Monthly Archives: December 2011

It’s a Cordes kind of Christmas, part 2

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“Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree, of all the trees most lovely”. We were in a bit of a dilemma when it came to getting a Christmas tree this year. As you will know if you have read my earlier post, in the past we have always had a real Christmas tree that we cut down from the forest. This was easy when we lived in Mt Gambier which is surrounded by pine forests, but now that we are living in the city it is of course not possible, so what to do about a Christmas tree? Going out and buying a fake Christmas tree was just out of the question for me I’m afraid. We looked for places to buy cut Christmas trees in Brisbane and although we found a couple of places they were both a long way on the other side of Brisbane, and the trees were $70 each!
What we decided to do was to head down to Bunnings garden department and see what we could find. Bunnings had a couple of large Pine trees in pots, but these were $145 and looked like they would need to be planted out in the garden soon. We spent a long time wandering around the garden centre, picking out any bush we could find with a Christmas tree shape, looking for plants with branches suitable for hanging decorations and picking out the tallest things we could find. We considered topiary shaped bushes, lilly pillies, all the conifers, and even mango and macadamia trees. In the end we settled on a nice little Daintree Rainforest pine for $12. They had a big one of these pines there and it looked really nice with it’s very fine needles, so hopefully we will have ours for a few years and it will grow up to look great too. At the moment it is a cute little baby one.

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This left us with the small problem of what to do with the Christmas lights and decorations because obviously we wouldn’t fit much on the tree. Walking around the garden section of Bunnings I suddenly had a brainwave. We raced around the corner of the shelves and found the trellis and other climbing plant supports, and that is were we found an awesome ‘cane obelisk’ for only $24 – perfect! Here it is in all it’s decorated glory. We made little hooks out of wire to hang the decorations on. I just love it, so glad we didn’t just rush out and buy a fake Christmas tree.

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Ok, that’s the tree sorted out, next thing is the Christmas food.
One of my most favourite parts of Christmas is sitting back in a comfy chair with a cup of coffee and leafing through all of my recipe books picking out yummy things to make for Christmas. Here are some of my favourite books this year.

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My lovely mother in law Ros has given me one of these books for Christmas every year for the last few years and I have my fingers crossed that she will do the same this year because I just love them.
As I go through my books I make a list of all the things I would like to make, usually many pages long.

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We have talked about starting a tradition that we heard of somewhere, the ‘Twelve Desserts of Christmas’, because I always have way too many dessert dishes on my foody wish list. Bianca suggested that I need to write them all on little slips of paper and draw them out of a hat to decide which ones to make lol.
I’m loving taste.com.au because I’ve made a recipe book just for my Christmas recipes, so I can have them all in one place.
For the final Christmas menu I wanted to do something a bit different because it’s our first Christmas in Queensland and also our first Christmas without lots of family around, so here is our final menu…
Sweet treats – Baileys and Macadamia Fudge, Adults only Rocky Road, and Christmas Cake Pops
Breakfast – fresh fruit and Assorted Danishes from the market
Drink – Summer Iced Tea
Starters – huge prawns and moreton bay bugs cooked on the Barbecue
Lunch – Chicken and pork Terrine with cranberries and pistachios, American style Spare ribs, grilled vegetables with almond and wasabi dressing, beans with pancetta crumb and Mango, avocado and macadamia salad.
Desserts – Raspberry and white chocolate mousse, Almond Parfait
Dinner – Christmas ploughman’s with leftovers.

As if that isn’t enough, Bianca is going to make us some of her wonderful macaroons, hopefully salted caramel flavour – she is a bit of a macaroon expert. Mum has also bought one of her amazing traditional Christmas puds that she makes and I am really looking forward to that. We decided to have pork spare ribs this year instead of the traditional roast because that is something we love but never have because they’re a bit too fatty for everyday fare. Yum, yum, I’m looking forward to that.
The kids had a great time last night making the Christmas cake pops.

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They were a bit fiddly, but fun for the kids. The recipe is here.
Also, as my Christmas gift to you, I am going to share my absolutely favourite, super yummy, super easy fudge recipe. I make this with macadamias instead of pistachios. Sometimes it is a little soft, so I usually keep it in the freezer and serve/eat it while it is really cold – I have some in the freezer now, but it seems to be mysteriously disappearing so I think I will make another lot today. Here it is – enjoy!
Wishing you all the happiest of Christmases.
All the best,
Sharee

It’s a Cordes kind of Christmas

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“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere I go”. I wonder what Christmas looks like in your house?
In our family I have really tried to create some of our own Christmas traditions. I feel that these traditions are a really great way for our family to have fun, achieve something together and really build that sense of family. Sometimes they can be stressful and at this time of year it can all feel like too much, but I think it is all worth it in the end. I believe that in future years when the children think back to their childhood these will be the things they will remember and reminisce about.
Having said all that, I think it’s important to be flexible too – if you’re sitting up til 3 in the morning for the 3rd day in a row madly trying to handknit your Christmas stockings and yelling at the kids all day because you’re tired and stressed, well, it’s just not fun anymore. Let it go. There’ll always be a new tradition around the corner.
We have had a few different traditions over the years, but the two that stand out as being special for our family are getting the Christmas tree, and making our gingerbread house.
When we lived in Mt Gambier, every year about 2 weeks before Christmas, we would all pile in – some in the car and some in Greg’s ute to head out for our annual Christmas tree hunt. Now to be honest with you, this wasn’t altogether legal as taking pine trees from the forest without a permit is definitely not allowed, but I figured that if we got one from the road side instead of in the forest, it was really just the same as weeding, and no one can complain about that, right?
Loaded on the back of the ute were the necessary tools, an axe (Greg’s tool of choice), and a pruning saw (my contribution), and the seldom used tarp to cover up the evidence incase we happened to run into some forest rangers.
We would set off out to our favourite spot in the pine forest, and then we would drive up and down the back roads with everyone’s eyes peeled, looking for just the perfect tree. Mobile phones between the two vehicles came in handy, as calls of ‘stop’, ‘go back’, and ‘no, it’s too big’ or ‘it’s got a flat spot’ ran through the cars. Often about this time, Greg would drive a bit too ‘hoon’ like on the dirt roads, and we would have our traditional argument about how I didn’t want him to do anything that might encourage the children to go out and get themselves killed being silly behind the wheel!
Finally, the perfect tree would be spotted, and we would all tumble out, wade through the long grass, watching out for snakes and getting our socks and shoes stuck full of burrs, to inspect the chosen one. Usually they don’t look as good up close as they do from the car, and sometimes we would have to head back for a bit more of a drive around, but eventually we would settle on one that everyone agreed was just right, and the cutting would begin.
Now, you might think that was the end of it, but no, we also had to find a little tree for Grandma, and each child decided that they needed a little tree of their own for their room! The kids and I usually had no trouble finding the necessary little trees though while Greg was chopping the big one and they would all be thrown in the back of the ute and we would head triumphantly home.

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Our Gingerbread House or should I say ‘Gingerbread Mansion’ is another family tradition that has been a highlight for our children for about 6 years. Each year we would make a gingerbread house together in the week before Christmas. The first one was just a little cottage but we put a lot of detail into the decorating, it was delicious and so much fun, and so the tradition began. Each year our gingerbread house got bigger and fancier. We made an amazing mansion and another year we made a gingerbread castle. It all became a bit time consuming, I think we worked pretty solidly for the whole week on that castle! I was always having to run out to the shops to get yet another packet of Jersey Creams or Licorice Allsorts. We would proudly take our creation to Christmas lunch with us – very carefully, and after lunch had been eaten the kids would be given the go ahead to attack the house. It was always good to eat, the gingerbread with Jersey Caramels was the best. After Christmas we would have a huge container of left over gingerbread house pieces that would keep us going for a week or two. Yum, just thinking of those leftovers makes me want to go out and make another one!

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It is with some sadness that we leave these traditions behind as we head into our first Christmas in Brisbane. No longer can we head out into the forest to cut our Christmas tree, and as the kids have got older they we have all lost our enthusiasm for the gingerbread houses. So here, we are on the lookout for new traditions. New ways to make memories. This will take some time, perhaps something we have done this year will become our new tradition. Whatever happens, I know that the kids will always carry with them the memories of the good times we had together as they grew up with our family Christmas traditions, and I look forward to the new traditions unfolding.

I would love to hear what Christmas traditions your family has.
All the best,
Sharee

Reverse that Garbage!

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Well, if you are short of ideas to keep the kids busy in the school holidays, and you happen to live in Brisbane, Reverse Garbage is the place to go.
Reverse garbage is a not for profit agency that accepts donations of offcuts and excess items from industry, and then sells these for a very reasonable price to the public for art and craft work and I’m sure lots of other uses as well.
We had so much fun when we went there, after the initial stress of finding the place and then finding a park in the very crowded very skinny back street.
There are so many goodies – tiles, plastic offcuts, acrylic letters, wood, leather, fabric, bottles, lino samples, even Egyptian Artefacts!

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It was great for me because I was looking for some bits and pieces for an art project I am working on. I came home with leather scraps, glass pipettes, a very solid cardboard box and 6 of these really cool small plastic storage containers. Zac came home with all the supplies he needed to make a whip and a staff, Bianca had a bag of elastic and Axel had an Egyptian Sarcophagus!

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Lots of creative fun to be had here.

Holiday’s over

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My boys have been on ‘moving holidays’ for quite a while now. Three months ago when my husband Greg came up to Brisbane and I was left in Mt Gambier getting the house sorted out I decided that it would be easier if I didn’t have to think too much about ‘school work’ so I told them that helping me to pack and sorting out their stuff would be their work for the time.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love natural learning. For my older son particularly natural learning was so well, natural. He was so eager to learn and always had ideas for his next project or thing that he wanted to find out about. As long as we had lots of resources and books and went to the library a lot, he was pretty happy. For the younger two however, it’s a different story. Their days seem to be largely filled with waiting around until 4pm when they are allowed to have their screen time. I hear “I’m bored” so often now it makes up for never hearing it once while the older two were growing up. I usually counter this by telling them that it is their choice to be bored and has nothing to do with me, because you just know you could give them 100 ideas of things to do and nothing would be appealing when they are in that mood. Admittedly, there is a little bit of lego building, and a few discussions, and a limited amount of book reading or drawing and these are all great educational activities. But mostly there is niggling, and poking, and touching people with dirty feet, and wrestling games that always lead to someone getting hurt, and other things that kids do when they’re bored, and that just doesn’t work for me.
Believe me, I have tried, and will always continue to try, to encourage their natural learning with suggestions, role modelling, providing exciting resources and trying to identify their passons, but this gets pretty exhausting, especially when all your fantastically exciting suggestions are met with groans and straight out refusals.
So, we do book work. We do book work because I need to know that they are doing something educational (although I fully accept that bookwork is about the lowest form of ‘educational’ you can get). We do bookwork because sometimes I just need to make it easier for myself. And we do bookwork because it fills up some of the time in their day and seems to make them use their free time more wisely.

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After three months of ‘moving holidays’ I am really wanting to get them back into a homeschooling routine, so even though it is only 3 weeks until Christmas and we have friends coming to stay and then Grandma coming to stay, I said on Monday morning, “holiday’s over” and pulled out their new workbooks. Amazingly, there wasn’t even too much complaining and even Axel co-operated and finished the page. The new books we have are ‘Homework Contracts’ which I quite like because they have a little bit of spelling, grammar, maths and science/sose on each page.

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Of course we’re not just doing workbooks, but our homeschooling is a bit more structured. We have also been looking at and collecting different seed pods and now Axel is growing some bean seeds. He decided to put one in a dark place, one in a semi dark place and one in the sun, so we will see the difference as they grow.

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Another thing we have been doing is recording the phases of the moom. Although the kids said they didn’t want to do this, they have often pointed out how the moon has changed so that I can add it to the chart on the whiteboard.
We played the game ‘Spellbound’ which is a great board game. I nearly got rid of it when we moved, pulling it out of the op shop pile at the last minute, and I am glad i did because the boys actually asked to play it this morning. It’s a good one because each card has words at 4 different levels so we can all play it together just spelling the words at our own level. The boys can even make it harder for me by using the list if long and tricky words that is on the box – some of them really had me thinking!

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Another game we are enjoying at the moment is the Lego game ‘Shave the Sheep’. To be honest, We have been pretty disappointed with the Lego games we have bought in the past, but this little one is really cute and simple and lots of fun. We have played it lots and we all have favourite names to give our little sheep.

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I’m pretty sure our homeschooling routine will crumble pretty quickly with the excitement of Christmas coming up, but at least for this week it is feeling good.
I hope you are having fun with your kids too.
All the best,
Sharee

South Bank

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I know a lot of my posts have been about Brisbane, and I am going to get onto some homeschooling posts and some arty posts soon I promise, but not today, because today we are having our first day in the city since we moved to Brisbane. We have started off at South Bank which is just wonderful for the kids. They are having a fantastic time playing in the water park and the artificial beach area.

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Meanwhile Jayden and I sit on the sand and wonder why we didn’t bring our bathers to the city with us.

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The boys played in the pools for a couple of hours, then we went to Max Brenner. Now, for ose of you who aren't familiar with Max Brenner, better known as 'the bald man', he is the King of chocolate, and it is not unusual to see customers lined up out the door waiting to order their decadent chocolate fix. Luckily we timed it just right and only had to wait for a couple of minutes to be served.
Even though the weather was warm, Zac amd Axel needed some warming up after their swim, so they both ordered hot chocolate – thick Italian hot chocolate for Zac, and Hot chocolate with crunchy waffle balls. The hot chocolate is served in Max Brenner's special Hug Mugs and both boys were looking pretty happy with their choice.

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Jayden and I opted for the frappes, choc banana for me, and cookies and cream for Jayden, both yummo. As if that wasn’t enough chocolate for one day, we also shared a Choc Strawberry dip which was a little pot of melted chocolate with strawberries, they kindly provide you with a scraping stick so you can be sure to get every last molecule of that melted chocolate goodness. To top it all off, we couldn’t resist sharing a Chocolate Dome, which featured very rich chocolate mouse with a creamy centre all wrapped in a chocolate shell – I was glad we were sharing this one.
With not much change left from fifty dollars, this is definitely one to save for those extra special outings, but it was lots of fun, and I didn’t feel too guilty because as the posters that adorn the walls in the cafe told me, ‘chocolate is good for you’.

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Well, we should have quit while we were ahead, because after this we learnt (well were reminded of) a very important lesson – don’t drive your car into the city especially if you are going to be heading home at 5o’clock!
First we had to get out of the carpark, the same carpark where you used to be able to park for $5 if you ate at one of the Cafes, now cost me a ridiculous $30 for the four hours. Our plan was to go to the bank and then have a look around the Queen Street Farmer’s Market. We found the bank and then the markets with no problems at all, we saw them and drove past them several
times as we drove around and around looking for a park. Not knowing the cheap And easy places to park is certainly one of the downfalls of living in a new city. When we accidentally ended up on an exit heading across the river and off in the opposite direction to our house I decided that we’d give up on the market and head for home. At least we know where it is now, so we can go their again another time – on the train
Glad to get home to my own house, and so exhausted that I did something we hardly ever do – take away pizzas for dinner. Yay!