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 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.

2 little gifts for 2 little sisters

This year Olive helped me make this tiny pot of lip balm for her big sister as Olive’s Christmas gift to her. Unsurprisingly, she couldn’t resist sticking her little fingers in to test it.

We used this recipe with a few tweaks of our own.

Olive helped me grate the beeswax (I ordered a block of organic cosmetic grade beeswax from a small Australian apiary – happy to provide details if anyone would like). I melted the beeswax with some olive oil and then she added a few drops of orange flavouring essence. I didn’t add any honey as the comments below the recipe indicated it was difficult to incorporate.Turns out so was the orange flavouring.

Sophia doesn’t seem to be put off by the slightly oily orange film that lies beneath the solid portion of the lip balm but next time I will definitely use a proper essential oil. Cowboy sewing is okay but cowboy chemistry, not so much.

A little leftover play dough pot was recycled to become the perfect little lip balm pot and after I cut a piece of Sophia’s favourite fabric, Olive stuck it carefully to the top.

Sophia made these sweet little magnets for Olive just using Sharpies (permanent textas) and a sheet of magnetic paper.

There is always a risk that sibling gifts will be received with this kind of reaction:

That picture CRACKS ME UP every time. It’s from this spot-on post on the trouble with handmade sibling gifts on the lovely Sugar City Journal blog.

We scored a win this year as my girls anticipated and received each other’s gifts with genuine mutual delight.

But I just know there is a photo like the one above in our future.

Handmade gifts of Christmas 2010

This was our bench around 10.30 Christmas morning. Half eaten panettone (our Christmas breakfast tradition), two trifles ready to go and some wilted yet still passable (a bit like me?) hydrangeas.

As usual I had grand plans to make grand gifts for one and all. But it seemed that before I could say “what the fa la la la la” we were a week off Christmas and my plans, as usual, had to be squashed into more manageable portions.

That said, we did manage a few handmade things. The most important ones were the gifts the girls made for each other.

This is a tradition I initiated last year (as part of my wider attempt to force my girls to be BFFs) and while Olive got a break last year (11 months was just a tad too young) this year she was well and truly ready to be initiated into her mother’s world of crazy schemes.

Given Olive is not yet 2, I  thought simple might be best. So we decided we would whip up a little homemade softness in a bottle for her big sis.

Sophia bugs me quite a lot to let her wear little bits of makeup – some lippy here, some eyeshadow there. It makes me really uncomfortable and I usually refuse. witBecause she’s 5 for chrissakes. But I know she has had makeup sessions with a relative who shall remain nameless (although my mum never reads this blog so I don’t know why I’m bothering) and who apparently sees nothing wrong with a 5 year old looking like some kind of macabre, tiny  painted lady.

I rarely wear makeup although the one bit I do wear on a daily basis (other than moisturiser and sunscreen) is a tiny splodge of cover up on three annoying red spots on my face. So I feel I can safely say she doesn’t get her desire to slap a face on from me.

Anyway, the point is, I thought long and hard about whether mixing up some homemade moisturiser was appropriate for her or whether it too constituted something that was just too old for a such a little girl – no matter how much I knew she’d love it.

In the end, I decided it was a relatively harmless way for her little sister to give her something she would think was really special and bit grown up while not really conceding too much ground.

It was a simple mix of mild Sorbolene cream, a few drops of my perfume and a generous dollop of skin-safe glitter. Olive stirred it all up and then decorated a fabric label to go on the jar I had bought to decant the concoction into.

Sophia was so delighted when she opened it. And Olive was genuinely proud of her present which was so very swee-. And, funnily enough, she’s only used it twice in the 2 weeks or so since she’s had it. So as it turns out I needn’t have worried about her moisturising herself until she was too slippery to grab a hold of.

Sophia’s present for Olive, these jingly ribbon thingies, was quick and easy and Olive LOVED it.

I got the idea after seeing the creations in this lovely Etsy shop: DreamChild Studio. I think when I first saw these (over twelve months ago at least) she had some with bells on as well. And the bells do make it a delightful pressie for a little kid. We made a special trip to the shops so Sophia could choose the ribbons and when, after opening it, Olive ran around jingling hers like a maniac, you’ve never seen such a satisfied big sister.

So all in all, two very successful sister gifts this year. Gabrielle over on Design Mom ( I love her blog) has this tradition too. Except she does it with 6 kids. Makes me tired just thinking about it, frankly. If you think you might like to consider this for your family next year – or for birthdays – she has lots of fabulous ideas suitable for kids of varying ages to make. They’re on her  righthand sidebar at the moment – you just need to click the link above then scroll down a little.

I made these paint-stamped onesies for our delicious new nieces who arrived this year.

I also made a few more of these sparkly headbands.

Finally, I made this set of fabric framed in embroidery hoops for my mum and dad. I went with a classic black and white theme after coming up with some  bright sets that I couldn’t be sure my mum would like. We have very different taste.  And since I wanted these to be something she might actually consider hanging, I played it a bit safe.

The fabric in the large hoop is from a very precious metre of an original Florence Broadhurst print. Florence was a wonderfully eccentric and talented designer who was murdered (eek) in the 1970s. Her designs, originally for wallpaper, have enjoyed a revival lately, helped along by the release of the documentary film, Unfolding Florence,  afew years back. I LOVE her designs and will paper my house from top to toe in FloBro when I’m rich and famous.

And I also made some jewellery as teacher’s gifts for Sophia’s kinder teachers but then promptly forgot to photograph it. I do that a lot; promptly forget things. At least I’m prompt in one area of my life.

Did you make anything this Christmas? Apart from an embarrassment of yourself after one too many eggnogs, I mean.