We usually make a gingerbread house for Christmas and over the years there have been some very elaborate designs made by the children and their friends. This year B12 and I made a replica of a Hornet tank.
I also made a little more unconventional gingerbread including the animals above and the “Gingerdead Man” cutter courtesy of Andrew’s mum who is a very creative gift giver and knows our gingerbread making habits. He is fairly tricky to ice but I am going to persevere and try to make a whole gingerdead family!
Houses made in previous years:
2007 Lighthouse and Little House on the Prairie
Unlike many of our Canadian friends we chose to have roast beef for our Thanksgiving Dinner. We do have turkey now and again but we like to mix things up a little. Andrew cooked the roast beef in the Webber and it was delicious. I made pumpkin pie for dessert and we also had cream puffs B11 had made. I think I have said before how happy I am embrace Thanksgiving as a holiday to celebrate. (Australia doesn’t have a Thanksgiving holiday)
I have much to be thankful for and I like to remind myself of that often but a day devoted to being thankful is a worthwhile reminder. I am thankful to my gracious heavenly father for the many blessings in my life. I just look around me and see all his provision and know that he will always provide for my needs. I was particularly thankful to read some very encouraging news from my brother who was diagnosed with lung cancer ten months ago. At his most recent check up his oncologist used the term chronic illness instead of terminal illness to describe David’s situation. He writes about his journey with cancer as well as a range of Christian living topics on his blog Macarisms.
Our children have made some fairly elaborate gingerbread houses with friends over the years. This year B11 and I went back to basics with a yummy little gluten free cottage.
Houses made in previous years:
2007 Lighthouse and Little House on the Prairie
If you look around our home you will see signs of winter and indeed glimpses of Christmas.
When I look out the window I see we have about 10cm of snow on the ground, which seems to be staying. B10 and the boys across the road have started building snow ramps to toboggan down.
The boots and mitts are congregating near the front door.
We finished up our ancient history studies for the term with the reign of Caesar Augustus so were able to study the biblical account of Christ’s birth alongside what was happening in Rome and Judea at the time.
I am onto my fourth batch of gingerbread (baking not eating); this one is a gluten free batch. Baking gingerbread is a tradition for me so when I had to go gluten free it was hard to bake gingerbread I couldn’t eat. However I do get a lot of pleasure from the decorating as do others in the family so I kept on making it. Last week Gluten Free Girl posted a recipe for gingerbread on her blog so I am giving it a try.
We bought our tree, put it up in the lounge room, decorated it and it did look beautiful. Another tradition I have is picking a different colour scheme each Christmas and this year’s is silver and white. On account of our cathedral ceilings and sparsely furnished lounge room we usually have quite a tall tree and this year was no exception. Our tree was 8½-9 foot tall and quite full and wide also. Have you noticed the use of past tense yet? Our tree fell over. Now we have a shorter tree with fewer glass balls on it. But it is still pretty and stable too which is important.
There are secrets being kept, doors being shut and whispers heard.
L16 and A14 have played carols together several times at church: for the senior’s Christmas Banquet, during the service and at a Christmas concert on Sunday night.
Although I have looked at nativities over the years I have not found one that I really want to own so B10 made one this year from lego. No shepherds in this scene but three very imposing and intimidating wise men.
I have begun writing a Christmas letter, it seems to be the first one I have written in four years! That couldn’t be right. Four years already? Well that just means there is more of our life to draw from. I might get it finished and sent before Christmas.
Andrew has been doing preparation for the Christmas Eve service which is a service I enjoy every year. It is fairly simple service with carols, a few instruments, this year a children’s story and a devotion. A14 is going to join him with her violin, B10 is going to help me in the sound booth. We always end with Silent Night by candlelight.
I have been listening to Christmas music; A Cold December Night by Erin Bode in particular.
Yes some shopping has been done, a little more needs to be done. Every year I say I will do it earlier but it just does not happen. Maybe next year.
I am looking forward to spending time with our family and our friends here. I am enjoying reading news from family and friends far away and hoping to catch up via skype before the year is over.
I am rejoicing that the reason we celebrate is that God loved us enough to send his Son for us. He has not stopped loving us and sending us blessings since, but his Son is the gift we really need
Our MasterChef journey came to a close last night as we watched Callum and Adam battle it out for the title. I wanted Adam to win as I thought he was the better cook but I was impressed by how close it was. After a massive few months watching it is now time to turn to the website where many of the recipes are available for us to use. Most of us did not visit the website during the series as we were behind Australia in our viewing so a peek at the website would have told us who had been eliminated.
There are quite a few dishes I would love to try, some of them a little more complicated than others. L16 was inspired also so who knows what we might get to sample.
A few I’m interested in attempting are:
Alvin’s Drunken and Bruised Chicken dish.
Callum’s Violet Macaroons with Raspberries and Butter cream
Gary’s Rhubarb and Blackberry Souffle Crumble
I could go on and on, there is enough inspiration to last us until next year… or at least until the Junior edition starts!
We have arrived at the final 24!
Watching most of the pairs run around the farms like the chooks clucking in the coop was a little frustrating but they did eventually return to the kitchen and create their two course meals. Poor Philip was deserted mid-challenge but, as was only fair, received a second chance from the judges. I don’t know that he has got what it takes to get much further but I may be wrong. Looking at the fresh berries and peaches made me hungry for summer fruits. Another month or two and we will be picking and eating fresh strawberries too.
We enjoyed the “Mise en place” challenge a lot more than we enjoyed hearing George mispronounce it! I thought I could have completed the egg separating part unless of course the whole MasterChef experience caused my hands to shake uncontrollably like some. I might have even managed to julienne the carrots but the oysters and salmon would have seen me tapped on the shoulder. I don’t spend much time with seafood.
Both the quail challenge and the fish curry challenge showed us that some know how to fillet and others definitely do not. Smiley Shanee must have been a real favourite with the judges to make it through even though her plate was missing noodles. The mystery box dessert challenge was entertaining, as the 45 minute time limit left several with wobbly, runny jellies or crustless pies! Lucky for Princess Fiona that her Strawberry Jelly/Champagne actually tasted really good, which apparently wasn’t the case for the Cherry Jelly bloke.
I haven’t memorized their names yet but I am sure it won’t take long. B9 is backing Alvin, A13 likes Princess Fiona and Claire is L15’s current favorite. Sarah has the most amusing faces and Joanne the best, or is it worst, accent. I am keen to see how Claire goes but I also enjoy watching the guy with the sock hat and the one with tattoos. Jake seems a bit hit and miss to me but may might survive as long as he can keep all his fingers in tact.
March break is long gone now, but it was a particularly delicious break because L15 spent hours in the kitchen. I made March break resolutions of my own to make double meals each night then put half in the freezer and also to try new recipes while I had more time. I started well with a new chicken stir-fry on the first night but after that L took over. She made a wonderful Indian Lamb Curry from Relaxed Cooking with Curtis Stone, which was enough for two nights and tasted even better the second time round. From the same book she a Blueberry Clafoutis with Blueberry Cream and some impressively light Raspberry muffins. One afternoon she and her friend P15 made sushi which we enjoyed while watching Pride and Prejudice.
A13 is cooking regularly as part of her school schedule. She has whipped up main courses, desserts, cookies, cakes and soups. One of my favourites was the Chocolate Soufflés also from Curtis Stone’s book. Her Beef and noodle soup was delicious and she made several varieties of cookies at Christmas time which were bundled up and included in gift baskets.
Recently Andrew went on an Indian food kick and for several weekends in a row we were treated to dals, rasams and sambars from Chandra Padmanabhan’s book Dakshin Vegetarian Cuisine from South India. He also made dosais for us to dip into the wonderful dishes. I don’t know why he suddenly came over all Indian; I did ask if he’d had a job offer we should know about but he assured us no. Perhaps it was because of the Bollywood movies we’d been watching.
Masterchef Australia is back and we are already hooked. Last night we watched the first episode introducing the fifty finalists then eliminating the first five. The first two challenges were a barbecue and a pavlova. Now, I’m no masterchef, but I can make a pavlova, it is not that hard. Although the ten people making it were given a recipe there were still a couple of disasters, the most dramatic being the pancake pavlova!
I know the producers are setting us up with some contestants to love and some to hate. Maybe that’s why I already like Claire, because she is going to be one of the darlings of the show. I just liked the way she was cool and calm; she didn’t gush and carry on like some of the others.
Tonight we watched the signature dish challenge which gave 7 a chance to cook in the pressure test for a position in the top 24. Some of the recipes in the “Signature challenge” inspired us. The crab curry did look great as did the twice cooked duck with coriander salad, I’m not so sure about the avocado chocolate mousse.
The repetitive comments and the hype is just as annoying as it was last year but no matter, we’re in!
As I write this cool things are still happening in the kitchen. We need to head off to worship team practice before too long so we are going to have half a birthday dinner before we go. We did the same thing last week when it was Andrew’s birthday. The girls asked if they could cook his birthday dinner and of course I agreed. L15 did cherry tomatoes stuffed with goat’s cheese for starters followed by fettucine in a creamy seafood sauce. After we arrived home from worship team A13 had a carrot cake with cream cheese icing ready for us.
It is now night and we have done all our eating. A13 did the starter and main tonight and L15 made dessert. A13 knows I love Chinese and she did a spectacular job; we had Pork Wontons followed by Hunan Chicken and Stir-fried Bokchoy on steamed rice. Once we got back from music practice we ate the delicious Lemon Meringue Pie that Laura had made, but not before the younger two children had sucked helium out of a birthday balloon and sung “Happy Birthday”.
While much of this wonderful food was being prepared this afternoon I was indulging in my current favourite pastime, watercolour painting. I have been teaching art on Friday mornings to the Group of 3, so I have had the watercolours out along with a huge pile of books on watercolour painting from the library. Today I sat down to try something a little different from the paintings I have been doing, but ended up doing yet another snow scene. Now is the perfect time to mention the gift my children bought me. The first thing I pulled out of the gift bag was a flyer for a sale at Wallacks art store…the other thing I pulled out was a gift card to Wallacks art store. Sale ends Saturday. Here’s this afternoon’s art. ( you can click to see actual size)
This account of birthday business would not be complete without a peek into the world of a sound technician. My job doing sound for the worship team Andrew and L are in has recently gained a higher profile. Instead of being tucked away in a room off in the back left hand corner of the church I now get to sit in a booth at the back of the church which is raised a couple of feet higher than everyone in the congregation. No hiding now when some unexpected and inexplicable technical hitch occurs. That is not the only change; gone is the 16 channel sound board which used to surprise me in many and varied ways. In its place is a pretty new thing with a few hundred gizmos and thingamajigs to do any number of clever and exciting things. I know that is fairly technical jargon, but I think you get the idea! All went smoothly tonight and L15 snapped a few shots to show you the cool new board and my equally cool new travel mug.
Birthday business has been very sweet indeed today, I received a lovely collection of calls, emails and cards from very special people and was totally spoiled and blessed by my family.