Category Archives: family

Christmas, Our way.

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Christmas is over for another year, we are packing away the decorations and the wrapping aper and boxes have successfully been shoved in the recycling bin. Now that it is all over, I just thought I’d share a bit about our day.
It was set to be a fairly quiet Christmas in our house. For the first time ever, my husband and I were the most senior members of the family present, with just our children and and my daughter’s partner joining us for the day. Basically, it was just the people who live in our house and who are with us for almost every meal! This seemed like a fairly boring prospect to me – not that I don’t like eating with these people, just that we do it every day. I couldn’t imagine how we could make it ‘special’, and I was finding it very hard to get enthused.
I had bought a heap of seafood at our local farmer’s market and was trying to think of something cool to do with it, when the idea of making a paella jumped into my head. Closely followed by dreams of a Spanish feast with an assortment of Tapas dishes!
I was feeling a little more enthusiastic about the whole deal with this break away from tradition. The only problem was that when you don’t have a lot of people getting together it can end up being a huge workload for one person to try and make a special meal and I wasn’t looking forward to that.
It was about then that I had my second great idea (even if I do say so myself!). I asked each of the children if they could contribute a Spanish tapas dish to the meal. They needed to do some research on the internet and find a suitable dish to cook, organise the ingredients, and prepare the meal.
This task was approached with great enthusiasm by them all. It only took my youngest about 5 minutes to decide on his recipe, and fortunately for me it was a nice easy one (ie. not too messy!) – marinated mushrooms.
Axel with mushrooms
Next in line was my oldest son with a huge bowl of garlic prawns, complete with crusty bread to soak up the oily garlic sauce.
Jayden 1
Jayden 2
My middle son continued in the seafood theme making fried calamari with a garlic aoli dipping sauce.
Zac cooking
calamari
And finally my daughter and her partner made Spanish meatballs.
Cooking meatballs
They also decided to make a gingerbread house, which wasn’t exactly in keeping with the Spanish theme, but was yummy and fun and a reminder of the gingerbread houses we used to make every year when the children were younger.
Gingerbread house making
gingerbread house
I added to the tapas with crumbed green olives, chorizo and capsicum tarts, and chorizo in apple cider.
My tapas on table
The tapas made a delicious, long, all day lunch. We all took turns in the kitchen and just added our dishes to the table when they were ready. We even had little bell, so when a new dish was on the table the cook could ring the bell to let everyone know.
As you tend to do on Christmas day, for some reason I thought we would need more food!
We had the grand finale, a big seafood paella, and platter of slow cooked lamb shanks at about 9 o’clock that night, followed by Churros con Chocolate for dessert. These were actually a bit of a disaster, especially compared to the ones my beautiful Spanish friend sometimes makes for us, but everyone was too full by then to care anyway.
Paella
(This is not my usual Christmas look lol. We had been for a swim in the afternoon, so I have swimming pool hair and a sarong!)
I have to admit, I did miss having the huge crowd of family around that we used to have, but it was great fun to try something different from the traditional Christmas feast. The best thing was having all the kids involved, cooking together, and making some great Christmas memories.
I hope yours was great too. Sharee x

Here are some of the recipes we used…

Chargrilled Capsicum and Chorizo Tartletts

Fried Green Spanish Olives

Fried Chorizo with Apple Cider

Spanish Paella

Churros con Chocoate

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What NOT to do on the weekend

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Don’t you just hate it when you are trying to do the ‘right’ thing, and you go and blow it straight away.
To go along with our new lives in Queensland, we really need to make some healthy lifestyle changes and I have been really determined to make it happen this week.
We MUST…
1. Be more thrifty and stick to our budget
2. Eat more healthy food and less ‘convenience’ food treats
3. Be more active

Oh, it all went so badly wrong over the weekend though.
On Saturday we went in to the Museum which has just opened after it’s refurbishments. This was great, and free, but the trouble was we didn’t get away from our house until about 11.45, so we ended up finished at the museum, in the city, and all starving at about 2.30 in the afternoon. This happens to us all the time, and it is obviously a recipe for disaster. We headed to Southbank and ended up with pizza for lunch because that’s the best value thing you can get at Southbank, but of course it still ends up costing heaps and I was cringing at the unhealthiness of it. To make matters worse, we then went on and had Churros from the market – even more expensive and unhealthy than the pizza. I’m not really sure why we did this, except that it seemed a bit early for our day out to be over and it was raining and I think we just couldn’t think of anything else fun to do.
On Sunday we had been planning on having a day at home, but it was raining again and I thought the kids would be going stir crazy, so I said we could go to a movie. This turned out to be another mistake because when it was time to go, everyone had headed outside and I was washing the car and the boys were having a lot of fun sailing boats down the gutters in the rain, so the last thing I wanted to do was stop and go to spend more money and sit in a cinema. But, I had already said it and everyone was excited, so off we went. Unfortunately the movie started at 12.50, which meant we had to leave our house at 12 noon and although I suggested that everyone should have lunch before we left that wasn’t really practical. So there we were again, coming out of the cinema at 3pm with everyone starving. Groan!
I wanted to show Greg around the suburb of Bulimba which is near the movie theatre and has a lot of nice cafes and bookshops and homewears stores, so of course we ended up at a lovely cafe/ bakery with coffee and cupcakes.
This is quite tricky I think. The cafe culture is so big in Australia now, and going out to a cafe for coffee and a treat is such an easy and fun activity to do with the family – it is one of my favourite things to do and I know I am too quick to agree to this, ‘just for a treat’.
So this morning I am lying in bed feeling really bad about all these mistakes I made this weekend but I realise that I need to turn this into something positive by thinking about what we have learnt from the lessons of the weekend.
Here are some things I think we could do differently so that we don’t get caught in these situations again.
1. Only go out on one day of the weekend if possible. I find that my youngest son doesn’t cope so well when we do things on both days of the weekend and this leads to him whinging for us to buy things and generally stressing everyone out, which is of course when I am more likely to make bad decisions and give in to treats.
2. Get going early, or don’t go until after lunch. We can do this more if we plan what we are going to do on the weekend instead of deciding at the last minute.
3. Take our own lunch and drinks with us. We can do this more easily if I make sure I do my menu plans and grocery shopping, so that we have food available that is easy to pack. I could cook some lunch type food and have in the freezer, or we could just have sandwiches (my guys don’t eat sandwiches very often). When I do my menu plans I could especially plan lunches that are easy to pack on the weekends.

Food is such a big part of what we do for fun on the weekends – markets, cafes, festivals, all of these activities revolve around buyng food. I thought it would be useful to make a list of activities we could do that are fun and active and don’t involve buying food.
1. Go to a beach
2. Go for a bike ride
3. Go Bowling (more expensive)
4. Go to a swimming pool
5. Play Laser tag (more expensive)
6. Go for a walk in a bush area
7. Go fishing
8. Go skating
9. Go to a rock cimbing place
10. Go to a creek or river
11. Go canoeing (expensive)
12. Go horse riding (expensive)
13. Explore new parks and playgrounds
14. Play tennis
15. Go to a skate park
16. Go to the science centre
17. Go to a museum
18. Go to the library
19. Go to the Art Gallery
20. Go on a boat trip on the river or in the bay (expensive)
21. Go to one of the islands
22. Go orienteering or geocaching
23. Go to an animal park or zoo

Does anyone have any other ideas? I would love to hear them if you do.

I’m looking forward to lots of happy and healthy family weekends in the future and I hope you are too.
All the best,
Sharee

Poor Fergus

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My poor dog Fergus. He has been having trouble with itching for a few weeks now, but yesterday it really took a turn for the worse. I hunted all over him for signs of fleas or any other bugs, but couldn’t find anything. Then I went to the pet shop and they recommended some anti-itch shampoo which I bought but didn’t even have a chance to try.
Last night I got home from getting some groceries at about 6 pm. I had bought some bones for Fergus, but when I went to give him one, he didn’t jump up excitedly as he usually does, all he could do was sit on his bed madly scratching at his groin and looking pitifully at me. Poor boy, he was just going crazy with it. I was really worried about him too because he was really panting and breathing heavily and so distressed.
I had a bit of a mad panic, with it being after 5 o’clock, and a public holiday the next day, groceries needing to be unpacked and children needing to be fed! Fortunately, our lovely across the road neighbour had given me the name and card of her favourite vet. I pulled it out to check it, and found to my huge relief that they were open until 7pm. It was 6.30 at this stage but when I rang them they said to come straight down.
Here is the result…

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Poor Fergus, still feeling very sorry for himself, but at least relieved from the crazy itching which the vet said was a ‘moist skin infection’. As well as the collar, he has ointment and medication so hopefully he wont need the collar on for too many days. The worst thing is that we have stairs onto our deck. He can go down the stairs alright, but when he tries to come back up the collar crashes into the steps, so now he just sits at the bottom and cries until I come and hold the collar up for him lol.
Oh, and when I got back from the Vet, my darling daughter had started cooking the dinner too, so it was all good in the end.
Poor Fergus.

Neglected blogs and busy lives

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Dear Blog,
I am sorry I have neglected you. We have been busy, in a lazy stay at home, do things that you love, kind of way. It gets to this stage of the holidays and I feel like I am really on top of everything – house is tidy, bills are paid, meals are planned, exercise done, artwork is in full swing. Unfortunately I know from experience that it all ends next week when school goes back, and we go back to juggling schooly stuff, and homeschool groups and after school activities, so I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.
Here are some things that we have been doing in our house…

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I have been doing lots of fabric dying experiments. I am going to use these pieces to make a birthday present for my son’s girlfriend. I have just tried a technique using flour paste from Jane Dunnewold’s book Art Cloth, and I loved the results.

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This is one of my favourite pieces. It was tie dyed and then I added a mono print using dye paste.

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I am planning to do some more work on these pieces using discharge paste today and then maybe some printing.

The other thing I have been experimenting with is encaustic work. I borrowed Encaustic Workshop by Patricia Baldwin Seggebruch from the local library and was so inspired by it that I rushed out and bought some basic encaustic supplies. Encaustic is painting with wax, and all you really need to get started is a bag of wax and a heat gun, so it’s fairly cheap. I really enjoyed the technique and I can see lots of potential for using this technique in some of my artist’s books, especially the Specimens series that I am working on at the moment.

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My boys have been creative too. Axel raided my box of sculpture goodies and came up with a beetle and a dog – gorgeous!

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And Zac made this cool bug, notice he has a tiny antenna so he can be remote controlled.

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And while they had the gear out I made another crab and added some updates to some of the older ones.

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Not to be left out, my teenage daughter made a doorstop and this gorgeous bunting using vintage fabrics.

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Gotta love creative days of summer. I hope your summer is creative too.
All the best,
Sharee

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