A cold, cold walk on Christmas Day

It has become somewhat of a tradition in our family to go for a walk or a stroll after lunch on Christmas Day.

This year, Karl and I took Stella for a walk round town. Christmas Day was mighty cold for Reykjavik, the weather bureau recorded -9.7°C at noon on Christmas Day! A vast difference to the 25.4°C or so that was observed in Brisbane at noon on the 25th.

We went down to the harbour and then strolled back through the “west side” home to get ready for Christmas Day dinner with Kata’s paternal family.

As it was Christmas Day we wore Santa Hats for the walk, sadly the Santa Hats were not wool or super fleecy so did not really provide optimum warmth :/
Karl and I on the jetty
Karl and I on the jetty Please, click here to continue reading 🙂 “A cold, cold walk on Christmas Day”

The sweet smell of November rain

The house is filled with the sweet smell of November rain mingled with the perfume of the Mock Orange.

The street is filled with the soft patter of rain drops, the Four Tops from next door and the sound of whistles and yelling carrying up the hill from the netball.

The makings of Christmas presents cover the living room floor and the kitchen table.

There is  big container of dried fruit soaking in rum and spices in the pantry.

There is only a few days left till the calendar reads December.


The day after the Twelfth Day or Epiphany or Three Kings Day

or whatever you wish to call January 6. Le Sigh. Yesterday was all of those so the house was de-Christmased. The living room looks quite bare now.

This little chap has been packed away for another Christmas. Yep we run an Icelandic Christmas straight out of the late 70s here.  Love his little elfish face.

As have these trees (the one on the left was made by Grandmum and the one on the right was made by me with  assistance from Grandmum, it’s made of polystyrene meat trays!) The photo of Grandad stays of course, as does the duck (also made by  my Grandmum.

This tree is packed up as well, oh well only something like 350 days till it can be put up again …

The reverse Advent calendar was packed up as well. I picked it up from a Danish seller on the most glorious marketplace of all. Each day, an ornament was added, Some days though “Santa/Christmas Angel/Christmas someone” would beat me to it and there would be angel hanging on the calendar (see days 15 and 21).

The Royal Doulton Countess has been packed away, waiting for another special meal (If you ever come across Royal Doulton Countess in the green pattern, let me know quick smart, I’m always on the look out for more pieces).

We had a new candle set this year, I picked up the Advent candle holder from a Swede on the above mentioned glorious marketplace. I filled it with spruce twigs, added some walnuts that I painted gold, drop in four candles and hey presto!

Yes, those are peas in a sweets dish. They may look pretty but are a pain to serve from … peas like to escape…

The other way to know that Christmas is over is by this. Yep, holly wreath not so green any more.

The lights are no longer up either, the house looks decidingly less bright.

And that is Christmas 2011/2012. I hope it was well to you all.

Not quite seven types of biscuits

But then I’m not Norwegian, so thankfully I’m not battling a butter shortage whilst trying to make sure I have seven types of Christmas biscuits. I really feel for those poor Norwegians, not been able to make all your normal Christmas baked goods because there is no butter, tragic.

I’ve made Loftkökur, Sugar Biscuits, Christmas Cake Pattycakes, Gingerbread, Rum Balls, Sunshine Balls (Apricots Balls with dried pineapple and mango added as well) and Vanilla Rings.

This time of year the traffic to my blog goes through the roof as people come for my Loftkökur post from 2006. Four ingredients, some magic and then you have quite possibly my favourite Christmas baked good. Londoneats also made Loftkökur this year and I’ve contributed to the comments thread over there. I’m going to do an updated Loftkökur recipe post next Christmas and will provide spoonfuls of the magic ingredient to Australians who want to try making them.

Christmas Morning Tea

Christmas Cake Pattycakes
These are new this year and I’ll be making these till the Christmas before I die I do believe. All the niceness of Christmas fruit cake without the dryness or stodginess. I found the recipe in an advert for Lucky Nuts via the Coles magazine (I must say I love the Coles and Woolies magazines, they are the main place I get new recipes these days).

Christmas Cakes
Makes at least 24 muffin size cakes or 48 patty pan size cakes, I suggest halving it)

1 cup roughly chopped silvered almonds
5 cups assorted dried fruit roughly chopped into pieces about thumb nail size (I use sultanas, raisins, dates, pear, peaches, apricots – probably half sultanas and raisins and the rest other fruits)
1/2 cup (at least) of rum, I use Bundy Red and strongly recommend it for all Christmas items.
a good shake of mixed spice
250g butter, softened
250g brown sugar
4 eggs
1/4 cup marmalade or citrus jam (I use my Mandarin jam and just realised that I never blogged about it or my other jam making – blame mobile uploads on Facebook, it’s so quick to take a photo on the phone, add a caption and upload it to Facebook)
500g plain flour
blanched almonds to decorate

Combine the rum, dried fruit and spice in a container and leave at least over night, making sure to give it a good shake every so often to make sure that rum is soaking the fruit nicely. You made need to add a little more rum here.

Cream the butter till pale, add the sugar and continue to mix till the sugar is dissolved. This will take some time but it makes all your baking better if you take the time to cream your butter and sugar well. Add the eggs and marmalade/jam in and continue to mix. Then add half of the fruit mix and half of remaining ingredients (flour and chopped almonds) mix it well and then add in the rest of the fruit, flour and almonds and mix till well combined.

Spoon mixture into cake papers, decorate the top with blanched almonds and bake at 150°C until a skewer comes out clean and they are lightly coloured on top (~ 15-30 minutes depending on the size you are making)

Eat with a good cup of Christmas tea

Sugar Biscuits
This is the only recipe I’ve ever used for sugar biscuits and can’t fault it. It is easy to double, freezes well and is very easy to make.

Snowflakes Christmas Trees

Sugar Cookie Recipe number 2
Makes a heap.

1.25 cups caster sugar or white sugar
225g butter, softened
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla (I probably use more like 2.5 tsp of vanilla normally)
2.5 cups plain flour (sifted)
1 tsp bi-carb
1 tsp cream of tartar (If you don’t have cream of tartar don’t rush out and buy it. Over the years I’ve made these with bi-carb and baking powder as well and they are just fine)

Cream the butter till pale and then add the sugar, continue to cream it till the sugar is dissolved and it doesn’t look at all grainy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix again. Add the flour and rising agents and beat till it comes together. Form dough into at least two discs and wrap in either glad wrap or a plastic bag and allow to cool and harden in the fridge (I normally make the mixture one night and bake the biscuits the following night). Remove the dough from the fridge and allow to warm up a little. I normally divide the each disc into about four pieces and work each piece with my hands warming it up and making it rollable. Roll the dough out on a floured surface to an even thickness (I aim for about 5mm) and cut out shapes with your cutters. For best baking results only use one shape per tray or if you must use different shapes you should make sure they have the same surface area because smaller biscuits cook quicker and you don’t want over cooked biscuits. Cook on glad bake lined trays at about 160°C for about 8 minutes. Remove them from the oven just as they start to colour. Allow to cool and then ice with your preference of icing. I’m a royal icing girl. Store in an air tight container and if you find they are a softening in the container put a slice of bread in the container to harden the biscuits back up.

I probably should call this Spicebread, as I do like to be quite heavy handed with the spices.

Gingerbread Men

150g golden syrup
110g butter
100g brown sugar
375g flour, sifted together with the bi-carb and spices
1 tsp bi-carb

Spices (the more the better but make sure the ratio is ginger heavy)
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp all spice

In a medium size pan, combine the syrup, butter and sugar, bring to a gentle boil and make sure the sugar is dissolved before removing from the heat and stirring in the flour mixture, when the mixture has come together, let the dough rest in the pan for a couple of hours. You don’t need to place this in the fridge, on the bench is fine. I made my mine in the morning before work and left the pan on the bench all day. Roll out to about 8mm thick on a floured surface and cut out your shapes. Bake at 180°C for about 10 minutes or until they spring back when touched. Cool and decorate with melted chocolate or royal icing or just leave as they are.

There we have it. Recipes for all the goods I’ve taken photos of so far. I’m yet to take photos of Rum Balls or Sunshine Balls (probably because I keep eating them!)

I’m now off to start organising the house for Christmas Eve tonight and get things sorted out for Woodford after Christmas.

A wreath of holly and red beads

I’ve been wondering for a couple of weeks if you were able to get holly from the florist at this time of year in Australia, I did a bit of googling but nothing conclusive came up. Last Saturday, I rang the local florist (Northside Flower Market) and asked if they were able to obtain holly at this time of the year. The lady on the other end, politely laughed and said they have buckets of it! This of course meant a happy Helen and a couple of hours later I was in the cold room carefully examining the holly bunches for which had branches that were not too woody (i.e suitably bendy) but also had well formed holly leaves. After some time, I found two bunches that fitted my criteria.

We then had this, yes I picked up some spruce bunches as well, mmmm spruce.

It was then over to Spotlight, which surprisingly was just about empty!!! I know on a Saturday afternoon … I didn’t even have to line up at the checkouts… Crazy. I picked up some steel rings (one which was 400mm in diameter and the other was 350mm) and some floral wire.

The holly then went into a bucket of water downstairs in the cool till last night when I decided it was time to get up close and personal with the holly (read, let’s get prickly). Apart from the prickles it was dead simple to make and probably only took about 30 minutes or so, I was listening to Nightlife and spent some time just listening. The interview with Katy Gallagher (ACT Chief Minister) was most interesting.

The progress shot, uploaded to Facebook.

I arranged the branches round the ring and then went round wiring the branches on, using about three pieces of floral wire per holly branch and then used more wire to make a hanger that is is the same style as on the back of picture frame. I then wrapped a length of red bead garland round the 350mm ring and hung it behind the holly wreath so it “sort of resembles” holly berries.

The final product, hanging above the plates over the stair well. Do you see the the mini candle wreath on the Royal Doulton Rustic England quatrefoil bowl? The plates do not escape Christmas 🙂

Holly Wreath