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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!!!