Last Christmassy bits

Top of Christmas cake

The ham is all but finished, the tree is swiftly desiccating, the presents have been well and truly played with and we have travelled a scenic coastal route for about 1300 kms in the last few days to be in Sydney with dear friends for New Year’s Eve.

I do loves me a brand spanking new year. A fresh slate, endless opportunities and possibilities. Makes me itch with anticipation.

Just before 2013 dissolves into a shiny new dawn, I did just want to show you the last Christmas-related bits.

We had our big family Christmas on Christmas Eve this year which may well become a new thing for us as it leaves Christmas Day to really relax. It felt kind of European and somehow extra Christmassy and there’s nothing like a twinkling light or two and flickering candle to really up the atmosphere.

We did the whole shebang: 8 kilo turkey and whole leg of ham with all the trimmings. The ham was, if I do say so myself, spectacular this year. I brought it to a festive sheen with a quince paste, honey and mustard glaze. Delish.

whole baked ham with calico handle

My mum always makes Christmas cakes and plum pudding to an old family recipe. This year I decorated the top of our cake with the cutest snowman ever (made by Sophia a couple of Christmases ago), some paint chip pine trees (the colour, appropriately, “fir green”) and a sprinkling of icing sugar snow.

Christmas cake with snowman and pine trees

This was one of the most treasured gifts this year: a new blankie. Think she likes it?

Olive with her blankie

Despite the slightly Euro feel to this year’s celebrations, we went with an Australian bush Christmas theme for the table eating. Mum and I spray-painted gum leaves and gum nuts silver which combined with the minty greens and coral of fresh gum and blossoms made a beautiful centre-piece.

Gum tree Christmas table centre piece

The girls made gifts for each other and this year Sophia’s form Olive was, well, unintentionally hilarious.

The only thing Olive loves more than baby dolls is the thought of herself as a baby. So we combined the two. I printed a photo of Olive’s baby face onto some fabric and then Sophia drew in the other details. After that we cut it out, I sewed it together and Sophia stuffed it. I should have left a slightly larger seam allowance around the head of the doll. Because this is not what Olive looked like as a babe!

Olive doll sibling present

The irony is that her head was more like a pumpkin than this pin-headed weirdo would have you believe.

From this angle she looks slightly closer to herself. But still like an alien.

Olive doll

I made a desultory attempt to talk Soph into us making another but she was happy with it. And, more importantly, as the next photo attests, Olive was delighted. I love the way Soph is looking at her to gauge her reaction.

Olive opening her sibling present

Olive did remarkably well despite her enormous cast in decorating this mug for her big sister using ceramic pens. Sophia fancies herself quite the tea drinker (even though the tea is never actually consumed in any vaster quantities than a sip or two) so she was thrilled to have her very own cup for that purpose.

Sophia's sibling present mug

Last of all, I wanted to show you these sweet little panforte. A heavily spiced dense cake, I used to overdose on these regularly when we lived in Italy. This was my first go at making them myself and they worked beautifully. And my kitchen smelled like Christmas on a stick from grinding all the fresh spices: whole nutmeg, cinnamon sticks, cardamom seeds and vanilla pods.

Panforte

Panforte in little cake tin

wrapped this one as a gift for a girlfriend and put it on the Christmas-set the table just to get quick shot but next year I think I might try to make a heap of these in advance and use them as take-home place settings. Tell her she’s dreaming….sighs a voice in the background!

Homemade panettone

See you on the flip side my darlings. Have a fabulous start to 2014.

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Christmases past

First living wreath

Every year I do it. Get over-excited. Plan too much. End up feeling a bit less jolly and a bit more postal.

Edge of fabric cracker

Not doing it this year.

Gingerbread house - front view

I do have a few things planned – I mean a girl can’t just go cold Christmas turkey now can she?

Christmas drinks invitations and Christmasy polar bear

But mainly I’m just trying to be present. In each moment. And yes, I know how trite that sounds but I am still committed to doing it because I think it is worthwhile.

Cream velvet bow on golden Christmas tree decoration

And my window of opportunity to have little girls looking at the Elf on the Shelf in wonder is swiftly closing.

Christmas Tea light, vintage bauble and shelf elf

In fact, the older one already maintains that she’s sure the elf comes from Ebay and not the North Pole.

Close-up of jingle bells on Olive's stocking

You have to believe to receive, I say. And that puts paid to her scepticism. Out loud, at least.

Cracker

In the meantime I’ve been looking back through some of my posts from past Christmases. I’m re-posting some of my favourite projects and hope they might give you some festive inspiration…or just provide a bit of xmas eye-candy at the very least.

Christmas Card - bunting

Click on the “Christmas ” in the righthand sidebar to see all these and many more Christmas posts. There aren’t really tutorials for most of these but if you want any details , drop me an email (on the contacts page above) and I’ll be very happy to oblige you with  a quick set of instructions.

Christmas candy cane lollipps

I love the wintery-ness of a Northern hemisphere Christmas. Which is completely at odds with the searing heat of antipodean celebrations.

Tolkien's Father Christmas Letters - Polar Bear's Accident

Don’t get me wrong, I relish everything about an Australian Christmas but I simply cannot help but emblazon things with snowflakes. Feels so wrong and yet I can’t stop.  Christmas crack.

Jube wreath close up with description

This cosy Christmas in July was a natural progression for one so taken with the thought of roaring fires and snow-trimmed windows.

Christmas table by candlelight

There’s a white Christmas in our near future. I feel it in me waters.

Starlight mint bauble with description

What about you, my darlings. Grand Christmas project plans? I love to live vicariously so let me know in the comments if you feel inclined. Oh go on, do.

Starlight mint LED lights

Stirring the plum pudding: a Christmas tradition

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My mum makes the Christmas cakes and the Christmas puddings every year. On the afternoon of the day she devotes to this mammoth baking drive, I take the girls to my parent’s house and we all help to add the final handfuls of fruit mince and have a stir. It’s a tradition we started when Sophia was a baby. I cherish the ritual.

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Not least because mum does all the hard work and I just get to stir and eat the delicious results for the first three months of the new year.

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The pudding is a very, very old recipe, the origins of which are lost in the culinary mists of generations past but which is really the most delicious on earth.

The Christmas cake, though, is made to a recipe from one of Betty’s cookbooks. It’s a Margaret Fulton compendium, a name which my Australian readers will know well. Margaret, now in her 90s, is one of our culinary treasures.

I love the spatters and stains; faded testaments to decades of use.

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But my favourite is the annotations left by both Betty and my mum.

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Little hints and tips, instructions to counteract the vagaries of the different ovens the cakes have been cooked in over the years, and even notes recording for whom the cakes were baked.

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It’s a tangible, edible link down through the generations of our family.

I made a gentle suggestion about next year but mum’s far from ready to hand the making over to me. She says it would make her feel like she’s just shy of dropping off the perch. And we can’t have that.

It’s just as well really. I would totally burn the bottom.

Edible Christmas

This is verging on the ridiculous but my window of opportunity with our little girls is increasingly narrow. Accordingly, everything on our tree, bar the actual tree itself, edible. A kind of Christmasy, sugar-plum wonderland.

I ordered three bulk lots of gorgeous US-style starlight mints and got to work with my trusty hot glue gun. It’s not the Christmas season without hot glue burns I always say.

Starlight mint bauble with description

Some colourful wreaths.

Jube wreath close up with description

They were sticky little buggers to make.

Threading jube wreath

And some more colour.

Licorice allsort decoration close up with description

I strung these licorice allsorts on a jewellery head pin and used my pliers to twist the other end to make a loop for hanging.

Some Terry’s Chocolate Oranges as baubles.

Terry's Choc Orange bauble

And some colourful Lindt Ball baubles.

Lindt ball bauble

For weeks the sweet trove of decorations on our mantle piece slowly grew.

Decorations ready to go on tree

And my little girls were remarkably restrained. We did have some casualties though.

This had been nibbled as it hung.

Nibbled licorice decoration

And this deflated bauble was discovered under Sophia’s pillow one morning.

Empty lindt ball deco

Love it. I would have been worried if they hadn’t.

Starlight mint bauble on tree Licorice Allsort decoration Jube wreath on tree

The tree, though, is not quite as spectacular as it was. The bottom of the tree was not that bare when we set it up last week. It has been slowly denuded over 1o days. The baby Bettys and I have shocking sweet tooths and have not won awards for our willpower. But since when has Christmas been a time for willpower?

Christmas Tree 2012

I’m going to make a few more decos to replenish it next week.

Coming up: the creamy toffee star…

It’s beginning to feel a bit like Christmas…

I always try to do too much in December. This year I’m trying to be very circumspect about projects for Christmas.

You would think after my epic Christmas in July I would have worked some of it out of my system. Well, I think that helped. I’m not quite so eager to embark on a thousand new festive things this year.

No, this year I’m just going to make Olive’s stocking, a table runner, some centrepieces and the gingerbread house. Yep, a very quiet December.

Today in the post office the So Fresh (Songs for Christmas 2011) CD sang me a siren song. I resisted. Just. But think I may be dashed upon the rocks of Annie Lennox singing the Holly and the Ivy in the not-too-distant future.

What crafty projects do you have in the works for Christmas this year? Or is just getting through it going to be project enough?