Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Dolly Delights

These sweet little dolls were a gift from myself to my sweet little girls.  I used the Ruby Doll Pattern of One Red Robin.   The one on the left is for Ess and she has named it after herself.  She has quite taken to it which is heartwarming.  Little Ess dolly comes most places with us but must stay in the car to look after it while we are out.  She also rides around the house on the new Mouse Wheely Bug which Santa left here very generously a few days ago.

The dolly on the right aquired her name while she was being made - funny how some things you create just come up with names as you make them!  She is Maggie.  Little Eee calls her "bebe" which is so very sweet.  Thus her name is "Maggie Bebe".

"It's so gorgeous!" was the cry from Ess' lips when she opened her parcel.  Maggie Bebe has received many kisses from little Eee, cuddles as well, before she tosses her aside to continue her journey riding on her little toy truck.

Do you like my new little family of Matryoshka Dolls?  I have enjoyed some time after Christmas relaxing with my family and participating in some "making".  These are so sweet.  Ess' kindy teacher showed me a set she made and offered to loan me the pattern.  Of course I could not refuse so I used her pattern in Australian Homespun No.64 Vol.9 No.9 to make "Nesting Nellie and Her Girls".  Now we are wondering which girl in this household will claim ownership of the dolls - so until Mum gets to making things again we will claim joint ownership.

"Well, hello, dolly! It's so nice to have you back where you belong."  ~ Jerry Herman 1931-

Also, I'm not really a painter but I have been very tempted to make these gorgeous little painted egg matryoshka day!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry, Merry Christmas!

Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.  ~Author unknown, attributed to a 7-year-old named Bobby

Love came down at Christmas, 
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, love divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token,
Love shall be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and to all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.

Words: Christina RossettiTime Flies: a Reading Diary, 1885.

Music: GARTON, traditional Irish melody 

This lovely little hymn has been in my mind all week.  It encapsulates something special about Christmas for me this year. 

Listen to it here (although it is not the best version of this little tune).  If, for some reason, the page has changed then go to the home page and search for Love Came Down in Titles under 'L'. 

Have a very Merry Christmas!!

"Today in the town of David, a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:11

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Elves

Christmas is forever, not for just one day,
for loving, sharing, giving, are not to put away
like bells and lights and tinsel, in some box upon a shelf.
The good you do for others is good you do yourself...
~Norman Wesley Brooks, "Let Every Day Be Christmas," 1976

I heard the pitter patter of tiny feet last night...

There must be some very busy bodies in this house into the wee hours of the night...

This morning I found evidence of a little visitor...

...or two...

Hmm...some little Christmas elves perhaps.

Oh the joy of the creation of anticipation, of participating in the element of surprise.

What a delight it is to be a parent!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Mini Black Forest Gateux

Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart.  ~Washington Irving

The verdict on the little pieces of chocolate wonder referred to previously is of course that they are superb!

If you haven't yet tried this recipe issued by Australian Women's Weekly, I highly recommend you give them a go.

The recipe I have linked to above doesn't seem to be quite the same as the one I made - just a few differences - like having to weigh the eggs to get other measurements - oh my!  So if, like me, you do not buy Australian Women's Weekly then give your Mum a call because she probably does for some reason (no offense Mum).  Mum very kindly read the recipe from their Christmas issue out to me over the phone so I could make these delightful little morsels to delight my family.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Ess is Five!!

Spread your wings and let the fairy in you fly! ~ Author Unknown

My beautiful firstborn has had her fifth birthday today!

She chose a pink & pretty fairy cake for us to decorate together to celebrate her special day.

We decorated this on the eve before.

We decorated the gorgeous Christmas cupcakes to give them a special fairy birthday twist. 

We gave them a special star-topped finale reminding us that the birth of Ess is very near the birth of Christ which we are also in the midst of celebrating.

We gave our four year old our final kisses before she said she was "going away".  "I'll be back as a five year old tomorrow!"  Of course Mum had to steel in late at night to give my little four year old one final kiss before we all finally fell asleep.  Little Ess was so excited she was still awake after 10pm.

Bright and sunny wishes
for someone special and sweet
A birthday girl who's five today
the nicest you could meet.
Text inside card from Nanna.

Then this morning awoke our precious five year old fairy.  She loved the special fairy costume I spent a while making her.

After enjoying unwrapping many delightful presents stored by Mum's bed from family and friends we spent the morning preparing for a little fairy party in the park in the afternoon.

Ess wanted to play Treasure Hunt so we made some lovely little fairy flowers to be hidden, found and then presented to Mum to receive a cupcake prize.

Our Generous Gentleman helped by cutting myriads of petal shapes.  Ess coloured cups from egg cartons with textas to make the centres (she decided the paint wouldn't dry in time).  

I stuck petals to the cup centres and Ess stuck straws to the back for the stem.

Ess placed scrunched bits of pink spotty tissue paper inside the egg cups to complete the centres.

Each flower had a little fairy flittering around her petals to delight all the young fairies at Ess's party.

The paper flowers all looked very sweet in our garden in preparation for their exposure to the park.

The culmination of our day was the party in the park with about half a dozen friends of Ess's - all delightful children enjoying playing together in the park.

A lovely day was had by all.

Sadly we couldn't easily rest at night as usual.  We believe little Eee is teething as she woke us at least half a dozen times.  Sometimes Mum had no sleep in between :(

Rest will follow Christmas.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Spirit of Christmas Award

Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.  ~Laura Ingalls Wilder

Joy, peace, hope, faith, love, charity, celebration, family - all important aspects of the Spirit of Christmas. 

I have been awarded the Spirit of Christmas Award and I must say I am really delighted about this.  Thanks so much to Mandy of The Old Dairy.  I do really enjoy Christmas. It is a very special time of year. I have loved it as a child and now I love it more as a mother of two beautiful girls.

Here are the rules for this award. You must be a true Christmas lover to receive this award. The person whom you give this award to must also be a lover of Christmas. Link back to the person who you received this award from. List 5 things you love about Christmas and pass this award on to as many people as you like from 1 to 45. But please pass on to at least one person to keep this award going...

I never thought I would be good at receiving and passing on awards but I want to participate in this one.

Five things I love about Christmas are:
1. The celebration of a precious gift in the birth of a special baby years ago and also the celebration of my first baby - a personal precious gift just 5 years ago. 
2. The opportunity to create special projects - food, decorations, gifts etc. together as a family for a greater communal purpose.
3. Time to move away from the regular routine of work and Kindy etc. to reflect and enjoy being together with family.
4. Singing special Christmas carols together and celebrating the gift and joy of music.
5. Building anticipation in children as we create a special environment for them enjoy the wonder of surprise.

I'd like to award the Spirit of Christmas Award to two women who have helped with inspiration as we countdown to Christmas and enjoy festive preparations together.

Thanks Mel you are such an inspiration to me and my family.  Mel has given us 30 days of Handmade Christmas to date at Day to Day with ideas for gifts, decorations and more - for children and adults alike.

Also thanks to Tamar at Tarisota who has given us 20 days of Christmas recipes to date.  Some of these look absolutely delicious.  We made these Christmas cupcakes today with a bit of a twist as they are for Ess's fifth birthday tomorrow.  They are absolutely delicious straight from the oven with a beautifully crisp top and delicious soft centre.   As is my usual practice I substituted the S.R. flour for our spelt flour with Bicarb soda and Cream of Tartar and the results are fantastic.  The iced and decorated versions will be uploaded tomorrow.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Decorations

Perhaps the best Yuletide decoration is being wreathed in smiles. ~ Author Unknown

I have been wreathed in many smiles this week by little ones enjoying the activities as we prepare for Christmas.   We enjoyed making these saltdough decorations which Mel inspired us to make.

Ess and I prepared the dough while Eee was having her morning sleep as I did not think she would be interested in sitting in the kitchen for very long.  Ess absolutely loved colouring the dough and choosing the various combinations of food colourings to make different colours.  We love the orchid colour in the centre, above, and also the marbly pinky red which became a butterfly when cut.

When it came to kneading the colour into the dough Ess was not so keen. "Too ooey!!", she exclaimed.  She didn't like the feel of it.    This led onto rolling the dough out and cutting it into shapes.  Although she did make many many shapes with her cutters.

Once little Eee awoke the dough was ready to roll and cut to her hearts content. She was delighted!  This was new to her as we have not yet taken out playdough for little Eee to explore, although I have planned to make Christmas Playdough for her.  I will definitely have that on the agenda for next week - after we enjoy Ess's birthday party on Saturday.

She was delighted with the colours, textures and manoeuverability of the dough.  We heard lots of "oh's" and  "ooooooh's" and saw many smiles as well as little fingers prodding and poking the dough.  Interestingly she made no attempt to eat the dough.  I am sure she would have loved to as the colours were so bright.  

Eee easily got the hang of the shape cutting thing and placed the cutter on top of a ball of dough saying "dere" (ie there!).  She needed my help to put enough pressure on her chubby little 15 month old hand to cut the shape. But she delighted in seeing the result.

We used a straw to cut holes to allow us to hang the decorations.  Eee quickly figured this our s also and poked the straw in many places over the cut ornament - surprisingly aiming for the already cut hole very well.

The end result of our ornament creating morning is bright and pleasing but more importantly we all enjoyed the activity together.  This is what fills my heart most.  Creating together!

I think little Eee would have loved to eat the finished product which looked like yummy cookies piled high on a plate.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Cherries

This special feeling towards fruit, its glory and abundance, is I would say universal...  We respond to cherry orchards and strawberry fields with a delight that a cabbage patch or even an elegant vegetable garden cannot provoke.  ~ Jane Grigson
One of the things I love about where we live is that it is merely a hop, skip and a jump to the Adelaide Hills. In less than 30 minutes we arrived at the cherry farm we intended to visit.  We were not disappointed as we stocked up on cherries to enjoy in this time of festive preparation (and of course with Pa who was visiting from Brisbane).  South Australia is certainly the place for fresh fruit and the Hills show an abundance of cherries and strawberries, apricots and plums this season and apples and pears etc. during winter.

We were very happy, as for the price of 1kg in the markets we carried 3.5 kgs home to be devoured.  Those working in the shed and picking in the orchard were not so happy however as the cherries were not in very good form.  The day before we had had very heavy and consistent rains.  The only real rains we have seen this year - the December rainfall this year is already over the average (and that was the only time of rain - we have returned to sunshine!). This is wonderful for many but for others it has seen the destruction of their crops which have been wiped out by the rain.

We bought both seconds and first grade cherries.  The seconds cherries had split skins as you can clearly see above but the fruit is still so juicy and sweet and succulent.  They just don't look so marvellous.  Last year's seconds were in much better form than this year.  It is such a shame as the farmers won't get the price they need for this fruit.

Still much of the fruit, even in the bag of seconds, is really quite nice in appearance and certainly edible.  Nothing was thrown out!  These fingers of my Generous Gentleman often visited his lips during the great cherry sort which followed our trip to the orchard.

Cherries speak Christmas to most of us here in Australia as the season is so short.  I don't remember a Christmas table that didn't contain a beautiful glass bowl full of cherries.  Ours will this year also.  It may also contain some Mini Black Forest Gateau if I find the time to bake these also...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas Books

When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work.  I told her I worked at the college - that my job was to teach people how to draw.  She stared at me, incredulous, and said, "You mean they forget? ~ Howard Ikemoto

A couple of simple little Christmas books have been wonderful inspiration for Ess and Eee to do some drawing in the lead-up to Christmas.  It is simply a blank book filled with a few pages to be drawn on, wrote in and simply enjoyed in the days before Christmas.  We cut some red A4 cardstock to two A5 size pieces and folded them.  We cut some A4 paper trimming both the long and short sides to ensure the paper was just smaller than the cover.  The paper was folded in half and one page was stuck in Eee's book with adhesive just near the fold.  A few more pages were placed into Ess' book by threading lovely gold embroidery thread through two skewered holes in the spine of the card and tying with a pretty bow.  (Sadly this is not clearly seen in the photo).
So far little Eee's only has a little red line in it.  She is preferring to place crayons and pencils in and out of the container these days.  Thank goodness she is getting the idea that the floor is not a good place to draw on.  She does love scribbling on big pieces of paper laid out on the floor for her to scribble as she sits.  Hopefully the book will contain some lovely 15month old baby scribbling soon. 

Ess however is very taken with her Christmas book and has drawn in it each day.  She then places it on her dressing table in her room each evening.  Mummy then takes it out in the morning, putting it in a prominent place to remind her to enjoy some drawing activity when she wakes.  (That's on the rare occasions that she doesn't beat me out of bed in the morning!).

I might start a little tradition with these books, making one each year for the girls to fill in.  We can pack them away with the Christmas decorations and enjoy them again once another year has past before adding to the collection with a new book containing drawings and stories of a child a year older.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Painting

Painting is just another way of keeping a diary.  ~ Pablo Picasso

On the first day of school holidays a little Christmas painting was the order of the day.

Red and green were the obvious colours chosen for the christmas painting activity.

Holly berries and leaves were attempted and a lovely effect was achieved.  Ess is very proud of herself.
I was very proud of her efforts as well and went to photograph them.  On my return I received a pleasant surprise.  Greetings which read "Merry Christmas".  I expected them to be there somewhere as Ess had asked me to write the words for her on paper.  However I am amazed how legible she has managed to paint them.

We then moved onto some Christmas bark painting.  We painted this bark after its collection from our morning walk many weeks ago but the colour had faded so we livened it up with some Christmas colour and added beautiful little dots for decorative effect and also to echo some aboriginal painting which would also have been performed on bark.

Ess enjoyed her morning of Christmas painting and I am delighted with her results.

This is such a lovely idea for little ones to do in the lead up to Christmas as they eagerly await the arrival of Santa Claus yet have no school or Kindy to attend to pass the time.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Salad Lunch from Garden Inspiration

Plant a radish, get a radish, never any doubt. That's why I love vegetables, you know what they're about! ~ Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt

We enjoyed harvesting some lovely vegetables from our garden today.  It is so rewarding to be able to go to the garden at lunch time, pick the produce readily available and then prepare some lunch.  The radish are beautiful - so fresh and tasty and they are really sizeable.  You can pop radish seeds in anywhere.  They come up very, very quickly and thus are wonderful first veges for the children to grow (and you, if you are a first time vege gardener like me).  The work we did on vegetables in late September is paying off and we also have lovely bright red cherry tomatoes to harvest.

Here, you can see what we collected from our garden for lunch.  Cherry tomatoes, radish freshly pulled, some thyme, mint, parsley, garlic chives.  Now to lunch preparation.

I had some lovely cos lettuce I had purchased from the markets. They were so good I could not resist them. I should have though, as we have some lovely ones also growing in our garden - spurred on by the recent cooler weather and bits of rain.  These cos leaves I broke into smaller pieces and placed onto a large plate.

Into a bowl I mixed some cannellini beans, a couple of tins of salmon (although you could use tuna if your tastes prefer), two grated carrots and an organic zucchini (also grated), our two radishes sliced, also the tomatoes quartered.  This was dressed with a mixture of extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice (from Grandad's steady supply of lemons) and our freshly chopped garden herbs.  It's these herbs that make all the different I believe. If you don't grow herbs it really is worthwhile starting. They grow so very easily with morning sun, not a great deal of water, although they all have their various needs, and make the addition of herbs to all meals very cheap.  They change every meal you prepare and nothing is ever bland again.  The dressing was shaken in a jar before being stirred through salad, which was then placed on the plate on top of the cos leaves. 

As a finishing touch of crunch, I made croutons by chopping our organic wholemeal spelt loaf of bread into bite sized pieces, and dressing with extra virgin olive oil and some river salt and freshly cracked black pepper.  These were grilled till golden and then placed on top of the salad with some freshly grated matured cheddar cheese.  Parmesan would also work perfectly.

Here is the delicious result.  A very tasty, fresh luncheon enjoyed by all. 

I hope you are enjoying some lovely fresh salads this summer.  I am really enjoying finding ways to use my garden produce. This is what simple living is all about to me.

I'd love to read some other lovely salad ideas, please let me know if you have some so I can visit you and read for some more inspiration.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas Baking

Christmas means fellowship, feasting, giving and receiving,
a time of good cheer, home. ~ W.J. Ronald Tucker 

We have been enjoying some Christmas baking of late.  The Christmas Cake commenced with some delicious dried fruit left to soak in some Sherry.

We then decided to make some lovely home made Brown Sugar Spritz Cookies from my Mum's old favourite Christmas recipe.  Mum used to pipe them out into lovely shapes each Christmas and they were all devoured way too quickly.  Ess and I decided to make some Christmasy star shapes for her teachers.

Surprisingly enough, all of them did make it from the resting tray into the packages we designed for them.

Ess decided she would use her lovely little flower girl basket to carry them around in at Kindy as she delivered them to the teachers. She did look so very sweet carrying out this task (comments proud Mum).

After the cookies were baked it was time for the Christmas Cake to take over the oven.  They take so long to bake don't they.  Three hours of a very warm kitchen heated by the oven which can no longer be used for other cooking.  Just as well I had tea prepared to be cooked on the stove top as it was still baking as we dined.  Poor Generous Gentleman, he came home to a house full of wonderful aromas only to be told he had to wait till Christmas (or at least later) until we cut the cake after it had cooked and cooled.  He did have a bikky though. 

The recipe I use is Possibly the World's Best Christmas Cake ever.  I have used it every Christmas since I found it.  You simply start by soaking the fruit in sherry overnight, add to that a creamed mix of butter, brown sugar, vanilla and eggs.  Once that is mixed well we add the piece de resistance - melted chocolate (dark and fairtrade of course) combined with apricot nectar and apricot jam.  Here Ess is pouring in the chocolate and just waiting for the bowl to be ready to lick. Yes we all had a turn at licking this bowl.  The mix was poured into a cake tin lined with lots of baking paper and wrapped in brown paper to prevent burning and cooked for almost three hours.

Here is it! with most left to be revealed.  Of course the "proof will be in the pudding".

Our New Treasure

Lilypie Maternity tickers


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