Day 10 NaBloPoMo: Getting ready for Christmas

As usual I have left if fairly late to do special things in preparation for Christmas.

Dangle moose

As a kid, there wasn’t much preparation and I didn’t learn to get into a routine more than a few days before the day! My parents and I lived in a coastal town hundreds and thousands of kilometres from any family- so I didn’t know about “Big Christmases” with several generations of family or piles of friends.

We generally have a little Christmas tree, mainly decorated with reindeer and mooses!

Chrismoose

We have a potted pine in the backyard which has served us well for may years,

Tripod Christmas tree

Tripod Christmas tree with mooses

but the elements devastated it during the heat and drought of 2009. Instead we had my photo tripod decorated with tinsel and the mooses!

Over the past ten years I have done less and less for Christmas, firstly because of my deep depression and secondly because our household income has halved over that time.

Before that time, I would prepare Christmas edibles several weeks ahead and pre-buy ingredients that might become out of stock in the shops before Christmas- things like fruit-cake ingredients, summer berries, cherries, seafood and turkey breast rolls. In recent years I have rarely done any of these things, including failing to make my “famous” chunky individual fruit cakes. I used to bake several batches of these every year and give all my friends and colleagues at work an individual Christmas cake! They are yummy things and I should try to make them this year- onto the list they go! [I’ll put in the recipe if I can find it].

Other things I used to do were: making some assembled jewellery, eg. earrings, necklaces and bracelets, to give to female friends and random extra drop-ins; some lavender wreaths to hang on doors (made from our own lavender spikes from the garden tied to round twig frames from Spotlight); small framed prints of suitable photographs as presents; a few larger prints of things people had admired during the year; patchwork or knitted cushion covers for a few friends and similar stuff.

This year I have a list, but haven’t made many things on it! Perhaps I’d better do more than just start on two things and attempt to finish a few, LOL! I have the makings of a sewn vest for one friend (it is rather odd, but it’s her thing!); a sewn clothing item for my partner- can be made in 2 hours; wheat bags for warming and soothing aches ( I have the wheat, some special dried lavender to scent some of them plus bamboo velour, furry fabric for the outside casings!)- I’ll make some long snake ones for the neck and some rectangular ones for miscellaneous sore spots. Both men and women will like those! I also have some felt that I made myself, to be incorporated into a cushion cover for a friend with a new green-themed lounge room addition to her home. I also have several sewing projects to do for myself, which can be organised around other activities- one is a sort of fancy T-shirt with bamboo jersey and flock-spot voile in panels- all cut out and ready to stitch! Then I’m going to dye it yellow because I want to. It’s a bit like a Marcy Tilton design, but not- definitely NOT a copy of anything exactly either…

Tomorrow I will buy the ingredients for the mini Christmas Cakes, provided the shops still have some of the glace fruits involved. I’ve found the recipe, which is adapted from one in Gourmet Traveller magazine many years ago- he exact source lost in the mists of time! (Da-da da-dahhh…):

Grumba’s Mini Chunky Fruit Cakes

Basically heaps of fruit and nuts stuck together with a little cakey stuff!

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups of slightly chopped cashews, macadamias and hazelnuts. You can use brazil nuts also, but some people find them too hard when they cook.

½ cup of whole raw almonds, skins on

1 cup of dates stoned and chopped
1/3 cup roughly chopped glace peach
½ cup roughly chopped glace apricots

½ cup roughly chopped glace figs

Glace pineapple is optional- a few chunks won’t hurt!

1/3 cup glace ginger
½ cup raisins
1 1/2 cups plain/baker’s flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup dark brown sugar

60gms melted butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to slow … around 140 deg C.
Place some patty-pans or cupcake papers in a 12-hole muffin pan.

 

 

Cream the softened butter and dark brown sugar till light coloured. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat for a minute or two.

In a bowl mix all the fruit and nuts together, sprinkling lightly with some of the flour to stop them clumping.

 

Sift the remaining flour and baking powder together and mix them into beaten egg/butter/sugar bowl.

 

Take this bowl off the mixer stand and add the bowl of fruit and nuts. Stir with a sturdy metal spoon- very tough on both wrist and spoon handle, so DON’T use a wooden spoon- I’ve broken heaps over the years!

If the mix seems runny, add some more raisins and maybe a teaspoon or two more of flour. If it is crumbly and won’t stick together, beat another egg and add it gradually- stop when it all clumps and sticks.

 

Wash your hands and nails thoroughly as this is where it gets really messy! Now pick up lumps of mixture, mould into rough balls and press into the paper cups/whatever. Make sure they heap up above the paper as they won’t really rise. Use all the mixture on the 12 holes.

 

 

Slap it into the oven- don’t use fan-forced for very long as it will dry them out too much. After 20 minutes, take a look. Turn oven 5 degrees up or down to get them finished in roughly 30 minutes total. ·They burn easily because of all the fruit and brown sugar. You can go to around 40 minutes if your oven is a bit dodgy but be careful or you’ll end up with something you cannot cut or bite!

Serve them on their own with tea, coffee and optional whisky or sherry! We sometimes serve them chopped in half as a whole one can be difficult to eat in one sitting, especially when you’ve been indulging in all the other Chrissy stuff!

NB. Don’t give them to great grandmama who has false teeth!

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New Year’s Day 12 noon

Last night no alcohol- this morning, no hangover- yayy!! However, we had to get up early as Bridie and AJ were off to drive to Melbourne and subsequently Zeehan, Tasmania. Bridie has gone for a short but indefinite stay, summoned by her old friend Alan who needs company as he goes through the last stages of bone cancer- very sad. AJ has gone to drive the Jeep with caravan and dog in tow so Bridie has some accommodation at various times. AJ will fly back to the mainland in a few days to resume her uranium-mining job at Roxby Downs.
It has been a busy time having them stay 3 months, with one on the family room sofa and the other on a new chair sofa in the front room! We all thought they would only stay a few weeks originally but the job market was not very bright for either of them for a while. Now AJ has the mining job (after training to be both a heavy-rigid vehicle driver and a security guard) and Bridie has as much part-time work as she can handle with a “helping hand” agency looking after the disabled.
During this time I managed to complete a semester of my Masters in Public Health, although I had nowhere to study quietly and do my assignments- didn’t do quite as well as expected, but ended up with a Credit anyway.
My mood is a lot better than it was 3 months ago, although it took a few dives under the stress of coping with extra people in the house 24 hours a day! I know it was a big ask of myself to cope with house guests when I’m not wildly OK myself- but I could hardly leave them homeless- I would expect other people to look after me in a similar situation!
I think the cats will be relieved to have their humans back unaccompanied! Poor Moggsy has been extra shy about coming into the house for food- if she hears Bridie’s voice approaching while she’s feeding she runs and won’t return to finish her meal. Consequently she’s lost some weight- which isn’t all bad! Bendix adapted reasonably quickly but has been a little ratty at times- he was disappointed that Kevin was a dog and not a cat as he wanted to play with him on an equal basis! Moustiers thought Bridie and AJ ALWAYS lived here, and only haunted us in bed at night as she always did- why she couldn’t haunt AJ more often I don’t know!
Our back garden is somehow surviving the 40degC days, although the magnolia tree is burnt again and another cypress pine lost its top in a whippy breeze. The petunias are mostly OK in their pots and starting to flower, we have a pot tomato thriving, some chives and a few pigface ground covers. The cumquats are greener than last year, but not very healthy yet. I wish they’d come good- perhaps they need root pruning and larger pots?
The atrium plants are OK- tuberous begonias are starting to flower and the liliums have finished. the camellias seem to be withstanding the heat as long as we put the sprayers on often to keep the air moist. I bought some colourful resin pots from Ikea but haven’t managed to plant anything in them. They are supposed to be standing in 2 neat rows on the plant stand in the atrium so we have something colourful at eye level! Fingers crossed- I still have to drill holes in the bases for drainage.
So life goes on at Number 13 and we hope 2010 will be happier and healthier. I’ll put in a big wish for WEALTHIER! Greedy me- but I would like to go back to my old way of living with a minimum of money worry! I don’t want to live in luxury- especially the sort of thing that is publicised as “luxurious celebrity-style”- no gold taps for me- just let me pay the bills on time and go to the movies occasionally!