Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The lead up ...

The lead up to Christmas Day is always a full on affair !
This year will be our first Christmas away from family , which is bitter sweet really. Its sad that I won't get to give my parents and family a kiss and cuddle, that the kids won't see their grandparents and cousins , which is what Christmas has always been about for us. But also a little exciting.
We will be spending our first Christmas Day just as a family of 6. Our first day where we won't and don't have to leave the house , don't have to rush the present opening and flit from one house and family to another. We can take the day as it comes, eat and drink when we want and spend the day playing and constructing all the new fantastic things the kids are receiving !! ( I am slightly excited about the Lego constructing , I love Lego!)

It also seems the lead up and atmosphere around town is a little different than what we are used to.
The town and shops are actually a lot quieter that usual, no frantic shoppers and crazy car parks. Everyone seems to leave town to return home (this is a transient town with most people being here for the same reason ; to get ahead in life), escape the heat or go on holidays to somewhere far more exotic than the Pilbara!

Today was a rather calm Christmas Eve - Eve . A Post Office visit with 4 kids ( my pet hate but they were all well behaved for once) , a trip to the supermarket for fresh bread and a collection of our Click and Collect order. Then home to clean out the fridge, put away the shopping and stock the bar fridge with yummy drinks for the next few days.
Then the baking begun (in between building Lego firetrucks and girly villages) . Today was some yummy chocolate balls, mini Christmas Puddings, delicious Sun dried Tomato and Cashew dip and some simple Pasties for dinner (they were an absolute hit with the kids !)
And I have even started to make a trifle!! A trifle!! I don't like nor eat it , however my husband loves it and it is such a traditional Christmas dish, so I am giving it a go!
And how could I forget Mums treat?  Watermelon Champagne Slushies ( OMG Delicious!!)

And now?! Its only one day to go. The anticipation is nearly killing the kids ! They are so darn excited and its just the most precious thing!!

I hope you enjoy your Christmas Eve!

The kids in front of the big Christmas tree at the front gate of Daddies work!! 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Yummy Homemade gifts

Another thing that has quickly become important and part of our/my yearly Christmas tradition is the baking of yummy treats.
 Its not always easy, nor very budget savvy to be able to give gifts to all of your friends or family, however a small bag of treats can often mean more than an expensive present.
I like to be able to thank people for being a part of our lives. Thank them for their friendship, support and since we have moved, for making the transition so much easier than it could have been!

I tend to stick to the more traditional recipes and in the past few years I have made the same usual items ( See previous posts HERE and HERE) however this year I decided to make a few different items.

I have wanted to make a nice Tomato Chutney ever since getting our Thermomix,  and seeing as though my husband made a trip south, we were able to buy a heap of tomatoes quite cheaply (well at least not $5 a kilo like they are here !!) . A handful of other ingredients that I already had in the pantry and voila, yummy Tomato Chutney! 

I used THIS recipe , however the first batch was quite runny, so the second one I doubled the Corn Flour amount. 
The flavour is sweet and super yummy in a nice ham and salad sandwich! 

Other treats I have made this year are ; Apricot balls, Cherry Ripe Chocolate Fudge, Pistachio and Turkish delight chocolate treat and some mint flake chocolate. Ohhhh and some yummy ginger biscuits!

I used these cute bags from Kmart (only a few dollars for a pack of 10) and some pretty ribbon and tags and all bundled together, with some Chutney, it made a perfect little gift for teachers, and friends.

The gifts seemed to be a hit, everyone loves a bit of sweetness at Christmas! 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Festive Joy Around Our House

Its no secret that I love to decorate our home with lots of Festive goodies. This year has been both a challenge yet enjoyable, seeing as though we are in a different house. I usually have the same spots for everything and setting up the decorations is both quick and easy, however this year has been a little challenging. 
Its a slightly smaller house, less cupboard and display spaces and , of course, a different lay out.
Not to mention the fact that it is a super dark house! Making photographing our spaces and different things, especially for the blog, quite difficult. 

Here are a few snippets of the Festive Joy around our home;

We have 2 book baskets this year. This one in the main living area is full of the Christmas board books and the other in our dining area is for the larger, soft cover and precious Christmas books. 

Our tree this year. I am a real stickler for the traditional Christmas colours , so the decorations stay the same from year to year. This year however there are a few homemade decorations , the Beaded Candy Canes  and a few other bits and pieces. These presents are all from family, we took advantage of a car coming up this way to save on postage costs. 

A cute corner of the living room,

The goodies on the kitchen bench. So tempting for all who walk past!! (this jar was full! ha)

And just for fun, some cute Christmas Crafts Stella did at school. You've got to love the funny snowman face! haha

These are just a few small areas of our home, there is , of course, plenty more !

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Christmassy Crafts

As the days tick over  towards Christmas Day, so do the lists on our Christmas Calendar!!
All those little things. Baking activities, crafts, places to see and things to do, some are getting crossed off the list, others just aren't . And that is all ok. I have learnt that you just can't do everything! 

However , here are some of the things we have been managing to complete. 

We spent an afternoon decorating some basic Foam Christmas trees ( I purchased them in a 2 pack for $2 from Kmart) .

I pre- painted them all ( to save hassle and time) so the kids just had to stick their pretties all over them! 
They are so proud and they look gorgeous sprinkled around the house , but would be fantastic as gifts too! 

I also sat up crafting one night to make these pretties wreaths. Again with simple foam wreath shapes from Kmart ($2 each) . I cut some fabric in Christmas colours into thick-ish strips and wound them around the wreath until no white was showing. Some ribbon to hang and some basic green and red buttons glued on and voila ! Pretty decorations or home made gift. 

Kmart has been a hit for Christmas craft supplies this year (and its helpful that it is our only department store up here). I managed to pick up some Foam stamps for a few dollars, and immediately thought of paint stamping for wrapping paper. 

So .. one afternoon, the kids stripped off to their undies (the only sane way to paint!) and got to making some pretty wrapping paper with a few lengths of brown paper , red, green and gold paint and lots of smiles and giggles!!

Easy  and effective. 
Fun for the kids and paper that family and friends will love for the meaning.

These activities just go to show, you don't need a lot of money , nor time to complete some gorgeous Christmas crafts. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Festive Treats

After a slow and less than enthusiastic start to the festive season, I finally feel I have my Christmas Mojo back. As soon as I start the annual Christmas treat baking, it suddenly feels .... right.

Each year, I try to bake/cook a variety of treats that we can take along to functions, bring and share or just small catch ups and its nice to have it all on hand to create a mixed platter. But I also like to bake give them to friends as a small Christmas token.
You can read some posts from last year HERE and HERE and also a fantastic guest post and recipe HERE.

This year I wanted to try a few new recipes/ dishes and these cute Reindeer Biscuits were one of them!
I made them to take along to our Playgroup Christmas Party Bring and Share and they were an absolute hit!! Which is fantastic, especially when kids are surrounded by all sorts of food, and they are so easy to make!!

I got the idea off Pinterest of course, but they are simply a Milk Arrowroot biscuit, with chocolate icing spread all over it. A raspberry lolly for a nose, Pretzels for ears and I used a black icing pen that I already had on hand, for the eyes ( I think its just from Woolworths)

Stellas end of year school concert was a casual affair on the school oval. Take a rug or chair and cop a squat sort of thing, so I did up a mixed plate of nibbles to take along (more to keep the kids entertained!)

This included some Cherry Ripe and peanut Chocolate fudge ( I love THIS recipe from Clare at The Home She Made), Some ginger biscuits ( I also made some from the same batch into a Gingerbread shape) , the Reindeer biscuits and some bon bon lollies (Christmas isn't Christmas without Bon Bons in my family!)

This week, I have also managed to make some yummy Apricot and Coconut balls, Adults Rocky Road (dark chocolate, pistachio and Turkish delight), some choc chip cookies and some Candy Cane Bark.
And just today I brewed up 2 batches and countless jars of yummy Tomato Relish.

It sounds like a lot, but 2 easy afternoons in the kitchen an a whole lot of temptation later, and the food is on hand for when we need it. Teachers gifts, thank yous, small and inexpensive gifts etc. I will share the gift bags when everything is compiled and ready to be gifted.

Are you a make at home sort of person? Especially for gifts? Or rather a Store-Bought sorta gal?

I am definitely a home made lover, there is something to be said some home baked goodies, however the small the token may be!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Alfie's Adventures

Alfie, our Christmas elf, has been having a right old time at our house since he arrived!! He is getting into all sorts of mischief and the kids are loving it!! I must admit though, so are we! 
Setting up his scene every night is so fun and we often giggle through the whole thing!

Here is what he has been up to so far;

Catching a ride in the car parade

Looking for a Christmas movie

Having a swinging good time!

Poor Alfie misses the North Pole, so he spent the night in the fridge!

Naughty Alfie, having fun with some red paint! 

Oh o!!  A stand off with Buzz!! I don't think that fort helped him too much! 

Having a night off from his antics and having a good sleep in the Maileg bunny bed

Watching some late night TV with his Buddy , Woody 

I'm off to set up tonights Naughty scene!! It has become such a gorgeous part of our (early) mornings since he arrived! The kids love going looking for him, seeing what he has done for the night!!

Do you have an Elf at your house? Do you have some good ideas for us too?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Beaded Candy Canes

After gaining inspiration from the wonderful Pinterest,  I knew I had to add these Beaded Candy Canes to our craft list this Christmas. Our girls have a love of all things beaded, as most girls do, and I knew I had the materials in our supplies already.

All you need are a few Pipe cleaners ( I used skinny ones as we had these in our craft box and the beads only have small holes) 
Some beads ( the red, green and white are fished out of these IKEA beads

I decided this activity was better done on the floor. The beads can't fall any further and I was able to be closer to help all of the kids at the same time.  I just bent and secured one end for the kids and they did all the rest, slowly threading each bead with great care!

I thought that I may need to help Angus a fair bit, or even finish his for him (he often loses interest very quickly with craft activities) however , he sat and threaded his whole pipe cleaner and absolutely LOVED it! What awesome fine motor practice!

As you can see he was all 'SMILES'

Once the Pipe cleaners were full , I bent and secured each end and then shaped them into what looked like Candy Canes (well sort of!) 
They were all so proud of their creations!

And much to their surprise , I said they could hang them on the Christmas Tree!! (Mum is a bit of a tree Nazi!)

And I think they look just gorgeous!!

This may be a good craft activity to add to your list to do, an it is great for all ages!! 
They would be gorgeous as gifts for friends or family , or something a little special and personal to add to a simple Christmas card! 

Monday, December 2, 2013

No waste where there's pigs!!

One of my pet peeves with having little kids, is the way they waste perfectly good food. They say they are hungry and want an apple, and then it ends up like above. A perfectly good apple wasted!! 
Don't they know there are starving people in Africa?! Hell, in Australia! 

I do usually cut up apples for them, but occasionally I am lazy or they want it whole, and most of the time they do do an alright job. However not this day!

So as my beautiful Grandma used to say "No waste where there's pigs" , I hopped on the Thermomix Forum, searched apple and decided to put the good apples to use. 

I just cut off all the pre munched pieces and between 3 apples I had enough for a yummy apple loaf!/bread!

This recipe was moist, delicious and was actually meant to have a cinnamon topping , however I just sprinkled a little cinnamon sugar on top and it was yummy!! I also didn't have any buttermilk, so I just used normal milk and it was fine too! 

You can find it on the Thermomix forum HERE, and for non TM owners, I think using a mixer and just grating the apple would work the same. 

The moral of the story, don't let the perfectly good fruit and veg go to waste, recreate it into something yummy!! And guess what?! The kid loved this, even if they didn't eat the apple in the first place !!! 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

First of December

Yay!!! My most favourite time of the year!! 
Have you been busy today putting up your tree? Decorating your house? Organising your Elf?
We have been!

Over the past few years , as the kids have gotten a little older and more knowing, we have developed traditions in which we do at the start of December to mark the festive season! I used to think I would get more excited than the kids, but that just isn't the case anymore and its just wonderful!

So ... today Alfie our Christmas elf returned, ready for lots of naughty action at night time! 
This year , he was waiting outside the fairy door, with a letter for the kids saying how proud we are of them for adjusting so well to a new town and house! The kids thought it was amazing that he knew what had been happening this year and where to find them again!

I know you can buy Christmas wreaths and mini trees for fairy doors , but they all come at a pretty price, so I just use a wreath from a Christmas embellishment pack from Crazy Clarks. It looks gorgeous and no one would ever know it cost around 30c!! 

Last year, hubby and I  had so much fun planning and organising the nightly antics of our naughty elf, and seeing as though we live more remotely this year, and with less retail options , I wanted to be prepared with the planning process. In case we need a few supplies or special equipment for a night, I needed time to be able to order online or through Spotlight and have it sent (just $6.95 from Spotlight if you ever need!) So I am using this gorgeous December Calendar from the gorgeous Bianca at a little delightful. I have also printed off another to keep track of special events that we can attend (like Carols by Candlelight) and also the craft activities we plan on doing. Again, this will make it easier to have everything pre prepared so that we can do them efficiently after school and with minimal fuss and mess (that's my sort of craft!!)

This morning, I also helped each child fill in their Letter to Santa. This year I decided to go with this gorgeous free printable from Wink Designs found HERE, thanks to a tip off from Clare from The Home She Made on her facebook page. Its the perfect amount of writing and creativity from the kids without being too overwhelming for  the little ones. Some name writing practise , tick a box and draw a picture. Simple. I then colour photo copied each one, kept the original and we have posted the letters into their chair backers for Alfie to take to Santa tonight!


Now , last year , we used our Christmas books as a way to count down the days until Christmas, where we unwrapped a different book each night on the countdown until Christmas day, then on Christmas Eve, the kids received a new one !
You can read more about that HERE in my post from last Christmas. However this year I wanted to do something a little different , and there are only so many ways you can count down the days. Otherwise our nights and mornings would be filled with counting, cutting, glueing etc. 
So we have gone with the Santa beard Advent again, using a gorgeous printable from a little delightful again, you can find it HERE. This seems the most practical for us, great scissor practise for the younger ones, no glue involved and the kids have been enjoying the Christmas books being on display. 

Plus we also have a small festive blackboard where we cross off each number with chalk until the big day , and we can't forget our first year of using a LEGO Advent Calendar!! 
Now these are certainly NOT cheap, but we have just the one to share for the family and judging by the excitement of opening that little box this morning, it is going to be a winner!! 
They have small boxes leading up to the 25th, each with its own little package inside. It may be a tree, a figure etc and in the end it will create a Christmas scene. 

So there you have our wonderful First day of December. We have watched the Santa Claus movie, started on some gorgeous Snowman craft, read lots of Christmas books and had a wonderful day at home absorbing the spirit and excitement!! 

I can not wait for what the next 24 days bring!