Gotta love these homeschooling times.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
“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.
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!
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,
So, now we are in Brisbane, trying to acclimatise, unpack and get some normality back into our lives.
The drive up was actually a lot better than I had expected. We drove from Mt Gambier in South Australia to Brisbane, a distance of just over 2200km. We were towing a trailer with all our essentials, and in the car we had the three kids and I, plus Fergus the dog, Ashy the cat, a little Burkes parrot called Fudge and Lulu the rat. A lot of our pets, including our lovely pig Ollie, were given away, so these are the lucky few who are joining us on the adventure. The set up in the car actually worked really well. We have three rows of seats in our car, so the cat, rat and bird cages went along the very back seats, just fitted perfectly, and Fergus had the luggage space in the back. The car quickly took on a bit of a pet shop smell, but no one seemed to be too stressed out. Fudge sang a lot as we drove along, perhaps it was because he was upset, but it sure did sound happy.
Of course we had lots of stops along the way where Fergus got to have a run and a drink. Whenever we stopped for lunch, we would unload all the animals from the car for some fresh air, and let Ashy out of his cage for a bit of a run on the cat lead.
There are basically two ways to travel from Mt Gambier to Brisbane. One is more direct, up the centre of NSW through Dubbo, the other goes closer to the coast passing through Albury and Sydney. After much deliberation, I decided to follow the coastal route, even though it is slightly longer, I thought that I would enjoy the scenery and towns more, and this also meant that we could stop in Sydney and visit my eldest son Jayden on the way. It did turn out to be a beautiful drive with very good roads, so I was pleased with my choice.
Of course, we were a bit later getting away from Mt Gambier than I had planned. A few tears, but not nearly as bad as I had expected. I think I had done my share of crying a few days earlier. Both of my brothers came to say goodbye before we left which really meant a lot to me. We didn’t get too far, before Axel needed a toilet stop, and I decided that we should stop in at the Glenelg chocolate factory in Coleraine for some travelling supplies. Lunch in Aararat, stopped to visit a friend near Bendigo where the boys got to cool off in the pool, then on to Wangaratta for the first night. For accomodation along the way, I looked for places that allowed dogs, mostly caravan parks, and we smuggled the other animals in. I didn’t think anywhere would take too kindly to having a rat, and most places didn’t want pets in the cabins, but the only way we could give our cat a decent break from being in the cage was to let him loose in the cabins. Anyway, no damage was done and we didn’t get caught, so that was all ok.
My plan was for us to get up early every day, travel for about 4 hours, have a long stop for lunch, then another 3 hours travelling before stopping for the night. Things didn’t quite turn out that way. We were always later to get away than I had planned, we always had more stops than I had counted on, and so the driving took a lot longer. Because of this, we always ended up arriving at our accommodation after dark and were sitting around eating dinner at about 9o’clock every night. By the time I got all the children and animals fed and watered, I was usually falling into bed at about 11pm.
We did stop for a little sight seeing along the way, after all it will be a long time before we drive some of these roads again.
We went to a great little submarine museum in a town called Holbrook. Holbrook is miles from the ocean, but the town that was originally called Germanton had it’s name changed to Holbrook in 1915 in honour of Lieutenant Norman Holbrook who had lead a successful submarine mission to bomb a Turkish war ship. The kids enjoyed a quick play on the submarine and there was a ‘dogs off leads’ area next door, so that was handy.
Another tourist icon that I insisted we stop at was the Dog on the Tuckerbox on the road to Gundagai. My kids really couldn’t understand why I was getting so excited about this little statue lol.
For our second night we had a bit of trouble finding dog friendly accomodation as we wanted to stay in Sydney. We ended up in a Bed and Breakfast at Burwood. It was really interesting, an old hospital that had been turned into 36 guest rooms, with shared bathrooms, dining room and lounge. They were happy to have Fergus there as well and had a little enclosed yard. The rooms were very basic, but it was clean and friendly, breakfast was included and it was a reasonable price for Sydney. The only downfall was no air conditioning and Zac especially found this very hard to cope with.
For our last night on the road we headed to Coffs Harbour. We were all getting very excited when Brisbane started to appear on the road signs and we watched the distances coming down from the 900s, to the 800s, 700s etc. By Coffs Harbour it was in the 400s and it was very tempting to just keep going, but it was dark and late, so we stopped for the night. Very beautiful caravan park in a lovely spot, it was such a pity that we didn’t have time to explore.
I was aiming for us to leave at 6am the next day to try and make it to Brisbane before our furniture, but we couldn’t resist a quick walk in the beach first.
Last day on the road and we were all pretty excited. That last 100km seemed to take forever, but finally we pulled into our street. Or road was full of furniture trucks, one delivering our furniture, and another one at the same time removing the rental furniture that my husband Greg had been using for the last 3 months. It was all a bit chaotic, but it didn’t matter, we had done it, finally we had arrived and our family was back together again. Now the adventure really begins.