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All is calm

It’s Christmas morning here, and it’s been raining all night and has now settled into a light, continuous drizzle. I’m enjoying it — it’s so quiet and peaceful and to be honest, it’s a lovely change from the roasting hot Christmases we sometimes get.

But my Milly-dog is not impressed. She’s not a big fan of rain. She’s glooming on the rug, watching out the window, waiting for the rain to stop so she can go outside and protect me from birds and cats.

It’s unusually quiet. Not only is there very little traffic, most of my neighbors have already gone away for the holidays. It’s pretty standard here for people to get 4 weeks holiday with pay, and a lot of people take them at Christmas. The school and university holidays are even longer. And it being summer,  a lot of people head for the beach.

Most of my childhood Christmases were spent at the beach, firstly staying in a caravan with a canvas annexe, and later in our small beach house. This photo of a little girl making a driftwood Christmas tree is very much how I remember things. (I found the photo years ago, and have no idea where I got it from, so I can’t give you the source, sorry. )

I used to spend almost every day at the beach, getting up at dawn and racing to see what the sea had washed up. I used to collect shells and driftwood and other pretty things— I still do. I think I’m a born beachcomber. And apart from coming back to the van for meals, I pretty much stayed at the beach all day until I went to bed.

Happy memories.
I hope you can make some happy memories this Christmas.

Seasons Greetings

Hi all, here is my annual home-made seasons greeting card for you all. After this I’ll be posting it on FB and sending it out in a quick newsletter, as well as emailing it to friends. Thanks so much for reading and subscribing to my blog, for reading my books, and for reviewing and/or rating them. I really appreciate it.

The photo is of flannel flowers, which are native Australian wildflowers. When I was a kid, the land around our holiday house was all native plants. I used to pick flannel flowers — carefully and with scissors. Not many because Mum limited the number I picked, explaining we needed to protect the flowers so they could flourish. I used to press them and stick them on a card. I haven’t changed much, have I?

Sadly, that stretch of native vegetation got bulldozed and the land was “developed” which means someone built a hundred houses on it. No more flannel flowers, no more native vegetation, no more indigenous fauna. But the flannel flower lives on. You can buy seeds now, and grow them in your garden. Thank goodness for seed-savers.

Have a wonderful break over the holidays, and stay safe in 2024. I’m hoping for a few peace agreements.

Baking gifts

Last night I attended the first of this years “Christmas” gatherings. It was an “end of year” dinner for a small group of friends. There are quite a few coming up in the next weeks and some of them have Kris Kringle arrangements, where you have to bring a wrapped $10 present, and it’s a lucky dip as to who gets what.  

This year my plan is to bake for the KKs. There’s not a lot you can get for $10 —often it’s just “stuff” you don’t really need or want, and in the past I’ve wasted a lot of time wandering through shops unable to find anything I like.  

My godmother (who came to us every year for Christmas and Easter) always used to bring a tin containing her home-made biscuits. They were yummy and we always looked forward to eating them. So this year I’m following her example and buying pretty tins or boxes and filling them with home-baked cookies (or biscuits as we call them here.) 

Yesterday my KK was a tin of acetani biscuits, which I blogged about a few weeks ago. I’m also planning to make either Melting Moments  (pictured above) or Yo-Yo biscuits. They’re small, melt-in-the-mouth biscuits sandwiched together with some kind of icing mix — my favorites are lemon and passionfruit. Yo-Yos and Melting Moments are very similar — the main difference is that the Yo-Yo ingredients  include custard powder. The photo above is from this site, which has the recipe.

I also made my first batch of Christmas Crack, which I make every year, and I took several small bags along to last night’s dinner — one for each person. Basically it’s a buttery toffee, baked over a layer of salted crackers, then topped with a layer of chocolate, and finally sprinkled with toasted flaked or slivered almonds. 

It’s delicious and quite easy to make and these days a lot of my friends expect it. There is no reason why it needs to be a Christmas recipe, but it’s now become one  of my annual traditions. 

There are recipes all over the web, but you can find mine here, along with a few other recipes for food I give at Christmas.

I also have a yen to make Garibaldi biscuits, which I’ve never made before.  They’re popular in the UK, Australia and NZ. They’re flat, with a thin layer of sweet pastry, a layer of currants and another layer of pastry. When I was a kid, we used to call them “squashed fly biscuits” but despite the name, they’re yummy. The photo on the right is from this site, which also gives the recipe.

I’m very fond of currants and I also have a yen to make Eccles cakes, which I’ve eaten but never baked myself. I’ll probably try this recipe, which looks quite straightforward. There are more on the web, including this one that looked great, but it recommends that you render lard, and make your own candied peel. I might make the candied peel, but don’t think I’d bother rendering lard. But who knows? If I make that recipe (sans lard) I’ll let you know, because it does look excellent.

I really enjoy baking, but I hardly ever do it, because if I bake, I know I’ll end up eating more biscuits than I usually allow myself (which is generally none), so it’s lovely to have an opportunity to bake things, try one or two, and give the rest away.

What about you — do you bake things or make gifts for the festive season? And which of the above biscuits would you prefer to receive?