Friday, November 16, 2007

Christmas Time!

‘Getting Ready for Christmas’


Traditions add meaning and character to special holidays. As children my siblings and I put a pillowslip at the end of our beds on Christmas Eve for ‘stocking’ type presents.
In our home now, we each hang a stocking and fill it with the ‘little’ presents and then the BIG ones go under the tree. The first Christmas, after I was married, my husband and I decided to give each other a stocking present (or two) on Christmas Eve and it just wouldn't feel like Christmas without a real Christmas tree chosen and cut down from the Christmas tree farm. My sister and I started a tradition of performing a boot scooting dance to Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas is You” when we were teenagers and it still brings a laugh each year on December 25th.

Whatever you choose, once you choose a family activity, do it once or twice and declare it "a new family tradition".

Here a few suggestions that you may like to adopt for your own family.
Read a Christmas story every night for the last ten days before Christmas.
Pile everyone in the car, put on some carols and drive around to see the lights.
Adopt a Christmas tradition from around the world. Learn about Christmas customs from several countries e.g learn a new name for Santa, special recipes or games.
Get the kids to help you choose a present for a local ‘wishing tree’ or fill a shoe box for Samaritan’s Purse.

Handy hints/ideas:
Order gifts on line, they do the shipping for you!
Don't write long notes on your cards this year include a typed general ‘letter’.
Hire a teenager who needs some extra cash to address the envelopes.
Hire that same teenager to help with wrapping.
Gift bags are fast and easy!
Don’t shop at Chadstone…don’t go anywhere near there.

Make Christmas Day special for your baby with these festive baby recipes written exclusively for Baby Centre by nutritionist Fiona Wilcock (all are suitable from nine months). They're so tasty you may want to sample some of them yourself!

Easy Mocha Fruit Cake

1 Kg mixed dried fruit
2 cups strong black coffee
150 gm fruit & nut chocolate chopped roughly
2 cups S/R flour

1. Soak fruit overnight in coffee
2. Preheat oven to 180º
3. Coat a 20 cm tin with cooking spray &/or line with baking paper
4. Mix fruit mixture, chocolate and flour
5. Spoon into prepared tin
6. Bake 2 hours or until cooked through.

Flowerpot Christmas Cakes

Preheat the oven to barely moderate 160c. Line the flowerpots with foil. Using the above recipe (Easy Mocha Fruit Cake) carefully spoon the mixture into the pots. Fill to within about 2cm of the top then level with a spoon. Arrange 6 whole almonds on top in a flower pattern. Bake standing on a rack in the oven until firm to touch (try 30 minutes but the time may vary depending on the oven). When cooked, leave to cool before removing from the pot. Peel the foil off the cakes and then place the cake back in the pot. Wrap in cellophane and tie with raffia or ribbon.

Gingerbread houses

This lady, Edwina Peterson Cross (no relative of mine) says on her site Outback On Line “I’ll give you my recipe, it is by far the best I found for holding together, for manageability and for taste as well”. Check it out.

Cocoa recipe

I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before but I love to make my own hot cocoa mix. It's really easy and I have shared this recipe (that I found on the Internet last year) with a few other people already. You can put it in a decorative jar and give it away as a present. I made little single serve sachets for my Mother's Group for Christmas last year and put the sachet inside a nice mug, with a small container of mini marshmallows, a mini whisk and some other bits and wrapped it all up in cellophane.

Anyway here it is:

2 cups milk powder
1 ½ cups caster sugar
½ cup cocoa
230g choc chips (sometimes I do a mix of white and milk chocolate)
½ cup creamer/whitener non dairy
pinch salt

Dog Treat Recipes

Do you have a pampered pooch in your life? Well here is one way to show them that you care.

Biscuit dough:
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup oatmeal
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup water
1 large egg
2 Tablespoons milk
1. Preheat the oven to 275°.
2. In a large bowl: combine the flour, oatmeal, wheat germ, peanut butter, vegetable oil, honey, baking powder and water.
3. Mix the ingredients until thoroughly combined.
4. Roll the dough out to a ½-inch thick on a lightly floured surface. Cut into desired shapes and place on baking sheets.
5. In a small bowl, mix together the egg and milk. Brush the glaze on the biscuits.
6. Bake for 30 minutes. Rotate the pans, and bake for an additional 20 - 30 minutes, until biscuits are golden and firm.

This site has lots more recipes to try. Your little friend will love chomping on these tasty & healthy treats!
A gift idea might be to wrap up some freshly baked treats in a new colourful dog bowl.

Jelly Bean Christmas Tree

With jelly beans and plastic pastry decorating bags, your kids can assemble these quick and easy Christmas trees for party favors or Secret Santa presents.

1 dozen 12-inch plastic decorating pastry bags (available at party supply stores)
4 cups green jelly beans
1 cup total yellow, white, and red jelly beans
12 brown pipe cleaners

Place a few yellow jelly beans in the tip of the plastic decorating bag. Then carefully pour about 1/3 cup of green jelly beans into the bag. For lights and ornaments, you can mix the green jelly beans with yellow, white, and red. For the tree's trunk, tape the bag shut and twist a brown pipe cleaner around the base. Trim off the excess plastic.

Merry Pudding Morsels/ Baby Christmas Puddings

500g of dense, moist fruit cake or boiled pudding
little brandy or orange juice
Royal icing (1 egg white, 1-1 ¼ cups pure icing sugar twice sifted, few drops of lemon juice)

Gifts with a difference!

Cookie Mixture in a Jar

This do-it-yourself, just-add-liquids Christmas cookie mixture (with the ingredients already measured out) is a perfect homemade gift for busy people or families with young children. I made about 12 jars for our friends last year and so many people asked me for the recipe afterwards. There are actually many possible recipes (check out the list at

· wide-mouthed jar with lid (approx volume 1.1 litre)
· 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
· 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
· 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
· 1/4 cup sugar
· 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
· 1/2 cup chocolate-covered candy (such as holiday M&M's)
· 1/2 cup rolled oats
· 1/2 cup cocoa crisped-rice cereal (or regular flavor)
· 1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Add the ingredients into the jar in the order listed. Pack them down really firmly after each addition (use something like the base of a tall children’s cup). Screw on the lid and prepare a gift tag with the following instructions:

“To make your holiday cookies, cream together 1/2 cup of butter or margarine, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and 2 eggs in a large bowl. Add the contents of the jar and stir until well blended. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 180° for 10 to 12 minutes”.

Handy Andie hint: Buy one jar and check that the ingredients fit before attempting to make heaps on your first go. I also baked the first batch of cookies to check that I was happy with them…I was!!

Ice Cream Cone Christmas Tree

· 1 cup vanilla icing and extra icing sugar for decoration
· green food dye
· 1 ice-cream cone
· 1 pck spearmint leaves
· 20-30 sugar coated lollies
· other lollies to decorate
· board or paper plate
· cellophane, ribbon etc

Turn the cone upside down on a paper plate/ board and cover the entire cone with green icing. Starting at the bottom, place the spearmint leaves around the base and position them around in a circular direction, moving upwards. Decorate the tree with other lollies and then sprinkle with icing sugar to resemble snow. A star or ball on the top of the tree can also look nice. Finish by wrapping in cellophane and ribbon as desired.

One other thing I love to do is make gift baskets. There are many examples of ‘themes’ for baskets. Some I did last year included a relaxation basket with slippers, bubble bath, a good book, foot scrub etc also a gardening basket with gloves, fork, seeds, gardeners hand cream etc as well as a ‘walkers’ basket with pedometer, sports socks, foot cream, drink bottle etc.
If the person you're buying for likes taking digital photos, buy them some blank CDs, a cheap CD case (a few dollars from the $2 shop), throw in a few odd photos of the family and put it in cellophane.

If they enjoy cooking: grab a bottle of Italian spices from the supermarket, a spaghetti spoon, a box of parmesan cheese, put it in a nice new stainless steel bowl or colander and wrap it in a tablecloth or simply add a new tea towel.
Alternatively you can also buy a pot of the fresh plant eg. oregano, thyme, rosemary etc. and attach a recipe with it. And the last one a sponge, some car shampoo, a car air freshener, a bottle of beer etc all packed into a bucket for someone who loves their car.

A gift with meaning:

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and one fun and easy way to help support the cause is to give pink gifts. Check out this site for original gift ideas: All of the products on here help to raise awareness and portions of the proceeds are donated to organizations to help fund research and education.

What about a personalised pink pressie?? There’s Personalized Pink Ribbon Breast Cancer Awareness Christmas Ornament or tote bag for $14.95 at Personal Creations
These make a wonderful gift for a breast cancer survivor or supporter of the awareness cause. Personal Creations will donate 15% of their retail price for this item to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

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