Christmas

Back to reality

My baby boy continues to grow.

My baby boy continues to grow.

So tomorrow’s the big day. Back to reality. Christmas, New Year, and now my maternity leave have all come to an end. It will be hard to get back into the swing of things but part of me is looking forward to it. The thing about being home all the time, or being on holidays, is that my routine falls apart. Sometimes that is absolute bliss, not having to be anywhere or do anything, but in truth my house looks less than fabulous and I don’t feel in control. If I’m really honest there was even an occasion on our holiday where I had to borrow a pair of my Mum’s knickers because in my super relaxed state I had left the washing pile go one day too many. Lesson learned.

As usual our holiday season budget was tight but we managed to have a great little holiday away from the city. Rather than pay through the nose to stay somewhere fancy we drove up to our family farm where the only costs are $5 a night per adult (to cover our electricity usage etc) and our food and alcohol. We had been putting aside a small amount each fortnight so the money was ready and waiting come holiday time. We used a Christmas Savings Account from Teachers Mutual Bank which allows you to set up direct debit and a regular savings plan so you don’t even have to remember to put the money aside, it’s all done for you. Plus you can’t touch the money until November- great if you have self-control issues! So our holiday wasn’t glamorous or adventurous but it was amazing. It was wonderful to have a change of scenery and not be exposed to all the reminders of work at home. Plus I relished being a total dag! We were so isolated I could wear whatever was comfortable and even if someone came to visit we could see/hear them coming as the cattle grid entrance is quite a drive from the house, leaving me time to throw on something presentable.

I like to start the new year fresh so I have been going through the freezer and pantry (I don’t really have a pantry, just drawers and open shelves) and using anything and everything lying around. It’s good to take stock of what I have and see what gets used most often. Speaking of stock, I have to share this amazing photo of my bone broth I had frozen in the freezer.

Bone broth

Check out that thick layer of fat with all that gelatinous goodness poking through! Sorry if that grosses you out but I find it fascinating, and kinda beautiful. Chilling or freezing bone broth (or stock or soup for that matter) reveals the fat content and it’s up to you what you do with this information. I usually leave it as is, for flavour and nutrition, but you could scoop the fat off the top and use for other cooking (if you’ve used chicken bones that fat is called ‘schmaltz’, which you may have seen mentioned in Jewish recipes), or discard if you have something against fat. It’s also great to see how much gelatin you managed to produce as this is a sign of a good bone broth from healthy animals. I think I’ll do a post on bone broth and stock in the near future. Let me know if this is something you’d be interested in. I hope to post more regularly once I’m back into routine.

Anyway I’ll leave you with a few more photos of the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015. I hope your holiday season was wonderful and 2015 is the best year yet! I think it will be, I can feel it in my bones. xx

This monster ate all the new growth on my gardenias and failed to return to my garden as a butterfly!

This monster ate all the new growth on my gardenias and failed to return to my garden as a butterfly!

Willa's birthday was right before Christmas. After we got home from her picnic party she crashed out on the lounge.

Willa’s birthday was right before Christmas, after we got home from her picnic party she crashed out on the lounge

Homemade spiced fruit

Homemade spiced fruit

Willa wasn't sure what to make of the green tree frogs.

Willa wasn’t sure what to make of all the green tree frogs at the farm

My husband escaped from work by, ahem, doing farm work.

My husband escaped from work by, ahem, doing farm work

Christmas Tree

So I am really turning into my mother- we bought each other exactly the same thing!

So I am really turning into my mother- we bought each other exactly the same thing!

My Dad's baked ham for Christmas lunch

My Dad baked ham for Christmas lunch

Father and son on the hammock.

Father and son on the hammock

Moet and mozzie coils on the back verandah- this sums up our holiday season.

Moet and mozzie coils on the back verandah- this sums up our holiday season

I made scrolls with my spiced fruit and some chocolate. Yum!

I made Christmas scrolls with my spiced fruit and some chocolate. Yum!

My favourite beach in the whole world where I can sit on grass instead of sand!

My favourite beach in the whole world where I can sit on grass instead of sand!

We swam with tiny fish and collected shells.

We swam with tiny fish and collected shells

And I sat under this gorgeous tree. I think it's a dragon tree?

And I sat under this gorgeous tree. I think it’s a dragon tree?

Willa and Wesley the whippet

Willa and Wesley the whippet

This is one of the large strangler figs on the farm. Best treehouse ever!

This is one of the large strangler figs on the farm. Best treehouse ever!

My daughter rode a pony for the first time

First pony ride!

Yes you still see bikes outside the takeaway shop in a country town.

Yes, you still see bikes unlocked outside the takeaway shop in a country town

Devonshire tea in town

Devonshire tea in town

My husband's aunt made Willa this beautiful apron for Christmas!

My husband’s aunt made Willa this beautiful apron for Christmas!

Mummy's little helper

Mummy’s little helper

I used the left over spiced fruit to make fruit buns when we got home.

Willa and I used the left over spiced fruit to make fruit buns when we got home

A new Anthony Lister work welcomed us back to Sydney.

A new Anthony Lister work welcomed us back to Sydney

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Cheats Christmas Fudge

Cheats Christmas Fudge

So you’re down to the wire and need something quick, easy, and Christmas-y to share with colleagues, gift to neighbours, or top up your party spread? Here comes your lifesaver: Cheats Christmas Fudge.

I must confess the only thing Christmas-y about this fudge is the crushed candy canes on top. That’s kind of a blessing though- it means you can whip this up at anytime of the year by swapping out the topping for another of your choice. Nuts are the first thing that come to my mind but I’m sure you have plenty of suggestions. Crushing the candy canes is a job undertaken very enthusiastically by toddlers in my experience. Stick a handful of candy canes in a plastic bag, seal it, hand a rolling pin to any child who needs to release some pent up up energy, remove all breakable objects from the vicinity, and let them at it. Tea towels are a good idea to protect your bench top.

Crushing candy canes

If you exclude the candy canes this recipe only has two ingredients. That’s correct. Two.

Ingredients:

1 can sweetened condensed milk (395g)
3 cups chocolate melts (I used milk chocolate but you could experiment with dark)

Method:

  1. Line a slice tin with aluminium foil
  2. Place a double boiler (or if you’re like me and don’t have one, a bowl over a saucepan will suffice) on the stove and pop the chocolate and sweetened condensed milk in the top
  3. Heat gently until the chocolate has melted, then stir to combine
  4. Quickly pour the melted mix into your lined slice tin, smooth the top, and decorate with toppings of your choice (crushed candy canes in this case) or leave plain
  5. Stick the whole tray into the fridge to set for a couple of hours
  6. Once set cut into squares and package or plate as you see fit!

Melting

You can also experiment with flavours added to the fudge mix itself. This time I added a few drops of peppermint essence but you could also try vanilla, or almond essence would be great with blanched almonds on top! Just be careful when adding to the mix as any water will make the chocolate seize.

Are you a fudge fan? What other flavour combinations can you come up with?

Merry Christmas 2012

Merry Christmas everyone! I’ve only been blogging my downshift journey for a few months but I’ve already made so many new friends and I hope this season treats you all well, along with Santa! I’m spending this special time with my family and as it’s my daughter’s first real Christmas (we only left hospital on Christmas Eve when she was born) it’s a very exciting one!

wreath

I made my wreath by plaiting the dried out flower stalks from our palm tree (that is the great tumbleweed like thing that falls off the palm after all the flowers have died). I fixed it together using a little wire and tied it on the door with some old white ribbon. If you’re looking to make a wreath next year I like this red floral one over on Hello Giggles. Very easy and you could use whatever fabric you have lying around.

I’m off to eat some plum pudding, take care xx

Christmas Tree Top

I wanted to make my daughter something Christmas-y to wear to the upcoming family functions in the lead up to December 25th. As it’s summer it needed to be cool, and due to our strict budget it needed to be thrifty. I saw a ruffled Christmas tree top somewhere (but can’t for the life of me remember where- if you know please tell me in the comments!) and decided it was right up my alley. I already had a plain white singlet, all I needed was a little green fabric, a star button, and some brown felt. I was able to purchase all three for under $6.

First I cut a triangle out of paper to test the size of the Christmas tree.

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Then I cut three strips of fabric to make the ruffles for the tree. The longest strip had to be at least twice as wide as the triangle.

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Next I simply hand stitched along the top of each strip and pulled the thread at the end to gather the fabric and create the ruffle.

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I referred to my triangle to ensure the ruffles were the correct width before knotting the end of the thread.

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Then it was time to sew it all together! I just hand stitched the ruffles on and used the button to cover the stitching on the top layer.

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The brown felt rectangle was also hand sewn, creating the trunk.

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Ta da! I didn’t hem the ruffles so they are fraying a little already but I love the rustic effect. As my daughter will only wear it a couple of times it doesn’t need to be super robust. In fact I may even take the tree off after Christmas and use the singlet for another project, we’ll see. Anyway I’m happy she has something fun to wear for this merry season and it was oh so quick and easy!

Christmas top

Christmas preparations

Yes, you read correctly! It may only be October but it’s the perfect time to start thinking about Christmas, or more specifically Christmas Cake. This year I am partaking in the Down To Earth Forums bake-a-long. We’re baking from the Bourke Street Bakery recipe book, which I was lucky enough to purchase the other day with a gift card from my lovely mother-in-law. The recipe require you to soak the dried fruit in a brandy and sugar syrup for approximately a month before baking. In the first week you must stir the mixture daily, then once a week until it is time to bake.

I love the ritual of lifting the lid and slowly turning over the glistening fruit. The little squares of peel appear like citrine jewels and I imagine how much we shall enjoy our Christmas!

 

What are your plans for Christmas? Have you already started preparations?