Happy 2010 .....

...... from Our Aussie Half-dozen!!!

(Depot Beach, South Coast NSW, 18-12-09)

Some more Christmas goodies

Since we made our Cookie Christmas Tree a bit early this year (to coincide with having guests for dinner) we decided to make a Gingerbread Sleigh and Reindeer on Christmas Eve instead.

Here are the four youngest decorating various parts of the sleigh or reindeer. There was a dizzying array of sugar! Icing, licorice allsorts, jellybeans, mini M&Ms, mini skittles, mini marshmallows, mini coloured choc chips and freckles. This is the sleigh filled with toffees and little shortbread stars, featuring the side which Possum decorated. The reindeer didn't really look much like reindeer, and I was told by my perfectionist teenager that the sleigh was the wrong way around ..... ......... but nobody seemed to mind when it was time to tuck in! The gingerbread was yummy, but the lollies were better.
This is the traditional Christmas Pudding I made. It tasted good too, although it certainly didn't have the same 'wow' factor as the Gingerbread Sleigh.

Horse really digs Little Richard

Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday to Me

We went to our friends' apartment and watched the Christmas fireworks go off all over the city at the stroke of midnight Christmas Eve.

I don't have any pics documenting Christmas, but we slept in, had lunch with other friends and relaxed.

The day after Christmas, aka my birthday, we took the dog for a long walk around our neighborhood.

We snapped lots of pics, which I hope to eventually post, of the beautiful houses here, and enjoyed the summer weather. I do not miss NoVa's cold weather or all the snow they got. I realize now that there's no need to be bitter about a Dec. birthday -- I was just born in the wrong hemisphere!

Fun with customer support

Well, darn. I have some new footage of Willow lungeing that I wanted to post here, but when I try to transfer the footage to my computer it comes out black and white and terribly pixelated. It sort of looks like Willow is having an acid trip.

I went to the Sony customer support site and got hooked up with a customer support rep (Natalie) via chat. I typed up my problem in full detail, including the model number of my camcorder, the OS of my computer, and the version of the video capture software I was using. Natalie proceeded to ask me, one by one, all the questions I had just answered in my problem description. I started to wonder if she was a robot, but she misspelled words every so often, so I guess not. She kept trying to get me to connect the camcorder to the computer with a standard A/V cord, and I kept telling her my laptop doesn't have the standard A/V jacks. She sent me a link to a picture of standard A/V jacks, and I confirmed, No, my computer doesn't have those. I don't think she ever was convinced. She also seemed vaguely irritated with me throughout.

I think the problem is with the cord, so I'm going to see if I can order a new one of those.

Willow was good today! We worked on a figure eight with lots of transitions between trot and canter. All the lungeing in the past few weeks has agreed with her.

The Half-dozen Christmas

Christmas came early (23rd Dec) to the Half-dozen household, in the form of Nano and Grandpap bearing a stack of gifts which turned out to be ..... a Wii.This is just what the four eldest have been wanting, particularly Dragon! So it was surprising that Possum was the one who made the most excited, squeaky noises when she was unwrapping it!! Nano and Grandpap wanted to give it to them a bit early so HB could set it all up and have it running properly by Christmas Day, which he did very capably. We were all playing tennis in no time. The Wii kept everyone occupied for the next day too and no doubt will be a source of entertainment for many years to come.

On Christmas Eve Grandpap, Nano, the Half-dozen and I went to see the Christmas lights. We only drove around the main roads in our suburb and in about a half hour we managed to find lots of spectacular displays. Then the girls came home, convinced that Santa's sleigh was chasing us up the street, determined to fall asleep as quickly as possible so morning would come quickly. (Note to readers from the northern hemisphere - it doesn't get dark enough to see the Christmas lights until around 8.45pm so it was a very late night for the youngest members of the family.)

In the morning we checked to see if Santa had eaten his mince pie and the Six White Boomers had had their drink of water and snack of bread and carrots - and all the food and drink was gone!

So quickly on to the living room to discover that Santa (Ho Ho Ho!) had stuffed stockings full of goodies and left each of the Half-dozen a gift. It is our tradition to unpack the stockings and open the gift from Santa before breakfast. Here they are with the 'santa' gift .... .... unwrapping their 'santa' gift ..... .... and see what Santa brought!!!A netball for Possum, Razor Pro scooter for Dragon, MP4 player for Ducky, Baby Born doll with a fairy dress for Mousie, a water gun and wooden xylophone for Teddy and a Barbie unicorn for Kitcat. "Just what we wanted!" they all said.

After our traditional breakfast of mangoes and croissants we went to church, where Possum joined HB this year in performing in the church's Christmas band. The music sounded wonderful. Here they all are dressed for church - everyone except Dragon in their Christmas outfits (Possum had to wear red and black as the band 'uniform'.) The outfit Ducky is wearing was actually made for Possum, by Nano and myself, quite a few years ago. And Teddy's dress was originally made by Nanna for Ducky. It is very special when themed outfits can be handed down from one child to the next in this manner.After church it was time for some more presents. Kitcat was impressed with her new sunnies.Nano was given hugs and a gift from her grandchildren.Grandpap was presented with his traditional Christmas pudding - I have made one for him for the past ???-can't-remember-how-many years . Earlier in the day Possum also gave a special gift of homemade Christmas sweets to Nano and Grandpap.While the gift opening continued at a frantic pace I spied Kitcat sitting on the sofa contentedly popping the bubbles on this piece of bubble wrap. Just goes to show - all the expensive and fancy toys in the world can't compete with a simple piece of plastic packaging material.Then the Half-dozen bombarded Daddy with gifts .....
.... and buried him in a pile of Merry Christmas hugs.
Nano brought a bag of presents for each grandchild, so there was plenty more gift wrapping ripping and cries of "Wow! Look at this!!" going on all around the living room.And I was given a lovely gift of a digital video camera, and the book "A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 Great Writers on Why We Read Jane Austen" which I am looking forward to reading at my leisure in snippets and snatches, as I am able, through the school holidays.

Of course Christmas is almost as much about food as it is about sharing gifts. We had our traditional BBQ of steak, sausages and lamb chops with salad and potato bake.........plus homemade pavlova for dessert. Yum!! A favourite part of Christmas lunch is snapping the Christmas crackers and wearing silly paper hats while we eat, reading out the lame jokes and swapping trinkets with each other. Christmas afternoon was spent playing with new toys and computer games and generally relaxing after the mayhem of the morning.

Possibly the best gift of all this Christmas was the steady rain which soaked much of the drought stricken areas of western NSW. I hope it rained where it was needed most, and was glad to hear that the flood predictions proved to be unfounded.

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and are looking forward to a Happy New Year!

Good Yule!


The air in the house is full of cardamom, cinnamon, bay and clove...and excitement: tonight is Christmas Eve.

I wish you a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year. I thought of you all on solstice a few days ago, while lighting my midwinter's eve candles, and wished you peace and light.

--------------------------------------------


Thanks to Charles Dickens, the very words I am searching for are already written for me:

May it be truly said of us, and all of us....that we know how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possesses the knowledge.

God bless us, every one!

BUTTER Tarts!!

Butter Tarts

THis is one recipe that is truly canadian..here in Quebec they call them sugar tarts.  A Bakery where I used to work used SOYA MARGARINE instead of butter..and most recipes call for corn syrup as well as brown sugar...But I keep it simple..and REAL...and everyone seems to love them! So here it goes!
The following recipe for the filling will do 18 butter tarts and a medium sized raisin pie! So make enough pastry for that amount.  Preheat oven to 375 DF

Ingrediants

2 Cups firmly packed brown sugar
4 FRESH Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla
1/4 pound softened butter
I KNOW the picture shows 6 eggs..that's just what happened to be in the carton at the time.
Cream the sugar , butter and vanilla together.
Then beating WELL after each addition..beat in eggs one at a time.
The mixture whould resemble golden whipped cream.

At this stage I like to soak my raisins in boiling water for about a 1/2 hour to PLUMP them.
Using a piece of waxed paper and some butter..give your muffin tins a slick.
Roll Out your pastry and cut into rounds..I am making two sizes..my husband does not like raisins..and as I have no pecans..he will have plain butter tarts..and we will have raisin tarts.

Fit the tins with your rolled out rounds. Spooning a teaspoon of drained plumped raisins into each tart shell.

My pastry at this point may look..Flecked...it is because I ran out of white flour and had to dust my cloth with whole wheat for the rolling out.
Spoon the filling into each shell...try not to get any on the tin as it will stick and scorch...I like to use a gravy ladle!

Do NOT fill the shells more than 3/4 full..as the filling puffs up in baking and can over flow!

Bake for 15 minutes in a 375 DF oven.

They will be puffed and golden when you take them out..and will collapse slightly as they cool!
Let the tins cool on a wire rack..and when they are cool..loosen with a butter knife and lift out onto a plate!

YUM!!!

As I said this recipe makes 18 tarts and one pie...The pie is going to my brothers house on Christmas day...shhhh don't tell him!
You make this just like a big tart..lining the pan with pastry..then covering the bottom with raisins before spooing the rest of the filling overtop.
Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes.
The Snowflake on top is just a piece of pastry cut out and baked slightly..then placed on top of the pie once it has started to puff...it's a nice touch!

Merry Chirstmas!!

Butter tart recipe
Hey Bev,



I was just looking at your butter tart recipe on your blog and made me smile. My grandmother was a great baker and always made butter tarts. She kept all of her ingredients in their own "special" jars. One time when my grandfather had the guys over for the weekly poker game, she put out a tray of butter tarts for them. Grandpa watched as they slowly chewed them and started removing something from their mouths. Finally he had seen enough to make him wonder so he took a tart and broke it in two. Inside, much to his, and grandma's surprise were unpopped popcorn kernals! One of my aunts put the popcorn in grandma's walnut jar (the nerve) and she hadn't even noticed when she baked. We teased her until the day she died about the day she made popcorn tarts!!






Just thought I'd share.










Trevor..

Cookie Christmas Tree Recipe

This one is for Michelle who asked for the recipe last year and (I know, I'm slack!) I am only getting around to posting it now!

Cookie Christmas Tree

Ingredients:
  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup castor sugar (regular white sugar will also work just fine.)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups self-raising flour (or 2 cups plain flour + 4 teaspoons baking powder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup milk.

Method:
  • Preheat oven to 180C.
  • Lightly grease oven trays
  • Use an electric mixer to beat butter and sugar till light and fluffy.
  • Add egg and beat well.
  • Add sifted flour and the vanilla
  • Add milk a little at a time and mix until dough comes together.
  • Chill dough for 20mins
  • Divide dough in half
  • Return one half of the dough to fridge and roll other half to 5mm thick (1/4inch).
  • Cut star shapes in at least 3 different sizes - you will need approx 25 star shaped cookies.
  • Continue cutting out star cookies with other half of dough.
  • Refrigerate cut out dough for 10 minutes, then bake for about 8 minutes or until lightly browned.
  • Removed from trays and cool on wire racks.

Icing:
  • 1 cup icing sugar (powdered sugar)
  • Just enough milk to make a thick glaze (consistency of thick honey)
  • You can colour the icing if you wish, but I keep mine white so it supposedly looks like snow on the branches.

To assemble:
  • Place one large star cookie on serving plate.
  • Put a very small dot of icing in centre of cookie, and place second cookie on top making sure the tips of the star do not line up with the cookie below.
  • Continue to stack cookies, using smaller stars as you build towards the top of the 'tree'
  • Make sure you only use a small dot of icing to 'cement' the cookies together, otherwise your cookie tree will not easily disassemble for consumption.
  • Once you have built your tree, use remaining icing to drizzle over the 'branches'.
  • Decorate with sprinkles, if desired.
  • Add a gold star or angel to the top, if desired.
  • EAT!!
Here's Possum putting the finishing touches on the 'tree' we had for dessert this evening.

And these are some more Christmas treats Possum and I made for our family and friends this Christmas. From top: Chocolate Pecan Fudge, Chocolate Truffles and White Christmas Rocky Road.If you'd like recipes for any of these please let me know. The fudge is particularly easy and so, so yummy!

What have you been baking this week?

Much improved!

The ulcer treatment seems to have done the trick. No more stomping, no more cranky antics in the cross ties. I've also taken to keeping the girth as loose as possible for as long as possible, and I think Willow appreciates that as well. She never used to care about girth tightening, but I think she has gotten more sensitive in the past year. All in all, she's a much happier horse than she's been for several weeks.

Willow's aloe vera supplement arrived this evening, so I started her on that. It's called Excel, and it's made by a vet in this neck of the woods. It contains aloe vera juice, slippery elm bark, and vitamin C. For anyone who's interested, in addition to the Excel, Willow's other supplements are: Grand Vite, Mare Magic, and ProBios. The barn I'm at has a forage-only feed option that I have Willow on; it consists of alfalfa, rice bran, and grass hay. The horses are fed four times a day, and I think that is so helpful in keeping them from developing any stall vices. I love my barn!

T is for .....

T is for TRUFFLES.

Possum made a huge batch of truffles to give out to her friends, classmates and teachers as Christmas gifts. They looked so yummy that I just had to take a photo.Possum packaged them in little cellophane bags containing three truffles each, which is why she rolled them in three different toppings. From front - smartie poo (100s & 1000s), mouse droppings (chocolate sprinkles) and dandruff flakes (dessicated coconut.)


< < < < < < ~~~~~~ ****** ~~~~~~ > > > > > >


T is for TRAMPOLINE.

Teddy decorated it with weed flowers. How could I not take a photo of this?Kitcat was her trampoline-decorator helper. They were very proud of their work.

< < < < < < ~~~~~~ ****** ~~~~~~ > > > > > >


T is for TELLING the TOYS

Teddy spent some quality time with her toys last week, showing them the photos in her baby book and telling them about when she was a baby.

< < < < < < ~~~~~~ ****** ~~~~~~ > > > > > >


T is for TEDDY'S TENT....

.... she was supposed to be sleeping. Instead she was building tents.


Ham and Egg Pie

This Recipe is a Canadianized version of an Old Yorkshire England favorite...the Yorkshire recipe I came accross while reading a Book by the famous UK Vet,  James Harriot...here is the piece straight from his book.." The Best Of James Herriot"


English bacon is not the same as our bacon...at  least the English bacon from the 1940's wasn't..It could be better compared to our peameal bacon of today.
As I always seem to do...I have taken the recipe and made it my own. And Here it is!!

Bev's Ham and Egg Pie

Ingredients
Two portions of pastry..one for bottom one for lid.
One cup Cubed cooked ham.
One Large onion minced.
Two cups Brocoli florets ( no STEMS)
( You can use frozen..if you DO..rinse the frozen brocoli under hot water..then SQUEEZE out the excess moisture)
One cup loosely packed shredded OLD Cheddar cheese.
5-6 medium to large FRESH eggs.
1/2 tsp of salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Preheat oven to 375 DF
Roll our one portion of pastry ( see previous post for my recipe!)
Lay it in a fairly deep pie plate...the bottom shell does not have to be pretty..only functional as you won't see it!
Then lay in the cubed ham and minced onion.


Then the Brocoli over that..



Then the shredded cheese...


Sprinkle with seasonings..Then Crack the eggs over top..you want to be careful here..as they can slide off the top..if you want to be Fancy..( which I was NOT) You can seperate the eggs..arranging the yolks around the outer edge..and pouring the whites on top..but the point of this pie is simplicity..and dividing the eggs is bordering on Quishe territory!

The eggs should stay SOMEWHAT whole...obviously I broke a couple...LOOK at the LOVELY colour of those yolks..from my hens of course!
Now...Put on the top crust...and crimp the edges WELL!

Bake at 375 DF for 35-45 minutes!

This Pie will easily feed 4 people...unless two of them are my husband and son..then it will feed 3!!


This Pie is a BIG hit at our house! And is PERFECT for Dinner on a cold winters evening!

Merry Christmas!!!

Bevs Secret Weapon Pie Pastry!

Bev's Pastry

6.5 Cups AP flour.
1& 1/4 Cup ice cold water with 1 TBS of lemon juice or cidar vinegar mixed in.
1 pound brick of vegatable shortening
1/2 pound BUTTER
Chill the butter and shortening for at least two hours in the freezer!!

Put Flour  in a deep bowl.
Using a cheese grater..alternately rolling the shortening and butter in the flour..grate the shortening and butter on the LARGE hole side of the grater..After every four or five swipes on the grater..roll the butter/shortening in the flour..this helps to keep the fat from clumping...every once in a while, reach into the blowl and "fluff" it up to keep your bits of fat coated in flour.


Once all the fats have been grated and "fluffed" through the flour...chill the whole bowl in the freezer for about a half hour.

Take out and make a well in the mixture and start pouring the water/lemon juice into the well a little bit at a time...as you pour in the water..use your finger tips to gently flip the flour mixture into the well from the outside in..   


This will mix it without KNEADING it..you want the fats to stay as firm and whole as possible!!


When all the water is incorporated into the mixture...it should resemble a flaky ball...and you should be able to SEE the bits of fat through the dough..


This is very important..because it is the melting of the fat that make the pastry flaky..if over worked or over rolled..your crust will be tough and hard.

NOW..divide the pastry with a knife into usable portions..each portion should be smaller than a grapefruit..but slightly larger than a navel orange.
Wrap and chill in fridge.
Each portion is a pie shell ..one for an open pie..two for a closed pie.

When rolling out your pastry it is IMPERATVIE to do so correctly...I like to roll pastry on an old cotton table cloth...Sprinkle and smooth down a hand full of flour..put your dough ball in the centre and gentle flatten out the ball by pressing it down with the rolling pin...then starting in the centre of the dough roll outwards ...ie..Cnter to top..center to bottom..center to 3 o'clock and so forth..your crust should take NO MORE than 6-8 swipes from the rolling pin!!

There you have it folks...My secret weapon pie pastry....I once made a pie so bad for a Thanksgiving family pot luck..that my Brother verbally and LOUDLY denounced it at the table!! I was Mortified!
I have since been working on my pastry...and if you follow my secret tips..and ingredients...your pastry will be as secret a weapon as mine is today!!

Cheers!!

Stay tuned for my Ham and Egg PIE!!