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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sweet treats...

One of the great benefits of finishing your Christmas shopping early is that it gives you time to make all those little sweet treats that make the festive season so special. Today I managed to make three different kinds of chocolate truffles (hazelnut, orange and peppermint); a batch of Rocky Road and two batches of Snowballs.

The first batch of Snowballs I made using cup measurements and I could tell they were spreading too much as soon as they had been in the oven for just a few minutes. So I made a second batch using weight measurements which resulted in a much stiffer paste and rounder 'snowballs'. If you like ameretti biscuits you'll love these. They are incedibly easy to make and if you use pure icing sugar rather than icing sugar mixture they're gluten-free to boot!


60 grams almond meal
60 grams hazelnut meal
120 grams pure icing sugar, sifted + extra to coat
1 egg white

1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees celsius and line a baking tray.
2. Add almond meal, hazelnut meal and sifted icing sugar to a large bowl.
3. Add egg white and stir until mixture forms a stiff paste.
4. Take teaspoons of mixture from the bowl and roll into approx. 18 small balls.
5. Roll each ball in icing sugar to cover thoroughly.
6. Place balls on baking tray and bake for 10 minutes.
7. Allow to cool on tray then store in an airtight container.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Return of the Christmas Spirit...

I'm feeling very Christmassy this year. I've finally found the right settings on my oven and have been baking every chance I get. I've been shopping locally and early to avoid any unnecessary present-buying anxiety and I've even given in to neighbourly pressure and installed some solar Christmas lights!
This resurgence of Christmas spirit has really bought home to me just how hard the past few Christmases without Mum and Dad have really been. When I look back now I've endured the last three Christmases rather than celebrated them. I've put on a brave face for the kids but in all honesty I've been relieved when the day itself is over and I've managed to hold it together. Things haven't been made any easier by having to spend parts of the past three Christmas/ New Year periods in the Emergency Department of the local hospital with Henry battling to breath after severe asthma attacks (a tradition I'm really not that keen to continue!).

So this year I'm hoping to start afresh. Rather than trying not to think about Christmases past I've leapt right in and bought a real Christmas tree for the first time in years. Surely nothing smells more like Christmas in Australia than a good old pine tree? Last year that smell would have reduced me to tears but this year it's helping me bridge the before and after grief gap. Decorating the tree with the kids is also balm for the soul. It's such a special time especially as we bring out each ornament and talk about where it came from, who made it or who gave it to us. I have a soft spot for two ornaments (a stocking and a bauble) that I made using a 'stained glass' craft kit when I was about eight but my favourite decorations are these funny little reindeer. The reindeer faces were made by tracing around the kids feet and the antlers by cutting around an outline of their hands or stamping them in paint. Henry's was made when he was only one year old so it is teensy tiny and it reminds me how important it is to grasp every moment of their childhood before it slips away.

So how are your Christmas preparations coming along? Do you have any favourite rituals to help kick-start the Christmas season? Any fabulous Christmas baking recipes I should know about?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

You know Christmas is coming when...

:: the agapanthus burst into life...
:: you can finally put the hot water bottle away...
:: the first day of Total Fire Ban is announced...
:: there are butterflies just like this one all over the place...
:: you have an unstoppable urge to preserve things in jars...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Little Dancing Queens

I cannot tell you how many times my sisters and I listened to this album with when we little.

When I was about eight I used to 'choreograph' routines to my favourite ABBA songs then I'd rope my friends into performing them with me in front of the class (and any other class who'd let us in if I remember correctly!). Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that one day I'd have a daughter of my own who would be doing the same thing. Well, it seems some things never change. Today Bella is playing out the same scenario performing 'Dancing Queen' to her classmates with her her friends from the ABBA Club.

Bella and her friends started their own ABBA Club some time ago so they could write out lyrics at lunch time, talk about their favourite songs and do the odd performance. It intrigues me to think that ABBA still holds sway over little girls after all these years. What's really interesting is that it's all about the music. They don't seem to attach themselves to the personalities the way we did (I was definately a Frida girl) and I'm sure they must wonder why on earth they're dressed that way!

They love their Lady Gaga, Katie Perry and Adele too (I'm glad they're not writing down some of their more colourful lyrics!) but there is just something about ABBA that they all love. Is it the music, the lyrics, the harmonies? Perhaps I'll never know but it is a lovely link with the past for this aging ABBA fan who doesn't mind joining in when no-one is looking...