ode to 2015

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to a year, so nearly spent
so much to say and
yet left unsaid –
you have held in your days
immeasurable joy
and grief too heavy to bear,

you have been the hardest year
so much newness, unknowns
in the darkness of the night
we lay wondering
why and if only,
for what –

we learnt  so much about ourselves
our limitations, our gifts
we wrestled with hopes,
projections, beginnings –

and moments like

holding that just-born baby boy in my arms,
filling a basket of freshly laid eggs, still warm,
saying goodbye to my beloved grandmother,
the crunch of thick frost and the drought that keeps on,
the smell of bush fires that swept out of control near us,
walks up the hills behind our house with my sister, my mother,
with friends and alone,
kin moving to the town nearby,
running out of power for two days
(and running out of water for three)
rising early to set up a market stalls,
plucking your own chicken,
the golden yolk of a good egg and buzz of a busy hive –
the kindness of neighbours, the sheep on the road
and so so many funny phrases of our three year old,

I cannot help but close my eyes
and whisper, in all this
we are so blessed,
truly,
we are held and hounded
loved and enfolded –

we accept because we must –
that most of life is slow, steady work
and we are only just started.

A Handmade Christmas

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This is the first year in a while we have stayed in one place for the season of advent – with our own home to decorate and make merry in. I love Christmastime and the opportunity to be intentional, creative and thrifty – to involve my boys in recycling, foraging and making  beautiful…

We fashioned a sort of door wreath that would stand up to the harsh dry, windy summer weather we have here – made of burlap, linen and cotton scraps tied around a bent coat hanger. We went on walks to find pinecones in our paddock and along the roadside that could adorn our windows and advent candle wreath (and also make highly amusing toys for baby Bear).

We made gluten free salt dough for decorations to hang in the windows and give to friends. We recycled newspaper and brown wrapping paper for Christmas cards and using linocuts and white paint printed garlands and name tags on cardboard packaging. We press-cut star shapes from pure beeswax foundation (that we use in our beehives) and each week refreshed arrangements of spruce, cypress, ivy and holly for welcome sweet-smelling, greenery…

I’ve made a few hand sewn gifts using bits of linen I had in my stash – hand stitched star ornaments and elastic shorts and bloomers for the boys. A neighbour gifted us this wonderful tree made of young eucalyptus which we’ve propped in an old pot out the front of the house – and in the new year will repurpose as a climbing frame in the garden…

I love the excitement and cheer of making things, the (challenging) mess and disorder of young helpers… the growing our collection of advent decorations, and also the giving away our efforts – not spending a great deal of money, but enjoying making do…

And with two days left,
we wish you and your kin very blessing this Christmas –

for good food and health, for merrymaking, thanksgiving,
for giving and receiving, for celebration, reflection,
and for the greatest love we have in Him

xx

festive baking

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christmascakeI’ve had some requests for these two wonderful Christmas recipes – I’ve modified both to be gluten free, although the brunsli bale cookies are pretty much grain free to begin with. With both recipes the quality of the ingredients is pretty important – I feel passionately about finding fair trade dark chocolate free from soy emulsifiers and palm oil (and gluten of course!), chemical free nuts and organic dried fruit and local honey. It does make the finished product somewhat luxurious – but then if you’re going to savour (and gift) sweet treats at Christmas you may as well do it right.

Brunsli de Bale (Swiss style Chocolate Hazelnut +Spice cookies)

3/4 cups white crystallised sugar
1 pinch of salt
250g ground hazelnuts (you can also use almonds or mix of both)
1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoons of ground cloves
2 tablespoons flour (I use rice flour)
2 fresh egg whites (70g), lightly beaten until frothy
100g dark chocolate, at least 70% cocoa

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. In a separate bowl beat egg whites until frothy but not stiff. Add egg whites to dry ingredients and mix. Next melt dark chocolate and pour over other ingredients and mix well. Using clean hands knead dough into a ball. On a lightly “sugared” surface roll out dough to 1cm thickness and cut into desired shapes – if your cookie cutter gets too sticky, rinse in cold water. Arrange cookies on trays lined with baking paper and air dry for 5-6 hours or overnight if possible. Preheat oven to 180’c and bake cookies for 10 minutes (they will hardern as they cool down). Once cool, store cookies in an airtight container – they will last 3-4 weeks if stored like this.

Traditional Fruit Cake
250g dried sultanas,
250g dried currants
250g dried cranberries
100g dried apricots, chopped
100g dried prunes
60g candied citrus peel
140ml brandy
270g softened butter
40g slithered almonds
200g plain gluten free flour (I use 50/50 rice flour and tapioca starch)
40g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
200g rapadura sugar or brown sugar
5 large eggs, beaten
2 tablespoon honey
whole blanched almonds (for decorating)

Stir brandy through dried fruit and peel and leave to soak overnight. Next day preheat low oven to 150’c. Grease a deep round cake tin (or loaf tins) and line with two layers of baking paper. Combine flour, almond meal, baking powder and spices in a bowl.  In a separate (large) bowl cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, followed by flour mixture. Stir in soaked fruit, honey and slithered almonds. Pour mixture into prepared tins and gently press whole almonds on top for decoration. Bake for 3 hours (if a whole cake) or 2 hours if doing smaller cakes. To test if the cake is done, insert a skewer and if it comes out clean it is done – if not, reduce the oven temperature to 110’c and bake for a further 10-15 minutes and check again. Let cool completely in the tin. Wrap cake in paper and foil and store in an airtight container for as many weeks (or months) till Christmas!

There is so much fruit and sugar in these cakes that they will last a good long while and improve in flavour the longer they are left! 

red and green

bottlebrush2christmastreechristmascakeIMG_8669crochettreeIMG_8675starSomehow the first day of December sneaks up on us every year – we wonder where did the year ago, we count on the calendar just a handful of weeks left to the year, we remark how wonderful that advent has begun!

And so we bake fruit cake and wrap it up to age in the pantry, we string up handmade garlands and stars, we find a tiny pine tree in a nearby paddock and adorn it with our funny collection of decorations bought and given and made all over the world, we play finger puppets with mamie and read stories on the bed, we work on handmade gifts, we crochet late at night and sip creamy tea, we light the first candle of the advent wreath and usher soft prayers of hope.

Amidst all the busyness, the hum drum, the deadlines
we pause, we savour this special time of year…

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For those interested we have two more markets left for this year; we will be selling our pasture raised chickens and eggs as well as my European-inspired gluten free Christmas delights. Think dark fragrant gingerbread, moist fruit cakes, dark chocolate, hazelnut + clove cookies, buttery vanilla bean shortbread, dainty mince pies and of course those beeswax baked custards – canéles!

Come along and find some delicious treats to store up and share with loved ones this happy season!

Woodend Farmers’ Market
Saturday December 5th 
8am – 1pm
High street, Woodend

Kyneton Farmers Market
Saturday December 12th
8am – 1pm
St. Paul’s park, Piper Street, Kyneton