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The gingerbread house

Once upon a time there was a Great Uncle with no children of his own. He was a kind and fun Uncle and was considered ïmmediate” family. He joined us for Christmas at his Sister’s house and liked to sleep under the stars on his self inflating mattress. He often shared his bed with our dog Jacko, and although not a ‘doggy’person, shed a tear when Jacko left us last year.

Three Christmases ago this Uncle turned up in Mandurah with a gingerbread house he made all on his own. It was dense and full of lollies. It was wonky and yet a work of art. All eight of his nieces and nephews present oohed and aahhed over this house, displayed in cellophane. Uncle Pete as he is known to these children brought with the gingerbread house, his own criteria for choosing one child each year to be given the honour to SMASH the gingerbread house to pieces with cousins looking on in awe. He told these children that they were welcome to try and persuade him as to why he should choose them.

The middling children and the older children started their pleas. Uncle Pete giggled at their stories.

Boxing Day arrived and the announcement was made. Master S was given the honour due to the fact that he had had a difficult year with hospitalisations and was about to endure more blood tests and a sleep study, aged six. He swung that hammer quite timidly at first until egged on by his older cousins and sibling. With one big blow, pieces of gingerbread house went flying. Six cousins dived in for their handfulls of lollies (two cousins were babes in arms and more interested in milk).

Christmas 2010 rolled around and on the evening of Christmas Day Uncle Pete joined us. Much to the children’s delight he had another biscuity creation to admire. Without notice, they knew the drill and started charming their Great Uncle. It was a two day wait this time and Uncle Pete announced that the eldest child, miss i would be given the hammer. His reason was that she was venturing into a new season of her life, starting High School in the new year. She didn’t hesitate and smashed it in one blow. More sweet goodness for most, although miss i and miss e were no longer addicted to sugar and sampled only a piece or two.

This Christmas, the tradition had formed. Uncle Pete was planning to train it to Mandurah and sent his secret parcel down with Granny and Grandad earlier in the week. The cardboard box lay unnoticed until his arrival when all was revealed. Miss e and her 4 week older cousin, master L were starting to get desperate to win Uncle Pete over. First they started with hardships they had faced, challenges they were facing and then miss e offered a foot massage which had him melting literally in her hands. If there was ever a time he was going to change his already made up mind, this would be it.

They shared the title. The announcement was made the next morning and miss e and master L were given a hammer each. Their faces beamed as the other children (minus master x who was sleeping and has yet to experience the magic of the gingerbread house) watched in anticipation for the house to explode. Much laughter was shared as several mouths were filled with lollies and biscuit, and everyone lived happily ever after.



Christmas collage

Because the primary reason for this blog is to record my family memories, it is never to late to record our Christmas..

Such a lovely day. Miss e was the first to wake at 4.40am and sent promptly back to her bed. She re emerged at 6am and was told to take her pillow and rest on the floor of her sister’s room. Mean? Hell no, we were not starting our day until master x arose. Goodness knows any day he wakes and the clock does not begin with a 4 or 5 is a good day!

At seven o clock he woke and sat in wonder in front  of the tree which now housed presents, beautifully and lovingly wrapped. We settled in for some unwrapping but he wasn’t too fussed at first. After watching his sisters, he got into the spirit although after wrapping his first of four presents, he was more than happy to play with the magnetic letters on his new easel his sisters had bought him. His balance bike was left to the end and he was in his element ripping of the paper by then.

Miss e and miss i relished their piles of books, new board games and Big Bang Theory series 4 dvds. Our main family present this year were tickets to see Mary Poppins the musical in April.

We shared our traditional breakfast of leg ham and eggs on the deck then packed up to head to Mandurah for a few days with homme’s family. This year it was lovely to have my own Dad and stepmother join us for Christmas lunch.

Days of fun with the cousins followed. Granddad growled if they came too close to interrupt the Boxing Day Test Match. They were interested in the score and would join the crowd on the sofas, but it was way too much to ask them to sit there quietly when they could dissect, analyse and predict the result every half hour. At least Granddad can take his hearing aids out!

Homme’s parents’ home is lovingly referred to as the Bermuda Close Cafe and the food just kept coming. All delicious, all prepared by someone else, heaven.

Our family of five ventured up the road and caught up with my Dad’s brother and his children. Many laughs were had and we met up again on the beach next day.

Days spent chatting on the canal, fishing on the jetty and watching passing dolphins.

Happiness, good health and good humour, Christmas 2011.

It was inevitable

I should have realised he was being very quiet. I first noticed the stool by the fireplace.

Then I turned to see the sprinkling of shiny, metallic paper pieces, and some stray chocolate balls.

I climbed up on the stool for a new perspective. Day ten and he must have thought that dragging out this Advent calendar thing was too much like hard work.

Christmas bunting

The Christmas bunting seen in yesterday’s post is gorgeous is it not? I can’t take any of the creative credit for it. Sure, I put it all together, but I attended a craft session and was instructed on how to assemble it. It fits perfectly across our fireplace (Christmas shrine?)

Here is a close up:

It is made entirely from cardstock cut out on the Cricut, with ribbon to attach the sections.

I love me some bunting. I create it for birthday parties and miss e and master x have cloth bunting zig zagging across their bedroom ceiling all year round.

Teacher presents

Last day of high school for miss i today. Here are the gifts she took in for her Year co ordinator and Tutor.

Bikkies in a jar (I struggle with the word cookies) and prunes in port. Jars are from Ikea and perfect size. I made the tags and added ribbon to decorate. The ingredients and instructions for cooking bikkies are on the tag.

M&M Bikkies In a Jar

• 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
• 1/4 cup white sugar
• 1 1/2 cups mini candy-coated chocolates
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees C. Line one baking sheet with baking paper.
2. Empty the contents of the jar into a large bowl and mix until all the ingredients are well combined.
3. Using your hands work in 3/4 cup softened butter or margarine until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
4. Beat 1 egg with 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Work this into the flour mixture until well combined. Dough will be a little crumbly.
5. Shape dough into 1 inch sized balls and place 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 14 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Remove bikkies to a rack to cool. Makes about 2 dozen bikkies.

You just layer the dry ingredients into a 1L jar and add instructions. I made a batch to make sure they work and what do you know? They do!

The prunes in port are simply 2 tbs brown sugar, peel from half a lemon and half an orange, 1 1/2 cups port and a cinnamon stick in a small saucepan which is brought to the boil. Turn heat off and pour over 375g pitted prunes in a bowl. Leave to go cold then remove cinnamon and pour into sterilised jar. Leave for two weeks before consuming with vanilla icecream. Yummy!

By all accounts the teachers loved them.

Christmas, our way

I usually aim to put the tree up on December 1st but I  knew what our week looked like and decided that Sunday 27th was more appropriate. It was Advent Sunday anyway so after taking the Christmas photo for our cards and Advent calendar, we decorated the tree. I love to have Christmas carols playing and everyone gets involved.

As you can see, 2 1/2 year olds are less than impressed with being involved in annual Christmas shoots. There was no way I was getting a santa hat on him.

Christmas Collage

The antibiotics have kicked in for miss e, after another long night of interrrupted sleep. Her temp stayed over 39 degrees even with paracetamol and this meant she was freezing one hour and boiling the next. I have to love her beautiful spirit though, at lunchtime today she had not been out of bed long when she said, ” One benefit of tonsillitis is that it is not contagious so I can still cuddle my gorgeous baby brother.”

Given that it is New Years Eve, I had better end the year with some photos taken over the Christmas period. I took barely any on Christmas Day as it was one of those classic Perth 40 degree days. We exchanged gifts at home with master x being less than enthusiastic about the whole Santa thing. He was happy to read the first book he opened (under duress) and not worry about any more presents. The girls were more than happy with their gifts and especially loved what Santa bought – a four day writing course for miss i and a four day art course for miss e.

Thanks Aunty t, this was a winner.

We met with 25 of homme’s extended family and sat under a tin pergola at a long table on the cement driveway. Plastic christmas tablecloths decorated the trestles. We sat in plastic chairs and sweated through a delicious lunch of cold leg ham, turkey and the traditional sliced tongue. The variety of salads were amazing and of course the homemade pudding, made by homme’s Mum, was as delicious as ever. We chatted with cousins homme only sees at Christmas and were fussed over by his elderly aunts.

We needed a reprieve from the heat, and stopped by home on our way to homme’s parents home in Mandurah, with his sister’s family, for a much needed swim. After we had cooled off, we headed to Mandurah for three relaxing days on the canals. Our kids were in heaven playing non stop with their ‘country cousins’. They entertained us with a science fair where we learnt about forces, underwater volcanoes and the science of light.

They kept cool during the heatwave with water pistol fights:

Given my lack of photos I insisted on a self-timer shot of everyone present. This was the best of the lot.

Our Christmas break was filled with laughter, wine, great food (got to love Bermuda Cafe!), watching boats and dolphins pass by on the canal, evening walks to view the Christmas lights, eat at the marina, visit the playground, Uncle P’s gingerbread house, mattresses spread over the house and kid’s laughter.

Christmas Layout

I have a Santa Photo taken every year. Since miss i was born, so that is twelve in total so far. Luckily for me the girls still love having it taken, and now with a toddler again, they may be involved for another 12 years!

We headed off to our local shopping centre last Saturday, on a mission. The plan was to leave home at 8.45am, arrive at 9am when the shops open, park the car at the carpark handwash to have it detailed inside and out while we shopped, have Santa photo taken, shop with the girls until 11am when we would leave to have master x in bed by 11.30am.

I took the time to explain all of this to the girls the night before. They were keen and understood that timing was an issue. They asked about their clothing colour ( I try and blend with the Santa decor) and went to bed ready to tackle the shops the next morning.

Saturday moring arrives and the girls get dressed and ready to be on the road, with pocket money at the ready. I dress master x and we head off on schedule. We park the end-of-school-term-feral-car at the cleaners and save ourselves the issue of finding parking. We arrive at Santa’s chair at 9am but notice the chair is empty. He won’t arrive until 10am. Oh well, let’s start shopping and then have our photo later. At 9.10am I look into the pram which is unusually quiet and notice master x is fast asleep!!! Seems I forgot to include him in the Santa Photo brief.

Oh well. It worked out just fine. The girls and I had a great time shopping and finalising presents while he slept soundly. We attempted the photo session after he had been asleep 1 1/2 hours and secretly I hoped he would transfer into Santa’s arms still sleeping. No such luck. He woke startled and was not interested in a photo. We left the scene and he fell asleep again for another hour. We shared lunch in the food court and then decided to brave the queue again to get the much prized photo. Master x was a little too easily distracted and not so interested in sitting still for a photo but gratefully there was no screaming or tears. So the above photo is this year’s Santa Photo which I scrapped today.

*(Please excuse the iphone photo of the layout but my camera card is in miss i’s camera at her friend’s house.)

Cards in the Post.

Most years I make my own Christmas cards. Compared to the  shop bought ones, it is an expensive exercise. It is also labour intensive but for the past few years miss i and miss e have become involved and we often start making them in the September school holidays. This year the girls whipped up their own in the second last week of school when there was no more homework to be done.

This year I found the most gorgeous pop-up cards in a local bookstore, packaged in a lovely tin box. I decided to spend the money, and have used them to send to my nearest and dearest. Actually Christmas is really the time to catch up with those friends who live on the other side of the country, or overseas, or even in your own city, but whom you rarely see.

I love receiving Christmas cards. With emailing, texting and phoning, the hand written letter or card is a rarity. My mailbox seems to be an inbox for bills for eleven months of the year. So I delight in seeing a handwritten envelope. I love to receive the “group” letter from friends I rarely see, to catch up on their year. I have been guilty of writing them myself and hope I have never offended anyone reliving what our family has been up to. This year I am a blogger so I have handwritten the card, and for the families who would normally receive a typed up letter, I have given them my blog address to choose for themselves whether they would like to stickybeak into our lives.

For my closest of friends who live far away, I include our Santa photo. I love to see photos of their children growing up too.

We hang the cards we have received along a Christmas trim I have mounted along a wall. Already it is bursting with cards, but only one of them is for us, as a family. The other 50 or so are from kids’ classmates. With only ten days to go until Christmas, I am wondering if, like me, everyone else is still finalising all there is to do for the Big Day? Or has the trend towards posting Christmas cards declined? I only completed writing mine today and have put the last few in the post box this morning.

I think writing cards is a special way to make contact with friends and Christmas is a wonderful opportunity to do this. I much prefer it to the group email or worse still, the group text on Christmas Day.