a tree, a tree, a glorious tree

“Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind.” Mary Ellen Chase (1988-1973)

This year/last year (Christmas 08 is what we are talking about here), instead of getting a Radiata Pine from the farm, we got a farmed Radiata from Real Christmas Trees. Oh my lordy what a tree it was. It was just packed full of branches and it was shaped like a real Christmas Tree! In saying that in hindsight, we would have done some selective pruning as since the tree was so bushy, the ornaments were to a degree buried in the pine needles.

Karl, the girls and I decorated on the afternoon of the 23rd. Well perhaps it is more true to say Karl and I decorated the tree whilst the girls had fun with the tinsel and taking photos. What follows are photos, lots of photos. IF the photo has Silja in it, it was taken by Birta, if it has Birta in it, it was taken by Silja, that applies for most photos, but pretty much the first half were taken by Birta, the next half were taken by Silja and then the last handful and the first few were taken by myself and then a handful near the end were taken by Karl. Does that make any sense? probably not.

Eventually the tree was covered with ornaments and then out came the magic texters and the girls gave tattooed our legs. I went to the doctors that afternoon to see about my leech bite with one leg covered in doodles 🙂

Decorating the Christmas Tree 2008

Wrapping the tree in tinsel
Tinsel, Tinsel, Tinsel

Birta and I doing silly faces
Crazy Girls

Due to the sheer number of photos to share from this day, here is a slide show again 🙂

Christmas Truffles

I’m moving house in a week today and one of the things I hope to have done by then is to have finished blogging about Christmas 2008. So here is another post to bring me a little step closer to the end of the 2008 Christmas Extravaganza.

I have wanted to make chocolate truffles for quite a while now and on more than one occasion I have brought cream with the intention of making truffles but ended up using it for something else.

For Christmas I made two types, the first where Peppermint Dark Chocolate and the second where White Rum, White Chocolate. They were rolled in a mixture of toppings, crushed Candy Canes (any idea how hard that is?), coconut, cocoa and sprinkles. I was not 100% happy with how they turned out so I won’t be sharing a recipe but here is a link to a search on FoodBlogSearch where I got my basic recipe from. My main problem was getting the consistency right and looking back now, I can also tell you that the Brisbane weather might have a little bit to do with it as well.

The truffles were rolled over two sessions. The night that I made the mixtures Karl and Matthew came over for a little gathering. We tasted one of Karl’s beers that he brought with him. By far the best tasting beer I have ever had, if I could get a case of it I would. We sampled different liqueurs and port with ice-cream and then we rolled truffles and we rolled till the mixture warmed up too much and the table warmed up as well.

When it comes to crushing candy canes, let me tell you the following things do not work; using the end of a rolling pin and a soufflé dish as a make do mortar and pestle, placing them in a plastic bag and whacking them with a rolling pin or placing the bag between chopping boards and whacking the top board, trying to grate them. I ended up chop, chop, chopping the candy canes till I had the pieces reasonably small enough to coat the truffles in. My “fun” crushing the candy canes resulted in Matthew buying me a nice beastly mortar and pestle for Christmas 🙂 What lovely brothers I have.

The next truffle rolling session was the day that we picked Erica and Ash up from the airport. Having learnt our lessons we knew how to roll them now and Mum’s house has air-con which made it a bit easier to roll them 😀

The following photos were taken by Mum.
candy canes!
Helen making truffles
Rolling truffles
and this is how we roll

They were a lot of hard work but oh my they were pretty tasty and they do look pretty!
Christmas Truffles

FYI for the future though. Crushed candy canes absorb moisture from anything and turn into liquid candy canes. Eat them shortly after making them.

I’m thinking that this year truffles will be made for winter celebrations not Christmas!

Also you can read Karl’s account of the truffle adventure here – Food, truffles, sausages and possums

And speaking of Candy Canes, here are photos of the girls with candy canes they were given by the Station Master at Albion train station. Anna, the girls and I went into the city before Christmas to do some shopping and check out my office – the idea was to look at the view but I think they had more fun having their height and weight measured by one of the nurses who is my work mum #1 (I have two work mums at work :D) and listening to everyone gush at how cute they were. 😀

Climbing with family

December 22, 2008.
Dear Diary,
Today I did something I haven’t done in years. I went Rock Climbing! I know you say, you haven’t done that in years. I think it has probably been almost ten years! Still I remembered that a) the general idea is to do your best to move up the rock face and b) take lots of photos. Karl used to do a fair bit of climbing when he lived in Aus and Al, one of my cousins from Tasmania is a bit of a climbing freak – he is more monkey/rock wallaby than human, KWIM? Erica and Ash, well they are just a poster couple for outdoor pursuits. I, I just take photos. Back to the climbing though. We all piled into my car and headed to that Gorilla looking mountain in the Glasshouses called Tibrogargan to a place called the Slider Wall for climbing, photos, mozzie bites, talking, more climbing and even more photos.

The first climb we did was Such A Nice Monster, Al walked up it first and put in the top rope anchor before Karl, Erica and Ash all followed suit. I had no intention of even trying it but I was there, I had a harness with me. I gave it a go in joggers and an infected foot, I didn’t get to the top but still I gave it a go and to some point enjoyed it. They then moved up a little and did The Most Monstrous Monster. It was really cool to see Al just walked/scamper up the face. After a little bit more climbing and more photos we moved up the Upper Slider Wall for great views and more climbing for the boys.

We managed to get to the car a few minutes before dark which was very handy, then it was a trip to the drive-throu for some beers and back to The Block for dinner with the Tasmanian crew. Sometime later when it was late, Karl and I made the drive home to Kedron tired and happy. I don’t know when I will go climbing again but I did have fun.

PS, I guess I should share some photos shouldn’t I?

South Bald Rock and more

The Friday after Iceland arrived, Mum, Karl, Matthew and I headed off to what used to be our playground (the Girraween area) to do a little bit of a walk. We would be walking into South Bald Rock, where we would camp for two nights and spend the days climbing South Bald Rock, Middle Rock and West Bald Rock. On our way up to Bald Rock, we stopped at The Bramble Patch for some jam tasting, waffle eating and berry picking.

Berry Waffles Berry goodness

Once we got to the Bald Rock NP car park, we finished packing our packs and headed off up the track, trying to ignore those rain clouds looming above us. We couldn’t ignore those clouds for too long as we ended up with a decent shower as we walked. Though as Mum says she much prefers for it rain when you have already started walking as you keep going but starting to walk when it is raining is another matter. On the walk in, Karl was very lucky and managed to see a Lyre Bird on one of the granite slabs we walked over! After a couple of hours of ups, downs, arounds and over granite slabs (with a food break) we arrived at our camp site. I managed to get a leech attack with in about ohh 30 seconds of arriving at our campsite (more on that later). Mum pretty quickly scrambled up onto South Bald Rock for a play. Matthew, Karl and I started looking at which patch of ground would be the most suitable to camp on. M & K picked their spot on a nice clean leafless piece of grass and put up their fly. Mum eventually came down off the rock and then we cleared leaves away and put up our fly.

By this stage food was pretty high up on our list of wants and that meant it was time to break out the Optimus and cook the spag bol and take some photos.

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With storm clouds on the horizon and a mysterious boom noise sounding in a regular pattern, it was time for bed. Thankfully the rain never came and when we woke up in the morning, it was pleasantly cloudy. Once breakfast was had and bags packed for the day walk we marched off down the road and onwards to West Bald Rock.

Along the way we found a birds nest with a little silver dew drop in.
Some Rock Orchids
Two men walking in front of us
A ground orchid
Some wattle, that smelt like heaven
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Some very pretty ballet skirt flowers
Lots of cassurinas
an interesting twig

After scrambling up some granite slabs we found ourself on the top of West Bald Rock.
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Then it was back down and around the track a little bit to the entry point to Middle Rock. Matthew stayed on the road minding the packs and the rest of us went up. We didn’t get to the top but had a great time as far as we did get.
Looking back at West Bald Rock
Now on Middle.
Middle Rock Middle Rock Middle Rock Middle Rock Karl on top of Middle Rock

We then got some water from the nicest creek, the water was soo clear and fresh. Then back up the road to the nice looking rock for lunch.

Matthew at this time discovered he had a Leech on him, that was quickly removed and he set about cremating the Leech….
Matthew cremating a leech

When we returned to camp, we had a little break before going up South Bald Rock – total peak baggers we are, 1 attempt and 2 mountains in a day. In this little break, I gummed on a yummy piece of Voodooo Mint Rocky Road, mmm and Karl took a series of photos.
Eating Rocky Road

Then we started up South Bald Rock, with an email from a friend of Mum’s telling us how to get to the cave. However we didn’t make it to the cave as when we first started we mixed up the directions with what we saw. We did eventually find the entrance to the caves but due to the lighting and thunder on the horizon we thought we better play it safe and save exploring the cave system till next time.

South Bald Rock South Bald Rock South Bald Rock South Bald Rock South Bald Rock South Bald Rock South Bald Rock South Bald Rock South Bald Rock

Once we got back down to camp, we had cous cous for dinner and then after the washing up was done, we all crawled into bed.

Shortly before 0200, Mum and I woke to rain drops coming in the top of the end fly, my response was to crawl closer to the middle of the fly and try to go back to sleep. A few minutes later, my feet started to get wet and the bottom half of my therma-rest was floating in about 10cm of water….. We quickly started piling our sleeping bags on the therma-rest in the middle of the fly and stuffing anything that was loose into our packs. We then put our raincoats on and got out to survey the storm. Matthew and Karl were on slightly lower ground and were totally flooded.

Wit raincoats and headlights on we worked to get stuff on to higher ground and in a little bit of shelter. There was then not much else we could do but wait out the storm. We walked up towards the slab and watched the water gushing off South Bald Rock in a flow of white. There was water everywhere. Along the road we found a whole heap of dark red yabbies ranging to about 15cm in length having a ball in all the water. When we first walked along the road, the water was easily 20cm in depth however the water quickly receded and we were left with wet gear, gentle rain and a hour or two before it was light. We took down the flies and rigged Karl and Matthew’s fly up on higher ground to give us space to put the packs and space out of the rain. Mum and Karl repacked the packs and just as the first bit of light appeared we got changed, had breakfast and started the walk out. The rain had brought all sorts of things out of the bush and one of the coolest things was these slugs that we found all over the place.


The bush just looked so green after the rain.
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Just as I got near the end of a track a rock wallaby hopped across the track which was pretty cool and then when I got to the car park another wallaby hopped across the road.
Wallaby in the Bald Rock Carpark

When we were all changed and the car was packed with our belongings we started the trip home. We stopped at a few places along the way and the highlight would had to have been the Sutton’s Juice Factory & Cidery, where I picked up Sun Downer Apple juice and Apple and Mandarin Juice – both very yummy. Matthew picked up a bottle of their cider and loved it so much that when Mum was back up in Stanthorpe the week before Christmas we got him a case of it.

The leech bite that I got on the first day managed to get infected and about 12 days later I got very sick, with swelling round the bite, hot and cold fevers, swollen glands and very tender spots in my leg. I went home very sick from work and after a nap, I called Mum who came and picked me up and took me to their house to look after me. I started to get better a day or two later but still had a very swollen gland in the leg that the leech bite had been on and tender spots all up my leg. It was then that I went to the doctor and got a nice course of Amoxicillin Clavulanate to clear the infection. All that is left now is a little bit of a scar!

Christmas Lights

I have gone out two times in the last few weeks to have a look at Christmas Lights, the first time it was just Karl, Mum and I. We stopped first at a street in Carina which is where the following photos were taken.
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We then continued on our way to Rochedale South where Mini Sal (the little brother of a friend of Karl’s) had put on a *little bit of a light display*. Such a *little display* that he won the best new entrant in the lights competition. Which is pretty cool. So cool that he got on Gizmodo a couple of days ago. It was so cool.

Here is a little bit about the display as written in an email that Mini Sal sent.

– It’s all computer controlled, with almost 300 individually controlled channels of lights,
– It’s synchronized to music, which is played on speakers in the yard and broadcast over a low power FM transmitter (which you can listen to by tuning to 91.7 FM),
– There’s about 600 metres of rope light and about 420 sets of fairy lights used in the display, which gives a total of more than 70,000 individual lights,
– The entire display consumes about 85 amps of power when fully on — I don’t actually have the power capacity to turn it all on at once, even after getting 6 extra dedicated circuits installed for the display. 🙁
– The display this year is dedicated to the Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation, and there’s a collection box out front if anyone would like to make a donation.

The display was soo cool. Lots of red, white and green lights, Christmas music and a whole heap of lights. Here are a few photos from the display and then I will put some of the youtube videos at the bottom which give a good picture of how the display works.


This row of Christmas trees was probably my favourite part of the display, so keep an eye out for them in the video and watch them dance.


The introduction to the loop and a little about the display.

Silent Night – I love how the the lights “wake up” in this.

Wizards in Winter – like many others inspired by this youtube video from a couple of years ago

Good King Joy- watch the row of Christmas trees.

Jingle Bell Rock – do the rock.

Christmas Eve Sarajevo – lots of colour runs in this, I love it

The house is on Childs St, Rochedale South, so if you are in Brisbane and have a free evening, take the kids, take the dog, take the neighbour, it is well worth it.


There were flight delays out of Singapore and again out of Sydney but finally a plane landed in Brisbane carrying four special people. My brother, my sister-in-law and my two nieces. One of the first things they girls did when they arrived was hopped on the net, spoke to each other on MSN and played various Flash games. This photo is so much more than just a girl at a laptop, it is Birta, in the living room of my parent’s house in Australia playing on my laptop and that makes me smile.

so much joy

One of the things Karl did shortly after he arrived yesterday was to have a little look through the camera bag I had with me. Today, though he had more of a play with my lenses and I had a little play with his 24mm f/2.8, which let me take this image.


This afternoon after the girls had a little nap, all of us bar Mum and Pabbi went to the park and played French Cricket for a while which was a total ball and I am looking forward to quite a few more French Cricket games between now and Christmas Day. Oh I am so looking forward to the next few weeks! Tomorrow I am back at work though after taking the last two days off for the arrival of the Icelandic contingent.