Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas Redux

We continued our tradition of celebrating a pre-Christmas feast at the vineyard at Murrumbateman this year. It rained heavily throughout the evening (the Sunday before Christmas) forcing the freshly shorn sheep and lambs to the shelter of the trees and making us miss out on seeing the usual spectacular sunset behind Mt Nanima.

The rain made it a perfect evening for feasting. We all contributed dishes according to our allocated ingredients. Judy dressed her oysters in 4 different delicious ways and created an ode to peas in plating up her scallops. I captured Wayne helping with the plating-concentrating hard on creating perfect scoops of pea blancmange!

Maxie made an Ottolenghi inspired goat's cheese and caramelised onion pie (her ingredients were eggs and cheese) which was served with my beans and hazelnut and orange salad (also Ottolenghi).

Jennie served George Calombaris style lamb cutlets as a delicious appetizer with our glass of Marjella, then roasted lamb backstrap for our main course, served with my roasted sweet potato and pecan and maple salad and my burnt aubergine with yellow pepper and red onion salad. As her other ingredient was nuts Jennie also served macadamia nut tartlets as our first dessert course, later.

Shane the expert vine grafter was there again this year, along with the beautiful young Sophie, the vine wrapper. He provided a freshly caught whole snapper for our feast, which Jennie had baked with Asian seasonings.

My ingredients were cream and salad. I created muffin size date, chocolate and nut meringue cakes served with cream, shaved chocolate and macerated strawberries. Because I wasn't too sure about the meringue cakes I also made some chocolate brownies (Jamie Oliver's bloomin beautiful brownies in fact). I needn't have worried as the meringue cakes were just fine and the brownies were just a delicious overkill. Anke also contributed fresh strawberries dipped in Lindt chocolate to finish off the meal.
As usual it was an awesome, delicious feast with Thomas, Maddie and Sophie (and Maggie the Jack Russell) providing the accompaniment to Christmas carols as usual. Our carol singing was much louder than usual this year because it was staged in between second and third courses after we'd drunk at least two glasses of Marjella and our first round of the gorgeous Rieslings offered that night.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas day

Christmas day was filled with fun for Ella even though she didn't have the company of any other little ones this year.

She managed to hold out until after 9.00am, when we arrived, to start opening her presents. We were amused to see her very diligently "read' all her cards before opening her gifts, usually making a pretty good guess at what was written.

There were big smiles when she opened this parcel.

Yes, her own camera, ready to take pictures of Banny taking pictures of her. J & J may have to institute judicious delete policies on photos taken at the end of each day!

We enjoyed lunch on "Pete's deck" at our house, on a balmy 27oC Canberra Summer day. Oysters, prawns, turkey, ham, and all the trimmings, we took hours and hours - a perfect, relaxed, long lunch.

The bonbons had great jokes this year - all the more hilarious because of Ella's exuberant reaction to them.

And the party favours inside were pretty amazing too!

But skip all the that to the best part of Christmas dinner - the cherry macarons from Flute Bakery. It was worth our half hour wait in the early morning queue outside Flute on Friday morning to see them being enjoyed so much.

Lucky there was a pistachio flavoured macaron left because it was so sad when the cherry macaron was all gone!

While everyone else was rendered immobile by the length and volume of our lunch Ella remained full of beans into the early evening. We had fun striking some "punny" poses in the back garden and doing a bit of dancing for the camera to end off this very happy day.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Mature Christmas

At our family Christmas breakfast last Saturday we were all struck by the mature approach taken by the three, four and six year olds present. Instead of the extreme excitement and hyper activity of previous years, followed by the inevitable exhaustion and emotionalism, all the kids were very calm and considered in their approach to gift giving and receiving, and displayed their beautiful manners to each other throughout our four hour breakfast celebration.

Ella was thrilled with her new Oobie sundress from one of Ros' favourite shops at Sawtell (thank you Ros). Size 6 looks like it will fit perfectly!
For Ollie and Angus it was a Star Wars Christmas. So there were plenty of smiles going around as the packages were opened.....

and stacked so carefully to make a tower of boy joy!

Ollie received his first Meccano set.

......which kept the Grandpas very busy for an hour or so.

Luckily Ella had been given her first Meccano set too, so that gave Ollie something to practise on while the Grandpas worked on his set!

It was Ollie's idea to have a Christmas chocolate cake to round off our celebratory breakfast (and a bowl of jibbly jelly). I think it was Claire's idea to light some doubt heavily influenced by all the amazing Christian Christmas stories Ollie brings home from Scripture classes at his (government) school.
There is something that makes all kids VERY serious as candles on the cake are lit. It must be the thought of all that sugar and CHOCOLATE that is almost in their grasp!

But for most of the morning it was all about concentrating on playing, with great focus and discipline, with their beautiful new toys!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

I've never seen girls have more fun than Ella and her four friends (and baby boy Linkin) today at the Erindale Pool. Ella had her weekly swimming lesson, followed by well over an hour of free play with her friends and their heroic Mummies, splashing up a storm in both pools!

We were amazed to see that Ella's confidence has grown so much she can even do a few nanoseconds of unsupported "doggy paddle" back to the edge of the pool!

and has no qualms at all about dunking her head underwater... It was all so wonderful Ella even had a melt down about having to leave the pool today, which reassured "Brampa" no end because the same thing happened the other day when he took her to the pool on his own. He thought it was because of something he'd done wrong!!
Keeping the spirit of the day we also booked our tickets to the Cyndie Lauper Concert in Sydney (next April), not only because she is the original girl who wants to have fun but also because we like her latest Memphis Blues album.......and anyway..... she's a 57 year old New York City babe, and an 80's icon, so why not?

Monday, December 13, 2010


Last Wednesday night it poured with rain all night (on top of all the other rain we've had in recent weeks). The residents of Queanbeyan woke to find their river had flooded, cutting the town in two. We had a rain soaked visit to the fresh food markets at Fyshwick on Thursday morning and everyone was trading stories about the best way to get home, by circumventing the flooded roads.

By Thursday afternoon the worst of the rain had cleared, so we took a walk along the lake foreshore near the Waterside apartments at Kingston. We couldn't remember Lake Burley Griffin ever looking like this before. Turgid brown flood water lapping the top stones of the lake wall, lots of vegetable matter and whole trees floating in the strong current, obviously uprooted from the flooded wetlands of the Molonglo River.

Canberra only suffered localised flooding, although quite a few of our large trees have met a sad fate as their roots have become totally waterlogged, causing them to just topple over, at great risk to life and limb.
It has been a joy to see our garden return to life after the long drought years. We have even been able to turn our water features back on now that we are on a water conservation regime (as opposed to a water restriction regime).

Sunday, December 5, 2010


It's our tradition to organise our family Christmas celebration around the time of Maxie's birthday in early December. So at our "birthday afternoon tea" today, with three teachers in the family, it seemed natural to do some list making (which other members of the family paid us out about!).

I was astounded to see 6 year old Ollie write this ON HIS OWN!

I love his breakfast menu ideas and will give a lot of thought as to how we can combine jelly, toast and chocolate cake into the breakfast buffet!

Speaking of gifts we had a short but sweet visit from London Davey this week, here for two friends' weddings and a few days with Canberra family. He collected almost a case full of baby clothes for little "peanut" and lots more admiration from the younger set, who seem to find him a magnetic attraction.

Although I don't know why!

Ella thought he was funny and adorable - and don't we all!