Sunday, November 30, 2014

Safe-Keeping the Christmas Pudding

Now that we're officially in Advent I feel I can become a little Christmas-y.

The scent of dried fruits and sugar, butter and spices bubbling away on the stove is one of my favourites, and I love the way it all froths up when you add the bi-carb. Voila! Magic!

But I'm not entirely sure if we'll be cooking our usual Christmas pudding this year - as you know, we'll be doing the whole mad four-countries-in-twenty-one-days-with-three-kids-thing. I'm hoping we do, but I've a strong suspicion we'll be too busy oohing soft falling snow, clambering up castles and catching up with folk.

Just in case we do decide to put away an afternoon to head down to the shops (Ooh. Shopping. In Edinburgh. Fun-ness) and load up on spices and fruits, then lock ourselves away for an evening to watch the magic of sugar and butter and foaming bicarb and lots and lots of spices… I'm putting my favourite recipe here for easy reference. (And also so I don't lose it in all the packing!) It's in a tiny little booklet that came with the pudding tin and I'm amazed I haven't lost it already. It is the only recipe I've found that has the perfect fruit ratio and has pineapple. And I'm a sucker for pineapple.

Rich Plum Pudding

2 1/2 cups mixed dried fruit
1/2 cup sultanas or raisins
1/4 cup red glace cherries - halved. (I double this)
2 slices glace pineapple, chopped
1 cup soft dark sugar
125 g butter - chopped
1 cup cold water
1 teaspoon bicarb soda
zest of half an orange
2 free range eggs lightly beaten
1 cup plain flour (it says sifted, but a-hum)
1 cup self raising flour
1 1/2 - 2 teaspoons mixed spice (I double this and add an extra teaspoon cinnamon)
1/4 cup brandy (optional. sort of.)

Butter the pudding steamer. (I tentatively raised the possibility of packing the steamer, but Beloved looked at me as if I was nuts…Is it possible to make it without the tin? Hmm. Let's see what the rental house has. Other than that we'll hit the op-shops and hope for the best. I am reliably informed you can get a map of the Edinburgh op-shops.)
Put all the dried fruits, cherries, pineapple, sugar, butter and water in a large saucepan and mix lightly. Simmer on medium heat until the butter has melted then simmer for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the bi-carb. Cool. (Yes, it is cool, as in amazing, but they mean let it cool down.)

Stir in the orange zest, spices, eggs and brandy.

Spoon into the pudding steamer and smooth the surface, fit the lid.

Place into a large saucepans and pour boiling water halfway up the sides of the steamer. Cover the saucepan and put on medium heat and boil for 4 - 4 1/2 hours, topping up water if necessary.

To serve carefully remove pudding bowl from heat, stand for 10 minutes then romeve the lid and turn out.

Serve with a heap of custard. (Or cream or ice-cream But really, you have to have custard. Beloved has just perfected his recipe.) Feeling hungry here… 

Saturday, November 29, 2014


Sprocket - a responsible big brother - otherwise a grubby faced and very inventive storm of destruction. Heavily bribed to stay still so I can take photos for the Christmas card.

Littlest - she learnt to pull herself up on the bars of her cot this week and stand on pudgy legs. (The same week we thankfully upgraded her from her bassinet.)

Poppet - my darling diva and wonderful helper. Her grin is so infectious.

Joining with Jodi to take a photo of my kids every most some occasional weeks when the planets align and the moon is full in 2014.

We move house (and state) in two days and the house is full of boxes and jammed with piles of clothes, toys and books for storage, to take to the UK, the op-shop or Queensland. Chaos is my dear friend but I wish he'd visit some other family for  a few days! 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Because… roses… and not packing.

Just because I love them and I'm going to miss them. (Do not ask about the packing. Do not ask about the packing. O? You asked about the packing? We leave in under three weeks and the more I pack stuff the more the kids unpack, completely deconstruct and scatter through the house. But look at my roses! With added raindrops.)

Friday, November 14, 2014

Apple Blossom… Just Because (And the Rose of *near* Death)

I was just going to post some photos of our recent apple blossom - because it was beautiful and I love it - but while I was re-sizing photos some of my roses got added as well. Because. Well. Roses.

Apple-blossom and roses are some of the things that I will really miss about the valley.
I suspect mangos and frangipani will make up for them and you know - air that doesn't give Beloved asthma, Poppet wheeze and Littlest gunk-eye - but I will miss the roses.

And the apple blossom. We're due for a bumper crop - the trees are laden with tiny green apples and it's strange to wonder who will harvest them. The fact we couldn't go out to get the apples this year because of all the toxic smoke makes me quite reconciled to leaving.

But o my roses. The roses of the valley are spectacular. Heady, dreamy, lushly scented, deeply coloured. The girls and I went to the Rose Gardens again yesterday and Poppet and I agreed it was a garden fit for a princess, even a fairy princess. (These roses are from our garden, I brought my camera, but forgot the camera card… duh, so we just enjoyed them.)

It's possible I've been googling and discovered a Queensland rose growing society and a place that sells roses designed for the tropics. But, while I reserve judgement, I've never seen a tropical rose that has the same wild, lush soul as a temperate rose.

Please particularly admire the Rose of Death. The big pinky orange rose is the one that was in the cup that Beloved knocked onto a power board reaching for his phone in a dark room. We don't actually know when the pain in his chest will go away, although they steadied his heart and over the course of a night his heart readings went from saying a part had been fried to normal. All because of a rose. If it wasn't so completely petrifying, it would be almost poetic.

Do you have any Spring Garden love? (Or Autumn?) Or stories of electric shock. (The comforting variety would be best…) 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Littlest (Six Months)


This month you have grown so much! You are suddenly blooming, just like the roses in the front garden but far more beautiful.

You have learnt to sit up and how to put your toes in your mouth. Your wonderful belly-gurgle-giggle has become a regular occurrence, especially when you see your big sister. You've started eating solids. Hello avocado and banana - fuss free, naturally packaged baby food, I cut you slices and you play and mash and suck on them, as well as throw them on the floor. A lot.

We have promoted you from the bassinet to the cot - the same one we lugged all the way to Vanuatu and back for your brother, and that your sister slept in. It's pressed up beside our futon, and as I write this I can hold your warm little hand that's poking through the bars. (It's possible I cried when we put away your bassinet, we'll be taking it to Melbourne for one of your Nana's friends from West Papua, but o my baby, my last baby, you grow so fast.)

You remain perfect in each and every way - from your soft downy hair that's decided to side part itself and is (after checking photos) the exact same shade as your brother's at this age - you're going to be another little blondie! - to your chunky little thighs and darling tiny nails, all varying colours of delicate pink, like shells from the deep. The little dimples at the base of each of your fingers are indescribably sweet.

(You're feeding again now, busily sucking, your pudgy smooth toes pressed up against my typing arm, my other arm full of sweet baby, one of your little hands possessively curled around the milk)

We went to the pool today, Little-one, and you loved it. You went into a yellow ring, just like your brother and sister, although I held you as well, and you smiled and looked amazed and tried splashing the water. Perfect happiness is having both arms filled with my little water babies.

To be (overly) frank little one, we needed the unwind time in the pool as it's been a week of stresses. Beginning with a colonoscopy (mine, not a lot of fun, particularly the preparation for it the day before with the whole non-eating) two bouts of gastro (your daddy and I) your daddy getting electrocuted and spending a night getting monitored - including being prepped for surgery which was thankfully cancelled- and your brother getting scans and seeing specialists about a lump on his jaw that just isn't going away. And then the packing for our Big Move. Let us not mention the packing.

There's a lot of deep breathing going on. But you, my darling, have been a constant joy and delight.
Your amazed smile, your contented sigh and cuddling in when you're picked up, your desperately outreaching fingers whenever there's food around, your happiness in being lugged about by your brother and sister, the way you coorie in to my shoulder when you're tired with little seal noises.

You think blowing bubbles is amazingly clever. Which of course it is. (Cue long discussions with your brother and sister about why babies blowing bubbles is adorable and bigger kids blowing bubbles is not so much.)

Your favourite trick at present is to grab both my cheeks and then lunge towards me to attack my nose with slobber. You repeat this with enthusiasm. You also think your own tongue is wonderful and stick it out constantly. It is very cute.

You love going out and smiling at random strangers - we're both a little aggrieved when they don't smile back. The rudeness! Your smile is slow growing, so admittedly this is not always their fault - they might be half-way out the door before your smile is complete.

You giggle so much we very nearly decided to add Giggles to your (rather long) list of endearments. Instead we call you Hoggles, a cross between Hogs and Giggles. Your daddy says that as the mother of Hoggles I should be Moggles, but I am unconvinced.

Our Giggles, our Hoggles, our little Pearl-Girl, our Lili-Pili, our Chubster. You are our constant delight. In the chaos of the everyday you are our calm and our radiant joy.