Monday, December 24, 2012

Celebration 3

We had our third Christmas celebration at the weekend, this one a relatively small one at our house before the young people head off to Sydney.

More presents to open (a brilliant choice by Davey and Cath for Ella), more yummy food to eat and more great wine to team with it.

Then, as is our tradition (only one year old) we headed out for Bissenberger Crescent in Kambah so Ella could see the Christmas lights (and hopefully score a lollypop from the resident Santa).

As the sun was just disappearing for the day I couldn't help thinking the sky was vastly outclassing the show value of this street of over the top artificial lights.

Anyway it was all ticking the right boxes for Ella.

Ella knows that the Santa Claus story is just another one of the rich tapestry of stories and rituals attached to Christmas. I was suprised to see her wait patiently in the queue to greet the man - although I don't blame her for finding his loud voice a bit off putting when they finally met. He in turn was a bit surprised to hear that Ella wanted "a bag of slime" for Christmas.
Anyway Ella seemed to think it was all worth it to ge given a glow bangle and a sweetie by Santa's helper!  That's Christmas for you I guess.


Ella gave me permission to take photos at her final dance class for 2012 (only if other parents were too!)  It wasn't a special concert, just an opportunity for parents (and grandparents) to be allowed into the studio to watch the final 15minutes of the 4-5 year olds class.
Ella says she finds dance classes a bit slow these days..but it was still obvious that she has learnt some nicely controlled movements at Dance Central over the past few months.

All the princess dresses, tutus, frills and pretty stuff have been put in the dress up box for Abi. Ella is now over all that (as she frequently reminds us). Her new Christmas shorts (thank you Ros - well chosen) and T shirt don't seem to stop her making all the right moves in this class though.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


With all the young things heading away from Canberra this Christmas we decided we'd have our family celebration early this year - a laid back brunch and playtime in the grounds of our favourite National Gallery of Australia Sculpture Garden.  We ignored the long queues waiting to get into the blockbuster Toulouse Lautrec exhibition at the front of the gallery and headed to our favourite spot out the back in the bush garden.
While we enjoyed our bush picnic brunch the kids wasted no time in getting active - running up and down the grass mounds, hanging from tree branches - and cricket (played with a soft ball in amongst all these sculptures)!
They spent AGES playing on Granny K's wheelie walker too. It had never moved so fast in its life before!
Then it was back to our place to exchange family presents.  Ella was EXTREMELY excited by this stage.
In fact all the kids were!

The Complete Calvin and Hobbes (Collector's Edition) was a beautiful present for Angus.

And Joshie really approved of this one - a classic Ford Thunderbird model car.

This was Abi's first Christmas. I was amazed to see her carefully opening this present "like she was born to it".

Jody, like all of us girls, loved Abi's new tutu leggings - but not quite as much as her Jamie Oliver 15 Minute Meals Secret Santa present - a life changer!

Ros and Pete's presents went over well. The light sabres were AWESOME as were Ella's shorts and top (they're already packed for Coogee!)

There was no pud for us this year.  We celebrated with slabs of Maxie's caramel marshmellow slice and mounds of Rob's pancakes slathered in maple syrup (kid's choice).  Our Christmas crackers, lame jokes, silly hats, and being together, reminded us that this really was Christmas.

And to extend the Christmas cliche the kids spent the afternoon in their undies running through the sprinkler and generally exhausting themselves. Although she's crawling now Abi took things a little quieter although that tutu makes her feel like quite the party girl. 

We were all happy with our laid back way of celebrating - although our thoughts were with those other family members who weren't with us, but are still very close to our hearts, especially at Christmas.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Murrumbateman Christmas

I've realised that our tradition of Christmas feasting at the vineyard started on the 1st of January 2000. I took this pic all those years ago in late afternoon light - as Jennie was pointing out their (then) 13 hectares of plantings, under contract to BRL Hardy in those days.

Sophie was a little babe in arms then and everyone's hair was darker and more prolific (in the case of the men anyway).

There was a beautiful sunset that evening, and I was lucky to get this shot of Maddie and Thomas with that spectacular backdrop of the sun setting over the dam.

and here they are now, Sophie, Maddie and Thomas, a week or so short of 13 years later, and our tradition of Christmas feasting at Murrumbateman is a highlight of the year for all of us (including Maggie the Jack Russell).

Even though they're so grown up now the kids will still take turns and play for us so we can sing Christmas Carols (with gusto but no polish). Thomas took the mickey out of us this year by choosing Fum Fum Fum (a traditional Catalan Christmas Carol) for us to sing, knowing we'd never heard of it. It gave him a few laughs to hear how we murdered it (and loudly too!).

As always Jennie and Wayne are wonderful hosts. There's a lot to celebrate this year with all the years of hard work, vision and huge expenditure starting to pay off . The grapes (especially Shiraz and Riesling) from their vineyard are the grapes of choice for the Canberra region's greatest wine makers who are really making their mark across Australia now.

For a couple of years now we have all contributed to the makings of the feast. This year we were each given an ingredient and free rein to come up with a course or two. Because we can all seem to predict what each other is likely to do we've never duplicated things or created too much imbalance in the various courses. This year was no exception.

It was quite a pared down ingredients list this year, just spice (me) lime (Judy L), cream (Maxie) and garlic (Jennie). Anke contributed the Majella and her famous strawberries dipped in Bruno's chocolate.

With our sparkling Majella we enjoyed my chilli nuts, Jennie's pork belly and garlic in brioche and Judy's Thai chicken cakes. We sat down for Judy's zesty lime oysters (with the 2010 Petaluma Riesling) and then Jennie's tasting spoon of lobster with garlic crumbs (with the 2006 Chateau Tahbilk Marsanne). Her garlic chives refresher (served in a shot glass) with chicken consomme jelly, cucumber and tomato was a great palate cleanser after all these starters.

My Moroccan spicy meatballs (recipe from Supper at The Victoria Room) and couscous and mograbiah with oven-dried tomatoes (from Ottolenghi) was next, served with Rob's 2002 Leaconfield Cabernet Sauvignon.  Jennie's roast beef and garlic potato bake rounded out the "Mains", served with a very old and interesting 1995 Majella Cabernet Sauvignon.

Shane the grafter joined us once more this year at our feast. He was able to explain all the changes happening as practical support and expert advice, previously made available for the agricultural sector across NSW, is wound back as a result of state government cutbacks.....all very sad, and very short sighted!

He'd brought beautiful cheeses from Wagga Wagga for our feast's cheese board: an unctuous Fromage Affinoise and the slightly grainy Midnight Moon Cypress Grove Chevre - beautiful.

Maxie had spoilt us by making two desserts: a Nigella Lawson chocolate pav (and yes it really did have the right level of squidginess as promised) with raspberries and strawberry coulis.  But whipping the cream base for the raspberries took a strong arm.

It's hard to believe but we also did justice to Maxie's gorgeous lemon tart (thank you Delia) beautifully complemented by a 2009 Margan Botrytis Semillon. We even managed to do justice to Anke's succulent chocolate strawberries

It was another memorable night with good friends and wonderful food and wines. Thank you Jennie and Wayne for the last 13 years! 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Possums and Echidnas

The Possums and Echidnas (preschool groups) presented an evening of Christmas carols for families and supporters last week - one of the last big projects for their teachers as the school year winds down in the lead up to Christmas. 
What other occasion would bring hundreds of people all crammed into the small preschool (learning) play area, armed with their cameras and ready to marvel at every note and gesture performed by these aspiring stars! 
Of course we were most interested in Ella - but couldn't help but enjoy seeing all the gorgeous kids we've got to know a little bit about from our morning "drop off" visits.
There was even a song or two in Japanese with corresponding hand movements!

All gorgeous kids - and now ready to start Kindergarten at the big school next year! 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Let them eat cake

We've just had a three day cake fest.

Ella and I welcomed the festive season by assembling our Christmas tree on Friday afternoon. Ella took charge of the design brief and, by the end, had piled on enough layers of gold tinsel and ribbon until it met her desired level of glitz.

Friday night's dinner was Italian inspired, followed by Thomas's favourite orange cake to celebrate his 19th birthday.  Rob and Thomas had done some very successful man shopping together the day before, as is their custom now for Thomas's birthday. 

It was lovely to meet Phoebe for the first time this year although she's heading back home to Auckland this weekend for the 2 month summer Uni break.

Saturday's afternoon tea presented us with TWO iced Hummingbird cake and Maxie's famous Ottolenghi macadamia and white chocolate brownies (served with the customary bubbles of course). 

We had all the family over in honour of John, Erin and Liliana's visit from Melbourne.  Liliana and Abi are almost identical in age (born three days apart) and it was very entertaining to watch them interact. 

We call this sequence of pics "the cousins face-off!!"

Tongues and teeth were well to the fore in this encounter.

Although Abi made an early play to make a grab at Liliana in the end it was Liliana who was successful in landing her catch...although Abi really didn't seem to mind.

While the baby girls focussed on socialising inside the house the big kids played outside for AGES - on the swing set, climbing frame and making Rupert planes with Joshy and Rob (interspersed with CAKE breaks).

Liliana has proved to be a great traveller and was full of smiles today (like her gorgeous Mummy) even after that marathon drive from Melbourne yesterday!

Today there was more cake: Ottolenghi's yummy apple and olive oil cake with maple icing and chocolate and cherry friands, served with a glass or two of more Taltarni bubbles - to celebrate our first visit to 7 week old baby Cyrus. He is such a quiet and serene and contented baby, Damien and Sanaz have done well.

Big sister Yasmin is as bright and lively as ever and is coping so well with the new addition to the family.

Yasmin seemed to enjoy playing with Rob for a good part of the afternoon. But you can tell that her Daddy is definitely the number one man in her life.

We're feeling like we'll need to make the next week cake free and salad rich - and no more bubbles until the next round of cake and parties next weekend!