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Christmas and new year’s activities seem so for away now.  As I’ve taken a fair chunk of time off work, we’re now in a summer holiday frame of mind.  Some things we’ve been up to:

  • Reading: bedtime stories.  Rex is old enough to enjoy chapter books, and we’ve worked through The Hobbit, Stig of the Dump and Harry Potter.  I’m now addicted to Harry Potter books and trying to track down the rest of the series second-hand.
  • Watching: movies!  I saw Tangled with Rex, and The Tourist with Mr. Foxy.  Enjoyed them both immensely.  I saw the 3D version of the former, and there was a most delightful moment in a scene where there were lots of lanterns floating in the sky.  Rex leapt to his feet and reached out to touch one that seemed to be at arms reach, and I noticed that all the other kids in the audience were doing the same!  Magic indeed!  And I was loving the good old-fashioned escapism of adventures in Paris and Venice with the impossibly elegant Angelina and hapless yet dashing Mr. Depp.
  • Listening: to Dickens, and I always seem to turn to the Amelie soundtrack lately.  Plaintive, wistful, charming and olde-world-French.
  • Eating: too much chocolate.  But at least the latest new family meal idea has proved to be a winner – pesto made with handfuls of parsley, baby spinach and walnuts with a small clove of garlic and a few glugs of olive oil.  So great to see the vegie avoiders getting a burst of leafy green goodness.
  • Sewing:  transforming trousers with torn knees into shorts, for both large and small.
  • Making: Kirsty’s crochet granny shrugs in small girl sizes.  A fun and not too taxing project for the holidays.
  • Despairing: at the cruelty of nature in sending devastating and seemingly worsening floods to our northern neighbours.  Even more bitter following so many years of drought.
  • Anticipating: a road trip to country Vic and urban NSW, our first holiday as a family of five!  We’re leaving tomorrow, and are still madly packing!

Happy new year!

Christmas decorating is quite low-key here this year.  Apart from the tree, a crocheted star garland here … and there.  (Such a fun and addictive pattern!)

And what was that on the mantle?  Well, when I saw these (from here) I couldn’t resist making a few.  Instead of making felt hats, I used egg cosies that I had on hand.  As the elf population increased encouraged by the enthusiasm of my offspring, more hats had to be made …

I first made several sets of these egg cosies as Easter  presents a few years ago after falling in love with some on the cover of a Donna Hay magazine (issue 14).  Here is the pattern I made up, in case you have any eggs, or elves, that need hatting:

Egg Hat Cosies

Materials: Small amounts of 8ply /dk weight yarn (I used Bendigo Woollen Mills Classic 8 ply in Almond for those above and  BWM Alpaca in Havana for the ones below.)

4mm double pointed or circular needles (for magic loop method); darning needle for finishing

gauge: 5 stiches to the inch

  • Cast on 32 stitches. Join taking care not to twist.  Work in stockingette stitch for approx.  2 inches (don’t unroll hem to measure).
  • *knit 6, knit 2tog* repeat to end of round (4 decreases)
  • next round, *k5, k2tog* repeat 3 times
  • next round, *k4, k2tog* repeat 3 times
  • continue in this manner until there are 4 stitches left (ie., previous row was *k 0, k2tog*)
  • work an i-cord for half an inch or so, break off yarn and thread though stitches a couple of times, tighten and darn in ends.

Variations:

  • for a more tapered hat, knit straight for 1 inch before starting decreases, then knit a plain row between decrease rows.  k2tog on last 4 stitches and fasten off without i-cord.
  • or, decrease two times per round instead of four (ie.* k 14, k2tog* repeat once, *k13, k2tog* … etc.)
  • start off with a k2 p2 rib for about half an inch on any variation.

In an attempt to make the lead-up to Christmas more fun (and quell constant questions of “How many days until Christmas?”), I made an advent calendar in an unusual fit of creative sewing, inspired by one in the recent Inside Out magazine.  I love it when an idea forms and is acted on at once, thanks to an undisciplined hoard accomodating fabric stash.  This was really made on the fly in spare moments, making it up as I went.  The backing fabric is a heavy Indian cotton herringbone twill left over from some Roman blinds made many years ago.  The borders are some remnants bought at a Nicola Cerini studio sale years ago, as are some of the pockets.  Other pockets are from scraps of Japanese kimono silk, screen printed cotton from Dunnilli Arts in the NT and Balinese ikat weave cotton.

As the Cerini fabric had a canvas backing, I ironed woven fusible interfacing to the other fabric pieces to give them some body.  I couldn’t be bothered embroidering or appliqueing the numbers, so I printed them out on to iron-on transfer paper, cut them into to ovals and ironed them on.  The pieces are not exactly the same size, so the whole has a slightly wonky irregular appearance that I don’t mind given the otherwise regular grid of pockets.

It was met with much excitement, though now there is the problem of having to constantly explain why we can’t empty all the pockets at once …

There’s not normally much opportunity for creativity here, but some time off work has initiated renewed opportunity and enthusiam for making things.  Some preparations for Christmas ….

Creative Spaces abound here at Kootoyoo

… cake heavy with fruit and nuts and spice.  I make this cake every year for my Dad, who is diabetic, as it has no added sugar (or fats for that matter, though I suspect nuts are rather high in oils).  As such it is a relatively healthy choice for a festive munch if excess is becoming tiresome.  I clipped the recipe out of The Age newspaper more than ten years ago, and corrected what I guessed to be a few typos (a tablespoon of salt didn’t seem right …) 

I haven’t posted a photo as I’m yet to cut the ones just out of the oven, if I don’t give the other away as well, and it looks fairly ordinary in its uncut state.  It’s one of those cakes that you slice thinly so the mosaic of fruit and nuts look like a lead-light window!  So here’s a photo of a festive crocheted star instead:

Whole Fruit and Nut Cake

  • 300g of whole nuts (this time I used a mixture of almonds, brazil nuts, walnuts, pecans and macadamias)
  • 400g mixed dried fruit (I used sultanas, raisins, apricots and figs)
  • 200g glace cherries
  • 2 tbsp brandy (or sherry) (I tend to be a bit on the generous side as this doesn’t seem enough for the amount of fruit)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups SR flour
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp each cinnamon, nutmeg and salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  1. Put the fruit in a large bowl, add the brandy and mix through.  cover and leave to soak overnight.
  2. The next day preheat oven to 180 degs C. (moderate)
  3. Mix nuts and flour into the fruit, ensuring everything well coated with flour.
  4. In a separate jug or bowl, beat together eggs, vanilla, spice, salt and baking powder.  Add to fruit and nut mixture and mix well.
  5. Spoon mixture into a lined 26cm round cake tin.  Cover with buttered paper then foil.  (Like my Mum, I save the butter wrappers in the fridge for this purpose and lining tins)
  6. Bake for about an hour, though check sooner if using a fan-forced oven.
  7. Cool in tin, then remove and either wrap in baking paper and string for a gift, or slice finely and eat.
  8. Have a very wonderful Christmas full of smiles, hugs, candle-light, music and laughter.  And good food and beverages.  Love Pinry xxx

(edited 29 December to include a photo of the last small piece of cake!)

I used to be quite good at Christmas.  Amusing myself by styling my wrapping and decorations, planning a traditional yet seasonally appropriate menu, baking and decorating and making well in advance.  Then when I had children, there was less time to think, plan and enjoy fussing with such things.  Priorities changed, and I was more interested in creating memories for my son of the magic of Christmas.  I would love to do more and actually feel disappointed that I haven’t as I realise with shock that there is less than a week until Christmas.  Just because I had organised the tree, cards, wrapping and bought most of the gifts ahead of time, I smugly rested on my laurels.  Until now, realising that I have no free days before Christmas (that is, I’m either working or looking after the children) I realise what I haven’t done. 

Despite the advice of the carefully laid-out action plans of the lifestyle magazines, I have failed to do ANY Christmas baking or think about what we might need to buy for the day’s meals.  I have not obtained gifts for my father or brother.  There’s still bits and pieces to be wrapped that I always end up doing sneakily once their intended recipients are already in the house.  I haven’t organised a much-needed haircut for goodness sake!  And as for the shawl I’m knitting my mother, I just can’t seem to get time to work on it.  Since returning to work, I feel that my life is a complete shambles.

But, ’tis not the season to dwell on the negatives.  Good things I have done:

  • took Rex to see Santa.  Yes, it was in a local shopping centre, but there was a spark of magic even there as he shyly sat next to the red and white-clad man and shared a whispered conversation.
  • enjoyed using hand-printed paper and recycled* ribbon to wrap gifts for dear friends.  And allowing Rex to dispense and place the stickytape, even though this was bound to be slower and less neat than I would normally tolerate. (*note use of ribbon and bells salvaged from a certain Easter confectionery item).
  • made time before bedtime to sit on the couch with Rex with the Christmas tree lights on and talk about, at his repeated request, Christmas when I was little. Strangely he seems to fixate on the fact that I did not save any of the lollies I received as a child to share with him.
  • remembered to buy glace cherries.  Not sure what for, but Christmas isn’t Christmas without them.
  • caught up with a few lovely friends.  Morning tea at our place, and a lovely lunch here.
  • ordered new candles (the proper type) for my German candle pyramid, a Christmas favourite for the last few years since a friend who lived in Berlin at the time sent it to us.  (My attempts in the past to substitute candles did not work, evidenced by the charred edges of the wooden windmill.)
  • actually sent out the Christmas cards
  • bought a new outfit for me from here.  And earrings from this lovely lady.  (…well, not sure if this counts as a good thing …)

And still to do:

  • convince myself that it is OK to purchase gifts for my father and brother at the supermarket
  • wrap up a stand-by gift for my mum
  • just get to and wrap up everything else I have got lying in wait
  • try and finish my granny twinkle garland
  • plan an antipasto Christmas day lunch to consume with prosecco, and leave the turkey for Boxing Day at my parents’ place.
  • contribute to our annual Oxfam gift at work, where instead of buying gifts for workmates, we all put in for a goat or such-like.
  • listen to Christmas music on the radio
  • enjoy the sunshine

As much as I love the tasteful, the pale-coloured, the witty and the rustic decorations that now abound, sometimes only shine, glimmer and glitter will do.  Especially when a four-year-old is involved, anyway.  Great excitement as we put up our (admittedly small and artificial) Christmas tree – the boxes of decorations were gleefully opened and pored over.  “What’s this thing?”, “Oh, look at this!”, “Look at this beautiful one!”.  No, there was no way those lengths of tinsel were going back in the box.  And they do look so festive and cheerful, and so reminiscent of Christmases past.  I remember my own excitement as a child when the decorations would come out – the coloured light bulbs, the glittery angels and the shiny silvery icicles.  Yes, no doubt about it that glittery and shiny means special.  And there will be time enough for tasteful in the future.

And I’m enjoying a time when there’s a clamour to open a window on the advent calendar to see what picture is there.  Six down, eighteen to go …

Flickr Favorites

Grandma Twinkle Garland

Grandma Bunting

standing ovation



pears green

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