Category Archives: Christmas preparations

Remembering our grandmothers, Things that have a special place in our hearts, Exhibition of hand made items from 100g of wool, Visit to Mohair Goat Farm, Yummy quick cake recipes

Remembering our grandmothers

I wonder how you remember your grandmothers.  Did you live close and spend lots of time together?  How did they affect your life?  It’s a really interesting topic and one which I would like to explore if any of you are happy to share your memories with me in future blogs.  At a Spinning Group party yesterday I asked Anne what she remembered.  She said she spent a lot of time with her grandmother who loved hats and handbags and always gave her an Aspro when she took her out so that she wouldn’t want to go to the toilet.  I asked how she thought she would be remembered.  She said “that lady whose house was so full of wool you couldn’t get through the door”.

I lived next door to my paternal grandmother whose name was Caroline.  She spoke very little and always seemed quite hostile.  In later life I realised she was very deaf and could hear little of what was being said so didn’t respond.   I loved helping her mash up the boiled potato peelings and mix with pollard for feeding the chickens.  She did once  come out of her shell, so to speak, when she told me that when she was at school the other kids used to chant:  “Car, car, Caroline hang your britches on the line, when they’re dry bring them in and hang them on a safety pin”.  After that revelation I never told anyone my middle name was Caroline.  Sadly she died from a tragic accident which haunts me to this day.  Unfortunately I didn’t know my maternal grandmother as she died in childbirth in 1912.  I do have a photo of her and a letter she wrote to her sister just prior to her death, apart from that there is little information.

What will my grandchildren say of me.  Now wouldn’t that be interesting, though I hope they don’t have that opportunity any time soon.

Things that have a special place in our hearts

Today I thought I would share with you something that has had a special place in my heart and life since I can remember.  It’s a grandfather clock.  A couple of years ago I wrote some short stories relating to my youth which I published as an e-book.  The first was about the grandfather clock and after many attempts at getting the story started I came up with the idea of writing from the point of view of the clock, therefore the clock is the narrator of the story.

To save space you can read the story by clicking on the link below.  It doesn’t quite open as I would like.  When you click on the link it takes you to my Reply Page where you have to click again.  Very strange.  I’ve sought the help of my son but he’s busy so I’ll have to leave it as it is.

Mum, Dad and Janice - think I was 18 in this photo

Mum, Dad and Janice – think I was 18 in this photo

the-grandfather-clock-tick-tock

 

Although the clock resides at my daughter’s house, due to lack of sufficient space in my house, it still presides over events of the family.  Unfortunately its hourly ring has had to be curtailed due to it being a little annoying during the night.

Here I am with the clock last Christmas

Here I am with the clock last Christmas

 

Exhibition of hand made items from just 100g of wool plus a visit to a Mohair Goat Farm

Recently the Coal Creek Spinners Group participated in an exhibition of items made from just 100g of wool.  The variety was amazing from small toys to beautiful wraps, to hats, scarves, wall hangings, skeins of different wools  and one really special exhibit, a jumper so finely crafted it was hard to believe the skill  of the knitter (view in the video) who won 1st prize at the Bendigo Wool Show for her work.

As part of the activities of the group there was a visit to Mohair Rare, a working farm, producing mohair yarns for spinning and other crafts.  I have to thank my husband for producing this video which is very informative showing both the exhibition and the activities of the farm, explained in some detail by Lill Roberts of Mohair Rare, and returning at a later date to view the shearing of the goats, one of the shearers being a lady who kindly explained on camera the process.

 

Now for some recipes

Now that Christmas is approaching its wise to have a few goodies on hand, possibly in the freezer, in case friends or family pop in unexpectedly.  I have used the recipes I am going to share since back in the 60’s when I used to subscribe to a small publication which was full of ideas for the freezer.  Quite an innovative concept in those days plus there was always a home testers note about the recipe which I can confirm freezes really well.  I have also made and stored portions of the Fudge Icing in the fridge and used on other cakes.  Very handy.

Chocolate Cakes with Fudge Icing   

You will need two shallow foil pie dishes about 18cm across

180g self raising flour
60g cocoa
180g soft brown sugar and 180g butter
3 eggs plus 1½ tablespoons milk

Grease the dishes. Sift together flour and cocoa then in another bowl beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat eggs and add gradually beating mixture well. Fold in sifted ingredients with milk. Divide equally into dishes and bake at 180C for about 50 minutes. Fan forced ovens a little less. Cooked when centre of sponge is springy when pressed.  Cool before icing.

Fudge Icing

60g butter
60g cocoa
3 tablespoons milk
120g icing sugar

Melt butter in heavy pan. Add cocoa and cook over low heat for 1 minute. Remove from heat, stir in milk and sifted icing sugar. Cool then pour from pan onto cakes in foil dishes. Leave to set.

No Bake Cake – only 10 minutes to prepare

100g butter
100g marshmallows
25g cocoa
300g Rich Tea Biscuits roughly broken
50g plain chocolate
50g white chocolate

Line a 450g loaf tin with clear film or glad wrap leaving about 2.5cm hanging over the edges. Place butter, marshmallow and cocoa in a pan and heat until melted. Remove pan and stir in biscuits. Press mixture into loaf tin and chill for about 2 hours until firm. Turn onto serving dish.

Melt plain and white chocolate in separate bowls over hot water.  Spoon on top of cake and swirl together with a skewer to create a marbled effect. Chill until set then cut into slices.

It freezes well but probably best to add the chocolate topping after thawing.

 

Well I’ve come to the end of another post, there is always more to say but I’ll leave that until next time.  To finish up here’s a Funny Minions quote:

I MAY LOOK LIFE I’M DOING NOTHING ….

BUT IN MY HEAD I’M QUITE BUSY

 

Janice 

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Enjoying a new experience at Halloween, Christmas is approaching, Recipe for Mincemeat (fruit mince), The joy of spring flowers and 5 tips for using Silica Gel bags

Hello everyone – once again I have a few activities and snippets of information to share.  Do feel free to write a comment on any item in ‘Leave a reply’ at the top of this blog.

Enjoying a new experience at Halloween

It’s been a long time since I gained so much enjoyment out of dressing up.  I don’t mean getting ready for a special outing but actually dressing up in costume and acting a part.   It’s not something I’m accustomed to doing and I found it a little difficult at first but I can certainly recommend it for letting yourself go.  My daughter commented when seeing the photos that she had never seen me having so much fun.

More than 4000 people attended the annual Halloween event at Coal Creek Heritage Park in Korumburra on the 29th October and myself, along with other members of the Coal Creek Spinners group, dressed up as witches and welcomed visitors into our coven.

Here’s another clearer photo of Avis which I thought you would like to see.  She is a marvellous lady and an inspiration to us all.

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Christmas is approaching – puddings and mince pies

I usually do my Christmas Puddings during October but somehow this year I’m a little behind, though it probably doesn’t matter, they will still taste good on the day.  As customary Ken and I stirred the mixture and made three wishes.  I always make the same wishes which I think are supposed to be kept secret.  Being a little nostalgic I decided to look back over my Christmas pudding photos.  I find it very comforting to see I am carrying on with the same traditions as my Mum and Dad.  How well I remember them doing their puddings, except in their case they made them as gifts for those friends and family who could no longer make them so their kitchen was filled with steam for a week or more.

Now for today’s photos:

A recipe for Mincemeat (Fruit mince)

Last year I was very disappointed with the quality of the fruit mince I used for my mince pies so this year decided I would have a go at making my own.  Having gone through all my cookery books, including a Mrs. Beaton’s (too difficult), I settled on one from my favourite cookery book which was given to me as a wedding present in 1960.  I have to say it turned out really well and of course I just had to make a batch of pies which I intended to put in the freezer.  They had no chance of that did they – yum, they were so good.  If you want to try this recipe you will need:


500g mixed fruit                                                              dsc00477

2 grated apples
120g shredded suet or melted butter (I us
ed the butter)

120g dark brown sugar
Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
50g blanched almonds chopped (optional)
1 tsp mixed spice
½ tsp each of cinnamon, grated nutmeg and cardamon
4 tbs brandy, whisky or rum                          dsc00473

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Pot in dry jars. Keep in a cool dry place.

NOTE: I added some water to make the mixture a little more fluid and because I didn’t have the specified spirits to hand I used some Mezcal, a type of tequila, made from Agave nectar that we brought back from Mexico 10 years ago.  At last I found a use for it !

Some information about Agave Nectar (you may already know of course) – Agave nectar, sometimes called agave syrup, is most often produced from the Blue Agaves that thrive in the volcanic soils of Southern Mexico.  Agaves are large, spiked plants that resemble cactus but they are actually succulents similar to the familiar Aloe Vera.  They come in many sizes and colours.  The Aztecs prized the agave as a gift from the gods and used the liquid from its core to flavour foods and drinks.  Now, due to increasing awareness of its beneficial properties, it is becoming the preferred sweetener of health conscious consumers, doctors and natural food cooks alike.

The joy of spring flowers

What joy the spring flowers bring even though some of them are having a bit of a struggle coping with the very strange weather we have been experiencing.  The wind has played havoc with many plants coupled with the naughty behaviour of Ken, who in his effort to control the weeds, accidentally pulled up my very best sunflower specimen which I had been nurturing.  Admittedly it was in a strange location, amongst the loganberries, but it was the only space I had available at the time of planting.  Fortunately I have three more in another spot.  He has been forgiven – somewhat.

My Lilac was a real disappointment, only having a couple of blooms, but the various clematis and sweet peas are lovely.


Some useful tips for using silica gel bags
Next time you find a sachet of silica gel in a handbag or in a box of new shoes, don’t throw it away – these multi-purpose little sachets have a range of practical household uses or so I have read in a recent article.  I have picked out what I think to be the best.

  1. Preserve old photos and books – Moisture can wreak havoc on old photos and books. Silica gel placed inside an album or in an old book will help absorb unwanted moisture and can even do away with the musty smell.
  2. Absorb unwanted smells – If you carry your gym bag with you between work and home, try popping a few silica gel bags into the pockets to keep things fresh. You can also try this in your shoes – the silica gel bags will gradually eliminate dampness and help prevent the bacteria that causes smells from thriving.
  3. Preserve Christmas decorations – For the majority of the year when they aren’t in use, Christmas ornaments tend to live in the far corners of our cupboards or tucked away in the loft or garage. Keep them safe from damage with silica gel bags; they’ll draw away moisture and keep your precious items at their best.
  4. Saving seeds – If you’re a keen gardener and you save seeds between seasons, you’ll know how important it is to keep moisture out to prevent sprouting and molding. Put seeds in individual envelopes and then store together in an airtight plastic container – add one or two silica gel sachets to soak up any residual moisture and keep them safe until it’s time to plant again.
  5. For drying flowers – Speed up the process of drying and pressing flowers with the help of silica. Put your dried flowers in a paper bag with a packet or two of silica gel to help speed up the process.

Apparently if you find your silica gel bags aren’t working anymore, don’t throw them away – you can dry them out by placing them in the oven on low temperature – about 95C – for one to two hours. Then keep them in a sealed sandwich bag until they’re ready for use again.

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So here I am at the end of another blog post which please enjoy.  I’ll close with a quote from Aristotle:

PATIENCE IS BITTER BUT ITS FRUIT IS SWEET 

Janice  

 

 


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Getting ready for Christmas, Crafts, Good company, a recipe and trips

Getting ready for Christmas

Puddings:

We say every year we can’t believe it’s nearly Christmas.  I wonder how many of you have made your puddings ready for the big day.  I made mine some weeks ago and as customary Ken and I stirred the mixture and made three wishes.  We always take photos and I think perhaps I should put together a montage of these photos from over the years, though this could prove a little confronting observing the passing of the years.

I always make a few individual puddings so they can be enjoyed later in the year usually at Easter and on Ken’s birthday in June.

Gingerbread houses:

For the past 11 years I have made gingerbread houses for the grandchildren.  Last year I produced 14 little houses ready to be decorated.  This was because I had three additional people in the group, the two sons of my daughter-in-law and the girlfriend of my eldest grandson Nicholas.  Even at 20, Nic still wanted to decorate a gingerbread house.  I did receive help in glueing up the houses as my granddaughter Emma came to stay for a few days.  With much soul-searching I have decided to discontinue the tradition this year, though I am going to make two large gingerbread houses for decoration by my three granddaughters.  It’s a little sad 😥  but they grow up.  They all agree it will be one of their important childhood memories, decorating the gingerbread houses ready for Christmas.

If anyone is interested I would be happy to supply the gingerbread house recipe and template.

Crochet and Sewing

Recently I have been going along to a crochet class at my local Neighbourhood House.  It wasn’t quite what I expected as many of the ladies attending were knitting or doing other crafts.  However, with the help of Elsie Hope, who fronts up the group, I have started to master the first steps on my way to be able to crochet, a skill in which I was sadly lacking.  I’m making an envelope purse but not sure how long that will take.   My new sewing machine has proved to be a gem and I am very pleased with the dress I completed a couple of weeks ago.  I feel inspired to keep sewing but the reality is that there are only so many dresses you can wear so will have to curtail my activities a little.

 

First efforts at crochet

First efforts at crochet

 

 

 

 

 

The dress worn on a day out with Olga during visit to Jan Huggins

The dress worn on a day out with Olga during visit to Jan Huggins

Enjoying good company

Nothing beats a day out with a good friend.  That’s what I was able to do a couple of weeks ago when Olga and I went in search of gifts she could take home to Chile when she visits family and friends in December.  We shopped ’til we dropped, had lunch and afterwards visited Jan Huggins for a cuppa and cake and a nice long chat.  Jan and I met when we were in hospital at the same time having hip replacements and have kept in contact ever since.

A salad recipe for entertaining with Hokkien Noodles

Packet of noodles, 4 spring onions chopped, 1 red capsicum sliced thinly, 100g snow peas sliced, 1 small carrot sliced.  Pinch of mint and coriander.  100g roasted cashews.

Cover noodles with boiling water for a couple of minutes then drain.  Combine all ingredients.  To make dressing you will need to whisk together 2 tsp sesame oil, 1 tbl olive oil, 1 tbl lime juice, 2 tbl soy sauce or kecap manis, 3 tbs sweet chilli sauce.  Pour dressing over salad just before serving.

 

Update on trip to Printing Museum at Chiltern

In my last Blog I wrote about our visit to the Printing Museum at Chiltern, Victoria.  Ken has now produced a video documenting how a local newspaper was produced up until the 1960’s.

 

Sailing on the Enterprize – Melbourne Tall Ship

Sailing on a tall ship has been on Ken’s bucket list for a long long time.  He was able to fulfil that dream last week when he took a trip on the Enterprize.  I have never seen him so excited.  I have to say I didn’t share his enthusiasm so stayed on dry land.  He enjoyed it so much he intends to take another trip during December.  He’s in the process of making a video so will upload that next time.

 

Ken, ready to set sail

Ken, ready to set sail

GET WELL

I would like to send get well good wishes to my friend Joan Blain (UK), who has been in hospital for some time.  Joan suffers from MS which has necessitated her staying in hospital for some months after falling and breaking her ankle.  I hope you will be home for Christmas Joan.

Especially for you Joan

Especially for you Joan

I hope you are all enjoying pursuing your different projects and learning new skills.  Here is a Chinese Proverb for you:

LEARNING IS A TREASURE THAT WILL FOLLOW ITS OWNER EVERYWHERE  

Janice   

 

 

 

 

 

 

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GINGERBREAD HOUSES 12/12/14

Hi everyone – back in November I talked about baking the frames for the Gingerbread Houses that have become a  tradition with the grandchildren every Christmas.   Last Sunday was the big day.  Fortunately my granddaughter Emma had been staying with me for a few days so she was able to help with all the pre-gluing and sharing out of lollies and decorations into individual bags.  It’s a huge undertaking.  In addition we had to make more Royal Icing so that the decorations could be attached.  If you would like details of the recipe for the gingerbread and pattern for the houses I will gladly share them with you.

It’s really rewarding to have family traditions even though you sometimes wonder what you are doing and say to yourself this is the last time.  Then you hear the comment of one of the children who said to her dad “I can’t remember a Christmas without Gingerbread Houses”.  

At the end of the day the houses are wrapped in cellophane and taken home to be enjoyed over Christmas.

 

Janice

 

 

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Christmas preparations

I wonder if you enjoy preparing for Christmas. Being retired certainly helps as there is usually plenty of time to think about what you want to do. I enjoy making personalised gifts wherever possible though it’s not always viable. I used to like making gifts for the grandchildren; now they are grown up money in an envelope is what they enjoy best.

Last week I made the Christmas puddings. One large one and 6 individual. Ken said he had to taste one which he did. The look on his face was of pure bliss. We always go through the ritual of stirring and wishing and then taking a photo.

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Today I got started on job of cooking Gingerbread Houses. Every year from way back I’ve made gingerbread houses which the children decorate at a family gathering just before Christmas. They all love it and even though my eldest grandson is 20 he still wants to be involved. Last year he and his girlfriend came and stuck the houses together with icing cement ready for decoration. This year I need nine houses so the cooking has to be done in two batches. What an undertaking.

Nic with his girlfriend Sarah cementing the gingerbread houses

Nic with his girlfriend Sarah cementing the gingerbread houses

I’d love to hear what you are planning.

Janice

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