or whatever you wish to call January 6.Â 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. Â Love his littleÂ elfishÂ 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 Â assistance from Grandmum, it’s made ofÂ polystyreneÂ meat trays!) The photo of Grandad stays of course, as does the duck (also made by Â 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 AdventÂ calendarÂ was packed up as well. I picked it up from a Danish seller on the most glorious marketplace of all. Each day, an ornament wasÂ added,Â SomeÂ 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.
I’ve made LoftkÃ¶kur, 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 LoftkÃ¶kur post from 2006. Four ingredients, some magic and then you have quite possibly my favourite Christmas baked good. Londoneats also made LoftkÃ¶kur this year and I’ve contributed to the comments thread over there. I’m going to do an updated LoftkÃ¶kur recipe post next Christmas and will provide spoonfuls of the magic ingredient to Australians who want to try making them.
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).
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
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 150Â°C until a skewer comes out clean and they are lightly coloured on top (~ 15-30 minutes depending on the size you are making)
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.
Sugar Cookie Recipe number 2
Makes a heap.
1.25 cups caster sugar or white sugar
225g butter, softened
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 160Â°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.
150g golden syrup
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
Â½ 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 180Â°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.
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 🙂
Yet again I’ve been promoting that thing called “radio silence” but I’ve been busy, very busy. I was extremely lucky to obtain a vacation work placement which for the last three weeks saw me trade my normal CBD office for another CBD office. A swisher office, closer to the river and employing a gazillion more people in their Brisbane office than are employed in the Brisbane office for my company. It was an eye opener and in some areas I learnt more about accounting in the last three weeks than I’ve learnt in the last year at uni. It was a very good experience and I’m thankful for the opportunity I was given. This week I’m back at my “normal job”.
This Christmas season has seen many, many changes in our household. A couple of months ago, after Mum had come back from exploring the bush in NSW, a conversation was resurrected from one we had had years ago about why we (really my parents) live in Brisbane. It was about Grandad of course and nothing could have taken my mother or myself away from SEQ whilst my grandfather was alive. With his passing in June and the passing of my father in May last year; that conversation could be had again as those events have changed a lot of things in our lives. I moved back home. We purchased an investment property. We’ve taken on a boarder (who may have had a Lotte bowl slip out of his hand and land on the floor in more than one piece … My Lotte is now more secure in where it is stored) and that’s just the billboard changes. Mum has had the chance to revisit that conversation we’ve had a few times over the years about leaving Brisbane and teaching somewhere else, I always used to suggest WA but that is an awfully long way a way. Mum though discovered a place closer to home though and next year she will be still be a Maths teacher but in NSW in a country town situated in the north west region. The town she is moving to is about a 7hr drive from Brisbane, luckily it is also on the Melbourne to Brisbane bus route so she will be able to hop on a bus to come home for a visit! Most importantly there is plenty of bush walking and an active club to keep her weekends occupied.
This has meant that Mum is packing up her life or perhaps I should say “culling her life”, there has been items leaving this house left, right and center. Some via Lifeline, some via Gumtree, some via Freecycle, others via the rubbish bin, some to people here and there. Some times it feels like that unless it is bolted down, it won’t be there when I get home from work!
Another change this year is that for the first time in the sixty years my mother has lived we have an artificial Christmas tree!!!! And we put it up on Dec 18!!! My father and my maternal grandmother are probably rolling in their proverbial graves (well more accurately, their ash particles are probably vibrating at a higher frequency than normal …)
However, it’s not just any artificial Christmas tree. It’s a 6ft Mistletoe Pine Aluminium Christmas Tree made by Raco. Yep, how many people do you know in Australia who are rocking an Australian made Aluminium Christmas Tree? Very few I would wager to say. I normally see two or so appear each year on Ebay and one of the ones that appeared last year made its way to me. I then gave the tree as part of my present to Mum last year (Well actually it was to both Mum and the house. Do you do that? We have often over the years had presents to the the house from the kitchen or to the fridge from the stove etc). My reading of the date codes on the box say it was made in 1964 and the price label reads Â£6/15/ which according to our friends at the RBA that is about $84 in the money of today.
Our tree has always been real and has always gone up around the 23rd or so and then comes down on the 6th of January or shortly there after (A major pet peeve of mine is when people talk of the twelve days of Christmas as been the twelve days leading up to Christmas, I grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. You seriously think the three kings got an early warning that Jesus was been born and started their journey twelve days before he was born ??? I’m a by no means a believer but it riles me when people talk about and use an idea that they clearly seem to have no idea what it actually means).
Moving on from that point. This is our tree. Click to see it larger of course!
Have you seen such a beauty? It makes such a lovely sound as you brush past it and oh I love how the lights reflect off it and dance on the ceiling. I actually lay under it on Sunday night whilst on the phone to a friend like a child, watching the light dance on “the leaves” … It is so smile inducing.