.31.41When you reach dessert, remove the decoration, then pour over spirits – rum, brandy or whiskey and set it alight! When the flames have died down, cut slices for everyone, hiding any exposed silver as you go, and serve with Hard Sauce or Rum Butter, both recipes of which also come from Barbara Beckett’s book ‘ Creating Gourmet Gifts’ and both of which can be made days or weeks beforehand.BlogXmaspudding40%ReszdIMG_8983BlogXmaspudding40%ReszdIMG_8988

Hard Sauce for Christmas Pudding

Mix 1/2 cup caster sugar and  1/2 cup milk powder together.

Add 1/3 cup melted butter and 3 tbsp rum and mix well.

Chill and serve cold with hot pudding.

Rum Butter

Put 1 cup unsalted butter in a bowl and stand in a saucepan of simmering water.

When the butter has melted, stir in 1.5 cups soft brown sugar.

When the sugar has dissolved, pour in 1 cup brown rum slowly, whisking all the time.

Add 1 tsp ground cinnamon and 1 tsp grated nutmeg.

Pour into a butter dish and when cool, cover and keep in the fridge. This recipe can be made weeks beforehand.

Christmas Cake

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For the last few years, I have used an Irish Fruit Cake recipe, as I love the idea of soaking the fruit for three weeks, turning it every day and dreaming of the coming Christmas. It’s an exciting time! Here is the method :

Three weeks beforehand

Chop 360 g raisins, 360 g sultanas, 90 g dates, 90g glace cherries, 60 g mixed peel, 60 g depipped prunes and 30 g glace pineapple.

Combine in a large screwtop jar with a tight seal with 1 tsp grated lemon rind, 1 tsp grated orange rind, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 1/4 cup orange juice, 1/3 cup whiskey and 1/2 peeled grated green apple.

Shake well to mix fruit evenly.

Store in a cool, dry place for 3 weeks, reversing the jar every day.BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-07 18.45.21

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At the start
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After 3 weeks

Baking Day :

Line a 20 cm square tin with Gladbake, extending 5 cm in height above the top edge of the tin. Set the oven to 150 degrees Celsius, with the baking shelf in the middle of the oven.

Add 30 g chopped walnuts and 60 g ground almonds to the fruit mixture in a bowl.BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-22 17.42.27BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-22 17.43.02BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-22 17.43.42Sift 1.5 cups plain flour, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg and 1/4 tsp salt.

Cream 180 g butter and 3/4 cup caster sugar and add 3 eggs, one at a time, beating well.BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-22 17.38.01 - CopyAdd fruit and nut mixture to the above, then fold in the flour and spice mix.BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-22 17.47.18BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-22 17.48.29Pour into tin and flatten the top.BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-22 17.52.49Decorate with blanched almonds in your desired design.BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-22 17.58.07Bake in 150 degrees Celsius oven for 1 hour, then reduce the temperature to 140 degrees Celsius for 1.5 – 2 hours, covering the tin with reflective aluminium foil,  if the top of the cake looks like it is burning .BlogXmaspudding20%Reszd2015-11-22 20.39.17

When cooked, brush with 1 tbsp whiskey, cool in the tin and wrap in greaseproof paper and foil.

Remember to leave a slice out for Father Christmas with his beer on Christmas Eve ! Happy Feasting!!!